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Texas Health Officials Plan Study On How COVID-19 Is Affecting Vulnerable Communities

People wait to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru site operated by Austin Regional Clinic.
People wait to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru site operated by Austin Regional Clinic.

Texas health officials are launching a study to look into why COVID-19 could be having a greater impact on vulnerable populations in the state.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission said it’s going to start compiling data to figure out what populations are at greater risk as the pandemic continues.

“Our agency is launching a study to understand how and why COVID-19 could have a greater impact on vulnerable populations in Texas as defined by race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, geographic location, chronic illness, presence of a disability, and employment status,” agency officials said in a statement.

“Texas needs to understand the health impact of COVID-19 on these vulnerable populations to determine which of these factors may be putting some Texans at greater risk,” they said.

Based on preliminary data from local governments in Texas, COVID-19 has been disproportionately affecting people of color – particularly black and Latino communities.

Local health officials in Austin and Travis County, for example, have reported that the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations is  nearly double among the Latino population.

The health agency says it will first examine immediately available state health outcome data, Medicaid data, as well as fluctuations in welfare programs like SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families applications during the pandemic.

The agency says it plans to put together a preliminary analysis in the fall and will continue to collect and monitor data.

“Any information we learn through this process that we can immediately apply to protecting Texans, we’ll put to use in whatever way we can, as quickly as we can,” the agency said in a statement.

Got a tip? Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio .

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