Health Disparities Are Killing African Americans and Latinos

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Recent data from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department shows Black and Latino communities in South Los Angeles are dying at a higher rate from COVID-19 than other communities. This type of reporting is mirrored across the nation with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention announcing 80% of COVID-19 related hospitalizations in Georgia are black.

Here in Los Angeles preliminary data shows that 17 percent of blacks (nine percent of the overall population) and 28 percent of Latinos (over 50 percent of the overall population) have died since the outbreak. The numbers for California as a state show six percent of COVID cases are in the Black community affecting ages 18-49 with a mortality rate of 15% of all deaths caused by the virus.

Both communities have a large portion of individuals who suffer from underlying medical conditions including diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure and heart disease in disproportionate numbers.

Just like the learning gap in our schools, COVID-19 has exposed in great and real detail the health disparities suffered by communities of color. Blacks and Latinos lack access to healthcare benefits because of high unemployment or underemployment, are not able to maintain healthcare coverage because low-wage earnings that cannot compete with rising medical costs, and virtually no medical facilities in areas where blacks and Latinos live to provide preventative treatments.

Thankfully testing and treatment for the coronavirus is free of cost for those on Medi-Cal. Unfortunately, many more in communities of color will suffer in silence only to be counted as a statistic without the resources and access to testing and care for COVID-19.

Our medical system, as with many other industries, must be reviewed to see where the gaps are, how to fix them equitably and what parts, if any, require a complete overhaul.

Working with the Governor and colleagues in the State Legislature on COVID-19 issues, I have seen major projects that would have taken months and even years to make a reality come to fruition and implemented within days and weeks.

This includes the re-opening of the St. Vincent Hospital in Los Angeles that had just closed in January, the fast tracking of EDD Unemployment Claims and website portals that link government and private corporation efforts to benefit all Californians in seeking work, insurance and financial assistance for their businesses.

Healthcare in our state must be the next item on our list to review and revamp – for many of us it is a matter of life and death.

I want to hear from you on your healthcare/insurance issues and your thoughts on what is working and not working with current or previous coverage. Email me at assemblymember.jones-sawyer@assembly.ca.gov.

Wishing you safety and health,

Reggie Jones-Sawyer
Assembly District 59