Austin-Travis County Latinos among hardest hit by virus, make up half of area’s COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After weeks of recovering from COVID-19, Arturo Carvajal woke up early Saturday morning and made his way to the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association testing event at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in east Austin. He got there around 4:45 a.m., he said, hours before testing would even begin.

“Sometimes there are a lot of people and I wanted to make sure I got a test,” Carvajal said after explaining he had gone to a previous testing event and was turned away after tests ran out.

Out of work and with no insurance, the longtime construction worker is hopeful the test result will come back negative.

“Without that negative test result, I can’t return to work and I have to work, I have bills to pay,” he explained.

In Austin-Travis County, the Latino community accounts for just under 35% of the population, but the latest COVID-19 data for the area shows the community makes up half of the cases in the area.

Carvajal believes there are several reasons Latinos are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. He said initially many did not believe the virus was real — including himself.

“I guess we didn’t believe the virus existed, but we’re seeing it does,” Carvajal said.

He’s not alone. Ramiro Maldonado Maciel agreed. He, too, did not believe and was skeptical — until now.

“I feel bad,” he said. “I feel weak.”

On top of that, Maldonado Maciel, a landscaper who is now out of work, said there’s another concern.

“We have to go out to work, we can’t stay home,” he explained. “We have to risk it all for our family.”

It’s for that reason that Rosa Escobar, and her 10-year-old son, got tested.

“I came to get tested as a preventive measure,” she said.

The school custodian said she’s been taking care of herself, but it doesn’t stop her from worrying, especially when she sees how it’s affecting Latinos.

“I get sad because it’s my community,” she said.

Now, all three of them can agree on one thing — COVID-19 is real.

“We need to take care of ourselves,” Escobar explained.

“Take precautions,” added Maldonado Maciel.

“This virus is attacking, and it’s attacking hard,” Carvajal said.

The U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association teamed up with various community groups including the Austin Latino Coalition and Austin Public Health. They were able to test 300 people. Escobar, Maldonado Maciel and Carvajal said they were told they would get their results in five days.

Free Walk-Up COVID-19 Testing in Del Valle and Pflugerville

Free COVID-19 testing in Del Valle and Pflugerville were supposed to begin Monday, but the site in Pflugerville didn’t open.

APH said due to “unforeseen circumstances,” the site at The Pfield in Pflugerville didn’t open. APH wasn’t clear on when the site would open exactly, but encouraged people to come back “another time” from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. later in the week.

In Del Valle, health officials will conduct tests every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Del Valle Middle School. Testing will be available through August 16. Health officials will be able to test up to 800 people each day.

Since the testing events are a walk-up event, officials ask people to wear a mask, maintain social distance and bring bottled water. Also, consider an umbrella or hat to provide shade while waiting in line.

Testing Negative to Return to Work

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said they are not recommending employers require a negative test. He made the announcement in a news conference in early July.

“We do not support the two negative tests, or three negative testing for individuals. The CDC also recommends a time-based clearance and quite frankly we do not have the capacity or the labs to test everybody multiple times to prove negativity,” Escott said.

Escott said if employers need to require a negative test, he suggested they work with private labs and provide the test themselves to employees.

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