Help us rise to the challenge of covering the coronavirus crisis. Our journalism is free for all to access. But we rely on your support. Donate today to power our journalists.

Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):

And That’s Why You Don’t Cross The Train Tracks When The Signals Are Flashing

Surveillance footage captured from a nearby auto parts store and shared by the LAPD on Twitter shows a collision between a car and A Line train. (Courtesy El Rey Auto Parts via LAPD)

It could have been much worse, Los Angeles police said, after a car driver ignored crossing signals in South L.A. and was struck by a passing A Line train.

The crash happened Tuesday at 10:50 a.m. at Long Beach Avenue and 55th Street when the driver attempted to make a left across the tracks.

The driver sustained only minor injuries and was transported to a local hospital with complaints of pain, according to Officer Jonathan Maldonado from LAPD’s Central Traffic Bureau. There were 30 passengers on board the train at the time and no injuries were reported, said Brian Haas, a spokesman for the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Both agencies are investigating the collision.

The A Line (which you have every right to still call the Blue Line) runs at surface level. The crossing arms only extend across one lane in each direction, so they don’t stop you from driving on the wrong side of the street to cross the tracks, which is exactly what the driver did — directly into the path of the southbound train.

Video obtained by the LAPD from a surveillance camera at El Rey Auto Parts on the opposite corner captured the crash.

LAPD investigators reported all controls at the crossing were working properly at the time of the collision, Maldonado told LAist Thursday.

Haas said the crossing gate was down “and providing the warning of an approaching train as designed.” Metro is conducting a full investigation to determine that all elements of the warning system were working properly.

It was the third car-versus-train crash at that location in the last 10 years, Haas said, calling those collision types “rare” for the area.

“Metro urges drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to heed all rail crossing warnings, even if it isn't immediately apparent a train is coming,” Haas added. “And no one should ever go around lowered crossing gates.”

What Does Coronavirus Do To Your Cells?

This illustration reveals the morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Seve

We’re asking public health officials and experts to answer your questions about the coronavirus outbreak. Keep in mind that our understanding of the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, is still evolving. You can submit your own question in the box at the end of this post.

Audience member Riddhi Katore wants to know: “Once a person is infected with the coronavirus, how does it work? What does it do to our cells?”

Here’s an explanation from Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County Department of Health Director:

“The science behind viruses is that they are attacking healthy cells in people. In this case, it’s a respiratory illness, primarily — so it really affects how your lungs may be working. We sometimes see people who are having shortness of breath, having a hard time breathing and may be coughing. The virus itself tends to live in the nose and the mouth of those who are affected.”

These are the reasons why the coronavirus symptoms mirror the cold and the flu. Ferrer says that for some infected with the coronavirus, it might be more likely to look like the former:

We have evidence to suggest it can cause very mild disease for people, having the symptoms we most closely associate with the cold: you might be coughing or sneezing, you might feel congested… but you’re not feeling ill, like if you have influenza.”

And even though there is no vaccine for the coronavirus, in most cases, “should you become ill, we are able to treat the symptoms,” Ferrer says.


Long Beach City College President Is Fired

Former Long Beach City College superintendent-president Reagan Romali delivering the 2018 State of the College Address (Long Beach City College)

The board at Long Beach City College has fired college President Reagan Romali, effective immediately.

The board of trustees allocated $20,000 to hire an investigator last fall to look into allegations of unethical behavior by Romali. She was fired Wednesday night after a closed-door session.

A Long Beach City College official, who wished to remain anonymous because the official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said the investigation is looking into misuse of public funds and violations of state contracting code, among other matters.

Romali’s lawyer, David Bristol, said he was not aware of those allegations and said to call back next week before hanging up the phone.

Long Beach City College enrolls 25,000 students. It’s been a key player in the Long Beach Promise, a guaranteed admission agreement for students between the Long Beach school district, the community college, and Cal State Long Beach.

Romali was hired in 2017 to replace Eloy Oakley, who now leads the 115-campus California community college system.


Voter Turnout In LA And OC Might Be Higher Than Usual

Larry Castruita takes a celebratory selfie at the vote center inside Metro headquarters near Union Station. Chava Sanchez / LAist

Over a million people turned out to vote in Los Angeles County. At least half million voted in Orange County. But there’s still a whole lot of counting to left do in the 2020 primary.

As of Thursday afternoon, votes tallied are good for 23% turnout in L.A. and 31% turnout in Orange County.

But — and this is important — those numbers will rise as more ballots are counted. Some observers are optimistic. Mindy Romero of USC’s California Civic Engagement Project told me:

“I think it’s going to be a very good year for turnout. The question is just how close we get to 2008.”

She's referring to the 50%-plus turnout at the '08 primaries more than a decade ago.

Romero said to keep in mind that some ballots are in the mail right now. Election officials still haven't counted every vote.

Romero says we could see above-average turnout, even if we don’t hit 2008 numbers.

She added that the issues with long lines at L.A.’s new vote centers need to be worked out before November, when turnout will be much higher.

Election Officials Want To Fix The Super Tuesday Snafu In Los Angeles

The lines were long at the Little Sisters Of The Poor in San Pedro. Kyle Stokes / LAist

Lines snaked around the block at many voting locations in Los Angeles on Super Tuesday. Some voters waited for over three hours, sometimes casting their ballots late into the night. Many gave up. One presidential campaign even filed a legal complaint to try to keep the polls open.

The rollout of a new voting system in Los Angeles had a bumpy start, marred by technical problems that added to the long waits. Many voters did enjoy the experience of using the new ballot marking machines -- once they could actually get to them.

Now that the dust has settled, local elected officials and the state’s top elections boss are calling for changes before the November general election.


A Medical Team Is Making House Calls On The Street To Keep Up With Demand

Brett Feldman, the head of the USC Street Medicine Team, checks Mico Fuller's vitals on Skid Row. (Alyssa Jeong Perry/LAist)

A small group of health care workers is hitting the streets of L.A. County to meet patients where they live — on sidewalks, park benches, and under freeways.

A little more than a year ago, USC started a small "street medicine" team to keep up with the increasing number of homeless patients admitted to Los Angeles County-USC Hospital.

Street medicine is a movement that is growing across the U.S. in part because the homeless population is growing in many cities, including Los Angeles.


California's Just Getting Drier And Drier

Drought conditions are steadily spreading throughout the state as our rainy season remains elusive. (U.S. Drought Monitor)

The U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest map shows that drought conditions are spreading through much of California following a record-setting dry February.

While we saw a small splash of precipitation here in Southern California, the northern part of the state was left parched as persistent high pressure systems routed storms around the Sierra Nevada and towards the Rockies.

Our snowpack is at 44 percent of normal, though reservoir levels still look good thanks to last year.

Considering California gets 90 percent of its precipitation between October 1 and April 30 – with more than half coming between December and February – we’re running out of time.

High temperatures, a lack of rain and strong, dry winds – it’s Santa Ana season – mean fires are more likely to spread as plants fight for any residual moisture that remains. In time, vegetation will dry out as it normally does. However, instead of holding strong until late August, they're struggling in March.

A wildfire broke out in a dry creek bed in Riverside earlier this week. And there’s an above normal fire risk across swaths of California, including Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, and San Diego counties, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

We’ve got about four weeks for a Miracle March to shape up and save California’s dry wet season. It’s always a possibility, but not looking very likely.

It’s probably a good idea to prepare and pick up an N95 mask to protect from wildfire smoke … whenever they’re back in stock.

Universal Studios Introduces New Illumination Animation Land With 'Secret Life Of Pets'

A still from the Secret Life of Pets movies. (Courtesy Illumination Entertainment)

The Secret Life of Pets combined adorable animals with animation to create a hit movie franchise. Now it's a ride at Universal Studios Hollywood, opening March 27 — and combined with the nearby Minions/Despicable Me-themed attractions, it's the beginning of an area themed around Illumination's animated films.

The Secret Life of Pets ride turns you into a puppy using facial recognition: you see the puppy-ized version of yourself throughout the ride. But while there are some video elements, the ride is filled with real, physical characters and environments — it's not one of those 3D glasses experiences.

We took a top secret hard-hat tour of the new attraction. Cameras were banned, but we'll walk you through everything we saw and what you need to know about this new chance to unleash your animal urges.


It’s Thursday, Mar. 5 And Here Are The Stories We’re Following Today

(Chava Sanchez / LAist)

The results of Tuesday’s elections are still coming in, but at least one L.A. County official is already calling for an investigation into what went wrong at voting centers; specifically, the long lines, lack of sufficient voting booths or staff at some centers and technical problems with the fancy new ballot-casters.

We’ll keep updating you as we get final tallies (keep in mind they have a month to count everything.) In the meantime, here’s what else we’re following:

Covering Today:

In Case You Missed It:

Help Us Cover Your Community:

  • Got something you’ve always wanted to know about Southern California and the people who call it home? Is there an issue you want us to cover? Ask us anything >>
  • Have a tip about news on which we should dig deeper? Let us know >>

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