On December 21, Community Partners International (CPI) Board and Health Advisory Committee Member Dr. Adam Richards spoke to Al Jazeera English about the challenges facing health providers in California and across the US that are struggling to cope with rapidly rising cases of COVID-19.
During the interview, Dr. Richards described the difficulties facing hospitals in Los Angeles as cases surged to more than 11,000 per day in the city. Underlining the severity of the situation, Dr. Richards said, "Fifty-six people died [of COVID-19] in LA today, so that's more than two deaths every hour". He described how rising COVID-19 patient numbers were severely impacting hospitals' ability to deliver services and that they were, "seeing ambulances backing up waiting to unload their patients. Some ER docs are even seeing patients inside the ambulance which is clearly not ideal care. People are really doing their best but it's becoming increasingly difficult."
Dr. Richards also addressed the prospect of rationing care should health services become overwhelmed, saying that "We've had time to deliberate and elicit community input in terms of who should receive care if we get to a point of rationing. Thankfully, for the hospitals I'm familiar with, we haven't had to invoke those policies but it is reassuring knowing that they are there."
Dr. Richards emphasized the racial, ethnic and socio-economic disparities observed in the impact of COVID-19 on communities in Los Angeles: "For people who live in the poorest neighborhoods, the mortality rate is four times as high as those folks in the wealthiest neighborhoods."
He also emphasized how the political situation in the US had contributed to the surge: "It comes down to many, many individual decisions of people not following the science and advice of experts... That basic public health guidance unfortunately became politicized here in the United States."
In addressing the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the US, Dr. Richards emphasized the need to prioritize the most vulnerable and ensure equity of access. "Basic public health guidance remains the cornerstone of the response and meanwhile, yes, get the vaccine to as many people as possible, and ensure that the frontline folks and people in carceral settings are included."
Watch the interview in full below: