‘We Are Forced to Live in These Conditions’: In Los Angeles, Virus Ravages Overcrowded Homes

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“We are forced to live in these conditions where we’re basically all on top of each other,” Ms. Guzman said. “There’s no privacy.”

Nearly everyone in the house has come down with Covid-19. Ms. Guzman believes that the infections started when her daughter attended a small dinner party in June, after the initial coronavirus restrictions were lifted. Ms. Guzman had the worst of it, and was hospitalized for nine days last summer. She needed supplemental oxygen for months afterward.

In richer and whiter neighborhoods, she said, people who get sick can easily isolate and they often have jobs that provide benefits and allow them to work from home. “We can’t do that,” she said. “We don’t have that luxury. And it says a lot about the inequity that does exist and the racism. This pandemic has made the disparities all the more clear.”

With so many people in the house, and so many falling sick and missing work, money became tight. Utility bills skyrocketed and so did food costs, as quarantined family members relied on delivery apps like Postmates.

“Luckily we had a little bit saved up but all of it is gone now,” she said.

And still, as Los Angeles officials parse the daily drumbeat of cases and deaths, looking for any sign that the surge is slowing, Ms. Rivera keeps hearing the sirens.

With each passing ambulance, Ms. Rivera pauses, wondering who is sick this time. Her lingering effects from the virus include loss of smell, and she is scared about getting reinfected.

Before she gets on the bus for work each morning, she says a short prayer, asking God to keep her safe.

But she does not leave it all in God’s hands. For protection, she always has extra face masks, passing them around on the bus to those who need one.

Ana Facio-Krajcer contributed reporting.

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