By T.A. Hendrickson
“Frankly horrifying.” That’s how Barbara Ferrer, the head of public health in Los Angeles County has described the evidence showing that low-income communities of color have been hit much harder by the pandemic than richer, whiter communities.
The disparate impact stems from vast inequality in key areas, including housing, jobs, income and transportation options.
This color coded map compiled by the New York Times shows how this dynamic is playing out in seven neighborhoods in and near Northeast Los Angeles: Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Elysian Valley, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Lincoln Heights and Mount Washington.
In each of the neighborhoods, the larger the nonwhite/Hispanic share of the population, the likelier a resident is to contract Covid-19.
In El Sereno and Lincoln Heights, where 93% of the population is nonwhite/Hispanic, 1 in 7 residents has reported a case of Covid-19.
In Elysian Valley, (85% nonwhite/Hispanic), Highland Park (82% nonwhite/Hispanic) and Mount Washington (79% nonwhite/Hispanic), 1 in 9 residents has reported a case of Covid-19. (On the map, Cypress Park is included in the area labeled as Mount Washington.)
In Glassell Park (79% nonwhite/Hispanic), it’s 1 in 10 residents.
In Eagle Rock (71% nonwhite/Hispanic), it’s 1 in 12.
Similarly, Covid is more prevalent in lower-income neighborhoods. The hardest hit NELA neighborhoods of El Sereno and Lincoln Heights also have the area’s lowest median household income — $57,000 in El Sereno and $48,000 in Lincoln Heights. Eagle Rock, which has the lowest Covid case rate in NELA, has the area’s highest median household income, at $82,000.
Eventually, vaccines may defeat the pandemic. But there is no vaccine for entrenched inequality in income, wealth and opportunity. The only cure is political will, assuming it exists and can be harnessed, to change for the better.