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Work In The Time of Coronavirus: Know Your Rights To Paid Sick Leave

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health on February 27, 2020. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

We've been tracking the number of coronavirus cases, how some people are reacting with fear and bigotry, and how public agencies and officials are preparing for the possibility of an outbreak here of COVID-19, as the disease is being called.

KPCC’s Take Two explored another important aspect of this public health issue that many of us don’t use to our benefit but may end up needing – paid sick leave, and whether Californians even have access to it.

Labor sociologist Ruth Milkman from City University of New York said a study of hers found less than half of adult workers in California knew about their rights to paid family leave (the kind where workers can take extended leave to welcome a new baby or care for an ailing parent).

"There’s an old joke among people who advocate for paid sick leave: ‘Would you like some flu with those fries?’”

Milkman was speaking specifically about people in food service who might not have been eligible for paid sick time off. Starting in 2015, however, California required all employers to offer a minimum of three sick days each year to workers, even those who are part-time in places like restaurants or grocery stores.

At minimum, workers earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. When they take advantage of sick leave, it can reduce transmissions between coworkers, or between employees and clients. But fear may push some to come to work, anyway.

“Will they get a promotion, or will a manager look at them favorably?” said Milkman. “But if you’re sick in the workplace, you can infect other people. So it’s actually an altruistic act to take a wellness day.”

She said change needs to come from the top:

“Employers have some moral obligations. A supervisor or a manager is in a position to say [to stay home] in a way that reassures people that there is no consequence for doing that, so those are the people who really should be trained to do this.”


Long Beach Aquarium Joins A Sea Otter Foster Program That Could Save The Species

Millie, a sea otter rescued from the Central California coast, is the latest addition to the Aquarium of the Pacific's sea otter exhibit. (Courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific)

There's a new addition at the Aquarium of the Pacific — but she's more than just another cute, fuzzy face.

Meet Millie: she's a 4-year-old southern sea otter that was picked up off the Santa Cruz coast when she was just a few weeks old and rehabilitated by the animal rescue team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She later graduated from that aquarium's surrogacy program, which trains adult female otters to help raise orphaned pups so they can eventually be released back into the wild.

Millie has since been transferred to the Aquarium of the Pacific, which has now partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to expand the surrogacy program. That means Millie will soon be back on the job to care for stranded sea otter pups from her new digs in Long Beach.

Unlike other marine mammals, sea otter pups are extremely dependent on their mothers to teach them the basics of survival, like foraging for food and grooming their fur.

"If you want to rehabilitate them and release them into the wild, you need to have a mechanism for them to learn how to be a sea otter," said Brett Long, curator of birds and mammals at the Aquarium.

There are just under 3,000 sea otters living off the California coastline, according to the latest head count from last spring. They have been considered a threatened species since 1977.

Once some behind-the-scenes work is completed, the Aquarium of the Pacific expects to be ready to host its first pups by September.


Kobe’s No. 8 And 24 Jerseys Are Going To Auction

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant fans – at least, those with some extra cash – will soon have the chance to purchase some items that belonged to the late NBA star.

Among them: Bryant’s full Los Angeles Lakers number 8 home uniform, his Los Angeles Lakers home number 24 jersey and his cement handprints from Grauman's Chinese Theater.

Julien’s Auctions announced Thursday that the objects will be up for sale as part of its annual sports auction.

Officials say Bryant's possessions were already being planned for auction when he, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash last month.

Fans can view the items at Julien's location on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills from April 27-30. The auction will be held on April 30.


LADWP’s Owens Lake Dustbowl Is Better, But More Dust Control Is Needed

A bulldozer plows a series of furrows several feet deep to hold dust down on Owens Lake's dry bed. Molly Peterson/LAist

More than a century ago, when the city of L.A built an aqueduct to bring water down from the North, it diverted water from Owens Lake. That brought a plentiful water supply south, but left behind a dust bowl that is one of the nation’s worst sources of air pollution.

Dust control measures have cost Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers more than $2 billion over the past 20 years. But a new report out Wednesday says it’s not working well enough.

The LADWP has tried a lot of things to control dust rising from the dry Owens Lake bed and has seen a significant reduction in particulate pollution. It's flooded some areas of the lake, grown shrubs, built fences, used sprinklers and applied binders to make the dust stick to the soil like frosting on a cake.

The lung-damaging pollution used to be 20 times worse than state and federal standards, and now -- it’s only about twice as bad. However, it still needs to be reduced.

Shallow flooding the lake bed works best. But LADWP says that uses too much water that L.A. needs.

In its report, the National Academies of Science recommends trying some hybrid methods of dust control that combine two or more strategies. Like growing vegetation in areas of the lake that are lightly watered.

The report is part of a settlement agreement between the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District serving Alpine, Mono and Inyo counties which complained about the dust, and the LADWP, which is responsible for controlling the dust.


Ashes To Ashes – A New Bill Would Allow For The Composting Of Human Remains


What will happen to your body when you die?

It could be cremated, or it could be buried. And soon, in California, composting might be an option as well.

Last week, Bell Gardens Assemblymember Cristina Garcia introduced a bill to allow for human remains to be reduced to soil. Under her proposed guidelines, bodies would be put in compostable vessels where they are decomposed, with the resulting matter returned to the person's loved ones.

That matter could be used to plant trees.

"I think of... where I would want my family to visit me, and the idea of a tree and nature — nature and trees are something that bring serenity to me and represent love to me,” said Garcia.

Washington was the first state in the country to allow for human composting of remains. Their law goes into effect on May 1, 2020.


33 Known Cases Of Coronavirus In California

This illustration reveals the morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

There are currently 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California, the governor and state health officials said today.

Speaking at a late morning press conference with Gov. Gavin Newsom, Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, broke down the numbers:

  • 24 cases where people arrived on repatriation flights
  • 7 that are travel-related
  • 1 from person-to-person contact from a spouse living in the same home
  • 1 new case that may be first instance of human-to-human transmission among the general public

That last one, just announced yesterday, was a resident of Solano County who is not believed to have been exposed via travel and had no contact with a person who was known to be infected.

COVID-19 is caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. That's the same family of viruses responsible for the common cold, and indeed in most cases the symptoms are reportedly mild. Much of the concern here is in the risk it’s posing for those who are already critically ill or who are very young or very old. COVID-19’s fatality rate is estimated to be in the range of 1%-3%, while one study found the fatality rate among the critically ill is 49%. Experts are still trying to better understand how the disease spreads and how dangerous it might be for different populations.

As a precaution, Orange County yesterday declared a local emergency so that health agencies there can better "respond in a nimble and flexible way." That's despite having only a single case.

In Long Beach, where there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, city officials are also rolling out a series of preventative measures, like regular disinfections at the airport and providing more hand sanitizers in busy public areas.

The outbreak is also changing some protocols at the Port of Long Beach. Vessels coming in with workers from China are being asked to keep people on the ships, Mayor Robert Garcia said today at a press conference with city health officials. “They are not leaving their vessels.”


The Kids Were Right – Skateboarding Is Good For Your Mental Health

An skateboarder rides at the public Venice Beach skateboard park in California on September 22, 2017. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Skateboarding may be good for your overall well being, according to a first-of-its-kind study out of the University of Southern California.

Researchers talked to 5,000 young people, ages 13 to 25, about their passion for their boards, and the analysis reveals a few things about skateboard culture, including that it improves mental health and fosters a sense of community.

"It's the only way that they get rid of some of the stress that's both brought on by school or social economic conditions or things that are going on in their life," said Neftalie Williams, a scholar in race and skateboarding culture who co-authored the study. “Getting out and actually having the ability to be physical with something that doesn't have rules... that's one of the key [benefits].”

The study, which was funded by former professional skateboarder Tony Hawk’s foundation, found that skaters are often critical thinkers and problem solvers, and that the sport frequently brings together people from diverse backgrounds.


Study: Half Of LA’s Homeless Have Recently Worked

Flora Lyles found work through the nonprofit Chrysalis after falling into homelessness, Feb. 26, 2020. David Wagner/KPCC

Think the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles can be blamed on people who don't want to work? Well, a new study shows most have held down jobs.

The study published Thursday finds:

  • Nearly half (47%) of working age adults enrolling in homeless services in L.A. had worked in the four years prior to becoming homeless.
  • About one in five were working in the same quarter they showed up in L.A.’s homeless services system.
  • Close to three-quarters (74%) had some record of employment between 1995 and 2018.

Researchers with the California Policy Lab at UCLA looked at the employment history of people falling into homelessness by comparing data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) with records from the state’s Employment Development Department.


The Backstory On The Sudden Shutdown Of Curry House

A makeshift memorial at Curry House in Little Tokyo after the chain's abrupt closure on Monday, February 24, 2020. Sean Miura for LAist

On Sunday, it seemed like business as usual at Curry House restaurants. On Monday, employees got shocking news: the chain was shutting down.

Rachel Delgado, waitress at Curry House in Torrance:

"I couldn't believe it. Everything was fine Sunday night and then all of the sudden, damn, everybody's laid off."

Why? And why like this?

We have the details (the new owner said it was due "to misrepresentation of the legal status of many employees during the purchase process") and also explore why the shutdown hit L.A. fans so hard.

The first Curry House opened in 1983 in Little Tokyo.


The State Of Inclusion In The Animation Industry

Jane Baer near the Art Center photo lab when she was a student. (Courtesy Jane Baer)

Diversity continues to grow behind the scenes of the film industry, but there are still big disparities when it comes to gender. In animation, only 3 percent of animated film directors are women — and just 1 percent are women of color, according to a 2019 USC Annenberg report.

The Animation Guild is trying to shine light on both the present and the past of gender and racial diversity in animation. Last night, the guild held a panel for its members about those issues.

Animation legend Floyd Norman, one of the first African Americans to work at Disney and one of the animators who was scheduled to be on the panel, said that he thinks animation is color-blind on the way in — talent as a cartoonist on the page is what's looked at first. But being a minority may have kept him from advancing as far as he otherwise would have, Norman said.


State Lawmaker Wants CA Lottery To Pay Out For Shortchanging Schools

A man shows his just purchased lottery tickets from the Blue Bird Liquor store in Hawthorne in 2018. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

California's Lottery has been short-changing what it owes to school children around the state for years, according to a new state audit of the program. Now state Senator Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) is working on a new bill to regulate the program.

“It would require the lottery to pay education the $36 million it owes,” she told KPCC’s Take Two.

Starting in 1984, the lottery was supposed to direct 34 percent of sales revenue to schools. But the audit showed that, for at least the fiscal year that ended the summer of 2018, schools missed out on $36 million from an expected $69 million.

Chang's bill would also mandate that the percentage schools receive stays consistent as lottery revenues grow, and that there be an audit of the program each year. She originally pushed for the audit when she tried to find funding for computer science programs and noticed that the numbers from the lottery weren’t adding up to what she expected.


It’s Thursday, Feb. 27 And Here Are The Stories We’re Following Today

Chava Sanchez / LAist

Top of the morning, readers. Thanks to some particularly tropical Santa Ana winds, temperatures have been climbing further and further into the 80s since Tuesday. They’re likely to reach their highest points today, followed by a cooldown and maybe even rain! this weekend.

In other news, the grumpiest of SoCal owls finds a happy ending, Los Feliz gets a new homeless shelter and a program providing free doula services to black mothers-to-be — who, along with their newborns, are more likely to die in childbirth than white mothers-to-be and their newborns — gets a second chance.

Here’s what else we’re following:

Covering Today:

In Case You Missed It:

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The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft.