COVID-19: L.A. County finds solution to help protect seniors, low-income families

Reaching out to help vulnerable seniors, low-income families with COVID-19 testing.

Phillip Palmer Image
Sunday, August 23, 2020
'Ready' responders help low-income families with COVID testing
Los Angeles County uses "Ready" responders who can provide in-home COVID-19 testing, and general healthcare to most vulnerable and under-resourced communities.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County has seen over 225,000 cases of COVID-19 and the death toll has passed 5,400. But Black and Latino residents, and those living in lower-income areas have been the hardest hit by the virus.

"People living in the most under resourced areas of the county have a case rate that is more than double that of people living in areas with the lowest level of poverty," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County public health director.

At its peak, people in the highest poverty areas had a mortality rate four times that of those who lived in areas with the highest incomes. The good news is, those numbers are decreasing and the gap is narrowing. But how is the county going about solving this problem, especially for the county's low-income seniors?

"What we tried to do since we knew that many of our seniors were basically sheltering in place, we were bringing healthcare directly to them," said Emilio Salas, executive director of the Los Angeles County Development Authority.

With over 3,200 Los Angeles County-owned housing units, many of them in communities of color, getting healthcare to them was best done through partnerships. In the case of South Bay Gardens, the county uses Ready responders who can provide in home COVID-19 testing, but also general healthcare.

"We don't just come in and do the ER thing were they give you a Band-Aid and show you the door, we do the whole approach. We take care of a patient from top to bottom," said Sal Rubio, a Ready responder.

L.A. County knew of Ready's success in New York where the partnership in low-income areas helped the city get the upper hand on COVID-19 cases which was one factor in trying the same thing here. And combined with strictly following Los Angeles County health guidelines like closing community centers and discouraging visitors and gatherings, there have been only a handful of isolated cases at county owned units, but no outbreaks.

"We are incredibly proud and we're certainly giving credit to everyone. Because this, there is no single person nor no single entity that's responsible for this. This truly has been a complete community effort," said Salas.

"I grew up in the projects in Boyle Heights, so I was part of that where it's low-income, very low access to medical health, so coming in here, it's a great feeling," said Rubio.

But success can't lead to complacency.

"We know that this is a marathon and not a sprint. So we're gonna keep grinding. We know that we're gonna have to just keep at it until this thing is completely eradicated," said Salas.