Who is being hospitalized for COVID-19 in Austin?

Local

A hospital bed (Nexstar, file)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — New data is shedding some light on who is being most susceptible to being hospitalized for COVID-19.

Austin health officials updated information and added new data for public viewing on how COVID-19 is impacting the region.

The data, which is viewable on Austin-Travis County’s COVID-19 dashboard indicates that:

  • In the region, Hispanic community members continue to be hospitalized with COVID-19 at disproportionate rates
  • Around two-thirds of the region’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are in people over the age of 50.
  • Men in the Austin area are hospitalized for COVID-19 at a slightly higher rate than women

Austin Public Health said it has been working for the past several weeks to make improvements to its COVID-19 dashboard. The update the department added Sunday includes more demographic data behind hospitalizations, cases, and deaths.

The numbers on the dashboard reflect COVID-19 data from the City of Austin and Travis County, with the exception of all the hospitalization data, which is drawn from the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson Counties. APH said these hospitalization and demographic numbers will be updated each week on the dashboard.

As of Sunday evening, there were 89 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Of those people hospitalized, 31 were in the intensive care unit and 21 were on ventilators. According to this APH data, the number of hospitalizations in the region has fluctuated, with the lowest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations coming on April 25 with 65 people and the highest number occurring on May 15 with 98 people.

Race and ethnicity

A graph of COVID-19 new hospitalizations in the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area (which includes Travis, Hays, Williamson, Bastrop, and Caldwell Counties) on the week of May 3 as viewed by race and ethnicity of the patients involved. Data courtesy Austin Public Health COVID-19 Dashboard as updated on May 17, 2020. (KXAN Graphic made by Andy Davis).

As KXAN has previously reported, recent demographic data has indicated that Hispanic residents in the Austin area are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and hospitalized at an increasingly high rate.

This trend continues with the recent update to Austin Public Health data. Austin Public Health reported two weeks ago that out of the new COVID-19 hospitalizations at Austin MSA hospitals last week, nearly 64% of those hospitalizations were for Hispanic individuals. Updated numbers show that out of the new COVID-19 hospitalizations for the week of May 3, Hispanic individuals made up 66.1% of those hospitalizations.

For comparison, 32.3% of the population of the total Austin MSA identifies as Hispanic according to American Community Survey Census numbers from 2018.

Austin Public Health Dashboard depicting weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations for the Austin MSA between the weeks of March 8 and May 3. The green line coming in with the highest percentage on the week of May 3 represents the percentage of total hospitalizations which were for Hispanic individuals.

In the Austin MSA 67.7% of the population identifies as White Non-Hispanic, but out of the COVID-19 hospitalizations week of May 2, 23.2% identify as White Non-Hispanic.

The city also provides data for cumulative hospitalizations in the Austin MSA from March 1 through April 22.

Of those cumulative numbers over the course of the pandemic in Austin, 48.5% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations in the MSA were for Hispanic individuals — which is still a disproportionate amount. In the cumulative numbers, 46.35% of those hospitalizations were for White Non-Hispanic residents.

The cumulative hospitalization numbers for the Austin MSA show that 9.69% of those hospitalized identify as Black, 16.2% identify their race as “other,” 2.74% identify as Asian, 2.06% identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, and 3.16% of those hospitalized have an unknown race.

For comparison, in the entire Austin MSA, 7.3% of the population identifies as Black, 6.4% identify their race as “other,” 5.7% identify as Asian, and 0.5% identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.

The racial and ethnic makeup of the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area (which includes Travis, Hays, Bastrop, Williamson, and Caldwell Counties) according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. (KXAN Graphic by Andy Davis).

Latino Community groups in Austin have been noticing these statistics which demonstrate the disporportionate impacts of COVID-19 among Hispanic community members.

These groups sent out a statement Monday morning calling upon members of the Austin City Council to create a Latino Action Coalition or Task Force that will develop a mitigation plan. They asked for a plan that’s “focused on effective, bilingual, culturally relevant, communications, outreach, public education, safety and prevention in an effort to save lives.”

Austin Public Health officials have called these trends of disparate impacts of COVID-19 on the Hispanic community “concerning” and have started media campaigns and targeted outreach to mitigate these trends.

Across the country, there have been reports of people of color being more severely impacted by COVID-19, though these impacts can play out differently region to region.

Federal officials were careful to point out that they that while do not think people of color are biologically or genetically predisposed to get COVID-19, that people of color are socially predisposed to coronavirus exposure and have a higher incidence of diseases that put people at risk for COVID-19.

Austin Public Health has noted that people of color are more likely to work in jobs where they will need to interact face-to-face with other people. These jobs have historically lacked access to effective health care, have social determinants that can lead to higher rates of hospitalization, and are more likely to live with multiple generations in one household. All of these factors, APH explained can make the virus more likely to spread.

Other data from the City of Austin and Travis County specifically also show some disproportionalities. Among COVID-19 cases there, 39% of those cases involve Hispanic individuals and 8% involve Black individuals. Of those who have died of COVID-19 related causes in Austin-Travis County, 38% are Hispanic and 15% are Black.

Central Health affiliated CommUnity Care has upped its efforts to re-open clinics and launch mobile COVID-19 testing sites in the Eastern Crescent of Travis County. This week the health district reported that of the Latinos tested since mid-March at CommUnity Care facilities, 24.55% tested positive, which is more than three times the positivity rate for non-Latinos at their facilities (7.32%).

In a release, CommUnity Care called these trends “worrisome.”

Age

Of the COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Austin MSA from March 1 through April 22, individuals 50 years old or older make up 65.66% of those hospitalizations. This is in line with health guidance nationally which suggests that older individuals are more at risk for complications from the novel coronavirus.

Of those COVID-19 hospitalizations of people 50 years old and older in the Austin MSA, around one-third of those cases are in people ages 50 through 59.

Of the total number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Austin MSA:

  • 0.43% were younger than one year old
  • 0.21% were 10-19 years old
  • 6.65% were 20-29 years old
  • 12.45% were 30-39 years old
  • 14.59% were 40-49 years old
  • 21.03% were 50-59 years old
  • 18.24% were 60-69 years old
  • 13.74% were 70-79 years old
  • and 12.66% were over the age of 80

KXAN asked whether people over the age of 50 making up the majority of local COVID-19 hospitalizations suggests a high risk of COVID-19 for older adults, a public information officer with the city of Austin responded that, “while the age is an important factor, other considerations include underlying health conditions.”

Gender

Of the cummulative COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Austin MSA between March 1 and April 22, males are 54.72 % of those hospitalized and females are 45.28% of those hospitalized.

For comparison, 50.1% of the Austin MSA identifies as men and 49.9% identify as women.

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