Balch Springs

Dallas County ‘COVID Hispanic Task Force' Aims to Help Hard-Hit Demographic

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A North Texas task force is tackling COVID-19 among the hard-hit Hispanic community as more families mourn the loss of loved ones to the virus, including the family of a Balch Springs mother and grandmother.

“She was just loving. She’d make you smile,” said Candelario Esparza Jr. “She was a huge nerd. Everybody loved being around her.”

In a matter of days, Marianne Pesina went from being a doting mother adored by her three kids and three grandkids to another heartbreaking statistic.

“I can’t believe this happened, especially so fast,” said her son.

The 53-year-old with high blood pressure lost her battle with COVID-19 last week after being hospitalized.

Her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend also contracted the virus and are currently recovering.

Esparza Jr. admits he was a COVID-skeptic in the beginning of the pandemic.

 He spent Monday planning his mother’s funeral.

“I was just telling everyone like, really? COVID-19? Really Coronavirus? But for it to hit home and to take someone I love dearly, I’m just telling everybody, this is a real thing,” he said.

The majority of COVID-related deaths in Dallas County have been those 41 and older, according to data released by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.

75% had at least one underlying health condition.

While Hispanic account for about 41% of the county’s population, Latinos account for 43% of COVID-deaths and 55% of COVID-hospitalizations, according to data.

“We are overrepresented in terms of those that are getting sick,” said Rene Martinez, former LULAC district director.

Martinez has joined the COVID Hispanic Task Force in the county.

The group has developed bilingual education aimed at helping Hispanic residents learn about coronavirus, how to prevent it, learn about increased testing sites and have a ‘checklist’ if one tests positive.

“Just getting that information in both languages in our community is essential,” said Martinez.

Martinez, like experts, say Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 based on several factors including: an increased number of essential workers, living in multi-generational homes and having limited access to healthcare.

“They don’t have the luxury of staying home so in many cases they’re bringing the virus to their homes,” said Martinez.

He does acknowledge there ‘are some elements’ within the Latino community not taking the pandemic seriously-enough.

Esparza Jr. said his mother took the virus seriously and would wash her hands often and would wear masks and gloves.

“This is real,” he said. “This his home for sure and I just wish everybody would wear a mask, save a life.”

The family has a GoFundMe account to help pay for funeral expenses.

"The Latino community is being disproportionately hit be this, so we are doing everything we can to respond those disparities and actually plan for them in the future," Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said. "I’ve appointed a COVID-19 healthcare access czar and we are addressing the disparities in a thoughtful way, so, it is something that is on my mind and it’s on our radar screen and we intend to address it."

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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