States that ended protections banning evictions in the spring and summer of 2020 likely led to hundreds of thousands of additional COVID-19 cases and thousands of deaths from the coronavirus, according to a new UCLA study.
The study, published Monday in the American Journal of Epidemiology, looked at 43 states that had eviction moratoriums from March to September 2020, and compared COVID-19 cases in those that lifted moratoriums — allowing renters to be evicted — with those that kept protections in place.
The UCLA researchers found that about four months after evictions were allowed to resume, states saw on average twice as many COVID-19 cases and five times more deaths from the virus. Ending eviction protections, the study estimated, led to some 433,000 excess COVID-19 cases and about 10,000 additional deaths by September 2020.
Evictions disproportionately affect people of color, especially women of color. Black and Latinx people are three times as likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 as white people, and twice as likely to die.
“It’s always important in talking about evictions and housing insecurity to say it’s not something that affects all people equally,” study co-author Kate Leifheit told HuffPost in a November interview. “People of color and low-income folks are at the highest risk of eviction and they’re also at highest risk of negative COVID outcomes.”
Leifheit noted that the increase in cases and deaths associated with eviction would exacerbate existing racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to massive shuttering of businesses and widespread job losses, leaving millions of people struggling to make rent and vulnerable to eviction. Evictions, in turn, heighten the risk of people contracting COVID-19, as those suddenly without housing often have to double up in others’ homes or go to homeless shelters, where crowding makes it more difficult to socially distance.
In addition, the threat of eviction may have led some people to continue working in high-risk jobs that exposed them to the virus, the study posited, further increasing the risk of transmission.
In response to the pandemic, many cities and states issued eviction moratoriums in the spring of 2020, but over two dozen states lifted these bans that summer, before vaccines were available. In September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally issued a nationwide moratorium on evictions. It’s set to expire at the end of this month.
Over 34 million people in the U.S. have contracted the coronavirus, and more than 610,000 have died.
While the rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths have plummeted since widespread vaccinations began this spring, in recent weeks there has been a sharp rise in cases, overwhelmingly among people who are unvaccinated, as the highly contagious delta variant spreads.
With the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium looming, over 13 million renters in the U.S. reported to the U.S. Census Bureau in June that they had “slight” or no confidence in being able to pay this month’s rent.
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