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THE L.A. REPORT IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY LLOYD PEST CONTROL

Timely Tip: LAUSD Students With Internet Access Can Still Use A Virtual LA Library

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Screenshot shows some of the library's virtual offerings for kids.

Josie Huang has been out all day talking to parents facing weeks without school and, yes, they're scrambling to figure out what's next.

One response to her tweets about what she was hearing, was this excellent reminder: Los Angeles libraries may have shut the doors to their facilities, but they remain available virtually for those with access to the internet.

[Note: We realize there's still a big digital divide in our area. In South L.A. for example, only about half of the residents reported having a broadband connection at home in a 2017 USC study]

But if you can access the web, the virtual library may prove a great resource.

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LA Closes Recreation And Senior Centers, Plus Griffith Observatory And Other Public Draws

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Visitors line up at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Andrew Cullen for LAist

The cascade of closure announcements for places that we’re all used to counting on being opened continues.

Late Friday, Los Angeles Library officials announced a shutdown for all locations until April 20. The L.A. Zoo shuttered to the public that same day and will remain so through March 31.

Now, Los Angeles is closing most recreational centers, city-run activities and well-known landmarks.

City officials said they’re doing so out of both “an abundance of caution” and following guidance from public health officials to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Through April 4, the majority of facilities managed by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) will be closed, city officials announced today.

That includes all city recreation centers, senior centers, city-run public pools, and “all recreational and cultural activities, indoor and outdoor sports leagues, aquatics classes, instructional courses, and group sessions,” city officials said.

Other public draws like the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Sherman Oaks Castle, the EXPO Center, and Griffith Observatory will also lock up. Travel Town, train and pony rides, and the merry-go-round at Griffith Park are closed, too.

The only exceptions to the new rules: census stations already slated for park facilities — though access will be limited to no more than 50 people at a time — and golf courses, though that might change amid the fluid situation, officials said.

The statement said:

“We know many of you rely on our programs and sites as crucial community resources. Therefore, we appreciate your support and understanding as we adapt to this evolving health emergency and work to keep your safety at our forefront.”

The city has also canceled events and permits for 50-or-more people at RAP sites and has temporarily suspended all new reservations and permit requests.

Still open during regular operating hours: Outdoor park space and amenities, including restrooms “accessible to the outdoors.”

Organizers from senior dining centers will be contacting participants starting Monday, March 16, “to provide information regarding meal distribution,” officials said, adding that home-delivered meals will continue as usual.

Older adults are asked to contact the centers they visit with any concerns, or call the L.A. Department of Aging directly at 213-482-7252 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) for more information about meal services.

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Beware 'Bogus' COVID-19 Tests, Customs Officials Warn After Seizing Suspicious Vials At LAX

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered "suspected counterfeit COVID-19 test kits" in a package at LAX earlier this week. (Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The global COVID-19 pandemic has shut down entire countries. We’re in a national (and state) state of emergency. Grocery store shelves are emptying fast (enjoy all that T.P., hoarders).

So who would capitalize on people’s fear and uncertainty? U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered what they believe to be bogus testing kits this week at Los Angeles International Airport this week.

A photo of the vials discovered by customs officials. (Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

On Thursday, customs agents assigned to LAX intercepted a package from the U.K. listed as “Purified Water Vials,” with a declared value of about $196 and change. Inside, officers found six plastic bags full of vials, which were “filled with a white liquid and labeled ‘Corona Virus 2019nconv (COVID-19)’ and ‘Virus1 Test Kit,’' according to a CBP press release.

Officers believe they are counterfeit test kits and have turned them over to the Federal Drug Administration for testing.

CBP officials noted that authorized COVID-19 testing “is conducted in verified state and local public health laboratories across the United States.”

“The American public should be aware of bogus home testing kits for sale either online or in informal direct to consumer settings,” officials said.

So, please note: you can’t buy a coronavirus testing kit online and check yourself at home (though some ultra-wealthy Americans have found a work-around).

A reminder if you think you might have been exposed, or have COVID-19 symptoms: call your doctor for next steps. If you experience severe symptoms, get immediate medical attention. There’s a heavy backlog of tests nationwide right now, and the CDC is advising the public to contact your state health department with questions about the criteria for testing.

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11 New Coronavirus Cases Confirmed In LA County, Bringing Our Total To 53

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A sign posted up in a restroom reminding people to wash their hands. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Eleven new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Los Angeles County, with the total number now at 53, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Patients in two of these new cases have been hospitalized.

"Unfortunately as we've been predicting, we continue to see a fairly rapid increase in the number of cases here in L.A. County," L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told us today.

Ferrer said 10 of the total cases were likely due to community transmission.

One of the reasons there are more positives being reported is that more testing is being conducted. Over the last four days, commercial labs have tested 212 people in L.A. County, Public Health's lab has tested 118 people, and the CDC in Atlanta has tested 30 local cases. In one case, a young person infected a child, Ferrer said.

  • In tests done by the county: About 27% of the cases were positive, in cases of people with serious illness
  • Of the tests conducted by commercial labs, about 5% percent were positive
  • 10% of those tested by the CDC were positive.

"We anticipate the number of folks who have had community exposure will again rise over the next few days, as we get more and more information about all of the cases," Ferrer said.

WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

Four of the new cases had close contact with a confirmed case, two were exposed during recent travel, and the source was unidentified in two more cases. The other three cases are pending further investigation.

The department reiterated warnings to the public to use social distancing and good hygiene to slow the spread of the disease. She said:

"I would urge you to get on board. It's really clear that we have community transmission. I like to say, universal precautions at this point means everybody has a part to play, and everybody is doing social distancing."

She added that social distancing is the only tool we have right now to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Her department is investigating the most recent cases and will notify anyone who may have had close personal contact with these people. All confirmed cases are being isolated, with close contacts being quarantined, according to the department.

You should not call 911 to request testing for COVID-19, according to Ferrer. She added that you should not to go to the emergency room unless you are seriously ill and require emergency care. If you have a respiratory illness and want to know whether to be tested, the department advises you to call your health care provider or 2-1-1 to find a clinic near you.

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Members Of Hispanic Congressional Caucus Call For Census To Be Extended

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A Census 2020 form. (Gregory Bull / AP)

On the same day the U.S. Census Bureau said they are creating a "COVID-19 Internal Task Force" to "monitor and evaluate the situation," 12 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are calling for the 2020 Census to be extended.

Under current plans:

  • The last day for households to self-respond via web, snail mail, or phone is July 31st.
  • If you don't want census workers knocking on your door, you should fill your form out by the end of April.
  • If you don't turn it in, expect census workers to be knocking on your door as early as May 13.

While census officials say they believe they can still move forward effectively, the letter dated today asks for a three-month extension. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reported it today via Twitter:

Homes across the U.S. began receiving mailers inviting them to participate this week.

The timing has been challenging. Yesterday, Caroline Champlin, who is covering the census for us, reported that community groups hoping to make sure historically undercounted populations participate had decided to suspend in-person canvassing.

Alejandra Zarate of We Count LA, told us:

“We are having to adjust our entire campaign. While the census is important, everybody’s health and safety is the utmost priority.”

The letter sent by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus members (including Californians Gil Cisneros and Jim Costa) says a delay is necessary to:

"Protect both American citizens and the integrity of the Census. The public health emergency impacting all areas of this country threatens the ability of the Census Bureau to safely and fully conduct the decennial census."

Read the full letter sent to the census director by the members of Congress:

Have a question about the 2020 census? Ask us here.

Mayor Garcetti's Message To LA: Don't Panic

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File: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti shows a Memorandum with COVID-19 city department guidelines on Thursday, March 12. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

With empty store shelves, long lines and general anxiety all around, we reached out to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to get his perspective on what we should, and should not, be worried about.

His advice: don't panic and focus on social distancing.

"We're all first responders — we have a role in saving people's lives by the actions we take in these next couple weeks," Garcetti said.

FOOD & TOILET PAPER & WATER

There will be plenty of food available not just for days but for months ahead, Garcetti said, citing a meeting with the California Grocers Association. There is no need to panic-buy food, he added.

And he urged everyone to keep in mind that purchasing is not expected to continue at this level. He said stores will continue to have regular deliveries daily. But he did note that there will be some momentary shortages.

"I know everybody's fixation on toilet paper right now," Garcetti said. "There's no way that we could be buying at this pace for days, upon days, upon days, upon weeks — and even so, each day, they will replenish them."

Water that comes from your tap is actually cleaner than that from bottled water on average, according to Garcetti, so residents shouldn't worry about bottled water either.

HOSPITALS

If hospitals end up becoming overwhelmed, Garcetti said, the city is preparing other spaces. These include rec centers and the city convention center. One silver lining of the cancellation of large gatherings: there's a lot of availability.

But Garcetti asked residents to help keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. If you're not in a vulnerable group and you don't have trouble breathing, Garcetti said that people should stay home, even if you're exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus.

CHECK YOUR SOURCES

Garcetti warned of inaccurate information spreading from sources like robo-calls, adding that people should rely on official sources and double-check official websites of the city, the county, and school districts. [We like to think we're doing a pretty good job here on the web at LAist.com and on the air at 89.3 KPCC] He also said to beware of fraud, with people trying to take advantage of the current situation.

HELPING THE HOMELESS

The mayor also said that the city has been working with L.A. County and the L.A. Homeless Services Authority to prepare to protect the homeless at this time.

So far, 250 cleaning centers and hand-sanitizing stations have been put up for the homeless, according to Garcetti, with people working this weekend to do more. County doctors and supplemental medical professionals from UCLA and USC are also helping to identify homeless people with vulnerabilities that would make them the most vulnerable to contracting and potentially dying from COVID-19.

As announced previously, the city will continue to not cut off utilities at this time, according to Garcetti.

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Parents Prepare For At Least 2 Weeks With LAUSD Kids At Home Thanks To Coronavirus

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File: Kids play at LAUSD's Vanalden Elementary School. (Mariana Dale/LAist)

Parents are having to figure out how they're going to manage having kids at home for at least two weeks, thanks to LAUSD and other local schools shutting down to stop the spread of the coronavirus, starting Monday. Families are preparing for at-home instruction and a new demand for daily childcare.

Parents at Eagle Rock Plaza on Saturday morning said they were cobbling together childcare through the help of relatives. Myleen Mendoza, a pharmacy technician, said she was so grateful her in-laws could help watch her 4-year-old son. She was happy that she was going to see her son more because his pre-school was closed.

Another woman, Adriana Kahwaji, doesn’t have to worry about daycare as a stay-at-home mom — but she said half-jokingly that she wishes her three kids weren’t going to be at home. Places you’d take the kids to, like the zoo or library, are closed.

With the rainy weather, outdoor play is out. She’s bracing for a lot of cries of "I’m bored." And the rainy weather is expected to continue for the next several days.

Eagle Rock parent Ron Greulich spent the morning shopping at Target with his daughter. Since he works as a paralegal and his wife is a part-time daycare worker, they plan to take turns watching her.

"Because where I work, they're encouraging to work from home. They want to keep the actual amount of people at the office low," Greulich said.

Sarah Greulich, 12, said she's taking online instruction during the school week and catching up on other school work.

"I'll probably play video games," Sarah said.

And go on TikTok, her dad added.

MORE RESOURCES:

Trump Administration Expands Travel Ban To UK And Ireland

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the press briefing room at the White House on Saturday. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Top news out of today's news briefing:

The U.S. is extending the current ban on travel from Europe to include the U.K. and Ireland, effective midnight Monday.

The travel ban does not apply to American citizens, legal permanent residents, their immediate families, and certain others. These people will be channeled through one of 13 airports equipped to do special screening.

Speaking at the White House, President Trump said he's also considering domestic travel restrictions in response to the spread of coronavirus.

"If you don't have to travel, I wouldn't do it," Trump said. "We want this thing to end. We don't want a lot of people getting infected."

Trump left a lot of the details to others, but as he initially moved to leave the room, reporters shouted questions. He stayed at the lectern and told the room that he'd had his temperature taken before coming into the room. [Reporters responded that they did too.] He also said he'd been tested for COVID-19 yesterday.

Asked about sending mixed messages yesterday by shaking hands and having multiple people touch the microphone, Trump called it a habit.

He said that before running for office he was never a hand shaker (he's known for being a germaphobe) and he said he thought it might make sense for that ritual to stop long-term, citing the common flu and other illnesses.

At the start of the news conference, he called out California for working well with his administration — a sharp contrast to how he usually talks about the state.

He said he would use the "full power of the federal government to defeat this virus."

He also called his decision to declare a national emergency on Friday a "very big deal," because it allows for the use of billions of dollars in aid.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke later in the news conference and cautioned that the U.S. has not reached a peak of cases. He said steps taken this week should make a difference in how effective doctors will be treating patients.

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WATCH THE NEWS CONFERENCE:

Coronavirus In LA: Here's Everything That Happened Yesterday

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The view from the pizza aisle at Trader Joe's in Monrovia this Saturday morning. Rob Risko / LAist
We're going to try something — a once-a-day mega roundup of L.A. coronavirus news. (Hopefully this helps you sort through all the noise that happens in a given day!)

Here's what happened Friday, March 13:

“I grew up in the black and brown margins of L.A., and for people, especially people of color, on the margins of society, a pandemic is just another boogie-man.”

And if you haven't seen it already, here's our ultimate no-panic guide to the coronavirus in L.A. — we're updating this with everything we know, plus answers to your questions.

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