Hays Co. COVID-19 case spike puts new urgency on need for racial, ethnic statistics

Hays

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Hays County has had a big spike in new coronavirus cases this week: health leaders reported 18 new cases both Monday and Tuesday, bringing their seven-day average to a new high of about 13 cases per day, according to a KXAN analysis.

As cities decide how to use their COVID-19-related funding, San Marcos City Council member Maxfield Baker says they need more information on who exactly is testing positive for these cases.

“Data is a very powerful weapon in this fight,” Baker says.

“We’re in the process of doling out about $400,000 from the city. I understand that everybody is suffering across the board, but we have to recognize that this is impacting frontline workers a lot more than people, for instance, that can work from home. And a lot of those frontline workers represent demographics that are people of color and again, low-income. So it’s important that we have that data on hand so that we can justify spending those dollars in that direction,” Baker says.

Currently, Hays County’s dashboard tracks cases by location and age– not race or ethnicity.

Austin Public Health began reporting that data after calls to do so in April.

In May, its data indicated that Hispanic and black residents made up a disproportionate number of Austin COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“That really kind of sparked my interest in making sure that we’re asking for that data at the very least,” Baker says.

“I am surprised and shocked,” says Laura McMahon, a Kyle resident of nearly two decades who also founded a group called Kyle Cultural Awareness.

McMahon says if Hays County’s statistics end up mirroring Austin’s, leadership would need to act now.

“Find out what it is, as well as to get it out to the public, so we can take care of ourselves and keep us healthy,” McMahon says.

This KXAN graph shows the increase in COVID-19 cases in Hays County.

Baker says the lack of specific demographics may not have been intentional.

“I don’t assume any sort of malicious intent,” he says.

But he hopes the county responds to these new calls before the city decides how to distribute federal funds.

The window for CARES Act funding applications has closed in the City of San Marcos, but Baker says there is still time for groups that have already submitted proposals to amend them to reflect any new data from the county.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” he says.

Council’s final vote on which projects to fund is set for June 16.

Baker says there’s also a possibility that they extend the process and allow for another round of applications.

“Businesses that are more well to-do are going to be more apt to have the resources to apply for those things. So, we have to look at how systemically this funding is becoming available to people and make sure that we put in some sort of stopgap to address that,” he says.

“There’s so many questions as to making sure that his money is being shared in an equitable way.”

Tahera Rahman has reached out to the Hays County Local Health Department for data and comment.

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