I-Team: East valley ZIP code has seen more cases of COVID-19, by a lot

I-Team Special Reports

Sunrise Manor home to backbone of southern Nevada economy

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Out of more than a quarter-million COVID-19 cases reported across the Las Vegas valley since the coronavirus pandemic began, no ZIP code has reported more infections than 89110.

The roots of the area economy run deep on the east side. In the shadow of Frenchman Mountain, the diverse, working-class neighborhood of Sunrise Manor has seemingly hid in the darkness.

Since the start of the pandemic last year, nearly 11,000 COVID-19 have been reported in 89110, a 11 square-mile area bounded by Charleston Boulevard, Owens Avenue and Pecos Road. The next ZIP code, 89108 in the northwest valley has just above 8,000 cases.

“These are folks who have not had the luxury of having to work remotely,” Councilwoman Olivia Diaz, who represents Las Vegas’ Ward 3, which includes 89110. “Sometimes they don’t even have access to paid sick leave.”

Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick also represents this neighborhood.

“They do still have to get up and go to work every single day,” Kirkpatrick said. “And they are still trying to provide for their families.”

That family unit is important in this area where nearly two-thirds of the population is Hispanic. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows thousands of adults live with both their parents and their children, putting three generations in one home.

“You have young folks still working and then you have older folks still staying at home watching the younger ones,” Diaz said.

‘We’re hopeless’

Vanessa Vazquez lives in 89110 with her four children and her husband. She told the I-Team’s David Charns her entire family contracted and survived COVID-19. She said she had to leave her job due to the pandemic, and just days before talking to her in a park in the neighborhood, her sister died.

The family has no money to bury her.

In Spanish, Vazquez, who has lived in the United States for nearly two decades, said many in the Latino community do not have citizenship status or health insurance.

“We’re hopeless without insurance and we have to pay out of pocket,” she said in Spanish. “How can we pay out of pocket with no money and no job?”

Sunrise may be in this neighborhood’s name, but in the early days of the pandemic, COVID-19 seemed to eclipse this part of town. Health leaders quickly realized testing levels in 89110 did not match other, more affluent neighborhoods. The median income in this ZIP code is $44,415, nearly $13,000 less than the Clark County average, data from the Census Bureau shows.

“What we found early on is, many people didn’t want to go get tested, because they were afraid, they were going to have to take time off work,” Kirkpatrick said. “And then what did that look like?” To ease that problem, Diaz and Kirkpatrick worked to bring in more manpower, test kits and information in Spanish about the pandemic.

“That was no small task,” Diaz said. “It took an entire village and the entire community banding together.”

Where are cases coming from?

Earlier this month, The Southern Nevada Health District began posting the information about where people may have been exposed to COVID-19, after the I-Team and other local journalists pushed officials to release the information.

The I-Team asked for specific exposure locations, but instead categories of possible places of exposure were provided.

According to the data, the top places of contraction since the pandemic began include restaurants, hotels and medical facilities. While the data is the first look since last summer for where a person who tested positive for COVID-19 may have been exposed to the virus, the top category in this new data is “other.” The health district clarified “other” includes private homes, family gatherings and other social events.

‘I can hug you’

Yolanda Martinez, a mother of three who lives in 89110, believes she contracted COVID-19 after a Fourth of July gathering with several families. In all, about 20 people tested positive.

“You know, my youngest is seven,” Martinez told the I-Team’s David Charns. Once he too tested positive for COVID-19, Martinez recalled her son saying this to her, “Mom, you know, I know sounds bad, but I’m glad that I’m positive because I can hug you.’”

At that point in July, Martinez had already been sick for a week, quarantined to her bedroom.

“I would just open the door to grab my food when they would take it to me,” she said. Within days, her entire house had been infected.

“I mean, I never thought it was going hit my family as well,” Martinez said. “You know, and when it did, it’s like, shocking. It’s like, it can happen to everyone.”

“The family gathering space has been I think the hardest, us being a culture that likes to get together with family,” Diaz said.

But the data is not perfect. It can take up to two weeks for coronavirus symptoms to appear and some who test positive for the virus never show symptoms at all. The exposure categories provided by the health district also bleed into one another, overlapping in some cases.

It is not hard to guess where contract tracers recorded the places with the highest possible exposures.

Top 10 places of possible exposure

Other:

  • 25,429 cases since the start of the pandemic
  • 3,632 cases in the past 30 days

Food establishment:

  • 14,188 cases since the start of the pandemic
  • 2,270 cases in the past 30 days

Hotel:

  • 12,772 cases since the start of the pandemic
  • 1,066 cases in the past 30 days

Medical facility:

  • 12,359 cases since the start of the pandemic
  • 1,055 cases in the past 30 days

Work:

  • 7,572 cases since the start of the pandemic
  • 1,573 cases in the past 30 days

Grocery store:

  • 7,491 cases since the start of the pandemic
  • 1,583 cases in the past 30 days

Casino:

  • 5,827 cases since the start of the pandemic
  • 785 cases in the past 30 days

School:

  • 2,481 cases since the start of the pandemic
  • 408 cases in the past 30 days

Long-term care facility:

  • 2,005 cases since the start of the pandemic
  • 180 cases in the past 30 days

Air travel:

  • 1,531 cases since the start of the pandemic
  • 306 cases in the past 30 days

Since November, COVID-19 cases in 89110 have doubled. In mid-November, 5,267 had been recorded within the neighborhood. By mid-February, that number is approaching 11,000, data from the health district said.

“It’s heart wrenching to hear from all the people who have lost, potentially both of their parents or their grandparents, a loved one, a spouse, a daughter, or a son,” Diaz said.

The top possible places of exposure from the Southern Nevada Health District. (KLAS)

As 89110 moves forward, those lives are part of this area’s living history – as this pandemic spotlights yet another side of inequality.

“It’s really highlighted what this community has been suffering through for a long time,” Kirkpatrick said. “Now, we know how to get them those resources. And there’s a lot of folks around the valley that now understand what that looks like.”

A map from the Southern Nevada Health District showing cases by ZIP code. The darker the red, the more cases. (SNHD/KLAS)

The valley ZIP codes with the most COVID cases are predominately on the east and north sides.

Here are the Top 10 ZIP codes:

  • 89110: 10,906
  • 89108: 8,015
  • 89115: 7,569
  • 89030: 7,489
  • 89031: 7,332
  • 89121: 7,269
  • 89032: 5,893
  • 89122: 5,728
  • 89148: 5,394
  • 89104: 5,334

In the last week, the health district has recorded 136 new COVID-19 cases in 89110, again claiming the No. 1 spot.

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