Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):
Coronavirus Cases In LA County Top 45K
L.A. County public health officials have confirmed 940 new cases of the coronavirus and 14 new deaths, bringing the total in the region to 45,017 positive cases and 2,106 deaths. Of those who died:
- 10 were over the age of 65
- 2 were between the ages of 41 to 65
Among those who have died in L.A. County, 93% had underlying health conditions. Information about race and ethnicity is available for 99% of people who have died:
- 12% African American [9% of county residents]
- 17% Asian [15.4% of county residents]
- 40% 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
As of today, 14% of people who have tested positive for the virus have been hospitalized. Testing capacity continues to increase in the region, with testing results available for nearly 465,000 individuals and 8% of people testing positive.
“For the people who are mourning a loved one who has passed away from COVID-19, we think of you every day and we wish you healing and peace,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health.
“Together, the L.A. County community has made progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19, as demonstrated in the decreasing numbers of daily hospitalizations and deaths. Please remember, the job we continue to do to protect each other will affect how many new cases, new hospitalizations and new deaths we will see several weeks from now.”
State officials have set a variety of metrics counties need to hit to move forward with additional phases of reopening. 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
- Your No-Panic Guide To All The Changing Rules In LA
- Where To Get Financial Assistance, Food And Other Help
- Tracking The Spread Of COVID-19
- Have A Question? We Will Answer It
The Risk Levels Of 14 Things You Probably Want To Do This Summer
First things first: There's no such thing as a zero-risk outing right now.
But we get it, you're restless. It's been about two months of quarantine for many of us. The urge to get out and enjoy the summer is real. So what's safe?
NPR asked a panel of infectious disease and public health experts to rate the risk of some common summer activities. The links jump you to more details:
- A BYOB backyard gathering with one other household: low to medium risk
- Eating indoors at a restaurant: medium to high risk
- Attending a religious service indoors: high risk
- Spending the day at a popular beach or pool: low risk
- An outdoor celebration such as a wedding with more than 10 guests: medium to high risk
- Using a public restroom: low to medium risk
- Letting a friend use your bathroom: low risk
- Going to a vacation house with another family: low risk
- Staying at a hotel: low to medium risk
- Getting a haircut: medium to high risk
- Going shopping at a mall: risk varies
- Going to a nightclub: high risk
- Going camping: low risk
- Exercising outdoors: low risk
READ THE FULL STORY:
- You Want To Camp, Party, Swim, Shop, Congregate, Etc. Here's What Experts Say About Your Coronavirus Risk
Don't Want To Use A Public Toilet? It's Called 'Social Piss-tancing'
If the pandemic has made you even more wary of public restrooms, you're in good company.
Even the (ahem) head of the American Restroom Association says we're long overdue for an overhaul of our public facilities. Steven Soifer told our friends at NPR:
"There's a new term out there. It's called 'social piss-tancing.'"
What does that mean? Well, some people are turning to alternatives to the rest stop.
READ THE FULL STORY:
- One Doctor Calls The Public Restroom A 'Bio Weapons Factory.' You're In Good Company If You Are Afraid
L.A. River Opens For Recreation, With One Big Exception
Recreation areas along the Los Angeles River are opening for the season on Memorial Day.
Chief Ranger Fernando Gomez says river parks and paths in Elysian Valley and the Sepulveda Basin in Encino will be open for walking, biking and fishing. He told us:
"The only thing that will not be happening is the kayaking. So no in-water boating will be permitted this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But everything else will be open."
Gomez says the ban on boating is to protect park employees from exposure to the public, especially in the case of a water rescue.
New signs are going up and extra rangers will be at trailheads to encourage face coverings and physical distancing.
Gomez, in a statement, emphasized that everyone using the recreation zones will be expected to "comply with all public health orders and maintain a minimum physical distance of six feet from others, and wear a face covering.”
The two Los Angeles River recreation zones will be open Memorial Day through Sept. 30.
MORE ON THE L.A. RIVER:
- LA Explained: The Los Angeles River
- Next Steps For The LA River. Plans Move Forward With 300 Potential Rec Areas
Memorial Day: Driving Tips From The CHP
This Memorial Day weekend, the roads aren’t nearly as busy as in years past — AAA didn't even issue a travel forecast — but the California Highway Patrol still says to be careful out there.
Officer Amber Wright says even during the pandemic, the holiday weekend can mean more drivers under the influence. She told us:
"We might be seeing less people on the freeways than anticipated, but it definitely is a time that can still be dangerous, no matter if there was a stay-at-home order or not."
Overall, CHP reports a decline in vehicle crashes and DUIs during stay-at-home orders. But with more open roads, there’s been an increase in speeding. State and local law enforcement warn drivers to watch the speedometer. They say with less traffic, it can be harder to tell when you’re driving too fast.
If you are going for a drive, keep in mind that the holiday weekend is considered a "maximum enforcement period" for the CHP. That means through the end of Monday, more officers are on patrol and they're focusing on violations, particularly people who aren't wearing seatbelts.
The CHP and Nevada Highway Patrol are targeting the highly traveled I-15 corridor between California and Las Vegas.
It’s estimated that an average of 45,000 vehicles enter Nevada on I-15 from Los Angeles on a daily basis, which equates to an average in excess of 16 million vehicles entering every year.
The CHP will include the use of their fix-winged aircraft that measures speed from the air.
During the Memorial Day weekend last year, CHP reported 34 deaths in traffic collisions in the state. Of those, 21 people were traveling in a car and 10 were not wearing seatbelts.
Meanwhile, gas prices continue to rise. The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in Los Angeles County rose today for the 10th time in the last 11 days, increasing to $2.922.
The Orange County average price rose for the 19th consecutive day, increasing to $2.891. In both counties, gas is still $1.08 cheaper than a year ago.
The increasing prices reflect "the fact that more people are driving than a month ago," said Jeffrey Spring, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s corporate communications manager. "As the state continues to gradually open the economy, we can expect to see gas prices continue to rise."
MORE ON TRAFFIC:
- Even With Stay-At-Home Orders, LA Traffic Deaths Are Keeping Pace With Last Year (LAist)
- Pandemic Will Suppress Memorial Day Travel but Travelers Already Planning Future Trips (AAA)
Big Bear, Which Depends On Tourism, Reopens
San Bernardino is the latest Southern California county to relax stay-at-home orders. And that’s good news to many in the mountain resort town of Big Bear, hit hard by a loss of tourist dollars.
Big Bear was moving forward with reopening even before the county got word late yesterday that it could move to the next phase. Mayor Rick Herrick says now that the state has given the county approval to enter Phase 2, Big Bear can roll out a reopening plan tailored to the city.
"We’re unusual. We have only nine cases, I happen to be one of them, over the 10 week period. No deaths."
Herrick, who has recovered from COVID-19, says Big Bear’s plan is a little more strict than other parts of the county. And it also applies to the city's many vacation rental properties.
"Every business [will] be allowed to open and operate at 50% percent with a six-foot separation," Herrick explained. Requirements also call for everyone to wear some kind of face covering.
(Rental properties in the rest of the county are allowed to operate at full capacity.)
The city of Big Bear's website offers this guidance:
The following businesses are not permitted to operate at this time under the Governor's Resilience Roadmap: traditional lodging facilities, the movie theater, the bowling alley, the convention center, bars, music venues, church services, barber shops, beauty salons, tattoo parlors, and nail salons — until such time that the Governor authorizes a progression to Stages 3 and 4 of the Governor's Resilience Roadmap.
San Bernardino has dedicated $30 million to help businesses implement COVID-19 safety measures. Small businesses with up to 100 employees can apply for $2,500 grants.
Here's a look at cases in the county so far. You can explore other counties, states, and the U.S. on the whole at COVID-19 Case Mapper.
Morning Briefing: It's Memorial Day Weekend And the Beaches And Parks Are Less Crowded (But Far From Empty)
Never miss a morning briefing. Subscribe today to get our A.M. newsletter delivered to your inbox.
Over the past week, I've been seeing photos from cities that are doing outdoor social distancing a little differently. In New York and San Francisco parks, white circles are painted on the grass, with people tucked neatly inside, like a performance art piece from the future.
I was especially struck by the images from a beach in the South of France, where officials have errected rope barries to give everyone a designated six-foot-apart place to relax on the sand.
Some might argue that's not necessary in a city as sprawling as L.A., where our beaches and parks are vast and plentiful, with plenty of room for distancing.
But like the experts say, once we get comfy on the beach or in the park, it's easy to inch closer to one another and forget, for a moment, that our world is irrevocably changed.
And even though the virus is much less likely to spread outdoors, I still like the idea of a roped-off section of space, where I can let my guard down and stop worrying about the guy with the dog who walked by an inch away from me. I DON'T EVEN KNOW HIM! But seriously, can we get some white circles over here? I'd really like to sit in one.
Keep reading for more on what’s going on in L.A., and enjoy your long weekend, whether or not you leave the house.
The Past 24 Hours In LA
L.A., California, The World: There are now 44,121 coronavirus cases and 2,092 deaths in L.A. County, and at least 90,777 cases and 3,669 deaths in California. Worldwide, there are more than 5.2 million cases and over 340,000 deaths. California’s numbers are improving, with hospitalizations down 7.5% over the past two weeks.
Beach Vibes: Venice Beach is (almost) back to normal, despite general dystopian-ness of seeing people relaxing with face masks on. A police sergeant told KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang that there were about 70% fewer visitors than the holiday weekend would usually bring. Guidelines weren't universally followed, but no one in law enforcement seemed to mind.
Could L.A. Be The Next New Orleans?: California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control issued a note that allows dining establishments already licensed to sell alcohol to do it in areas adjacent to their business — in the parklets, sidewalks and parking spots envisioned by "open streets" proponents. And the bars have to partner with a food provider. This would only happen in areas where stay-at-home orders have been lifted though, so, for L.A., we're talking future future.
We're surrounded on (almost) all sides by counties that are gradually reopening restaurants for dine-in service and stores for indoor shopping. Ventura was the pioneer in SoCal, getting permission to move ahead of schedule. Riverside took it a step further by opening community pools. Orange County followed suit, despite its rising death count.
Let's Get Spiritual: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Gov. Newsom's ban on in-person church services. But that didn't stop some pastors from moving ahead with in-person prayer. Yesterday marked the end of Ramadan, but the celebratory dinners looked different this year.
Nature's Fruit: You won't be able to get free strawberry cake at the Garden Grove festival this year, but you can enjoy nature by sleeping in it ... in the spots where camping is actually allowed. We have a list for that.
Your Moment Of Zen
This is how Southern France is doing beach time during the pandemic. It's kind of brilliant. And oddly comforting. L.A., can we get in on this?
TBH, I'd like some mandated personal space even without a highly contagious virus.
Help Us Cover Your Community
- Got something you’ve always wanted to know about Southern California and the people who call it home? Is there an issue you want us to cover? Ask us anything.
- Have a tip about news on which we should dig deeper? Let us know.
The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.