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Garcetti Made Wearing Face Masks Mandatory In LA Today And People On The Internet Are Angry

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File: This still image taken from a live stream provided by the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti shows Garcetti displaying putting on a protective face mask during his daily news conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 1. Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti

A new order from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti requires Angelenos to wear masks or "face coverings" whenever they leave home, in an effort to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

We assume "face coverings" refers to bandanas, scarves, headbands or other alternatives for the mask-deprived.

What about L.A. County, you ask? In her daily coronavirus briefing this afternoon, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says the county health order is clear:

"Masks are in fact mandatory across the entire county when you're outside of your home, not with members of your household, and in any kind of contact with other people. The reason you wear a cloth face covering is so that you can protect other people from your respiratory droplets."

If no one is around, we suggest keep a face covering in your pocket, in case other humans appear (and runners, put it on when passing). Like Ferrer says, the idea is to stop droplets with the virus from getting out, not in.

We've heard from hundreds of people who just remain flat-out confused about what is required and why.

We talked to Dr. Peter Chin-Hong earlier this week about the science of how viruses spread after L.A. beaches reopened with social distancing and face covering requirements in place. Chin-Hong, who specializes in the spread of infectious disease at UC San Francisco, said most viruses spread no more than three-feet, on average, via airborne droplets from the nose and mouth. That said, he noted there's still a lot we don't know about COVID-19.

The six-foot rule for social distancing includes three extra feet, as a buffer zone for added safety. He said the guidance comes from research showing droplets are heavy and tend to fall to the ground within that three-foot range.

Garcetti's order, which seems to say masks are required at all times outside your own home, caused quite a stir, based on the comments on the Mayor of L.A. Facebook page. In a twist no one expected, people on the internet are mad.

Please enjoy a curated selection of the 2,800 comments (and counting):

  • Rebecca Heinemann: "What are you thinking! I am so mad! I pay WAYYY to much in taxes to be told what to do when I walk out in my neighborhood. DEMS have gone too far. You will never ever get my vote again."
  • Doris Tenney Panza: "I will wear one when i am near others, otherwise NOT."
  • Brandon Becker: "I can literally feel my brain cells dying with each comment I read. I am physically ill from the trash fire that is this comment section. I will have nightmares about this sham of a discussion until the day I die. I would rather chug a gallon of hand sanitizer and give myself a Lysol enema than read this disgrace of a community forum once more."

READ MORE ABOUT FACE MASKS:

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Southeast Asians Here Fear They're Suffering An Outsized Toll in COVID-19

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Cambodia Town in Long Beach. The city has the largest concentration of Cambodians outside of Cambodia. (Photo by Laurie Avocado via Flickr)

In Long Beach, Asians make up 15% of those hospitalized for COVID 19. That’s more than their share of the population. But it’s hard to get a true sense of the impact of coronavirus on the Cambodians who make up a big share of the city’s Asian residents.

That’s because public health officials broadly label them as simply “Asian.”

Southeast Asians have higher poverty rates – which are linked to the worst outcomes from the coronavirus. Yet they are lumped together with more affluent Asian groups.

But in Long Beach, data collection about Asian patients could be changing.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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Bif! Bam! Trees! Making Griffith Park Bigger, An Acre At A Time

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Batgirl and Batman tour the Batcave. (M Cheung/Flickr Creative Commons)

There's a hillside near the entrance to the Bronson Caves section of Griffith Park, aka the area where they shot the Batmobile hauling out of the Batcave in the 1960s TV show. Fun fact: They actually used a tunnel, not a cave, which let them go faster than they otherwise would have (along with speeding up the footage).

Anyway. In more important news, the Friends of Griffith Park organized the purchase of an acre of land near said Batcave. Now it will be preserved from any potential development, meaning you'll be able to stand and admire its nature anytime you want. Try putting your hands on your hips while doing so, like you're a superhero.

The asking price was more than a million dollars, but they managed to land it for just $500,000. It's a pretty hilly piece of land, which might necessitate a Batrope to scale it — so maybe just take a look before heading into the newly reopened Griffith Park, old chum.

READ THE FULL STORY:

Glenn Close Says We Should All 'Just Start Talking' About Mental Health

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Actress Glenn Close. (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe)

For those dealing with a mental illness, the isolation and anxiety brought about by coronavirus has made things a lot more difficult. People whose issues are not already well managed may find fewer resources available, or be on a downward spiral without others nearby to help.

That's where a national organization called Bring Change to Mind comes in. It was co-founded by actress Glenn Close with the goal of ending stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.

Close spoke with Susanne Whatley, who hosts our newsroom's "Morning Edition" program on 89.3 KPCC, about the organization, the importance of mental health during the pandemic, her personal connection to the issue, and how she thinks her infamous "Fatal Attraction" character "added to the stigma" of mental illness at the time.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation:

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and you've jumped into action. What are you and your organization doing?

We're doing a lot of things. We have Bring Change to Mind high school clubs that have just taken off — they’re peer-led clubs, stigma free.

This month we have weekly meetings, Zoom meetings, with our clubs all across the country. We have national Zoom calls weekly with guests, and it’s kids talking to each other about what they're dealing with, not only in this really, really stressful time with COVID, but just in life itself.

Right now we have clubs in 37 L.A. schools, and we're hoping to ramp up to closer to 50 this year. And I'm so proud of the kids. I tried to join the national calls as much as I can, and I'm always moved by how open they are with each other, what they know to ask, and how open they are with the issues that they're dealing with.

Why is promoting mental health, and knocking down the stigmas, of personal importance to you?

My sister Jessie has lived with bipolar disorder for most of her life. And her son Calen lives with schizophrenia. But before Jessie and Calen got ill, our family had, we had no vocabulary for mental health for any kind of mental illness. Even though we're a family that had a lot of depression: We've had suicides, we've had a lot of alcoholism, and no one ever talked about it. So we decided as a family to start talking about it.

And that is the basic message of Bring Change To Mind: Just start talking about it. It makes you part of the human race.

We have a wonderful campaign now called #NoNormal. And I really, really am very psyched by it, because the more I think about it, the more I've asked myself, what is normal? Each one of us is so different.

You earned your fourth of seven Oscar nominations playing a deeply-disturbed character in Fatal Attraction. (Who can forget the pet rabbit in the cooking pot?) What was it like to play her and what's been the legacy of that character in the culture?

Her legacy is that she's considered one of the greatest villains of the 20th century. "Bunny boiler" became a part of the lexicon.

I think it added to the stigma. Her story wasn't really told. The "why" of her behavior wasn't really understood.

If I were telling that story today, it would be interesting to see it from her point of view. She was labeled evil when she was just out of control and needed help.

Nothing is normal in this coronavirus world. Could that be helping people, who don't struggle with mental illness, better empathize with those who do?

I hope so. My dad, who was a doctor, and was in Africa for many years — the last big event that he had something to do with was the first outbreak of Ebola. And I remember learning at that time that these viruses strike us where we're most vulnerable. And I think what we are learning in this country today and across the world, is where we are most vulnerable.

And I hope that as we come out of it, that will stay very much in the forefront of us as individuals, and also that we demand from our leaders that they pay attention and do something about where we're most vulnerable. And that certainly is in the whole landscape of mental health in this country.

Hear more of the interview with Glenn Close here:

Bring Change to Mind is partnering with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health this Sunday for a virtual town hall for all teens — find info at werise.la.

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

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ICE Employee Tests Positive For COVID-19 At Adelanto Detention Center

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This Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, photo shows the Adelanto U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Processing Center operated by GEO Group, Inc. (GEO). (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

An employee with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement working at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the agency.

ICE said the employee was a deportation officer and tested positive for COVID-19 on May 5. The agency said the officer doesn't have contact with detainees "in his line of duty" and had been teleworking. The officer has been self-quarantining at home.

The agency said there have been no other confirmed COVID cases among staff or detainees at the San Bernardino County facility, which as of last week held about 1,200 immigrant detainees.

The facility is operated by The GEO Group, a private corrections company.

Last week, a 57-year-old man born in El Salvador who had been held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego became the first known detainee to die from COVID-19 complications. According to news reports, Carlos Escobar Mejia had lived in the U.S. for 40 years.

Nationwide, ICE has tested 1,788 detainees. More than half, 943, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Last month, the ACLU of Southern California sued ICE to reduce the population at the Adelanto facility over concerns about COVID-19. A federal judge ordered ICE to release detainess, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary halt on the order.

READ MORE

For 1st Time, Majority Of New Coronavirus Deaths In LA County Happened In Institutional Settings

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For the first time, the majority of new coronavirus deaths reported in Los Angeles County, occurred within institutional settings, according to health officials.

By "institutional settings," the county means nursing homes, assisted living facilities, shelters, treatment centers, supportive living, correctional facilities, workplaces, food and retail, and educational institutions.

The total confirmed cases in institutional settings now stands at 8,783, including 5,684 cases among residents and 3,099 cases among staff, said public health director Barbara Ferrer at the county's daily coronavirus task force briefing today.

In total, 865 people living in such settings have now died, representing 51% of all deaths from COVID-19 in L.A County. The vast majority of those deaths were residents of nursing homes.

In addition, Ferrer pointed out that coronavirus deaths long ago surpassed the average number of people killed by influenza each year, and in less time.

Last year the county saw 125 flu deaths, and the year before that about 300, she said. On average, the county sees about 250 flu deaths a year, Ferrer said, compared to over 1,700 deaths from COVID-19 so far this year.

TODAY'S NUMBERS

Ferrer reported 51 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 1,709.

She also reported 925 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 35,329 cases countywide. That total includes 1,094 cases reported in Long Beach and 607 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own public health departments).

Of the 51 people who’ve died in the past 24 hours, 35 were over 65 and, of those victims, 32 had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. Twelve people were between 41 and 65 and eleven of them had underlying health conditions.

Ferrer did not have details on the Long Beach and Pasadena residents who died.

So far, 92% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. About 16% of all cases have resulted in hospitalization. Fully 40% are 65 years or younger, which means a lot of people in different age groups, who also have underlying conditions, have become seriously ill and some have died, she said.

Of those hospitalized today, 16% are in the ICU, and 19% are on ventilators.

L.A. County now has results back on more than 272,000 COVID-19 tests, with 11% returning positive.

Ferrer also reported 261 confirmed cases among people experiencing homelessness, 140 of whom were sheltered and have now been isolated (and their contacts quarantined).

The county is investigating 369 institutions where there's at least one confirmed or suspected case, and Ferrer said there have so far been 526 cases in jail facilities — 414 among those incarcerated and 112 among staff.

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California's Devastating Budget Shortfall Means Pain For Schools, Health Care, More

Updated
Published

Gov. Gavin Newsom has released his May budget revision, showing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on California's finances moving forward. Read highlights and deeper reporting below, or watch the full budget presentation above.

What The Governor's Saying | Full Budget Summary

DIG DEEPER: Early Childhood Education | Employment and Workforce | Environment | Higher Education | Housing | Mental Health and Health Care | Prisons | K-12 Schools | Social Safety Net | Transportation/Infrastructure

2020-2021 PROPOSED BUDGET

Here's where we stand:
  • The new numbers forecast a 9.3% decrease from last year's general fund budget
  • There's a 5.4% decrease in the overall budget.
  • This reflects a 22.3% drop in revenue from the governor's budget proposed in January, Newsom said.
The new budgets:
  • It's now a $133.9 billion general fund budget
  • And a $203.3 billion overall budget.
The nitty gritty:

The drop in revenue is due to three major categories:

  1. lower revenues from personal taxes
  2. corporate taxes
  3. sales taxes

Sales taxes will take the biggest hit, Newsom said. Sales tax revenues are projected to be down 27.2% due to people not being able to make purchases the way they were before the coronavirus epidemic. Personal income tax revenues are projected to be down 22.5%, corporate tax revenues down by 22.7%.

The bottom line:

The projected deficit is $54.3 billion, a projected 37% shortfall, Newsom said. One bit of good news, Newsom said the state is in an economically healthier budget position than it has been in the past and has faced bigger shortfalls. In 2003, there was a 45% shortfall. In 2009, the shortfall was 58% or roughly $60 billion. As recently as 2011, the state had to handle a nearly 31% shortfall.

The governor reiterated something he's been talking about during his daily news conferences: that, before the coronavirus pandemic hit, California had a $5.6 billion projected surplus. There was also record low unemployment and almost 10 years of consecutive job growth.

"As painful as the state's budget may be, personal budgets for so many of you watching are even more devastating," Newsom said in a press conference. "You've exhausted your savings, your credit has been completely destroyed, you are desperate to get a sense of not only your fate, but our collective future."

(Josh Appel/Unsplash)

PULLING BACK ON PROPOSED PROGRAMS

Newsom said that 26% of the deficit will be made up by cuts to existing programs. He called on President Trump to sign the House of Representatives' Heroes Act, saying that if Trump signs that act, these cuts will automatically be undone.

This budget pulls back on proposals Newsom made in January to expand preschool-for-all programs, expand health care to more of those without coverage, and more.

"The overwhelming majority of those proposals, we are now pulling back," Newsom said.

That's 15% of filling the budget deficit.

CUTS TO SCHOOLS

There will be a $19 billion impact on public education with a 10% cut made to local funding, Newsom said. A previous $645 million commitment to special needs children will not be cut but plans to expand special education will be delayed.

"Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing people with physical and emotional disabilities, people so often left behind and forgotten, falling even further behind," Newsom said.

CUTS TO HEALTH CARE

Health care subsidies for the middle class will be preserved in the new budget but health care reimbursements will be affected. Some areas will be cut, Newsom said, and the state isn't in a position to make further expansions.

A MASSIVE INCREASE IN UNEMPLOYMENT PAYOUTS

Since March 12, 4.6 million Californians have filed for unemployment — the worst unemployment figures since the Great Depression, Newsom said. The state projects unemployment peaking at above 24.5%, with 18% unemployment for the budget year.

During the previous "Great Recession," unemployment peaked at 12.3% in the third quarter of 2010, with 2.2 million people out of work.

A woman walks in the rain with umbrella, facemask and gloves amid the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles, California on April 7, 2020. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

A MULTI-YEAR STRATEGY TO USE UP THE RAINY DAY FUND

The 2019-2020 budget had a $21.5 billion operating surplus, Newsom said, with $4.5 billion used to eliminate debt and a $16 billion rainy day fund — the largest in California history.

Responding to the coronavirus pandemic will take several years and most of that surplus, Newsom said.

His proposal pulls $8.8 billion from the state's reserves this year — it makes up for 16% of the shortfall, Newsom said. That includes $7.8 billion from the state's $16.2 billion in reserves in its first year, with $5.4 billion from the reserves in the second year, and $2.9 billion in year three.

That ends up using the entire reserve, phased over three years.

"Because no matter what we do this year, it won't be enough to address the shortfall next year," Newsom said.

He stressed the need to balance the budget each year, as required by the state's constitution. The new state budget needs to be passed by July 1.

Another state reserve account, the safety net reserve, has $900 million in it. The governor's proposal uses $450 million of that in this budget year, and $450 million next year.

There's also a Proposition 98 guarantee reserve for K-14 education, with $524 million available — all of that will be pulled this year to pay down the deficit.

Another 19% of the budget deficit will be filled by borrowing from special funds, Newsom said, and another 8% comes from net operating losses and tax credits that the state wants to tighten up, Newsom said.

(Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

FEDERAL ASSISTANCE

The CARES Act will help cover 15% of the state's deficit, Newsom said. He thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, bipartisan support in Congress, and President Trump for that assistance.

MORE "EFFICIENCIES"

Newsom noted that coronavirus has opened eyes to new possibilities for efficiency. He said that 97% of the DMV's transactions are virtual now, and the DMV can be reimagined. The state doesn't need as many cars, as many cell phones, as large a travel budget, and spending as much on conventions, Newsom said.

PUBLIC SAFETY

There will be an increase in the amount of Cal Fire personnel, Newsom said. He said the hots are getting hotter and dries getting drier thanks to climate change. He spoke from a fire department during his Wednesday press conference to stress the need for public safety.

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

Over the past day, 98 Californians died due to coronavirus, with 2,023 new coronavirus positives.

Mike Roe

READ THE FULL SUMMARY HERE:

You can also read more details on the revised budget here.

Below we'll have deeper breakdowns of the different budget categories from our beat reporters.

A rent strike protestor holds up a sign reading "food not rent" on May 1. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

HOUSING

Gov. Newsom’s updated budget sends stimulus money towards housing programs, even as it nixes others and paints a grim picture of the state’s housing crisis.

California expects to receive $532 million in CARES Act funding for housing and homelessness programs, which will be routed towards “acquiring housing for people experiencing homelessness, as well as securing low- and moderate income housing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

That funding could also pay for construction after the pandemic is over. Programs to help Californians pay mortgages and to provide legal aid to renters will also see a combined $331 million, with most of that money going towards homeowners.

Other programs could see cuts, or “reversion,” as the budget puts it. Among them: $250 million in mixed-income development money in coming years, and $200 million in grants for denser development.

Some priorities are left untouched: a half-billion in low-income housing tax credits will continue to spur housing development.

The May Revise holds out little hope for immediate solutions to the state’s housing crisis. It predicts that a smaller number of Californians will be able to afford homes, driving an increase in renting that will further strain the state’s rental market. The state is also expected to build fewer homes amid rising unemployment. And rising temperatures and climate-change-fueled wildfires could scare off housing and business development across the state.

Aaron Mendelson

Maria Ruiz Zendejas, a teacher at Pacific Avenue Education Center, reads to her students in Spanish. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

K-12 SCHOOLS

California law closely ties funding for K-12 education and community colleges to state revenues. Since state revenues have fallen off so sharply, schools’ revenue base has taken a hit of more than $15 billion, state officials said.

Because of this, Gov. Newsom proposes to cut roughly $6.5 billion — about 10% — from the Local Control Funding Formula, the formula for funding K-12 education.

During his press conference, Newsom said this funding would not be taken out of the portion of the funding formula that gives extra support to schools that serve higher numbers of low-income students, English learners and foster youth.

Newsom also proposes offsetting the dropoff in revenue by deferring roughly $5.8 billion in payments to school districts over the next 14 months — a return to a Great Recession-era tactic to help solve cash flow problems for the state.

But Newsom also proposed temporary relief for schools, including using $4.4 billion in additional federal coronavirus relief dollars to help schools. He also proposed giving schools an additional cut of ongoing state revenues starting in 2021-’22 “to avoid a permanent decline in school funding.”

Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo said she was most concerned by the 10% reduction — or $6.5 billion — to the Local Control Funding Formula baseline.

“What I hope that we don't see — and unfortunately, is often the first thing that we see when there are cuts to education — is cuts to support services, so cuts to our number of counselors and nurses and social workers and some of the things that are outside of the classroom,” she said. “Those are things that I think are critical, especially after dealing with a pandemic like this.”

$4.4 billion from the CARES Act will be put into education to help make up for learning loss due to coronavirus. That includes the possibility of extending the school year, Newsom said.

Instead of paying down long-term pension obligations, $2.3 billion of scheduled payments will go to help in education as well. Billions from several other sources will go toward education as well, adding up with the rest to $10.1 billion.

The state is committing 1.5% of the state's general fund, which averages about $2 billion per year and up to $4.6 billion a year, as a supplemental payment to education funding each year, Newsom said.

Kyle Stokes

The Harriet and Charles Lockman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State Los Angeles. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

HIGHER EDUCATION

The governor didn’t spare higher education from cuts. All three public higher education systems will be affected if the legislature approves Newsom’s plans. Newsom’s proposing a $338 million cut in funding to the University of California’s operating budget and a $398 million cut to that of the California State University system. Both amounts represent a 10% cut. The 115-campus California Community College system would undergo a $740 million cut.

Higher education leaders struck a “we’re all in this together” tone after the numbers were announced.

“The University of California recognizes the unprecedented challenges California is facing in the wake of COVID-19,” said UC President Janet Napolitano in a written statement, “and regrets that Gov. Newsom was put into a position to steeply reduce the University’s budget in response to the State’s dramatically diminished revenues. Regardless, UC stands with the governor and the legislature to help lift the State out of this economic crisis.”

Newsom said his plan would protect funding for higher education programs such as the two years of free tuition for community college students, and UC Riverside’s medical school, among others.

A decade ago UC and CSU made up for recession-era cuts by raising tuition. The increase proved very unpopular and inspired then-Governor Jerry Brown to push a moratorium on increases in the two university systems. Days before the proposed cuts were announced, CSU chancellor Tim White said tuition would not change for the fall but said nothing about increases after that.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

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

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Gov. Newsom had aspired to make publicly funded preschool available to every child in California starting with 20,000 new slots over the next two years.

"The overwhelming majority of those proposals, we are now pulling back," Newsom said Thursday.

As California works to expand subsidized child care to essential workers and at-risk children, it could reduce payments to early childhood workers. Specifically, the maximum state reimbursement rate for child care providers and the payments state preschool providers receive will be cut 10% in the revised budget.

The budget also gives us an idea of how California could spend the $350 million in federal CARES Act funding for early childhood programs.

  • $144.3 million for costs related to California's emergency legislation, such as continuing to pay some providers who are reimbursed by the state for caring for children from low-income families who are absent during the pandemic
  • $125 million for one-time payments to subsidized providers who care for children from low-income families during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • $73 million to increase child care for essential workers and at-risk children.
  • $8 million to waive the fees some families pay for subsidized child care until June 30, 2020.

Newsom also said he hoped to streamline the complex system that oversees and funds early childhood programs in the state through a new state agency. A nonpartisan agency tasked with advising the legislature previously recommended rejecting the proposal.

The revised budget calls instead for moving early learning and child care programs currently managed by the Department of Education to the Department of Social Services and includes $2 million to help make it happen.

Child care in California could be dramatically reshaped during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 60% of the state's child care programs will not survive a closure of more than a month, according to a survey by UC Berkeley's Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.

Many child care programs, 57%, have also laid off or furloughed staff. These workers often make close to minimum wage - a 2017 L.A. County report found early educators earn an average of $14.65 an hour.

-- Mariana Dale

Staff in LAUSD’s Crisis Counseling and Intervention Services Unit, like Patrick McCauley, are taking shifts answering calls to the district’s mental health hotline. He does his in his garage. (Courtesy of Patrick McCauley)

MENTAL HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE

Under Gov. Newsom’s revised budget proposal, Southern California governments would get significant amounts of federal coronavirus relief aid.

The city and county of Los Angeles together would receive nearly $2 billion. Orange County would get more than $600 million, Riverside County would get nearly $500 million, and San Bernardino County would receive more than $400 million.

Newsom said a number of new projects or expansions of existing ones will have to be set aside unless more federal aid is forthcoming, such as the expansion of dental benefits for adults on Medi-Cal.

Some initiatives are being shelved regardless, such as the governor’s plan to expand Medi-Cal to include mothers going through postpartum depression.

The overall Medi-Cal caseload is projected to spike, largely because of job losses and other fallout from the pandemic. The revised budget assumes 14.5 million people will be on Medi-Cal by July, 2 million more than there would have been absent COVID-19.

Robert Garrova

People wait in line to receive food at a Los Angeles Regional Food Bank distribution on April 9, 2020 in Van Nuys. Organizers say they had distributed food to 1,500 families. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

SOCIAL SAFETY NET

In his revised budget the governor kept plans to extend the California Earned Income Tax Credit to more low-income workers in households making under $30,000. Certain families with children under the age of 6 could get an additional $1,000 credit.

What the governor did not do is extend the CALEITC program to workers who don’t have legal immigration status, dashing the hopes of advocates who argue that these immigrants contribute substantially to the state’s tax base.

Immigrants without legal status who are 65 and over also took a hit in the revised budget, which would withdraw a proposal to expand full-scope Medi-Cal to them for a savings of $112.7 million. This is coverage that’s not just for emergencies, but includes a range of services including dental and eye care. However, extended Medi-Cal coverage for immigrant children and young adults remains intact.

Josie Huang

The stairway into the Hollywood/Highland Station. Metro Trains and buses remain open, but non essential passengers are urged to stay at home. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE

The coronavirus precautions and economic slump have drastically reduced driving by both consumers and businesses. That means a lot less gas is being sold -- and the gas that is being sold costs less. It also means that gas and fuel taxes and vehicle fees are down, cutting a key source of transportation funding.

The revised budget would spend $25.6 billion on transportation, approximately a 2% cut, and only about a half-billion dollars less than what was proposed in January.

State transportation revenues had doubled since the passage of the state’s new gas tax, known as SB 1. Gas taxes and vehicle fees were expected to bring in a total $12.7 billion for the coming 2020-2021 budget year, but the state is expecting less now. The budget revision projects the state will take in about a half-billion dollars less each year for the next four years.

This also means local governments that would normally get half of certain fuel tax revenues for their own projects will see less money and have to cut out some proposed street repairs.

The revised budget also has $3.6 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds going to public transit agencies around the state “to offset lost fares and revenue from sudden loss of ridership.”

Sharon McNary and Ryan Fonseca

A firefighter prepares to fight a wildfire as it overtakes a home Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in Santa Clarita. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo)

ENVIRONMENT

The governor’s revised budget emphasizes disaster preparedness, even in the face of a major budget shortfall.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services – which coordinates disaster and recovery responses across the state – could see an additional $127 million. Cal Fire is looking at a potential $85.7 million increase to help it battle wildfires, which would include hiring 600 additional people before the peak of wildfire season.

Not everything escaped unscathed. Back in January, Newsom proposed a $100 million grant program to help people harden their homes against wildfires. For now, that program is done for.

Newsom’s proposed Climate Catalyst Fund – a program meant to provide loans to climate-friendly businesses – will no longer receive $250 million from the general fund in the coming year. California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office had recommended against the state adopting the program after it was first proposed in January.

Jacob Margolis

A California Department of Corrections officer looks on as inmates at Chino State Prison exercise in the yard on December 10, 2010. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

PRISONS

The governor proposes maintaining the overall budget for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at $13.4 billion, the same amount he proposed in January. He is now proposing closing two state prisons in the next two years; in January he called for closing one in the next five years if the inmate population continued to decline.

The revised budget proposes closing one prison beginning in the 2021-22 fiscal year, and a second facility the following year. Newsom said officials are still in discussions regarding which prisons to shutter.

The governor said the closures would save the state $100 million in 2021-22, $300 million the following year, and $400 million in the future.

Around 117,000 people are currently incarcerated across 34 state prisons, public and private contract facilities, and re-entry programs. The inmate population has declined by nearly 10,000 inmates since last year.

Between March and May, the prison population decreased by over 5,000 inmates due to efforts to reduce overcrowding as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across some state prisons.

There are currently over 500 confirmed cases of the virus in the state prisons, according to the CDCR’s live tracker.

Emily Elena Dugdale

Closed shopfronts in what would be a normally busy fashion district in Los Angeles on May 4, 2020. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

EMPLOYMENT AND WORKFORCE

Newsom talked about the U.S. being in recession due to the coronavirus, with a 26.5% projected gross domestic product decrease in spring 2020.

California’s unemployment rate will average out to 18% over the course of 2020, according to the new state budget proposal. Unemployment rates that high have not been seen since the Great Depression. Against that backdrop, unemployment benefit payouts are projected to skyrocket by 650%.

Back in January, with a state unemployment rate of 3.9%, Gov. Newsom proposed putting $5.8 billion toward unemployment benefits. The new budget calls for $43.8 billion. The increase will be paid for by a combination of direct federal funding, federal loans and higher taxes on employers.

Gov. Newsom has said that already, about 4.6 million Californians have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March. That’s close to one out of every four workers in the state.

The governor’s revised budget calls for adding close to 950 positions in the Economic Development Department, the agency that handles unemployment insurance claims.

David Wagner

The SoCal Economic Stress Tracker is a data-driven look at how L.A.’s economy has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. The project stemmed from trying to quantify the effects of the pandemic aside from public health.

It’s based upon federal, state and city data which help tell the story of how the lives of Angelenos have been remade by the struggles of unemployment, the uncertainty of a next paycheck (or job to return to at all), and struggling to get by. It’s a snapshot of a local government trying to mitigate economic pain points caused by COVID-19 for the area’s most vulnerable residents.

HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS

Reporter Aaron Mendelson is looking at the housing angle. Reporters Kyle Stokes, Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, and Carla Javier are covering education. Reporter Mariana Dale is reporting on the impacts to early childhood development programs. Reporter Robert Garrova is covering mental health and health care. Reporter Josie Huang is looking at the impact on the social safety net. Reporter Sharon McNary and LAist staff writer and producer Ryan Fonseca are looking at infrastructure and transportation. Reporter Jacob Margolis is looking at the budgetary implications for firefighting and climate change efforts. Reporter Sharon McNary is assessing the impact on infrastructure planning and funding. Reporter Emily Elena Dugdale is covering the impact on prisons. Reporter David Wagner will be looking at unemployment, labor and workforce development. And LAist staff writer and producer Mike Roe is anchoring our digital coverage.

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.

Even With Stay-At-Home Orders, LA Traffic Deaths Are Keeping Pace With Last Year

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(Courtesy LAPD via Twitter)

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles city streets were a dangerous place, especially for people walking and biking. While there was an initial lull in collisions and deaths under the “Safer at Home” orders, now there is bad news.

Despite a period of far fewer cars on the road, traffic fatalities are on par with this time last year, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

So far this year, 86 people have been killed in traffic collisions on city streets, Commander Marc Reina of the LAPD’s Traffic Group said at a news conference Thursday.

“To put that in perspective, year-to-date, 89 people have been the victim of homicide within the city of Los Angeles,” Reina said. “Even with the stay-at-home orders still in effect, we're currently at the same amount of [traffic] fatalities that we had at this time last year.”

Commander Reina had a simple message for drivers:

“Please slow down. Put your cell phones down. Don't be a distracted driver and be extremely mindful of your surroundings — especially of the pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Of the 86 deaths reported so far this year, Reina said:

  • 50 victims — nearly 60% — were pedestrians killed by drivers
  • 3 victims were bicyclists
  • 14 of the pedestrian victims were reportedly people experiencing homelessness

In addition, police have logged more than 360 collisions that caused severe injuries, Reina said.

According to LAPD Deputy Chief Blake Chow, the city experienced a lull in fatal collisions in the first few weeks of the city’s stay-at-home order. “But around the beginning of April, people started getting back on the road [and] going to work,” he said, “and we saw a significant spike in our fatal traffic collisions.”

Police officials and community safety advocates also addressed a May 1 collision in South L.A. that in which three people were killed. Unsafe speed was a factor in that crash.

Fewer cars on the roads means more open streets, which has enticed more drivers to speed citywide, according to data from the L.A. Department of Transportation. Dan Mitchell, chief engineer for LADOT, told me data from speed feedback signs installed throughout the city show a slight but “pretty consistent” increase in speeding.

“What feels comfortable in a car feels very differently to people who are outside of a car riding a bike, or a scooter, or on foot,” he said. “It's important that people are aware that we have more people out and about, and that they're particularly vulnerable to people driving their car too fast.”

In all of 2019, more than 240 people died in traffic collisions on L.A. streets, according to city data. Roughly 55% of those victims were pedestrians struck by drivers. In the past 10 years, overall traffic deaths in Los Angeles have risen 32%. The number of pedestrians killed by drivers jumped 52% in that same time frame.

The lack of progress to make L.A. streets safer for people not driving cars has become our new normal, even as the city continues work on Vision Zero, an international safety initiative that Mayor Eric Garcetti launched locally in 2015.

The goal of the program is in the name: a city where not one person is killed in a traffic crash. To get there, L.A. needs to dramatically overhaul its safety infrastructure citywide by improving crosswalks, traffic signals, bike lanes and much more — while also working to curtail speeding drivers. As I’ve reported previously, the city is falling short on both fronts.

READ MORE ABOUT STREET SAFETY IN LA:

Taking AP Tests Remotely Comes With Extra Challenges

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Due to COVID-19 the 2020 Advanced Placement exams must be taken remotely. (Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash)

For many high school students, May marks Advanced Placement testing season.

The AP exams are an opportunity for college credit and, as a result, thousands saved in tuition for students who earn a passing score of 3 or higher.

And unlike other standardized tests,which have been suspended during campus closures, these AP exams are still happening remotely. So far, more than 1.47 million of the tests have been administered online.

Some students have flooded social media with reports of technical difficulties submitting answers in the new online format.

The College Board, which administers the exam, said it's tried to troubleshoot the problems, which have ranged from outdated browsers to incompatible image formats for students submitting photos of handwritten work.

"After the first few days of testing, our data show the vast majority of students successfully completed their exams, with less than 1 percent unable to submit their responses," the organization said in a statement.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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Audit Criticizes California State University For Increases In Mandatory Fees

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A report released on May 14, 2020 by the California State Auditor finds that California State University campuses sometimes use fees for costs already covered by tuition and general fund revenue.

An audit released today by California’s State Auditor said the mandatory fees California State University campuses charge students have shot up faster than tuition increases while campuses often did not adequately justify why students needed to pay more.

The audit said that in the last eight years fees have increased 56% while tuition has gone up 5%. During the current academic year yearly student fees ranged from $4,201 at Cal Poly Pomona to $847 at Fresno State

“The campuses imposed fees on students, sometimes claiming they had no other way to meet their needs… …but did not demonstrate this, particularly given growing funding from tuition and the State, as well as the surplus of over $1 billion that we found in a prior audit.”

The report was made public this morning, ahead of Gov. Gavin Newsom releasing his revised state budget at noon today.

The fees go to pay for programs such as student health, associated students, and academic support.

In a response sent to the Auditor two months before its release, CSU Chancellor Tim White said he’s pleased the audit found no violations of state or federal laws and that the CSU will consider the recommendations.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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With Jail Visits Cut Off, This Mom Resorted To Snail Mail

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Tariq Carlson (L) and mom Diane Rabinowitz (R). (Courtesy Diane Rabinowitz)

When the L.A. Sheriff's Department suspended outside visits at the jails, it created a whole new level of stress for the families of inmates with mental health problems.

Diane Rabinowitz was among them. Her son, Tariq Carlson, is serving time for a misdemeanor, and he has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

Without a way to directly connect, Rabinowitz turned to an old-fashioned method: snail mail. And it's worked. Carlson has been "touched" by the letters she and her friends have written, so much that he's called from jail to tell her.

READ OUR FULL STORY:

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LA Leaders Back Congressional Bill Condemning Rise In Anti-Asian Incidents

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Before stay-home orders, Robin Toma, executive director of the L.A. County of Commission on Human Relations, joined other county officials and community leaders to speak out against coronavirus-related racism. (Josie Huang/LAist)

The Los Angeles City Council is backing a congressional bill condemning anti-Asian and Pacific Islander incidents that have grown in number since the COVID-19 outbreak.

The bill would also direct local authorities to take legal action against credible threats of hate crimes. Since the start of the pandemic, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council has recorded 1,700 hate incidents in the United States.

Executive Director Manju Kulkarni told a forum convened in Los Angeles yesterday that 58% of those incidents happened in California and New York.

"Here in Los Angeles, what we're seeing mimics what's happening across the country. 74% of the incidents involve verbal harassment, 6% involves civil rights violations — these are workplace discrimination/refusal of service— 7% involve physical assault."

The Hate Crime Prevention Forum that Kulkarni spoke at yesterday was hosted by L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer and panelists included L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey, LAPD Deputy Chief Dominic Choi and L.A. County Commission of Human Relations Executive Director Robin Toma. It was held via video conferencing.

The panel was inspired in part by reporting done by our Asian American communities reporter Josie Huang. The Los Angeles City Council has sent its resolution to the mayor's desk for his signature.

READ JOSIE HUANG'S STORIES:

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Diary From The Coronavirus Frontlines: 'We Don't Have A Magic Bullet'

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Dr. Mizuho Morrison, an emergency room doctor in Southern California, is back to work after recovering from COVID-19. (Courtesy of Mizuho Morrison)
At least 3,600 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in L.A. County. At least 20 have died.
Before the pandemic hit, many feared they'd contract the virus because of the lack of personal protective equipment. Some even drew up wills for their families.
I spoke with one emergency room doctor who's now back to work after being out for almost a month because of COVID-19. She says she's one of the luckier ones, but she's cautious about what's next.
"We’re in no better shape today than we were five weeks ago, except maybe we have more testing, but it’s not like we have anything else to offer," she said. "We don't have a magic bullet for anyone."
READ THE FULL STORY:
MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

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Dwindling Chinese Shoppers Add To LA's Troubled Economy

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A purchasing agent photographs a luxury handbag at a store in Southern California to post online and gauge demand among potential customers in China. (Courtesy of Leah Zhang)

According to a 2015 report, 70% of luxury brands bought by Chinese were purchased abroad or through daigou agents, known in English as overseas personal shoppers. They earn a living buying goods in the U.S. for customers in China.

However, these agents worry that "the golden age of this industry is probably gone" because of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same time, Chinese tourists — who often dedicate much of their time in L.A. to hitting the outlets and malls — have all but disappeared.

MORE ON CHINESE SHOPPERS:

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Morning Briefing: Hollywood Bowl Cancels Summer Season

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The Hollywood Bowl in 1935. Photo taken during the funeral of humorist Will Rogers, who died in a plane crash. (AFP via Getty Images)

Never miss a morning briefing, subscribe today to get our A.M. newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Summer in L.A. is going to look a lot different this year. No sunbathing at the beach, no escaping the heat at a movie theater, and now, no concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. The L.A. Philharmonic Association, which runs the Bowl, announced Wednesday that its full season would be canceled for the first time in the venue’s history.

"We are all broken-hearted," said CEO Chad Smith in a statement.

I’ll be honest. In recent years, the crowds at the Bowl were a little overwhelming for me; the hour it took to exit the venue made me stop going as frequently. But now that it’s temporarily closed, all I want to do is put together a basket of abjectly impractical snacks and cheese and cans of wine from Trader Joe’s, sit on a bench and listen to literally anyone play music, with L.A. sprawling out around me.

Of course, that’s not going to happen, and I’ll hold off on bemoaning lost concert-going when there are much more serious and pressing concerns at hand. But I look forward to the day when we can all come together as a music-loving city again… impractical snacks and all.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, May 14

Never heard of a daigou agent? That's because you don't live in China, where some people hire them to shop in L.A. and send them the goods. Yingjie Wang has the story.

The activist organization Friends of Griffith Park is buying land near the Batcave – where the 1960s Batman TV show was filmed, reports Mike Roe.

Winesplaining. The Beastly Ball. Totally '80s aerobics. Christine N. Ziemba has your quarantine-approved events for the weekend.

It's the holy month of Ramadan and this year, everything is different, reports Elina Shatkin, especially iftar — the meal Muslims eat to break their daily fast.

At least 3,600 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in LA County. At least 20 have died. Elly Yu talks to a survivor.

Robert Garrova has a pandemic silver lining story: A woman whose son has paranoid schizophrenia and is in jail has to write letters to him because visits are forbidden. This has opened a whole new channel of communication for the mother and son.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are now 33,247 coronavirus cases and 1,617 deaths in L.A. County, and at least 71,081 cases and 2,882 deaths in California. Worldwide, there are more than 4.3 million cases and over 296,000 deaths.

Open, Close: The Rose Bowl loop reopened after a six-week closure, but the Hollywood Bowl’s 2020 season has been canceled. A new order in L.A. County allows more lower-risk businesses to reopen. Ten counties in California have been approved to move further into Phase 2 of reopening. The program to install temporary food pick-up parking zones outside restaurants is expanding to include retail businesses. Sheriff Villanueva hasn't made a final decision on closing the Altadena and Marina del Rey patrol stations.

The 2020 Vote: Republican candidate Mike Garcia has claimed victory in Tuesday's special election in California's 25th district.

Money Matters: Cal State University will keep charging students the same tuition and fees for the Fall 2020 semester, even though it’ll be online. A Granada Hills real estate developer will plead guilty in connection to bribing public officials — including a member of L.A. City Council — to get faster approval for real estate projects. A struggling Italian deli in the San Fernando Valley was the first to get a no-interest loan from a new community fund.

L.A. Kids: An L.A. Superior Court judge ruled against releasing low-risk and medically fragile youth detainees being held in the county’s juvenile detention system right now. LAUSD has established a mental health hotline, but without face-to-face interaction with counselors or teachers, effectively connecting with struggling students has proven challenging.

COVID-19 In Prisons: The California Institution for Women in Corona is experiencing a coronavirus outbreak.

Mental Health: Health care workers on the frontlines are undergoing extreme stress during the pandemic, and psychiatrists say this will lead to PTSD for some. As health authorities struggle to contain COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes, even official patient advocates can't visit in person.

Print This Worksheet: KPCC and LAist worked with celebrated graphic designer Rosten Woo to create an easy-to-understand resource guide that families can use as a roadmap for financial assistance, food and other resources, as well as some fun activities for kids.


Your Moment Of Zen

Visual journalist Chava Sanchez captured this image of the Sears building in Boyle Heights as the sun set behind it.

(Chava Sanchez / LAist)

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