Mendoza is among
For an interactive graphic tracking
The plight of Laredo – a city of 260,000 located in one of America’s poorest
Poverty makes it much harder for people to isolate themselves to guard against infection or to seek proper care when they get sick, said Sandra Quinn, a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health.
“A pandemic like this just
In surrounding Webb County, which includes Laredo, nearly a third of residents live beneath the federal poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About as many don’t have health insurance. Nearly all the students in the city’s school system — now shuttered — were eligible for subsidized lunches or other government benefits.
Mendoza’s kids have insurance through Medicaid, the government-run health program for low-income families. Mendoza has no insurance at all. If he gets sick, he said, he would “go to the doctor and ask for a payment plan.”
Other families are already in the food line. One day last week, more than 800 people showed up at the South Texas Regional Food Bank for boxes of pasta, rice and other supplies. On a typical day before the pandemic, just 25 or 30 people might have stopped by the organization’s warehouse to get food to sustain their families through a rough patch.
Now, instead of coming
“You have to feel for these people,” said Alma Boubel, the food bank’s director.
The severity of the U.S.
The unemployment rate in Webb County, estimated at 4.1% in January, was above the national average before the virus hit. Many of the region’s jobs are tied to the transportation industry that moves goods back and forth across the border with Mexico – traffic that U.S. President Donald Trump and the Mexican government have sharply curtailed in an effort to contain the disease.
Officials in Laredo and Webb County did not respond to questions about how they planned to handle the public health or economic shocks.
The realities of lower-wage work also often mean that people can’t shift their livelihoods to a home office, as professionals in higher-end jobs often can. That dynamic also complicates government efforts to stop the spread of disease through social isolation.
“Social distancing is hard, and of course many low-income people work at jobs that are physical, in-person, manual, and you have to show up,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Studies after an outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus in the United States a decade ago found that minorities and lower-income families had a
“There’s a lot of worry now,” Garcia said. “Our clients, what they’re saying is they don’t know where else they can get assistance. They’re willing to risk their health. They can’t work right now, so they don’t have a paycheck. They need whatever food they can get.”