By T.A. Hendrickson
It’s summer and Northeast Los Angeles – like the rest of the city, state and much of the nation – is in the grip of a worsening coronavirus pandemic.
The gradual reopening of the economy in recent weeks has coincided with an alarming increase in coronavirus infections, an upsurge that threatens to overwhelm the health system and portends an even more harrowing death toll than has already been recorded.
To try to slow the spread, some restrictions have been put back in place. On July 1, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a three-week halt to indoor visits to restaurants, wineries, entertainment centers, card rooms, museums, zoos and movie theaters. Bars were closed by an earlier order.
Elected and public health officials are also imploring residents to stay at home as much as possible, wear masks, keep distance and refrain from parties and private gatherings.
Here’s an overview of the local situation:
From the start of the pandemic through July 1, communities in and near Northeast L.A. have had 2,351 coronavirus cases and 86 coronavirus deaths, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health. This tally includes Eagle Rock (323 cases and 16 deaths), El Sereno (440 cases and 22 deaths), Elysian Valley (119 cases and no deaths), Glassell Park (306 cases and 8 deaths), Highland Park/Hermon (469 cases and 7 deaths), Lincoln Heights/Montecito Heights (500 cases and 29 deaths) and Mount Washington (185 cases and 4 deaths).
Overall, these communities account for 2.2% of the 105,507 cases of Covid-19 in L.A. County as of July 1 and 2.5% of 3,402 deaths in the county.
Northeast L.A. has also been hit hard by the economic fallout of the corornavirus. With a recent unemployment rate of 20.6%, Los Angeles County has the highest unemployment rate of any county in the state. The 34th congressional district, which includes Northeast Los Angeles, has the fourth highest unemployment rate of all districts in the state, recently 22%.
A recent report by Ron Galperin, the controller for the City of Los Angeles, drilled down to the neighborhood level. Galperin found that Los Angeles has lost an estimated 300,000 jobs in recent months (not including self-employment) and that neighborhoods within the city have an estimated 14.8% to 18% fewer jobs now than they did before the pandemic. In Highland Park, the report showed 3,859 job losses, a decline of 16.2%. Eagle Rock’s job loss number was 3,835, a decline of 15.7%.
Unemployment benefits have helped to support jobless workers, though long wait times to process applications have caused undue hardship for many unemployed people. Another problem is that federal unemployment benefits, which add $600 to the weekly state benefit, are set to expire at the end of July unless Congress extends them.
These are hard times. In NELA, the difficulties have been punctuated by the helpfulness of neighbors, the enthusiasm of activists, the grit of small businesses and the creativity of artists. The bright moments will not end the pandemic or joblessness. But they help to ensure that the community will emerge from this crisis with its heart and soul intact.
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T.A. Hendrickson, a native of Eagle Rock, is the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel and a former member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times.