LOS ANGELES — Betty Rivera was the first in her household to fall sick, early last month. To protect her family, she locked herself in the bedroom she shares with her grandson. Her daughter left chicken soup and herbal remedies of ginger and garlic and rosemary outside her door.

But it was impossible to stop the spread, not with three generations crammed into a one-bedroom apartment in one of Los Angeles’s most overcrowded communities.

Her three-story brick building is wedged between Koreatown and Pico-Union, neighborhoods filled with immigrants who stock groceries and drive buses and where the streets are dotted with businesses that serve the underprivileged — 99-cent stores, check cashing outfits that dole out payday loans, pawnshops. These days, the wail of ambulance sirens never seems to fall silent.

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