Hollywood Presbyterean Hospital in East Hollywood, Los Angeles

Three Months After Shut-down, L.A. “Reopens” while both COVID-19 and LAPD Budget Remain Uncontained, Posing the Greatest Risk to Black, Latino and AAPI Communities

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 86)

As of the evening of June 11th, according to the L.A. County Public Health Department, Black, Asian and Latino communities still represent more than 70% of 2,629 deaths from COVID-19 in L.A. County, while whites represent 29% of deaths. The numbers might seem commensurate with these groups’ share of the total population in L.A. County, but as before, they are actually still an under-count and not indicative of the whole picture.

Of 66,941 active coronavirus cases reported by the department, L.A. County Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, has pointed out that there is still a disproportionate rate of death for ethnic minority groups:

The death rate among Native Hawaiians & Pacific Islanders is 52 deaths per 100,000 people. And among African Americans the death rate is 33 deaths per 100,000 people. For people who identify as Latino and Latinx, the death rate is 32 deaths per 100,000 people. For people who are Asian, the rate is 23 deaths per 100,000 people, and for whites, the death rate is 17 deaths per 100,000 people…We also see that people who live in areas with high rates of poverty continue to have almost four times the rate of death for COVID-19.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Public Health Director

In my native East Hollywood neighborhood, the County is tracking a total of 254 cases, with 38 deaths from the disease so far, while the adjacent Silver Lake neighborhood is tracking a total of 221 cases, with 14 deaths from the disease so far.

But as startling as the numbers for a “natural disease” like COVID-19 in Los Angeles may be, they still fall short of another galling statistic for the county. In an L.A. Times report published earlier this week, data showed that since 2000, more than 78% of people killed by police in L.A. County–98% of whom were shot to death by police officers–were Black and Latino, overwhelmingly males between the ages of 20 and 39 years.

As protests of Mayor Garcetti’s police budget continue into this weekend, then, I wonder if another budget for Los Angeles has actually gone less noticed: The L.A. County sheriff department, which employs roughly as many boots on the ground as LAPD–just under 10,000–and almost 8,000 civilians on staff, was only recently approved by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for a budget of $3.5 billion through 2020 – 2021.

The L.A. County sheriff’s department patrols cities as close as East Los Angeles & South L.A., and as far as Lancaster and Castaic. The location of their patrol is highly significant since, according to the L.A. Times report, the neighborhoods with the highest number of fatal shootings by police are cities such as Compton, Inglewood and East Los Angeles, home to large minority populations, and where L.A. County sheriffs partner with LAPD to police civilians.

The L.A. County sheriff’s department also runs the L.A. County Jail, which oversees more than 17,000 people, where 80% of inmates are Black and Latino.

Similarly to their counterparts at LAPD, however, they actually seek more taxpayer dollars for their services, and may even have loftier ambitions than what LAPD’s longed-for $150 million raise would suggest. According to the L.A. County sheriff website, the department actually needs $400 million more than the $3.5 billion that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has recommended for fiscal year 2020-2021.

At 18,000 staff members, the budget the L.A. County sheriff’s department seeks for 2020-2021 would amount to more than $216,000 a year for one staff member. At present, it is $194,000.

To be sure, with these numbers and more projections to consider, only a few things are clear:

At the beginning of the crisis due to coronavirus, there was much we did not know about the disease, no federal guidelines for states regarding testing sites or containment for COVID-19, and much confusion about the best course of action.

Three months later, there is still much we don’t know about the virus, no federal plan in place for testing or containment strategies, and now a litany of discussions about our racialized and punitive society proving more confusing than not for many. As the battles continue, more confusion will ensue, but I believe the time for a break, if not a breaking point, is upon us, Los Angeles.


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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 34

I know that during these times there are families all across Los Angeles struggling to wage past this unlikeliest of changes in their lives. I know that not all of these families can simply take this crisis “on the chin” and boldly trust in the way forward as their more privileged counterparts might be able to.

I know that many teachers in Los Angeles are wavering past isolation that existed between them and their departments well before the crisis, and that this is only more pronounced now in the scramble to learn the how-tos of leading courses online while also needing to check off other long lists of personal needs as adults and professionals.

I know there are many students spiraling through a myriad of emotions, yearning to leave the nests they’ve been stuck in these last few weeks, alongside siblings who are similarly disconcerted, and close by parents who are also harboring emotions they might never have expected of themselves amid so much time with their loved ones.

I know there are tears blossoming across eyelids throughout the days into evenings between the small places we call home, that there are windows being rattled and sometimes broken, and that there are heart rates and blood pressures tailing off the Richter scale in dizzying spells with no end in sight at this point.

I know it’s not fair. And that there’s very little poetic justice to sound bells for in yet another call to persevere again.

But I also know that this is not the whole cuento.

I know that with each bitter evening, no matter how sour the sting of defeat might be, the fact is that for every last one of these families, individuals and more, a better day is not long from them.

I know this because I’ve lived this. And I know this because I’ve seen others live through their own winding roads of unimaginable loss and discord, only to still somehow rise again the next day to greet another bright morning in Los Angeles.

I don’t know exactly when I came to know this, nor precisely how resolutely I’ve memorized the lesson plan, but I do know that it’s for the purpose of continually uplifting my community no matter the distance, as my community has done for me during all these years mysterious flowing past my brainwaves.

I now recognize my community, even if only to let them know that their cries do not go unheard, that their tremors do not come and go in vain, and that their cuentos will continue. Words, like most things, are only temporary utterances, which can sometimes provide just temporary relief from the weight of the world. But I believe we can find all of the life of the universe imbued in such precious intervals. Indeed, that’s how I arrived to this conclusion today.

Onward we continue Los Angeles,


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