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Why Do LA's Black And Latino Residents Have Lower Vaccination Rates?

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Published
A covid-19 vaccine station at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

L.A. health officials have expressed concerns about low vaccination numbers among health care workers in South L.A. and other communities of color. Those concerns are valid — preliminary numbers show Blacks and Latinos are receiving fewer vaccinations as compared to white and Asian Angelenos.

Some experts have attributed low vaccination numbers in more diverse neighborhoods to hesitancy and mistrust, especially among Black and brown communities (some of that mistrust is completely understandable, given the racist history of health care in the U.S.).

But Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of vaccine programs at Kedren Health, says the problem isn’t only hesitancy. It's also a lack of availability and access:

“What is most frustrating is, you may have heard me say What vaccine? We weren’t even offered a vaccine ... So misinterpreting lack of access for hesitancy was to me very offensive, because the Black and brown health care workers that came [to vaccine sites], came with their sleeves rolled up, and they were ready for a vaccination.”

Dr. Abraham says that straightforward messaging is the key to overcoming any doubts about the vaccine, and that partnerships with L.A. County offices, local elected officials, community-based organizations and faith leaders can help get useful information out.
The county has released some demographic data on who has gotten vaccines so far, although there's a delay in reporting.
As of Jan. 23, those who received one or more doses of the vaccine, were:
  • 30.2% white (26% of county residents are white)
  • 29.4% Latino (49% of county residents are Latino)
  • 22.9% Asian (15% of county residents are Asian)
  • 4.6% Black (8% of county residents are Black)
  • 1.0% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (.4% of county residents are Native/Pacific Islander)
  • 0.4% American Indian or Alaska Native
  • 11.5% multiple or other race/ethnicity

(Our data on race/ethnic breakdown of L.A. County came from the Census).

It's important to note that most of the people who received the vaccine by late January were frontline health workers, the county says. However, if you look at the above data, it's clear that Black and Latino residents are underrepresented in vaccine counts, while white and Asian residents are overrepresented.

L.A. County officials say they are working to bring more vaccination sites to underserved communities and are making equity a priority.

Across the country, African Americans and Latinos are dying at higher rates of COVID-19 than their white neighbors. This is also true for L.A.'s Black community and other communities of color.

We covered death rates by race/ethnicity in this story in May.

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A Look At Where Vaccinations Stand In LA County — And the Problem With Line Cutters

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Healthcare workers get vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Martin Luther King Jr Community Hospital. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Health officials say nearly 11% of people in Los Angeles County over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But far fewer are fully vaccinated at this point — only about 2.6% of the county's population have gotten both shots.

That all adds up to a little over one million doses administered so far. Even though the county received a shipment of nearly 185,000 doses this week — one of its largest allotments from the federal government to date — nearly all vaccination appointments next week will be for people eligible for their second shot.

(Courtesy L.A. County Public Health)

But officials are concerned that some people are taking advantage of a loophole in the appointment system to cut in line. Dr. Paul Simon is the chief science officer for the L.A. County Public Health Department. He says people who get their first shot at a county site will get an email to reserve a spot for their second dose - but some people are sharing that link with others, who turn around and try to use it to book an appointment for themselves.

"In some cases, it was done very deliberately. I think you could characterize it as cheating, and in other cases I think people just weren't necessarily viewing it that way - they were just looking at every opportunity to get vaccinated."

While it's not clear how many people have been turned away for trying to cut ahead, Simon says it's become a noticeable problem for site workers. He also adds there's no easy way to fix their current system to stop it from happening.

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Your Friday Moment Of Zen: Watch A Pair Of Bald Eagles Protect Their Eggs

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A bald eagle sits in its nest at the west end of Catalina Island on Feb. 5, 2021. (Courtesy Explore.org)

It's Friday and we want to share this very chill live video (it's actually soothing white noise) of a pair of bald eagles at their nest at Catalina Island.

As of early afternoon, the camera was featuring only one bald eagle which seemed to be keeping its eggs warm. The pair is apparently a success story and their nest has been active since 1991, according to explore.org, the site that hosts the live cam.

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LAUSD Leaders Call Council Member’s Proposal To Sue District A ‘Political Stunt’

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A padlocked entrance to Thomas Starr King Middle School, an L.A. Unified School District campus in Silver Lake, on April 1, 2020. (Kyle Stokes/LAist)

The leadership of the Los Angeles Unified School District lashed out today at an L.A. city councilmember’s proposal to sue the nation’s second-largest district in an attempt to force open campuses.

Yesterday, Councilmember Joe Buscaino, whose district includes San Pedro, Watts, and the Harbor area, said he will introduce a resolution at next Tuesday’s council meeting that would direct City Attorney Mike Feuer to sue the district.

In statements and interviews today, LAUSD leaders called Buscaino’s plan a stunt, political theater and grandstanding.

LAUSD School Board President Kelly Gonez was the first to respond to Buscaino’s proposal on Twitter, pointing out that the COVID-19 case rate in L.A. County is above the state’s threshold to reopen schools.

Buscaino said his proposal to sue LAUSD was inspired by a similar lawsuit filed by the city of San Francisco against its school district. While San Francisco Unified is eligible to start reopening schools because its case rate is below the state-mandated threshold, LAUSD is not.

Gonez doesn’t claim legal expertise, but she’s confident the city would not have a case against the district.

“I don’t think that there’s any standing.” Gonez said. “I think it’s clearly political in nature.”

While the district is currently ineligible to open campuses, LAUSD and the district’s teachers union have resisted pressure to reopen as soon as the case rate drops below the threshold, which L.A. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has suggested could happen in a matter of weeks.

The district and the union are still bargaining over reopening plans, including demands from teachers to get prioritized for vaccinations. Gonez says the city council hasn’t addressed those concerns, and prioritized reopening card rooms and businesses over schools.

“The words ring hollow because the actions have not followed,” Gonez said. “Mr. Buscaino has not yet once reached out and I think that speaks volumes.”

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner shared Gonez’s critiques in his own statement:

“Grandstanding political stunts like this are precisely why schools in Los Angeles remain closed. Elected leaders from Sacramento to Los Angeles City Hall need to put deeds behind their words and take the steps necessary to actually put schools and the children they serve first.”

LAUSD School Board Member Nick Melvoin called Buscaino’s proposal "political theater," but acknowledged that LAUSD could reopen in-person services for high-need students at any time. Small group special education classes are allowed by the state, if districts abide by safety guidelines.

“I have been pushing and will continue to push for the District to resume the one-on-one and small-group, in-person support for high need students that we offered in the Fall and that we can currently offer per County public health guidelines,” Melvoin said in a statement.

“I have asked for a plan—and an updated agreement with our teachers' union—that will enable us to serve even more students than we did last semester until our campuses are legally allowed to open for larger hybrid instruction,” he said.

Councilmember Buscaino responded to the criticism from LAUSD, and shared Melvoin's calls to reopen special education classes.

"LAUSD has refused to restart those services after the surge. That’s the first step they should be taking immediately," Buscaino said in a statement.

At an L.A. County Department of Public Health press conference today, Chief Science Officer Dr. Paul Simon was asked if he recommends local districts reopen special education classes in-person.

“We're not telling schools what they should do,” Simon said. “We feel like...each school district has to make that decision based on their own local circumstances.”

The L.A. City Attorney’s office did not respond to our requests for comment.

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Watch This Hollywood Bowl Tribute To Christopher Plummer, Who Died Today At 91

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Actor Christopher Plummer arrives at the AFI FEST 2009 screening of Sony Pictures Classics' "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" at the Chinese Theater on November 2, 2009 in Los Angeles. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Christopher Plummer wearing his 'Sherlock Holmes' costume during a break in filming 'Murder by Decree' in Clint Street, London, July 29, 1978. (Keystone/Getty Images)

The world could use more love right now and L.A. certainly loved Christopher Plummer.

The Canadian actor died Friday morning at his home in Connecticut. He was 91.

Plummer may be best known for his role in "The Sound of Music" as the widowed Captain von Trapp, a man whose cold heart is melted by Maria, the charming governess who arrives to help take care of his seven children on her way to joining a convent. Spoiler alert: Of couse, she doesn't become a nun, because she falls deeply in love with von Trapp and his children and eventually helps the family escape Nazi Austria. (If you're looking for a good quarantine film, you just found it.)

In 2012, Plummer became the oldest actor to win an Oscar, for his role in Mike Mills’ film "Beginners," where he played an aging father who comes out to his son after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Lou Pitt, Plummer's longtime friend and manager of 46 years, reflected on the actor's legacy in Variety's obituary:

“Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self-deprecating humor and the music of words. He was a national treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots. Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come. He will forever be with us."

Angelenos might have one shared memory of Plummer.

Every year (in the Before Times) the Hollywood Bowl put on a "Sound of Music" sing-a-long.

And every year, there was a great moment when Christopher Plummer started to sing "Edelweiss." Everyone would hold up their phones, swaying those little white flashlights in unison. The Bowl was transformed into a sea of love for Plummer and the epic song from maybe the best musical of all time.

KPCC/LAist’s Darby Maloney captured the moment in 2019:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by LAist (@laistpics)

Second spoiler: Plummer didn't really sing the song in the film – it was actually over-dubbed by a man named Bill Lee, as explained in this NPR interview. Nonetheless, the song will forever be a classic...and we can't help but relish in the nostalgia of being at an outdoor venue, in-person, singing together.

RIP Christopher Plummer. You were truly beloved.

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Morning Brief: ‘The 8 Percent’ Explores The Black Experience In LA

Updated
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Rondell Eskridge with his 8-month-old son, Rondell Eskridge, Jr. at a Father's Day weekend event for Black Lives Matter. (Josie Huang/LAist)

Good morning, L.A.

This year, we’re covering Black History Month as part of The 8 Percent, a series that focuses on the lived experiences of L.A.’s Black community. All month, we’re asking readers to share: What does it mean to you to be Black in L.A.?

Here’s some of what we’ve heard so far:

"There's a slow burn of anti-Blackness felt in every aspect of life here … There's a thin veneer of liberalism laden with the pretense of fairness and equality, but this is reserved for every group of non-whites except African-Americans.”

Brandon, Long Beach

"Being Black informs all that I do: driving, picking a place to live, going to school, getting a job. You feel as though you are an outsider or a minority among minorities."

Jessica, Glassell Park

"I am a homegrown South L.A. resident. A long time ago, being Black in my community meant togetherness, happiness, joy, prosperity, and love for one another … [Now] I see older Blacks losing their homes to death or foreclosure and resold to non-Blacks. And, I wonder: What happened? Where did my people go?

Velincia, South L.A.

“A lot of being Black in L.A./the Valley for me is about duality: Knowing how to code switch and how to turn up the Blackness or turn it down sometimes. I know in a perfect world we would say that we should just be ourselves, but in reality, you can't do that sometimes.”

Ashley, Hollywood

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Correction: Yesterday's Morning Brief mistakenly said "some L.A. city councilmembers" accepted bribes to allow developers not to offer affordable housing. In fact, only former councilman José Huizar is facing such charges. Also, the same item mistakenly said there are 66,433 people experiencing homelessness in the city. That is actually the number for all of L.A. County. LAist regrets the errors.


What Else You Need To Know Today


Weekend Reads

There's a lot going on in the world right now, and it’s hard enough to keep up with our day-to-day lives, let alone to stay current on the news. But if you have some time this weekend, here’s what you may have missed:

Mortality rates for Black mothers and infants are three-to-four times higher than for other racial groups. These L.A. midwives aim to change that. (LAist)

The National Police Foundation will review LAPD’s response to local Black Lives Matter protests. (L.A. Sentinel)

Political strategist and commentator Jasmyne Cannick writes that without the support of Black voters, the campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is dead in the water. (L.A. Watts Times)

One local prosecutor is making it his mission to revolt against criminal justice reforms touted by L.A.’s new district attorney. (LAist)

Jennifer Duarte, the Children's Librarian at Benjamin Franklin Branch Library in Boyle Heights, has navigated doing her job and pandemic parenting by designating times and spaces for everything. (The Eastsider)

The tragic death of a four-year-old girl at a Koreatown intersection shines a light on L.A.’s failure to make roads safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. (LAist)

Coronavirus deaths in L.A.’s Latina/o community have increased by 1,000% since November. (La Opinión)

For food vendors and day laborers who hustle outside hardware stores, this is what a typical day looks like. (L.A. Taco)

There’s a lot to know about getting the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine, from how long to wait between shots, to what to do if your initial site closed down. (LAist)

These Black entrepreneurs are creating new services, products and pathways in Los Angeles. (L.A. Business Journal)

For kids with a family member who is incarcerated, this nonprofit provides a space to express their pain — and process it through art. (San Fernando Valley Sun)

L.A.’s deep history with spicy food has led to some delicious — and very hot — local mainstays. (Eater L.A.)


Before You Go … How 'Mr. Mayor' Turned A '30 Rock' Spinoff Into LA Comedy

Vella Lovell's Mikaela speaks with Kyla Kennedy as Orly, the mayor's daughter, in Episode 103 of Mr. Mayor, "Brentwood Trash." (Tina Thorpe/NBC)

The new NBC comedy Mr. Mayor, starring TV veteran Ted Danson as a wealthy ad executive-turned-mayor of Los Angeles, is the latest from Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, who've been busy creating a modern TV comedy dynasty following the success of 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

But as long-time observers of New York City, what does it mean when they start writing about L.A.?


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