Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 54

One day after Mother’s Day, as I walked past the stretch of Vermont just across from Los Angeles City College, I saw a curious set of signs posted at the local Wesley Health Center clinic. The signs informed visitors that no testing for COVID-19 was available, as well as that there would be no night hours for the clinic until further notice. One sign also asked visitors to try to form a line while others were being pre-screened, but said nothing of the six feet recommended within proximity of strangers.

I mused then about the children just arriving or set to arrive to Los Angeles from their mother’s wombs during this time. It’s an extraordinary historical moment to be born in, and in particular I wonder how so many madres solteras in the community are taking care of their needs given the closure and reduced hours of so many local clinics.

The Wesley Health Center, for one, is a clinic that is already difficult enough to get service at even excluding the crisis. While the clinic’s website states that “We accept most health coverage including Medi-Cal, MediCare, and Covered CA…,” as well as that “No one is turned away for lack of ability to pay,” the fact is that another sign posted on the clinic’s screen specifies that it serves “L.A. CARE MEMBERS.

I know from experience that this means not just anyone under any type of the public coverage listed on the clinic’s site is able to receive care at the actual location on Vermont avenue. I remember walking into the location not too long ago, and being asked to provide my ID. After looking up my information, the staff told me that I’d have to visit the Department of Social Services office in MacArthur Park to figure out where I could be screened, despite my local residence in the area.

It was a significant but ultimately minor inconvenience for me. But I can only imagine how challenging the run-around process with public assistance and more can be for madres solteras just recently arrived to the country, if not for pregnant teenage women in Los Angeles, of which there are more than we can count.

There are likely also more mothers like them on the way. As one writer noted about policies shutting down school and economic activity during the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, “school closures are costly and have economic and social impacts that affect women disproportionately and hurt the poorest families the most…During the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, for example, cases of teenage pregnancy more than doubled to 14,000.”

Los Angeles may not be a Sierra Leone, but some twenty years from now, when today’s newborns come of age, I hope that on the matter of access to healthcare for vulnerable communities everywhere, we need to make only less distinctions. They all deserve our humanity.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 20

Rainy days at school were my favorite because of the way they swept over the whole environment. It would seem like every feeling became more urgent as an audience of raindrops fell to stir them from within.

Today, I just hoped the rain was enough to keep more people home. It’s as if the weather was trying to smile upon Los Angeles, urging it to rest and be dormant during this time. But I also know that not far away at all, conditions were not as sparing. I thought of those people still resting their backs underneath the 101 freeway, and how the winds surely pelted them with droplets showing no relent.

I also learned today of the Chicago Tribune report showing that Black patients for COVID-19 in Chicago are dying at nearly six times the rate of white patients.

Indeed, some of the hardest hit communities on the South and West sides have struggled with unemployment and health care access for generations. As a result, residents have higher baseline rates of diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and high blood pressure — the chronic conditions that make the coronavirus even more deadly.

In Los Angeles, metrics for the 173 deaths from coronavirus reported so far are still preliminary, but so far do appear to show consistency with what’s been seen in Chigago, Milwaukee, Detroit and Washington D.C.: that Black Americans are disproportionately dying from COVID-19 compared with other groups.

I know that this brings great sadness, as well as great anger to Black people across the nation. I also know that if this is to change for future generations, it is imperative for the immigrant community in cities like Los Angeles to learn about how we are inextricably connected with the African-American community in almost every walk of life.

I think of the Metro Blue Line, which was the first modern rail line in L.A., running from Long Beach through South Central and onto downtown L.A. at Figueroa and 7th street. L.A. Metro now has seven such railways spanning towards every main thoroughfare in the city, and its services are lifelines for my mother and millions of other humble travelers like herself. Black people in South Los Angeles played no small part in making these services accessible, just as Rosa Parks in Montgomery not only freed bus seats all over the south but also cleared the way for the civil rights movement.

Across America, hundreds of years before the word “immigrant” was used to describe people from other lands here, there were Black people lifting, nursing, farming and raising America to be carried into the arms of the next generation.

Today, as the coronavirus exposes further a racial wealth gap that our public discourse nearly forgot about between Obama’s final days in office and Trump’s first, it’s clear we’re only a few passages removed from these pages of history.

In the coming days, as conversations continue over how to respond to these reports, immigrant communities, along with every ally in America, need to voice unequivocal support for the Black community in outrage at this discrimination in our health-care system and everywhere else where segregation and complacency still undercut America in half: one where its children deserve a future, and another where children are left to die under the overpass.

Immigration rights advocates cannot expect an end to attacks from ICE or a closing of all immigrant detention facilities based on merit and hard work alone; success in these movements requires recognizing the interests our communities share with prison abolitionists and other current civil rights leaders in the African-American community, particularly at this moment looming over all of us.

I do believe that 52 years ago, it’s what the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his contemporaries sought to teach all of our communities before yet more innocent lives were unnecessarily lost. Now, when is it time, Los Angeles?

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 07

Today it dawned on me that what’s more likely about the proximity of the coronavirus to my community is not that it’s on its way, but that it’s already here, somewhere in the vicinity, albeit undetected.

When I think about that, I realize just how much I’ve got in common with millions of other Americans who’ve little to no access to basic healthcare services. In one of the last estimates, the Wall Street Journal notes that the “average” test or screening for coronavirus can run a patient up to $1,464.00 USD. According to the statistics, more than half of American households–which is to say somewhere around 165 million people–don’t even have an emergency savings account.

While Congress passed legislation to make screenings for coronavirus free of charge earlier this month, healthcare systems all across the U.S. are notorious for still billing people who can’t afford thousands of dollars in fees relating to pre-screenings or other costs that can accrue in a last-minute visit to the hospital.

In turn, even if the stock market surged earlier today in lieu of a stimulus package making its way through Congress promising $1,200 USD to Americans impacted by COVID-19, the fact of the matter is that the check is a one-time payment that’ll barely cover rent for many when it’s due next week. After that, where is our country to go?

Four years ago when the president launched his campaign, were millions of Americans who were out of work and on the verge of eviction, for which his administration would promise only a one-time payment to, as if to bid them good luck and farewell, was that his idea of making America great again?

In the meantime, at least Governor Cuomo in New York has put in place a statewide ban or eviction moratorium for New Yorkers unable to pay rent through the next 90 days due to a lack of income. Governor Newsom, on the other hand, has yet to announce any such plans for renters here in California, of which there are more than 17 million, or nearly 43 percent of the state’s total population.

In Los Angeles, the L.A. City Council canceled meetings for the rest of March a day before a scheduled vote on expansive orders halting evictions. If not for an executive order issued by Mayor Garcetti placing a temporary ban on evictions of people affected by COVID-19, L.A. tenants would have virtually no protections during this time.

I’ve thus got a feeling that more coordinated leadership from our elected officials would be much appreciated by those who’ve financially been hit the hardest by this pandemic. Those people who comprise the community this blog continues to be dedicated to.

J.T.