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A 'Singular Figure' In U.S.-Japan Relations Dies At Age 71

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Irene Hirano Inouye meets former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso in 2008, as her husband Sen. Daniel Inouye looks on. (Shizuo Kambayashi-Pool/Getty Images)

The founding president and CEO of the country's largest museum devoted to Japanese American history and culture died Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Irene Hirano Inouye had led the Japanese American National Museum for 20 years before stepping down in 2008 when she married the late Hawaiian Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Inouye helped raise tens of millions of dollars for the musuem, oversaw a major expansion and promoted wide-ranging shows that touched on everything from the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans to the pop art.

The chair of the U.S.-Japan Council said in a letter to members:

"Irene was a singular figure in U.S.-Japan relations, respected by leaders on both sides of the Pacific."

READ THE FULL STORY HERE:

COVID-19 Map: More Than 1.5M Confirmed Cases Worldwide; 7,500 Cases in LA County

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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.


Jump to: CALIFORNIA | WORLDWIDE | SOCAL COUNTIES | ANALYSIS

WHERE WE STAND

On Wednesday afternoon, L.A. County reported 620 new cases and 29 new deaths, marking a rise in the mortality rate to 2.6%. There have now been more than 7,500 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 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, the newspaper is reporting California has:

  • 18,830 confirmed cases
  • 485 deaths

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

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 198 deaths. As of Wednesday, 1,714 people have been hospitalized in the county at some point during their illness.

Current as of most recent updates Wednesday

LA COUNTY

  • 7,530 cases
  • 198 deaths

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

ORANGE COUNTY

  • 1,016 cases
  • 17 deaths

* More from Orange County

RIVERSIDE COUNTY

  • 1,179 cases
  • 32 deaths

* More from Riverside County

VENTURA COUNTY

  • 263 cases
  • 7 deaths

* More from Ventura County

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY

  • 641 cases
  • 20 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.

Health Experts Show Cautious Optimism As Economic Relief Debate Escalates

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Published
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing at the White House on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

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Public health officials advising the White House said Wednesday they were cautiously hopeful that the United States may undershoot the worst-case predictions for deaths from the coronavirus.

Dr. Deborah Birx, a top physician coordinating the pandemic response, said on Wednesday that she hopes that rather than a peak of 100,000 deaths or more, social distancing and other countermeasures may bring a total closer to around 60,000.

Birx, President Trump and their compatriots stressed that the outcomes depend upon Americans adopting and sustaining the mitigation measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — staying home, avoiding groups of more than 10, washing hands, wearing masks outside and so forth.

"We are still in awe, really, of the American peoples' strength in this — and following through," Birx said.

Even as the daily death toll from the pandemic continues to mount and the number of cases appears to stabilize in some places, Birx and her colleagues said they believe the mitigation is working and so the nation must keep it up.

"What has been so remarkable to those of us in the scientific field for so long is how important behavioral change is — and how amazing Americans are in adapting to and following through on these behavior changes," Birx said.

TOP DOCTORS FAULT CONSPIRACY THEORIZING

Another top physician advising the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, faulted the spreading of conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the coronavirus.

Misinformation about the pandemic has been rife both from foreign sources and among Americans; Fauci and Birx were asked specifically about questions involving the death toll — whether it might be inflated because deaths of people with preexisting conditions might be counted as COVID-19 even though there were earlier illnesses or problems too.

No, Birx said.

"Those underlying conditions did not cause their acute death when related to COVID," she said. Birx repeated a warning that the elderly and those with weak immune systems and other such conditions must be especially careful not to become infected because they tend to become sicker and die in greater numbers.

Public health emergencies often are accompanied by untruths, Fauci said, referring back to his own experience with the falsehoods spread about HIV and AIDS when they appeared in the 1980s.

"They are nothing but distractions," Fauci said. "I can assure you we have so much to do to protect the health and welfare of the American people I would just hope we put that conspiracy stuff aside — let somebody write a book about it later but not now."

LA Parks Will Be Closed (Completely) On Easter Sunday

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L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in his Wednesday, March 25, 2020 press conference. via Eric Garcetti's Youtube channel

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No, you're not supposed to be taking a stroll through the park right now. We're under stay-at-home orders from every level of government as we plod through what local officials have called a "critical week" in the coronavirus pandemic.

But every day, and every weekend, people defy those orders. Because a lot of people make it a tradition to visit the park on Easter Sunday, the city and county are shutting parks down completely, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in his nightly coronavirus update.

You thought parks were already closed? Yes, but in general those closure orders apply only to the facilities and trails. This closure is total. No walking through the park, and no accessing facilities (with the exception of those experiencing homelessness and who need to use the bathroom). Police and park rangers will be patrolling. But of course they can't cover the whole city, so Garcetti said he was asking for the good will of the public to help stay away from the parks for one day.

The closure will last from Saturday evening through Monday morning, and Los Angeles County is doing the same thing for parks, lakes and botanical gardens.

And — pay attention — after Sunday, facilities and trails will still be closed.

Here are some other takeaways from tonight's address:

  • 1,069 beds at 15 hotel sites have been secured to provide temporary shelters where the homeless can wait out the pandemic (there could be an option to extend these rooms beyond the COVID-19 crisis)
  • Garcetti named Jon Vein, president of the city's Convention and Tourism Development Board of Commissioners, as an ambassador to hotels as the city attempts to secure more rooms faster
  • Garcetti announced a new effort called L.A. CARES Corps to help small business owners apply for loans. You can visit the website or call 833-238-4450 to obtain assistance from trained loan counselors on how to apply and what to apply for.
  • Garcetti also joined other mayors in calling on the state to extend the California Earned Income Tax Credit to all residents regardless of immigration status. He called immigrants an integral part of the economy and said such a move could provide 600,000 people with much-needed relief. More info at caleitc4me.org.
  • He called for federal support for rent and mortgages, both to help renters make rent and to help "mom-and-pop landlords" pay their mortgages while their income is reduced because their tenants can't pay.
  • The city is meanwhile investigating complaints about predatory practices from landlords.
  • The mayor sought to set the record straight on landlord-tenant disputes during the coronavirus pandemic:
    • Landlords cannot force you to provide documents of lost income or hardship
    • You are not required to sign any payment agreements
    • You can get more information at HCIDla.lacity.org
    • Garcetti reminded people to communicate with their landlords, noting that landlords may be struggling, too.
    • But he also reminded people they should not be leaving their homes, even if they're asked to sign documents or deal with eviction notices (despite the moratorium).
  • The city is also cracking down on unlicensed short-term rentals. Garcetti said the city has received "disturbing reports" of property managers running un-permitted short-term rental operations that violate city law in apartment buildings, including some illegal units being used for parties in defiance of the Safer at Home order.
  • The city has filed a 26-count criminal case for substandard conditions against Ellison Suites in Venice, along with a civil suit to prohibit the property from being used as a hotel.

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.


LA County Announces Plan To Shelter Vulnerable Unhoused Angelenos In Hotels

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LA County will procure 15,000 hotel rooms for unhoused Angelenos over 65 or with pre-existing conditions. (Farida Jhabvala-Romero/KQED)

Los Angeles County officials announced Wednesday a mammoth effort to shelter thousands of homeless people in up to 15,000 hotel rooms.

The hotels are intended to give these people a safe place to isolate during the pandemic.

“They are not sick when they go in. These are for people who are not experiencing symptoms, giving a place to shelter, so they don't contract anything,” said Heidi Marston, the interim director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Service providers and outreach workers are using L.A.’s homeless case management system to identify people outside who are over 65, or have underlying health conditions. The 2019 homeless count identified almost 14,000 people experiencing homelessness who are age 55 or older.

All sites will provide three meals a day, and 24-hour on-site security.

The goal is to minimize their chances of exposure to COVID-19, and keep the most vulnerable people experiencing unsheltered homelessness out of the hospital.

“By reducing the number of people in that high-risk group, we can reduce the risk that the broader hospital system will be overwhelmed by COVID-19,” said Phil Ansell, who directs L.A. County’s Homeless initiative office.

So far about 1,000 rooms have been leased, and negotiations on another 3,000 are nearly finalized.

Need Answers About Federal Aid For Small Businesses? Here are some FAQs

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The Fig at 7th shopping center's food hall is temporarily closed as California shuts down to fight the spread of COVID-19. Chava Sanchez/LAist

What is the difference between the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program?

How can I find a list of banks that will lend me money?

If I’m an independent contractor/sole-proprietor. Can I apply?

Local Small Business Development Centers are fielding these questions and more in daily webinars this week. We sat in on one of them to get some answers for you.

READ MORE:

Survey: Parents Terrified Kids Will Fall Behind As COVID-19 Closes Schools

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A padlocked entrance to Lockwood Avenue Elementary, an L.A. Unified School District campus in East Hollywood, on April 1, 2020. (Kyle Stokes/LAist)

Nearly 90% of California parents are worried that their children will fall behind academically while their school campuses are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to results of a new statewide survey released today.

Despite this, 81% of the 1,200 parents polled by The Education Trust-West reported their schools are doing a “good” or “excellent” job addressing the crisis.

But the poll also highlights inequities in schools’ responses:

  • The digital divide. “Half of low-income families said they lack digital devices at home to facilitate distance learning,” reported EdTrust-West’s executive director Elisha Smith Arrillaga. “Nearly 40 percent worry about access to reliable internet.”
  • Teachers contacting? African American parents were less likely to report having spoken with their child’s teacher since the shutdown. Only 33% of black parents reported contact with their teacher, compared with 41% for other groups.
  • Language barriers. According to the survey, roughly 25% of parents who speak a language other than English at home said that the child’s school has not provided materials in other languages. (The survey was conducted online in both English and Spanish.)

In addition, more than 90% of parents surveyed said it would be helpful for schools to send home paper packets of instructional materials, but less than 40% say their schools are doing that — one of the many disconnects highlighted in the survey:

At the time the survey was conducted — between March 26 and April 1 — 58% of parents reported that their school had sent home learning materials to cover, at most, two weeks of distance learning.

Things may have changed since the statewide survey was taken. For some context, at the time, LAUSD was just beginning to roll out laptops purchased as part of its $100 million emergency distance-learning device plan. The district will continue rolling out devices over the next month.

MORE ON K-12 AND COVID-19:

MORE OF OUR CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE:

WATCH: Our 'No Panic Guide Live' Continues With Live DIY Mask Demo

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Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Curious about the specifics of when to wear face coverings or how to even make your own?

Join infrastructure correspondent Sharon McNary and KPCC In Person as she walks you through a quick tutorial on converting that old cotton T-shirt into a brand-new face covering.

Event starts at 2:30 p.m. today.

And join us tomorrow at the same time for a Q&A with Aaron Mendelson and Attorney Javier Beltran on the rapidly changing rental environment in the wake of a statewide eviction moratorium. We'll be live again here on LAist, as well as on the KPCC Facebook page and Livestream.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

LA County's Worst Day Yet: 29 More Deaths, Confirmed Cases Pass 7,500

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Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

In Los Angeles County's worst day yet in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, public health officials announced that 29 more people have died and 620 more have tested positive.

This brings the total number who have died because of COVID-19 to 198. The dead include two health care workers. They also include 37 residents of skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, where the number of reported outbreaks continues to rise.

In the last 48 hours, the county has reported 1,170 new cases, bringing the total so far to 7,530. These numbers rely on reported results and therefore lag behind the real number of infections. They don't yet reflect a "dramatic increase" in testing sites and availability, because those results aren't available yet, according to Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director.

Here are the latest numbers:

  • 17 of the people who died were over the age of 65, and all but one of them had underlying health conditions
  • 7 of those who died were between 41-65, five of them with underlying health conditions
  • 1 person was 18-40 and also had underlying health conditions
  • 3 of those who died lived in Long Beach and 1 in Pasadena, and the county doesn't have details on them yet
  • 2.6% mortality rate in L.A. County, an increase over recent days
  • 12 cases among the homeless
  • 131 institutional settings report cases:
    • 43 in jail facilities (3 inmates and 40 staff)
    • 10 in state prison (8 inmates and 2 staff)
    • 2 in juvenile facilities (both staff)
    • 4 in shelters serving homeless (2 staff and 2 residents)
  • 324 health care workers have tested positive: 58% of those in hospitals, 16% in outpatient facilities, and 6% among emergency medical services. Nurses are the group most likely to have tested positive.
  • 131 institutions have at least 1 case — these include assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, shelters, treatment centers, supportive living, and correctional facilities
  • 596 total cases in these settings, including 314 among residents and 282 among staff

Ferrer stressed that for the cases reported in institutional settings, the majority are not outbreaks. The county declares an outbreak only when there are three or more confirmed cases. As soon as a case is confirmed, a team from the county contacts the facility and often visits to review with staff the protocols that are in place to prevent spread, Ferrer said.

She said some entire facilities have been placed on quarantine to prevent spread, but she hopes the county will not see outbreaks so bad that they would require evacuation, as was reported today in Riverside.


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.


Gov. Newsom: California Spending $1.4 Billion On 200 Million Face Masks, Other PPE

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Gov. Gavin Newsom talked about California's efforts to acquire personal protective equipment, including 200 million face masks, as well as delivering the latest state coronavirus statistics in his daily update on California's response to coronavirus. Here are the highlights:

CALIFORNIA'S LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

  • A total of 16,957 people have tested positive for coronavirus
  • 1,154 coronavirus patients are in ICUs — a 4.2% increase from the previous day
  • 2,714 are hospitalized with coronavirus — a 3.9% increase
  • The death toll over the last 24 hours makes for one of the highest COVID-19-related death rates in California so far. Newsom said that 68 people have died, bringing the state's total to 442

CORONAVIRUS DEMOGRAPHICS

Newsom noted that only 37% of the demographic data has been processed so far — 6,306 of the 16,957 total coronavirus-positive cases. Within that current data, the percentage positives by race are:

  • 30% Hispanic
  • 14% Asian
  • 6% Black

The percentage of deaths:

  • 29% Hispanic
  • 16% Asian
  • 3% Black

Newsom said that these numbers track roughly with population numbers in the state, but cautioned that it is a limited sample size at this point, so that may not be the case when looking at the broader population.


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ACQUIRING 200 MILLION FACE MASKS, OTHER PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

Newsom said that the state will invest more than $1.4 billion into personal protective equipment (PPE) for both medical workers and frontline employees, including grocery store workers. The state has secured contracts for 200 million masks from various providers. Newsom previously announced the effort on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC Tuesday evening.

The governor said that California's efforts to acquire large amounts of PPE at scale was not an inherent criticism of the Trump administration. He thanked the administration, President Trump himself, and FEMA for their cooperation.

Responding to reports of PPE being seized by the federal government while it was on its way to other states, state Office of Emergency Services director Mark Ghilarducci said the state didn't foresee having any issues in that regard.

The state continues to look for hand sanitizer, testing reagents, and other supplies to help in the fight against coronavirus, Newsom said. So far, 2,300 individuals and companies have filled out applications on the state's site for contributing supplies.

The state is working with non-governmental organizations in these efforts, Ghilarducci said, as well as directly contracting with large firms. This includes a direct pipeline to a California company that manufactures masks in China, allowing for monthly mask shipments to California.

PPE is also being acquired from Asia with the assistance of FEMA, Ghilarducci said. The state is also working with a new technology that allows 80,000 N95 masks per day to be cleaned and reused — it will be in California within the next week and will allow those masks to be used more than 20 times, Newsom said.

CONTINUING PHYSICAL DISTANCING AND OTHER UPDATES

There still isn't a specific end date available for when stay-at-home orders may come to an end, Newsom said. Performing coronavirus contact tracing will be an important part of being able to reopen communities, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.

With weather improving and Easter this weekend, Newsom reiterated caution against gathering in parks and the need to continue practicing social distancing over the weekend.

Newsom extended his appreciation to people of faith during Passover for not gathering together and practicing social distancing.

The governor thanked the National Guard for its work helping in the coronavirus response, including delivering ventilators and working in food banks.

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.


Remaining Child Care Providers Must Limit Number Of Children, Screen For Illness

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Child care is available for children of essential workers. (Priska Neely/LAist)

The state agencies that oversee child care in California say child care providers who are still operating must limit the number of children in their care to no more than 10 at a time and screen everyone for illness.

Providers, who are considered essential workers, have been clamoring for more information on how to safely care for children for weeks. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order this week that allows the Departments of Education and Social Services to approve child care and after-school programs for children of health care professionals, emergency responders, law enforcement officers and grocery workers.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued similar instructions last week; the guidelines also said providers should encourage children to play individually and not serve meals family or buffet style.

One notable difference in the updated guidance from the Department of Social Services is the reduction in the number of children who should be cared for in a group from 12 to 10. The number is lower if infants are part of the group.

The new guidance remains in effect until June 30.

Read the full notice below:

Comedian Ronny Chieng Warns Of Coronavirus Bullying

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Malaysian comedian Ronny Chieng got trapped in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic. (Home page/social media photo credit: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Just as the coronavirus was spreading worldwide, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent Ronny Chieng was landing in Australia for a visit. He had a cough and was coming from another country, so he was considered “high risk” and immediately got tested. Don’t worry, he’s negative, but he's still locked down under (watch his bit with The Daily Show host Trevor Noah above).

That’s where Chieng was when Take Two host A Martinez called him up to discuss his Netflix special Asian Comedian Destroys America, which was taped at the Alex Theater in Glendale in September 2019. That may feel like a different era, but Chieng’s jokes have new resonance today with riffs on Asian stereotypes and how the internet makes people stupid.

Take, for example, all the misinformation on the web about COVID-19 and retweets of President Trump calling it the "Chinese virus":

"Look, there’s adults here, but there’s also a lot of kids in this country — a lot of Asian kids in this country — who, they don’t know what’s going on. They literally woke up one morning and suddenly there’s a new thing that they’re being teased about. And I’m not talking about light-hearted teasing, whatever that means. I’m talking about this thing is something that can affect them growing up. We should think about those people. If we don’t care about the adults anymore, at least think about the kids, right?"

You can listen to the rest of the interview below:

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Randy Newman Wrote A Quarantine Song For Us: 'Stay Away From Me'

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(Courtesy of Randy Newman)

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We asked legendary songwriter Randy Newman for some help getting people to pay attention to physical distancing as we all hunker down at our homes, working together to try to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

But he's Randy Newman, so his advice came to us in the form of a song.

Here's what he told us:

"It's hard for Americans who don't like being told what to do at all. But in this case, you know, let's do it. We'll be all right. Okay. All my love, everybody, bye!"

This song debuts today on our newsroom's public affairs show AirTalk with Larry Mantle on 89.3 KPCC.

It made everyone here smile. Please share it with your friends and family.

Stay Away

Music and lyrics by Randy Newman

Venus in sweatpants
That's who you are
And when this mess is over
I'll buy you a car
We'll drive that car
So fast and so far
All your stupid friends
Will be left behind

Stay away from me
Baby, keep your distance, please
Stay away from me
Words of love in times like these
I'm gonna be with you 24 hours a day
A lot of people couldn't stand that
But you can
You'll be with me 24 hours a day
What a lucky man I am

Stay away from me
Wash your hands
Don't touch your face
How do you like that
Wash your hands
Don't touch your face
I saw you
Thirty years together
And we're still having fun
Once we were two,
Now we are one
Let's go out and get a burger
When you're done, you're done
Memories of the past

Be kind to one another
Tell her you love her every day
If you're angry about something, let it go
If the kids are frightened, tell them not to be afraid
But don't let them touch your face
Don't let them touch your face

HAVE A QUESTION? WE'RE HERE TO HELP

From The Spanish Flu To The Current Pandemic: A History Of The USNS Mercy

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US Navy personnel look at the USNS Mercy hospital ship after it arrived into the Port of Los Angeles on March 27, 2020. - The USNS Mercy, a giant US naval hospital ship, arrived in Los Angeles on March 27, where it will be used to ease the strain on the c

The USNS Mercy docked in Los Angeles at the end of March to relieve area hospitals.

It's not taking patients with COVID-19 symptoms because, well, hospital ships like the Mercy aren’t designed to treat viral diseases, says Sal Mercogliano, a professor of history at Campbell University and a former merchant mariner.

“The issue with doing that onboard a hospital ship is fairly significant because hospital ships are basically floating communities -- they produce their own water, they produce their own air, they produce everything they need onboard the vessel to be self-contained so they can operate far from land.”

Mercogliano says the Mercy and the USNS Comfort, docked in New York, are designed to take casulaties off the battlefield and don’t have the kind of accomodations to segregate people who might be really contagious.

“They’re actually designed to keep diseases out, so that should there be a chemical or a radiological attack they don’t get anything inside.”

That said, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state has seen hospitals overwhelmed, has asked President Trump to allow coronavirus patients to be treated on the Comfort. Closer to home, the Mercy's 1,000-bed floating hospital so far has only taken about two dozen non-COVID-19 patients so far.

Some things to know about the USNS Mercy:

  • The one now in LA is actually the third iteration of the ship.
  • The first one was used during World War I and during the outbreak of The Spanish Flu in 1918.
  • The second Mercy was built in Los Angeles where the current ship is currently docked, and it was used during World War II to bring soldiers back from the battlefield.
  • The deployment of the USNS Mercy is open-ended and not restricted to Los Angeles, should the number of cases dip here and jump somewhere else.

“One of things that makes these ships so useful and so versatile is that they can throw off lines, fire up the boilers and head down to another port should they need them, " says Mercogliano. "The great utility is their mobility to steam at 17-and-a-half knots and all of the sudden leave Los Angeles and be in San Francisco the next day, or seattle two days from then.”

Listen to the full interview on our local news show Take Two, which airs on 89.3 KPCC:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Remote Learning Poses Tough Challenge For Special Needs Students

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Six-year-old Aaron Coleman is a kindergartener at Coldwater Canyon Elementary who receives special education services. Courtesy of the Coleman family

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner was blunt about the challenges of educating students with learning difficulties and disabilities:

"This will be our greatest challenge as the technologies and teaching practices are not as well-establishedin these areas and there may be some students for whom there is no good substitute for face-to-face contact."
We take a deeper look at what that means for students like 6-year-old Aaron Coleman, who has an unspecified genetic disorder that has significantly delayed his cognitive development. At his LAUSD elementary school, he qualifies for special education services including an adult helper, who stays with Aaron at all times to attend to his medical and behavior issues.

That's not possible online.

“I’m confident,” she added, matter-of-factly, “that he will regress during this time.”

READ MORE ABOUT THIS ISSUE:

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Face Masks Pose Risk To Children Under 2

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A family walks wearing masks in downtown Los Angeles on March 22, 2020, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

You've heard the warning from federal, state, and local health officials repeated over and over again in the past few days: WEAR A FACE MASK!

That goes for everyone -- except our littlest children.

That may seem counterintuitive, considering all the warnings that children can easily spread the virus among family members most at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. But the CDC says face masks themselves pose a risk to small children.

“CDC’s recommendation not to place cloth face masks on children under the age of 2 years is to prevent suffocation,” said CDC spokesman Jason McDonald in an email to LAist.

Unintended suffocation is the leading cause of injury and death in infants, according to the journal Pediatrics. Most often it happens while babies are sleeping, but a cloth face mask could also impair breathing.

“They can't communicate readily if they're having problems breathing,” said Dr. Michael Smit, medical director of infection prevention and control at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “You don't want to think that you're trying to help your child by putting a cloth mask on them and then in the end, causing them to have difficulty breathing.”

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Judge Slams LA's 'Inadequate' Attempts To Improve Homeless Conditions

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Homelessness on Skid Row, photographed on June 30, 2019 in Los Angeles. (James Bernal for LAist)

Weeks after officials announced a large and swift response to protect the homeless from COVID-19, what’s actually happening on the ground isn’t meeting promises.

That was the subject of discussion Tuesday at the latest hearing in a federal court case that charges L.A. has handled mass homelessness with negligence.

During the hearing, Federal Judge David Carter chastised L.A.’s response to shield homeless people from COVID-19, at one point suggesting politicians responsible for the homelessness crisis be named on a "wall of shame."

In his earlier order convening the hearing, Carter wrote that recent attempts to improve sanitary conditions for homeless have been “inadequate.”

On a tour of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, he found several recently placed handwashing stations without water.

Meanwhile, 50 handwashing stations owned by the Andy Gump company are already being removed after an employee was pierced by a disused needle while servicing one of the stations.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan to quickly open 42 recreation centers in the city of Los Angeles as homeless shelters is also falling way short of its initial promise to provide at least 6,000 new shelter beds.

Because of the need to keep cots 6 feet apart inside, the combined capacity of all the proposed shelters will end up being closer to 2,000 beds.

According to a status report filed to Carter’s court on Monday, the city of Los Angeles has so far converted 16 recreation centers into homeless shelters, providing approximately 700 beds. More will open once they receive staffing assignments.

At one point during Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Carter asked city staff for the personal phone numbers of both L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Attorney Mike Feuer, demanding clearer communication from the city.

After the hearing concluded, Judge Carter took lawyers representing L.A. County on a walking tour of downtown L.A., where they found more handwashing stations without water.

Health Workers For Elderly Lack Gear To Prevent Coronavirus Spread

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An elderly patient in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 12, 2017. Many U.S. nursing home workers don't have protective gear to prevent COVID-19 spread. (Eitan Abramovich/AFP via Getty Images)

It's a situation primed for hard decisions. Health workers like occupational therapists provide care to elderly patients who are especially susceptible to the coronavirus.

Often these workers go from house to house or room to room in a skilled nursing facility to see their patients. But with personal protective gear largely reserved for hospital staff, many home health workers are afraid they may be inadvertently spreading the virus.

“If I could wear personal protective equipment every single day with every single patient, that would be ideal,” said Wesley Chen, an occupational therapist in Los Angeles.

“But that is just a dream,” she said.

That leaves health workers like Chen to decide between a paycheck or risking doing more harm than good.

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Utility Bill Credits Ease Stay-At-Home Expenses

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Edison workers replace power cables Oct. 10, 2018 in Aguanga

If you’re staying home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, you're probably using more energy than usual, especially with the recent cold weather.

Well, your next power or gas bill should have a credit in it to reduce the sticker shock when it arrives.

It’s called the California Climate Credit. It’s not new — gas and power companies regulated by the state Public Utilities Commission have been applying the annual credit to your bills for years.

But this year, the PUC is speeding up the payments due to the coronavirus.

It told Southern California Edison and SoCal Gas to tell their customers the credit can help offset the higher bills people may be getting as they use more heat, gas and power while staying home.

The credit from SoCal Gas is $26 dollars. It should show up on your April bill.

The Southern California Edison credit is $74 dollars. You’ll see half of it — $37 dollars — in your April bill.

Under normal circumstances, Edison would pay the second half in October.

The PUC, however, directed Edison to pay the rest over May and June to get the credit to consumers sooner.

But Edison asked to pay the remainder a few months later, citing operational challenges. A hearing on that later schedule is set for April 16.

Morning Briefing: LA Remains A City Of Disparities. And We Have A Friend In Randy

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As L.A.’s coronavirus numbers begin to take shape, it’s quickly becoming clear that the pandemic will be yet another angle from which we can see the city’s stark racial and socioeconomic disparities.

Back in mid-March, wealthy neighborhoods like Hancock Park and Beverly Hills reported a higher number of cases than lower-income areas, thanks to better access to testing; these were probably the same people who could afford $250 for a cheek swab test. But local health officials announced Tuesday that black Angelenos have a slightly higher COVID-19 death rate compared to other groups, and there's concern that lower-income communities and communities of color will still go without equitable access to tests.

"It's unfortunate, but it's logical," David Eisenman, the director of UCLA's Center for Public Health and Disasters, told Alyssa Jeong Perry. "If you have health insurance and a doctor, it's easier for you to get."


COMING UP TODAY


THE PAST 24 HOURS

L.A., California, The World: L.A. County has 6,910 cases of the coronavirus, and 169 deaths. The U.S. has almost 400,000 cases, and there are over 1.4 million cases worldwide. The Navy hospital ship Mercy has treated about two dozen patients since it docked in L.A.

New Day, New Rules: L.A. grocery store employees are finally getting face masks, and other local businesses will be able to refuse service to customers who aren't wearing them. A local ER doctor’s anti-contamination ritual is “a whole deal of, like, 45 minutes.” San Bernardino County, one of four “nursing home hotspots” in California, is taking additional steps to deal with outbreaks at skilled nursing facilities.

$$$: The coronavirus is highlighting L.A.’s economic and racial disparities, as lower-income Angelenos are less likely to get tested and African Americans with the virus are dying at a higher rate. L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu announced a motion that would provide small grants to artists and arts nonprofits. Many of the city’s struggling small businesses still don’t know if they’ll get federal loans. Without forgiveness for back rent, L.A. could see a huge surge in homelessness. California’s rainy day fund -- about $20 billion -- will likely be completely depleted by the toll of the pandemic.

Mental Health: The state has released a guide to help adults and kids manage stress while at home. People struggling with addiction aren’t able to meet in-person for 12-step programs and therapy sessions. Experts are encouraging a switch from the phrase “social distancing” to “physical distancing.

Questions Are Arising: "I couldn't have done it any better," Trump said about his and the administration's handling of the pandemic. What would happen if a big earthquake hit right now?

Hello In There: And finally, the coronavirus has taken the life of legendary American singer and songwriter John Prine, who gifted the world reams of music and wise words to get through trying times – like these.


NON-COVID-19 NEWS


YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN

When our newsroom asked Grammy, Emmy, Oscar-winning artist Randy Newman to do a social distancing message for our audience he went one step further, he wrote a song about it! You can hear the premiere of that song today on AirTalk with Larry Mantle or watch for a link to the video in the afternoon newsletter.

(Courtesy of Randy Newman)

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