Huntingon Park, Southeast LA County hit hard by pandemic


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Seven of every ten residents of southeast Los Angeles County have lost their jobs or had their wages cut during the pandemic, and 40% have less than $500 in savings to help them survive the economic devastation, according to a survey released today.

The survey was conducted for a Los Angeles foundation seeking information on how small cities in the region are faring, including Bell, Bell Gardens, East Los Angeles, Huntington Park, Maywood, Lynwood, South Gate, Paramount and East Compton, among others. About 700,000 people reside in the 15 communities, about 90% of them Latino with many families living below the poverty line.

The survey found that coronavirus testing has been spotty in the southeast LA County region. Only 15% said they had been tested and 47% would like to be tested but have not been able to get a test for a variety of reasons.

Despite following stay-at-home orders, Velazquez said her husband and other seven close relatives were sickened with the virus. She doesn’t know where or how her husband could have been infected.

“He would go out to buy groceries sometimes with his cousin,” said Velazquez. “Sometimes my brother in law, who kept working, would bring us food or essential items.” That brother-in-law eventually got infected and was forced to stop working.

Because of immigration status, lack of health care resources and misinformation, none of the family members went to the hospital. Some of them feared their kids would be taken away; others feared they would die in the hospital.

Velazquez said it was very difficult for the family to get tested.

Dr. Efraín Talamantes, medical director for Institute for Health Equity at AltaMed, said that the biggest concern is inadequate access to tests in the poorest communities.

“If you have a few tests, they go to the people that have more resources,” said Talamantes. “So initially we started to see the trend, a lot more cases in Beverly Hills in West LA, and we weren’t seeing any cases in East LA or South Central.”

That’s because these areas are considered testing deserts.

Bell Gardens and Huntington Park don’t have testing sites. Residents have to rely on neighboring cities, such as Commerce, Bell, South Gate and Downey.

Ortiz said in Huntington Park some local clinics can perform testing but people have to ask first to see if tests are available.

“We worry because our numbers keep growing and we want to provide as many resources as we can to our residents,” said Ortiz.

Ortiz said many of the region’s residents are being severely affected because they work in businesses prone to getting infected.

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