COVID-19 has hit communities of color harder than others - and nowhere is it more evident than in South LA

"We couldn't get test swabs. Then, it took longer for our test swabs to be processed than other people. Then we couldn't get masks," said Jim Mangia, CEO of St. John's Well Child and Family Center.
SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- From health care to housing, COVID-19 has hit communities of color harder than others - and nowhere is it more evident than in South Los Angeles.

When the pandemic hit South L.A., it painfully spotlighted our nation's deep-seated racial and economic divide.

"When you're in the middle of a pandemic, you really get a sense of where the priorities lie. More people got COVID in South L.A. than in any other part of the county. More people died of COVID here," said Jim Mangia, CEO of St. John's Well Child and Family Center.

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The 100,000 individual patients of the St. John Well Child and Family Clinics' 18 locations live in subpar housing and experience food insecurity. Many have chronic illnesses and do essential work.

"The population that we're serving are primarily Latinos and African American. They're low income workers," he said.

In a new report, Mangia and his colleagues detailed the many obstacles and challenges their community clinics faced over the last six months.

"We couldn't get test swabs. Then, it took longer for our test swabs to be processed than other people," he said. "Then we couldn't get masks."

Mangia said they had to outsource their own PPE and rely on donations. They searched for local labs to provide and process tests. And through telehealth, his team carefully monitored each quarantined case.

"I can't tell you how many hundreds of lives we saved." He said.

Through contact tracing, the staff at the St. John clinics were able to isolate and minimize outbreaks. They were the first to identify the spread of disease at L.A. Apparel's garment factory.

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The county says the South L.A. factory is now in compliance, and inspectors will make unannounced visits to ensure proper safety measures are in place.


"By the time we were done, we tested 600 employees in this factory. 400 tested positive," Mangia said.

As the St. John network prepares for the possibility of another rise in cases, Mangia said documenting what they've done is their way to help other private practices and clinics save lives.

"We're sharing what we've learned and what's been successful in one of the poorest areas in the United States," he said.

Mangia says their report shows that giving doctors' offices and clinics the proper resources they need to fight COVID-19 can help improve care, reduce the load on hospitals and save more lives.

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