HOUSTON — As COVID-19 cases surge across Houston, Hispanics are affected in disproportionately higher numbers. The Houston Health Department is launching a 21-Day Emergency Outreach program, “Better Together” (Todos Juntos. Mejor), to curb the ravages of the disease in this vulnerable population.
The program educates Hispanics about the combination of behaviors proven effective in preventing the spread of the virus, and helpful resources to locate and use free testing sites throughout the city. It also shares valuable information for families requiring assistance with food, housing and mental health issues.
“The Latino community makes up 42 percent of the Houston cases in which our epidemiologists were able to verify race and ethnicity,” said Porfirio Villarreal, public information officer at the health department. “Our goal with ‘Better Together’ is to provide easy access to potentially life-saving information with a click, visit or call.”
Race and ethnicity information currently is unavailable on approximately 40 percent of the more than 21,000 COVID-19 cases reported to the department since the start of the pandemic.
The health department publishes weekly online updates with the locations of free testing sites at houstonemergency.org/covid-19/testing/.
One of the biggest hurdles the health department faces is getting real, factual information into the hands of the people who need it the most. “There is so much misinformation circulated,” Villarreal said. “We want to reassure everyone that any person possibly exposed to COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms can get a free test without having health insurance, and absolutely no one is asked about immigration status.”
Spanish-speaking health department employees are also equipped to provide information on contact tracing procedures, food distribution sites, financial and housing assistance, and domestic issues.
“Everyone must do their part to slow the spread of this disease. We owe it to ourselves, our families, our friends, and our communities,” Villarreal said. “The quicker we get COVID-19 infections under control, the quicker we can get our businesses, churches and schools open again. If we work quickly and work together, we will be ‘Better Together.’”