LA County digs in to battle COVID

Medical personnel instruct people in cars how to perform the COVID-19 test at the LA County Department of Health Services testing site at Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center and Charles R. Drew University | Los Angeles County file photo by Michael Owen Baker

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services

With one out of 200 LA County residents infected by COVID 19, county officials are mobilizing to provide an array of services and resources to meet pandemic-related needs head-on. In the second of a series of briefings for ethnic media on Dec. 3 to raise awareness of its programs, county speakers urged everyone to take precautions for their own health and to avoid spreading the infection to others.

Getting tested is vital, said Dr. Erika Flores-Uribe, a specialist in emergency medicine for LA County’s Department of Health Services, and the county has expanded testing sites from 30 when the pandemic began to 180.  Services at these sites are available whether or not people have insurance, money to pay and whatever their immigration or citizenship status. Call 211 to find the nearest testing site and make an appointment.

“This is a virus that none of us are immune to. All of us can get this virus and transmit it to others,” said Dr. Tasha Dixon, lead physician for DHS’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center. “Please come in. We will not turn you away, we will not provide any information to authorities. We are here to care for your health.”

If someone is at risk of transmitting COVID in his or her household because of possible exposure to the virus, the county has quarantine facilities available. These can be arranged by calling: (833) 540-0473.

“Sometimes it takes a tragic moment in our history for us all to come together,” said Hilda L. Solis, Pro Tem Chair of the County Board of Supervisors, whose district is home to more than 107,000 of the county’s 400,000-plus COVID patients. “It’s unacceptable. We have to find a way to bring down the curve of COVID by incentivizing our communities to take advantage of all these health care services.”

Latinx, African American, Native American and Asian Pacific Islander communities are overrepresented among COVID-19 patients, she said, but “the demographic that is most impacted right now are those that are 18-49 years of age.

“That’s why we’re having to go through tremendous strain right now to restrict our involvement outside and making sure that we adhere to the social distancing, using the mask and making sure that we get tested and seek any assistance that the county and other health care providers might provide to our community. Right now, time is of the essence.

“We do need a lot of support, including monetary,” she said, but “we are one community, one family, so we have to work together.”

Her office announced a new agreement between the county and 51 community benefit organizations that can help people find food assistance, health care, cash, homeless services and more. The 51 organizations include everything from the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative to the Armenian Relief Society of Western USA, Chinatown Service Center, Gender Justice LA, Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, Pukuu Cultural Community Services, Khmer Girls in Action, InnerCity Struggle, and CIELO — Comunidades Indigenas en Liderazgo.

Antonia Jimenez, Director of the Department of Public Social Services, emphasized the CalFresh program, which provides help with grocery purchases for residents whether or not they have a home, a car or a job. One in three people in the county is getting CalFresh aid, with 70% of applications received over the phone approved on the same day. Those calls can be made in any of 10 languages, she said, and translators are available for other languages when needed.

Phones are staffed Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Applications can also be submitted at the website

Beyond CalFresh, there are many food pantries offering groceries. For a list of these, check out the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank’s locator and also FoodFinder’s.

If someone needs WIC (nutritional assistance for women, infants and children) they can obtain it whatever their citizenship status. A Dec. 2 appeals court ruling forbids the use of WIC in “public charge” considerations in immigration applications.

In the strongest terms possible, the doctors urged us to get our flu shots and be tested for COVID, to be vigilant in wearing facemasks, frequently washing our hands and using sanitizers, and to think carefully about the risks before deciding to run errands or socialize.

“There is promising news about COVID-19 vaccines,” Uribe, said. “But we’re not there yet.”

Dixon emphasized the ease with which both flu shots and COVID tests can be obtained at no cost, from pharmacies, medical providers

“Please continue to take your medications and take care of yourself, and find creative ways” to get exercise – dancing to music at your home, for instance, instead of going to the gym.

Dr. Dixon worries that people aren’t taking the pandemic seriously enough. She emphasized the ease with which both flu shots and COVID tests can be obtained at no cost, from pharmacies and medical providers.

“This is the mission of the work we do,” Dr. Flores-Uribe said, endorsing Dixon’s call not dismiss a cough, for example, as a mere allergy, but to get one checked out.

“We’re in this together. If we do our part, if we continue and do more of our part, we’ll be back to the new normal, we’re going to be OK in the end,” Dixon said.

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