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The COVID-19 impact in South Texas could change the region forever

The COVID-19 impact in South Texas could change the region forever

Picture of Pedro Rojas
A  “colonia” community in Starr County, Texas.
A “colonia” community in Starr County, Texas.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the south Texas region, which lies at the southern border with Mexico and is one of the poorest areas in the state, has seen a dramatic change in its economy. The continued closure of regular traffic at the border crossings and the fall in oil prices has created a dramatic rise in unemployment and the effects are much more severe in the more underserved communities known as “colonias.” These are unplanned neighborhoods loaded with mobile homes that have poor electrical and water services and sometimes no paved roads.

The death toll from the pandemic is rising and the lack of health insurance coverage among many poor residents makes the outbreak even more lethal. Recent local news reports indicate that many south Texas poor residents affected by COVID-19 are simply just dying at home, because they couldn’t get to a hospital on time or there were not hospital beds available for them.

In light of this devastating environment, I’m planning a special news report for my 2020 National Fellowship that will air at Univision Network News nationally, highlighting the terrible conditions that are affecting the poor residents of south Texas during COVID-19.

With the collaboration of a local civil organization La Union del Pueblo Entero and its volunteers, I intend to conduct a survey in some of the poor colonias to find out how the residents are coping with the disease.

The dramatic changes that the region is experiencing and the sudden rise of coronavirus cases in Texas is dramatically changing the region, and if proper health and government actions are not taken, many families could face severe disruptions. The rise in unemployment and poor access to basic public services makes the effects of the pandemic much worse in the region.

I hope that my work can highlight the disproportionate realities of a U.S. border region that is vibrant and highly productive but continues to be deeply underserved and disconnected from the living standards of the rest of the country.

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