Since COVID-19 infection numbers skyrocketed in Texas in July 2020, Dr. Bianka Soria-Olmos, a pediatrician at Cook Children’s Pediatrics in Haslet, has witnessed the disproportionate impact on Latinos in the state.
“I think it was right after the Fourth of July  when I really saw the Texas numbers, and I saw my community numbers really skyrocket,” Soria-Olmos told Fort Worth. “When I found out about that particular ZIP code and how disproportionate the numbers were, that’s when I became alarmed, and all I could [do] was [ask], ‘What can I do to help?’ With the misinformation circulating in all languages and the minimal amount of accurate, up-to-date information in Spanish, I knew this is how I would help.”
The doctor talked about Tarrant County, where the north and far south sides of Fort Worth, where the Hispanic or Latino population is densest, have been the hardest hit.
According to CDC data from March 10, Hispanics or Latinos account for 46.3% of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Texas. This is despite the fact that Hispanics or Latinos make up 36.6% of the state’s population.
The trend is even worse for Hispanic or Latino children. According to CDC national data, Hispanics or Latinos aged 5-17 years account for 26.8% of COVID-19 cases in that age group nationally, but only represent 18.5% of the population in that age group. Meanwhile, Hispanics or Latinos aged 0-4 account for 29.8% of cases in that age range.
At the local level, the story is equally grim. According to data compiled by Cook Children’s Medical Center in October 2020 – nine months after the first case of COVID-19 in Tarrant County, 53% of hospitalized children were Hispanic or Latino. Fort Worth’s Hispanic or Latino population is 35.5%.
Having grown up in Fort Worth, Bianka Soria-Olmos has a deep connection to people in specific zip codes, where many do not speak English, have no personal transportation, or have no health insurance.
She speaks to these people in their native language through live broadcasts and Zoom calls organized by nonprofit organizations and Cook Children’s Medical Center.
People who would otherwise remain in the dark – unwittingly avoiding vaccinations, not knowing the symptoms of COVID-19, or not knowing how wearing a mask protects – are finally getting up-to-date advice from a doctor.
“The Hispanic community has a high prevalence of some of the chronic medical conditions that puts you at high risk for severe COVID-19 disease,” Soria-Olmos says. “Some of them being diabetes, elevated BMI, cardiac issues, and lung and kidney issues … While we know the virus affects people over 65 more gravely, many people in the Hispanic community have these underlying conditions and are not over the age of 65. This puts them at a much higher risk.”
In collaboration with nonprofits and Cook Children’s, Soria-Olmos is trying to eliminate the communication barrier as one factor contributing to the Hispanic or Latino community being at high risk.
Using Facebook Live, Zoom, Periscope, Ustream, or any other live streaming service imaginable, Soria-Olmos uses the megaphone to get her message across.
With information from Fort Worth Magazine.