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Coronavirus hits west Phoenix neighborhood harder than most

COVID-19 testing West Valley
Posted at 10:16 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-05 22:48:11-04

PHOENIX — The ABC15 Investigators found some the highest concentrations of coronavirus cases in Arizona are in Phoenix's Maryvale neighborhood, which include many multigenerational households and essential workers.

FULL SECTION: Everything you need to know about coronavirus

Valeria Espinoza, who lives and works in Maryvale, said she and five other relatives got sick last spring.

"We started feeling symptoms, but we didn’t think much of it," Espinoza recalled. "It was at the time when the heat just came in, and we’re like, 'Oh, it’s allergies.'" She said they all were ultimately diagnosed with COVID-19.

Espinoza said her mom had the worst effects of the virus, and she was hospitalized for six days before she recovered.

Espinoza knows neighbors and acquaintances who later got sick. "You hear from people, 'So-and-so got it, and so-and-so’s family member passed away,'" Espinoza said.

The ABC15 Investigators used coronavirus zip code data from the Arizona Department of Health Services to find the top ten zips codes with the most diagnosed cases since the pandemic started. Six of the ten zip codes are clustered in the west Valley, including three in Maryvale Village (85033, 85035, 85037), one in south Glendale (85301), and two in southwest Phoenix including part of South Mountain Village (85009, 85041).

State Sen. Martin Quezada (D-West Phoenix) said these zip codes, which have higher minority populations and low-income families, have long experienced inequities.

"They don’t get as much resources from the state or from the city or from the county, and they’ve been struggling for a long time already," Quezada said.

At the Mountain Park Health Center Maryvale Clinic, Dr. Joanna Andujar treats children with coronavirus symptoms daily.

"We just see constant COVID: runny nose, cough, congestion, and usually we do swab them," Andujar said. She's even transferred kids with inflammatory complications to Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Dr. Andujar noticed that many of the Latino families she serves are living in multigenerational households, with grandparents, parents, cousins, and children all under the same roof. She said often when one person in the home gets coronavirus, it quickly spreads to everyone in the home.

Dr. Andujar also said many of the families she treats include essential workers, who can't telework and are exposed to people in the community every day

"They work on the garbage trucks; they work in our delis; they work in our gas stations; they work in all of our supermarkets, and allow us to keep on going," Andujar said.

Sen. Quezada explained that the outbreak in Maryvale and surrounding zip codes, if left unmitigated, presents a public health danger to people all over the Valley.

"When our community is serving other communities, that creates danger for those communities as well," Quezada said. "So, I don’t understand why contact tracing and the testing in general is not concentrated here where it needs to be."

Phoenix Vice Mayor Betty Guardado said she found it is hard to convince some working-class workers, especially Latinos, to stay home when sick. She said strong work ethic and concerns about lost pay or being fired weigh heavy in their minds. Guardado urges employers can help create solutions in the best interest of public health.

"Maybe they need to offer COVID sick days," she said, and "assuring people that they won’t lose their job if they don't come into work."

Phoenix city spokespeople tell ABC15 that testing has been a high priority in southwest Phoenix and Maryvale, with 42 testing events since May 1.

Millions of dollars in CARES funding has been earmarked in Phoenix for utility assistance, mitigation and care for vulnerable populations, food delivery, better health outcomes, and community testing.

In addition, city councilmembers are distributing free masks. Phoenix's coronavirus testing van will be providing free rapid tests in Maryvale Friday.