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COVID-19 among African Americans in LA County
By Dr. Muntu Davis, MD, MPH Los Angeles County Health Officer
Published May 14, 2020

COVID-19 is shedding a disturbing light on existing health disparities among African Americans in the County of Los Angeles; disparities rooted in a history of limited access to affordable housing, nutritious foods, and primary health care. Living under such conditions can make it harder to prevent and control chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease and diabetes, which increases our risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19. And our seniors 65 years and older, especially those who live in nursing homes, are particularly at risk from this virus.

At the Los County Department of Public Health (Public Health), we are committed to advancing the living conditions that close the gaps while supporting optimal health and well-being for all 10 million residents we serve. Right now, addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is our top priority, and one of the biggest challenges our county has ever faced. As we report more cases and sadly, more lives lost to COVID-19, we are beginning to get a clearer picture of how African Americans are disproportionally affected by this virus.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the death rate among African Americans from COVID-19 in LA County.

As of April 30, the death rate from COVID-19 among African Americans in LA County is 16.7 per 100,000 people.  This is significantly higher than the rates for other races and ethnicities. For people who identify as Latinx, the rate of death from COVID-19 is 8; for people who are Asian, the rate of death is 13.5; and for whites, the rate of death is 10.8.

Driven by our mission to ensure that EVERYONE has the opportunity and resources to attain their highest level of health, we are working to decrease some of the barriers that make it more difficult to stay healthy during this pandemic.  Access to testing in all communities is very important to identifying and controlling the spread of COVID-19, and we are working to expand testing capacity, especially in neighborhoods that have fewer resources for good health.  We are also working to ensure that people who test positive for COVID-19, or have been a close contact of someone positive for COVID-19, receive medical care and support to isolate or quarantine.  Finally, we will do more to communicate about the unjust burden of the virus on the Black community, and what steps we can take to protect ourselves and the people we care about. To see more details on our strategies, and a comprehensive report on racial, ethnic and socioeconomic data related to COVID-19, please visit our website.

We all must continue to do our part individually by practicing physical distancing, wearing a cloth face covering when around others outside our homes, washing our hands frequently with simple soap and water, for at least 20 second, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. And if we can, stay safe at home. We here at Public Health will do all we can to protect all of the communities that make our diverse county great. And, as a community, we will get through this together.

Categories: COVID-19 | Health | Op-Ed | Opinion
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