COVID-19 Instances Rise Amongst Black Residents : Coronavirus Updates : NPR

Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s Director of Public Health, left, poses questions at a news conference on March 12, 2020. Damian Dovarganes / AP Hide caption

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Damian Dovarganes / AP

Los Angeles County’s Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer (left) asks questions at a news conference on March 12, 2020.

Damian Dovarganes / AP

Black Los Angeles County residents are grappling with spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The development comes shortly after California reopened its economy and the highly contagious Delta variety became the dominant strain in the United States

Dr. LA County’s director of public health Barbara Ferrer told NPR that when data from two-week periods in May and June were compared, the case rate for black residents rose from 39 cases per 100,000 people to 46 cases per 100,000 people. Ferrer says there was a significant but smaller increase in hospital admissions, from 8.4 hospital admissions per 100,000 black population to 9.3 hospital admissions per 100,000 black population.

There were slight decreases in cases and hospitalizations for Latinx, whites, and Asian residents over the same period.

“I think it’s important to note that these correlate closely with vaccination rates, and here, too, vaccination is the most powerful tool we have,” she says. “Ninety-nine percent of the people who are positive, 99 percent of the people who are hospitalized, 99.8 percent of the people who sadly and tragically die in LA County are people who are not vaccinated.”

Vaccination rates are lower in black and Latinx communities, Ferrer says, especially among younger people, many of whom are key workers or otherwise unable to telework.

Among the unvaccinated residents she spoke to, Ferrer says most are not against vaccines in general. “They just have a lot of questions about these vaccines and they feel like they haven’t got the answers they’re looking for,” she says.

Ferrar spoke to Morning Edition about the new data, the state lifting of restrictions, and misinformation about vaccines. Here are excerpts from the conversation, edited for length and clarity.

How much of the inequalities among the county’s residents is access to vaccines?

Literally in LA County, you can call us, fill out a form, and we’ll come to you. … We have pop-ups in our houses of worship, at community events, we are in our parks, our federally qualified health centers. Our independent pharmacies have some of the greatest successes in attracting many, many people on a regular basis, although we are seeing declines in the number of people getting vaccinated in many other locations. We’re in malls, we’re in our file sharing networks. I mean, all you have to do now is tell us where you want us and we will team up asap.

Few facts, millions of clicks: Scary vaccination stories go viral online

California has reopened completely. Do you think the lifting of the restrictions came too soon?

I am very happy that we are completely open again. I want to point out that if you know that you have a lot of unvaccinated people, especially indoors, or you have a large number of people whose vaccination status is unknown, it is perfectly appropriate for people to wear their masks in these situations .

We’ve seen Disinformation campaigns targeting blacks, Latinos, and other communities. How big was the problem?

I think this is one of our biggest problems. One of the most effective tools we’ve found is our door knock – not that we necessarily change people’s minds, but we give them other information to look at. We’re also working to create lots of trustworthy community leaders who also have good information to share.

And now some important news: convincing you to get the coronavirus vaccine

I want to be very respectful of the fact that people are doing what they think are their own information gathering. [What] You get a lot of misinformation based on something that has some truth in the beginning. So yes, with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, we are using a relatively new method of developing this vaccine. That’s absolutely true. What is wrong is that it is dangerous.

The same: yes we have vaccines and they attack a specific spike protein, but they don’t attack all of our spike proteins. So I want to acknowledge that the most effective misinformation that is being disseminated is misinformation that builds on something people are learning about and exaggerates or misrepresents it. And that’s exactly what happened here.

Marc Rivers, Jill Craig and Jesse Johnson produced and edited the audio story. Heidi Glenn produces for the web.

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