Los Angeles County is one of the most diverse counties in the country, and the past few weeks have demonstrated that COVID-19 does not discriminate — neither along ethnic nor socioeconomic lines.
Although no one is immune, national reports have revealed something many of us have long known: the same social and economic determinants that have driven health disparities for generations — such as access to fresh fruits and vegetables, health care, safe housing and a good education — have left some ethnic communities more vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19 than others. Initial data indicates, African Americans in particular are suffering — and dying — at a disproportionate rate.
We need concrete epidemiological data about how this population is uniquely affected, and then we need to act, tailoring our resources to serve those most in need.
To that end, this week, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has moved to open the first testing site in the County to collect detailed demographic data on the campus of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, located across the street from the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus.
Also, in addition to pushing for the testing site at the university, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has instructed the Los Angeles Department of Public Health to collect demographic data across all COVID-19 testing and treatment sites in the County.
At minimum, information on ethnicity, gender, and zip code should be collected in relation to the number of tests performed, test results, and hospitalization and fatality rates.
In a letter to the public health department the Supervisor wrote “In order to help stem the ongoing community spread of this dangerous virus, it is imperative that we fully understand the depth of the unique challenges it presents to each of our diverse communities. As you know, this information is vital to ensuring that our resources are not only appropriately and equitably distributed, but also tailored to serve the communities most in need.”
COVID-19 has exacerbated long-standing fissures and flaws in our public health system, but with this demographic data, long after this pandemic has passed, this new information will inform our long-term strategies to minimize a legacy and impact of historic health disparities.