A UCLA study published Monday underscores that Blacks and Latinos living in Los Angeles -- as well as New York -- are roughly twice as likely as white residents to die from COVID-19 and calls for more protections for essential workers and expanded economic assistance for high-poverty communities.
Neighborhoods with high poverty rates in both regions reported the highest rates of COVID-19 cases and related deaths, according to the study published by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.
Two significant reasons for the trends are that low-income Black and Latino residents in both metro areas rely more heavily on public transportation and are less likely to be able to earn a living while working from home, putting them at greater risk of exposure to the virus.
Sonja Diaz, founding director of the policy initiative, said more needs to be done to protect residents.
"We are now seven months into the pandemic, and we are starting to have clear information about the disproportionate health and economic impacts that communities of color are facing,'' Diaz said. "It's time to address the specific ways that COVID-19 hurts Latino and Black families and to protect our most vulnerable communities as the virus surges across the nation.''
UCLA researchers calculated the death rate in Los Angeles County was 54 per 100,000 for Latino residents and 46 per 100,000 for Black residents, compared to 23 per 100,000 for white residents. In New York City, the death rates were 247 per 100,000 for Latino residents, 237 per 100,000 for Black residents and 120 per 100,000 for white residents, according to the study's findings.
Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in Los Angeles County are nearly seven time at risk for becoming infected in Los Angeles, and die at nearly five times the rate of white residents.
The authors recommended that cities with large populations of vulnerable residents move to immediately implement six recommended measures:
- expand testing for low-income communities of color;
- provide access to health services and healthy food in low-income communities;
- provide hand sanitizing stations and free masks on public transit;
- expand access to health care and paid sick leave for essential workers;
- increase access to telehealth services for low-income residents and the uninsured to bridge the lack of medical care; and
- ensure that accurate race and ethnicity information is being collected to best inform elected officials and public health authorities on the impact of COVID-19 to communities of color.
"Essential workers are putting their lives at risk every day to keep the economy running and our families fed, and it's making them sick,'' said Laura Martinez, the lead author of the report and a UCLA postdoctoral fellow in obstetrics and gynecology. "The data clearly shows that the brunt of the pandemic is being felt by our most vulnerable communities, and our government leaders must take into account the specific needs of Black and Latino residents.''
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Researchers said low-income households, which may lack internet access or have limited proficiency with English, are at risk of not getting critical health information and precautions. About 11% of Los Angeles County residents are uninsured, making it more difficult to access care when they do get sick.
Age-related impacts differ in the two regions, though New York's peak incidence of the coronavirus to date happened months in advance of Los Angeles County's highest numbers, which may not have yet hit their peak.
Younger residents of Los Angeles County, between the ages of 18 and 40, showed the highest rate of infection based on data through July 20. In New York, residents over 45 years old were most affected.
The study also concluded that men in both metro areas had a higher rate of infection than women, while other studies have concluded that men also seem to suffer more severe symptoms.