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Riverside County Opens Trails And Golf Courses With Some Restrictions

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A General View of the 9th hole on the Mountain course of the LA Quinta resort Golf Course, Palm Springs (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

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Riverside County announced today that golf courses will re-open, effective immediately. Because the one thing that everyone misses the most right now is definitely golf.

Social distancing is still a must. But if golfers manage to stay six-feet away from each other and wear facemasks, they can enjoy their fine sport at their leisure.

A few other rules:

  • Sports are limited to four players
  • No caddies!
  • No large gatherings or tournaments
  • No in-person dining at the clubhouse (noooo!)

The county clarified that hiking trails, parks and tennis courts will also be open for non-contact outdoor sports. But picnic tables, playgrounds and team sports will remain closed.

Other activities cleared by county officials were distinctly — well, not low-brow — with outdoor spaces cleared for "equestrian activities" and "pickleball."

The decision seems to be influenced by a desire to resume a favorite sport in one particular part of Riverside County — Palm Springs. In the news release annoucing the relaxation of rules, Scott White, chief operating officer for the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau said:

“Golf is an iconic part of our destination, our history and our economy...We will continue to work with Riverside County with the goal to help reopen more tourism related businesses.”

No word on when tourism will resume, however, given that short-term rentals in popular Riverside County desinations like Palm Springs, Joshua Tree and the Coachella Valley, have been temporarily banned.

According to Riverside's public health department, 85 people in the county have died from coronavirus and over 2,800 have been infected.

Here's a look at how Riverside County compares to the rest of the state, courtesy of the JSK Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University and the Big Local News group, in partnership with the Google News Initiative.

Inmate In SoCal State Prison Dies Of The Coronavirus

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The California Institution for Men in Chino. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Despite some efforts to reduce prison populations and limit outside contact, the first inmate at a state prison has died of COVID-19 complications.

The unidentified inmate died at an outside hospital but prison officials said he had been incarcerated at the California Institution for Men in Chino.

His death renewed calls by prison reform activists for more prisoners to be released. Kate Chatfield with the reform group The Justice Collaborative told us:

“We're asking for people who have 18 months or less on their sentence to be released.”

To slow the virus’ spread, California has granted early release to 3,500 prisoners in the state system, among other steps. But inmates tell us they’re still living in crowded dorms. Activists want more releases.

READ OUR FULL STORY:

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Your Guide To The Massive Cuts Proposed For The LA City Budget

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Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has released his proposed budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The city is facing a massive loss of tax revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, causing the mayor to declare "a state of fiscal emergency as part of the 2020-2021 budget."

Garcetti had already signaled that there will be furloughs for the city's civilian workforce. The mayor estimated city workers are expected to forego about 10% of their salaries. The city's hiring freeze is also continuing.

In a briefing this morning, city staff said the mayor has broad powers to order furloughs in an emergency like this, but they'd rather work with unions. Corral Itzcalli with SEIU Local 721, which represents the largest chunk of civilian public workers in town, said the city should find other solutions instead of furloughs.

"We want to work with city officials," Itzcalli said. "We want to figure out where to make adjustments. But we... cannot call these men and women heroes one day, and then turn around and attempt to balance the budget on their backs. That's just simply unfair."

The furloughs exclude sworn members of the LAPD and the LAFD. The budget for those departments is funded to "maintain the same levels of service."

We are reading the full 511-page proposal now and will be reporting out those proposed cuts all day and bringing you the details here.

WE ARE LOOKING INTO WHAT’S HAPPENING TO THESE KEY CITY SERVICES

WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW

City Controller Ron Galperin released a staggering revised estimate for city revenues that forecast:

  • a $231 million revenue shortfall for this fiscal year, which ends in June
  • up to $598 million next year, which begins July 1

On Sunday, Garcetti said in his State of the City speech he had already moved to:

  • borrow $70 million from city special funds and reserve fund
  • furlough all civilian employees for 26 days, the equivalent of a 10% pay cut
  • make significant cuts to many city departments, which "will have to operate at sharply reduced strength"

In the current fiscal year, the city has so far spent almost $58 million in emergency funds to address COVID-19, including expanding homeless shelters, getting some people into hotels and setting up testing sites across the city.

City officials hope this spending will be reimbursed by the federal government via the CARES Act, but for now it also adds to the city’s budget challenge along with lost revenues.

All told for this fiscal year, which closes at the end of June, the city found $194 million in savings.

The proposed budget the Mayor just released includes $230 million in hard cuts to department budgets for the next fiscal year. Some examples:

  • Street services will be reduced 20% — most of that will come from not filling open positions and not replacing employees who leave (that’s attrition)
  • Infrastructure spending has a 10% reduction overall
  • 311 wait times may go up because those operators are subject to furlough

PUBLIC WORKS

Sanitation workers are so vital to Los Angeles healthy they won’t be forced to take days off like most other civilian city employees. They pick up garbage in neighborhoods, clean up around homeless encampments and run the wastewater treatment system,

They are essential workers who keep residents from contracting the coronavirus through an excess of trash piling up on the street, and who clean-up sewage overflowing from pipes and treatment plants, all while wearing protective gear so they don’t get exposed to the virus themselves.

Some public works budget cuts will slow construction projects, graffiti abatement, replacing broken concrete streets, repaving failed asphalt streets, tree trimming, and some sidewalk repairs.

People who call 311 for services such as pothole repairs and large item disposal will see longer wait times, because some of the call center employees will also be reduced due to furloughs.

Of those services that are being reduced, one-time construction projects will be the last to be restored, after paying back what was taken from reserves and lifting furloughs.

Sharon McNary


URBAN FORESTRY

The expansion of L.A.’s urban tree canopy is so important for our climate future that last year in L.A.’s Green New Deal, a promise was made to plant as many as 90,000 trees across the city in just two years.

But on Sunday, during his State of the City address, Mayor Garcetti said:

“We’ll have less to spend on ... caring for our urban forest.”

According to the Mayor’s office, they scaled back the urban forestry budget as part of a broader 20% reduction to Street Services, which is within the Department of Public Works.

That reduction comes in the form of seven positions — including Tree Surgeon and Equipment Operator — that’ll go unfilled. They’ll save more money as they hold back from filling any jobs within that department that open up in the foreseeable future.

You may have to wait longer for trees in your neighborhood to be tended to.

As for the 90,000 trees supposed to be planted by some time in 2021? It’s unclear.

When asked to provide more detailed information about that program, as well as the broader services, the Department of Public Works referred LAist to the Mayor’s Office, stating that they wouldn’t have anything to add until the City Council had a chance to look at the proposed budget.

Jacob Margolis


TRANSPORTATION

Another program facing reduced funding is Vision Zero, the street safety initiative launched by Mayor Garcetti in 2015 to eliminate traffic deaths, which many city leaders and community advocates have described as an epidemic in recent years.

The program identifies streets and intersections where pedestrians are seriously injured and killed at higher rates — known as the High-Injury Network — and makes improvements such as high-visibility crosswalks, speed bumps and protected bike lanes. The program also includes ramped-up traffic enforcement and community outreach campaigns.

For the current fiscal year budget, Vision Zero received about $51.4 million, the most since its inception in 2015. But officials from the mayor's office say the program will be cut 5% in the next fiscal year to $48 million amid the impending financial crisis brought about by the pandemic.

HOMELESS SERVICES

The budget line for homeless services is projected to reach just shy of $430 million in the next fiscal year, up a little from $429 million in the current year.

That means spending on homelessness by the City of Los Angeles will remain steady, despite the city’s financial distress, underscoring a commitment to addressing the issue.

But keep in mind: most spending on homelessness in Los Angeles comes through the budget of L.A. County, not the city.

More from Matt Tinoco on the budget to tackle homelessness:


CULTURAL PROGRAMS

Furloughs and a city hiring freeze are spread across departments that make up the city's public life, including many activities that people may be looking forward to as stay-at-home restrictions are eased. Among the proposed cuts:

  • The city's Department of Cultural Affairs faces a $1.4 million proposed budget cut, an 8.1% drop. That includes a reduction of about $168,000 to its grants program (about a 3.5% cut), which provides support to local non-profit arts organizations, and about a million dollar cut to the public art program.
  • The L.A. Zoo budget gets a $3.1 million cut, a 12.1% reduction. The animal care budgets will remain steady.
  • The L.A. city library system is protected by Measure L, so its funding is required to be kept at a certain level. Their budget actually rises from $194 million to $205 million next fiscal year. But the libraries are closed until further notice.

More from Mike Roe on these cuts:


PARKS AND RECREATION

The mayor’s proposed budget would cut approximately $14 million from salaries for the workers who maintain the city’s 450 parks, and programs such as sports and summer camps at rec centers.

Since the 2008 recession, the department has worked to generate revenue, according to Carolyn Ramsay, executive director of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation. Concerts at the Greek Theater, golf course fees, swimming lessons and other fee-based activities bring in substantial revenue.

Since social distancing orders went into effect, the department has been forced to postpone the concert season, shut down golf courses and stop after-school programs. Revenue for the upcoming fiscal year is expected to be about $14 million lower than this year — and that figure assumes that park programs and venues will be back up and running at some point in the not-to-distant future.

Alyssa Jeong Perry


POLICE AND FIRE

L.A. cops may have to pick up the slack for furloughed civilian workers at the LAPD.

Mayor Eric Garcetti's proposed budget would spare LAPD officers and city firefighters but force furloughs on their civilian support staff, who would be required to take 26 unpaid days off over the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Around 3,000 civilians work at the LAPD. Some, like 911 operators and detention officers, would be exempt from the furloughs. But many others would not, including clerical and other staff. Uniformed LAPD officers may be forced to pick up the slack, which could mean slower response times on non-emergency calls.

“He really didn’t affect police officers on the streets too much,” said Craig Lally, president of the union that represents the rank-and-file. “We appreciate that.”

At the fire department, most of the agency’s 300 support personnel will face furloughs. Sworn firefighters answer 911 calls at the LAFD.

Under the mayor’s plan, funding for gang intervention programs would drop by 10% or $3 million, but the former gang members and other community members who run those programs heavily rely on the money to survive.

— Frank Stoltze

A LETTER FROM THE MAYOR

WHY IT MATTERS

Los Angeles, with about 3.8 million residents, is the nation's second most populous city. The City of L.A. is a major employer in the region, second only to L.A. County. About 50,000 people work for the city across 44 departments.

THE CONTEXT

The coronavirus outbreak is devastating local government budgets. Revenue has plummeted because of the shelter-at-home order. Economic activity funds a big part of the city's budget through taxes, and most of that is on ice right now. In Los Angeles, city officials now face stark choices about which programs to keep whole and which to cut.

Garcetti, in his State of The City speech on Sunday, appealed again to the White House and Congress to appropriate more funding for local governments, echoing organizations representing city and county leaders that have requested the same:

"Don't bail out banks but leave cities with cuts and collapse. If you want to reopen American, America's cities are where this nation begins."

But for now, Garcetti has to work with what he's got. That means a belt-tightening budget to reduce spending on community programs, parks and the environment.

WHAT’S NEXT

The mayor's proposal is just that — a suggestion based on requests from city departments and the chief executive's policy priorities. The city council takes that document and works its way through, making amendments based on the Budget Committee's public hearings, city administrative officer (CAO) analysis and councilmembers' priorities.

The city charter says the council must pass its budget no later than June 1. The mayor then has five working days to send it back to them with a veto, or tweak the council's budget using a line-item veto. But the council also has five days to override any veto with a two-thirds vote.

And voila: an adopted budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

THE CITY'S BUDGET SUMMARY

THE FULL BUDGET

IS THERE ANY GOOD NEWS?

The mayor tried to soften the news of austerity measures on Sunday by presenting a vision of what recovery could look like. "The real question is how we will come back," Garcetti said, arguing this process should be more broad-based than what transpired after the Great Recession. He said attention should be given to inequities in our economy that leave many people vulnerable and without housing or healthcare.

Garcetti talked about a proposed coalition of doctors, local governments, businesses, and health agencies dubbed the "CARES Corps," which would theoretically help coordinate the steps needed to get the economy moving again: testing; monitoring; tracking and isolating new coronavirus cases; and researching therapeutics and a vaccine.

Garcetti also called on the federal government to make sweeping, structural changes as part of the recovery effort, like backing an eviction moratorium, making college tuition-free and passing an infrastructure package.

These are big, bold plans popular with the left wing of the Democratic Party that helped win California for Bernie Sanders. But they aren't likely to be on the agenda for the Trump administration or a Republican Senate anytime soon.

HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS

Our politics reporter Libby Denkmann is taking the lead on the overall budget picture. Public Safety reporter Frank Stoltze is looking into how police and fire will be impacted. Infrastructure reporter Sharon McNary is covering public works. Matt Tinoco, who covers homelessness, will report on the budget implications for efforts to get people off the streets. Mike Roe, who covers the arts, is exploring the impact to cultural institutions. Ryan Fonseca, who regularly reports on transportation issues, is looking into what happens now to Vision Zero and other transit safety measures. Alyssa Jeong Perry is reporting on parks and recreation. Jacob Margolis is looking into what happens to urban forestry.

Trump Doubles Down On Coronavirus Testing Capabilities

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President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, April 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Trump said Monday that adequate coronavirus testing existed but was being underutilized by governors, following a chorus of complaints by state leaders and health care experts regarding the country's insufficient testing capacity.

The White House last week issued guidelines on a three-tiered approach for states to begin easing coronavirus restrictions. But many state officials have said that they do not yet have the capacity to aggressively test for new COVID-19 cases.

Trump has been resistant to states' demands for additional testing help. During the Monday daily coronavirus task force briefing, Trump said that public-private partnerships had significantly expanded the nation's testing capabilities, "but some states need to take action to fully utilize it."

The Monday coronavirus task force briefing comes after a series of tense disagreements between Trump and a number of Democratic governors last week.

Almost immediately after the administration's three-phase plan to ease coronavirus restrictions was released, several governors openly disputed the president's projected timeline on their ability to safely begin lifting stay-at-home orders.

On Friday, Trump engaged in a heated back-and-forth with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the week was capped off with Trump later that day openly expressing support for far-right protesters disobeying state-issued stay-at-home orders.

The administration hopes that this week will bring some bipartisan agreement on additional coronavirus relief funding, possibly including: $300 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, $75 billion in emergency funding for hospitals, $50 billion for small-business disaster loans and $25 billion for testing.

This article originally appeared on NPR.org.


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Coronavirus In LA Might Be More Widespread And Less Deadly Than We Thought

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Medical student volunteers from Keck School of Medicine of USC administer antibody tests to randomly selected participants as a part of the USC-L.A. County COVID-19 Study. (Kit Karzen)

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A new study that tested adults for antibodies to COVID-19 indicates it's much more widespread in Los Angeles County than previously thought — but it's also less deadly.

Researchers from USC and L.A. County Public Health estimate that approximately 4% of the county's adult population have antibodies to the virus, which means they’ve already been infected. Factoring in the margin of error, that's somewhere between 221,000 and 442,000 people.

As of today, there are just under 14,000 confirmed cases in the county.

The preliminary findings mean, "We are very early in the epidemic and many more people in L.A. County could potentially be infected," said lead investigator Dr. Neeraj Sood, professor and senior fellow at USC's Price School for Public Policy.

The substantially higher estimate of cases suggests the mortality rate for the county is much lower than the current 4.4%, said County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. She pegged it at closer to .1% or .2%. The mortality rate for the seasonal flu is .1%, according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The current method for tracking the spread of COVID-19 is to directly test for the presence of the virus in each patient. This new antibody study seeks to determine whether an individual ever had the coronavirus, even if they never developed any symptoms.

Ferrer cautioned that being positive for COVID-19 antibodies does not ensure a person is immune. More research is needed on that front.

The study tested a demographically-representative group of 863 adults. Researchers intend to repeat the test several times in the coming months.

Here are the highlights from today’s county update:

  • There were an additional 1,491 positive cases (Note: 1,198 of these positive cases are from a testing backlog; 293 are new).
  • The total number of cases in L.A. County is now 13,816.
  • There were an additional 17 deaths, bringing the county total to 617.

READ OUR FULL REPORT:

Study: Roughly 4% Of LA County Adults Have Had Coronavirus

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS

California Students Will Get Free Laptops To Help Distance Learning

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Approximately 70,000 California students will receive laptops and tablets, starting this week. Google has also committed to rolling out 100,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the state. It's part of California's attempt to bridge the digital divide preventing some students from accessing online education.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom made the announcement at a press conference held Monday at noon. You can watch a replay above.

The hotspots will start rolling out the first week of May. The rollout of laptops and tablets has already begun and will continue.

With schools in California shut down, remote, screen-based learning has become the new norm — and likely will be for the foreseeable future. But not every family has access to the screens or the high-speed internet they need to make that feasible.

Newsom's wife, "first partner" Jennifer Siebel Newsom, made the announcement and thanked several technology companies and entrepreneurs for donating the money to make this possible. She cited Sprint, T-Mobile, Amazon, HP, Verizon and Zoom as well as Twitter and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, and Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang and his wife, Akiko Yamazaki, among others.

Newsom also said that although coronavirus hospitalizations are beginning to flatten, the number is still growing.

"We're seeing ICU's bouncing back and forth — modest decreases, modest increases. So progress is being made. You are bending the curve. You're beginning to flatten the curve. But it is still nonetheless rising — deaths continue to rise, hospitalizations modestly continue to rise, and ICU numbers beginning to flatten. But we're not seeing that downward trend we need to see in order to provide more clarity on that roadmap to recovery, which we rolled out last week."

Newsom also commented on the protestors in Sacramento, who are demanding that the state reopen immediately.

"I deeply understand people's anxieties... but I imagine the anxieties of 40 million Californians that are actively participating and advancing our stay-at-home orders," Newsom said. "We must have a health-first focus. If we're ultimately going to come back, economically, the worst mistake we can make is making a precipitous decision based on politics and frustration that puts people's lives at risk, and ultimately sets back the cause of economic growth and economic recovery."

He cited other countries, such as Singapore and China, that began reopening then saw a new spike in coronavirus infections and had to shut down again. That's actually what happened in Los Angeles during the 1918 flu pandemic.

"We share exactly the same desires and goals to reopen the economy," Newsom said, "but the way we do that, the way we know to do that, is primarily based upon where the virus is at any given point and whether or not it is being transmitted... Those are the determinants. Science, health will be the determinants."

More takeaways

  • 1,208 people in California have died from COVID-19
  • 42 people in California died yesterday
  • Total number of hospitalizations is up 1.9% from yesterday
  • Total number of ICU patients up 2.8% from yesterday
  • On Wednesday, Newsom plans to reveal more details about the reopening plan he announced last week
  • Newsom hopes that by the end of April, California will have the capacity to do 25,000 coronavirus tests per day

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Sean Penn's Nonprofit Is Working To Administer COVID-19 Tests To Angelenos

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CORE Founder Sean Penn and LAFD (Courtesy CORE)

Sean Penn may be widely known as an A-list actor, but he’s also the founder of the nonprofit organization CORE — Community Organized Relief Effort. The organization has provided services following major disasters in Haiti and New Orleans, and is now working to increase testing for the coronavirus in Los Angeles.

To date, CORE has tested more than 20,000 Angelenos at six different sites in L.A. and Malibu.

Penn spoke with our newsroom in an interview with Nick Roman, who hosts KPCC's All Things Considered on 89.3 FM.

Penn said that the lessons he and his team members have learned over the past decade allowed them to act fast when COVID-19 hit.

“Because I had this organization with skill sets, with a lot of talented, very bright people, and very experienced, when this outbreak happened with this pandemic, I was able to quickly mobilize our people to respond,” said Penn.

Crediting, again, the people with whom he works, Penn said that his organization’s efforts have allowed firefighters to get back into emergency response.

With an eye toward expanding his test sites outside of L.A., Penn added that he hopes the pandemic will ultimately push Americans towards fact-based decision-making.

“It's my hope that this will be an experience that turns the light on and says, we've got to pay attention to science,” he said. “We have to have public policy that pays attention to science, supports science… I am an optimist almost enough to believe that this can really unify and move us forward.”

You can hear the full interview below.

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live

More Than 1,700 LA Jail Inmates Are In Coronavirus Quarantine

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Nearly one out of every eight inmates in L.A. County jails is quarantined because of COVID-19, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a briefing today.

The sheriff has gotten the jail population down to about 13,000 by releasing non-violent low-level offenders, but the country's largest jail system is still quite crowded.

Here are the highlights from Villanueva's update:

  • 26 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus, seven have recovered, 64 are in isolation, and 1,724 are quarantined (the numbers in quarantine fluctuate frequently).
  • 51 sworn Sheriff's Department staff have tested positive for the virus.
  • 543 sworn personnel are back at work after being isolated.
  • The department has issued 30 citations for violations of the orders regarding social gatherings.
  • Compared with this time a year ago, homicide is down 21%, rape is down 29%, while property crime and overall calls for service are down 11%.
  • Villanueva called on the Board of Supervisors to free up $143 million they froze more than six months ago because of overspending in his department; among other things, he said he needs it to continue buying cleaning and hygiene supplies for the jails.

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LAUSD Faces $200 Million In Uncovered Bills For Coronavirus Response

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WATCH: LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner discusses a big shortfall in funding due to COVID-19 spending. (LAUSD video)

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s leader pleaded with California for more emergency funding today, saying uncovered bills for the district’s response to the coronavirus crisis are mounting fast.

By the end of the school year, Superintendent Austin Beutner estimated that LAUSD’s pandemic response will cost nation's second largest public school system nearly $200 million that it doesn’t currently have in its $8 billion budget. Here's a quick look at those costs:

  • $78 million for meals. The federal government reimburses for school meals to students. But they don’t reimburse for distributing meals to their parents, and without action from the state or federal level, LAUSD will be left with a $40 million tab for the meals it’s given to adults.
  • $50 million for expanded summer school, twice the amount the district had originally budgeted for the program. Beutner promised a “major effort” to scale up LAUSD’s summer offerings this year to prevent summer learning loss.
  • $31 million to train teachers for distance learning. Beutner noted the district saved some money on this item by conducting this training while teachers were still being paid to lead classes online.
  • $9 million for safety equipment. The state recently issued emergency funding to schools for personal protective gear and other supplies needed to deep-clean campuses. LAUSD’s already spent more than twice what the state sent.

Beutner “does not anticipate” layoffs in the near future. State law says that schools must announce layoffs before March 15.

While state government is likely to face a budgetary crisis of its own as the economy sours, Beutner still urged lawmakers to increase K-12 funding in a video update:

It may sound counter-intuitive … but it’s necessary, unless we’re prepared to sacrifice a generation of boys and girls who are counting on a great education as a path out of poverty.

GO DEEPER:

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Looking For A Dark Graphic Novel About NoHo’s ‘80s Country Music Scene? Read This.

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A preview from the new comic book Palomino. (Courtesy Stephan Franck)

The Palomino is a country music club that had a big impact on the L.A. scene from the 1930s into the 1980s. It doesn't exist anymore. But Stephan Franck, an animator on everything from the Iron Giant and Into the Spider-Verse to the MCU's upcoming animated show, used his computer animation skills to bring back the Palomino as a CGI model.

He based it on old photos, as well as taking shots of what's now a North Hollywood banquet hall. He put all that together, then referenced that model — along with models of almost all of the other locations in his new comic Palomino, currently fundraising on Kickstarter — to make his drawings feel more real.

Franck brings a Frenchman's eye to country music and the Valley, seeing everything as a bit brand new and bringing the romance that was in his mind growing up outside Paris, while also having the experience of having lived here for the past 25 years. Go read the full story to see a preview of the first seven pages of the comic and to find out more about the Palomino's history, along with Franck's thoughts on bringing the Palomino back to life in a neo-noir graphic novel.

GO DEEPER WITH THE FULL STORY:

Mapping The ‘Digital Divide’ Coronavirus Exposed In LA Schools

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USC researchers mapped U.S. Census data from households with school-aged kids in L.A. County to show which neighborhoods had the most access to broadband internet, laptops and desktop computers. (Screenshot/USC)

With in-person classes cancelled in schools across Los Angeles, officials have been racing to purchase laptops and secure internet connections for needy students who need them to continue learning online.

They’re trying to bridge a “great big digital divide” that’s existed for years. Today, a team of USC researchers is releasing a report showing where in L.A. that gap is widest.

The researchers from USC’s Annenberg and Price schools examined U.S. Census data from households with school-aged kids in L.A. County. Here’s what they found:

  • Overall, roughly one-quarter of these households lacked access to both broadband internet and either a laptop or desktop computer. That’s about 250,000 families in L.A. County.
  • In El Monte, Pomona and the L.A. Unified School District, that figure is closer to one-third of households, according to USC associate professor Hernan Galperin.
  • In Watts and East L.A., more than half of households are not fully connected.

The researchers mapped their findings by neighborhood. Read our full story to explore their map. >>

Galperin, who teaches at USC’s Annenberg School, says this digital divide has existed for years. But the coronavirus has turned a big problem into an acute, educational crisis:

Kids won’t be able to be educated, and kids will drop off the map … because they’re unable to connect with the school, to teachers.

GO DEEPER:

SoCal Groups Start To Distribute Cash, Food To Unemployed Immigrants

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Day laborers and their supporters gather April 14 to call on Gov. Gavin Newsom to ensure that undocumented workers benefit from federal CARES Act monies given the state. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

The jobless are getting some relief from stimulus checks and unemployment insurance. But those channels are closed to immigrants without legal status.

To help fill the gaps, community leaders and groups around Southern California have started to give small amounts of cash to out-of-work immigrants and their families.

Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, says the debate is not new but:

"This is not the moment to say, 'Hey, these are second-class human beings,' This is our moment to do things differently."

State and city government officials have also created funds. But immigrant rights' supporters say one-time payments won't be enough to help immigrants through a pandemic with no end date in sight.

READ MORE ABOUT THE HELP BEING OFFERED

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Your 4/20 Classic Cinema Virtual Event Guide: 'Reefer Madness' And 'Drug Stories'

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Circa 1950: A selection of marijuana cigarettes, or reefers, seized by the Narcotics Squad. (Photo by Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images) Orlando/Getty Images

Odds are high that you have nowhere to go (we know, hard to resist). So, we offer this for your viewing pleasure. After all, marijuanary dispensaries are currently an essential business.

THE DETAILS:

The Alamo Drafthouse's virtual cinema series celebrates 4/20 by making two drug-themed films available online. The classic 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness is a histrionic laugher that shows how one toke can ruin lives. Drug Stories is a collection of classroom scare films, designed to keep kids away from drugs through bizarre re-enactments and anti-drug messaging. The film rental includes vintage commercials.

COST: $4.20 per film. Get your virtual tickets>>

OUR FULL GUIDE TO THE WEEK'S EVENTS

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Morning Briefing: A Respite For The Wild Ones

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The Venice Beach Skate Park is an icon of L.A.; its location, along with the athletes it attracts, are a throwback to the legendary early days of skate culture in Southern California.

So, to see it filled with sand (temporarily, we assume) is yet another reminder of the strange days in which we’re currently living. The sand was dumped by the city after repeat offenders wouldn’t stay away from the park's bowls, rails and platforms during stay-at-home orders.

Of course, skate culture is inherently rebellious, so it’s no big surprise that practitioners tried to flout city and state orders. I want to say that part of me cheers their subversive spirit, but any emergent whoop is immediately and loudly overruled by the part of me that knows their behavior could cost lives.

So instead,I’ll say that the optimist in me believes we’ll arrive again at a time when we can celebrate the wild ones among us — after all, in many ways and many communities, their spirit defines L.A. The lens through which we view them might just become a little different.


Coming Up Today, April 20

Libby Denkmann will have the details — and the reaction — to what is expected to be a very painful budget proposal from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti (read more about his Sunday speech below.)

Workers without legal status are barred from most coronavirus relief, including federal stimulus and unemployment. But there are a few resources available to families, reports Josie Huang.

Alyssa Jeong Perry reviews the impact of coronavirus on immigrants, from reduced remittances to planning for sending remains home.

Christine N. Ziemba has 15 streaming-tainment options, including online art shows, The Bluegrass Situation’s new virtual variety show and a dance class led by L.A.'s legendary B-boy RoxRite.

There’s a massive digital divide in K-12 education, with the worst gaps showing by race and ethnicity. For example, reports Kyle Stokes, Latino kids are half as likely to have internet access as their non-Latino peers, regardless of their family's income.

You can grow weed in your victory garden! We have some details on an auspicious date.

All Things Considered host Nick Roman interviews Sean Penn about how the actor’s nonprofit organization is helping to fight the coronavirus.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are now at least 12,341 coronavirus cases in L.A. County. There are more than 30,000 cases in California, and over 2.3 million worldwide. Members of the Trump administration defended their coronavirus testing response and guidelines for states to start resuming normal operations.

Hard Days Ahead For City Workers: In his “State of the City” speech Sunday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed a stark new reality due to the havoc coronavirus is wreaking on the city’s budget. The mayor said all civilian workers will have to take 26 furlough days, the equivalent of a 10% pay cut. We’ll know more today when he releases the proposed 2020-21 budget.

Harsh Words And Helping Words: Gov. Gavin Newsom had harsh words for cities he accused of blocking the conversion of hotels and motels for emergency housing. For graduating seniors, sheltering at home means missing milestones and public recognition of their achievements, but parents can help them cope.

Staying At Home… Or Not: Ongoing violations of the stay-at-home order at the Venice Beach Skate Park pushed the L.A. Department of Parks and Recreation to fill the park with sand.Meanwhile, Ventura County is beginning to lift some restrictions even as it extends stay-at-home orders until May 15.

An Open Letter: ProPublica put together a memo to America's governors on what to consider when it comes to reopening their states, based on interviews with experts and frontline officials from Italy, Germany, Spain, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea.


In Non-COVID-19 News

Plans to reviliatize the upper Los Angeles River are moving forward after nearly two years and more than 30 public meetings.


Your Moment Of Zen

The sun continues to rise and set no matter what. Here, people exercising outside a closed beach in La Jolla take advantage of the calming light.

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

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