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Under California's COVID 'Equity Metric,' LA Must Focus On Hard-Hit Areas To Move Closer To Reopening

A coronavirus testing site in Lincoln Heights. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
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Starting today, California is requiring the state's 35 largest counties to bring down coronavirus rates in hard-hit neighborhoods in order to progress in the state's economic reopening plan.

The "Equity Metric" will focus on low-income areas where Black, Latino, Pacific-Islander, and other people of color have suffered a disproportionately high number of cases. The metric is designed to ensure that test positivity rates in those areas don't exceed the county's overall positivity rate.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says that while those communities are still being disproportionately affected, the test positivity metrics in the county are still low enough to qualify for tier three on the state's monitoring list:

"I'm just hoping we continue to make progress and I'm really anxious also that we continue to take seriously our obligations to look at that equity measure and make sure we're doing everything we can to close that gap."

Ferrer said the county would start started posting that equity data online today but as of late afternoon it was not yet available.
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The goal of the metric — believed to be the first of its kind in the country — is to ensure counties like Los Angeles are investing in bringing down COVID-19 cases in their most vulnerable neighborhoods. That means hitting goals both for overall testing and in lowering the percentage of new positive cases in those areas.

"It really is incentivizing counties to focus their resources on the sickest," said Ninez Ponce, director of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research. The metric will require county officials to make sure all neighborhoods are seeing fewer cases, she said.

It’s a complicated metric but counties that fail to meet it won’t be penalized by being moved into a more restrictive tier — they just won’t be able to advance towards reopening. L.A. County will remain in the most restrictive tier for at least another two weeks.


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