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LA County Saw A Spike In People Dying At Home In April 

(Photo by Bryan Chan/ Courtesy Los Angeles County)

In April, Los Angeles County saw 53% more people dying at home than during the same period last year.

That’s according to an LAist analysis of case data received from the county’s Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.

In April of this year, 438 people died at home, compared to 286 people last April (289 people died at home in April 2018, and 293 in 2017).

L.A. County Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Jonathan Lucas told us many of these deaths are still under investigation, so it’s too early to tell why the numbers are up:

“There’s an increase. The only question is: How much of that is because people are at home during the safer-at-home orders, and how much is just really related to disease or other things that are going on?”

Lucas said it’s possible that more people are dying at home simply because more people are staying at home. For instance, he said someone who dies of a drug overdose may be more likely to die at home during the pandemic than at another location.

“I think that the Safer-at-Home order may have just shifted the location [of deaths]. Some of these things may have occurred anyway,” he said.

But the increase in deaths could also be attributed to people dying at home from COVID-19, or dying from heart attacks and strokes because they avoided the hospital, said Karin Michels, professor of epidemiology and chair at UCLA.

“So these drastic increases in mortality are a mix of corona[virus] deaths and death from other [diseases] -- mostly heart attack and strokes -- that are not appropriately treated,” Michels said.

She said other locations in the U.S. -- and throughout the world -- are seeing similar increases.

“We want to know what's going on,” Lucas said. “Eventually, we will know more.”

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California Lottery Sales Take A Hit During Coronavirus Pandemic

Launderland in Westminster is a big lottery retailer. (Susanica Tam for KPCC)

The California Lottery sold $492 million in tickets in April, according to agency data. That number may sound like a lot, but it represents a significant decline from just three months earlier, when lottery players snapped up $696 million in tickets.

That could hurt retailers who rely on lottery ticket sales. And it could hurt students. Lottery proceeds fund a small share of education funding in California, but every dollar counts during a budget crisis.



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WATCH: Covina-Valley Teachers Say District Is Moving To Oust Superintendent


The Covina-Valley Unified Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. It has one item on the agenda: “Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release.” (Watch the meeting above.)

The employee, according to a statement by the union representing the district’s teachers, is the district’s superintendent, Richard Sheehan.

“The Covina Unified Education Association, representing all of C-VUSD’s certificated educators, stands adamantly opposed to this decision,” the union wrote in a statement on Friday. “As an organization we demand that the Board honor, maintain and retain Dr. Sheehan for the entirety of his contract through June 2023.”

On Sunday, the union issued another statement that does not mention Sheehan or any other district employee by name.

“The Covina Unified Education Association leadership and members have been notified of recent allegations raised about an employee of C-VUSD. We are aware that the proper agencies have been informed,” the union wrote. The statement does not elaborate on the allegations.

“As an organization, we respect and defend the right to due process and confidentiality in all personnel matters,” the statement continues. “As such, we intend to allow the process to proceed uninterrupted and without any speculation.”

According to the agenda for the regular board meeting, the board will consider appointing an interim superintendent during closed session.

An online petition in support of Sheehan has been signed by more than 3,000 individuals. The board of education is accepting public comment from 3 to 5 pm this afternoon. Public portions of the special meeting will be streamed online, followed by the regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m.

This is a developing story. We will update as we learn more.

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Single Motherhood During Coronavirus: I'm 'Irritable, Loved, Impatient, and Compassionate'

Ronn and Shelora Dawson taking the first hops of 2020 in the family's inflatable bounce house. (Courtesy Shammeer Dawson)

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

Shammeer Dawson lives in Hawthorne with her children Taj, 8, Shelora, 5, and 3-year-old twins Ronn and Rome, along with her mother.

She checked in with us in early April while her kids bounded through an inflatable bounce house set up outside.

“They want me to play with them, and I’m exhausted, as you can probably hear. Today has been a strong day. I’ve been feeling irritable, loved, impatient, and compassionate. It’s a whole range of feelings, both good and bad. The stress level is high and my biggest concern is that I want to be whatever I can for my kids, but I don’t think I can do that.

“I don’t think I can fit that mold. I want to be the homeschool mom, I want to be the innovative thinker, creating all types of science projects and games for them to play when I just want to lay down and go to sleep. I wonder how you guys are doing out there... I just wanted to give you guys a sense of what’s going on in my world. Blessings to all of you.”


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How Long Should It Take To Get My COVID-19 Test Results In LA?

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Many of our readers have asked us how long the coronavirus test results take, and our reporters have wondered the same thing. Some folks were told that they'd get results in a day or two and waited five days; some were told five days and are still waiting.

We reached out to Christina Ghaly, the director of health services at the Los Angeles County Health Agency, for answers. She told us:

"The average turnaround time among the county-operated testing sites right now is still about three days. There are certainly some cases in which it's taking longer than three days. That number is an average, though."

Ghaly added that county officials are making some changes with the vendors who are involved in the test sites, and that in some cases, results are delayed because contact information wasn't provided or wasn't current.

If you're waiting on test results, Ghaly suggests checking the testing website.


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LA’s Underground Haircut Scene Is Poppin’ Right Now

Carmelle and Eric review the results of his haircut inside Carmelle's Compton home. Chava Sanchez/LAist

It's nowhere near as essential as food or shelter. But let's face it: We could all use a haircut right now.

Barbershops and hair salons are among the businesses that have been closed for two months now under L.A.'s "Safer at Home" order. Stylists and shaggy Californians are getting desperate. And some have found an outlet: illicit, home haircuts.

Carmelle, who has worked as a stylist for 22 years, started offering her services on Craigslist when she was mistakenly told she couldn't collect unemployment insurance. She has been seeing clients, many of them men, at her home-turned-salon.

“Some of them just be like, ‘I tried to get my wife to cut my hair with the dog clippers, and this is what I got,” she said, laughing. “And I be like, ‘We can fix it.’”


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Ferrer: Over 1 Million People Were ‘Out And About’ In LA County This Weekend. 40K Could Have Coronavirus


Los Angeles County officials reported 477 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 38,451 cases countywide. In total, 1,298 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 694 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer also reported 18 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 1,839 people.

So far, 92% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said.

The death toll at institutional facilities in L.A. County — particularly at nursing homes — continues to climb. Ferrer reported that 955 residents at those facilities have died. That number represents 52% of all deaths countywide.

One concerning fact Ferrer noted Monday: the vast majority of residents and staff members at institutional facilities who tested positive for COVID-19 did not display symptoms. Health officials have tested more than 3,600 people in those settings, which resulted in 402 positive cases. But only 57 of the people who tested positive had symptoms. Ferrer said 86% of the people that tested positive were asymptomatic, adding:

"These results highlight the fact that there may be, in any setting, significant numbers of people who are positive for COVID-19, with no symptoms. And this is particularly problematic in our institutional settings. Infection control-appropriate personal protective equipment and routine testing are essential for us to create safer environments for employees — and for residents."

Ferrer also said county officials estimate more than 1 million people left their homes to visit newly reopened businesses or public spaces over the weekend. She explained what potential ramifications that could have for the spread of COVID-19:

"If the rate of people that can be positive for COVID-19 is about 4%, we might be able to estimate that as many as 40,000 of the 1 million people who are out and about could be infected with COVID-19.

She went on to point out that "if these people infect just one other person, that would be 80,000 people that could be newly infected with COVID-19. And if even 5% of these people who are newly infected with COVID-19 become seriously ill and need to be hospitalized, that could result in an additional 4,000 people that would need hospital care."

Ferrer also provided a racial breakdown of the confirmed deaths, based on information confirmed for 1,706 of the victims. According to the latest available information:

  • 39% of deaths occurred among Latina/Latino residents [48.6% of county residents]
  • 29% among White residents [26.1% of county residents]
  • 18% among Asian residents [15.4% of county residents]
  • 12% among African American residents [9% of county residents]
  • 1% among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander residents [0.4% of county residents]
  • 1% among residents identifying with other races

Here are some other key figures being reported today:

  • More than 350,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 and had their results reported to L.A. County health officials. Of those tests, 9% have been positive. That rate has dropped as testing increases, Ferrer noted.
  • As of Monday, 4,298 healthcare workers and first responders have tested positive for COVID-19, Ferrer reported, and 26 have died.
  • There are currently 1,570 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those individuals, 27% are in the ICU, with 20% on ventilators. Ferrer noted officials continue to see “small decreases in the number of people that are hospitalized.”
  • In total 5,835 people who've tested positive for coronavirus in L.A. County have "at some point" been hospitalized, Ferrer said, which represents about 15% of all positive cases.
  • The county health department is currently investigating 400 institutional facilities where there's at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. Those sites include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, shelters, treatment centers, supportive living, and correctional facilities. Ferrer said there are 9,909 confirmed cases in those facilities — 6,452 residents and 3,457 staff members.
  • Ferrer said 295 cases have been confirmed among L.A. County residents experiencing homelessness — 156 of whom were sheltered, Ferrer said.
  • There have now been 614 confirmed cases “at some point in time” in county jail facilities, Ferrer reported. In total, 480 inmates and 134 staff members have tested positive.

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California Gov. Newsom: If Trends Continue, Haircuts And Sports Can Come Back Soon


Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his regular update on California's response to coronavirus Monday from Mustards Grill Restaurant in Napa. Read highlights below or watch the full video above.


Some of the state's larger counties will be allowed to move deeper into Stage 2, Newsom said — the eligibility is effective immediately, but counties can still move at their own pace, and it's dependent on particular criteria. He added that 53 of the state's 58 counties are expected to be eligible, with a focus on hotspots within counties rather than counties as a whole. However, he noted that one of the counties that may need to take longer is L.A. County, along with the San Francisco Bay Area.

If current trendlines continue, Newsom said, statewide announcements are expected for opening up:

  • in-store retail (not just curbside pickup)
  • getting a haircut
  • churches within weeks, not months
  • sporting events without spectators in the first week of June
  • other parts of the economy

Guidelines for some counties to open up haircuts will be released within a week, with the opportunity statewide expected within a few weeks, Newsom said.

There are a variety of metrics counties need to hit to move forward, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. These include:

  • no more than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over seven days
  • and EITHER less than 25 coronavirus positives per 100,000 residents
  • OR less than 8% positive tests

There are 24 counties who have already moved further into Stage 2 than the rest of the state, the governor said, due to differing conditions in those counties.


Moving further into Stage 2 is possible due to current trendlines, Newsom said. Over the last two weeks, there has been a 7.5% decline in hospitalizations and an 8.7% in ICU patients statewide, Newsom said. There have also been tens of millions of masks distributed by the state over the last few weeks, he said, including 11 million masks on Friday to critical parts of the economy — including grocery workers, farmworkers, and more.

There have been 1.3 million coronavirus tests conducted in California so far, with 57,000 conducted in the last 24 hours, Newsom said. He noted that that is on the higher end of the tests conducted in one day. The state is also on its way to 10,000 contact tracers, he said.

There were 1,591 new confirmed coronavirus cases Sunday, with 41 new deaths, according to the state. Both hospitalizations and ICU numbers went up modestly in the past day, Newsom said — hospitalizations up 0.4%, ICU numbers up 0.7%.

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Three Local Private Colleges Working Toward In-Person Classes This Fall

Pepperdine University in Malibu is among Southern California campuses that will resume in-person classes in the Fall 2020 semester. (Pepperdine University)

Some California public colleges and universities have already announced that their courses will remain online for the fall semester, but a handful of private Southern California campuses say they're moving toward resuming in-person classes this fall.

Students at Chapman University in Orange and Pepperdine University in Malibu are working out plans to return to their classrooms, with safety measures in place.

“It’s not going to be a semester like every other, its going to be kind of the rebirth semester,” said Chapman University President Daniele Struppa. His university is going to sanitize classrooms, take students’ temperatures around campus, provide masks and gloves to everyone on campus and shrink classrooms and use outdoor spaces to carry out social distancing.

Similar plans are under consideration at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks but have not been made final.

The measures will be expensive and administrators say some students and employees won’t feel comfortable coming to campus even with all the planned precautions.

UPDATE, May 18, 4:15 p.m.: A previous version of this story included Cal Lutheran among the universities that will resume in-person classes this fall. Those plans are currently under consideration.

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ATF Joins Downtown Fire Investigation

Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters work the scene of a structure fire that injured multiple firefighters, according to a fire department spokesman, Saturday, May 16, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

At the request of L.A. officials, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is sending a team of arson and explosives experts, along with special agents from its L.A. field office, to look into an explosion and fire in downtown Los Angeles over the weekend that left a dozen firefighters injured, two of them critically.

They will be investigating what caused a massive fire and explosion at Smoke Tokes Wholesale Distribution at 327 E. Boyd St. near the intersection with San Pedro on Saturday.

According to a department spokesman, after they entered, firefighters entered the building an explosion shot canisters of butane and CO2 at least two blocks away. In all, 11 firefighters were hospitalized and a 12th firefighter was treated in the emergency room. As of this morning, six remained there in stable condition.

It says its National Response Team can help determine the origin and cause of the fire and also help gather evidence for potential criminal prosecution.

The ATF team was expected to arrive on site today. A spokeswoman for the ATF said she would not be able to offer any further details until they could begin assessing the scene.


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LAUSD Leader: Budget Cuts ‘Just As Real A Threat’ To K-12 Students As Virus

LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner promised details on the impact of proposed state budget cuts "in the coming days and weeks." (Kyle Stokes/LAist)

The leader of California’s largest school district issued a stark warning on Monday: proposed state budget cuts could be disastrous for public education.

“The harm children are facing is just as real a threat to them as is the coronavirus,” Austin Beutner, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said in a video address on Monday:

Cuts to funding at schools will forever impact the lives of children … Why aren’t we able to provide the funding to prevent this from happening? Is it because the harm is silent and unseen unlike the images of overrun hospitals? Is it because children don’t have a voice? Or is it because so many of the families we serve are living in poverty and don’t have access to the corridors of power in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.?

Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that a sharp drop in state revenues could force the state to slash funding for K-12 education by roughly 10% — comparable to the hit schools took in the Great Recession — unless the federal government steps in with aid immediately.

Beutner did not say how badly this cut would hit LAUSD’s bottom line, but he promised details “in the coming days and weeks.” Tomorrow, the L.A. Unified School Board is scheduled to hold its first open meeting in more than two months — and an update on the district’s budget is on the agenda.


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Morning Briefing: Back To The Beach

Aerial view of Venice Beach on Saturday (Brian Berrodin for LAist)

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

SoCal’s beaches have, in recent weeks, become something of a battleground in the case for re-opening. There were the crowds that descended on beaches in OC, followed by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s official shutdown of said beaches, followed by protests, followed by another re-opening.

But this weekend, our sandy coasts appeared to be heading back to their natural state of relative calm. In Venice and Santa Monica, which reopened last week, crowds were spread out enough to allow for social distancing -- although some folks broke the “no sunbathing” rule. And In Manhattan Beach, the mayor was optimistic about officials’ “education-first” strategy with regards to visitors.

Maybe we’re ready for baby steps after all. Good job, L.A.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, May 18

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

The gang from Community reunites for a good cause, the Hola Mexico Film Festival screens new flicks, OCMA holds a 24-hour video art festival, and more. Christine N. Ziemba has this week’s quarantine-approved events.

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The Past 48 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are now 38,001 coronavirus cases and 1,821 deaths in L.A. County, plus at least 78,818 cases and 3,208 deaths in California. Worldwide, there are more than 4.7 million cases and over 315,000 deaths.

Life’s A (Confusing) Beach: L.A.’s beaches are open again, but officials are giving mixed messages about biking near the sand. Photos showed minimal crowding in Venice and Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach’s mayor said that rule-breaking weekend beachgoers seemed to at least be practicing social distancing.

Open, Close: Descanso Gardens is reopening. The L.A. County fair, scheduled for September, is canceled for the first time since WWII. Meanwhile, you won't have to move your car for alternate street parking until at least June 1.

California Kids: The College Board fixed a glitch that left some students unable to submit their AP exams.

Fire In DTLA: A massive fire, followed by an explosion, took place at a downtown L.A. smoke accessories warehouse. Local officials said they may call on federal help for their probe into the incident.

COVID-19 In The Courts: Arguing that many inmates held at the Terminal Island and Lompoc federal prisons are low-risk offenders at high risk from COVID-19, the ACLU of Southern California is suing to seek a significant increase in prisoner releases. Both facilities have had massive coronavirus outbreaks.

Final Goodbyes: Independent film and TV director Lynn Shelton (Little Fires Everywhere, Humpday, Glow) died on Friday from a blood disorder at the age of 54. Her partner, comedian and actor Marc Maron, said the condition was previously unknown.

Your Moment Of Zen

Surfing is movement, surfing is freedom, I've never surfed but it sure looks like the opposite of being stuck at home.

(Mark J. Terrill/AP)

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