Coronavirus cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations are worsening for Los Angeles County’s Black residents, a troubling sign less than a month after California fully reopened its economy.

The coronavirus case rate over a two-week period for Black residents rose 18% between mid-May and mid-June but declined 4% for Latino residents, 6% for white residents and 25% for Asian Americans.

And the hospitalization rate for Black residents — who are less likely than other racial and ethnic groups to be vaccinated — grew by 11% while declining for Asian American residents by 12%, Latino residents by 29% and white residents by 37%.

According to the most recent data, Black residents in L.A. County are roughly three times as likely as white residents to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, to be newly hospitalized with COVID-19 or to die.

“These disproportionately increasing rates of cases and hospitalizations among Black residents are cause for alarm,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, “and they require strategic actions to prevent increased transmission and illness.”

In the two-week period that ended June 19, 46 out of every 100,000 Black residents in L.A. County were diagnosed with the coronavirus. The corresponding figures for Latino, white and Asian residents were 22, 17 and six cases per 100,000, respectively.

Of the racial and ethnic hospitalization data recently released by the county, the only racial or ethnic group to see new coronavirus case and hospitalization rates worsen between mid-May and mid-June were Black residents.

For every 100,000 Black residents, 9.3 were newly hospitalized with COVID-19 in the two-week period that ended June 19. That was up from 8.4 in the two weeks ending May 22. For Latinos, meanwhile, that rate fell from seven to five; for whites, from 4.3 to 2.7; and for Asian Americans, from 1.7 to 1.5.

More recent data, which will be released in the coming days, suggest that new coronavirus case rates have also started to increase among Latino and white residents.

Overall, the numbers underscore the continuing inequities of the pandemic since 2020. Black and Latino communities were hit particularly hard, in part because many residents in those communities had jobs that required they work outside their homes, putting them at greater risk of infection.

Black residents of L.A. County have among the lowest rates of vaccination among racial and ethnic groups in L.A. County.

The most recently available data show that 44% of Black residents 16 and older in L.A. County have received at least one dose of vaccine, as have 54% of Latino residents. By contrast, 65% of white, 61% of Native American and 75% of Asian American residents have received at least one shot.

The disparities are less pronounced among L.A. County’s seniors, perhaps because the vaccine has been available longer to people 65 and older, Ferrer said. Among seniors, 66% of Black, 67% of Native American, 76% of Latino, 79% of white and 80% of Asian American residents are at least partially vaccinated.

Officials are particularly concerned about disparities among young Black and Latino residents. Among the youngest adults — those up to age 29 — 28% of Black residents and 42% of Latino residents are at least partially vaccinated; that’s compared to 58% of white and Native American residents and 75% of Asian residents.

Coronavirus case rates among children also have started to increase, slightly, since June, Ferrer said.

Dramatic week-over-week drops in weekly vaccination rates have slowed in recent weeks.

Nonetheless, the pace of vaccinations has proved to be disappointing to L.A. County health officials. Ferrer once held out hope that the county would continue giving 100,000 first doses of immunizations every week in a bid to reach “herd immunity” by the end of the summer, which would interrupt the ongoing transmission of the coronavirus broadly in the county. Ferrer has said L.A. County could achieve herd immunity when 80% of residents 16 and older are vaccinated.

But L.A. County has fallen short of that goal in each of the last four weeks for which data are available. For the seven-day period that ended June 27, about 69,000 first doses of vaccine were administered in L.A. County; the previous week, about 79,000 were administered; and the week before that, about 81,000.

At this rate, L.A. County would probably not reach herd immunity until, at the earliest, October.

A graphic shows the percentage of L.A. County population that's fully vaccinated by month.

(Los Angeles County Department of Public Health)

Across L.A. County, 51% of residents of all ages are fully vaccinated. That’s lower than in San Diego County, where 56% of residents have been fully vaccinated, and in Orange and Ventura counties, with 53%. By contrast, San Francisco is reporting 68% of its residents as fully vaccinated; that figure is 66% in Santa Clara County, Northern California’s most populous county.

Across California, 51% of residents are fully vaccinated. Highly populated counties that lag the state’s overall rate include Sacramento (48%); Riverside, Fresno and San Joaquin (41%); San Bernardino and Stanislaus (38%); and Kern (34%).

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