Latino funeral home president gives perspective on ethnicity’s COVID-19 struggles

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Latinos in the Travis County area continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The latest data from Austin Public Health shows Latinos account for nearly half of all cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Charles Villasenor understands firsthand the impact the virus can have on families. In July he lost his own mother, the matriarch of Mission Funeral Homes, to COVID-19 complications.

“My mother, strong lady, never wanted to be in the care facilities and she said, ‘Take care of me, mijo, no matter what you do,’ and that’s how we looked at it and that’s how I handled it,” he said.

Villasenor’s family legacy dates back 60 years and Villasenor said it’s important to be there for the community. He continues to stand by that today. Amid his sorrow for the loss of his mother, he’s been helping others get through theirs.

“I see the loss of so many people and I can’t put myself in front of that, I have to help them,” he explained. “That’s what our mother would want me to do.”

During this second surge, Villasenor has seen a gradual increase in deaths and fears it could get worse.

“Potentially, we could see a COVID death a day, perhaps seven a week,” he said.

Compared to six months ago, however, he’s seen improvement. Last July, they had 53 deaths, an average of about 13 deaths a week. Today, Villasenor said things look different.

“We’re seeing cases every 1.5 days,” he said about COVID-19 calls across his funeral homes in Austin and San Marcos.

Overall, Villasenor is hopeful.

“I think they do have a good handle on the treatment,” Villasenor said about the hospital systems.

He also mentioned there is a lot of work going on in the background between various entities, including local officials and business owners like himself in the funeral service industry to figure out the best way to support the community.

“I think the local officials have done the best that they can given the unprecedented circumstances,” he said.

He added it’s important to continue to remind the Latino community of the importance of social distancing and taking the proper precautions. He understands why it could be hard.

“When you see your loved ones you trust them, you want to be around them,” he said. “That’s a hard thing to overcome.”

He said communication is just one of the solutions they need to continue to pursue in the battle against the virus.

“(Latinos) need to be spoken to more often in a language and terms they understand,” he said. We could do a better job of informing our Latino community but I think for the most part, at this point, the city and the county have done a good job.”

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