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Hospitalizations, deaths higher for coronavirus patients with diabetes

Dallas County numbers follow national trends showing more complications for diabetics.

DALLAS — According to Dallas County Health and Human Services, 28% of COVID-19 patients who have required hospitalization in Dallas County are diabetic.

While the state of Texas says it does not yet have data to provide trends showing diabetes and coronavirus complications, Louisiana does. 

Data released by the state health department on Monday shows 40% of Louisiana patients who died from COVID-19 had diabetes. 

CDC data reveals the same pattern: diabetics have a higher rate of hospitalization and ICU admittance than COVID-19 patients with any other chronic health condition. 

Credit: Brandon Mowry
A woman wearing a mask stands in line to enter a Family Dollar on Lancaster Ave.

“They talk about all the pre-existing conditions, and I realized you’re really describing a lot of communities of color,” said Richie Butler, pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Dallas. 

Butler is at home in isolation because his wife and daughter tested positive for COVID-19. 

Both are recovering, but he worries many in Dallas won’t recover, because the pandemic could expose deeply ingrained inequities.

It’s a worry that is top of mind for many in Dallas County, including Dr. Sunita Koshy-Nesbitt, assistant professor of internal medicine and cardiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and president-elect of the American Heart Association’s Dallas division.

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“Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure - none of that stops in the face of coronavirus,” she said. “But keeping with the CDC guidelines is of utmost importance.”

Poverty, food deserts, and lack of access to health care often go hand in hand with higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, and that’s the case in many Dallas County zip codes.

The American Heart Association has been working to solve food insecurity issues in 75216, which has some of the highest rates of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure in the county

“It’s a little bit more challenging I think for everyone to gain food resources and social needs right now, and more so for those who didn’t really have it, or where it was scarce to begin with,” Koshy-Nesbitt said.

This week, 75216 saw a spike in cases of COVID-19, which worries Butler.

He and his church launched a campaign, asking leaders in underserved communities to get out the word that residents are likely at higher risk than they might think.

“The notion is, ‘It’ not gonna affect me,” he said. “But I’m an example! We actually paid attention and we still contracted the virus. So if you’re not being diligent, the chances are highly likely you’re going to get infected.”

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