Harris County’s Majority Black, Lower-Income Neighborhoods Most At Risk For COVID-19

A Houston Chronicle analysis found that the Sunnyside neighborhood’s zip code has a disease rate more than three times the county average.

By Jill AmentApril 29, 2020 1:18 pm, ,

A recent analysis by the Houston Chronicle indicates that a handful of lower-income and majority black areas in Harris County are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak there.

It’s the most comprehensive analysis of COVID-19 demographic data so far.

Chronicle investigative reporter Alex Stuckey told Texas Standard that a majority of the areas with the highest disease rates were also those where residents have lower incomes or are African American, including Sunnyside and Trinity Gardens. Many residents work in jobs that can’t be done from home, which means they’re at greater risk for contacting COVID-19 and possibly spreading it to others.

“They’re the essential workers … and they have to go to work; they can’t, like many of us, work from their dining room table,” Stuckey said.

The zip code that comprises Sunnyside, for example, has a rate of 3.13 positive cases per 1,000 residents, while the county average is 1.04 per 1,000 residents. In total, Harris County has had 4,977 positive COVID-19 cases as of April 20.

What’s more, Stuckey said some of those neighborhoods are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, which occurred in 2017.

“This is not necessarily surprising, but it’s certainly disheartening,” Stuckey said.

The higher rate of disease in these areas could be partially linked to existing health conditions; hypertension and heart disease make people more vulnerable to the coronavirus, and those conditions affect black Americans more than other racial groups.

And adequate health care may be harder for people to access in poorer communities.

“I think it’s a melting pot of reasons why it’s affecting these communities so hard,” Stuckey said

The city of Houston is trying to address the problem with a new, free testing site open April 29-May 3, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., testing a maximum of 150 people per day. Appointments are required; call 512-883-2400 or visit txcovidtest.org to schedule.

Web story by Caroline Covington.


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