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LA City Council Moves Forward With Mayor's Coronavirus Budget Cuts
The city of Los Angeles moved forward today with Mayor Garcetti’s belt-tightening budget, which shaves $230 million off city spending -- including partial furloughs for civilian workers and cuts to most departments.
More cuts are likely on the way, as the city’s tax revenue has been decimated by the coronavirus crisis. But the city council said it will allow Garcetti's budget to take effect when the new fiscal year starts July 1, with plans to revisit spending as the revenue picture continues to change.
Budget and Finance chairman Paul Krekorian said his committee will consider amendments to the budget next month and continue updating the plan as the year unfolds.
The mayor’s budget has disappointed activists who flooded public comment phone lines on Wednesday, asking why the council was maintaining larger paychecks for police instead of preserving social services. The city negotiated more overtime and pay increases with unions last year.
READ MORE ABOUT THE WEDNESDAY DEBATE:
LA Charter Schools Explore COVID-19 Relief Loans Aimed At Small Businesses
At least three Los Angeles charter schools have received money through a $660 billion federal loan program originally intended to help small businesses weather the coronavirus crisis.
Charters are publicly funded schools — but because they’re operated by nonprofit organizations, not school districts, they’re eligible for the federal Paycheck Protection Program, or “PPP.”
But since state education funding has not stopped flowing during the pandemic, skeptics like Maria Sanchez wonder: Why would charters need PPP money?
"There’s been talk in the news about … how some small businesses weren’t given a chance to get a loan because [the money] was all taken. The fact [a charter school] was getting a loan when they have the same funding as public schools just didn’t seem fair to me."
READ THE FULL STORY:
Glendale Nursing Home Sued By Family Of Resident Killed By Coronavirus
The family of a nursing home resident who died of COVID-19 is suing the owners of the home. The wrongful death lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court today, claims administrators of GlenHaven Healthcare in Glendale prohibited staff from wearing masks and gloves.
The family of Ricardo Saldana also alleges that administrators knew an employee had been exposed to the coronavirus but still allowed them to work for two weeks, exposing other staff and residents.
Saldana was 77 when he died from COVID-19 in April.
“They put a patient with COVID in my dad’s room when my dad was alone all the time," Saldana's daughter Jackie, one of the plaintiffs, said on a call announcing the suit. "They killed my dad. They could have prevented this and many others died and many others got sick.”
According to county health data, 53 workers and residents have been infected at GlenHaven and five have died of COVID-19.
The federal government has provided legal protections for some health care professionals during the pandemic, but not for nursing homes — yet. Industry groups have been pressuring Governor Gavin Newsom to grant some legal immunity to nursing homes related to the pandemic. Consumer advocates strongly oppose the idea.
READ OUR IN-DEPTH LOOK AT AN OUTBREAK IN ONE LA NURSING HOME
- LA's Nursing Homes Serving Black And Brown Patients Are Hardest Hit By Coronavirus. What's Going On?
LA Asks Judge To Vacate Order To Move Homeless From Freeways
Attorneys for the city and county of Los Angeles are asking a judge to vacate or delay an order to relocate thousands of homeless people living under and around area freeways.
U.S. District Judge David O Carter's order is supposed to take effect tomorrow. It's part of a case filed by plaintiffs who argue L.A.'s government has been negligent in its handling of mass homelessness, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
The county argues the injunction does not help them protect individuals experiencing homelessness. As of this afternoon, Carter had not scheduled a hearing to discuss the new request.
L.A. police estimate there are more than 3,000 people under overpasses in the city.
READ MORE ABOUT THE ORDER:
KROQ Makes Changes and Angers Fans
For years, the music radio station KROQ was THE place on the dial where L.A. turned to hear the next big thing in alternative rock. Variety’s Executive Editor of Music, Shirley Halperin puts it like this:
It was a place of discovery. It was a tastemaker station. There are groups in England that knew that in order to make it in the U.S. as an alternative band you had to break through KROQ. It had that much influence and that much power over the music scene in the ‘80s and the ‘90s.
KROQ was also the home to “Kevin & Bean,” the popular morning talk show with a rabid fanbase. Last year, after Bean retired, Kevin Ryder remade the show as “Kevin in the Morning with Allie & Jensen.”
But in March things changed...and quickly. According to Variety, after the long-time program director, Kevin Weatherly, was ousted, a new guy was brought in and put a Post Malone song into “power rotation,” signaling a new direction for the station.
As for the morning show? Everyone was fired.
Halperin says that these “drastic changes to their playlist – and to their personalities – was a real shock to the system, to L.A.”
And it led to a big ratings drop. Now it's unclear whether or not the station will survive.
You can hear more of Shirley Halperin’s conversation with KPCC’s Take Two:
There’s Been A COVID-19 Outbreak At Farmer John In Vernon
Like other meatpacking facilities across the country, the Farmer John plant in Vernon — which manufactures the iconic Dodger Dog — has had an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.
At least 140 people who work for the Smithfield Foods-owned plant have tested positive over the past few months, according to Freddie Agyin, Director of the Health and Environmental Control Department in the City of Vernon.
He said they were first alerted to a cluster of six cases in the ham deboning department at the plant in mid-April.
When asked for comment, Smithfield said they’ve taken a number of steps to enhance worker safety, including installing plastic barriers, performing regular temperature checks, offering free virus testing, and distributing additional protective equipment, including masks and face shields.
However, some employees still feel unsafe and think the company should do more as the number of cases continues to grow.
Twenty-four additional cases were reported to Vernon’s Health and Environmental Control Department over the past week. It’s unclear if the rise in cases is due to additional testing or the virus continuing to spread amongst workers at the plant.
Escape Rooms Find Success Virtually After Coronavirus Shuttered The Real Ones
Oh boy, an escape room, the perfect opportunity to... go touch some puzzles that have been touched by hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people? Uh oh. The pandemic era's answer: virtual escape rooms on Zoom.
The virtual rooms mean that both the players and the staff can be socially distanced, while joining in a team adventure with friends. And they're helping L.A. escape rooms like Escape Room L.A. and 60out stay afloat — after laying off staff when the shutdown started, escape rooms now say they don't have enough performers to meet the online demand.
They're also starting to plan for the day when people are ready to go into confined spaces with others, figuring out how to escape in under an hour.
READ THE FULL STORY:
University Of California Drops SAT And ACT Requirement Until At Least 2024
The University of California will not require students to submit SAT and ACT standardized test scores for undergraduate admission at least until 2024.
The 23-member UC Board of Regents voted unanimously to adopt a proposal submitted by UC President Janet Napolitano to end the decades-long requirement for admission to the prestigious university system.
During the suspension, UC will explore creating its own test “that better aligns with the content UC expects applicants to have learned and with UC’s values,” according to the document submitted to the Regents by Napolitano’s office.
The 10-campus university system wlll eliminate the standardized testing requirement permanently “if UC is unable to either modify or create a test that can be available for fall 2025 freshman applicants from California high schools," according to the proposal approved by the Regents today.
Many of the Regents and members of the public who commented during the online meeting cited research that shows those who do well are more likely to be in higher-income families who can afford expensive test preparation courses.
Students sued UC last year to stop the university system from using SAT and ACT scores.
A UC task force found earlier this year that the classes students take and the grades they earn do more to keep students out of university admission than standardized test scores.
READ THE FULL STORY:
Some Californians Have Gone Months Without Unemployment Benefits While Waiting For Extensions
California’s unemployment office has processed an unprecedented number of claims since the coronavirus pandemic began. But those who’ve already run out of benefits are still waiting for the state to process extensions outlined in recent federal legislation.
Some Californians have now been going months without benefits, and desperation is setting in.
“It's not a comfortable way of living, knowing that there's a good chance you could lose everything in just a month or two,” said Richard Torres, a Riverside father who exhausted his unemployment benefits in mid-April.
California’s unemployment department has said it will begin automatically filing extensions on May 27 for those with exhausted claims, as long as they first started receiving benefits on or after June 2, 2019. But some may have to wait until June, or even July, before payments start to arrive.
READ OUR FULL STORY ABOUT UI EXTENSIONS:
LA Health Officials Report Signs Of Progress Even As Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 2,000 In County,
Los Angeles County is "moving in the right direction" in its response to COVID-19, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at today's media briefing. And a new serology study suggests "it is very likely" that the countywide prevalence rate of the virus did not rise between March and April.
L.A. County officials reported 1,204 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 42,037 cases countywide. In total, 1,400 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 784 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).
Ferrer also reported 46 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 2,016 people.
Of the 46 people who’ve died in the past 24 hours, 28 were over 65 and, of those victims, 20 had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. Twelve victims were between 41 and 65 and 10 of them had underlying health conditions.
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 1,048 residents at those facilities have died. Those victims account for 52% of all deaths countywide.
She also noted that people between the ages of 18 and 65 make up 76% of the total cases in L.A. County and 74% of new cases. Ferrer explained why that was a concern:
"This is the age group that makes up the majority of our workforce. So, as more people are going back to work, it's an important reminder that people at the workplace may be infected, even if they aren't feeling sick, and we need our employers and our employees to work together to make sure that employees and customers are in an environment that's as safe as possible."
Ferrer acknowledged that, as the recovery process leads to more people leaving their homes, it "may become more difficult to slow the spread, but it is far from impossible."
She reminded county residents of the importance of continuing to follow public health guidance on physical distancing and wearing face coverings.
County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the progress being made to limit the spread of coronavirus is allowing county leaders to ease restrictions and move forward with economic recovery, but noted that the financial impact isn’t hitting all residents equally.
“Let's be frank: the economic crisis for communities of color predates COVID-19 — COVID-19 has magnified that reality. But... the virus is still out there waiting for us to let our guard down, so we can't go back to business as usual.”
Ferrer also provided a racial breakdown of the confirmed deaths, based on information confirmed for 1,863 of the victims:
- 12% African American [9% of county residents]
- 17% Asian [15.4% of county residents]
- 39% Latino / Latina [48.6% of county residents]
- 29% White [26.1% of county residents]
- 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander [0.4% of county residents]
- 1% identified as belonging to a different race or ethnicity
Here are some other key figures being reported today:
- Just over 403,000 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.
- There are currently 1,617 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those individuals, 26% are in the ICU, with 20% on ventilators. Ferrer noted officials continue to see a slight decrease in the number of people hospitalized.
- In total 6,026 people who've tested positive for coronavirus in L.A. County have "at some point" been hospitalized, Ferrer said, which represents about 14% of all positive cases.
- Ferrer reported the current seven-day average number of deaths per day is 37, which marks a 12% decrease from the prior seven-day average.
- The county health department is currently investigating 410 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 10,587 confirmed cases in those facilities — 6,901 residents and 3,686 staff members.
- Ferrer said 323 cases have been confirmed among L.A. County residents experiencing homelessness — 166 of whom were sheltered, Ferrer said.
- There have now been 679 confirmed cases “at some point” in county jail facilities, Ferrer reported. In total, 530 inmates and 149 staff members have tested positive.
MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:
LA Sheriff's Oversight Panel To Subpoena All Records On Kobe Crash Photos
The Los Angeles Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission today voted to subpoena the Sheriff's Department for all records, documents and communications regarding allegations that photos of the Kobe Bryant crash site were destroyed and that an investigation was suppressed.
The commission granted County Inspector General Max Huntsman's request for a subpoena; he detailed a long list of materials he wants to inspect, including "county employees involved in deciding how the matter involving the photographs would be handled."
Villanueva indicated yesterday he would defy any subpoena from Huntsman, saying he has no authority under state law to issue one.
It's been reported that some deputies who arrived at the crash scene Jan. 26 took graphic photos and shared them. The Los Angeles Times subsesquently reported that there was a coverup, and NBC4 reported that Villanueva admitted he ordered deputies to delete photos.
The sheriff said his department is investigating the incident and will make its conclusions public when it's done.
The oversight panel also voted to "take all necessary and appropriate steps" to enforce another subpoena that Villanueva ignored, which called on him to appear at today's meeting to discuss his efforts to contain COVID-19 in the jails. Those steps could include asking a judge to order the sheriff to comply with the subpoena.
Facing The Coronavirus With Swim Goggles. The Unequal Toll In LA Nursing Homes
COVID-19 has killed nearly 1,000 people in Los Angeles County who lived or worked at institutions – mainly nursing homes. A new collaboration between KPCC/LAist, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Southern Illinoisan found there's one thing that distinguishes the nursing homes that have reported the highest number of deaths: their residents are mostly black and Latino.
Race and Latino origin turned out to be a major predictor of whether a nursing home has a COVID-19 outbreak, we found, even after accounting for a facility's location, federal quality ratings, size and infection rate in the surrounding community.
We looked at what happened at one, hard-hit nursing home in L.A., Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center, to try to understand how the virus spread there so quickly.
The facility in East Los Angeles, whose residents are mostly Latino, has experienced one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the county, according to public health data. So far 83 workers and residents have been infected with the virus, and twelve of them have died.
Alma Lara-Garcia, a certified nursing assistant who worked at Buena Ventura and got infected with the coronavirus, shared her experience of the early days of the outbreak.
READ LARA-GARCIA'S ACCOUNT:
READ THE STORIES FROM OUR PARTNER PUBLICATIONS:
- The Striking Racial Divide in How Covid-19 Has Hit Nursing Homes (The New York Times)
- Maryland shows higher risk for and wide racial disparity in nursing home coronavirus outbreaks, analysis finds (The Baltimore Sun)
Release More Jail Inmates To Fight The Coronavirus? Sheriffs Differ.
If you ask your local sheriff whether he thinks it's a good idea to release more non-violent inmates to fight the spread of COVID-19 in his jails, the answer you get will depend on where you live.
The sheriffs in Los Angeles and Orange counties largely embraced the idea. The sheriffs in Riverside and San Bernardino counties rejected it.
"We had to think big and be a little bold" in addressing L.A.'s overcrowded jails, said L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
"If you don't want to catch this virus while you're in custody, don't break the law," Riverside Sheriff Chad Bianco told us.
READ OUR FULL REPORT:
University Of California Considers Axing Standardized Tests For Admissions
The University of California Regents are set to vote this morning on suspending the use of SAT and ACT scores for admissions.
The proposal, submitted by UC President Janet Napolitano, would overturn a decades-long requirement for admission to the prestigious university system. If approved, the requirement for students to submit a standardized test result for undergraduate admission would be suspended until 2024.
In the meantime, UC would explore creating its own test “that better aligns with the content UC expects applicants to have learned and with UC’s values,” according to the document submitted to the Regents by Napolitano’s office.
“If UC is unable to either modify or create a test that can be available for fall 2025 freshman applicants from California high schools, the President recommends that UC eliminate altogether its standardized testing requirement for admissions for California students,” the proposal says.
At issue is the value of standardized tests. Many researchers say those who do well are more likely to be in higher-income families who can afford expensive test preparation courses.
In a letter sent to the Regents, ACT’s Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda wrote that a UC task force concluded that use of standardized tests “does not attribute inequity or bias toward a specific student population or demographic group, and that they are highly predictive of a student's first-year college success, retention and graduation.”
Students sued UC last year to stop the university system from using SAT and ACT scores.
The Regents meeting to discuss the proposal begins at 8:30 a.m.
How Many Grocery Store Workers Have Died From Coronavirus?
At least 68 grocery store workers nationwide have died from COVID-19, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 20,000 grocery store employees in Los Angeles County.
The union also says more than 10,000 of its members have been exposed to COVID-19 or sickened by the virus in the last five weeks.
Union President Marc Perrone is calling on grocers to reinstate a $2 per hour pay bump they recently rolled back:
"These companies, by eliminating this hazard pay, ignores what the American people know -- that this virus is still very much a threat, and especially for those workers who must interact with thousands of customers everyday."
"Where was I on Easter? I was here," says Raquel Solorio, who works at a Ralphs store. "Where was I on Mother's Day? I was here. I am here every single day, six days a week, for the last eight weeks. I don't know why they would be taking our hazard pay away."
Following weekend protests against Kroger, the parent company of Ralphs and several other grocery chains, the company announced a "thank you" bonus for full and part-time workers.
A similar bonus was paid out at the beginning of the panedmic, in addition to the hourly increase.
The union is also calling on all food retailers to release the number of workers who have been killed or sickened by COVID-19.
Morning Briefing: Relatives Of Terminal Island Inmates Speak Out
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With nearly 700 cases of coronavirus, Terminal Island prison in San Pedro has one of the highest rates of the virus of any federal prison. To complicate matters, the facility specializes in housing inmates with pre-existing conditions – often the people who are most susceptible to COVID-19.
Speaking to family members of inmates, Emily Elena Dugdale heard anger, fear and sadness at the way their loved ones are being treated.
"Someone there should be notifying the next of kin or family and saying, 'Hey, this is the situation, this is what we're doing,'" said one inmate’s brother, after finding out that his sibling was hospitalized with the virus after the fact.
"They weren't given a death sentence," said another inmate’s mother.
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the families, and we’ll be following the story to see how it unfolds in court. Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.
Coming Up Today, May 21
The UC Board of Regents will consider Janet Napolitano’s proposal to eliminate the SAT and ACT as requirements for admission, reports Adolfo Guzman-Lopez.
The deadline for the Census Bureau to turn in data will likely be delayed, and Caroline Champlin reports that this could have significant implications for redistricting in California. Champlin also explores why Malibu and Bel Air are showing unusually low census response rates -- is it possible that wealthy residents escaped the city like New York elites fleeing to the Hamptons?
Make gnocchi. Discover Griffith Park. Go to a drive-in movie. Forest Lawn's annual Memorial Day commemoration goes virtual. Plus, dine and drink deals. Christine N. Ziemba has this week’s best quarantine-approved events.
With coronavirus shutting down L.A.'s escape rooms, game creators are taking their products virtual. Mike Roe asks, can Zoom recreate the physical experience of an escape room?
More than half of the COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County have been at institutions, mainly nursing homes – and there's one thing that distinguishes those reporting the highest number of deaths: their residents are mostly black and Latino. KPCC’s Jackie Fortiér looks into how the disease spread through one largely Latino nursing home in East L.A.
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The Past 24 Hours In LA
L.A., California, The World: There are now 40,857 coronavirus cases and 1,970 deaths in L.A. County, plus at least 85,330 cases and 3,472 deaths in California. Worldwide, there are nearly 5 million cases and over 327,000 deaths.
Help For Local Restaurants: L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin put forth a proposal to allow restaurants to create temporary outdoor spaces for dining on sidewalks, streets and in private parking lots. The Long Beach City Council has already approved a similar plan. City Council voted unanimously to move forward with capping the fees that food delivery apps can charge restaurants.
Los Angeles, This Is Your Government: Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he won't comply with a subpoena to appear before the Civilian Oversight Commission. The City Council heard from dozens of people opposed to Mayor Garcetti's proposed 2020-21 budget. Here’s what some of those same Councilmembers and other L.A. leaders said about City Hall’s federal corruption scandal, and Councilmember José Huizar’s potential role in it.
Arts And Entertainment: Leaders in L.A.’s film and TV industry shared how they’re dealing with the crisis and how they plan to adapt their workplaces in the weeks and months ahead. The 2020 closure of the Hollywood Bowl will silence a saxophonist who’s been serenading guests from the tunnel underneath Highland Avenue for 36 years.
Covering Inequity: The proportion of Asians dying at home in L.A. County is higher than in previous years.
Protecting The Vulnerable: Relatives of inmates at Terminal Island in San Pedro, which has one of the highest counts of COVID-19 cases of any federal prison, speak out. Local officials have submitted preliminary plans to relocate thousands of homeless people from beneath freeway overpasses. A new website launched this week to connect LGBTQIA folks with help for health and money issues related to the pandemic.
Open, Close: Joshua Tree is open again, with some restrictions. Federal officials have agreed to demolish 10 buildings at the site of the Santa Susana Field laboratory, where a nuclear meltdown happened in 1959.
California Kids: Students and families whose Advanced Placement responses could not be submitted during last week’s exams have filed a federal class-action lawsuit. State superintendent Tony Thurmond sided with several local school districts, saying that it will be difficult for them to reopen under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently proposed budget cuts.
Final Goodbyes: Former WWE pro wrestler Shad Gaspard’s body was found this morning after he was swept under the water at Venice Beach. He was last seen directing a lifeguard to save his son.
Your Moment Of Zen
Digital Producer Gina Pollack captured these palm trees in the breeze in Echo Park.
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