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Some Businesses Can Open Soon. But Strict Guidelines May Keep Business Slow

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Before coronavirus forced Eso Won Books to close in mid-March, the Leimert Park bookstore frequently held events and book signings, like this one with Rodney King on April 30, 2012. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Since mid-March, Carolina Diaz’s flower shop in Boyle Heights has only been open for deliveries. But pretty much no one wants flowers right now.

"There haven't been graduations, people aren't celebrating birthdays," Diaz said.

As many anxiously await the first phase of reopening businesses in California, some, like Diaz, don't think they'll be able to make much money under the still-strict social distancing guidelines.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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Disney Has Been Pummeled By The Pandemic

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Disneyland guests and cast members celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday, Nov. 18, 2018, during a cavalcade down Main Street U.S.A at Disneyland. (Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

Its theme parks are closed, its cruise ships are empty, and no one is watching its movies.

Wall Street expected Disney’s earnings to be bad. But not this bad.

The coronavirus has cost the Burbank-based entertainment giant $1.4 billion, Disney executives said on an earnings call Tuesday.

HOW BAD IS IT? READ THE FULL STORY:

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California Is Taking Uber And Lyft To Court Over Treating Their Drivers As Contractors

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A protestor strikes for higher wages at Uber’s Redondo Beach offices. (Emily Dugdale/LAist)

The state of California, along with the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, announced on Tuesday that they're taking Uber and Lyft to court.

Prosecutors allege that by treating their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, the two largest rideshare companies are violating AB5, a new state law governing how workers are classified.

"The companies, we believe and we argue, are shirking their obligations to their workforce," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties as well as restitution for drivers who've been working without overtime pay or minimum wage guarantees. The case was in the works long before the cornavirus hit, but prosecutors say the pandemic has highlighted the lack of protections and benefits for rideshare drivers.

An Uber spokesperson said the company will contest the lawsuit. A Lyft spokesperson said, "We are looking forward to working with the Attorney General and mayors across the state to bring all the benefits of California’s innovation economy to as many workers as possible."

READ THE FULL STORY:

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Mayor Garcetti: 'We Cannot Move Too Fast' With Reopening

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File: L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti gives his nightly update on the city's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Screenshot from L.A. City

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti specified today that local governments have the right to decide how and when to begin reopening efforts, regardless of what the state allows. "The state permits certain things, but it doesn't prescribe them," he said, referencing Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement that some changes to stay-at-home policies would be announced this Friday.

The mayor said that he supports reopening some low-risk places, like hiking trails and flower shops (for Mother's Day). But he made it clear that the city will be extremely cautious when making these decisions and will act independently of any statewide regulation changes.

"I hope later this week, that city's leaders (and I say that plurally, for many cities around here), as well as our county leaders, can stand together as we did at the outset of this and talk about how we'll take those steps together."

He specifically clarified that when people hear or read that "the state is opening up on Friday," that doesn't mean Los Angeles is going to reopen all businesses. "What the state has said, is local governments can decide starting from Friday, how and when to open up with these guardrails," he said.

The mayor also made clear that "we cannot go too fast." He acknowledged that there are some people who are frustrated and want businesses to reopen now; but he said polls show that the majority of Americans are more concerned that opening up too fast could launch a second wave of the virus.

"You see, if we go too fast, and we see cases go up and we see people begin to die in bigger numbers, and we even see our hospital system overwhelmed, that's worse than going forward the right way, just a little bit slower. And that's going to guide me every single day."

Garcetti also said that this virus has been a learning experience and that the city has to act accordingly, and change policies when needed. Construction, for instance, was allowed when stay-at-home orders were first announced, but then it became clear that workers were not wearing personal protective equipment. The city responded by sending inspectors to different sites, in order to keep construction projects going. A similar strategy was used for farmers markets, which were at first allowed to stay open, and then, after reports of crowding, closely monitored and allowed to operate only when they could produce specific plans to mitigate transmission among patrons.

In addition to trails and other "low risk" spaces, the mayor said he supports opening some city streets for walking and biking.

He also said he has given permission to the Flower District downtown, to prepare to reopen in time for Mother's Day, explaining that the city would use a similar strategy with wholesale flower shops as they do with farmers markets.

He added that the area will be strictly monitored by the public health department (inspections will be done as well) and that if social distancing is not followed, they will re-evaluate.

This reopening policy will only apply to wholesale flower vendors, which are technically under the umbrella of agricultural businesses like farmers markets. The mayor said he would follow the county's guidelines on retail businesses moving forward.

Curbside retail, he said, is something the city may allow next week, or more likely, the following week.

"I'm sorry, we're not going to be moving on those things this Friday," Garcetti said.

"We've talked to big retailers, we've been talking to outdoor and indoor malls. We have to get this right. Look at other states who said, 'Open movie theaters or restaurants.' And the great majority of movie theaters and restaurants are saying, 'No thank you, we're not ready to do that yet.'"

He added: "We want to make sure that we don't do something reckless and say, 'Hey, we got out there a week or two weeks early,' just to score political points."

OTHER UPDATES:

  • In response to a question about small group gatherings, the mayor said, "We do not permit people to get together right now," adding that the perception that it's OK to hang out in a "bubble" of friends is a misperception.
  • L.A. is still not at full hospital capacity, which has improved the outcome locally — we have not seen hospitals being overwhelmed like the ones in New York or Italy, during the peak of the pandemic, he said.
  • The mayor announced a new initiative called L.A. Represents, which will provide pro-bono legal services to Los Angeles residents who are "facing hardships caused by COVID-19," such as vulnerable renters, survivors of domestic abuse, low income families, undocumented families and small businesses. More information is available at coronavirus.lacity.org/larepresents.

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LIVE EVENT: Unwind Live With The Quiz Show 'Go Fact Yourself'

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Published

In the mood for some schadenfreude?

Join us for a special first-time-ever live video edition of “Go Fact Yourself” the hit quiz show podcast that makes smart celebrities look dumb….and then smart again!

Hosted by J. Keith van Straaten and Helen Hong, “Ask Me Another” host Ophira Eisenberg and singer-songwriter-podcaster Jonathan Coulton are in the hot seats for the show’s debut on our virtual stage.

OUR UNWIND SERIES ARCHIVE:

OUR NO-PANIC SERIES ARCHIVE:

MORE VIRTUAL EVENTS

LAPD Cop Allegedly Beats Non-Resistant Man

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The Los Angeles Police Department headquarters is located in downtown LA. Andrew Cullen for LAist Andrew Cullen/Andrew Cullen for LAist

An April 27 trespassing call to a Boyle Heights church turned violent when an officer began punching a man whose hands appeared to be behind his back.

Video taken by a bystander shows at least 16 blows to his head and body, with the officer swinging wildly and at one point taking off his sunglasses and punching again.

Bloodied, the man finally asks the officer, "What's wrong with you?"

The cop, who has not been identified, says, "You're going to get hit again."

In a statement, LAPD Chief Michel Moore promised a full investigation into this incident, and another one over the weekend in which one of his officers shot a colleague while camping.

Moore called both inconsistent with LAPD values.

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Santa Monica Weighs Steep Cuts to Cover Shortfall From Coronavirus Crisis

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Santa Monica Beach, without the usual crowds. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Hundreds of Santa Monica city employees could be laid off if the city council approves massive budget cuts Tuesday. The council is meeting to approve a restructured budget and cuts of over $86 million to cover a huge shortfall from the coronavirus crisis.

On the chopping block are more than 300 permanent employee positions. Cuts would also extend to things like affordable housing, library services and the fire department, and there would be pay cuts for city leaders.

Santa Monica is highly dependent on tourism -- a third of its general fund comes from tourism-related dollars that include hotel occupancy taxes and sales taxes from retail stores and restaurants.

Along with the cuts, the plan includes dipping into city reserves to cover a shortfall of $48 million for the rest of this fiscal year, and over $100 million for the next year. The city, along with many local governments, is appealing to Congress and the White House for federal aid.

GO DEEPER:

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live

More Than 27K Confirmed Coronavirus Cases In LA County; Deaths Top 1,300

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This May 2019 file photo shows a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health office. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Los Angeles County officials reported 1,638 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 27,815 cases countywide. In total, 768 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 452 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted that the high number of new cases is due to a "lag in data" over the weekend.

Ferrer also reported 58 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 1,313.

Of the 58 people who’ve died in the past 24 hours, 43 were over 65 and, of those victims, 38 had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. Ten victims were between 41 and 65 and seven of them had underlying health conditions. One victim was between 18 and 40. So far, 93% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said.

Ferrer also provided a racial breakdown of the confirmed deaths, based on information confirmed for the majority of the victims. According to the latest available information:

  • 13% African American [9% of county residents]
  • 19% Asian [15.4% of county residents]
  • 38% Latino / Latina [48.6% of county residents]
  • 29% White [26.1% of county residents]
  • 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander [0.4% of county residents]
  • 1% identified as belonging to a different race or ethnicity

Ferrer took a moment to note the higher death rates among certain minority populations in the county:

“... when we present the information by percentages it often masks the fact that, if we looked at actual mortality rates, our African American and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander neighbors and families are dying at a much higher rate than all others in L.A. County, and we continue to need to work together to reduce this gap, immediately.”

The death toll at institutional facilities in L.A. County — particularly at nursing homes — continues to climb. Ferrer reported that 647 residents at those facilities have died. That number represents 49% of all deaths countywide.

As the county begins to loosen some restrictions and move toward recovery, Ferrer said health officials will be closely monitoring the mortality and hospitalization rates and tracking both "by age, poverty level, race, and ethnicity." She added:

"We'll need to make sure that people who are at greatest risk of serious illness are able to easily access testing, so another measure for us is looking at who is getting tested, not just the fact that we are doing a lot of testing. Protecting the people who are most vulnerable is paramount through the reopening process, and we all have to do our part to make sure that we're protecting each other."

Here are some other key figures being reported today:

  • More than 182,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 and had their results reported to county health officials. Of those tests, 13% have been positive.
  • There are currently 1,779 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those individuals, 30% are in the ICU, with 19% on ventilators.
  • In total 5,081 people who've tested positive for coronavirus in L.A. County have "at some point" been hospitalized, Ferrer said, which represents about 19% of all positive cases.
  • The county health department is currently investigating 316 institutional facilities where there's at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. Those sites include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, shelters, treatment centers, supportive living, and correctional facilities. Ferrer said there are 6,521 confirmed cases in those facilities — 4,044 residents and 2,477 staff members.
  • Ferrer said 199 cases have been confirmed among L.A. County residents struggling with homelessness — 109 of whom were sheltered. Health officials are currently investigating 16 shelter sites with confirmed cases.
  • There have now been 270 confirmed cases “at some point in time” in county jail facilities, Ferrer reported. In total, 180 inmates and 90 staff members have tested positive.
  • Twelve staff members at juvenile detention facilities have tested positive.
  • There are 145 confirmed cases in the state prison system106 inmates and 37 staff.
  • In federal prisons, 527 inmates and eight staff members have tested positive.

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MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Gov. Newsom: Counties Opening Without Permission Are 'Making A Big Mistake'

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Gov. Gavin Newsom talked about reopening small businesses starting this Friday as part of Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan, counties that have started to reopen without state permission, and more. You can read highlights below or watch the press conference above.

BUSINESSES OPENING WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE STATE

Newsom said that the state is working with local areas who want to reopen sooner, saying that the details on how they can do so will be coming soon.

When asked about Yuba and Sutter counties reopening businesses early, including those not meant to open until Phase 3, Newsom encouraged businesses there to "do the right thing."

"They're making a big mistake — they're putting their public at risk, they're putting our progress at risk," Newsom said.

Out of 82 businesses that were found to have opened early and were identified by the state alcohol board, all but one had productive conversations with the board about adhering to state mandates, Newsom said.

REOPENING SMALL BUSINESSES THIS FRIDAY

Newsom met with the owner of Display California in Sacramento, a small business with nine employees, to discuss how businesses are adapting to reopen as part of the early steps of Phase 2 starting this Friday. Newsom said it was an example of the struggles small businesses are going through due to coronavirus.

Display California — which sells California-made products — has been doing online sales, Newsom said, generating some cash flow.

"But at the end of the day, that's just not going to be enough to sustain this business for much longer," Newsom said.

Newsom said that it's important to work with businesses like Display California to make sure that, as the economy reopens, it's done safely and based on public health. The business is facing supply chain issues, as well as not being able to interact with the public in the same way. As announced Monday, both modified retail and supply chains are set to open in the first part of Phase 2.

CHANGES AS WE MOVE INTO PHASE 2

"Truly, everything is on the line as we move into this next phase," Newsom said, "to make sure we do it right, and to make sure we don't jump ahead of ourselves and have a second wave that then forces us to toggle back, and now put back into place the restrictions that we're now in a position to finally loosen up."

Social/physical distancing is even more important in Phase 2, Newsom said.

"We're not going back to normal. It's back to a new normal, with adaptations and modifications," Newsom said, "until we get to immunity, until we get to a vaccine. We'll get there — that's coming, that will happen. The question is, what happens in between?"

Newsom was joined at the press conference by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who said it was important to make sure that our actions don't lead to keeping businesses closed longer.

"It is not a question of 'if,' it is not a question of 'when' — it is a question of 'how' — how we go about reopening," Steinberg said.

REOPENING ORANGE COUNTY BEACHES

Newsom praised Orange County local elected officials, citing the mayor of Laguna Beach in particular for working collaboratively with the state to reopen the beach. Huntington Beach, Dana Point, and Seal Beach are now also reopening, Newsom said. Guidance on best practices were also offered by Los Angeles, Ventura, San Diego, and elsewhere. Newsom said he looks forward to making more announcements in this area soon.

NO SHOPPING MALLS YET

While curbside pickup is possible statewide starting this Friday, stores within shopping malls won't qualify to be able to do so — but they could potentially open as part of a local variance, if approved by local health officials.

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

There were 63 coronavirus-related deaths reported yestereday, Newsom said. There were 1,275 new positives. He noted that this number was staying stable, even though testing numbers have greatly increased. In the last three days, just short of 100,000 people were tested, with 780,000 total tests so far.

Hospitalizations had gone up 2.6%, while ICU numbers were down 1.9% — yesterday, it was the opposite. The number of those under evaluation for coronavirus in hospitals also dropped Monday.

CALIFORNIA RECEIVING MORE FEDERAL DOLLARS

During the first round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Newsom said, $33.4 billion was distributed in California, while $33.2 billion has come to California in just the first 60% of the second round of the program. Almost three times as many loans have gone to the state of California. Averaged out between both phases, California has received 11.2% of all the loans, 13% of the money, Newsom said.

Newsom said it was important for those loans to go to small businesses, not large companies with other sources of cash.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

There has been $10.1 billion in unemployment assistance distributed to Californians since March 15, Newsom said. Since March 12, 4.1 million Californians have filed for unemployment, including the 450,000 self-employed workers who've filed under the Pandemic Unemployment Asisstance (PUA) program.

MORE UPDATES

Newsom was asked to respond to a tweet from the president about "well-run states" bailing out "poorly run states."

Newsom noted that a $6 billion budget surplus was projected until the impact of coronavirus, so if being well-run is the qualification for federal dollars, California should be well-positioned and even first in line given its history of being a "donor state" whose contributions to the federal government have historically benefited other states more significantly. He added that the president's other points in that tweet went to traditional political differences.

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What It's Like To Live In LA During A Pandemic

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We are living through historic times. Help us capture this moment by contributing your own story. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Toban Nichols, writes to us about becoming so sick that he lost more than 25 pounds, though he was unable to get tested for COVID-19 at the time:

"During the worst of it, my gums ached every day for two weeks. It felt like someone was scraping something back and forth between my gums and teeth. I could not stand in the shower without taking a break and sitting down. I couldn't even make it the 15 feet from my bed to the bathroom without feeling like I couldn't catch my breath."

That's just a snippet of Toban's diary of what it's like to live in Los Angeles during the coronavirus pandemic. We've so far received more than a dozen submissions and gotten interest from more than 50 people, who want to be part of the project.

Everyone has a story to tell. We invite you to tell yours, and we've made it even easier to do so with a streamlined submission form below.

Share text, video or audio. Just start with the date, your name and where you live, and then tell us your story. We'll read, watch and listen to every response, and nothing is shared without your permission.

READ MORE ABOUT THE STORIES WE'VE RECEIVED:

SHARE YOUR STORY:

Click "PLAY" on the video below and then select whether you want to respond with video, audio or text.

By submitting an entry, you are opting into American Public Media's Public Insight Network® (PIN®) and giving APM newsrooms permission to contact you for help with current or future news coverage.

Your submission will be saved in a secure database accessible only to American Public Media newsrooms. The information you provide through PIN will not be used for marketing or fundraising purposes, and our newsrooms will never quote you without first getting your explicit permission.

If you give us permission to publish your submission, we may edit before sharing it on-air, in print or online. We reserve the right to reuse or republish your submission, or to withhold your submission from publication. You must be 13 years or older to provide a submission.

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Democrats Decry Lack Of Lancaster Vote Centers For May 12 Special Election

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Social distancing guidelines at a vote center in Palmdale, CA (Libby Denkmann/LAist)

A Democratic campaign says Los Angeles County may disenfranchise African American voters in the upcoming May 12 special election because of an uneven distribution of vote centers in the 25th district.

Voters will be choosing who will fill the remainder of Katie Hill's term in Congress.

Republican and Democratic campaigns are encouraging voters to vote safely from home by returning mail-in ballots.

But while nine vote centers are planned for the Los Angeles part of the district, there are none in the high desert city of Lancaster, which has one of the highest African American populations in the area.

The Republican mayor of Lancaster, R. Rex Parris, also expressed concern:

"This is something the county should fix immediately. There should not be even the appearance of affecting the outcome by limiting the ability to vote."

READ THE FULL STORY:

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Morning Briefing: ‘A Disaster Of Major Proportions'

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A sign points cars towards the drive thru food bank at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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Research has shown that fully 95% of Angelenos support the city’s stay-at-home order. But among the vocal minority of those who don’t, a common theme is that the lockdown infringes on freedom. At a recent protest in Huntington Beach, marchers carried signs reading “Freedom is Essential” and “My liberty is not yours to take.”

Amid cries linking the lockdown to liberty lost, though, there is one, slightly more urgent cause for concern: as more Californians become unemployed, some are struggling to put food on the table.

Alyssa Jeong Perry reports on two L.A. County organizations working to provide groceries to those individuals and families. Armando Olivas, the executive director of Labor Community Services, told her that at their thrice-weekly food bank, lines can get up to four miles long.

“This is a disaster of major proportions,” he said.

And this is where the real reopening conundrum lies. Not having enough food, and even worrying about not having enough food, is a very real health concern. So is the coronavirus. To that end, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California will move into Phase 2 of opening up on Friday, and L.A. County health officials will share their plans for recovery this week.

In the meantime, keep reading for what else is going on in L.A., and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, May 5

Nursing homes are major focal points of coronavirus outbreaks in L.A. Jackie Fortiér looks into the status of local cases and deaths, why they’re so vulnerable and what advocates and county leaders propose to do.

Long Beach's Young Horizons Child Development Centers reopened two of its campuses to the families of essential workers Monday, May 4. Mariana Dale and Chava Sanchez report on what’s changed, including parents putting masks on their kids, staff wearing masks and meals being served "take-out" style with fruit and veggies in individual cups.

Vote Centers opened over the weekend in the 25th congressional district special election, but Libby Denkmann reports that one campaign says the lack of in-person voting options in the city of Lancaster is disenfranchising African American voters.

All schools in the nine-campus Los Angeles Community College District and Santa Monica College will continue with online learning for the fall semester, with possible exceptions for a few courses that are difficult to teach remotely, reports Adolfo Guzman-Lopez.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are now at least 26,217 coronavirus cases and 1,256 deaths in L.A. County. There are at least 55,883 cases and 2,276 deaths in California. Worldwide, there are over 3.5 million cases and more than 251,000 deaths.

Reopening California: The state announced that California will start moving into Phase 2 of reopening this Friday. L.A. County will share its recovery plan later this week, but public health director Barbara Ferrer warned that reopening will be gradual and that the public should be "prepared that there will be new normals."

Stepping In To Help: L.A. County officials are giving paramedics and EMTs special permission to work in nursing homes. A local sewing brigade is calling for 200 volunteers to help reach their goal of producing 30,000 homemade masks for Southern California health care workers. As more and more people are out of work, some lines for food assistance stretch four miles long.

L.A. Sheriff’s Department: Sheriff Villanueva says the amount of money budgeted for his department is forcing him to close two stations and make other cuts.

California Kids: LAUSD leaders have "made no decisions" about whether the fall semester — still scheduled to begin Aug. 18 — will involve students in classrooms, online or both. But they have opened remote summer school learning to everyone.

Workers And Small Businesses: Here’s how one block of small businesses are faring on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice. The owner of a Laguna Hills barbershop that opened back up said, "We felt we had no choice but to either open, or let our dream die."

L.A. Food And Arts: L.A. Times art critic Christopher Knight won his first Pulitzer Prize, and Long Beach Opera was cited for premiering the music prize winner, "The Central Park Five" by Anthony Davis. The finalists for the 2020 James Beard Awards, the Oscars of the food world, were announced today and L.A. was, once again, underrepresented in our opinion. Quarantine-approved events: Brockmire, L.A.Opera, Cinco de Mayo and more.

Final Good-Byes: Bobby Lee Verdugo, one of the leaders of L.A.'s Chicano student movement, died Friday.


Your Moment Of Zen

Artist Dania Strong hangs up prints of her work on her front-yard gate in Koreatown. "Road Through Life" marks the second show that Strong has mounted on her fence since mid-April.

(Chris Pizzello/AP)

Help Us Cover Your Community

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The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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