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LA Sheriff Villanueva Subpoenaed Over Jail Coronavirus Policy

Sheriff Alex Villanueva. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The civilian panel that oversees the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department used its new subpoena power for the first time today, issuing a subpoena demanding Sheriff Alex Villanueva testify about his agency’s efforts to protect jail inmates from coronavirus.

The Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission issued the subpoena amid growing concerns that COVID-19 is spreading rapidly inside the jails. The county’s inspector general reported there are now a total of 253 inmates who have tested positive at one point – 70 more than Monday. Ninety-three staff have been infected, according to Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

Villanueva has rebuffed invitations to address the commission's online meetings since the pandemic began, frustrating the nine-member panel.

“I think it’s outrageous that the sheriff isn’t here to answer questions about what’s going on in the jails,” said Commissioner Priscilla Ocen.

The panel wants answers on a range of issues, including why the sheriff isn’t testing every inmate.

"In regards to any subpoena, we have not received one as of this statement and have absolutely no details as to what they are requesting," the Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

Villanueva has released several thousand low-level inmates early to reduce crowding, and he’s isolated and quarantined thousands more. He’s also facing a lawsuit claiming he hasn’t done enough.

The sheriff strongly opposed the March ballot measure that gave the commission subpoena power; voters overwhelmingly approved it in the wake of his efforts to resist independent oversight.

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LA Actors Are Losing Unemployment Benefits Because Of Past Roles

The marquee of the Nuart movie theater in West L.A. on April 11, 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. (Elina Shatkin/LAist)

The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for Hollywood film and TV productions, and now some out-of-work actors are losing hundreds of dollars a week in unemployment benefits.

“It feels like we're being singled out for the way we get paid,” said Hope Shapiro, who has played small parts on shows like Will & Grace, House and 2 Broke Girls.

When those shows get syndicated, Shapiro earns residuals — sometimes just a few cents, sometimes a couple hundred dollars. She said she used to like opening her mailbox and finding those residuals — but now, she dreads it. Recently, residuals totalling $111 in one week were enough to make her lose close to $700 in weekly benefits.

“My pride in having done these jobs is now, ‘Oh God, please don't give me any money for having done them, because I still need to feed my family.’”

Other states such as New York don’t count residuals against weekly unemployment benefits. The actors’ union SAG-AFTRA is now lobbying California to change its rules.


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Mayor Garcetti Urges Angelenos To Shop Local This Weekend And Not Crowd Trails

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

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti used today's briefing to provide more details on the amended safer-at-home order that he announced yesterday. He cautioned all Angelenos not to crowd newly opened trails, trailhead parks and golf courses this weekend, saying if it becomes dangerous, the city will close them back down.

"Some parking lots will be closed and capacity popular trails will be limited, so that we can make sure that we aren't breaking the physical distancing requirements, still mandated by our county," he said. "If you're going to go to a park, don't everybody go for Mother's Day. If you've been staying with your mother, you've seen each other a lot. You don't need to necessarily do that on Sunday."

The mayor also encouraged Angelenos to support local retail shops that have recently reopened, by ordering online things like flowers, books and music by phone for curbside pick up. "Let's get our businesses up and going," he said.

In addition, Garcetti announced today that the Department of Water and Power will not terminate service for non-payment for the rest of 2020. "We will not shut people's water and power off. Now, let me be clear if you can pay your bill, you absolutely should, as your payments help us provide reliable service across the city. But if you're facing financial hardship and you can't afford to make every bill on time, you won't have to worry whether the water will stay on."

Additional details on reopening:

  • Golf courses will be open by reservation only. As of this morning, reservations were 80% filled. There will also be fewer tee times and a limit of one person per golf cart. Foam fillers have been added to every hole so that players won't have to touch the flag.
  • Griffith Observatory will remain closed (including parking there)
  • Metro announced today that all bus and train riders will be required to wear a mask starting May 11

In response to a question about how officials will evaluate the public health impact of these changes, the mayor said that he agrees with Dr. Ferrer and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health that we won't be able to see an impact for approximately three to six weeks. After that time period has passed, officials will determine whether or not we can move forward to the next phase...or if we need to scale back.

Garcetti added:

"If we don't wear masks when we're hiking. If we don't practice physical distancing while picking up things from the curb and these new stores, if folks are golfing and they decide nobody's looking so two of [them] get in a cart together, and things spread, that will begin to contribute to [the virus] spreading to more people, which will overwhelm our hospital system, endanger the lives of our doctors, our nurses, our medical professionals, and cause more people to die."

Housing updates:

  • Today the mayor signed a law that prohibits landlords from using coercion, intimidation or fraud to take their renter's stimulus checks.
  • Tenants have can sue their landlord if they violate any of the city's renter protections.
  • City Council President Nury Martinez said that any renters who cannot pay their rent during this time, can submit their account to the city in writing within seven days, to avoid eviction. Renters will then have 12 months to pay that rent back.
  • Martinez added that yesterday the city council voted to freeze rents on all RSO units until a year after the emergency "is lifted." She said that covers about 75% of the rental market in L.A.

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LA County Cautions Residents To Stay Home And Continue Distancing Even As Businesses Reopen


As Los Angeles County enters the second of its five-stage plan for reopening, officials are urging residents to continue adhering to public health guidance by practicing social distancing, wearing masks in public and generally staying home as much as possible.

"As we begin this journey of recovery, some of us will be going back to work, and some of us will just be out and around more people. But that doesn't mean that we're now living in a post COVID-19 world," said county public health director Barbara Ferrer.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can still spread easily, Ferrer said, and even those who are asymptomatic can transmit the disease. The incubation period can be as long as 14 days, creating a lag between any new infections and when public health officials become aware of them and respond.

"So as we reopen, it's likely — because more people are about — that there can be more spread of the infection, but we may not see information to tell us that this is happening for a few weeks. So we are going to need to spend some time gathering information every day over many weeks to see what the impact is of having more and more people out and about in our community."

To illustrate the risk, she gave a hypothetical example:

Imagine 1 million people who had been sheltering mostly at home suddenly going out in public and mixing with others who had been ignoring the Safer at Home rules. If even 5% of those people became infected, that would be 50,000 additional cases. And if even 5% of the infected also require hospitalization, that's 2,500 people — more than the 2,000 hospital beds available on average each day in L.A. County, she said.

Ferrer urged the public to continue staying at home as much as possible, ordering online rather than going to a store if they're comfortable with that method, wearing masks in public, and above all practicing physical distancing of at least 6 feet.

Ferrer also noted that many Buddhists will be celebrating Vesak, but she reminded everyone that gatherings are still not allowed.


Ferrer reported 51 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 1,367.

She also reported 815 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 29,427 cases countywide. That total includes 791 cases reported in Long Beach and 501 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

Of the 51 people who’ve died in the past 24 hours, 42 were over 65 and, of those victims, 32 had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. Six people were between 41 and 65 and three of them had underlying health conditions. One younger person between 18 and 40, also with underlying health conditions, also died.

So far, 92% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. About 19% of all cases have resulted in hospitalization.

Ferrer also provided a demographic breakdown of the confirmed deaths, based on information for 1,309 of the victims. According to the latest available information:

  • 12% African American [9% of county residents]
  • 18% Asian [15.4% of county residents]
  • 38% Latino / Latina [48.6% of county residents ]
  • 28% 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

L.A. County now has results back on more than 200,000 COVID-19 tests, with 12% returning positive.


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Gov. Newsom: What's Opening Friday & How Counties Can Go Farther


Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his daily update on California's response to coronavirus, including details on how certain areas can move further into Phase 2 of the state's framework for reopening. You can read highlights below or watch video of the governor delivering these updates above.


The governor said he wanted to address the state of coronavirus in California, based on the latest science and public health data.

The state is moving away from essential vs. non-essential workers, Newsom said, and looking at lower risk sectors.

Being in a stable range is what makes it possible to start moving into Phase 2 possible, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. Phase 2 doesn't mean a return to normal, he added. Coronavirus is still spreading and California is gradually reopening only in areas where it can reduce the risk of people contracting the disease.

Starting on Friday, the three areas that can begin reopening are:

  • Retailers — Expect increased curbside pickup and delivery as well as more physical distancing during pickup. The state is also encouraging stores to install hands-free devices.
  • Manufacturers — Ghaly said should close breakrooms, but add outdoor break areas with physically distanced seating.
  • Warehouses — will look similar to those manufacturers. They should also carry sanitation materials during deliveries, Ghaly said, and use personal protective equipment (PPE) for each stop.

These modifications affect 70% of the state's economy, Newsom said, but he noted that customers and workers may still not show up.

Checklists are being provided for businesses to post so they can show customers what safety precautions they are taking. Newsom said the signs are optional and are meant to instill confidence in customers.

As the state continues into Phase 2, it will start to open more industries, Ghaly said. Coming soon Ghaly said:

  • Offices with physical distancing (but telework is still encouraged)
  • Seated dining at restaurants but with physical distancing
  • Shopping malls and not just being able to pick up things ordered online
  • Outdoor museums

The state will also be putting out plans for different industries.

All industries should do the following, Ghaly said:

  • Perform a detailed risk assessment
  • Train employees on limiting spread, how to screen for symptoms and to stay home if sick
  • Implement a site-specific protection plan, cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and physical distancing guidelines


Full guidelines for ways counties can have their own variations with state guidelines will be released next Tuesday, May 12. It starts with phone conversations with the state Public Health department.

It may be possible for restaurants to reopen with modifications in some areas within the next week, Newsom said.

Counties can move further into Phase 2 when they attest they meet California Public Health criteria, Ghaly said.

The regional criteria includes:

Epidemiologic stability

  • No more than 1 case per 10,000 people in the last 14 days
  • No COVID-19 deaths in the past 14 days

Protection of Stage 1 essential workers

  • Ability to support employees when sick or exposed
  • Availability of disinfectant supplies and protective gear

Testing capacity

  • Minimum daily testing of 1.5 per 1,000 residents

Containment capacity

  • At least 15 contact tracers per 100,000 residents
  • Ability to temporarily house at least 15% of county residents experiencing homelessness

Hospital capacity

  • County or regional capacity to accommodate a minimum surge of 35%
  • Hospital facilities msut have a robust plan to protect hospital workforce

Vulnerable populations

  • Skilled nursing facilities must have moer than 14-day supply of PPE on hand for staff with ongoing procurement from non-state supply chains

Triggers for adjusting modifications

  • Metrics that serve as triggers for either slowing the pace through phase 2 or tightening modifications

What officials are doing to make their counties safe will be posted publicly, Ghaly said.


Newsom said that just 90 days ago, the state was projecting a $6 billion surplus. In its revised budget estimates released earlier today, the state projected a $54.3 billion deficit.

California had a larger shortfall in 2009, Newsom said, but added that the state is better positioned to face that now than it was at the time. Newsom said that his optimism is conditioned on more federal support for California and other states in need.

"These revenue shortfalls are bigger than even the state of California. We need the federal government to recognize this. We really need the federal government to do more, and to help us through this moment," Newsom said.

The governor announced his gratitude for leaders from both parties, including the president, for the support they've so far provided to California. He noted the effect coronavirus has had on city and county budgets.


Since March 12, 4.3 million Californians have filed for unemployment with $11.9 billion in unemployment claims processed since March 15, Newsom said, and those numbers will impact the economy at large.


There were declines in coronavirus hospitalizations and ICUs yesterday, as well as people suspected of having coronavirus, Newsom said. But there were 92 coronavirus deaths among Californians over the past 24 hours, noting that deaths are a lagging indicator behind those other metrics.


The question of what sports will look like remains difficult and fluid, Newsom said. The NFL is announcing its schedule today but Newsom said that he doesn't see live crowds until we have immunity and wonders about what to do when a player tests positive — which he sees as something that will likely happen.


The state is looking at risk, as well as higher vs. lower reward, when it comes to which businesses go into different phases. Nail salons aren't seen as being safe to open up until Phase 3, Newsom said.

Churches with people coming together from different communities into an enclosed space aren't in the current phase, Newsom said, but further accommodations may come sooner, and he added that the state's plans aren't written in stone.

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The Only Way You're Experiencing A Theme Park Right Now Is Through These Ride Videos

A promotional shot of Disneyland at the holidays, featuring Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle. (Courtesy of Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

Shanghai Disneyland reopens on Monday, but we're in for a longer wait here in Southern California. The governor's plan doesn't call for the return of mass gatherings until Phase 4 of the state's reopening, and mass gatherings are kind of the whole point of theme parks.

BUT. We found a way to satisfy that theme park craving right now. We watched so many (SO many) first-person videos from the world's best theme park rides. Now we've curated them into the crème de la crème from Southern California, around the world, and, yes, even back in time.

No need to sanitize the seats here, just pick a ride and jump on. We recommend putting on some headphones to create a more immersive experience — and feel free to scream and throw your arms up when it gets scary, too.


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California's Budget Deficit Is Now Higher Than It Was In The Great Recession

In this file photo, Gov. Gavin Newsom presents the 2020-21 state budget at a press conference at the California Capitol on Jan. 10, 2020. (Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

The figures are grim: 18% unemployment rate for the year, 21% drop in new housing permits and nearly 9% decline in California personal income.

State finance officials just announced a $54.3 billion deficit — higher than the deficit during the Great Recession and obliterating the state's once-healthy reserves.

What does this mean for California? A financial tsunami and cuts to schools, health care and safety-net programs, as state and local governments turn to the federal government for additional stimulus support.


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Here's How Some Cali Restaurants Think Reopening Should Look

An employee at at Carvery Kitchen in Santa Monica prepares sandwiches for medical workers on April 24, 2020. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

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What will restaurants look like when they're allowed to reopen their dining rooms?

You won't be able to eat with anyone you don't live with. Your server will probably wear a face mask. Instead of ketchup or salt and pepper, the top condiment* on your table will likely be hand sanitizer. Forget about buffets or salad bars and don't expect to carbo load from a shared bread basket.

That's what the California Restaurant Association wants to see.

The trade industry group drafted these guidelines and is presenting them today to California Governor Gavin Newsom, reports the Associated Press.

The CRA and the restaurant owners it represents are hoping these rules will satisfy Newsom and they won't face stricter measures — like limiting the number of tables, taking diners' temperatures before they come in or requiring plexiglass barriers to be installed between tables — when restaurants are allowed to reopen their dining rooms.

A waiter in a face shield serves a customer while people eat in between plastic partitions, set up to contain the spread of COVID-19, at a hotpot restaurant in Bangkok on May 5, 2020. (LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images)

Since mid-March, restaurants throughout Los Angeles County have only been allowed to function as takeout and delivery businesses.

The guidelines were drafted by the CRA with help from the California Conference of Local Health Officers and the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health.

In Texas, which has already allowed restaurants to reopen their dining rooms, Hillstone Restaurant Group is facing controversy after forbidding its employees from wearing face masks. The Los Angeles-based company owns and operates several brands including Houston's, Honor Bar and R&D Kitchen.

A waitress wearing rubber gloves and a mask is seen bringing out food for patrons at Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant on April 27, 2020 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Whatever regulations state and county officials require, the big question is: Will customers show up?

California's restaurants face a drastically different world than they did a few months ago. People are out of work. The economy is cratering. Potential patrons are anxious about getting sick. The hospitality industry is built on human interaction and face-to-face contact and in a post-coronavirus world, both businesses and consumers will have to shift their expectations of what it looks like to eat out.

*Yes, we know hand sanitizer is NOT a condiment. We're just being puckish. In case we need to tell you: DON'T INGEST HAND SANITIZER.


Science Says Tummy Time Has Big Benefits For Babies

Elyssa Maloney changes her son Desmond during a support group at Kindred Space LA. (Mariana Dale/LAist)

A study published in the scientific journal Pediatrics confirms what many parents might have already been told — playing on their stomachs can help babies reach developmental milestones.

"Tummy time can then also help them to learn how to crawl as well, eventually giving them the strength in their head and neck and shoulder and trunk muscles that they’ll need to master those skills,"said lead author Lyndel Hewitt.

Despite the benefits, in Australia, where the research was conducted, only 30% of parents follow the recommendation of 30 minutes of tummy time a day.

"It is tricky to do. We're busy parents," Hewitt said. On top of that, babies don’t always seem to like tummy time.

Dairian Roberts, an L.A. occupational therapist recommends that parents start small. For example, they can place baby on their stomach for a few seconds after changing their diaper and build a routine from there.


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72K Invasive Crayfish And Counting. Even In A Pandemic, An Amateur Trapper Carries On


We're collecting audience stories about what it's like to live in Los Angeles during a pandemic. You can share your story here.

April 25, 2020

Ventura County resident Joel Goldes is sitting beside a creek about a half mile from his house, getting ready to check his crayfish traps, his dogs waiting patiently on the opposite bank.

Joel's been making these visits every day for 10 years, and the coronavirus pandemic hasn't stopped him. If anything, he now has more time on his hands and says he visits two or three times a day.

What's the point, you ask? These crayfish are invasive, and they're throwing off the balance of red-legged frogs, mosquitoes and other denizens of the local ecosystem. So Joel captures them and donates them to wildlife rehabilitation centers, where they feed recovering raccoons.

"[The crayfish] reproduce very frequently in this moderate climate. So usually they reproduce once a year. Here they're reproducing at least three times a year. In about three years I've removed more than 72,000 invasive crayfish from this creek."

Watch Joel's video diary above, and...


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Morning Briefing: Some Kids Head Back To Child Care

Two children in a pre-school class at Young Horizons play with blocks while wearing facemasks. Chava Sanchez/LAist

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Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that reopening child care centers will be critical to getting the California economy back up and running. Some facilities started welcoming kids back this week, including the Young Horizons Child Development Center in Long Beach.

Early childhood education reporter Mariana Dale says she was first introduced to Young Horizons at the end of 2019 while working on a story about the difficult economics that go into running an early childhood center. The center closed for over a month due to coronavirus concerns, and reopened to a handful of families on Monday. Dale followed up with them to find out how their first few days went.

Here, she talks about reporting the story, and what comes next for stressed-out parents and caregivers.

How were the parents you spoke to feeling about sending their kids back to child care?
Universally, parents were just relieved. That was the biggest thing, whether it was parents who had been relying on friends and family who were sometimes in far-flung places to take care of their kids, or one woman whose daughter was at home with her while she was working from home, and it was extremely challenging to have a toddler and simultaneously do her job.

These were families that had already gone to Young Horizons, so I think they trusted that the rules the center had put in place would keep their kids safe.

Was it pretty common for parents to be scrambling and stitching together whatever child care they can while centers were closed?
Yeah, that's often what I've heard from parents. I talked to a woman who’s a doctor and so is her husband. Not only would they usually have daycare, but they also had a nanny. They took their son out of daycare, and thought it would be safer for their nanny not to come anymore. They were just trading off, and sometimes swapping the kid in the car. There are people who are having their parents watch their kids even though they feel really uncomfortable with it.

What about teachers? How are they feeling about reopening?
It's kind of a mixed bag, because they really feel a lot of allegiance and responsibility for the families they serve. But then, they're also feeling concerned about their own health, and about the finances of closing because they need money to live their lives.

The Young Horizons center's first round of openings went to essential workers. Do you have any sense of when more families will be able to get back in, or when more centers will reopen?
There's a couple of different factors. Right now, the guidance that I'm aware of from the state and county is that essential workers should be prioritized when it comes to enrolling families, so I think a lot of providers will be waiting for new guidance before opening more slots. The other question is a mathematical one: even if all of the providers open, under the current ratios, you cannot have the same number of kids in a room as you could before. So they will not have enough space to welcome everyone back under those same guidelines.

And then if you want an even more difficult question, you have some providers that have now been closed for a month or two. Do they have the financial ability to reopen? And I think we don't know yet.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A., and stay safe.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, May 7

At the beginning of the pandemic, the West L.A. VA set up a government-run homeless camp. There’s three meals a day, water on tap, porta-potties, around-the-clock security, and nurse practitioners on site. Now, reports Matt Tinoco, some are asking if this could be a model for the future.

Listen to Erykah Badu and Jill Scott battle. Play Lotería and learn about its history. Hear punslingers verbally joust. Plus, it's Mother's Day on Sunday. Christine N. Ziemba has your quarantine-approved events.

A scientific review of "tummy time" will be published in the June 2020 issue of the journal Pediatrics, reports Mariana Dale, confirming that giving babies time to play on their stomachs increases gross motor development and helps them hit developmental milestones.

David Wagner speaks to actors who say that residual checks from their past work are now coming back to haunt them, as they seek unemployment benefits.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are now at least 28,644 coronavirus cases and 1,367 deaths in L.A. County. There are at least 59,698 cases and 2,439 deaths in California. Worldwide, there are over 3.7 million cases and more than 263,000 deaths.

Reopening California: Some L.A. County businesses and recreational spaces can reopen beginning Friday, including hiking trails and golf courses. For child care centers, that means new rules, fewer kids and much more distance. Eight cooling centers are open in L.A. County Wednesday and Thursday for people to ride out the heat wave.

Money Matters: Cal State campuses and auxiliary organizations estimate a total of $337 million of new costs and revenue losses for the 2020 spring term. Santa Monica city officials detailed "cuts at all levels of the organization,” including 250 layoffs and another 126 city workers voluntarily leaving. More than 80 years ago, the U.S. government helped musicians through the Great Depression. Could something similar be implemented today?

L.A. Food Scene: Fishermen and women who harvest sea urchins have had to find new markets for the delicacy overnight. Two online groups — one in English, one in Chinese — launched at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic are helping San Gabriel Valley diners find restaurants.

Managing Relationships: Marriage and family therapist Lance Tango and family law mediator Bill Ferguson spoke to reporter Ariel Zirulnick about navigating the “bubbles” in which we’re currently living, be it with roommates, spouses, co-parents or others. Plus, here are some quick tips and tricks for keeping yourself and your kids sane in the apocalypse.

Mask Mysteries And Criminal Behavior: California wired a novice mask dealer half a billion dollars in mid-March, and was scrambling to get the money back within hours. George Gascon calls on Jackie Lacey to criminally charge an LAPD cop involved in a beating.

Your L.A. Stories: In our first two coronavirus diaries, Bell High School film production and journalism teacher Roy Lansdown reflects on that old chestnut "may you live in interesting times," and Google employee Marjorie Gray says she's grateful to be able to work from home and has been trying to give back. One way she does that? Making puppet shows to help keep her co-workers' kids occupied. Share your story here.

Your Moment Of Zen

A customer buys flowers at the L.A. Flower Market after Garcetti's announcement that wholesale florists could reopen as an exemption for Mother's Day.

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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