HOUSTON — Two weeks after Valery Martinez’s 41-year-old cousin was rushed to a hospital with severe symptoms of COVID-19, Martinez wrote a post on Facebook, thanking the doctors and nurses at Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital in Houston who were working to save him.
“You are the real heroes putting your life on the line in this difficult time,” Martinez wrote. “May God continue to cover and protect you and your families.”
Afterward, she started getting messages from friends — nearly all of them Hispanic, like her — who said their loved ones were also sick with the coronavirus. One friend’s aunt was in intensive care at Memorial Hermann Southeast.
The friend’s family was planning a prayer vigil outside the hospital that weekend, so Martinez asked to join. Then members of another family they knew came forward, asking if they, too, could come pray for a loved one hospitalized there with COVID-19.
Martinez choked back tears that Sunday afternoon this month as she and 40 others stood in a parking lot outside Memorial Hermann Southeast, faces covered with masks, hands lifted in prayer for the three patients hospitalized in ICU rooms 2, 11 and 22 — all Hispanic, all connected to ventilators.
The moment made Martinez feel like she wasn’t alone, she said, and helped her realize just how rapidly the virus was spreading through her community.
“Pretty much everyone who I know has had coronavirus or has a family member who’s been sick or is in the hospital,” said Martinez, who by early this week could list 45 Hispanic friends, family members and acquaintances who’ve been sick with the virus in the Houston area — including four who’d died.
As the coronavirus tears disproportionately through Latino communities in Texas, data released this week by state health officials reveals that an outsized share of these residents are also suffering the worst outcomes. Hispanic Texans make up about 40% of the state’s population but 48% of the state’s 6,190 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, according to Department of State Health Services data.
In the Houston region, where COVID-19 hospitalizations surged in June before beginning to decline in recent days, data released by the Harris County health department showed a disproportionate share of those requiring hospital care — as high as 65% of newly hospitalized patients during some weeks in June — were Hispanic, despite the fact they are 44% of the population.