Cultural Debate Behind Glendale’s High Number of Coronavirus Cases

The city of Glendale ranks the third most populous city along with having the third highest number of COVID-19 cases in the entire Los Angeles County. Densely populated at about 204,765 people, the city is continuing to see a constant incline in these statistics.

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According to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard, as of May 5th, the number of COVID-19 cases has reached a total of 651 infected patients, followed by 36 deaths. The numbers continue to rise. City Council Member and former mayor Ara Najarian, says that the city has reached its peak of cases within the past week.

“In terms of the rate of cases, we’re at a two-day stretch. The past two days have been our highest reporting numbers. We went up by an average of 30 cases each day,” responded Najarian on May 1st, when asked about the point of extremity in the number of infected patients.

When asked what factors he felt could possibly contribute to these drastic changes, Najarian responded with a few potential causes.

“There’s a lot of speculation,” he said. “One of them is that we do have a significant number of nursing homes, and that seems to be in the locations where a lot of the positive hidings are being found.”

Najarian said it’s an “anecdotal understanding,” adding that testing at nursing homes is increasing.

CULTURAL DEBATE

Glendale is greatly populated by Armenians and has the largest Armenian community in the entire country.

Najarian had mentioned previously: the prominent cultural values in the community. Because the community is very vibrant and close-knit, it could make it more challenging to abide to the stay-at-home order.

“It is the close family nature of our residents. Where we love to gather during occasions, and be very close to our loved ones during times like this.”

Mayor Najarian caught strong criticism from the community, and mentioned how he now says this statement with a lot less certainty.

Members of the community felt as if his words were extremely racist towards the Armenian people. Najarian stepped back as he expressed he had no intention of generalizing the Armenian community, and felt that he spoke through his observations as an Armenian American himself. Not all his fellow Armenian Americans agree.

“Because Glendale is a high-condensed, metropolis area, there’s a lot of high traffic and tourism,” Glendale native Ara Babakhanyan said, “It was a busy town before everything came to a halt. High-end shops, restaurants, and hotels make Glendale a very attractive city. This could have attracted tourism from outsiders. These factors should not be overlooked.”

However, there are members of the community who fully support Najarian’s claim. Glendale resident Rita Yegikian said, “In my opinion, it could be a cultural thing. The demographic of the way people think is ‘if I’m feeling okay, then I’m fine.’ I hear from a number of people about how others visit each other for coffee, they get together, and just carry on with life as they used to. I think this is the major reason why the cases are so high.”

Yegikian also mentioned that she noticed a lack in the use of protective coverings when leaving their home.

“They don’t think about their own safety. Aside from the other person, put the mask to protect yourself.” said Yegikian

Yegikian emphasized the importance of staying home and countered the idea of choosing to go outside even if you show no noticeable symptoms of COVID-19. She said that many people are asymptomatic and could still possibly carry the virus, which is why she feels it’s necessary to stay home.

The city of Glendale has three major hospitals. One of which is the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, where Glendale’s first confirmed COVID-19 patient was treated.

Medical professionals are working long hours in order to ensure that every patient is taken care of, while putting in their full efforts to protect the healthcare workers as well.

Dr. Armand Dorian, chief medical officer of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital and a Glendale resident, said that as of May 4, the hospital was able to send home 62 COVID-19 positive patients so far. He mentioned that some patients are completely asymptomatic and do not see medical professionals, while others have critical breathing and hematologic issues.

The hospital focuses greatly on the safety of their employees and takes numerous measures to ensure that they’re healthy, along with their patients.

“Our health care workers have been incredible throughout this pandemic, and we try our best to empower them and keep them safe. The most important thing we can do for them is ensure that our procedures prevent them from getting infected.” said Dorian.

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The hospital uses iPads in their COVID-19 patient rooms and screening area of their emergency department, in order for the staff to be able check on patients remotely. This ultimately minimizes their risk and also helps the hospital conserve personal protective equipment, or PPE. Dorian said the hospital prohibits non-essential visitors, conducts temperature checks at entrances, thoroughly disinfects the facility, even using ultraviolet technology, and requires everyone to wear masks.

The hospital also launched multiple initiatives in order to provide emotional and social support for their staff. Their chief operating officer Kenny Powlek works with their food service provider in order to do on-site grocery orders, and supply staff with produce, dry goods, and beverages.

HELP FOR GLENDALE RESIDENTS IN NEED

Dorian also added that through the University of Southern California’s Care for the Caregiver program, front line workers can also get free housing if they are concerned about putting their families at risk. Mental health and legal services are also provided to workers and their families. “We have worked with generous donors in the local community to provide free meals during working hours, and have shared kind notes from patients and their families.”

The city is providing a meal delivery program and shopping service to aid the older and more vulnerable age groups. The Glendale Unified School District is also providing free meals to children 18 and under, to ensure that no child is left hungry.

Shared on the GUSD Instagram page in honor of School Nutrition Employee Week

Both city officials and health care professionals believe it is equally important now more than ever to implement public health guidelines by staying home, washing hands frequently, wearing masks, along with social distancing in order to see a decrease in infection rates.

Often disagreements make the best solutions. Glendale is a well-developed city where regardless of differences in opinion, the unified community comes together to challenge any given obstacle.