Channel 1 Los Angeles
Public Health has identified 275,856 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County, and a total of 6,681 deaths.
Testing results are available for more than 2,737,000 individuals with 9% of all people testing positive.
To date, Public Health has identified 1,846 cases among people experiencing homelessness. The weekly number of new cases among this group has declined significantly. Cases among people experiencing homelessness peaked the week of July 7 at 138 new cases. This week, there are 53 new cases among people experiencing homelessness. This includes 36 cases from previous weeks that were newly identified and were included in the new case totals.
To date, 44 people who were experiencing homelessness and two people who were working in shelters have passed away from COVID-19. Of the people who were experiencing homelessness who passed away, 21 were sheltered, 13 were unsheltered, and for 10 people who passed away, their sheltered status was unknown. There were no new deaths reported among people experiencing homelessness or shelter staff this week.
The number of cases among persons experiencing homelessness has remained below what was predicted during the early stages of the pandemic. This may be, in part, because of the County’s early efforts to offer housing for people experiencing homelessness, including single-room facilities for the most at risk of serious illness, and for those needing to quarantine or isolate. In addition, robust testing in shelters and a contact tracing approach tailored to people experiencing homelessness may have contributed to lower than expected cases.
Even before the pandemic, multiple studies have documented people experiencing homelessness have a mortality rate from three to eight times higher than those in the general population. In reviewing L.A. County Coroner’s preliminary data, COVID-19 deaths do not appear to be the main driver of excess mortality among persons experiencing homelessness. Public Health has seen an increase in drug overdoses among people experiencing homelessness. Drug overdoses accounted for 21% of deaths among persons experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County from 2013-2018. For the first 6 months of 2020, an estimated 40% of deaths among persons experiencing homelessness have been attributed to overdose.
This underscores the importance of ensuring that people experiencing homelessness are connected to support and interim housing, including access to health and substance use disorder services.
Public Health is preparing a more detailed report on deaths among people experiencing homelessness to be released in the coming month.
“To the families grieving the loss of a loved one to COVID-19, we wish you healing and peace,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “While we have seen significant improvement since the summer, daily case numbers indicate COVID-19 continues to spread across L.A. County at high enough rates to limit the reopening of businesses and schools. If we work together to limit transmission and slow the spread of COVID-19 to 700 or less new cases per day, not only will the County move to a less restrictive tier that allows us to consider additional re-openings, we will save lives.”