Two every hour

Los Angeles is being hammered the way New York was last spring.

LA county has faced an onslaught of terrifying Covid developments in recent days, including a surge in deaths, dire shortages of hospital resources, and fears that doctors will have to make agonizing choices to ration care.

Heading into the darkest holiday season some have ever endured, there were grim reminders across the LA region that the virus is spreading uncontrolled. The city’s mayor briefed the public while in quarantine after his daughter became infected. Hospitals were setting up triage tents. Residents waited in line for hours for Covid tests at Dodger stadium. The region recently ordered more body bags.

Outbreaks were afflicting grocery stores, restaurants, stores, shopping malls, Amazon warehouses, manufacturing plants, government buildings, police and fire departments, jails and prisons and film sets.

Officials in LA county estimated that one in 95 residents were currently infectious, and that two residents were dying of Covid every hour. More than 6,000 Covid patients are in the hospital, and intensive care units (ICU) are filled to capacity.

And it’s getting worse, not better.

LA is now reporting an average of more than 14,700 cases each day, a 78% increase from two weeks ago, according to LA Times data. Seven hundred people are hospitalized daily; in October there were fewer than 150 daily hospitalizations. By January, officials say it could be 1,400 admissions each day. More than 9,000 people have died.

With shortages of beds and staff growing, hospitals are starting to have previously unthinkable discussions about how they may ration care if there are too many patients. It could mean a decline in the quality of care for all people facing emergencies, and an increase in deaths.

LA’s affordable housing crisis, which forces many to live in crowded conditions, also makes the region vulnerable to spread, said Bibbins-Domingo. Her research found that early lockdowns did not protect Latinos or people without high school degrees, probably because they were forced to work.

Who could ever have guessed that severe wealth inequality could create conditions that would spread a deadly new virus? Who could possibly have imagined that crowded expensive housing and low wages and minimal or no healthcare would be fertile ground for a pandemic?

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