Photo by Kit Karzen

County officials said Friday that more work is needed to address race and economic disparities in health care outcomes.

The statements came during the regularly scheduled updates regarding Coronavirus infections in the county that was held on the Juneteenth celebration and following a Supreme Court decision protecting the status of some immigrants.

For the 2,844 people that died where race and ethnicity data has been identified 42% are Latino/Latinx, 29% are white, 17% are Asian, 11% are African American, slightly less than 1% are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 1% identified with another race or ethnicity.

Los Angeles county Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said while daily deaths have decreased slightly across all groups, there continues to be significant disproportionality.

According to Ferrer, the death rate is 52 deaths per hundred thousand people among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, 35 deaths per hundred thousand people among African Americans, 35 deaths per hundred thousand people for people who identify as Latino Latinx, 24 deaths per hundred thousand people for people who are Asian and 19 deaths per hundred thousand people for white residents.

She said poverty continues to be an indicator for death in relation to COVID-19 with individuals who live areas with high poverty rates dying at a rate of 60 deaths per hundred thousand people compared to communities that have very low poverty levels where the death rate is 16 deaths per hundred thousand people.

She praised county efforts to recognize the impact of race on public health.

“I also want to take a moment to appreciate the board’s leadership in identifying racism as a public health problem. As noted before, multi-sector collaboration is one tool that we have to identify and dismantle the oppressive systems and practices that disproportionately impact people of color, and people who live in poverty. But multi-sector collaboration is not our only tool, policy change is another powerful tool,” she said.

She said county efforts to protect immigrants does have a health impact due to the stress it places on communities.

“These stressors over time can make us more vulnerable to diseases, including COVID-19,” she said. “So let’s give thanks to our leaders and never lose sight of the power of policy advocacy and organizing, as we work together to close the gaps in COVID-19 health outcomes.”

Ferrer said while the mortality rate is not even among demographic groups, the overall trends in several health indicators support continued reopening including a stable rate of hospitalizations and ICU bed availability.

However, officials said wearing a mask is a critical step to continued recovery.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she recognized the resistance to wearing a mask by some people but she said compliance with mask rules, including those recently passed at the state level, are critically important.

“So I appreciate people not being thrilled about it,” she said. “The data shows it in fact has helped us to keep the rate at the numbers that it is right now …”

Ferrer said mask wearing is something everyone can do to protect everyone else.

“I get a lot of questions about why this is important, especially from individuals who are not worried about becoming infected themselves,” she said. “The important issue here is that we’re not asking you to wear the face covering to protect yourself. We asked you to cover your mouth and nose to protect others, especially since you can be infected with COVID-19 and have no symptoms of illness. This is how you keep your respiratory droplets from reaching someone else.”