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Federal Judge Orders Adelanto ICE Detention Center To Reduce Number Of Detainees

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The Adelanto U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Processing Center is operated by GEO Group, Inc. (GEO) a Florida-based company specializing in privatized correction. (Chris Carlson/AP)

A federal judge has ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reduce the number of people detained at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino County.

Last week, the ACLU of Southern California sued ICE over coronavirus concerns, saying conditions at the 1,940-bed facility made it impossible for detainees to remain the six feet apart required for physical distancing. The center currently holds about 1,300 people.

U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Halter today said ICE must reduce the population by:

  • Releasing detainees
  • Deporting detainees with final deportation orders who have exhausted all appeals
  • Or transferring people to other facilities where they can maintain social distancing

According to the order, at least 100 detainees must be released by April 27, and at least another 150 detainees by April 30.

Judge Halter said ICE must “hit the target reduced population level” by May 4, but did not say a specific number.

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Calls For OC Board of Supervisors To Do Something About Anti-Asian Racism

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Two female students at Bolsa Grand High School filmed themselves mocking and harassing Asian students last month. (Screenshot via Facebook account of Teriann Nguyen)

The Orange County Board of Supervisors is being pressured to act on recent anti-Asian incidents that have taken place during the pandemic, including at a Garden Grove high school.

More than 200 Asian Americans and supporters are demanding in a letter that the supervisors pass a resolution condemning racist acts.

One of the incidents cited involves fliers posted on the front door and car of an Asian family in Huntington Beach. They read "Get out of our country" and also "You guys are Chinese Viruses."

READ THE FULL STORY:

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No, You Probably Shouldn't Run With A Face Mask On In A Heatwave

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A runner wears a face mask as she circles around Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights. Chava Sanchez/Laist

If you've ever tried running in 90-degree weather with a piece of cotton strapped over your mouth, you're probably the kind of person who enjoys high levels of discomfort and maybe a little pain.

The rest of us, though, might not need to torture ourselves.

Today L.A. County Public Health Director, Barbara Ferrer, said that if you’re far away enough from other people, you do not need to cover your face, especially when it's this hot outside.

But proceed with caution. Scientists and public health officials think the six-foot distancing guideline is likely far enough away to keep breath droplets from infecting other people. But that's just an estimate. That's becuase we still don't know how easily this coronavirus can spread through the air.

The World Health Organization says the virus doesn't seem to linger or travel more than 3 feet, but at least one medical expert says it's way too soon to know that.

One thing we do know, though, is that running in extreme heat is not good for your health. That's why Ferrer actually warned against wearing a mask if you’re exerting yourself in this week's heat wave.

"It’s harder to breathe in the heat," Ferrer said in a news conference today, "So we do recommend that if you’re going to be working out and it’s hot, you’re better off not having a face covering over your mouth and your nose."

But again, please proceed with caution and use common sense. If you’re going to come into contact with other people during part of your run, Ferrer says to carry a mask with you and put it on when and if you pass them.

That way you won't suffocate yourself or collapse on the road, when you were just trying to get a little fresh air becuase it's the only thing that's helping you stay sane in this crumbling world. It's a win-win all around.

That being said, it's wise to check your city's particular guidelines. Although Ferrer is speaking on behalf of L.A. County, some cities, like Beverly Hills and Glendale, are requiring masks to be worn whenever you leave your home, including walks and runs.

If you absolutely must run outside during this time, wait until the temperature cools, or try working out at home if you have air conditioning. We know running can help release endorphins and ease anxiety, but if it's going to cause more harm than good given this extreme weather, it might be wise to think about holding off.

More info on mask etiquette and pandemic heatwaves:

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9 In 10 California Cities Report Facing Deep Cuts

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City Hall from Grand Park on Tuesday March 24. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

California cities are warning they face a coronavirus-driven budget chasm that will force worker layoffs and deep service cuts.

Leaders ranging from Rancho Cucamonga to Yountville say they’re up against a fiscal cliff if more help doesn’t arrive from the federal government or the state.

Coronavirus has delivered a one-two punch: devastating tax revenues and forcing emergency spending on things like disinfecting public facilities and buying Personal Protective Equipment.

The League Of California Cities says all told, the 482 cities in the state have a $7 billion dollar shortfall on their hands over the next two fiscal years — and that’s assuming stay-at-home orders begin to lift in June.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS REPORT

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When Pandemic Meets Heat Wave, Low-Income Angelenos Suffer Most

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A pedestrian uses an umbrella on a hot sunny morning in L.A. on Oct. 24, 2017. (Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images)

It’s hot in L.A. and will continue to be for the next few days. But heat isn’t equally distributed throughout the city.

Some neighborhoods, like South L.A., can be 10 degrees hotter than other parts of the city. That's in part because of a lack of trees and green space, which help lower temperatures.

Usually in a heat wave, people in hot homes and apartments can find other places to cool off, like the mall, a restaurant or the library. But all those places are closed due to the coronavirus.

And anyway, most people have to stay at home to reduce transmission of the virus.

SAFER AT HOME DURING A HEAT WAVE?

Lawrence Palinkas, USC professor of social work, anthropology and preventive medicine, said residents in lower-income neighborhoods may be more at risk for heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration or cognitive dissociation while sheltering at home.

“Many will be sheltering at home in homes that lack air conditioning and without the ability to seek refuge,” Palinkas said.

The L.A. County Public Health Department is looking at safely opening cooling centers if needed. In the meantime, here's what they recommend:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest hours
  • Check on vulnerable friends and family
  • Don’t leave your kids and pets in a hot car
  • Call 911 if you have symptoms of a heat-related illness. Symptoms include high body temperature, vomiting, and pale and clammy skin.

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Jordan Downs Will Get $35 Million For Repairs

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L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti delivers the 2020 State of the City speech. (Screenshot of L.A. city livestream)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says the L.A. Housing Authority will receive $35 million to improve and expand public housing units at Jordan Downs in Watts.

The funds are from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, run by Secretary Ben Carson.

Garcetti made the announcement in his nightly address, noting that the city asked for this funding long before coronavirus hit California, but "it really came at the exact right time for exactly the right place."

The mayor also provided updates on testing, mask hoarding fines and Angeleno cards.

CORONAVIRUS TESTING UPDATES

  • At the end of today, over 100,000 L.A. County residents have been tested for coronavirus at public testing centers.
  • As announced yesterday, COVID-19 tests are now available for critical workers who are asymptomatic.
  • The city will offer free mobile testing at all skilled nursing facilities for residents and workers (more details on that will be announced tomorrow).
  • On Monday, LAFD opened a free walk-up testing site on Skid Row. So far nearly 500 homeless individuals have been tested there.

Some other takeaways from tonight's address:

  • Anyone hoarding face masks in L.A., in hopes of selling them at a profit, could now face a fine of up to $1,000 or receive jail time, according to the mayor.
  • Over the last two days, 1,136 Angeleno Cards have been given to individuals and families. Over 3,000 total cards are in the hands of Angelenos now, with a value of $1.1 million. The original plan was to distribute 10,000 of these cards; that's now been increased to 15,000. That increase has been funded through a $5 million gift from the State of Qatar.

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LA Now Has A Drive-Through Cannabis Cafe

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An employee of West Hollywood's Cannabis Cafe, now a drive-through for food and marijuana, helps a customer. Courtesy of the Cannabis Cafe

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Like many other businesses, West Hollywood's Original Cannabis Cafe closed on March 16 as stay-at-home orders became the norm throughout Southern California.

(Courtesy of the Cannabis Cafe)

When it opened five months earlier, in October 2019, it was the first legal weed cafe in the United States.

We tried it — strictly for research purposes, of course. If you managed to score a reservation, you could come to the large, airy, La Brea restaurant and smoke a joint on the leafy patio while munching on a plate of surprisingly tasty vegan nachos. Yes, it was kind of weird paying for your marijuana separately from your food. Other than that, it was an agressively, almost stereotypically normal L.A. scene.

While other marijuana shops stayed open because they were dispensaries (which are classified as essential businesses), the Cannabis Cafe's license for onsite cannabis consumption did not allow it to do any sort of takeout or delivery. Until today.

"The city gave us temporary permission to operate as a medical and recreational dispensary until the emergency order ends," says the cafe's co-founder and partner, Courtney Zalewski, "This allows us to sell cannabis alongside our full food menu in an In-N-Out, drive-through-like system."

As of April 23, the Original Cannabis Cafe has reopened as "World's First Cannabis & Food Drive-Thru," offering drive-through and delivery service for both marijuana products and food. Sure, it would've been a little more perfect if it had reopened on 4/20 but you can't get everything you want.

The cannabis drive-through will operate seven days a week, from noon to 8 p.m. Here's how it works: You go online and place an order for sriracha buffalo cauliflower wings, hot chicken tenders and maybe an eighth of an ounce of 3c Farms Grape Kush. When your order is ready, you drive into the parking lot, pay, get your goods and drive away.

(Courtesy of the Cannabis Cafe)

The cafe's owners apparently worked with the city of WeHo to reopen during the global pandemic.

"We're taking all precautions: employees have their temperature taken before entering cafe premises, gloves and masks are worn at all times, hourly handwashing, social distancing of staff and guest interactions. When paying by credit card, we will give you an alcohol wipe to sanitize after the transaction," states the press release from which we admittedly sourced most of this story. The new logo even features a butler wearing a face mask.

It's going to be a long pandemic if we — and you — can't have a little fun.

Nearly Half Of LA County Is Anxious Or Depressed During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Nearly half the people in L.A. County are dealing with anxiety or depression, according to a USC tracking survey of more than 1,000 people. That’s up from 36% a month ago.

The mid-April survey found 57% of 18-34 year olds reporting anxiety or depression. Kyla Thomas, a sociologist at USC who works on the survey told us:

“This is the group that is more likely to experience economic anxieties.”

Since many young adults are starting careers and families, they’re especially vulnerable to stress during a crisis, said Dr. Emanuel Maidenberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA.

“I think this is the time when people are most invested in building their future,” he said.

Meanwhile, calls for information and referrals to L.A. County’s mental health helpline were up 20% in March compared with the same month last year.

HOW TO ASK FOR HELP IF YOU (OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW) NEEDS IT:

GO DEEPER:

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The Startling Stats From The SoCal Airports That Aren't LAX

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Terminal A at the Burbank Airport (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

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We already knew passenger traffic was down by nearly 90% at LAX and that's good compared to most other major airports.

But how have the smaller airports fared?

The answer: Even worse. Gabriel Cortes, our colleague at APM Research Lab, did the math and reports:

Since the beginning of March, the Transportation Security Administration has been updating its coronavirus web page with the daily totals of travelers the agency is screening across all U.S. airports. Those data show a dramatic drop in U.S. air travel this spring when compared to the same period last year, but those aggregate figures only show the big picture.

APM Research Lab collected and analyzed data for every airport in the United States to see how bleak the travel landscape really is.

Gabe (who interned in our newsroom last summer) pulled out the SoCal airports for us. The numbers are pretty astonishing. Take Long Beach Airport: On April 1 of this year, a Wednesday, just 101 passengers were screened. On the same date a year ago, TSA screened 4,325.

Check out the charts.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS

LA Metro Will Get More Than $1 Billion In Federal Aid For Regional Transit Relief

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Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority discussed federal funding, the one-bag policy and more during Thursday's meeting. (Courtesy Adrian Hernandez/LA Metro)

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority held a virtual board meeting today, punctuated by the noise of paper being shuffled, speakers talking over each other, and perhaps even a dog bark or two — all the familiar staples of our new teleconferencing reality. But Metro’s leaders also made some key announcements and decisions.

Los Angeles County has been allocated more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding to help keep regional public transit moving, Metro CEO Phillip Washington told the board.

Washington said the money comes from the CARES Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last month.

That money is specifically for Metro and other transit agencies that operate in the county — including 17 municipal transit agencies, Access Services and potentially Metrolink. The agency’s board of directors will be tasked with dispersing the funds across those agencies.

Washington said his office would provide funding recommendations for the board to act on in May, but the “long and drawn out” process means Metro will have to submit its allocations to another regional government body before they’re put in the federal grant system. After that, funding recipients like Metro can submit invoices and start using those federal dollars.

Metro ridership is down roughly 70% systemwide. As of last week’s estimates, weekday bus ridership is down 65% and rail down 75%, Metro spokesman Rick Jager told me this week.

That’s just one part of the “double-whammy” Metro is facing, Washington explained last month. Because of the dramatic drop in sales tax revenue — which accounts for about half of Metro’s budget — the agency could lose between $650 and $750 million in sales tax revenue by the end of this fiscal year, Washington said.

“We know that this is a moment in time,” Washington told the board today. “We're going to get through it.”

Here are a few other topics and decisions from today’s meeting:

Metro’s (unofficial) one-bag policy is causing some concern. Board member and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin urged Washington to reconsider what he called a “punitive and harmful” enforcement effort by Metro to limit riders to carrying one bag each on its system.

Washington noted that this was not an official policy but is part of an effort to maintain social distancing, adding that transit officers are using a "level of discretion” in how they enforce it. That raised a red flag for Bonin, who argued it’s a legal land mine waiting to go off.

“If it’s not an official policy and the intention is to [only] enforce in certain circumstances against certain populations, that is going to bite us in the butt,” Bonin said, “and it’s going to be a bigger problem long term than it is right now.”

More money (and backlash) for South Bay’s high-speed internet project. The board also approved a motion to allocate an additional $2.5 million for a controversial fiber optics project. Back in September, Metro approved $4.4 million to create a high-speed internet system for municipal workers from more than a dozen cities in the South Bay in an effort to improve and increase telecommuting and ease congestion.

The project has faced heavy criticism from some business leaders and transit advocates, who argue it should not qualify as a transit project. Public comments referred to the project as "a farce," a "boondoggle" and a misuse of Measure M funds.

The agency is eyeing the road to recovery. Washington also noted that he’s putting together a team to guide Metro through the recovery effort. The goal, as Washington framed it: “to advance mobility without congestion as the new normal.”

In other words, Metro will look for ways to capitalize on the side effects of the health crisis that fit in the agency’s broader long-term goals, like our noticeably cleaner, clearer air and reduced congestion on regional roads and freeways.

Washington has also been tapped to co-chair a national transit recovery task force.

MORE ON PUBLIC TRANSIT AND CORONAVIRUS:

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Chengdu Taste, LA's Premier Sichuan Restaurant, Fights To Survive

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Courtesy of Chengdu Taste

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This is the latest dispatch in our series focusing on how restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley are coping with the coronavirus. Previously...


Sean Xie had big plans for 2020. In March, he and his business partner were going to bring the first Chengdu Taste — the beloved Sichuan restaurant they founded in Alhambra in 2013 — to Seattle. Working with restaurateur Bill Chait, they had planned by the summer's end to open two locations of their Sichuan noodle house, MIAN, on the Westside of Los Angeles.

Then coronavirus became a household word.

Xie knew something wasn't right as early as January, when sales at his restaurants took an unexpected nosedive. "The Chinese restaurant industry was joking about it, that there's a first-half and a second-half of the virus," he says. "The first half was when the virus broke out in China and Wuhan was locked down."

That was January 23, two days before Chinese New Year, when some 11 million people went into mandatory quarantine 6,200 miles from the San Gabriel Valley. Still, Xie's restaurants took an immediate hit.

"Our customers thought that we had a lot of travelers during Chinese New Year that could be potentially coming from China. Even though that wasn't the case, mentality-wise, people were afraid to go out," Xie says.

Several dishes at Chengdu Taste, a popular Sichuan restaurant in Alhambra. (Elina Shatkin/LAist)

At the time, Xie was in his hometown of Chengdu, where he experienced the seriousness of the situation firsthand. No one went out, everything was closed. He ended up spending some 20 days with his parents and family behind closed doors. He also started talking to his business partner about contingency plans for the dozen restaurants they own in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond. Besides Chengdu Taste and MIAN, they also operate XiaoLongKan, a popular hot pot brand they imported from China.

Toward the end of February, sales at his restaurants ticked back up for about a week as the situation in China stabilized. Then, what Xie calls the pandemic's "second wave," arrived, flattening the economy of the San Gabriel Valley — and beyond. When news broke in March about a coronavirus outbreak at a Seattle nursing home, leading to multiple infections and deaths, everything changed.

"For the Chinese community, that was it," Xie says. "Our Chinese customers, they saw the outbreak in Seattle, then cases in New York, and they knew it was just a matter of time for L.A. to get hit."

(Courtesy of Chengdu Taste)

By the time Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced his stay-at-home order on March 19, Xie had reduced the hours of some of his staff. The mandate forced him to make another decision.

"It's easy to shut down. We just shut it down and all the expenses we'd have to deal with is rent, some of the utilities and insurance bills. But that means none of the staff would have any income," Xie says.

So the Rowland Heights outpost of Chengdu Taste went takeout-only. With a skeleton staff (Xie sometimes served as deliveryman), the operation was sustainable.

"It was a fun experience for me. Customers were giving out really nice tips. I had a customer who wrote me a note saying, 'Thank you for delivering to us still in this difficult time,'" he says.

The restaurant was making enough to break even but some of the employees expressed concerns about the risks of working in public. So after two weeks, the experiment ended and Xie shut down Chengdu Taste.

Mian Noddle House. (Fiona Ng for LAist)

With the world on hold, Xie and his business partner are spending their downtime planning. They secured rent breaks from the landlords at all of their spaces. They struck out on their application for a federal stimulus loan to small businesses and are now waiting for Congress to approve a second round of funding.

Recently, they received some good news. Five of their restaurants received a $10,000 loan via the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program from the SBA.

A testament to the touch-and-go nature of running a restaurant during COVID-19, Xie decided last week he will re-open all of his Chengdu Taste restaurants in the U.S., including the two in the SGV, plus MIAN in San Gabriel, for take-out on May 1.

"It seems the virus is not going to be fully contained in the near future, so we need to adjust ourselves and learn to operate in the new environment," Xie says.

That means rethinking their business model and back-of-house operations..

"We have to plan. How are we going to change the way we prepare our restaurant? How are we going to implement procedures to make customers who come in feel safe, be it extra cleaning or distancing between tables," he says.

But no matter how much he plans, some things are beyond his control. "My biggest fear is that when we resume operation, customers are still scared to come out because the virus is not completely resolved globally," Xie says. "Nobody is thinking profits right now. The idea is survival."

READ MORE OF OUR CORONAVIRUS & FOOD COVERAGE:

WATCH: Our 'No Panic Guide Live' Continues With Q&A On Filing For Unemployment

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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.

Record numbers of Californians are filing new unemployment claims every week and the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is only forecast to get worse.

Phone lines and websites are getting overwhelmed and our readers have been asking us for guidance on getting claims processed and what the federal coronavirus aid package means for them.

Our business and economy reporter David Wagner talked to Loree Levy, deputy director of public affairs at California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) and George Warner, who is a fellow with the Wage Protection Program at Legal Aid At Work.

OUR NO-PANIC SERIES ARCHIVE:

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus Is Now The Leading Cause Of Death In LA County

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COVID-19 has surpassed coronary heart disease, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the flu as the leading cause of death in Los Angeles County.

The average daily reported number of deaths related to coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is now 44, public health director Barbara Ferrer said at the county's daily briefing.

Average daily fatalities from the other leading causes of death are:

  • 31 die of coronary heart disease
  • 8 die from COPD and emphysema
  • 5 die from influenza

On Thursday, Ferrer announced 68 more people had died and 1,081 new cases were confirmed, bringing the totals to 797 deaths and 17,508 positive cases.


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Here are some of the other numbers released today:

  • 51 of those who died were over 65 — 40 of them with underlying conditions
  • 11 of those who died were between 41 and 65 — nine with underlying conditions
  • 3 of those who died were between 18 and 40 — two with underlying conditions
  • Ferrer said she had no info on the three remaining cases from Long Beach
  • 310 of the people who have died so far were in institutional settings, the majority of which were in skilled nursing facilities — that's 39% of all deaths in the county
  • 4,053 people have been hospitalized so far, or 23% of all positive cases
  • 1,854 people are currently hospitalized — 29% are in intensive care and 19% are on ventilators
  • 100 people experiencing homelessness have tested positive, 55 of them in shelters and who are now being isolated
  • 286 institutional settings now have at least 1 confirmed case, up by 11 from yesterday — these include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, shelters, treatment centers, supportive living, and correctional facilities
  • Of those, 26 skilled nursing facilities report outbreaks with 20 or more positive cases among residents
  • In all, there are 3,343 positive cases in institutional settings — 1,196 residents and 1,374 staff members
  • 112 confirmed cases in jails to date, including 44 inmates and 68 staff
  • 1,643 inmates are in quarantine
  • 80 confirmed cases in the state prison, including 64 inmates and 16 staff
  • 59 members of the Sheriff's Department have tested positive and 313 staff members are in quarantine
  • 98,000 people have so far been tested across LA County, 14% of them confirmed positive

CAN YOUR PET GET SICK?

Citing reports of two pet cats becoming sick with COVID-19 in New York, along with similar reports in Hong Kong and Belgium, Ferrer said infections among pets are "probably fairly rare," but she pointed folks to guidance from the the county health department.

"If you have pets it's always a good idea to wash your hands before and after you've been around any animals. And if you're in isolation because you are positive or presumed positive for COVID-19, or you're in quarantine because you've been a close contact of someone who's positive for COVID-19, avoid touching or being close to pets as much as possible."

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Gov. Newsom: Coronavirus Killed More Californians Yesterday Than Any Day Before; Ban On Garnishing Coronavirus Relief

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Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a 90-day student loan payment reprieve, a ban on garnishing coronavirus relief funds, and more in his daily coronavirus press conference. Read the highlights below, or watch the press conference above.

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

Wednesday set another record for deaths in California, with 115 people dying from coronavirus yesterday, Newsom said — an 8.5% increase in the number of deaths. There was also a 5.6% increase in the number of people who tested positive for coronavirus. Newsom said there is some good news: numbers are down for coronavirus hospitalizations, those in ICUs, and people under investigation for coronavirus. Hospitalizations are down 0.4%, while the number of those in ICUs is down 1.2%.

Newsom cautioned that, with the warm weather this weekend, it's expected that people are going to want to enjoy the outdoors. He emphasized the need to practice social distancing if doing so, as he doesn't want it to lead to those numbers going back up. He noted that he needs to see "green lights" in the six areas of metrics that the state previously announced in order to loosen stay-at-home restrictions.

NO GARNISHING CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUNDS BY DEBT COLLECTORS

Newsom announced that he'd signed an executive order keeping debt collectors from garnishing money received through the CARES Act. It's also retroactive, meaning debt collectors have to return the money if they've already garnished those checks. Exceptions: Money can still be collected from those who owe child support, as well as from those who owe restitution to victims, Newsom said.

90,000 TESTINGS SWABS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

While the president previously promised California 100,000 testing swabs, Newsom announced that 90,000 were coming today and will start to be distributed Friday. The federal government will be making up for that 10,000-swab difference in next week's shipment, Newsom said.

A total of 482,000 tests have been conducted across California so far, Newsom said, on the way to the goal of 25,000 tests per day by the end of the month.

90-DAY STUDENT LOAN REPRIEVE

The governor announced that 21 out of the 24 largest student loan providers in the state of California have agreed to a 90-day reprieve. This includes no late fees or fines for those not making payments right now, including no impact on their credit rating, along with support for setting up new payment plans for future processing.

UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS

The state has paid out almost $4 billion in unemployment funds during the coronavirus crisis, Newsom said. He noted that call centers still need to be improved as people try to register. So far, 3.3 million Californians have registered for unemployment during the pandemic.

CALIFORNIA'S SHARE OF FEDERAL DISASTER FUNDING

The state received 9.6% of federal funding in the last round of Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government, Newsom said, adding that it was less than what the state should have received. He expressed hope the state will do better in the new round of funding that Congress just approved. California has outperformed in Small Business Administration loans, Newsom said — it's received 14.7% of the funding from the SBA economic injury account and 26.8% of the SBA's disaster assistance.

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SBA to Publicly-Traded Companies: Return Coronavirus Loans We Previously Let You Apply For

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An order screen at the flagship Kura Sushi in Tokyo, Japan, on January 21, 2020. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images)

Over the past week, one publicly-traded company after another has been shamed into returing multimullion-dollar federal coronvairus stimulus loans.

That includes Irvine-based Kura Sushi, which received a $5.9 million loan despite having tens of millions of cash on hand and access to millions more through a loan from its majority stockholder, a Japanese company.

"This was a difficult decision because our employees are extremely important to us, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that our finances allow us to weather financial hardship for a longer period than independent restaurant owners," CEO Jimmy Uba said in a statement late Wednesday. "We hope that these funds will be shared equitably among deserving candidates."

WHO'S RESPONSIBLE FOR ACCEPTING OFFERED CASH?

The culprit may be the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) itself. That's the $349 billion loan fund Congress created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

It allowed some large, publicly-traded companies to qualify as small businesses.

Now, the Small Business Administration has changed course and is instructing publicly-traded companies to give back the money.

The SBA issued its new guidance today, as the House is voting to add another $310 billion to the program.

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CA Atty. General Is Among Those Calling For Gay Men To Be Able To Give Blood Without A Delay

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People donate blood last month during a drive held at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda after the American Red Cross declared a ‘severe blood shortage.' (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

"The discriminatory restrictions against blood donations by healthy gay and bisexual Americans have persisted for far too long."

That's the position taken this week by the attorneys general of 20 states, including California, in a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that calls on the agency to further ease rules on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

Those restrictions, which began in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, have been loosened in recent years from a lifetime ban on donating to allowing men who have sex with men to donate blood if they had not had sex in the last 12 months, to another scale-back last month to a three month wait.

The call for action is motivated by the current coronavirus crisis. The letter specifically cites:

  • A UCLA study that found another 300,000 pints of blood would be available annually if the ban was lifted entirely.
  • The need for "potentially life-saving convalescent plasma" donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and the current requirement that they be eligible to give blood.

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People Are Avoiding Emergency Care Because Of COVID-19

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Doctors say they've seen patients delaying care and avoiding going to the hospital because of fear of COVID-19. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Since stay-at-home orders have been put in place, ER doctors in Los Angeles have told me they've seen fewer patients overall. Volumes are down by half in some places. That makes sense as fewer people are on the roads and getting into accidents.

But doctors have been wondering where all the other patients have been -- the heart attacks, the stroke patients. They're concerned patients aren't going to the ER when they need to because they're scared about COVID-19.

And when patients finally do come in, they're often really sick because they've waited days after developing symptoms.

Doctors' message for patients: Don't sit at home waiting for things to get better.

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Gas Sales Are Down, But Minimart Snack Purchases Are Up

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Snacks like donuts are keeping minimarts in business. (Kobby Mendez/Unsplash)

While the pandemic keeps us home, our gas consumption has plummeted.

For gas stations, that's very bad news, especially since they operate on fairly narrow margins. But for gas stations that have convenience stores, one thing could be in their favor: our desire for snacks.

The local 7-Eleven or ampm minimart is a great place for a quick takeout hot dog, Slurpee, or donut -- basic comfort food in a time of stress. All that's translated into an increase in sales, according to James Allison of the California Fuels and Convenience Alliance.

Those items also have a pretty hefty profit margin. So if gas prices continue to slump, your snacking could help keep gas stations in business.

Meanwhile, local oil producers and gas refineries are also feeling the pinch of historically low oil prices, caused by the pandemic — and a worldwide oil surplus.

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Morning Briefing: Anti-Lockdown Protesters Demonstrate At LA’s City Hall, And Circus Of Books Is Memorialized

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Times were already changing in L.A. before the pandemic, albeit much slower and in different ways. As developers bought up land (thanks, in some cases, to alleged bribes) and gentrifiers pushed longtime residents out, icons of the city began to close down.

Among them was Circus of Books, the West Hollywood bookstore and gay porn shop that shut its doors in February of 2019. Located at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Jolla Avenue, the store was as famous for its welcoming atmosphere as it was for the products it carried.

Now, the shop is being memorialized in a Netflix documentary. Talking to Mike Roe about the film, former store owners Barry and Karen Mason reflected on what they’ve heard from customers about what the store has meant to them. Karen told him:

"There were a lot of people who were closer to my age who had been through the AIDS epidemic, except they were still there, because that store saved their lives.”

The shop has been brought back to life as ChiChi LaRue’s Circus, but for many people, the original shop was a place to go for safety, togetherness and feeling like a part of something bigger than themselves.

It’s a timely reminder of how important community is during a crisis — and a nudge of encouragement to stay in touch with your chosen or chosen-for-you family, so we can rebuild together when the time comes.


Coming Up Today, April 23

There's pressure on Orange County officials to denounce recent hate incidents in the area, and the Asian community and their supporters have sent a letter asking for help. Josie Huang has the story.

Sharon McNary looks at how the glut of oil and collapse of demand is being felt in Southern California, including layoffs and oil tankers lined up offshore.

The owners of San Gabriel Valley restaurant Chengdu Taste, which brought Sichuan cuisine to a wider audience, has closed down all of their restaurants during COVID-19. Fiona Ng reports.

Join KPCC/LAist business and economy reporter David Wagner and Loree Levy of California’s Employment Development Department to talk about the best way to get your unemployment claim processed, and what the federal coronavirus aid package means for you.

It’s Take Your Kid To Work Day, and there’s a lot to unpack there on a normal day. But it’s not so normal, and Lisa Brenner has some thoughts.

Christine N. Ziemba has a list of 14 online happenings, including a screening of a 7.5-hour film, women-centric comedy from Flappers, stay-at-home First Fridays sessions from NHM and the Room Service Music festival.

Doctors say fewer heart attack and stroke patients have been coming into the ER. Elly Yu reports that they're concerned patients are avoiding care because of fear of COVID-19.

Libby Denkmann talked to candidates Christy Smith and Mike Garcia, both running to replace Katie Hill in CA-25, about their coronavirus plans and how to (safely) get back to normal life.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are at least 16,435 coronavirus cases and 729 deaths in L.A. County. There are more than 37,000 cases and 1,400 deaths in California, and over 2.6 million cases and 183,000 deaths worldwide. CA Gov. Gavin Newsom provided updates on the six factors being used to decide when to ease stay-at-home restrictions. L.A. officials will provide more help to renters slammed by the coronavirus.

Hollywood Legends: Musso & Frank has filed a lawsuit against its insurance company, alleging its coronavirus-related claims were wrongly denied. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is limiting the number of passengers on its 30-foot DASH buses to 10, and on its 35-foot buses to 12.

The Protesters Are In The Hall: A vocal group of anti-lockdown protesters gathered near City Hall in downtown L.A. to honk their horns and hold up signs. The governor of Georgia wants to reopen the state's movie theaters as early as this week, but they’re unlikely to get their hands on any new titles.

COVID-19 And Immigration: Local immigrant advocates say they believe the Trump administration is using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to further tighten already strict immigration rules. As the financial crisis worsens, some immigrants face the decision of paying their rent and buying food or sending money back to their home countries.

California Kids: We've compiled a list of online activities, learning sites, and fun things to keep children occupied and active. A coalition of students from University of California, Cal State and community college campuses is asking administrators for more help coping with the coronavirus crisis.

Taking America’s Pulse: The Census Bureau is rolling out a $1.2 million experiment called the "Household Pulse Survey" to measure how the pandemic is upending life for U.S. households.


In Non-COVID-19 News

As part of our “Unwind Live” series, watch our conversation with NPR science reporter and Invisiblia cofounder Lulu Miller and entrepreneur and author Erica Williams Simon.

A 3.7-magnitude earthquake jolted some L.A. County residents awake just after 12 a.m. Wednesday.

The daughter of the couple that ran Circus of Books, the iconic bookstore/gay porn shop in West Hollywood, is telling its story in a new Netflix documentary.

Low-income residents of South L.A., Watts and Boyle Heights are having a difficult time signing up for the free or low-cost internet being advertised by major providers like AT&T.

Goodbye cool weather: it’s time for some 90 degree temperatures over the next few days.

County officials may unfreeze $83 million of Sheriff's Department funds, per Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s request.


Your Moment Of Zen

Making art out of the current moment is enough to lift our spirits. This mural is located on the corner of La Brea and San Vicente.

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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