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Trump Wades Into California's 'Toss-Up' 25th District Special Election Race

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L.A. County vote center worker Steven Toro wears a mask and gloves in Palmdale, CA. (Libby Denkmann/LAist)

Local Democrats said a lack of vote centers in Lancaster threatened to disenfranchise African Americans in the 25th District special election, which is being held to fill the last seven months of ex-Rep. Katie Hill's term in Congress. Now Republicans, including President Trump, say they're running a last-minute "scam" to rig the election.

[Note: The Republican mayor of Lancaster asked for the vote centers in his city, telling us last week: "There should not be even the appearance of affecting the outcome by limiting the ability to vote."]

Welcome to the race between Assemblywoman Christy Smith and former Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia. It's become a bruising battle in the high desert, overshadowed by Hill's resignation and the coronavirus pandemic.

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LA County Tops 31,000 COVID-19 Cases

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A stall set up next to an L.A. County COVID-19 test site in Echo Park sells face masks and other necessities to passersby. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

L.A. County health officials Sunday announced 484 new cases of coronavirus and 18 deaths, including three in the City of Long Beach. Of those who died:

  • 12 were over the age of 65
  • 3 were between the ages of 41-to-65
  • 10 had underlying health conditions

Sunday’s numbers bring the total number of positive COVID-19 cases in the county, including additional reporting from Long Beach, to 31,694, and the total number of deaths to 1,531. Of those fatalities, 92% had underlying health conditions.

Information about race and ethnicity is available for 1,412 people (99% of the cases):

  • 38% of deaths occurred among Latino/Latina residents [48.6% of county residents ]
  • 29% among Whites [26.1% of county residents]
  • 19% among Asians [15.4% of county residents]
  • 12% among African Americans [9% of county residents]
  • 1% among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders [0.4% of county residents]
  • 1% among those identifying with other races

"Each day, we report these numbers knowing that there are people who are grieving their loved ones who have passed away from COVID-19," said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of Public Health, in a statement. "To all of you, we are so deeply sorry for your loss. As we begin our recovery journey, we are grateful for all you have done to get us to this point. More than ever, we all need to continue to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, to protect the most vulnerable members of our community, and to, most importantly, save lives.”

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS

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How To Improve Conditions For Women Animators

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Courtesy USC Annenberg

Mothers and caregivers working in animation are taking this Mother's Day to begin a conversation about improving industry conditions in a field where women are currently — and historically — underrepresented.

Women in Animation president Marge Dean said her group is teaming with the Animation Guild to explore how to help caregivers while people are working from home during the pandemic. And she said the hope is those lessons can also be applied when the industry returns to normal operations.

She said a big obstacle has been a demanding production schedule with rigid hours. Dean told us:

"Just because they need flexibility doesn't mean that they're not willing to work the longer hours that are needed for a production. They just need it to be flexible."

A 2019 study by USC Annenberg's Inclusion Initiative and Women In Animation found that inclusion was an issue across all categories of the industry, from the characters in animated films to the directors and below-the-line staff. Of particular concern is the lack of women of color in the field.

Dean said she believed the nature of the industry allows more flexibility for caregivers who work in animation.

Both the Animation Guild and Women in Animation have used their websites to share resources for caregivers during the pandemic

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5 Tips To Beat Quarantine Fatigue

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(visuals via Unsplash)

We are social creatures. So it's no surprise that quarantine fatigue has begun to set in, even as experts caution that social distancing recommendations will remain in place for months to come. (With a vaccine even further away.)

Here are quick tips to lessen the isolation you may be feeling:

  1. Don't scroll, but do connect online, with real-time activities
  2. Making art is a social act: express yourself and share
  3. Reach out to the elderly
  4. Become a citizen-scholar, an online tutor or assistant to the visually impaired: Find your way to volunteer, virtually
  5. Keep friendships alive, with small acts of kindness
GO DEEPER

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LA County Latinos Swing From One Of Highest Employment Rates To The Lowest

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The USC Center for Economic and Social Research's Understanding Coronavirus in America is tracking survey data nationally and in L.A. County. (Courtesy of USC_

In just two months, Latinos have gone from having one of the highest rates of employment in Los Angeles County to the lowest.

It's a devastating turn that's happened at breathtaking speed due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders. And it comes after what had been a historic wave of Latino prosperity across the nation.

That now appears to be at risk. The devastation in job losses is widespread in America, as the unemployment rate has climbed to 14.7%, the highest level since the Great Depression. But the latest U.S. jobs report shows that Latinos are the worst hit, with a record jobless rate of 18.9%, higher than any other ethnic group.

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Bumper-To-Bumper In LA's Flower District On This Mother's Day

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So how's it looking for social distancing today in L.A.'s famed Flower District?

Josie Huang, who checked out crowded park trails yesterday, reports it was bumper-to-bumper traffic on the blocks where flower shops reopened Friday in downtown Los Angeles.

They were back in business in time for their biggest day of the year: Mother's Day.

And it was definitely busy. Lines of customers along the sidewalk were as long as 20 people deep. Most wore masks, but not everyone. People were not spacing themselves six feet apart in line or in the stores. One flower shop had signs asking people to keep the recommended distance, but that was impossible given the narrow aisles.

Here's what it looked like today:

L.A. Flower District, Mother's Day 2020 (Josie Huang/ LAist)
(Josie Huang/ LAist)
(Josie Huang/ LAist)
(Josie Huang/ LAist)
(Josie Huang/ LAist)
(Josie Huang/ LAist)

These scenes are more reminders that many people appear to be growing fatigued by social distancing orders, even as new cases and deaths are reported daily by L.A. County health officials.

On Saturday, Pasadena's health department reported they'd traced five positive COVID-19 cases and more sick people to a large birthday party held after the stay home orders were in place. Health officials said one partygoer, who did not wear a mask, was reportedly sick and coughing at the gathering of 30 to 40 people.

Health experts and public officials continue to ask people to stay steadfast, to not gather for Mother's Day or other parties, and to maintain social distancing recommendations, including wearing a mask in public or when around other people not in your immediate household.

MORE CALLS FOR CAUTION

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Virtual Diaper Drive Underway To Help Moms In Need

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(Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash)

In honor of moms in need, the annual Orange County-wide diaper drive is kicking off on this Mother’s Day.

This is the 13th year that HomeAid Orange County has gathered items essential to caring for young kids. The nonprofit provides housing and services for people experiencing homelessness.

Executive Director Gina Scott says diapers are expensive, so donations to the group’s 20 shelters allow more resources to be spent on moving families to permanent housing. In a typical year, Scott said there are "probably 1,000 to 2,000 babies that reside in the shelters."

Scott says HomeAid usually provides more than a million essential items a year. But this year, she said they have deep concerns that the pandemic will significantly reduce that number. She told us:

"This year, due to the pandemic — since we can’t really have a community-wide collection — we fear that just being able to collect financial donations will cause us to not have enough diaper influx into the community that is needed."

If you are interested in taking part in HomeAid OC’s virtual diaper collection, visit: homeaidessentials.org.

MORE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD

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New Look This Week For LA's Courts: Masks Are Now Mandatory For Court Officials

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L.A. Superior Court Judge Miguel Espinoza, wearing a mask, holds arraignments in his downtown L.A. courtroom via video on April 21. (Myung J. Chun / POOL / AFP)

Judges and other staff in L.A. County Superior Court will now wear face coverings in the courtroom and other public areas inside courthouses.

The order was issued Saturday by Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile. In a statement Brazile said:

“The Court is committed to protecting the health and safety of the public, attorneys, justice partners, judicial officers and employees. Most medical and healthcare experts recommend the use of face coverings during this pandemic. Paired with the protocols for social distancing, we can help to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our courthouses and communities.”

Activity in the courts has been greatly reduced for weeks under the broader "Safer At Home" orders. Courts are only handling "essential, time-sensitive proceedings to keep as many people as possible out of the courthouses," the news release announcing mandatory masks noted.

Among the safety measures in place to provide alternatives to going to courthouses: remote appearance technology and customer service call centers.

The announcement of the change said that even though the court system was exempt from the county orders requiring masks be worn in public places, court officials have been strongly encouraging the public to use them, including by handing out paper masks at courthouse entrances.

Brazile he believes his order will “decrease the chances of an asymptomatic Judge or Commissioner spreading the virus to others.”

Jails and prisons are among hard hit institutions in this pandemic.

  • Nearly 70% of inmates of the 1,042 prisoners held at Terminal Island, a low-security federal prison in San Pedro, have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven have died.
  • The rate at the low-security federal prison in Lompoc is even higher, with 851 positive cases among its 1,162 inmates.
  • The nearby medium-security prison in Lompoc has another 32 cases and two inmate deaths.

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Tackling COVID-19 Stress And Addiction

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(Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash)

Since the pandemic has people spending more time isolated at home, reports of substance abuse among teens have been on the rise, acccording to Sarah Blanch, who works with local prevention groups and the Los Angeles County Health Department. She says:

"There’s a lot of stress or pressure that teenagers face that pushes them to vape or experiment with alcohol or drugs."

Today kicks off National Prevention Week where healthcare providers shine a spotlight on substance abuse. Blanch says L.A.’s prevention week starts with a Mother’s Day presentation addressing teenage drug use during the pandemic at 3 p.m. today. Virtual events continue through Friday.

  • Monday is dedicated to opiod and prescription drug use.
  • Thursday is going to be about marijuana and tobacco use among youth.

To RSVP for the Los Angeles events, go to the L.A. County Prevention Providers website at LACPP.org.

MORE ON COVID-18 AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE

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Morning Briefing: Happy (Though Crowded) Trails

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Temescal Canyon was full of wildflowers from recent rains and a lack of visitors, since trails have been closed for a month. (Karen Foshay/KCET)

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The most frightening thing about the coronavirus, for me, is how little we actually know about it. This week, I've found myself repeatedly referring to this specific section of our No-Panic Guide:

L.A. County's public health director, Barbara Ferrer, said the virus is too big and heavy to linger in the air, while others are investigating the possibility of spread via "bioaerosols." The World Health Organization says it doesn't seem to linger or travel more than three feet, but at least one medical expert says it's way too soon to know that.

The reason for this obsession is obvious. Everything about this virus wreaks of uncertainty. And uncertainty makes me uncomfortable. Trying to get closer to resuming normal life, when we don't know the basics, is truly mind-boggling.

If we don't know how the virus spreads outside, how can we safely walk on the beach or go for a hike? Judging by the arguments going on via my NextDoor app, I can say with full confidence that I am not the only person who manages to reach new levels of confusion every day. But also, as someone without central air, I would sacrifice my first born (although I don't have a child) to be at the beach right now.

Something that's helping? This brown butter cinammon cake. It tastes like straight-up butter.

Now go forth and read the news.

– Gina Pollack


Maybe The Worst Birthday Ever? Despite multiple warnings from public health departments across the country, many scientists, and the CDC, a group of 30-40 people in Pasadena thought it would be a good idea to have a birthday/Easter party in a global pandemic. Now five of them have coronavirus and several others are "significantly ill," which comes as a shock to exactly no one.

COVID-19 Feels Like: Aching gums, extreme fatigue, major weight loss, and some truly disturbing episodes of not being able to communicate with words — those were just some of the symptoms Highland Park resident Toban Nichols, 50, experienced over the course of 26 days. It was early March and he didn't qualify for a test.

Speaking Of Testing: The FDA gave emergency authorization to a San Diego-based corporation to manufacture a new antigen test, which can reportedly produce a result in minutes. It's also cheaper and easier to use than genetic testing. Sound too good to be true? It might be. False negatives are a possibility and there's still no proof that having COVID-19 makes you immune to getting it again.

Boots On The Ground: Saturday was the first day that trails in L.A. were open since mid-March, when the county shut them down. Here's what that looked like in three popular spots — Eaton Canyon, Temescal Canyon and Griffith Park. Here's a fun math problem: how do you stay six-feet apart from other humans on a two-foot wide trail with two-way foot traffic?

In Non-COVID But Still Sad News: We lost the King — and the Queen, as he liked to say — of rock n' roll yesterday. Little Richard was no stranger to the City of Angels. He once owned a house in Lafayette Park and later spent much of two decades living in a hotel on the Sunset Strip.


Your Moment of Zen

Karen Foshay, a producer at fellow public media station KCET, took this photo of an actual bunny rabbit on her hike in Temescal Park today. She said in her 15 years of hiking that trail, she's never seen so much wildlife.

(Photo by Karen Foshay/KCET)

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