Yesterday Los Angeles hit the dishonorable number record of 20,057 deaths as a result of the coronavirus. The city is still in a ghost state. Few shops are open, not all schools are working and the capacity of the hospitals is at full capacity for several months. California, the most populous state in the country, and this city in particular, is the harshest image of COVID-19 in the United States.
In the middle of this panorama, the hope of vaccines arrived. But while the highest number of cases and deaths occur in areas populated by minorities and low-income groups, vaccines are distributed more abundantly in the neighborhoods of the wealthiest.
Los Angeles County authorities were in charge of confirming that indeed the employees of the private Wesley School (a school whose per pupil fee is $ 30,000 a year) had been vaccinated as a priority, against the priority rules established by the state. Similarly, the local press has reported a dozen cases of residents of high-income areas who managed, by circumventing the system, receive their vaccines during the immunization days of the Boyle Heights residences, a neighborhood full of public developments in the low-income residents.
The Boyle Heights case is paradigmatic in Los Angeles. About 20 percent of the 17,062 people who live there have contracted the coronavirus. 261 residents of this development died as a result of the virus, making it the hardest hit area in all of Los Angeles County, and therefore, one of the most affected in the country. According to data from California’s own county health department, less than 10 percent of Boyle Heights residents have received even one dose of the vaccine so far. On the contrary, 30 percent of the residents of Beverly Hills (the emblematic neighborhood of the multi-millionaires) have already been immunized, despite the fact that in that neighborhood only 7 percent of the population contracted COVID 19.
She was the Los Angeles County Supervisor herself, Hilda Solís, who assured that she saw affluent residents queuing up for their vaccination at the makeshift clinic in Ramona Gardens over the weekend, one of Boyle Heights’ low-income and minority housing developments. This clinic was designed by the authorities to serve a segment of the population that is presumed more vulnerable to the virus because they have less access to health services and because the vast majority of them perform jobs that require leaving their homes.
“I’m not surprised this happens. But I dislike it. I am not dissatisfied with our work, but with the behavior of the public that is not being handled in a responsible manner “, Solís said before the television cameras.
“This site was designed to meet the needs of a population of about 600 people who live in these buildings in poverty. Most of them are Latino, some Asian, and some African-American. Each was given an access code a couple of hours before the vaccination started. Somehow, people from neighborhoods like Beverly Hills or Westside – who never come to these areas of the county – got that code and entered“Added Solís.
The problem, according to health authorities, is that state rules do not allow them to strictly control who receives the vaccine. As long as they are over 65, everyone is welcome.
“We put these codes trying to benefit the most vulnerable, but the reality is that the codes circulate on the internet and there is not much we can do about it”, Los Angeles Public Health Director Bárbara Ferrer declared.
In dialogue with the press in Sacramento, this morning Governor Gavin Newsom acknowledged having knowledge of abuses to the system and being working to try to find a solution.