Close Quarters: California’s overcrowded homes fuel spread of coronavirus among workers

One of the reason the virus has spreads so quickly is the overcrowded conditions of big cities like NYC, Houston, L./A and more.  Sadly, Sacramento and the Democrat want to make our communities even denser with stack’em’em and pack’em housing like NYC.  Then they want folks out of the safe cars they drive and instead use buses or trains, over crowded, to get to work and around town.  This is a recipe for disaster—as we already have seen.

“Across California, essential and service workers like Flores Contreras are being hit hardest by the coronavirus, and so are the people they live with. He lives in the most crowded ZIP code in Monterey County, sleeping in the living room of a jam-packed, two-bedroom house he shares with four other people. 

Flores Contreras’ housing conditions put him at high risk: The poorest ZIP codes with the most people living in crowded housing are suffering the most from the coronavirus, according to an analysis of housing and health data by The California Divide, a statewide media collaboration. The millions of Californians who live in overcrowded houses are more likely to be infected.

The hardest-hit neighborhoods had three times the rate of overcrowded homes and twice the rate of poverty as the neighborhoods that have largely escaped the virus, according to the analysis. And the neighborhoods with the most infections are disproportionately populated by people of color. 

Yet Democrats want to harm the working class even more—it is as if they use Darwins theory and try hard to end the lives of the poor—either by housing them in unhealthy and unsafe conditions—or killing them via Planned Parenthood.  When will the poor understand the Democrats are literally killing them?

Close Quarters: California’s overcrowded homes fuel spread of coronavirus among workers

by Kate Cimini and Jackie Botts,, The Salinas Californian, 6/12/20 

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Until the pandemic struck, every day for the last 10 years, Isidoro Flores Contreras stood at the edge of the Sand City Costco parking lot, just a few feet from a set of McDonald’s arches, selling $15 flower bouquets. 

No matter the weather, he slowly walked back and forth along the sidewalk, a hitch in his gait as he waved bouquets at cars. More flowers sprouted from large white buckets behind him, tilted like umbrellas on an overflowing beach. 

Flores Contreras, who takes home about $300 per week, shut down his business for 15 days when Monterey County issued its stay-at-home order, and he returned when regulations permitted in early May. Back on his corner, although he wears a black cloth mask printed with the LA Kings logo, Flores Contreras is now much more vulnerable to the virus, exposed to dozens of people every day at work and home.

Across California, essential and service workers like Flores Contreras are being hit hardest by the coronavirus, and so are the people they live with. He lives in the most crowded ZIP code in Monterey County, sleeping in the living room of a jam-packed, two-bedroom house he shares with four other people. 

Flores Contreras’ housing conditions put him at high risk: The poorest ZIP codes with the most people living in crowded housing are suffering the most from the coronavirus, according to an analysis of housing and health data by The California Divide, a statewide media collaboration. The millions of Californians who live in overcrowded houses are more likely to be infected.

The hardest-hit neighborhoods had three times the rate of overcrowded homes and twice the rate of poverty as the neighborhoods that have largely escaped the virus, according to the analysis. And the neighborhoods with the most infections are disproportionately populated by people of color. 

About 6.3 million Californians, or 16%, live in overcrowded housing. A third of those are severely overcrowded. California has the second-highest rate of crowded households in the nation, more than double the nationwide rate. 

Around two-thirds of the people who live in these homes — about 4 million people — are essential workers or live with at least one essential worker. 

In Monterey and San Benito counties, nearly one in 10 households, the highest rate in the state, are both overcrowded and include an essential worker.

Health experts say this creates a perfect storm for the coronavirus: People bunched together at night and on the frontlines during the day, exposed to a lot of people both at work and at home.

“Some people are affected more and it does reflect how unequal our society is,” said Justin Feldman, a social epidemiologist at the NYU School of Medicine Department of Population Health.

Hot spots for overcrowded homes are spread throughout urban and rural California, including the Salinas Valley, South Los Angeles, Oakland and desert towns near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Monterey County, home to many farmworkers, leads the state with one in every seven households crowded. In Monterey and San Benito counties, nearly one in 10 households, the highest rate in the state, are both overcrowded and include an essential worker.

The Alisal, a neighborhood in Salinas, is filled with farmworkers and service workers, like Flores Contreras, who live doubled or tripled up so they can afford to pay rent. During a pandemic, though, this can be deadly.

Crowded communities hit hardest

At night, Flores Contreras beds down in the living room of a two-bedroom house in the Alisal, a Mexican and Mexican American community where 61,000 people are squeezed onto a parcel of land less than three square miles annexed by Salinas in 1963. 

Tens of thousands of the Alisal’s residents are farmworkers, considered essential workers during stay-at-home orders. The median household income in the Alisal is $49,659 and 22% live in poverty, according to Census data. 

Farmworkers are greatly overrepresented among those diagnosed with COVID-19. In Monterey County, the Alisal is the center of the coronavirus outbreak. About a third of the patients in Monterey County live in the 93905 ZIP code, where Flores Contreras resides, even though just 14% of the county’s population lives there.

Their congested living conditions heighten their risk of transmitting the virus to each other.

Read about the housing crisis among California farmworkers.

Flores Contreras pays $300 a month in rent — equivalent to a week of his earnings. Two couples rent the bedrooms. There’s no way they could isolate themselves at home if someone caught the virus, Flores Contreras said.

The Census Bureau defines overcrowding as a home with more people than rooms, while a home with more than 1.5 people per room is severely crowded. 

The reason for so many overcrowded houses and apartments? The sky-high cost of housing. Nearly a third of California’s renter households spend more than half their income on rent.

22 miles apart

In Monterey County, the link between crowded housing and COVID-19 is clear, revealing big disparities: Its five areas most heavily burdened by the virus had more than twice as much crowded housing as areas with the least people diagnosed, as of June 8.

In Salinas, nestled between two mountain ranges and rooted in fertile produce fields, about one out of every five homes is crowded. Even worse, narrowed to the 93905 ZIP code, where the Alisal lies, nearly a third are crowded, and an average of 4.5 people live in each household.

Drive 22 miles west, and you’ll arrive in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a wealthy live-oaked, cobblestone-paved hamlet of fewer than 4,000 people on the edge of the Pacific. The streets are narrow, the houses are worth millions of dollars and many are walled off from view. 

Here, just under 4% of homes are crowded, a stark contrast to the numbers squeezed into the Alisal. Fewer than five people (the county’s reporting cutoff) have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Carmel-by-the-Sea, compared with 233 in the Alisal’s ZIP code as of June 9, according to the Monterey County Public Health Department. 

Models created at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania provide evidence that overcrowding and population density are the two most important factors driving the spread of the virus.

“Measured against a number of local factors, we saw that strict social distancing policies and low population density. . . were all important in slowing the spread of this dangerous virus,” said Dr. Gregory Tasian, faculty member at PolicyLab and an assistant professor of epidemiology who worked on the models.

In New York City, the coronavirus’s toll has been severe in overcrowded neighborhoods. An analysis found the city’s crowded neighborhoods had bigger jumps in flu-like emergency room visits this March compared with previous years than less-crowded neighborhoods. 

Feldman, the NYU social epidemiologist, said even though the data show a correlation, not causation, the result makes sense.

“And who do we know is living in crowded housing?” asked Feldman. “People who are lower income, they’re more likely to be immigrants, more likely to have to go to work.”

“What we’ve been generally seeing is very high transmission rates within a household. Once one person gets it, it’s very easy to transmit to other people in their household. You can imagine if there’s less space, if people have to share room, it’s going to be really hard to isolate people,” Feldman said. 

He also observed that neighborhoods with more foreign-born residents had higher increases in visits for flu-like symptoms in March, as did higher poverty neighborhoods and neighborhoods with more Latino residents. This, too, he said, is grimly logical.

“And who do we know is living in crowded housing?” asked Feldman. “People who are lower income, they’re more likely to be immigrants, more likely to have to go to work.”

Essential workers stuffed into homes

Social distancing is especially hard for essential workers, who must leave their homes regularly to keep the rest of the U.S. fed and sheltered. More than 158,000 people over the age of 65 live in a crowded home where at least one member is an essential worker.

More than a third of California’s labor force works in jobs that mean they must be physically present, such as farming, fishing or forestry. And almost a third of farmworkers and restaurant workers live in overcrowded homes. According to an analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), essential workers are more likely than nonessential workers to live in overcrowded housing—16% versus 12%.

“Compared to non-essential workers, they are at higher risk of infection because they continue to circulate among others despite the shutdown,” wrote PPIC researchers Marisol Cuellar Mejia and Paulette Cha.

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About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. William Hicks says

    AND YET, the thousand oaks city council insists on the T.O. Blvd. project that would crowd people together, much like new park city.

    BUT, they get their marching orders handed down to them from the governor who insists on “affordable housing” that likely will just be a different kind of section 8 housing; again, just like new york city.

  2. Loretta Davi says

    thank you for your in-depth understanding of where, why this virus has and is occurring. I would prefer using the words low income in place of color which is used inappropriately most times. Some of us have been waiting for detailed info so we have a better understanding, maybe not an immediate solution but on the right track.
    The democrat way has for the last 50+years been demeaning the low-income people by making them dependable on all government subsidies paid for by people who work. This is what has to end. And only by voting in the right people who would know how to change this scenario, put it in place and create the desire for them to want to be a responsible person (which I believe, most would want a job, better paying job, trained on the job) I believe this.
    We the people, need to educate within our community on how to change this with our voting in the right conservative republicans. Courage, education, action.

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