Dec 7, 2020
In the working-class community of East San Fernando Valley, COVID-19 infection rates are the highest in Los Angeles County. Ten out of 25 COVID-19 hotspots are clustered in the Valley, according to the L.A. County Department of Health.
Being low-paid front line “essential” workers is the main reason for this deadly concentration of the epidemic in this area. The workers’ average yearly income of $22,000, or $10.60 an hour, is well below the minimum wage of $15.
Because their wages are so low, many East Valley workers avoid getting tested for COVID-19, fearing a positive result would cost them days or weeks of sick time, vacation days, and the very paychecks they depend on for their daily survival. Many companies that employ front line workers do not even provide sick time and vacation days. Some workers go to work knowing that they are sick, because they do not have any other option.
Very high housing costs further worsen these conditions. These low-wage workers live together in crowded environments. “Most live in some sort of substandard [housing]. There can be a family of six living in a garage. They’ll double up and triple up. You might have four families, one in each bedroom and living room,” according to MEND, a non-profit organization established to fight the poverty in the Valley. Kids are now stuck at home all day after their classrooms are shuttered, making the living conditions at home even more complicated.
The hard work of these workers enables many businesses in Los Angeles—supermarkets, warehouses, restaurants, slaughterhouses, clothing industry, food processing plants—to generate huge profits.
Capitalism breeds the poverty. And the poverty breeds this epidemic.