An exploration of COVID-19 vulnerabilities in six Texas counties
Background: COVID-19 prevalence and deaths have been disproportionate by geographic location and social determinants, exacerbating health disparities. It is essential to understand the needs of vulnerable communities and frame a public policy to lessen vulnerabilities originating from social determinants of health. This project aimed to investigate COVID-19 community vulnerabilities in the six Texas counties with the highest populations and/or the highest COVID-19 death counts.
Methods: According to the 2021 United States (US) Census, Harris, Dallas, Bexar, Tarrant, and Travis were the five most populated Texas counties. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services COVID-19 Dashboard, Harris, Dallas, Bexar, Tarrant, and El Paso counties showed the highest COVID-19 death counts. The COVID-19 vulnerabilities for Harris, Dallas, Bexar, Tarrant, Travis, and El Paso counties were explored using the US COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index (US-CCVI) and compared to the vulnerabilities in the state of Texas and the US.
Results: The overall vulnerability scores of the six counties, ranging from 0.83 to 0.96, were lower than Texas (0.98) and higher than US (0.50) scores. Regarding Socioeconomic Status, Minority Status/Language, and Population Density, all six counties were highly vulnerable. The vulnerability scores of Health System Factors in the counties were lower than the state-level score but higher than the national score. Minority populations most vulnerable to COVID-19 mortality varied across counties, but Hispanics and Blacks were highly vulnerable.
Conclusion: Further investigation of granular social determinants data is needed to develop local policy and public health interventions that will impact the vulnerable communities meaningfully.