HOUSTON – Two months ago when the pandemic was still new to the Houston area, KPRC 2 Investigates identified several “super neighborhoods” that had a high number of coronavirus cases.
Yet, testing wasn’t widely available in those communities, where mostly minority and vulnerable populations lived. Fast forward to now, those neighborhoods are hot spots for COVID-19.
Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend and Galveston counties track new coronavirus cases by zip code. While the city of Houston maps cases by super neighborhoods. KPRC 2 Investigations analyzed this data to locate the areas with the highest COVID-19 infection rates.
In Manchester, a Latino community in southeast Houston, the COVID-19 infected rate is 44 per 10,000 residents.
A few weeks ago, testing wasn’t easily accessible for residents in Manchester. However, there is now one testing site nearby in Pasadena.
“We just went to a place, where they were doing the free testing,” said Manchester resident Janet Fuente. She said her family denied the testing but after learning about the area’s infection rate she believes she should have reconsidered.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the number of testing sites has increased in the past two months and more is coming.
“There are 13 existing sites,” he said. “By the end of the month, there will be 24.”
Houston runs a testing site at Forest Brook Middle School in the Settegast area in northeast Houston, which is another community hard hit by COVID-19. The infection rate in this area is 56 per 10,000 people.
“It’s crazy,” said Ebony Smith when she heard the rates in her area. “I can believe it because it’s nasty over here."
Other Houston hot spots need some context.
Downtown has an infection rate of 102 per 10,000 people. However, that is where the city jail is located, and hundreds of inmates tested positive.
The Texas Medical Center also has a high infection rate of 124 per 10,000 people. However, it is not clear how much is from the hospital staff getting sick or patients using the hospital’s address.
Nursing homes are hot spots
Nursing homes can also skew the coronavirus numbers higher.
Downtown Conroe shows up as a hot spot, primarily due to the dozens of positive cases at the Park Manor nursing home.
In Fort Bend County, an area in Missouri City has a higher rate due to positive cases at another Park Manor facility. A few neighborhoods in Brazoria and Galveston counties also have higher because of facilities there as well.
“We are number one in testing per capita in the state of Texas,” said Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George.
He said testing is the key: “That is the only way you are going to find the depth of the problem.”
However, Tomaro Bell, of the Super Neighborhood Alliance, said it doesn’t matter how many free testing sites there are in a neighborhood if people don’t go get tested.
“If the testing is not widespread and to a larger account of the community, you cannot get accurate numbers,” he said. “That is why they are telling people to go get tested.”
Another challenge is that certain communities don’t trust what is being offered, Bell said.
“They are scared to come and get tested,” she said. “They feel it will be used for other things other than what it is for, and that is to track where COVID is.”
Judge George made one thing clear to KPRC 2 Investigates regarding people’s privacy.
“None of the information they provide to the county is going to be shared with anybody,” he said.
The bottom line for Mayor Turner is simple.
“The more tests we have, the better we will all be,” he said. “I am dreaming of that moment in time when I am not reporting any new cases.”
For a closer look at COVID-19 cases by neighborhood in your area: