Tens of thousands of vulnerable San Antonio residents don’t have internet access. How do they get COVID-19 information?

‘This disease is hurting our communities of color in disproportionate ways,’ said the Metro Health director.

Community Health and Prevention are making sure the communities most vulnerable to COVID-19 are educated on how to limit its spread. (City of San Antonio, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – For most people, the latest news on the spread of COVID-19 is shared quickly through their phone or their laptop, on social media or a news site.

But not everyone in San Antonio has high-speed internet access. In fact, 12 percent of households in the city do not own a computer and nearly a quarter do not have a broadband internet subscription, according to the 2018 U.S. Census.

Not having access to the internet can severely limit how (or if) people get information, which can be a matter of life or death during a pandemic. That’s why the city’s Community Health and Prevention team, or CHP, was dispatched to help them.

This week, CHP teams will deliver information to more than 30,000 potentially vulnerable residents in west, southwest, and southeast parts of San Antonio, according to a news release from the Metropolitan Health District.

Last week, 5,300 door hangers with COVID-19 information fanned out to households in Council District 2 on the East Side, which is among the highest numbers for vulnerable residents with low income, elderly people and minorities. Teams have also been delivering handouts to East Side businesses.

What is being done about census hard to count areas in Bexar County?

“It’s important for businesses to understand that since they are essential, it could be a potential hazard for COVID to be spread,” said Vicente Escobedo, a CHP team member.

The teams use the city’s Office of Equity’s Atlas Matrix Map to help determine which census tracts have the most residents with low income and populations of color. The higher the score, the higher the concentration of those vulnerable populations.

Many of these same neighborhoods don’t have steady access to information.

During Monday night’s city briefing, Metro Health Director Dawn Emerick said the outreach to these vulnerable areas is very important.

“We’re also seeing disparities, health disparities in people of color and communities of color. We have a team within Metro Health ... that comes together each Monday ... to look at all of this data,” Emerick said. “We’ve determined there are areas that need additional outreach.”

These meetings include multiple agencies, like San Antonio police, firefighter, and housing officials.

The COVID-19 death rate shows the disparities, Emerick said. Roughly 70% of residents who have died in Bexar County have been minorities, the data showed.

“We have a wide disparity that COVID-19 is definitely hitting communities of colors in disproportionate ways," Emerick said. “There’s no question that all of us are at risk, but we also know this disease is hurting our communities of color in disproportionate ways."

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.