How overcrowded housing led to COVID death in a L.A. family - Los Angeles Times

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To protect against the deadly virus that invaded his small apartment, Jose Guadalupe Zubia wore a surgical mask to sleep and opened a window next to his bed.

His two sons slept with their father in the living room, wearing masks all night. One person puts his headgear on, hoping to prevent the spread of infection.

Jose's two daughters locked themselves in their shared bedroom. When they used the only bathroom in the apartment, they dried everything with Lysol.

In October, their children all tested positive for the new coronavirus. Jose is a 59-year-old mechanic and the only person who tested negative.

The children are determined to protect their diabetic father. But they huddled with two dogs in a one-bedroom apartment in South Los Angeles, and two beds occupied most of the living room. Before falling ill, Jose's grandsons often stayed overnight.

"It's easy to spread as it is. Joanna, 29, said that when you live in such a small place, it's harder to keep yourself away from someone. What can we do?

Like many Latino families, Zubians live in crowded houses. In South Los Angeles, most of the residents there are Latino or black,

Overcrowded-usually defined as more than one person per room.

Favian, 28, works in pipeline engineering. Joanna earns $17 an hour at Food 4 Less. Jonathan, 26, is between work. Priscilla is a 20-year-old young man who left UCLA because of a heart attack and studied psychology there. Their father earns hundreds of dollars a month as a freelance mechanic.

Almost all of their total income is used to pay monthly rent of just over $1,000.

Jose dreams of buying a house one day, but the median price is

Nowhere he looked seemed out of reach. No child can afford to move out. Only Jose’s eldest son, Travian, 30, lives alone.

Therefore, the Zubians made an uncomfortable but tolerable arrangement until the coronavirus infection.

In Los Angeles County, the spread of the heaviest virus has little mystery. The pandemic has been hit hardest in the most congested place: the Eastern District. Southeast Los Angeles South Los Angeles

Many people in these areas have jobs that require them to work outside the home.

Dr. Lee Reilly, professor of epidemiology and infectious disease at the University of California, Berkeley, said: “Once the virus is introduced into a crowded home, then it is really impossible to stop its further spread.” “There is nothing you can do. of."

The Zubia family is no stranger to difficult times and stressful living conditions. Jose immigrated to California from Chihuahua, Mexico when he was 18.

When Joanna was 5 years old, the family moved from California to Georgia, and Jose worked in a textile factory.

After his wife left him, Jose worked hard to take care of the children and pay the rent. After cutting off the water and power, they used the neighbor's hose to fill the bucket with water for bathing.

When they moved back to California to live with Joseph's brother in Burbank, the four youngest children slept on the living room floor. Jose and Travian slept in a van at the back of the house.

In 2005, once Jose had saved enough money, they moved to a one-bedroom unit in a two-story apartment building on Western Avenue in Manchester Square. Joanna and three boys slept on bunk beds in the living room, while Priscilla, then 4 years old, shared a small bedroom with her father. The little girl fell asleep holding his ears.

As we got older, women took away the bedroom, and men took away the living room.

Joanna and Priscilla share a single bed. The distance from the wall to the closet is about 10 feet. The other two walls are about nine feet apart. Joanna counted.

Priscilla said: "This is a small room, we can't even separate from each other."

The purple walls are Priscilla's choice. The fluffy carpet and pillows are Joanna's choice. Holding their clothes in the closet, and their father's clothes.

In the living room a few steps away from the front door, Favian shares a bed with his son on weekdays. A few inches away, Jose's bed almost reached into the kitchen. Jonathan slept on the floor next to the TV. One of the few decorations on the wall is the crucifix.

They created space where possible. The dining table was pushed to the wall of the kitchen and the refrigerator next to the counter. Cutlery is stored on the table or in the oven. The shoes are placed in the red hanger behind the front door.

The family knows how to get along. Sometimes, Joanna was the first person to walk in, and started to work at Food 4 Less at 4 in the morning. Soon after, Favian got up and drove to Travian’s home, carpooling. Plumbing works.

Jose will make eggs, beans, and potatoes for anyone still nearby, and then head to the alley next to the apartment building, where he works in the car all day and plays Los Bukis on speakers. He likes music and dancing, especially dancing with his grandchildren.

Inside the apartment, a narrow tiled corridor leads to a bathroom. The children are used to their father knocking on the door, even if someone just walked in.

"Tengo que usar elbaño, listless." he shouted as he danced outside. "I have to go to the bathroom, hurry up." To hurry, the children wash their hands in the kitchen sink.

Their living conditions have matured and are suffering from disasters. Joanna was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and Priscilla has heart disease.

The big brother who drove to work together was the first to get sick. Travian seems to have a cold. Soon, Favian didn't taste anything.

In mid-October, when the apartment became a hotbed of infection, it felt like it was shrinking.

Jose tries to keep his distance, but he wants to take care of his children. He brewed tea with ginger, red onion and lemon and made sure they took the medicine.

In order to obtain greater circulation, he kept the front door open and air passed through the locked and perforated metal security door. His children are worried.

"Where can I take him?" Joanna thought. "What should I do to let him leave?"

Eventually, Jose got sick. He told his neighbors that he thought he was dying, but he never told his children.

By now, Joanna's condition has worsened, her lungs are so painful that she can't sleep. She didn't realize her father's condition until she steamed the bathroom and tried to open her lungs. In the living room, she saw Jose mo moaning in his sleep.

Priscilla checked his temperature: 105.1. His lips were chapped and he was shaking.

They sent him to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where Priscilla underwent heart surgery in February last year. They prayed that he would be fine.

After the pandemic broke out, Thanh Neville, a doctor in the intensive care unit, began to keep a diary. She wanted to record the extraordinary emotional and psychological experience she experienced.

She wrote on November 1st: "This week in the ICU was particularly horrible. During my last tenure, I had discharged the last Covid patient from the hospital, but this week, it seems that every day a new patient was transferred with Covid. ICU. Today, we accepted the patriarch of a family with five children (a single father lives with four adult children)."

Jose’s oxygen content is very low, and his chest X-ray showed advanced COVID-19 pneumonia.

He agreed to participate in a clinical trial, and he said: "Even if I cannot benefit from this research, I hope this information will be helpful to others."

Overnight, he was put on a ventilator and Joanna was taken to the same hospital. Neville wrote in his diary: "American tragedy."

Neville asked if the family was socially estranged. Joanna started to cry.

"We live in a small house. It's difficult," Joanna replied. ICU is the first time in her life that she has her own room.

Neville knew that he lived in a house that was overcrowded. She is one of eight children, sharing a room with two sisters and sleeping on a bunk bed until she goes to medical school.

Neville said: "I know there is not much feeling." She and her family are refugees from Vietnam. "The possibility of this family is great."

On November 3, Neville arranged for Joanna and her father to be placed in adjacent rooms. When she helped move the two beds and slid the glass door open until it opened, the doctor sweated through the PPE so that Joanna could see her father.

Joanna yelled to him, trying to provide the little comfort she could provide.

"I'm fine," she told him in Spanish. "You will be fine. We will see you at home. I love you."

By November 25, Joanna had been discharged from the hospital, but Jose failed. The hospital provided an opportunity for a family member to meet for the last time.

The brothers and sisters agreed that it would be Priscilla. She was nervous when putting on personal protective equipment. Inside, she held her father's hand.

"He felt very cold," Priscilla recalled, her voice broken. "He never feels cold."

She stayed with her father for an hour. After she left the room, he could see his oxygen level drop. He died a few minutes later.

When Dr. Neville talked with her family on the phone, she knew exactly how small their apartment was.

She said: "That's when you realize that being away from social life and working from home is a privilege for everyone."

The family confessed their financial troubles. They don't know how to pay the rent. They tried

For their father's funeral.

First column

The fascinating storytelling showcase of the Los Angeles Times.

Joanna was unable to return to work due to shortness of breath and headache. She worried about the day she went back. What if she gets the virus a second time and takes it home?

She already feels Nei-Nei D has survived, but Nei's father has no father's.

She said: "If I wasn't that sick, I could have understood my father better and took care of him."

Neville contacts the philanthropist behind the scenes

And received three months of family rent.

Now, there are four people left in the small apartment. They got rid of a bed and planned to make bunk beds in the living room where Favian and Jonathan were still sleeping.

The dining table was placed where Jose's bed was once. This is an altar. Next to the Virgin Mary is a picture of Jose and his children. In one of them, the proud father smiled and held the baby Priscilla tightly.

This is one of several photos in the apartment. Jose never wanted to put a lot of things on the wall.

He reminded his children: "We will not stay here forever." He has always hoped that one day he can move to a bigger place.

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Brittny Mejia is a general assignment reporter for the Los Angeles Times. His focus is on covering the Latin American community. She is a member of the journalist team and won the Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack.

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