Wealthy areas of Los Angeles experience fastest rise in coronavirus cases

As Los Angeles County coronavirus cases continue to rise, infections are rising fastest among wealthier residents, a likely echo of previous waves in which a higher rate of higher-income people were infected with the virus first.

There are “slightly higher case rates in communities with less poverty right now,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at a briefing Thursday.

The surge has also begun to affect the poorest residents of Los Angeles County, who are more likely to suffer worse outcomes from COVID-19.

“This is similar to what we saw at the beginning of our previous surges, where initially case rates rose first in better-resourced communities, only to be followed by steeper increases in less-resourced communities,” Ferrer said.

A Times analysis of communities of 5,000 or more residents in Los Angeles County showed that several of the areas with the highest rates of coronavirus cases were higher in wealthier communities.

Case rates were adjusted by the county Public Health Department to account for underlying differences in the age composition of various neighborhoods. Communities with an unstable case rate, as defined by the county, were excluded from the analysis.

The top 10 communities with the highest case rates in the most recent weekly data available were the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Carthay, Rancho Park, Playa Vista, Century City, Pacific Palisades, Cheviot Hills, Venice and Hollywood Hills, the coastal community unincorporated Marina del Rey and the city of La Cañada Flintridge.

These 10 communities had case rates approximately three to five times higher than the overall county rate. By contrast, the 10 communities with the lowest case rates, reporting at least some cases, were the cities of Compton, Paramount, Lynwood, Azusa, El Monte, Lancaster, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Vernon Central, Westlake, and Boyle Heights and the unincorporated community of Florence-Firestone. These communities reported a case rate of approximately one-third to one-half of the overall county rate.

The nation’s most populous county is reporting about 2,700 cases per day over the past week, a 19% increase from the previous week’s rate of about 2,300 cases per day.

And coronavirus levels in sewage in wide swaths of Los Angeles County have nearly doubled in the past two weeks, Ferrer said.

“[The levels] indicate a significant increase in community transmission,” Ferrer said. Overall, weekly coronavirus cases have tripled over the last month.

Since the early days of the pandemic, COVID-19 was initially dubbed a “disease of the rich,” with wealthier people more likely to travel with the virus back to their communities. However, pandemics end up affecting the poorest communities the most. Residents in those areas are already disadvantaged, many with higher rates of chronic disease, less access to health care resources, a higher rate of overcrowded housing, and many subject to systemic discrimination that puts them at higher risk for serious illness.

For the first time since Omicron’s winter surge faded, the rate of coronavirus cases in lower-income areas of Los Angeles County has risen to an area of ​​medium concern, with 111 new cases per week per 100,000 residents. . A case rate between 100 and 200 is a medium level of concern, while a rate of more than 200 would be a high level of concern, based on county criteria.

A week ago, the case rate for lower-income residents was at a level of low concern, with a rate of 91; a month ago, the rate was 43.

Similar trends have been seen in San Francisco.

The increase in cases among low-income areas is concerning due to the increased risk to the general health of residents in poorer areas, as well as increased rates of transmission in the community.

Los Angeles County could enter an overall COVID-19 community level of medium as early as next week if the region continues to see the same week-over-week increases.

No California county is in the high community tier for COVID-19, though nine are in the mid tier, the highest since early March. Those counties are Santa Clara, Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, Marin, Humboldt and Plumas.

At a medium level, colored yellow on maps from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency recommends that people at high risk for severe illness consider wearing a mask in closed public places.

“When there is increased transmission, as is the case now, everyone should consider keeping their masks on in closed public places to protect our essential workers, who provide us with all the goods and services we critically need,” Ferrer said.

The community level of COVID-19 takes into account both case and hospitalization rates and is now used to make federal recommendations on the use of masks. A rate of 200 or more weekly cases per 100,000 population is enough to send a county down to mid-level, even when hospitalization rates are low.

Coronavirus transmission levels, a different metric, are considered high when the case rate is 100 or more weekly cases per 100,000 residents, and Los Angeles County transmission levels have been high for the past three weeks. .

Ferrer has said Los Angeles County would reinstate a universal mask mandate in indoor public places if hospitalizations worsen dramatically and the county has a high community level of COVID-19, colored orange on CDC maps.

“We need to start seeing a downward trend so we don’t have to worry about getting to a high community level as defined by the CDC,” Ferrer said. “And if we get to that high level, it would indicate that our health system is stressed. And I know none of us want to go back there.”

Currently, Ferrer said, the virus is not straining hospitals or other health care resources.

Positive hospitalizations for coronavirus remain relatively low, fluctuating between 210 and 270, among the lowest levels of the pandemic. And daily COVID-19 deaths also remain low and steady in Los Angeles County, with about four deaths a day, the data shows.

“While it is a relief to know that fewer people are dying every day, I know that every person who has passed left behind loved ones and friends who mourn their loss,” Ferrer said. “I extend my condolences and wishes for peace and comfort during this difficult time.”

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