Detroit water shutoffs led to more COVID-19 Cases

Michigan

Detroit, Mich.(WLNS) — A Detroit Community Research organization has identified a correlation between COVID-19 and areas with more water shutoffs in the city of Detroit. 

The report outlines the top 10 zip codes where the most shutoffs occur:

  1. 48219
  2. 48235
  3. 48221
  4. 48227
  5. 48228
  6. 48204
  7. 48206
  8. 48234
  9. 48205
  10. 48224

This week, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-144, extending water service shut off protections enacted in response to COVID-19 through December 31, 2020.

“We have identified a direct correlation between areas of Detroit with some of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases per capita and those that experience the most water shutoffs,” said Monica Lewis-Patrick, president and CEO of We the People of Detroit.

Zip codes experiencing the most amount of water shutoffs among the top 10 are 48234, 48224 and 48228.

“This data show how essential water access is for public health,” she said.

The research also tracked the highest water shutoff rates in relation to the elderly population among the top 10 zip codes and found 48219, 48235 and 48221 to have the highest population of people older than 65.

Past research by the Henry Ford Health System in collaboration with WPD CRC, shows a correlation between water shutoffs and water-related illness. Additional research from WPD CRC reveals unaffordable water negatively affects mental health.

The research also analyzed the percentage of COVID-19 cases linked to nursing homes in each Detroit-area zip code relative to the cumulative COVID-19 numbers.

Areas with a high percentage of total cases connected to nursing homes included: (greater than 30%)

  • 495
  • 432

Greater than 25%:

  • 103
  • 196
  • 893

A landmark study from Michigan State University shows the number of Americans unable to afford residential water service could reach 35.6% by 2022, an increase of more than 300% within three years.

“When you look at who is being denied water and where they live, you see that these shutoffs represent a long history of systemic racism and structural neglect,” said Nadia Gaber, WPD CRC member and PhD candidate. “The COVID-19 pandemic makes it impossible to deny that water shutoffs are a public health hazard, by definition.”

New research from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) shows the disparate impact of water shutoffs on communities of color. According to the data collected locally over the past ten years, Detroit areas with populations less than 75% Black had on average 60% less water shutoffs. This disparity increased from 2019-2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. From January 1, 2019 to January 1, 2020 93% of water shutoffs in Detroit impacted communities with 75% Black residents.

“When we pay close attention to COVID-19 cases occurring outside of nursing homes, the relationship between COVID-19 and water shutoffs becomes even stronger, especially on the west side of the city, where the majority of Detroit residents over age 65 live,” said Emily Kutil, Assistant Professor of Architecture at Lawrence Tech University.

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