In the first rounds of testing for COVID-19, county data showed coronavirus cases clustered in wealthier areas of Austin, but in a span of a week that trend seems to be reversing.
More than 40% of the county's 856 confirmed coronavirus cases are in the following ZIP codes as of yesterday:
|ZIP code||Cases as of April 9|
|78748 (South Austin)||71|
|78705 (West Campus)||55|
|78741 (East Oltorf and Montopolis)||57|
|78744 (Southeast Austin)||51|
|78704 (central South Austin)||48|
|78746 (West Lake Hills and Rollingwood)||34|
Dell Medical School Dean Clay Johnston wrote in an April 3 email that residents in the wealthier neighborhoods may have traveled recently and include "big wigs (who shake a lot of hands and attend many events)." But he also suggested this trend was likely to change "because those now with the most contacts are in lower-paying positions."
While that seems to be bearing out, with cases migrating south and east, Dr. Elizabeth Matsui—a professor of population health and pediatrics and director of clinical and translational research at Dell Medical School—cautioned that the data is incomplete.
"At this point, the most that we could do is provide an educated guess or some ideas about what might explain [the caseload distribution]," she said during a phone interview last week.
Dr. Matsui added that caseload numbers may not be the most accurate metric.
"The positive test data by ZIP code is biased, meaning that it in part reflects who has access to testing, whereas the criteria for hospitalizing someone are more similar across groups of people," she said.
Since April 8, the city has provided hospitalization numbers, but the racial and ethnic breakdown of those hospitalized patients is not available. So far, the only group overrepresented among confirmed cases is non-Hispanic whites, who make up 49% of county population and 63% of those with positive test results.
"Different populations, in particular racial and ethnic minority populations, who, let's say on average have the same level of symptoms as a nonminority population, are very likely to be less likely to get tested," Dr. Matsui said.
Carmen Llanes Pulido—executive director of the nonprofit Go Austin/Vamos Austin, which advocates for health equity in East Austin—said this pandemic is exacerbating inequities.
"Yes, there's international travel," she said. "Yes, there's different kinds of exposure, but certainly the ability to get tested, I think, is directly connected to inequity."
Llanes Pulido added in a follow-up email that minority groups are also at higher risk of exposure.
"People of color are overrepresented in many of the jobs that are deemed essential right now: postal carriers, rideshare and delivery drivers, supermarket employees, construction workers, childcare providers for essential workers, etc. These communities also tend to have less financial security to miss work and are less likely to have paid sick leave and vacation time to allow them to stay from home," she wrote. "Many also do not qualify for unemployment."
Dr. Matsui said that until we have a larger data pool and demographic information on who is hospitalized due to coronavirus we will not have a clear idea of where disparities lie.
"We are hampered by the limited ability to tap into accurate, valid data," she said.
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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks. It was harder for them to stay in front, however, something that Wolff credits with quick decision making and a tough LAFC defense.
"We have a quick attacking team, but I think when you make quick attacks and it fizzles it's just about some decision making," Wolff said. "Are we in position to finish attacks? If not, can we reestablish our attack and get stuff better?"
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal. He didn't have much time to prepare, either: in the first 30 seconds of play, Stuver had already made a save to keep the match 0-0.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
While the scoreboard tells one story, Wolff said that the team did well considering the skill of LAFC and the pressure of their club debut.
"We've got to be realistic," Wolff said. "This is the first time this organization has been in front of TV with an opportunity to show itself and I think there were some promising moments. And we're going to maximize those and continue to try to develop those, but there's lots to build on."
The team may have lost, but it still won the support of thousands of Verde fans, dozens of which made it to watch their team's first match. When Stuver and the team made it to bthe stadium, Los Verdes fans were already there to show support, and Stuver said his wife saw the same back in Austin.
"The moment that we pulled into the stadium, we saw Black and Verde fans cheering us on as we got to the stadium," Stuver said. "During warm up, you can just look around and see different groups sitting in different sections of the stadium and it's just truly amazing to see the support in our first game. We know that we want to give the fans everything, because this we play for the city and we play for them."