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Homeless suffered double death rate during winter virus surge


The winter surge of COVID-19 infections in Los Angeles County resulted in dramatically lower death rates among the homeless than the previous winter’s spike, but the homeless still died at twice the rate of county residents as a whole.

According to the county Department of Public Health, the COVID death rate among the homeless between Dec. 2, 2021, and Feb. 13, 2022, was 52 per 100,000. For the county as a whole, the death rate in the same period was 26 per 100,000. The stark difference comes despite a dramatic drop in the homeless COVID death rate from the previous winter. According to the county, the death rate in the 2020-21 winter surge among the homeless was 237 per 100,000—roughly four times the rate of the 2021-22 surge.

“As we enter the post-surge phase, and continue working towards a moderate transmission phase, we can best attend to the needs of the most vulnerable, including people experiencing homelessness, by using what we have learned from the past two years to provide essential protections when and where needed,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.

“Our collective efforts to vaccinate, boost, mask and take additional safety measures reduces the risks of severe illness or death for those most impacted by the overwhelming consequences of COVID,” Ferrer added.

The dip in hospitalizations prompted the county to drop its mask-wearing requirement for outdoor mega-events and in outdoor spaces at schools and child-care centers.

The county rule will remain in place until its transmission rate — as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — falls to the “moderate” level and stays there for two weeks. That requires the county to reach a rate of infection rate of 50 per 100,000 residents.

That rate has been steadily dropping. Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors recently that at the current pace of decline, the county will reach the “moderate” rate by March 16.

According to figures released this week, 82 percent of eligible residents aged 5 and over have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, while 74 percent are fully vaccinated, and 36 perdent are fully vaccinated and received a booster shot.