Just months after ICU capacities were at zero in Los Angeles, the county has made a turnaround. But officials advise caution, and warn that vaccine hesitancy is catching up.
In January, LA buckled under the weight of a monumental Covid-19 surge: ambulances circled from emergency room to emergency room in search of empty beds, and ICU capacity in the county plunged to zero. With morgues overloaded, the national guard was mobilized to aid with the handling of bodies. Now, less than four months later, the county has reached a proud milestone. For two days in a row, LA reported zero Covid-19 related deaths.
Sunday became the first day since March 2020 that county officials reported no daily Covid-19 deaths. The welcome news repeated itself on Monday, when the county again reported no daily deaths.
LA officials cautioned that the reporting of Covid-19 fatalities can lag behind actual deaths: reporting delays over the weekends have meant that Sundays and Mondays regularly show lower tallies of deaths than other days of the week. But caveats aside, the atmosphere in the city was celebratory. After a brutal winter – when it regularly saw more than 200 people die each day – LA has entered spring with a steadily declining death rate.
At the root of the turnaround is a successful vaccine rollout, officials say. Los Angeles county alone has administered more than 7.8m doses of the vaccine. According to the county’s department of public health, almost 54% of residents over the age of 16 had received at least one dose of a vaccine before the end of April.
However, the vaccination drive has highlighted the steep inequalities between neighborhoods in the sprawling metro. While 69% of residents in the well-heeled, majority-white beach city of Redondo Beach have received at least one dose of a vaccine, Compton has seen less than 40% of its residents receive a single dose.
Several other predominantly Black and Latino populations have also seen vaccination rates that are significantly lower than the county’s average. In south central LA, neighborhoods including Compton, Watts and Century Palms all reported a partial vaccination rate lower than 40% at the end of April. At the same time, richer, whiter neighborhoods such as Beverly Hills or Bel Air have partly vaccinated nearly 70% of residents.
Meanwhile, public health officials have warned that vaccination rates are slowing, with supply beginning to overtake demand. Providers on Monday reported handing out 144,000 fewer shots last week compared to the week before, the LA Times reported.
The LA county public health director, Barbara Ferrer, told reporters on Monday the county was working to make the vaccine as accessible as possible, including in underserved areas, and to help dispel concerns around vaccine safety.