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Look At San Diego County COVID Deaths By ZIP Code Reveals Huge Disparity

The driveway entrance to the emergency room at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, May 14, 2020.
Alexander Nguyen
The driveway entrance to the emergency room at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, May 14, 2020.
More than half of the people who died lived in either the South Bay, City Heights, or Southeast San Diego — the most ethnically diverse areas in the county.

As San Diego County passed a grim milestone with 500 deaths reported due to COVID-19 last week, a look at the ZIP codes of those who died reveals a huge disparity.

More than half of the people who died lived in either the South Bay, City Heights, or Southeast San Diego — the most ethnically diverse areas in the county.

There were only three ZIP codes north of Interstate 8 where more than five people died, in Pacific Beach, Rancho Penasquitos and Escondido.

Many ZIP codes have had no deaths, including Scripps Ranch, Allied Gardens and parts of Carlsbad, Encinitas and Solana Beach.

Nancy Maldonado, the president of the Chicano Federation of San Diego County, said this disparity is unacceptable.

"If the ZIP code that you live in can dictate your chances of contracting a deadly virus, we've got a lot of work to do," she said. "People's income is directly linked to their chances of being infected by COVID-19."

People who live in poorer neighborhoods are less likely to be able to work from home, so they are more exposed, she said. Data from across the country shows Black and Latino people are more likely to die of COVID-19.

Look At San Diego County COVID Deaths By ZIP Code Reveals Huge Disparity

In San Diego County, 60% of the cases and 45% of the people who died were Hispanic or Latino. Meanwhile, Latinos make up 34% of the local population.

Last week, the county launched an outreach campaign to Latinos, including ads in Spanish.

Maldonado said she wishes the county's efforts happened earlier, but they're a good step.

"The county's response and our entire region's response would be different if these were the infection rates we were seeing in La Jolla or Del Mar," she said. "People feel far removed from it, if you haven't been touched by it personally, it feels like it's somewhere else, whereas we are hearing these stories every day about people whose lives are being destroyed by it."

COVID-19 is also disproportionately killing older people: 47% of those who died were over 80, 23% were between 70 and 79, and less than 5% were under age 49.

The vast majority, 95%, of those who died had underlying health conditions, including hypertension (52%), diabetes (35%), cardiac disease (32%) and asthma (14%).

Look At San Diego County COVID Deaths By Zip Code Reveals Huge Disparity
Listen to this story by Claire Trageser.
Looking at the zip codes of the people who’ve died of the virus reveal a huge disparity. Plus: The Padres are back sans fans, the big differences between virtual learning and homeschooling, how the pandemic is shaking up plans for the region's transportation future and more of the local news you need. San Diego News Matters is KPBS’ daily news podcast. Support the show: https://www.kpbs.org/donate