By Rebecca Aguilar
It’s been a difficult four weeks for Teresa Vasquez, who has been self quarantined in her small bedroom at her Oak Cliff home. On March 27, her family rushed her to a nearby clinic. Her body was aching and she was gasping for air.
“My temperature was 103,” said Vasquez, a 48-year-old Hispanic woman who also suffers from high blood pressure. “They checked my oxygen level and it was low. They told me I had pneumonia and needed to go to the hospital.”
Her husband rushed her to Methodist Charlton Medical Center, where she was assisted by doctors and nurses in personal protective equipment. She said they tested her for coronavirus, x-rayed her lungs, and decided to send her home to rest and orders to take antibiotics for three days.
Nine days later, she got a call that she tested positive for COVID-19. “It was horrible,” she recalled. “It was bad. I thought ‘I don’t have the strength to fight this.’” The Dallas County Health officials have determined Hispanics have the highest rate of coronavirus infections in the County, while African American’s have the second-highest number, followed by Whites.
DCHHS statistics, as of April 13, 2020, revealed more than 1700 cases of COVID-19 in Dallas County and 430 people hospitalized. Among those are 124 Hispanics, 113 Blacks, and 90 Whites. Jennifer Travis-Cox is an African American woman who also lives in Dallas County.
She has been taking anti-rejection medication since her second kidney transplant in January 2011. Her immune system is fragile. Now the 67-year-old rarely leaves her home because she fears becoming a COVID-19 statistic. “I miss my grandkids,” she said. “I hate this. This is the first Easter that I did not see them. I am serious about this virus because the virus is very serious.”
What health experts have not figured out is why minority communities are getting the virus more than Whites. Dallas County Health officials have discovered many of the African Americans and Hispanics infected have other underlying health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, or heart disease.
They say these illnesses make people more vulnerable to coronavirus. Officials admit there could be more minorities infected by COVID-19 in Dallas County, but vital information is missing. “Forty percent of the infected are of an unknown race,” said Marisa Gonzales with DCHHS. “The lack of information on a person’s ethnic background could be because of two reasons.
Those testing did not ask for that information or those tested did not indicate their ethnic background on any paperwork they had to complete.” Cox feels fine and doesn’t think she needs to be tested for the virus. What bothers her the most, she says, is that she continues to see people not practicing social distancing or covering their faces with a mask when they are out in public.
“This virus has taught me that things can happen, and life can switch on you on a dime, and we need to be more considerate and concerned about people around us,” she stressed, adding that this goes for “people who we love and people who we don’t know and don’t love.”
Since becoming ill with coronavirus, Vasquez has also not left her home and has been tested two more times for COVID-19. Doctors told her she needed to be tested two times after her self-quarantine to clear her to return to work. One test came back positive, and one came back negative. She is in limbo and plans for yet another test.
Vasquez lives with her teenage daughter and her husband who has been caring for her. She cried on the phone as she described how the virus, the multiple testing, and not knowing whether she still has the illness have worn her out physically and emotionally; but she is determined to beat it. “My son just had a baby on March 26. Till this day, I have not held him. I fight for them, for all of them.”