From the Pandemic Crisis to an Endemic Approach: Can Communities of Color Live With This Virus?

24 Feb From the Pandemic Crisis to an Endemic Approach: Can Communities of Color Live With This Virus?

Marsha Mitchell | Communications Director

As the term coronavirus came into our community’s lexicon, Community Coalition suspended our regular hours of operation due to rising cases of Covid 19. We said our goodbyes to community resident leaders and staff members, thinking we would see each other in two weeks, more or less. We began working from home in the interests of public health and safety, and on March 25, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered Californians to stay home. California became the first state in the nation to impose a lockdown. Mayor Eric Garcetti quickly followed suit and closed all non-essential businesses in Los Angeles. Now, as we approach the two-year mark of the pandemic, California has a new first in the nation as leaders reframe the coronavirus narrative.

“We are moving past the crisis phase into a phase where we will work to live with this virus,” Newsom said during a news conference in Los Angeles last Thursday. “This pandemic won’t have a defined end. There’s no finish line.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a pandemic as a disease or virus covering a wide area, affecting several countries and populations, and exponential growth. This means the growth rate skyrockets, and each day cases grow more than the day prior. An endemic is one step down from a pandemic and is characterized by manageability due to higher immunity.

The state’s new “endemic” approach uses the acronym SMARTER, a combination of shots, masks, awareness, readiness, testing, education, and RX, a reference to improving treatments for COVID-19. But how will this SMARTER approach impact communities of color? From the beginning, the slow and extremely rocky rollout of the vaccine distribution left Black and Brown communities behind White and Asian neighborhoods as it related to access to the vaccine. 32.7% of the first available vaccines went to Whites, 16% of Latinos, 13% for Asians, 2.9% for Black people, and 0.3% for Native American populations.

CoCo leaders discuss the inequities of the vaccine distribution
Video footage provided by Leroy Hamilton

Residents in Watts, Compton, and Manchester Square, which are home to many essential workers, contracted the virus on the job and then, due to housing inequities and lack of access to the vaccine, spread it at home to loved ones living with them in overcrowded dwellings. These neighborhoods continue to be some of the county’s highest numbers of Covid cases. As of February 11, 2022, the top 5 communities with case rates equal to or greater than 1,000 per 100k residents are Black or Brown. They are University Park (South LA), Wholesale District (East LA), Exposition Park (South LA), Downtown (East LA), and Sylmar (East Valley). 

According to a report that tracks and analyzes County Public Health Data from 132 City Neighborhoods, here are the key takeaways:  

  • Citywide Trends:
    • Two-week case rate was 682 cases per 100k residents between 01/28 and 02/11, a 47% decrease since the last report. 
    • 8,571 new cases were reported between 02/05 and 02/11, a 43% decrease from the last report. 
  • Area Trends :
    • All LA areas saw decreases in their case rates between 01/28 and 02/11.
    • Case rates are highest in South LA (878, -48%), East LA (802, -45%), and the East Valley (759, -48%).
    • The West area saw a case rate of 462 (-44%), the smallest amount compared to other LA City areas this week.
  • Neighborhood Trends:
    • 132 neighborhoods (100%) saw a decrease in the case rate in the last two weeks. 
    • The top 5 case rate neighborhoods all have case rates equal to or greater than 1,000 cases per 100k residents. They are University Park (South LA), Wholesale District (East LA), Exposition Park (South LA), Downtown (East LA), and Sylmar (East Valley). 
    • Most of the top one-week new case neighborhoods were in the East Valley.
    • The top 5 one-week new case neighborhoods were North Hollywood (292), Sylmar (248), Boyle Heights (239), Van Nuys (229), and Pacoima (213).
    • Several City LA neighborhoods, concentrated in South LA, are both under-vaccinated (<83%) and have high case rates (>875 cases per 100k residents):

Newsom’s SMARTER plan will also stockpile 75 million masks and establish an infrastructure to provide up to 200,000 vaccinations and 500,000 tests a day in the event of a new outbreak. He also plans to add 3,000 medical workers within three weeks of a surge and institute a national study (another first) of the pandemic’s direct and indirect impacts long-term on both people and communities.

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