Pedestrians walk past a homeless encampment just outside Grand Park, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
More than 433,000 additional COVID-19 cases and over 10,000 deaths came after state-level eviction bans expired over the summer, according to new research out Monday.
Forty-three states and the District of Columbia instituted temporary eviction bans in response to the widespread joblessness caused by the pandemic in the spring. But once some of those moratoriums lapsed and landlords were allowed to boot tenants, there were an estimated 433,700 excess cases and 10,700 deaths from COVID-19 nationwide, according to a study led by Kathryn Leifheit, an epidemiologist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Fielding School of Public Health.
And the researchers warn there will be another related rise in COVID cases after federal eviction protections expire on New Year’s Eve, putting non-paying tenants once again at risk of removal.
“Lifting eviction moratoriums was associated with increased COVID-19 incidence and mortality in U.S. states, supporting the public health rationale for use of eviction moratoriums to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the researchers wrote in their study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet and “is being released as a preprint due to the time-sensitive nature of the research,” according to its abstract.
“Effects grew over time, perhaps due to mounting displacement, crowding, and/or homelessness as evictions proceeded,” the study’s authors wrote.
That concern was central to the more sweeping, federal eviction ban created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, which protected certain tenants from removal if they attested that they’d be forced to crowd into shelters or the homes of friends or family.
For months, the order has provided a valuable shield to renters in states where protections have otherwise expired or were inadequate to begin with—despite the objections of landlords, who have filed lawsuits to overturn the rule.
But the CDC’s ban only lasts through December 31, and neither legislators nor the Trump administration has acted to extend it even as COVID-19 infections and deaths rise across the country.
The renter protections are set to lapse in a period of immense financial vulnerability, since an estimated 12 million people will lose their pandemic jobless benefits on Dec. 26, and swaths of the economy remain shattered from the impacts of the pandemic. As many as 40 million people may face removal from their homes—impacting up to 43% of all renter households, according to research published earlier in the pandemic.
“Without robust eviction moratoriums in place, we can expect to see higher incidence and death throughout the country,” Emily Benfer, a law professor at Wake Forest University who was involved in the study, wrote on Twitter Monday. “With only 14 state/DC moratoriums remaining and the @CDCgov moratorium expiring shortly, #eviction will contribute to #COVID19 surges.”
Twenty-seven of the states ended their moratoriums during the study period of March 13 to September 3, according to Monday’s research, which controlled for the lifting of stay-at-home orders, school closures, and mask mandates.
The researchers note that the severity of associated COVID-19 cases may have also arisen from “structural racism and poverty,” since evictions are more common among Black and Latino households—the same communities that are at a disproportionate risk for virus deaths.
“Future research should investigate associations between lifting moratoriums and racial/ethnic disparities in COVID-19 outcomes,” the researchers wrote.