'Alarming' rise in COVID hospitalization rates seen among Black residents in LA County: Officials

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Over a two-week period between May and June, the hospitalization rate among Black residents in Los Angeles County increased 11% while decreasing 37% among white residents, 29% among Latino residents and 12% among Asian American residents.

L.A. County's Public Health Department Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, called it a "cause for alarm," during Thursday's COVID-19 briefing.

Vaccination rates also remain lower among Black and Latino residents compared to other groups.

"We think that that lower vaccination rate is accounting for what we're seeing in terms of the difference in the increase in cases among Black residents," health officer of L.A. County's Department of Public Health, Dr. Muntu Davis, told Eyewitness News on Monday.

While increases in hospitalizations have preceded an increase in deaths, health officials are hopeful.

"That given the very high vaccination rates amongst older residents, and many of those who have underlying health conditions, we're hopeful that the increases in cases and hospitalizations that we're experiencing do not result in a corresponding rise in deaths," said Dr. Ferrer.

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Dr. Sheila Young of Charles E. Drew University of Medicine and Science has led COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts and said the authorization of vaccines like Novavax could help.

"It doesn't enter the cell nucleus like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine," she said. "It doesn't enter the cell cytoplasm like the mRNA vaccines. It's similar to the flu shots that we've had in recent years."

Young encourages all people to wear face coverings indoors, especially as temperatures rise. "Coronavirus is airborne so it's going to go through the HVAC system," she said. "You can be in one part of the building or one part of a store or mall and be infected by someone else who may not be wearing a mask."

Young stressed that individuals are not simply hesitant or resistant. "These are sort of terms that can now almost seem pejorative," she said. "We have to really take the time to meet with folks one on one; talk about individual concerns."

County Health officials continue directing their efforts on accurate vaccine information and wide access.

"I do want to remind people that we have over 4 million people that aren't vaccinated. So, we don't have a small number," said Davis. "Every case that happens could exponentially lead to many more cases."

Said Young: "More than anything else, we still have to consider those who are most vulnerable."
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