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Under the hum of mechanical equipment and the steady chirp of a heart-rate monitor, a COVID-19 patient lies quietly in the intensive care unit of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital.

She is 65, clad in the same bright yellow gown as the other nine patients in the unit, and her eyes are closed as a mechanical ventilator pumps air into her body behind sliding glass doors.

A nurse comes over and whispers that the patient’s husband is on his way to the hospital, but the announcement is not one of relief: He’s coming in an ambulance. He’s sick, too.

It’s a story that is playing out over and over again in South Los Angeles, where poverty, density and the inequities of the American healthcare system are crashing headfirst into a worsening pandemic, contributing to an already sick community that’s getting even sicker.

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