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Parks And Rec Shut Down Eaton Canyon After Overcrowding

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A park monitor speaks to trial users congregating at the waterfall of Eaton Canyon at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. (Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department)

We did a pretty good job this weekend, all things considered. Most people followed the many, many rules, guidelines and orders that seem to be changing on a daily basis.

But there was one exception: Eaton Canyon.

Officials shut down the popular hiking trail and waterfall on Sunday after seeing "overwhelming crowds that were not following the COVID-19 public health requirements."

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The closure includes the Eaton Canyon natural areas, trails, trailhead, parking lot, nature center, and all gates. No walk-ins are allowed. The county's Department of Recreation said in a Facebook post, that despite extensive planning for the holiday weekend – including 15 trails monitors, nature center staff, increased patrolling and enfrorcement, and even park sheriffs on horseback, the crowds were not being safe enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus:

Despite these best efforts by the County, the large number of visitors to Eaton Canyon this weekend have made it evident that many people are not practicing key requirements and recommendations set forth by Public Health and supported by LA County Parks such as wearing face coverings, physical distancing and avoiding crowded areas.

The department has full guidelines posted here.

Here are a few (with an important highlight):

  • Do not visit public trails and trailheads if feeling sick and/or exhibiting any symptoms of illness.
  • Physical distancing of 6 feet always required. No group gathering allowed on trails or in the parking lot.
  • Limit visits to members of your household only.
  • Everyone needs a face covering at the trailhead/parking lots and on any trails where there are other groups of people nearby.
  • Consider avoiding popular locations that are prone to crowds.
  • Alert trail users of your presence and step aside to let others pass.
  • Bring water, hand sanitizer, and/or disinfecting wipes to wash or sanitize hands frequently

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SoCal Home Sales Are Way Down; Prices Are Not

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A for sale sign hangs in front of a house in Central Los Angeles. (File photo by Christopher Okula/KPCC)

Southern California home sales were down more than 30% last month compared to April 2019 according to the housing data firm CoreLogic. That's the biggest percentage drop in sales since 2008.

April was the first full month of California’s statewide stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The last couple months have been a rollercoaster for Los Angeles-area realtor Ryan Ole Hass.

"For a while there we couldn't show any property. Then it went to, we could show vacant property. Then it went to, we can show non-vacant property but we have to follow all the CDC, and a bunch of other, guidelines."

There are still no open houses, he said. And he's telling clients to hold off on moving, if possible, because he doesn’t want them to take an unnecessary risk.

It's impossible to predict when home sales will bounce back, said Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. He said before people start house hunting, they’ll need to feel okay about going out.

"I think a great indicator is going to be Open Table [restaurant] reservations,” he said. “That's an indicator of how comfortable people are."

Green said he’s also watching unemployment data. “A high rate of unemployment, that’s going to depress the housing market ... and then the other question is, 'How many of these jobs that people have lost have been lost permanently?'”

Green expects it could take years for sales to fully recover. The one bright side? Home prices have remained pretty stable because supply and demand are equally low.

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Memorial Day Weekenders In LA's COVID-19 Era Were (Mostly) Well-Behaved

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From left to right, Bianca Freitas, Mayara Sonego and Aurore (last name not given) wear face masks while watching the sunset from Griffith Park on May 24, 2020. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

The unofficial start of our COVID-19 summer brought even more people out to trails and beaches than usual. And for the most part, officials say, we did good.

"Overall our parks this weekend were busy but very manageable and people were really enjoying our public amenities in a safe way," said Norma Garcia, acting director of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Of the 184 parks the department operates, 183 remained open throughout the weekend. The one exception was Eaton Canyon Park, where crowds of people ignored rules about social distancing and jumped fences to get on the trail, Garcia said.

"We had electronic signage letting the public know that our parking lots were full," Garcia said. "Unfortunately, the public decided to enter the park not using our access points and that created much more overcrowding in some of the waterfalls areas."

In Hermosa Beach, the reopening of the famous strand boardwalk went fine, said Police Chief Paul LeBaron, except for some alcohol to-go orders.

“People need to understand those alcoholic beverages need to be taken home,” and not drunk outside, the chief said.

READ MORE ABOUT THE WEEKEND HOLIDAY:

Churches And In-Store Retail Can Now Reopen In California, Pending County Approval

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Armenians celebrate Christmas mass at St. Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church in Los Angeles, California. ( Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Big news today: The California Department of Public Health announced that churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship have permission to reopen statewide, in addition to in-store retail.

The new guidelines apply to the entire state, but are subject to approval by each county's public health department. That means this doesn't yet apply to L.A. County.

Riverside County has already approved the change, allowing religious services to resume immediately.

CHURCHES

Places of worship can now hold religious services and funerals that limit attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity (or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower). That again, is subject to individual county approval.

According to the guidelines, in order to reopen, places of worship must "establish and implement" a prevention plan for the spread of COVID-19 and train staff on said plan. Religious institutions must also set physical distancing guidelines, and implement strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

The guidelines recommend that staff and guests wear face coverings, but don't require it. They also recommend (but don't require) staff to have their temperatures and symptoms checked before they begin their shifts.

Public health officials advise religious leaders to "consider eliminating singing and group recitations," as these activites are thought to increase transmission of the coronavirus.

IN-PERSON SHOPPING

All retail businesses can now reopen for in-person shopping statewide, pending county approval. Social distancing, face coverings and employee screenings are recommended as part of the state's guidelines. Retail does not include personal services such as hair salons, nail salons and barbershops (although we know some people are doing these things on the down-low).

READ THE FULL STORY:

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Forest Lawn Memorial Park Holds Virtual Celebration To Honor Fallen Soldiers

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A number of commemorative services are being held to honor fallen soldiers this Memorial Day, including at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

This morning, a virtual celebration featuring patriotic performances was held at the cemetery's Glendale location. The celebration was streamed on the cemetery's Facebook page.

James Fishburne, the director of the Forest Lawn Museum, says it's important to hold the event, even if the public can only experience it online. Fishburne told us:

“We've been doing a Memorial Day celebration since 1915. It's important to keep that continuity and to keep that sense of community even if it is virtual, so that it's easier to pick it back up when we can all meet again in person.”

If you missed the service, you can watch it here.

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(This Week Is Like A) Heat Wave

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Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re feeling down about missing out on summer this year, don’t worry; a heat wave is coming to help you feel normal!

This week, temperatures could reach 90 degrees at the beaches, 105 degrees in Antelope Valley, and 100 degrees in the valleys and foothills.

The warm weather is expected to peak on Thursday. Experts predict that previous heat records might be broken in Lancaster, Palmdale and Paso Robles, among other places.

An excessive heat warning has been issued for Antelope Valley from Tuesday through Thursday.

In preparation for the high temperatures, L.A. County is planning on opening eight cooling centers from noon to 6 p.m. for those days.

  • Ruben F. Salazar Park: 3864 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles
  • Valleydale Park: 5525 N. Lake Ellen Ave., Azusa
  • El Cariso Community Regional Park: 13100 Hubbard St., Sylmar
  • Loma Alta Park: 3330 Lincoln Ave., Altadena
  • Jackie Robinson Park: 8773 E Avenue R, Littlerock
  • Stevenson Ranch Library: 25950 The Old Rd., Stevenson Ranch
  • Quartz Hill Library: 5040 West Ave. M-2, Quartz Hill
  • Grace T. Black Auditorium: 3130 Tyler Ave., El Monte

The National Weather Service recommends that residents limit outdoor activity, drink plenty of water and wear lightweight clothing.

WE HAVE SOME TIPS

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Will Public Swimming Pools Be Safe To Swim In?

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Summer Camp Students in Monterey Park in 2017 (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Summer swim season will be very different this year with many pools still closed.

Many people are keen to get back in the water. But how safe will swimming be in a public pool?

Public health expert Chris Wiant says the water is safe in a pool that is properly maintained with chlorine disinfectant. The challenge is all the other people using it.

"You can be, say, standing in the shallow end of the pool and the water's fine. But if you're still coughing on the person who's three feet from you, you're just as exposed as you are if you're not in the pool," he said.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT POOL SAFETY IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS:

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More Cars Are Being Stolen During The Pandemic

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Street graffiti art is seen on a wall in a parking lot in downtown Los Angeles, May 1, 2012. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Law enforcement leaders have expressed pleasant surprise at a significant drop in crime during the pandemic. Both violent and property crime are down as much as 10% across L.A. County. Analysts say stay-at-home orders mean people are less likely to be victims or perpetrators.

The exception is motor vehicle thefts, which have increased dramatically. Auto thefts are up nearly 17% compared with last year in areas patrolled by the LAPD. The Sheriff’s Department, which patrols unincorporated areas and 42 cities (including Compton, West Hollywood and Lancaster), reports a 27% increase.

There are various theories about the jump. “The pandemic is changing people’s patterns,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. “You have a lot more people at home, and a lot of vehicles that are parked out of sight.” That makes it easier for thieves to snatch the car, the sheriff hypothesized.

There are some other theories. One is that people are more desperate right now, given the economic crisis. Another is that those released from local jails because of COVID-19 may have included some car thieves. A third is that boredom is driving people to grab a car for a joyride.

Some of the hardest-hit areas include Hollywood, with a nearly 47% spike, and the area that stretches from Venice to LAX, which has seen a 44% jump in car thefts.

READ MORE ABOUT CRIME AND MONEY IN THE PANDEMIC:

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Mental Health Pros Volunteer To Help Frontline Coronavirus Workers

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(Jonathan Borba on Unsplash)

Worried about the psychological toll the pandemic is taking on doctors, nurses, paramedics and other first responders, mental health groups are spearheading an effort to get them pro bono help.

Frontline workers are “really good at handling emergencies,” said Randall Hagar, legislative advocate with the California Psychiatric Association. “And they just suck it up and do what they gotta do and it’s only later that the accumulated stress finally manifests.”

Hagar’s organization and other professional groups banded together to set up a volunteer registry that seeks to put frontline workers in contact with professionals offering pro bono mental health services. Participants are asked to provide at least two hours of care at no cost, although some are offering much more.

Hagar says the registry is a way of streamlining frontline workers’ access to mental health care since there hasn’t been a concerted effort from the state.

The call for volunteers has gone out to all licensed mental health professionals, from psychiatrists to counselors to social workers. Hagar says the response has been impressive; so far, about 1,500 people have volunteered.

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State Prisons To Resume Accepting New Inmates As Coronavirus Outbreaks Continue

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The California Institution for Women in Corona. (Courtesy of the CDCR)

Here’s another sign that coronavirus-related restrictions are easing: Starting tomorrow, state prisons will once again accept new inmates transferred from some county jails.

At first, new inmates will only be accepted from four counties: Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Fresno. “It is anticipated that no more than 200 inmates will be accepted from those counties through June 19,” the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said in a statement.

Inmates will go to two intake centers, at North Kern State Prison and Wasco State Prison. They’ll be offered COVID-19 testing. If they test positive, they’ll be isolated. If they refuse testing, they’ll be quarantined for 14 days.

The CDCR is still trying to curb outbreaks in several facilities. There have been more than 600 cases at the men’s prison in Chino. Most recently, over 100 women have tested positive at the women’s prison next door in Corona.

Resuming inmate transfers “seems extremely dangerous, to be frank,” said Colby Lenz of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

“They've done so little testing across the state, I really think they have no idea what they're dealing with in terms of the spread of the infection,” she said.

GO DEEPER:

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OC Groups To Deliver Culturally-Appropriate Food To Asian Seniors During Pandemic

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A new Orange County initiative aims to deliver culturally-specific food to Asian seniors

It's harder than ever to get Asian foods to needy seniors in Orange County during the pandemic.

One major food bank, Second Harvest, reports being too overwhelmed to set aside products for Asian organizations as it did before the pandemic.

So a coalition of organizations serving this population have joined forces to deliver culturally-specific food to these seniors, who are stranded in their homes by the coronavirus.

READ MORE

Ramen & Rice, But Definitely Not Refried Beans: What It Takes To Build A Food Pantry For Asians

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Morning Briefing: Reopening Churches, And The Question Of Community

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A banner dedicated to the employees at Brier Oak on Sunset hangs over the entry way. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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

I’m not a particularly religious person, so I don’t pretend to understand the decisions of those with more faith than myself. But I’m nevertheless left scratching my head upon reading that no fewer than 1,000 California pastors have announced that they’ll defy state orders if restrictions aren’t soon lifted on in-person services.

Maybe it doesn’t square with me because the community in which I grew up placed a lot of value on helping when someone got sick: bringing meals to the family, checking in, sending a thought or a prayer their way. Putting other folks at risk by flouting public health measures strikes me as a convoluted take on the purpose of fellowship.

In the before-times, I’d have said that it’s none of my business what other people do. But now, it is my business – it’s everyone’s business. Because we’re all in this together, until we’re not.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, May 25

Robert Garrova has the story of the more than 1,000 mental health workers who have answered the call to volunteer services to frontline workers.

In Orange County, Asian American non-profits are trying to provide food-insecure Asian elders with culturally appropriate items such as rice and noodles, reports Josie Huang, as food banks give them refried beans and mac and cheese — items they would not normally eat.

As summer approaches, Sharon McNary asks, will public swimming pools be safe?

This week, California state prisons will once again start accepting new prisoners. Emily Elena Dugdale examines how the system plans to protect them and existing inmates from COVID-19.

With so many at home leaving their cars in the same place for longer stretches, car thefts are up in L.A. County, reports Frank Stoltze.

Forest Lawn has been commemorating Memorial Day since 1915. They weren't about to stop this year, reports Brianna Flores, even as the service moves online. We'll stream their celebration starting at 10 a.m.


The Past 48 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are now 45,017 coronavirus cases and 2,106 deaths in L.A. County, and at least 92,629 cases and 3,737 deaths in California. Worldwide, there are more than 5.3 million cases and over 344,000 deaths.

Splish Splash: At Venice Beach, 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. L.A. River's two recreational zones open today, with one major exception: No kayaking or other water activities.

Drinkin’ In The Streets: California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will allow dining establishments already licensed to sell alcohol to do it in outdoor areas adjacent to their business.

Reopening SoCal: Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties, as well as the town of Big Bear, are loosening stay-at-home restrictions. You won't be able to get free strawberry cake at the Garden Grove festival this year, but you can enjoy nature by pitching a tent in areas where camping is allowed. There's no such thing as a zero-risk outing, but here’s how you can weigh what to do as summer gets underway.

Let's Get Spiritual: A judge upheld Gov. Gavin Newsom's ban on in-person church services, but some pastors may move ahead with in-person prayer regardless. Saturday marked the end of Ramadan, but the celebratory dinners looked different this year.

Watch Your Speed: There may be fewer cars on the highway, but the CHP still upped enforcement over the Memorial Day weekend.

Social ‘Piss-tancing’: If the pandemic has made you even more wary of the public restroom, you're in good company. Even the head of the American Restroom Association says we're long overdue for an overhaul of our public facilities. "There's a new term out there," he said. "It's called 'social piss-tancing.'"


Your Moment Of Zen

AirTalk Senior Producer Fiona Ng's dog Sheriff admires the tortoises on the Caltech campus.

(Fiona Ng / LAist)

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