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Ferrer Calls Police Violence Against Blacks a Public Health Issue; Health Care Inequities

Motorists drive into a COVID-19 mobile testing site at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Willowbrook. The testing is being conducted in partnership with the County Department of Health Services. Photo via Flickr, County of L.A./Michael Owen Baker

Location

Alhambra , CA

Los Angeles County’s Monday press briefing was somber. The weekend was filled with protests against police brutality towards Black men and other people of color that began in response to the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd during his arrest. The tone was reflected in the statements from county officials.

It began with Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger thanking county residents for their continued efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and for the peaceful protests over the last few days but L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer did not mince words.

“I do want to say a few words about events since the Memorial Day murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. This is of course a briefing about COVID-19 but the events in Minneapolis and the response to those events are overwhelming,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer said she believed it was important to connect the two topics: the “death of a Black man at the hands of police and the experience of COVID-19 in L.A. County.”

She said that Black Americans face the worst circumstances on virtually every measure of health status. And the science is clear that the root causes of health inequities are racism and discrimination. Ferrer said that the reports she provides each week have elevated numbers of African-American deaths in the county due to COVID-19, she said when she’s offering those numbers “I am reporting on the consequences of these longstanding inequities.”

Ferrer’s most impassioned remarks came while quoting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s L.A. Times opinion piece that ran Monday. Voice wavering, she recited, “He said the Black community has to ask itself if ‘being Black means sheltering at home for the rest of their lives because the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19.’”

Ferrer then declared that, as the department responsible for the county’s public health, addressing law enforcement violence against people of color is a public health issue, and “this rush to justice has to be part of our prescription.”

On the subject of COVID-19, Ferrer reported 22 new deaths in the county, bringing the total deaths to 2,384,. She also reported 978 new cases bringing the country total to 55,968. Positivity rate from testing continues to decline and is at 8%.

For the entire report of today’s status, go to the press release and county health COVID-19 locations page. The county COVID-19 surveillance dashboard provides more insight collected on race and ethnicity of deaths, income disparity and other data points.

To those who are doing peaceful protesting, Barger said, “We hear you, we support you, and we know that you are not part of this element that is going out and doing this looting.” She said they appreciate the many residents who are standing up and were seen helping to protect businesses, “but please stay safe.”

Barger declared a state of emergency on Saturday night, which she said will help the County “coordinate assistance across jurisdictions, accessing vital supplies and receive reimbursements from the state and the federal governments.”

Barger encouraged the county to “continue to use your voice for good” while at home.

Even though much of the West SGV has been spared from the devolving violence that is spreading throughout the United States – including the City of Los Angeles – the county is imposing a curfew that will apply to Alhambra, and can be renewed by L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva for as many days as he deems necessary.

Residents must be in their homes from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., with a few exceptions that include first responders, those seeking medical treatment and those traveling to and from work.

Those who have emergency alerts turned on to their phones got push notifications, similar to AMBER Alerts; around 3:35 p.m. an alert was sent that curfew begins at 5 p.m. from 6 p.m., which had been communicated earlier Monday.

At 5:50 p.m. an email was sent to clarify that the curfew does actually begin at 6 p.m., with a few cities’ beginning earlier. The email said the City of Glendale “erroneously sent out a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) alert with information about their local curfew that went to all residents in the County of Los Angeles.”

Due to the civil unrest, at least 19 testing sites are closed. The county sent a press release on Sunday that there are only five county-run sites in operation, the two closest to the West SGV are the San Gabriel Valley Airport and East Los Angeles College.

The press release said additional sites could be closing, and those who had appointments at any closed sites would be notified by email or phone to reschedule.

In Alhambra, Mayor Ross J. Maza and city staff again drew names out of the rolling drum for the COVID-19 housing relief funds, on Facebook Live, Monday morning. One hundred new tickets were pulled. Maza announced the number on the ticket, the last name and street of residence on the application.

At the beginning of May the city pulled 200 names and 50 for the waitlist.

“Unfortunately, some of the initial names that were pulled did not qualified or decided to withdraw,” Maza said on the stream. “At this point we are pulling 100 additional names, in order to add to the waiting list in the event that it becomes necessary.

The families who receive the funding will get $1,500 in three installments – $500 per month – for what was supposed to be June, July and August. This was earmarked for residents meeting certain income standards, and were impacted by COVID-19, to help pay for rent or mortgages.

The first $500 would have been directly paid to landlords or mortgage holders prior to today, June 1. It was unclear by the livestream or the city housing assistance site whether those who’ve been selected and have been vetted have already received their June installment.


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