Evictions Caused More Than 10,000 COVID Deaths

Photo: Justin Lane/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

You would assume that getting kicked out of a house, whether as a renter or as a homeowner, in the midst of a global pandemic would be incredibly dangerous, and a new study confirms it. Researchers led by Kathryn Leifheit of UCLA published a paper Monday asserting that evictions between the beginning of the pandemic and the CDC’s national eviction moratorium in September led to 433,700 excess COVID-19 cases and 10,700 additional deaths.

The racial and economic disparities of the pandemic have been well documented, and, according to the study, it’s the same households that are most at risk of infection — often where Black or Latinx low-income essential workers live — that are also most likely to be evicted. After an eviction, people often bunk with family or friends (or, if they have no other options, go into the shelter system), and that creates more points of social contact, opening up the risk of disease transmission. The public-health risk is why a patchwork of protections was put in place across the country back in March to stop evictions and foreclosures as COVID cases were rising and people lost work during lockdowns.

Although 44 states and Washington, D.C., implemented eviction moratoriums after the pandemic hit, 27 of them had been lifted by September (when the CDC implemented a nationwide ban on evictions, which has its own issues; unless it’s extended, it will end on December 31). The study’s findings might serve as a warning not only to the states where evictions are continuing but also to New York City, which let a blanket eviction moratorium expire in October, after the period of research for Leifheit’s study concluded. City marshals removed two residential tenants last week — the first evictions in the city since March, as cases filed prior to the pandemic are catching up to the deliberately slowed-down legal machinery. Right now, more than 14,000 New York City households are living under eviction warrants, holding on thanks to New York State’s limited piecemeal protections and the CDC ban.

Evictions Caused More Than 10,000 COVID Deaths