El Paso, Texas, has come to the attention of the nation due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in the city since November, for which they have had to hire mobile morgues and pay inmates to carry the bodies of those who died from the virus. They are now in Stage 1 of their COVID-19 Community Scoreboard, meaning that more than 10% of conducted tests are still positive and that there are more than 25 cases per 100,000 people per day.
UnidosUS Affiliates continue to take extraordinary measures to protect the health and safety of the El Paso community, while also tending to the increased educational, housing, and economic challenges faced by Latino families. Today we bring you the voices of Project BRAVO and Project Vida, who share their work and their hopes for their city.
By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS
As of Thursday, December 3, El Paso has seen 88,491 total COVID cases (545 new), 867 people hospitalized, and 968 total deaths. El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, in an interview last weekend, mentioned “COVID fatigue,” people letting their guard down, as the factor for the fall surge in cases. On the other hand, a report from the local nonprofit news outlet El Paso Matters found out that the city’s low-income neighborhoods have been disproportionately affected by this new wave of coronavirus infections, which are the areas where many essential workers, who do not have the option of working from home, live.
SOCIOECONOMIC FACTORS AS DETERMINANTS OF INFECTION
Laura Ponce, Project BRAVO Executive Director, analyzes how the El Paso Matters find dashes the “public commentary about how our Latinx people are more likely to get COVID as if the disease is the result of cultural rather than socioeconomic factors,” she says. El Paso is “a city with 80% Latinx at all socioeconomic levels,” Ponce continues, and the aforementioned report establishes “the fact that socioeconomic factors are really the determinant for infection.”
Project Vida Health Center tells us that they have had patients who are “eager to get back to work as they can’t afford to stay home, despite not fully being recovered,” which showcases how socioeconomic factors influence COVID-19 contagions.
Furthermore, Ponce also shares her frustrations with the current situation her city is going through since, as she explains, “Our government priorities are not aligned with the needs in the community.”
Ill El Pasoans are being flown to hospitals in San Antonio and Austin because their hospitals are at capacity. However, “despite our desperate need for funding to address the current crisis,” Ponce states, contractors are still working on replacing parts of the fence that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juárez, México.
“The work has not stopped during this entire pandemic,” Ponce explains. “It is a little surreal to see the level of coordination and progress on the wall while our community puts up temporary treatment centers, increases the number of refrigerated units, and flies hundreds of sick El Pasoans 500 miles away to San Antonio and Austin because our hospitals are full.”
Project BRAVO is one of UnidosUS’s Esperanza/Hope Fund grantees who are using these funds for their emergency response to serve children in foster care, unaccompanied minors, and homeless youth that are currently attending high school, obtaining their GED, or attending college. They are working with Child Protective Services and Title 1 Specialists to provide hotspots to high school and college age youth with service for 12 months.
Join us TODAY with EPCC as we discuss services and the application process for 2021.
Their larger response to COVID-19 has included rental and mortgage assistance, as well as working in partnership with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to help prevent evictions; financial aid in the form of limited-use debit cards, as well as utility assistance; providing laptops for their adult students; and setting up a hotline for COVID-positive households so they can access Project BRAVO’s programs and services, and be connect to health care resources that are free or low cost.
ANXIETY AND FEAR
When the pandemic started, Project Vida, who provides integrated primary care for clients of all ages, started offering their services virtually—consulting by phone and/or video—since their clients are considered especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
Since mid-June, this organization has also partnered with the El Paso City-County Office of Emergency Management to provide free COVID-19 testing, and since then, they have performed 6,920 tests, 1,501 of which have been positive.
At their health centers, they also treat these COVID-19 patients: “Most have mild to moderate symptoms. The more severe symptoms are sent to the ER,” the Project Vida team explains. “There’s definitely a lot of anxiety, fear of going to the ER or hospitals.”
Their patients, apart from needing to go back to work even before they are fully recovered, also struggle with many other issues that our Affiliates throughout the United States have been reporting since the beginning of the pandemic: “[They] are afraid of spreading [the virus] to their family members. Some are struggling with child care while they have symptoms.” However, they also specify that “most commonly, everyone is willing to isolate and follow our recommendations.”
The Project Vida team sees that the city of El Paso needs more and better testing, community participation in wearing masks, and following social distancing rules to better help our communities during the pandemic.
If you are in El Paso and need a COVID-19 test, Project Vida has these two testing sites available:
- Naftzger Clinic, located at 3612 Pera Ave, El Paso, TX 79905 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Canutillo Northwest Health Center, located at 7000 Fifth St, Building B, Canutillo, TX 79835 on Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.