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New Study Correlates COVID-19 Death Rate with Evictions

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UCLA researcher, Kathryn Leifheit, published a study this week confirming a theory widely held: a higher eviction rate increases the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 and, consequently, is positively correlated with the COVID-19 death rate. Leifheit’s study estimates that evictions occurring between the beginning of the pandemic and the start of the CDC’s national eviction moratorium passed in September “led to 433,700 excess COVID-19 cases and 10,700 additional deaths.” [1] Leifheit posits that, in Texas alone, an excess of roughly 150,000 cases and 4,500 deaths followed the state’s lifting of its eviction moratorium in late May. [2]

The study explains these increased rates by pointing to the realities of one’s living situation post-eviction. Often, evicted families move in with relatives in cramped apartments, reside temporarily in crowded shelters, or, at worst, end up on the streets. In any case, they are at a heightened risk for contraction. So, it’s no wonder that as eviction rates spike due to this year’s steep economic slowdowns, infection and death rates have risen as a direct result. 

Of course, both federal and local governments have put in a concerted effort to combat these correlated spikes. In September, patchwork state measures culminated in a national eviction moratorium — hence, why the study brackets its analysis at the start of the order. However, though these actions have certainly helped mitigate the consequences of financial hardship on the spread of the virus, they are temporary and are slated to end at year’s close. Leifheit, who has taken her research on a national press tour this week, published the paper in part to emphasize the urgency of extending the moratoriums and to warn the public of the danger in removing them. In New York City alone, more than 14,000 families are facing eviction proceedings halted by the orders. [1] If removed, they will face a significantly heightened risk of infection and all the complications that come with it.

Leifheit’s study also links the increased likelihood of eviction and infection with one’s race. In an interview with NPR, Leifheit clarified the link, stating, “[We] know that Black and LatinX families are more likely to be evicted. We also know that these are the same communities that are bearing the brunt of COVID. So moratoriums can help these families remain housed and stay safe during the pandemic. And they might also keep COVID disparities from growing larger.” Leifheit, among others scrutinizing policy impact disparities, hopes that this research will spur advocacy favoring extensions on the moratoriums. 

Ultimately, the health of both those facing eviction and the communities they risk infecting — many of which are already marginalized — will rely on either state or federal executive branches recognizing the increased risks of lifting the moratoriums. As research continues to pour in, one can only hope that the government will be spurred to action sooner rather than later. 

Sources:

[1] – Andrews, Jeff, “Evictions Caused More Than 10,000 COVID Deaths,” Curbed New York, 30 Nov. 2020, https://www.curbed.com/2020/11/evictions-caused-covid-deaths.html, accessed 2 Dec. 2020.

[2] – All Things Considered, “Researcher Finds Evictions Are Associated With More Than 10,000 Deaths From COVID-19,” NPR, 1 Dec. 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/12/01/940816002/researcher-finds-evictions-are-associated-with-more-than-10-000-death-from-covid, accessed 2 Dec. 2020.

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