A thread I saw online recently asked people to share one thing they missed about being a pedestrian before the coronavirus uprooted life as we knew it. I replied that I missed nothing, because nothing has fundamentally changed.
During the last sixty days of this series, walking through the city, I’ve only seen more of its poverty exacerbated, transmuting into something more shameful. Not far along, I’ve also seen many of the same police cruisers from before, still whizzing past intersections to goodness knows where, as if the people buried in the sidewalk a few feet away are invisible, or still not enough of a priority to “protect and serve.”
This makes rhetoric from elected officials and several of our newspapers about “reopening” a hollow cry of obliviousness. Even if, for example, the city’s families need to get their kids back in classrooms with utmost haste, as is supposed to be case under “Phase 3” of the “return-to-normal,” in L.A. County that means getting back to schools surrounded by more than 60,000 unhoused people, where encampments crowd sidewalks on the way to school, hang from freeway underpasses located near schools, and where they linger on the paths coming back from school.
There are many intersections abandoned this way throughout metropolitan Los Angeles alone, to say nothing of the county, but it has always been unfair and confounding to let children from our public schools walk past encampments where the failure of our public health system is on full display.
In an interview with Mayor Garcetti last week regarding the extension of the stay-at-home orders in L.A. County, the mayor made an interesting remark:
This is just a dangerous a virus today as it was when it arrived. And we should never become too comfortable. We’re learning to live with it. We are not moving beyond it.”
The exact same is true of a lack of shelter for more than 60,000 in Los Angeles. And the inadequate response to COVID-19 in L.A. these past two months is just an extension of the woeful response to the basic needs of the most vulnerable citizens here throughout a far longer time period.
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