AUSTIN (KXAN) – A group of Latino community advocates are calling for more resources and accountability from the city of Austin amid a growing number of cases among the Hispanic/Latinx community.
According to Austin Public Health, most recent data from July 7 shows that 52% of confirmed cases and 41% of deaths in Travis County are self-identified as Hispanic.
The data also shows that the Hispanic/Latinx community makes up 59.8% of hospitalizations in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area.
“I’m not sure who’s giving advice to the city but the numbers show it hasn’t been working,” said Frank Fuentes of the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association of Austin.
At a recent pop-up testing site, Fuentes said 50 construction workers out of 300 tested positive for COVID-19 which he believes has an impact on the Latinx community as a whole.
“We all know that not only are we multi-generational, living under one roof, we are also interconnected with other industries,” said Fuentes. “Perhaps dad works in the construction industry, mom works cleaning hotels or hospitals or homes. And the children might work in retail, all while grandma takes care of the younger kids all living under one roof.”
From zip codes 78753 to 78741 to 78744, the Latinx population is seeing hundreds of cases in their neighborhoods. The green line on a COVID-19 Tracking Digital Dashboard on the city’s website shows the trajectory of hospitalizations among Latinos is consistently rising. It was at nearly 70% just last week.
“We are unmasking the inequities that have existed in the Latino, African-American and economically disadvantaged communities and so people don’t have choices and they fear that they are going to lose their job or get fired and that is certainly a concern,” said Paul Saldana of the Austin Latino Coalition.
Representatives from the City of Austin’s Equity Office, APH, the University of Texas Dell Medical School, and CommUnityCare make up the Austin-Travis County Latinx Strike Team.
KXAN obtained a 12-page draft of the strike team’s recommendations which include better messaging and access to bilingual and financial resources not tied to one’s immigration status.
Although community leaders say the new testing sites and financial assistance from the city have helped the community, they believe more needs to be done.
Some of the community advocates general recommendations/feedback to Mayor Steve Adler include:
1) The lack of Latino community representatives on the Strike Team
2) Lack of cultural relevance in recommendations especially in the areas of outreach, communications, prevention and barriers in access to testing and resources
3) Lack of industry expert representatives i.e. construction, frontline workers, etc.
4) Lack of mental health professionals and experts with proven cultural relevant experience
5) No prioritization of recommendations
6) No timeline to implement
7) No measurable goals and/or outcomes to prove success
8) No accountability
The group expressed overall concerns that the City is investing more invaluable time on developing strategic plans rather than focusing on saving lives in the Latino community.
About eight weeks ago, the leaders recommended the creation of a Latino Task Force with the goal of developing a mitigation plan. They have also created their own volunteer task force to help the Latinx community.