Texans living in already polluted areas, reports DaLyah Jones, "are more likely to have preexisting health issues, which means they’re at a higher risk of getting seriously ill" from the coronavirus.
"A lot of immune systems that aren’t where they should be are weakened and are more susceptible,” Dr. Brett Perkison, a professor of occupational medicine at the University of Texas School of Public Health, tells Jones.
Houston, Jones reports, is a "hotspot," with eight counties in the region, including Harris County, failing to meet national standards for air quality. "Prolonged exposure can cause a host of health issues, including chronic lung diseases and asthma," she writes.
These health issues could then be "exacerbated by the virus," Elena Craft, senior director for climate and health with the Environmental Defense Fund, tells Jones. "It's a double-whammy effect."
And this effect could be most pronounced in the most vulnerable neighborhoods, mapped by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, home to higher percentages of residents who are older than 60 or who have preexisting chronic conditions.
One of these neighborhoods is Houston's Fifth Ward, where 13 percent of residents have asthma, others live near metal recyclers and a cancer-causing creosote plume and many are uninsured. Rev. James Caldwell says, "Why does it cost out of pocket to just stay alive?”
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