Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he has “not a lot of regrets” over how the country’s second largest city has handled the coronavirus pandemic, which has surged among the city’s Latinos and across the state in recent weeks.
In an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, Garcetti said the city of roughly 4 million was the first to mandate masks and the first to have public testing for people without symptoms. He also said the city has tried to protect two demographics that have been hit hard by the virus — the homeless and Black people.
“I think we’ve probably done the best job of a vulnerable city protecting our people,” he said.
Los Angeles’ homeless have a lower infection rate than people who have homes, Garcetti said. He attributed this to mass testing, mask distribution and the placement of 6,000 people who were on the streets into shelters.
For more on this story watch NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. CT.
That shift comes as the number of people experiencing homelessness continues to rise, according to the city’s annual count, which was released last month.
Garcetti, a Democrat who was first elected in 2013, said the city also scaled back a once-soaring death rate among Black people through neighborhood testing and “putting messaging out there.”
“My message is stick with what we do know,” he said. “Masks, washing surfaces and hands, and physical distancing, staying at home when you can.”
But among Latinos, the city’s positivity rate has risen 16 percent in the last couple of months, Garcetti said, adding that COVID-19 is increasingly “becoming a Latino disease.”
This reflects a broader trend across California, where Latinos make up 56 percent — or 167,650 — of the state’s positive cases, according to state data. Latinos make up 45 percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths, even though they represent just 38 percent of the state’s population.
Experts have linked the disproportionate impact on Latinos to several factors, including the likelihood they’re essential workers who are more likely to live in densely populated areas and use public transportation.
According to the Los Angeles County Health Department, the city’s positive case rate of 1,772 people per 100,000 is lower than several other cities in Los Angeles county. As of Monday, the city of Los Angeles had 71,661 confirmed cases and 2,034 deaths, according to the county health department.