Communities of color are being hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19 due in part to systemic inequities and institutional racism. Black and Latinx communities are becoming infected and dying of COVID-19 at alarmingly high rates, underscoring longstanding racial and economic disparities. To mitigate this health inequity, the Board of Supervisors today approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, directing pertinent County Departments to launch a robust community outreach and engagement effort to address the disparate impacts of the coronavirus on communities of color.
“The fact that communities of color fare poorly in health outcomes, and are more susceptible to COVID-19, is not an accident. Decades of discriminatory practices and institutional racism have fueled an unequal distribution of wealth, resources, access to quality healthcare, and these factors have made our Black and Latinx communities more vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Supervisor Solis. “We all have to take a hard look at the underlying racial and socioeconomic factors that make our communities of color more susceptible to dying from COVID-19. This is an injustice, and LA County will work to identify long-term solutions to remedy these health inequities.”
According to the Advancement Project’s report on How Race, Class, and Place Fuel a Pandemic, communities with a higher percentage of residents under the federal poverty level have 2.6 times more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than communities with a lower percentage of residents in poverty.
“There is no question that racism is a root cause of the inequities we are seeing throughout this COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Supervisor Kuehl. “We see it in inequitable access to information, personal protective equipment, and testing, as well as disproportionately high mortality rates. This motion directs LA County to partner with community organizations and clinics serving BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) populations so that we can address these inequities, and in order to create a framework for similar collaborations in the future. What we do today must not only help to meet immediate needs, but must also create a foundation for a more collaborative and equitable tomorrow.”
The report also found that the largest number of cases was initially reported in wealthier communities of Los Angeles, but that cases are now centered in areas with higher levels of poverty. Further, it revealed that areas with a higher percentage of white residents consistently have lower rates of new infections than areas with fewer white residents.
While the virus does not discriminate based on race, the health and economic effects of COVID-19 are, in fact, racialized. County public health experts have said focusing on these disparities is crucial for helping communities respond to the virus effectively.
“The pandemic and its multi-pronged threat requires us to act quickly to equitably deliver resources to low-income and communities of color based on their exposure to risk, prevalence of underlying conditions, and lack of access to critical services and infrastructure,” said John Kim, Executive Director of Advancement Project’s California Office. “Thank you to Supervisors Solis and Keuhl for your leadership protecting the most vulnerable Angelenos. When we do that, we protect everyone.”
Today’s motion directs pertinent County Departments to initiate a multilingual community outreach and engagement effort by contracting community organizations and ethnic news media outlets that are trusted and respected within impacted communities. These public awareness campaigns would also entail partnering with community clinics to underscore the availability of free testing, regardless of immigration or insurance status and leverage their expertise to enhance the County’s contact tracing efforts.
In addition, the motion also calls for weekly report backs on testing of individuals detained in the County’s adult and youth detention facilities and for testing results for staff at those facilities. It also requests a monthly report back on Countywide efforts to remediate racial and economic disparities heightened by the pandemic, and it instructs Departments to identify funding streams to implement these directives.
Click here to read the report by the Advancement Project.
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