King community hospital overwhelmed by latest surge

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Highlighting the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Black communities, the CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital said Dec. 22 the small medical center is overloaded with patients, with 70 people being treated in a 29-bed emergency department.

“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 Covered California video conference urging Black residents to get insured and get vaccinated when the shots become available to the general public.

“We have more COVID patients now than hospitals that are three to four times larger than we are,” Batchlor said. “The testing site on our campus has a COVID positivity rate of 25%, versus 12 to 13% countywide. We’re a small community hospital, 131 beds, and we have already exceeded our surge capacity.

“We started this morning with 206 patients in our 131-bed hospital, and 70 patients in the emergency department — that is a 29-bed emergency department.”

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

“The COVID pandemic is hitting the African-American community harder than any other community,” Lee said. “Now the good news is, the vaccines are now with us, but most of us will not be getting those vaccines until 2021.

“There’s also reason for concern,” Lee added. “Black Americans — only 40% say they’d take a vaccine right now. That is well below the rates of other communities. About 80% of Asian communities say they’d likely take a vaccine, 60% of Hispanics and whites.”

Lee, Batchlor and other medical experts urged residents not to hesitate being vaccinated.

“When the vaccine is available, and it’s been proven safe and effective, which the vaccines out there have been, take the vaccine,” Lee said.

Dr. David Carlisle, president and CEO of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in South Los Angeles, said all communities of color should take the virus seriously and not hesitate to get vaccinated.

“COVID-19 has spread like wildfire through communities of color, particularly the African-American communities, particularly Latino communities, and also other communities of color,” he said. “When you look at the numbers … they’re quite clear. Latinos are 2.7 times more likely to test positive. African-Americans are 80% more likely to die from this condition. Among African-Americans, everyone that I talked to personally knows somebody who’s died from COVID-19. That is a huge burden to bear.”

He compared the vaccine to wearing a seat belt in a car crash, calling it a critical means of defense.

“These vaccines offer hope where for so many months there was none,” Carlisle said. “We hope that we can use the vaccines to eliminate COVID-19 and drive down these infection rates, but in order to do this, people have to take the vaccines.”