Low-income areas seeing more COVID-19 cases

Zip codes around Pima County, and outside of the University, have started to spike in COVID-19 cases.
Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 5:51 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - COVID-19 Cases are on the rise just about everywhere, but certain spots within Pima County are seeing more increases.

According the Pima County Health Department’s data dashboard, many zip codes with lower median incomes are in the red. Dr. Rajiv Modak, at El Rio Health, serves many in these hot-zone, under insured, communities.

“We have seen an increase in our volumes of COVID patients, especially in the last two weeks,” said Dr. Modak. “We have a lot more patients walking in to be tested.”

The zip codes 85706, which has more than 3,400 COVID-19 cases, and 85756, which has more than 3,100 COVID-19 cases, have median household incomes of about $50,000 and less. These areas now see about the same levels of cases the zip code carrying the University of Arizona has. Different from the university though, many people don’t live, work and play in the same area, and many live in multi-generational homes.

“These areas, especially (Pima County Supervisor) District 5 and District 2, have a lot of essential workers, people that cannot stay home and work from home,” said Betty Villegas, Pima County Supervisor, District 5.

PCHD has mobilized free, pop-up test sites and utilizes contact tracing around the county, but they said their overall resources are limited. The county is stuck between a rock and the state.

PCHD said other than rules around masks, the governor’s executive orders still do not allow for policies or ordinances that go beyond those established by the state.

Villegas said the county’s CARES funding is slowly dwindling, not leaving much left over to house COVID-positive people in hotels. However, she feels addressing racial and financial inequities in all aspects of local government could help in the long run. Her office submitted a referendum for the Board in early December to address this very topic.

“It’s not going to help us now, but it can help us for the future to really address the inequities that have been part of our system for so long,” said Villegas.

Dr. Modak asks fore everyone to wear a mask, as it can help protect all essential workers, not just healthcare professionals who are strained.

“When we have a consistent message that everyone should be wearing masks, then it lowers the risks for those who have to go to work being exposed to people who are not wearing masks,” said Modak.

As always, health officials urge people to get a flu shot, wear a mask, keep distance and wash hands.

For information on COVID-19 test sites, go here.

Copyright 2020 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.