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LA's Community Clinics Struggle To Handle Coronavirus Surge

A pharmacist at Clinica Romero. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker, Courtesy Clinica Romero)
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We know that hospitals in Los Angeles County are overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, but what about community clinics?

At Clinica Romero, which provides primary care services in Pico Union and Boyle Heights, about 40% of the COVID-19 tests are coming back positive, according to staff.

Dr. Don Garcia, the medical director there, is working to make Clinica Romero a monoclonal antibody infusion center. The drugs are supposed to help people with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 avoid hospitalization. The infusions were approved for emergency use by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November.

But Garcia said access to the treatment isn't equitable. "Why do we not have five infusion centers in East L.A., where that's the highest infectivity [rate]?" he told LAist/KPCC. "Why is it always at the West side?"

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And while Clinica Romero has been approved as a vaccine administration site, Garcia is also worried about staffing: "If we have difficulty doing thirty COVID tests a day, how are we going to respond to a thousand people wanting to come in and get the vaccine?"

To make matters more complicated, Garcia said, about half of the patients that Clinica Romero serves are uninsured and undocumented.

Communities of color — and poorer county residents in general — are experiencing a disproportionate share of coronavirus cases. Latino residents have had the most coronavirus deaths of any racial/ethnic group in L.A.

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