‘Now & Then’: Year-End Glance of 2020

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — With 2020 coming to an end, and the development of coronavirus vaccines showing signs of hope for the New Year, the battle with the pandemic in L.A. continues. 

The holidays were bittersweet for several residents this year due to December’s grim milestone being the deadliest and infectious month to date. 

On Dec. 23, L.A. County saw its highest single-day coronavirus death toll since the outbreak. 

Health officials confirmed the death of 145 people and 6,155 people in the hospital with the virus. Of those hospitalized, 20 percent are in the I.C.U., and 16 percent are on ventilators. 

L.A. County also reached a record-breaking number of 16,525 new cases of COVID-19 the day before Christmas Eve. 

“We know that this emergency is our darkest day, maybe the darkest day in our city’s history,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Dec. 23. 

“If L.A. County continues to see the same growth in COVID-19 infections in the next two weeks, hospitals may find themselves having to ration care because of a lack of medical staff. That means the doctors will be forced to determine who lives and who dies.”

California became the first state to surpass 2 million positive COVID-19 cases by Christmas Eve.

L.A. County is currently leading the surge by accounting for one-third of the state’s confirmed cases and nearly 40% of deaths.

As of Dec. 27, Public Health officials have reported 719,833 positive cases of COVID-19 to date in L.A. County and a total of 9,482 deaths.

Hospitals are currently flooded with the largest number of cases since the pandemic began. 

Healthcare workers are ultimately bearing the brunt of the recent increase in cases. 

Several people opted to host virtual gatherings with family and friends this holiday season to prevent super-spreader events. 

But there were still plenty of passengers who did travel out of state. 

Despite warnings from health officials, Thanksgiving marked the busiest travel week since the start of the pandemic.

On Nov. 29, L.A.X. Airport saw an estimated one-million passengers traveling by air. 

Subsequently, the airport saw about 43,000 travelers passing through the week of Christmas and is expected to reach one-million following New Year’s Day.   

A passenger traveling on a Los Angeles-bound flight on Dec. 18 experienced COVID-19 symptoms and suffered medical complications aboard the plane.  

After the plane made an emergency landing in New Orleans, the man was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. 

Although the spikes are alarming, there is hope on the horizon as health care workers have started receiving COVID-19 vaccines throughout L.A. County.

Hospitals received their first shipments in early December and began vaccinating frontline healthcare workers.

On Dec. 14, five healthcare workers at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Hollywood were the county’s first workers to get their shots. 

Governor Gavin Newsom stood nearby as the historical moment took place. 

“We are in the midst of the worst moment of this pandemic,” said Newsom. “So today is hopeful, and it’s reason to be optimistic, but let’s be mindful of where we really are.”

According to Newsom, California has already received 33,150 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

Officials said that initial vaccines would be allocated mostly to acute-care hospitals and administered to healthcare workers. 

Newsom announced on Dec. 28 that teachers, older residents, and some other critical workers could begin to get coronavirus vaccines as early as January 2021. 

California is projected to receive roughly 2.1 million doses by the end of the year, Newsom said. 

However, the vaccine is not expected to be available to the general public until spring 2021. 

According to county health officials, emergency medical services personnel will also be included in the first distribution phase and vaccinated alongside hospital employees.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Dec. 28 that the Los Angeles Fire Department received 3,200 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We want to make sure that those who are on the front lines exposing themselves to danger are the ones that we protect under the protocols of the vaccine first,” Garcetti said.” Whether it’s a fire, whether it’s a medical emergency, we know that these men and women are the folks that are literally angels in our city of angels.”

The vaccine is expected to be given to all of its firefighters in the next two weeks, LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said at a news conference with Garcetti. 

Terrazas said over 600 LAFD firefighters have tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic. 

More than a dozen of them were hospitalized, and a firefighter-paramedic, Jose Perez, died from COVID-19 on Jul. 25. 

In addition to the unfortunate reality of the unexpected loss of loved ones, COVID-19 has also caused the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression.

When the pandemic took off in March, stay-at-home orders caused non-essential businesses to close their doors and the unemployment rate to skyrocket. 

About 2.6 million jobs were lost in California in March and April because of the coronavirus.

In February, California’s unemployment was just 3.9 percent. 

Although the ‘#BuyBlack’ movement sparked profitable conversations for people of color in June, Black-owned-businesses still barred the brute of the economic downturn. 

In Oct., a poll released by Color of Change showed forty-six percent of Black-owned small businesses have already shut-down or projected to go out of business within the next six months. 

Unless circumstances change for the Black business owners, or they receive support from the federal government.  

However, Black small business owners have been less likely to receive Paycheck Protection Program support or other financial aid types. 

With no work available, there was an upheaval in homelessness and food insecurity throughout L.A. County. 

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released a study that showed that over 66,000 people in L. A. County were experiencing homelessness back in July. 

That was a 12.7% rise from last year’s point-in-time count.

To combat the coronavirus-recession, the government released stimulus checks and other forms of government-funded assistance programs.

The I.R.S. has sent about 160 million Economic Impact Payments, also known as stimulus checks, this year.

Congress passed a coronavirus relief package on Dec. 20. to release the second round of $600 stimulus checks soon. 

The first stimulus check payments went out in April. 

Both Donald Trump and congressional Democrats are striving to increase the stimulus aid amount to $2,000. 

Then studies showed that African-Americans were dying of COVID-19 at a much more alarming rate than other races amid May’s civil unrest from the murder of George Floyd. 

The California Department of Public Health released data on Apr. 7, showing that Black residents were dying at a higher rate than other races.

Black Californians accounted for 7% of the state’s COVID-19 cases and 12% of its coronavirus-related deaths. 

Yet Blacks make up just 6% of the state’s population.

“The African-American community is being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and we are seeing that in South Los Angeles … and we’re also seeing that inside of the hospital,” Dr. Elaine Batchlor said during a Dec. 22 Covered California video conference.

Peter Lee, director of Covered California, also emphasized the pandemic’s impact on the Black community, stating 70% of Black Americans know someone who has died or been hospitalized because of COVID, compared to 60% of Latinos and 50% of whites.

On top of economic challenges, the pandemic disrupted food and goods production and goods like cleaning products.  

All of the mayhem was officially ignited on Mar. 11 when the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 was a pandemic. 

Then the President declared the coronavirus became a national emergency on Mar. 18. 

As Americans braced themselves for the unknown, shelves became empty in nearly every supermarket throughout L.A. County. 

Grocery prices have gone up at least 3.4% since the start of 2020, exceeding the 2% annual average growth of grocery prices over the past two decades.

L.A. County underwent many fluctuating phases of reopening its economy throughout the year. 

When all schools initially closed in March because of the COVID-19 outbreak, virtual classrooms and meetings became the ‘new normal.’

“This has been my first time really missing my teachers. With all that has been going on, I needed someone to talk through stuff,” said an eighth-grader at View Park Preparatory Middle School. 

From April to November, the county had adopted a plan to reopen local businesses and public spaces in four phases safely. 

But the ongoing spread of the virus continued to be a cause of concern, which forced officials to reinforce stay-at-home orders. 

The latest closure revoked outdoor dining for all restaurants starting on Thanksgiving Eve after just six months of reopening. 

Nevertheless, Angelenos have remained resilient and are relying on better days to come in 2021. 

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