CDC to give San Antonio Metro Health $27 million to address inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19

City Council will have to vote to accept the funds this Thursday

San Antonio (Illustration by Henry Keller) (Henry Keller, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given more than $190 million total to the state health department and Texas jurisdictions to address health and economic inequalities that have been amplified during the coronavirus pandemic.

Of that money, San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District was awarded $26.59 million, according to the CDC. San Antonio’s City Council will vote whether or not to accept the funds during a meeting on Thursday, according to city public information officer Cleo Garcia. Upon acceptance, the city officials will decide how to allocate the funds.

The Texas Department of State Health Services will receive another nearly $39 million.

The grants are intended to reduce health disparities, improve testing and contact tracing, and enhance services to underserved communities, the CDC said Friday. They are part of a bigger, two-year $2.25 billion investment in jurisdictions across the nation, including in Austin, Houston, Dallas and El Paso.

“These grants demonstrate our steadfast commitment to keeping equity at the center of everything we do,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky said. “They are an important step in our unwavering efforts to strengthen our communities’ readiness for public health emergencies—and to helping everyone in America have equal opportunities for health.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, inequality and inaccessibility have made the health crisis complicated for already-underserved communities, from testing to contact tracing to vaccinating.

In the first year since the first COVID-19 death was reported in Bexar County, data from Metro Health showed that fatalities predominantly impacted communities with high poverty rates, larger household sizes, low health insurance rates and lower median incomes.

From March 2020-March 2021, of the 11 Bexar County ZIP codes with the highest COVID-19 death rates, seven have a family poverty rate of 15% or more, according to a previous KSAT report.

You can see how many lives were lost due to COVID-19 from March 2020-March 2021 in each Bexar County ZIP code in the map below.

Socio-economic factors that may have contributed to higher death and infection rates include crowding in homes, meaning the lack of social distancing, as well as having no health insurance and not being able to work from home, according to Rogelio Saenz, a demography professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College for Health, Community and Policy.

To help combat the issue in the long run, voters in November approved a sales tax to pay for the SA: Ready to Work program, which will help locals get workforce training or complete a two- or four-year degree.

“This is an investment in our people. This is an investment in our future,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said on election night.

WATCH: How the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted longstanding inequities and socioeconomic issues in San Antonio

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About the Author:

Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.