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Increasing coronavirus cases have plunged Los Angeles County into “deeply troubling” times according to local health officials.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) confirmed 50 new deaths and 1,777 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday while warning residents that individuals in minority and low-income communities are more at risk.

“As you know, our cases are rising and the rate of infection is increasing, and the number of hospitalizations are up,” said Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. “These numbers are reminiscent of what we saw months ago at what we thought was going to be the height of the pandemic here in LA County.”

She said the data shows disproportionate health outcomes for groups of different communities by race, ethnicity and income level.

According to county data, Latino people are more than twice as likely to contract the virus and are also twice as likely to die of the virus, when compared to White people. Black people are 27% more likely to contract the virus and almost twice as likely to die when compared to White people. Communities with high levels of poverty continue to see almost three times more cases than communities with little to no poverty, and people in communities with high levels of poverty are four times more likely to die of COVID-19 than are people in communities with low levels of poverty.

Ferrer said living in more crowded neighborhoods, working in jobs with insufficient protections, high risk factors for COVID related illness such as heart disease or diabetes and less access to health care are all factors in determining outcomes.

“These, like so many of the data points that I report to you, are disheartening and distressing, and they actually emphasize the need for us to continue to do more, so that we can address these inequities across our communities,” she said.

Ferrer said that business owners and residents must take immediate action in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

She said anyone with health conditions or the elderly should stay home and other residents should voluntarily limit their activity to essential services. She said everyone should wear a mask and maintain physical distance when outside.

She said the county had made no decisions on reverting to more stringent lockdown procedures.

“I know it’s on everyone’s mind, are we going to go backwards? Is everyone going to have to leave their work again and go home? I don’t have a crystal ball, and it’s not a decision I make by myself,” she said. “What I will say to folks is we are deeply committed to being on a recovery journey. And we need everyone else deeply committed to being on a recovery journey.”

She said it will take a community effort to bring the virus under control.

“The way we get through this, the way we get to the other side, the way we minimize the number of people who die is by in fact working together,” she said. “Doing the things that we’ve asked of each other, to wear our face coverings, absolutely keep our distance. For businesses that are reopen to do all of the modifications that create a space as safe as possible.”

She said the actions people take are not about self preservation but about protecting those around us.

“This isn’t a time for people to say you know ‘I’m in this for me. I’m going to take the risk’ and it really doesn’t work that way. It’s not just you that’s taking the risk. You’re creating risk for other people. Unless you’re gonna stay home completely by yourself for the entire period of the pandemic, you’ve got to act and acknowledge, that we’re in this together and that our actions actually make a difference to other people and to other people’s ability to stay healthy and not to die.”

She reiterated that wearing a mask is critical to the continued health of the community.

“I want to really say that when you go out and about and you don’t wear a face covering, it’s not about you’re getting sick. It’s about you’re getting somebody else sick. There’s really absolutely no way to know for certain that you can’t infect somebody else given where we are and what we know about this virus. So we do have to take care of each other and we do have to acknowledge that that’s the world we’re living in today and I hope that most people, if not everyone feels like they can do their part. And this is sort of the positive side of this, we all get to help each other, we all get to help each other get to the other side.”

editor@smdp.com