“We are forced to live in these conditions”: in Los Angeles, a virus ravages overcrowded homes

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“We are forced to live in these conditions where we are pretty much all on top of each other,” Ms. Guzman said. “There is no privacy.”

Almost everyone in the house has contracted Covid-19. Ms Guzman believes the infections started when her daughter attended a small dinner party in June, after the initial coronavirus restrictions were lifted. Ms. Guzman has seen the worst and was hospitalized for nine days last summer. She then needed extra oxygen for months.

In wealthier and whiter neighborhoods, she said, people who get sick can easily isolate themselves and they often have jobs that offer benefits and allow them to work from home. “We cannot do this,” she said. “We don’t have that luxury. And that says a lot about the inequity that exists and racism. This pandemic has made the disparities even clearer. “

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

“Fortunately we had saved a bit, but it’s all gone now,” she said.

And yet, as Los Angeles officials analyze the daily rhythm of cases and deaths, looking for any signs that the outbreak is slowing, Ms Rivera continues to hear sirens.

With each passing ambulance, Ms. Rivera pauses, wondering who’s sick this time. Her lingering effects of the virus include loss of smell and she is afraid of being re-infected.

Before getting on the bus to go to work each morning, she says a short prayer, asking God to protect her.

But she does not leave everything in the hands of God. To protect herself, she always has extra masks, handing them out on the bus to those in need.

Ana Facio Krajcer contributed reports.

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