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Grocery Store (And Many Other) Employees Must Now Wear Face Masks At Work

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A cashier works while wearing a face mask and protective gloves in a supermarket in Montpellier, France, on March 30, 2020. PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images

Grocery store employees are about to get a form of protection many of them have been wanting for weeks — face masks.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti today issued an order requiring the employees of many non-medical essential businesses to wear cloth face coverings over their noses and mouths while they are at work — and employers must provide this gear for workers or reimburse them for their cost.

The order goes into effect at midnight Thursday night/Friday morning. It applies to workers at grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, hotels and construction sites as well as taxi and rideshare drivers, among others.

Los Angeles officials have been encouraging businesses to enact these practices for weeks. Some grocery stores have followed suit. Others have not. In fact, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, several retailers refused to allow employees to wear protective gear.

Why did it take so long for officials to make these practices mandatory? Garcetti says he waited, in part, because there weren't enough masks available until now. He said:

"We wanted to make sure there was capacity. We've been working for a couple weeks, and we have the confidence now that there is the capacity for anybody to get a facial covering."

On its coronavirus website, the city of L.A. has a page dedicated to helping businesses and people secure face masks.

A graphic explains a new order issued by the the city of Los Angeles requiring employees of non-medical essential businesses and the customers who shop at them to wear face masks. (City of Los Angeles)

WHY IT'S URGENT

With a number of grocery store workers recently dying of coronavirus in the U.S., the order has a special urgency.

Although retail employees, who might interact with hundreds of people during a shift, are shouldering much of the risk, Garcetti's order also impacts customers.

Starting Friday, you will have to wear wear a face covering when you enter a non-medical essential business.

"If you're shopping for groceries, if you're picking up your prescription or visiting any other essential business, you will need to cover your face. And if you're not covering your face by Friday morning, an essential business can refuse you service," Garcetti said.

The order also requires these businesses to provide their employees with access to clean and sanitary restrooms stocked with cleansing products, such as soap and sanitizer. They must allow employees to wash their hands every 30 minutes. In addition, they must implement physical distancing measures for workers, customers and visitors.

City officials are also encouraging all essential retail businesses to add Plexiglas barriers between cashiers and customers, but they haven't required it because, Garcetti said, there isn't yet enough Plexiglas to go around.

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John Prine, 73, Dies After Being Hospitalized For COVID-19 Complications

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John Prine performs in Hollywood at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on October 1, 2019. (Riih Fury/Getty Images)

The singer and songwriter John Prine, whose influential songs were recorded by some of folk music’s most acclaimed musicians, died today. His death was first reported tonight by Rolling Stone, citing his family as the source. Prine, who was 73, had been hospitalized for coronavirus and put on a ventilator on March 26.

Over the span of more than five decades, Prine recorded not only his own eloquent and often humorous Americana songs but also saw his compositions performed by Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, John Fogerty, Kris Kristoferson, Carly Simon, Bette Midler, John Denver, and, most famously, Bonnie Raitt, who sang Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.”

Prine recorded more than 20 live and studio albums after launching his career in 1971 with the self-titled record, “John Prine,” which included his own version of “Angel from Montgomery.”

He won two Grammys, both for best contemporary folk album: 1991’s “The Missing Years” and 2005’s “Fair & Square.” In a move that was decades ahead of other performers, Prine in 1981 launched the independent label Oh Boy Records, which subsequently released albums by Prine, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

Prine’s lyrical songs could be comical and moving, often at the same time. He wrote about love and loss and politics, often from a very specific and personal perspective. In the 1971 song “Hello in There,” he sang about growing old and alone. Amazingly, Prine wrote the tune when he was only 25 years old:

Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger,

And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day.

Old people just grow lonesome

Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello.”

Prine, who was a mailman and Vietnam veteran before launching his musical career, didn’t possess anything close to a smooth voice, but his lyrics were nonetheless mellifluous. His rhyming schemes were delightful and clever, as in this song “In Spite of Ourselves,” which he recorded with Iris DeMent:

She thinks all my jokes are corny

Convict movies make her horny

She likes ketchup on her scrambled eggs

Swears like a sailor when she shaves her legs

In 2018, Prine made an appearance on NPR's popular Tiny Desk concert series.

Many people might not have known Prine by name, but they likely were familiar with his songs, thanks to artists better known than he was.

In addition to Raitt’s 1974 rendition of “Angel from Montgomery,” Johnny Cash recorded Prine’s “Sam Stone,” the Southern band My Morning Jacket sang his “All the Best,” and Prine’s “Hello in There” was recorded by dozens of singers and bands, including Kristofferson, Midler and 10,000 Maniacs.

When news of Prine’s coronavirus diagnosis surfaced, an array of musicians recorded musical tributes, including Stephen Colbert, who shared a 2016 duo with Prine of “That’s the Way the World Goes Round” that was never broadcast:

Blues singer Ruthie Foster, in her front yard, playing “Angel from Montgomery”:

And Joan Baez, singing “Hello in There” from her kitchen, which she said was one of the most-requested songs she performs:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Prine died Monday based on the initial Rolling Stone report.


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You Have To Wear A Face Mask When Shopping In LA Starting Friday, Mayor Garcetti Announces

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Face masks will be required for both shoppers and many non-medical essential employees, including at grocery stores, starting this Friday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday evening.

Here's everything else you need to know from the mayor's daily update:

FACE MASKS NOW REQUIRED FOR BOTH SHOPPERS AND STORE EMPLOYEES

Starting Thursday night at midnight, businesses will be able to refuse service to customers who aren't wearing face masks, Garcetti said. Workers in grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, hotels, taxis, rideshare vehicles, and construction sites, among other non-medical essential businesses, will have to start wearing face masks as well.

These employers are required to provide face masks to employees or reimburse those employees for purchasing their own. They will be required to enforce social distancing for both the public and employees, and provide clean restrooms to their employees and allow those employees to wash their hands every 30 minutes.

Garcetti said that the plan wasn't to arrest and fine people who aren't wearing face masks. But citations may be issued if workers aren't wearing face masks. The city is relying on self-enforcement in 99% of cases, Garcetti said. He compared it to a citywide decision to start jaywalking tomorrow, saying we wouldn't have enough law enforcement to keep that from happening.

As far as acquiring face masks, Garcetti referenced the L.A. Protects site, which links to businesses selling face them. He also noted that there are people offering face masks for sale online, as well as roadside sellers offering them now as well.

It's recommended to wear face masks in spaces such as stores, Garcetti said, but you don't need to wear one while walking in the neighborhood by yourself.

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS IN L.A.

There were 550 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, Garcetti said — a 9% increase. It's the third-highest number of new cases in a single day.

There were 22 deaths in the city — the city's second highest in a day, bringing L.A.'s total to 169. That comes on the worst day of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, killing at least 1,632 Americans today, Garcetti noted.

The numbers of new cases are encouraging, Garcetti said, because we've moved into single-digit percentage increases in new cases.

"We don't want to see any increase, and we can't wait for the day when we actually see a decrease," Garcetti said.

Garcetti noted that there have been a disproportionate number of coronavirus deaths in the African American community.

The city has 1,406 hospital beds available, including 258 ICU beds, Garcetti said. The city also has 1,010 ventilators available, he added.

CORONAVIRUS TESTING, HOLY SEASONS, AND OTHER UPDATES

Anyone showing coronavirus symptoms is now eligible to be tested, Garcetti noted. He encouraged anyone who's turned away to check back, as 15% to 20% of people aren't showing up for their appointments, so spots may become available.

Social distancing is in place at the same time as some of the holiest times of the year in multiple faiths, Garcetti noted, including Passover, Easter, and Ramadan coming in just two weeks.

Everyone would benefit from more uniformity in how the nation deals with coronavirus, Garcetti said, as well as at the global level.

Garcetti said that, while others have compared the current coronavirus crisis to Pearl Harbor or the 9/11 attacks, that's not quite right. The reason is that it's not just one day, it's a problem that gets worse every day.

"Each day you stay at home, you cripple this virus a little bit more," Garcetti said.

SOME STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT COVID-19

We're all living through this extraordinary and frightening pandemic. The vast majority of our newsroom has been working from home (here's some advice on that) since March 11 to bring you calm, helpful reporting. We are answering your questions and taking more.

We're here to help. And if you can help support that effort financially, we'd be grateful.


We Aren't Having Live Arts Events Right Now — Here's Where The Money Might Go

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Lula Washington dancer performs onstage at the 5th Annual Celebration of Dance Gala at Club Nokia on Aug. 1, 2015. Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Dizzy Feet Foundation

Councilman David Ryu announced plans Monday to introduce a motion to do something different with his council district's Arts Development Fund. The money had been earmarked for 294 different projects — buuuut only 25 out of the 294 projects weren't special events or arts festivals that are either getting cancelled or being postponed thanks to coronavirus.

Ryu's solution: redirect that money to provide small grants to artists and arts nonprofits, specifically to create online content that we can all enjoy at this time. There are $1.2 million in the district's Arts Development Fund, and both Ryu and more than a hundred local arts organizations are encouraging other councilmembers to redirect their own Arts Development Funds in the same way.

A number of local arts organizations are in trouble and could permanently close thanks to the impact of COVID-19, Arts For L.A.'s Aubrey Farkas Harris told LAist.

GO DEEPER:

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:


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What If A Big Quake Hit In The Middle Of This Pandemic?

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A gas main on fire following the 1994 Northridge earthquake. (HAL GARB/AFP/Getty Images)

Just because we're going through the worst pandemic in more than a century doesn't mean we couldn't get hit by another major natural disaster.

We were reminded of that possibility this past weekend when a 4.9 magnitude temblor shook parts of Southern California. And a few days prior when Idaho got hit by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake.

What would happen if the Big One hit right now?

It turns out there are some advantages to our self-isolation.

GO DEEPER:

Why We Should Say ‘Physical Distancing,’ Not ‘Social Distancing’

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A sign on the side of the 710 freeway reminds drivers to maintain social distance. Chava Sanchez/LAist

Just when we’ve all gotten used to the term “social distancing,” the World Health Organization and other public officials have started urging us to change our phrasing to “physical distancing.”

You hear California Gov. Gavin Newsom use it in every press briefing, and UCLA’s Dr. Robert Kim-Farley agrees it's the right way to talk about it. He’s with the Fielding School of Public Health and is a former staffer with the Centers For Disease Control (CDC).

“I really actually prefer and I've now been using it ... this concept of physical distance ... because we want to keep people physically apart, but actually we want to be promoting social bonding."

Prof. Daniel Aldrich echoes the sentiment. He's the director of the Security and Resilience program at Northeastern University.

“Physical distance is much more concrete. It says you should keep your physical distance. It's direct. Social distancing is a term of art for epidemiology, which is great. And if people know what that means, more power to them... I think 'physical distancing' makes it quite clear. The only thing that we're separating is the space between us. We're not cutting off those ties.”

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Judge Dismisses Artists' Lawsuit Against Universal For Recordings Lost In Fire

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Smoke pours out of a sound stage as Los Angeles City firefighters attempt to save a historic studio set as a fire continues to burn at Universal City Studios on, June 1, 2008(Kevork Djansezian/AP)

More than a decade ago, a massive fire gutted a music storage facility on the Universal Studios backlot. Tens of thousands of archived recordings were destroyed, including irreplaceable masters.

Although the full extent of the damage was never made public, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Universal Music Group by several musicians who wanted an accounting of the loss and a share of a possible $150 million insurance settlement.

The litigation was prompted by a 2019 New York Times Magazine article that said the fire was “the biggest disaster in the history of the music business.” The story said the blaze had incinerated more than 100,000 audio recordings containing as many as 500,000 songs controlled by UMG, the world’s largest music company.

The Times story also reported that single and album master recordings by Tom Petty, Tupac Shakur, Steve Earle and the bands Soundgarden and Hole were destroyed in the fire.

UMG said the article misrepresented the loss, and that it and a follow-up piece were “stunning in their overstatement and inaccuracy.” The Times said it stands by its reporting.

Lawyers for several artists, their estates and Tom Petty’s ex-wife sued UMG last June, saying the storage facility was a “known firetrap,” that UMG tried to conceal the full extent of the loss, and that the company was required to share any legal or insurance settlements with the musicians for the loss of their masters.

But U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt ruled Monday that UMG was not obligated to pay the artists any insurance monies, because their contracts could not be interpreted to mean that such a settlement was somehow an exchange for the use of their music.

How COVID-19 Is Changing The Fight Against Addiction

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Addiction treatment providers are turning to telemedicine in the face of COVID-19 / Getty

COVID-19 is upending the daily lives of people across the globe, and that includes people struggling with addiction who aren’t able to meet in-person for 12-step programs and therapy sessions.

Dr. Matt Polacheck, director of outpatient services at the Hazelden Betty Ford Center in West Los Angeles, said he’s happy the facility has been able to transfer more than 1,300 patients over to telehealth services.

“The beauty of recovery is really in community and when you see someone’s face that you didn’t think you were going to see because of this pandemic, it’s a very comforting safe feeling for people,” Polacheck said.

UCLA psychiatry Professor Dr. Timothy Fong said while he does have serious concerns about people with limited internet access, this is a brave new world for virtual treatment.

“It’s so interesting — patients are showing me their home environment,” Fong said. “It’s very informative where you get to see how people live and that brings up things to talk about in therapy.”

Fong says for some, expanding telehealth is making it easier to get treated for addiction, and he hopes that will continue well after COVID-19.

GO DEEPER:

COVID-19 Is Changing The Fight Against Addiction

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Criminal Rape Case Against La Luz Del Mundo’s ‘Apostle’ Dismissed

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This picture taken on August 9, 2017 shows the leader of the Church of the Light of the World, Naason Joaquin Garcia, walking among his parishioners in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Ulises Ruiz/AFP via Getty Images

The criminal case against a Mexican megachurch leader on charges of child rape and human trafficking was dismissed today on procedural grounds by a California appeals court.

Naasón Joaquín García, the self-proclaimed “apostle” of La Luz del Mundo, or The Light of the World Church, has been in custody since June.

He was arrested based on accusations made by three girls and one woman in Los Angeles County who told California’s Department of Justice they were abused by Garcia between 2015 and 2018. The California Attorney General’s office claimed Garcia used his power as the leader of the Light of the World Church to cooerce teenage girls into sex acts.

But the appeals court ruled that because García's preliminary hearing was not held in a timely manner, the complaint filed against him must be dismissed.

“This is a good day for justice,” said Alan Jackson, Garcia’s lead attorney. “This is a long overdue recognition that the government has violated Mr. Garcia’s constitutional right to a speedy trial and reasonable bond.”

Throughout the pre-trial proceedings, Garcia has denied wrongdoing. He has also remained the spiritual leader of La Luz Del Mundo, with full backing from church officials. La Luz Del Mundo is estimated to have as many as 5 million members around the globe, and dozens of temples here in Southern California.

Garcia is currently being held without bail in Los Angeles. It is not clear when he will be released.

Garcia has three co-defendants in his criminal case, but it’s unclear if their cases will also be tossed out.

In February, a former church member from Los Angeles filed a federal civil lawsuit against the church and García, accusing Garcia and his father of manipulating and sexually abusing her for years.

Martin’s attorney, Deborah Mallgrave, says Tuesday’s court opinion addresses a procedural technicality, but doesn’t judge Garcia’s guilt or innocence.

“It does nothing to change the fact that for years, as the leader of the La Luz del Mundo, he sexually, physically and emotionally abused hundreds of minors and adults,” Mallgrave said

The California Attorney General's office did not respond to KPCC’s request for comment.

MORE ON THIS CASE:

This story will be updated.

Gov. Newsom Says 'Cold, Hard Reality' Is California's Rainy Day Fund Will Be Depleted

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom gestures toward a chart showing the growth of the state's rainy day fund in January. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

California had a rainy day fund -- about $20 billion in reserves -- going into this crisis. But a lot's happened since Gov. Gavin Newsom gestured to the chart above in January.

He said today that he will completely rework the budget he released at that time, in light of the devastating financial effects of this pandemic.

We talked to him about the state's response so far to the COVID-19 pandemic and asked:

Do you anticipate that rainy day fund being depleted as a state spends to help people recover both physically and financially from this? Can anything be done to preserve some of it?

"No, that won't happen," Newsom said of being able to preserve the fund. "2.2 million people unemployed, unemployment rate that will get up to a number we've never seen in our lifetime."

"So, the answer is no. And that's an honest answer," he said. "Forgive me, and I don't mean to be flippant in the response. I'm dealing with cold, hard reality facts. I'm working to completely repurpose my January budget. In what we called the May Revise, you'll see that reflected, and we'll pull back."

Newsom said he's looking at the state's finances, as he always does, in a three-year timeframe.

"That reserve will not exist after three years," he said, "without significant, significant economic stimulus and our support from the federal government."

Listen to the entire interview from our newsroom's local news show Take Two, which airs on the radio at 89.3 KPCC:

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WATCH: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond Holds Virtual Town Hall

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California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is holding a virtual town hall. He is expected to answer questions from the public and provide "a special update on CA education during COVID-19," according to his Twitter page.

Watch live.

live

Trump Touts Administration's Pandemic Handling

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President Trump acknowledged that he only learned recently about a warning earlier this year from a top adviser about the risks of the coronavirus — but he defended his actions on Tuesday at a news conference.

"I couldn't have done it any better," Trump said about his and the administration's handling of the pandemic.

The president's explanation followed a report about a memo filed by his economic adviser, Peter Navarro, which cautioned about the risks to the United States of the outbreak then mostly afflicting China, where it originated.

Trump said he never saw that document at the time it was submitted but he conceded it might have been possible that it reached people on his staff. The president downplayed the risks from the coronavirus earlier this year before changing his tune as it then began to ravage the United States.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday that he wanted to be positive — "I'm a cheerleader for this country. I don't want to create havoc and shock and everything else" — but also that his actions in response to the pandemic came as quickly as practical.

Trump also defended his decisions to shut down travel from China and elsewhere; the president maintained that his response in the latest phase of the pandemic has been stellar.

He read off another list of statistics about the availability of ventilators and the number of tests Trump said have been performed across the country.

TRUMP ENDORSES $250 BILLION MORE FOR PAYCHECKS

The president said he'll ask Congress to authorize another $250 billion for employment paycheck relief; lawmakers are expected to agree.

That could bring the amount designated to help employers and workers to around $600 billion.

Trump spoke on Tuesday with the CEOs of a number of major banks, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup and more, and he said they were supportive of a paycheck protection program and other financial relief he called "an incredible success."

SOCIAL DISTANCING RECOMMENDATIONS STAND

With more than 383,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and over 12,000 deaths, Trump is continuing to ask Americans to maintain social distancing through the end of the month to help control the spread of the pandemic.

Tuesday's briefing followed a day of staffing shakeups on the White House communications team, including a move back to the East Wing for Stephanie Grisham, who had been press secretary and communications director.

Trump has also demoted Glenn Fine, the head of the panel of federal watchdogs overseeing the administration's management of the $2 trillion economic relief package. Fine will return to his position as the principal deputy inspector general at the Department of Defense.

Trump replaced Fine with Sean W. O'Donnell, the inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump didn't address the Fine ouster in detail on Tuesday except to say that he felt suspicious about inspectors general that had been held over from President Barack Obama's administration.

Many federal inspectors general are presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed for terms that can last through elections; they also oversee offices that include career employees charged with keeping a distance from their agencies to provide oversight of their functions or spending.

Trump's relationships with inspectors general has been fraught, including that of the intelligence community — a key player in the Ukraine affair and impeachment — and of the Department of Health and Human Services, whose report this week embarrassed the administration.

Democrats blasted Trump's demotion of Fine, which was the latest battle in a longer political war over how to monitor how trillions of dollars in pandemic relief are being used.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D.-N.Y., who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, called Trump's move a "blatant attempt to degrade the independence of inspectors general who serve as checks against waste, fraud, and abuse."

TRUMP: NAVY SECRETARY'S RESIGNATION 'UNSELFISH'

Also Tuesday, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned after deriding, and then firing, a ship commander who complained that thousands of crew members remained on board after cases of coronavirus were confirmed onboard.

Trump said on Tuesday he hadn't asked for Modly to step down but he called that a "very unselfish thing to do" because the president said he thought it now means the Navy can begin to move forward.

Army Undersecretary James McPherson, who has been in his role since just late last month, has been designated to serve as the replacement acting Navy secretary.

Ambassador Kenneth Braithwaite, the U.S. envoy to Norway, was nominated last month to serve as the permanent secretary of the Navy. But he has not yet had a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee and with the operations of Washington badly jangled by the pandemic, it isn't clear when the Senate might convene again to consider his nomination.

TRUMP BLASTS WHO

The president complained on Tuesday about what he called the "China-centric" bias of the World Health Organization and said he'd investigate whether he could freeze U.S. funding for that agency.

This story originally appeared on NPR.


Note: President Trump usually opens these news conferences with his own remarks. His comments in a number of past briefings have later been contradicted by information provided by other officials. He has also repeatedly used stigmatizing language to describe COVID-19. Following the president's remarks, health experts and other adminstration leaders provide additional updates.


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Rent Relief, Rent Freeze Efforts Introduced At LA City Council

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A nearly empty chamber for at the previous L.A. City Council meeting. (Screenshot)

Motions to provide rent relief and freeze rents citywide were introduced today at the Los Angeles City Council meeting, part of the city’s evolving response to housing and economic issues triggered by the global coronavirus pandemic.

The rent relief effort seeks to reprise a program from late 2019 that helped low-income tenants facing big rent hikes pay their rent. The motion introduced today said that the previous program helped about 40 families in its three months of operation.

Now that program could return.

“This pandemic has the potential to result in thousands of families becoming homeless,” the motion introduced by Council President Nury Martinez states, adding that many renters faced a crushing burden before COVID-19 hit Los Angeles.

The motion calls for a rent relief program “to assist renters facing financial difficulties” and identified $1.15 million to kickstart the effort. But the relief won’t begin flowing immediately — the City Council will have to pass the program at a future meeting.

A separate motion introduced today by 10th District Councilmember Herb Wesson seeks to channel federal stimulus money into a jobs program for Angelenos. That too will require council approval.

Councilmembers Mike Bonin and David Ryualso co-ntroduced several motions designed to assist renters during the crisis. One would freeze rents in all units across the City of Los Angeles. Another motion introduced by the duo would classify unpaid rent as consumer debt — making it collectible, as other debts are, but unable to lead to an eviction.

“We are in an economic crisis unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and our government is not meeting the severity of this moment with the strength required,” Ryu said in a statement.

Advocates Say Emergency Eviction Rules Not Strong Enough In Long Run

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A sign is posted in front of a building in Los Angeles. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Politicians across the state have authorized new tenant protection rules to minimize evictions during the pandemic.

But many advocates are worried the new rules aren’t strong enough, and that without adjustments, homelessness in Southern California could just get worse in the coming months.

Key to the new rules is the provision that unpaid rent needs to be paid back after the emergency is over. But many tenants just won’t be able to do that, having lost jobs or because they were already poor before the pandemic, said Laura Raymond, who directs the equity advocacy group, ACT L.A.

“How are they going to save up enough to be able to make up for all these lost months?” she said. “That's a huge, huge concern.”

If tenants can’t repay their rent, then it’s off to court. Though action taken Monday by California's Judicial Council has temporarily halted judgments in eviction cases, landlords can still file new eviction lawsuits.

Those cases will not go to court until 90 days after the COVID-19 emergency is declared over, but when they do, it will be up to tenants to defend themselves and prove they have been affected by COVID-19.

Gary Blasi, a professor emeritus at UCLA School of Law, says the result could be disastrous.

“There will be an enormous number of eviction cases, and a tsunami of homeless people who have fallen out of the economy,” he said.

If that happens, Blasi worries that L.A. could become “unrecognizable.”

READ THE FULL STORY HERE:

Without Rent Forgiveness, Experts Say Homelessness Will Just Get Worse

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March Rainfall Wasn't A Miracle, But It Helped

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Rain falls on the Hollywood Walk of Fame January 2019 (ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

At the start of March, things were looking bleak for California's rain and snow totals after a pathetic January and one of the driest Februaries on record.

By the end of the month, global pandemic aside, there was reason to celebrate. Because while we didn't have a "Miracle March," it was still pretty good.

Precipitation totals in downtown Los Angeles were at 62% of normal at the start of March but increased to 94% of normal after nearly double the average rainfall fell throughout the month. Similar rainfall totals were seen across the southwestern part of the state.

California’s snowpack –- an important measurement of water availability for plants, trees and humans for the rest of the year -– is at 63% of normal as of April 7, much better than 43% at the start of March.

The Upper Colorado River Basin –- where a substantial amount of our water comes from -– is hovering around normal.

Reservoirs are at about their historical averages.

However, as of last week, parts of California are still experiencing abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That might change after the latest report is released this Thursday.

Rain and snow is expected to continue across swaths of California through the end of the week.




In LA County, African Americans May Be Dying From COVID-19 At A Higher Rate, And The Poor Are Getting Tested Less

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African Americans who test positive for COVID-19 and get sick are dying at a slightly higher rate compared to other races and ethnicities, according to preliminary data from Los Angeles County public health officials.

The new data shared by public health director Barbara Ferrer comes with a big caveat: it's based on just 93 cases, and the county still doesn't have demographic data on about 43% of the people who have died. But the early analysis is sobering, as reports from other parts of the country are beginning to suggest similar outcomes.

Here's the breakdown Ferrer gave on those deaths:

  • 19% Asian
  • 17% African American
  • 28% "Latinx"
  • 27% White
  • 9% belonging to another race or ethnicity

And here's Ferrer:

"When we look at these numbers by the total population of each group, African Americans have a slightly higher rate of death than other races and ethnicities, and we will be watching this closely as we gather more information about the remaining 43% of people who have passed away."

Ferrer said the county is working hard to fill in the blanks and will be watching this data closely moving forward. She urged providers, hospitals and labs to collect and report race and ethnicity data so the county can begin to understand the burden of disease across different populations.

Ferrer also said she hopes the county will have a more detailed report on hospital demographics in about a week.

Meanwhile, the county now has a clear indication that access to testing has been skewed along socioeconomic lines, as testing is happening much less in poorer communities than in wealthier ones, Ferrer said.

"People who are living in wealthier communities have had, in fact, better access to testing and in fact have been tested more than people who are living in communities where income levels are much lower, and we will be producing a complete report on what we know about access to lab testing by early next week."

Here are the latest numbers for L.A. County:

  • 22 more deaths, 16 who were over the age of 65 and with underlying health conditions, and six people who were 41-65 — all but one with underlying health conditions
  • 169 total deaths so far, with a mortality rate now at 2.4%
  • 550 new cases today and 970 in the last 48 hours
  • 6,910 total cases, including 230 in Long Beach and 72 in Pasadena
  • 10 cases among the homeless, with one who may have resided in a city shelter
  • 1,510 hospitalized so far
  • 869 currently in the hospital, of which 43% are over 65 and 18% are under 45
  • 132 people in intensive care — 53% of them with underlying conditions and 44% who are 65 or older
  • 121 institutional settings now have active COVID-19 investigations, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, shelters, treatment centers and supported living in correctional facilities
  • 37 residents have died in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living and 1 in a correctional institution
  • 30 cases in jail facilities, including 1 inmate and 29 staff
  • 10 cases in state prison, including 8 inmates and 2 staff
  • 2 cases in juvenile facilities, both of them staff
  • 3 cases among homeless shelters and temporary housing facilities — 1 a resident at a shelter, and 2 staff
  • 35,300 people tested as of April 6, 14% of them positive (though that number will shift when an estimated 20,000 negative test results are included from commercial labs)
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Coronavirus Stimulus Loans Still Out Of Reach For Many Small Businesses

Updated
Published
The supermoon next to the U.S. Bank Tower downtown (David McNew/Getty Images)

In theory, Friday, April 3 was the first day small business owners could apply for loans from the federal government's coronavirus stimulus package.

But in reality, many banks were not accepting applications, or were overwhelmed by the demand.

By Monday, many small business owners in Southern California still had not heard back from their banks.

"I have only been able to fill out what is basically a request for an application with Chase," said Kimberly Austin, who owns Fire Starter Studios in Burbank. "I have had no response from Wells Fargo at all."

Now, she worries the money could be gone before she has a chance to apply.

READ MORE:

COVID-19 Could Expose LA's Racial, Wealth Inequalities

Updated
Published
Reyna, a Huntington Park resident, wears a mask bought at a local store on her way to a doctors appointment in Boyle Heights. Chava Sanchez/Laist

The coronavirus testing data that Los Angeles County has been releasing daily doesn't include information about race or socioeconomic status. But it does tell us where people are being tested and which neighborhoods have the highest rates of transmission.

Up until very recently, cases were largely concentrated in wealthier neighborhoods.

That's changing, though, as the virus spreads, and health experts worry that lower-income neighborhoods and non-white communities will eventually bear the brunt of the pandemic.

READ MORE:

California Releases Stress-Coping Strategies For Adults And Kids

Updated
Published

People are out of work. They're stuck at home. Maybe afraid to get sick. Or they're stuck risking their health to carry out essential jobs to take care of the rest of us. However you look at it, living through this coronavirus pandemic is stressing us all out.

With that in mind, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state has released a new guide to help people manage stress while at home. For adults, the guide includes:

  • Supportive relationships: Maintain supportive relationships wherever you can, including virtually.
  • Exercise: Engage in 60 minutes of physical activity every day, if you can. It doesn’t have to be all at one time.
  • Sleep: Get sufficient, high-quality sleep. This may be particularly hard right now, but going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day can help.
  • Nutrition: Ensure you are getting proper nutrition to help combat stress.
  • Mental health support: Resources available here.
  • Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness in whatever way works best for you. This could be things like meditation, yoga, or prayer for 20 minutes, two times a day.

For parents and kids, it includes:

  • Talk about what's going on: As parents and caregivers, it’s important to talk to children about emergency situations in age-appropriate language and approach the discussion in a calm and sensitive way to help them cope.
  • Keep kids connected to their networks: Video chat play dates, write letters to send, text silly pictures back and forth, video messages, whatever works – but helping kids stay connected to their networks is as important for them as it is for you.
  • Build a routine for you and your family: Your schedule should include set wake up and bedtimes, regular meals (including snacks), quiet time for schoolwork and reading as well as regular movement and exercise.
  • Keep to your routine: Not every moment of every day needs to be scheduled, so take a moment to reflect on your program and how it’s working for your family.

The governor announced the new guides during his daily update on the state's response to the spread of COVID-19. Here are the new numbers he shared:

  • 15,865 confirmed cases positive — a 10.7% increase over yesterday
  • 2,611 total hospitalizations so far — about 4.1% more than yesterday
  • 1,108 in Intensive Care Units, or a 2.1% increase
  • 374 deaths — 31 since yesterday

Newsom said though we aren't flattening the curve yet, we may be seeing at least a decrease in the slope of COVID-19's spread:

"We want to see that number go down, not up, but these are not the double digit increases we're seeing in hospitalization rates or ICU rates that we saw even a week or so ago. That's not to suggest by any stretch of the imagination that we'll continue to see these declines. It's to only reinforce the importance of maintaining physical distancing and continuing our stay-at-home policy that has helped bend the curve in the state of California."

DOWNLOAD THE FULL GUIDES:

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Diary From The COVID-19 Frontlines: ‘We Cannot Let Our Guard Down ’

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Dr. Andrea Austin, an emergency medicine physician in Los Angeles, before entering a respiratory unit. (Courtesy of Andrea Austin)

“Diary From The COVID-19 Frontlines” is an ongoing series of dispatches from health care workers.

Andrea Austin, an ER physician in downtown Los Angeles, has been seeing more COVID-19 cases in the ICU at the hospital where she works. The number of cases hasn’t overwhelmed the system yet, but she’s bracing for a surge.

“I still believe with the number of cases that we know exist in California, that we are going to see a spike in the next two to four weeks,” she told me yesterday by phone after driving home from an overnight shift.

While emergency room volume has been down overall as people have stayed home, she was concerned by an uptick in patients over the weekend. She saw more non-coronavirus patients come into the ER on Friday and Saturday than earlier in the week.

“I think people are starting to get cabin fever and think, ‘If I wear a mask, I can still go out and do things,’” she said.

“I'm just so thankful we have this momentary lull that we can try to prepare, but I really hope our public does not misinterpret that. We cannot let our guard down.”

She’s certainly being vigilant.

Her routine during and after her shifts has also changed. She wears a surgical cap all the time to keep her hair up. After her shift, she’ll change out of her scrubs, but she’ll change out of those clothes too, as soon as she gets to her front door.

“It's like this whole deal of like 45 minutes of making sure, trying to not cross contaminate” she said.

And every morning, she self-checks for symptoms.

“Do I have a sore throat? Do I have body aches? Do I have a headache? And when I don’t — which I haven’t had any symptoms — I’m so thankful. I literally wake up every morning with this new lease on life. I’m good today.”

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

After Five Deaths At A Yucaipa Nursing Home, San Bernardino Launches COVID-19 Nursing Facilities Task Force

Updated
Published
Map of COVID-19 cases reported in San Bernardino County as of April 6 / San Bernardino County Health Department

San Bernardino County is taking additional steps to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks at skilled nursing facilities.

Governor Newsom has identified the county as one of four “nursing home hotspots” in the state. A skilled nursing facility in Yucaipa has had 75 cases among patients and staff -- five patients have died. A facility in Colton has also had an outbreak.

So San Bernardino county’s health director has issued an order. All nursing homes must employ “any means necessary” to stop using staff who also work at other nursing facilities. Staff must also wear protective gear and monitor their temperatures.

County spokesman David Wert said San Bernardino has 171 state-licensed nursing facilities.

“Our public health officer thought it was worth issuing a special order on this subject because of the number of homes we have in this county,” Wert said.

The County also announced the creation of a Nursing Facilities Task Force. It will assess each nursing home’s readiness to deal with COVID-19, and work to spot any other outbreaks.

Tracking COVID-19: More Than 1.4M Confirmed Cases Worldwide, LA County Reports 2.4% Mortality Rate

Updated
Published

Note on the data you see when clicking on a bubble: Confirmed cases include presumptive positive cases | Recovered cases outside China are estimates based on local media reports, and may be substantially lower than the true number | Active cases = total confirmed - total recovered - total deaths.


Editor's note: For the most recent updates, check our latest tracker post for Wednesday, April 8.

Jump to: CALIFORNIA | WORLDWIDE | SOCAL COUNTIES | ANALYSIS

WHERE WE STAND

On Tuesday afternoon, L.A. County reported 550 new cases and 22 new deaths, marking a rise in the mortality rate to 2.4%. There have now been more than 6,900 total confirmed cases here.

Meanwhile, the United States is among a number of countries experiencing large-scale epidemics. The map above shows cumulative confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries and is updated in near real-time throughout the day. Zoom out to see more of the world.

Below are the recent totals for the United States, followed by the 10 countries with the most reported cases of COVID-19. Italy, Spain, Germany, and now France are all reporting more confirmed cases than China, where the outbreak began late last year, but whose reported numbers have since greatly slowed.

These numbers are changing rapidly and experts have warned that confirmed cases are far under the actual total of infected individuals. For more detail check the full tracker, which includes death tolls and projections of cases on the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering site. Engineers there are collecting data from:

IN CALIFORNIA

Statewide, our friends on the L.A. Times data desk are tracking cases in California by surveying "numbers released by the dozens of local health agencies across the state." As of about 9:43 a.m. Tuesday, the newspaper is reporting California has:

  • 17,674 confirmed cases
  • 451 deaths

[Note: We don't have a paywall but we do count on member support to run our newsroom. If you hit a paywall on the L.A. Times full tracker, please consider subscribing. They have a $1 for eight weeks special. ]

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AT A GLANCE

At a press briefing Tuesday, L.A. County public health director Barbara Ferrer cautioned that:

"When we look at these numbers by the total population of each group, African Americans have a slightly higher rate of death than other races and ethnicities, and we will be watching this closely as we gather more information about the remaining 43% of people who have passed away."

So far, L.A. County is reporting 169 deaths. As of Tuesday, 1,510 people have been hospitalized in the county at some point during their illness.

Current as of most recent updates Tuesday

LA COUNTY

  • 6,910 cases
  • 169 deaths

* [Includes numbers released by Pasadena and Long Beach. See more from L.A. County]

ORANGE COUNTY

  • 931 cases
  • 15 deaths

* More from Orange County

RIVERSIDE COUNTY

  • 1,016 cases
  • 28 deaths

* More from Riverside County

VENTURA COUNTY

  • 243 cases
  • 6 deaths

* More from Ventura County

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY

  • 547 cases
  • 17 deaths

* More from San Bernardino County

FLATTEN THE CURVE

As new cases continue to be confirmed, Californians are continuing to be under "safer at home" and "social distancing" orders. State and county officials have ordered the vast majority of Californians to strictly limit interactions with other people, wash hands frequently, and stay 6 feet away from others.

Remember, the goal of social distancing is to "flatten the curve" of COVID-19's spread.

HOW CALIFORNIA COMPARES


SOME STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT COVID-19

We're all living through this extraordinary and frightening pandemic. The vast majority of our newsroom has been working from home (here's some advice on that) since March 11 to bring you calm, helpful reporting. We are answering your questions and taking more.

We're here to help. And if you can help support that effort financially, we'd be grateful.


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The Navy Ship Mercy Has Treated A Few Patients, Stands ‘Absolutely Ready’ To Take On A Lot More

Updated
Published
The USNS Mercy after it arrived at the Port of L.A. on March 27. (Carolyn Cole/AFP via Getty Images)

The Navy hospital ship Mercy has treated about two dozen patients since it docked at the port of L.A. on March 27.

The 1,000-bed floating hospital came to Los Angeles to treat patients who don’t have COVID-19, to ease the burden on the area’s hospitals, said John Rotruck, commanding officer of the ship’s medical treatment facility.

“It was better to have us here and ready in advance of any projected increase in coronavirus cases,” he told us.

The staff of roughly 900 ranges from neurosurgeons to cardiologists to even plastic surgeons. About one-third of the staff are non-medical, like cooks and IT specialists.

So far, Rotruck says they’ve treated gunshot wounds, heart failure and pneumonia, among other things.

But the ship isn’t staffed to treat everything. For example, it can’t take care of children or perform open heart surgery. There are no OB/GYN services or chemotherapy.

Last week, doctors criticized the U.S. Navy ship Comfort, which is docked in New York City, for treating only a small number of patients amid that city's dire coronavirus situation.

But in L.A., Rotruck says he hasn’t yet had a lot of requests for the ship’s services from local hospitals.

“If the demand signals from the local hospital increases, we’re absolutely ready to take those patients,” he said.

L.A. County still has around 300 empty ICU beds.


SOME STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT COVID-19

We're all living through this extraordinary and frightening pandemic. The vast majority of our newsroom has been working from home (here's some advice on that) since March 11 to bring you calm, helpful reporting. We are answering your questions and taking more.

We're here to help. And if you can help support that effort financially, we'd be grateful.


Morning Briefing: The Seriousness Of Living Through A Pandemic

Updated
Published
A man wears a scarf around his face as a makeshift face mask in Huntington Park. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Public health officials are calling this a “critical” week, during which Los Angeles could find out whether cases of COVID-19 are going to start leveling off or drastically increasing. Addressing residents yesterday, the county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, said it “really is time for people… to understand the seriousness of what’s going on in our communities – the seriousness of living through a pandemic.”

To help with that, we have the day’s new numbers, plus updates on local institutions from LAUSD to the L.A. Zoo, a report on the L.A. sky and also, some activities for you and your kids – if you have them – to try to relax and have some (socially distanced) fun.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.


COMING UP TODAY

  • Now that the USNS Mercy is here, Emily Elena Dugdale asks what the naval hospital ship can do to help with the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Many financial institutions are struggling to make the coronavirus stimulus package’s small business loans work. Emily Guerin checks in with small businesses and banks about how the application process is going.
  • Mariana Dale gets more details on what to expect from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order approving child care aid for essential workers.
  • Judge David O. Carter is holding another hearing in a lawsuit alleging negligence in how L.A. City and County have dealt with homelessness, reports Matt Tinoco.
  • Elly Yu talks to a local ER doctor about her daily routine of trying to keep herself from getting COVID-19.

THE PAST 24 HOURS

L.A., California, The World: There are now more than 6,000 coronavirus cases in L.A. County, including 420 new cases and 15 new deaths. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that 500 ventilators from California's cache would be sent to the national stockpile to be distributed immediately to states in need. In the U.S., there are nearly 348,000 coronavirus cases, and there are over 1.3 million worldwide.

Let Them Entertain You: Levar Burton, Patrick Stewart, Dolly Parton and more celebs are reading children’s books online. The timing of today's launch of the short-form video site Quibi is either brilliant ... or bonkers. A fundraiser to support health care workers and local charities will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon, with a lineup curated by Lady Gaga.

L.A.’s New Normal: LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said “it’s clear that normal is not returning anytime soon.” The L.A. Zoo is taking extra safety measures for its cats after a Bronx Zoo tiger tested positive for COVID-19. L.A.’s skies are cleaner and clearer as many drivers stay off the road, but our local airspace is more complex than just that. The Southern California News Group, which operates 11 local newspapers, furloughed roughly 50 employees and laid off several more. Experts have shared how to talk to kids about the coronavirus; now, let's look at how to explain it to our aging parents.

What’s For Lunch: In the first of Fiona Ng’s new series on how restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley are coping with the coronavirus, she checks in with Monterey Park hot pot restaurant Uniboil. A youth leadership group that serves low-income families in Chinatown has partnered with two other organizations to collect funds for food, care packages and financial support for seniors in the area.


IN NON-COVID-19 NEWS

YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN

I don't know about you, but I feel better immediately looking at this picture. Patrick Stewart and Lavar Burton are both reading to kids online during the pandemic.

Former 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' co-stars Sir Patrick Stewart and LeVar Burton read to kids (and adults) on social media. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for STARZ)

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