The spread of COVID-19 has raced at an accelerating speed across America. Its 24,433,486 confirmed cases are about a quarter of the world’s 96,906,712 total. American deaths have hit 404,812, which is nearly 20% of the world’s 2,075,902. Yet, the United States has only slightly more than 4% of the world’s population.
Hospitals in many cities have intensive care unit beds that are nearly full or have reached total capacity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the American death total will hit 500,000 by mid-February. In the shadow of the spread, many places have run low on vaccine doses, and production and distribution remain slow.
While the disease has spread across most of America, its effects remain uneven. In some situations, the yardstick for this is total deaths and cases. Another measure is cases and deaths per 100,000, which allows for direct comparison from county to county and state to state.
America’s COVID-19 hotspots are defined as counties with the highest number of recent cases among the population. Based on this, Webb County, Texas, is the worst hotspot in the country. Cases per 100,000 over the past seven days number 361, well ahead of the next county, Montour, Pennsylvania, where the number is 321.
Webb County is north and west of Laredo, the county seat, along the Mexican border. It is also southwest of San Antonio.
The U.S. Census puts Webb County’s population at 276,652, up 10% in a decade, spread across 3,375 square miles. It is sparsely populated by some measures. Detroit, a city of almost 700,000, covers 149 square miles.
Over 95% of Webb County’s population is Hispanic. The county is extremely poor compared to the United States, based on most demographic measures. The median value of an owner-occupied home is $125,900. That is less than half the national figure. The median household income is $46,475, less than two-thirds of the nationwide number. The poverty rate, at 20.9%, is about double the national rate.
COVID-19 has hit the poor and non-white population particularly hard across the nation.
Webb County will come off the list of COVID-10 hotspots sometime in the next several weeks. No county holds the top spot indefinitely. In the meantime, the devastation there has to be unimaginable.