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No COVID-19 Symptoms? You May Have To Wait For Your Test In LA

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The entrance to the drive-thru test site in Crenshaw gives drivers instruction on what they need before receiving their tests. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

If you've tried to make an appointment to get tested for COVID-19 in L.A. County and you don't have symptoms, you probably got a message telling you there are no available appointments. Try back later.

You may remember when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the city was the first in the nation to open up testing to everyone, whether or not they had symptoms or a known contact with someone who had COVID-19.

After we got an email from someone who said they were unable to book a test, we checked it out ourselves and found the same message:

When we asked Garcetti's office, we were told testing slots for asymptomatic people are full through the weekend and that they are seeing more demand.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the county's department of health services, told us today that people with symptoms are still the top priority followed by two other categories:

"One is the close contacts of individuals who have been identified through contact tracing efforts or if you know that you're a close contact as defined by public health guidelines. And then secondly if you live or work in a high risk congregate care setting that you would need to be tested as well."

Ghaly said they were also seeing make appointments and then not show up.

So what if you may have been exposed but have no symptoms? Ghaly says the advice remains the same: you should quarantine for 14 days.


OVERALL LOOK AT LA COUNTY NUMBERS:

Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose L.A. County or any other California county that interests you. These numbers are current as of Tuesday, June 15:

MORE ON CORANAVIRUS:

LAPD Chief Moore '100 Percent' Behind Push To Shift Away From Police For Certain Cases

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The protests over George Floyd's killing created a new political reality. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

LAPD Chief Michel Moore says he’s “100%” behind a proposal before the city council to stop using police in non-violent situations when no crime is being committed.

It’s an about face for Moore, who confronts a new political reality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

Several councilmembers want to redirect non-violent calls for service away from the police to agencies that can provide mental health workers, drug counselors, or homeless outreach specialists.

Speaking on our newsroom's public affairs show AirTalk on KPCC, Moore said the motion presents “a great opportunity,” adding:

“That would free officers up and allow officers just to stay focused on police work of major importance ... and also allow officers to really spend more time in the communities in which we're trying to get ... communities to know and trust us.”

Moore said he believes that the pending cuts of up to $150 million from his budget could be used to help create this new system.

He warned that it could take some time to pull off such a transition.

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COVID Could Impact Wildfire Response In CA

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A firefighter makes a stand Oct. 24, 2019 in Santa Clarita (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

As the virus continues to spread, it's clear that not even seemingly invincible firefighters will escape unscathed.

This week seven firefighters at one firehouse in Anaheim tested positive, with one ending up in the ICU.

A Wildland Fire Response Plan written by the California Wildfire Coordinating Group, says that if too many firefighters get sick and have to stop working, it will "severely tax the ability to maintain an adequate wildfire response, even during a moderately active fire season."

Translation: this year's wildfires could be even worse if there are fewer firefighters able to battle the flames.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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New Support Line For Seniors Sees Plenty Of Demand During COVID-19

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GoldenTALK volunteers load food and supplies for seniors. (Image Courtesy GoldenTALK)

A new L.A.-based support line designed to combat social isolation among seniors has fielded more than 4,200 calls since it launched in March.

It’s called GoldenTALK — (888) 60-GOLDEN or (888) 604-6533 — and the idea behind it was to offer people 60 and older friendly conversation and referrals to services when needed.

The service was launched just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“Now you’ve got more stress from the seniors who were not used to self-isolating, who would run their errands, go pay their bills,” said Kimberly Lewis of the IDSGT Foundation, which launched GoldenTALK.

Lewis, who used to run a homeless women’s shelter in South L.A., said there are now about 100 volunteers involved. She said the idea for GoldenTALK came in part from what she experienced in a previous job as a switchboard operator at a police department.

“I remembered how many seniors — especially in the evening hours — were calling not because they needed assistance, but because they were simply lonely,” Lewis said.

Tracy Ben-Ami, a certified rehabilitation counselor, volunteers her time as a mental health coach for some of the seniors who call in. She's heard from a lot of people with coronavirus-related anxiety.

“They’re terrified,” Ben-Ami said. “They know they’re vulnerable and going out there could really get them sick.”

That’s part of the reason why Lewis and the IDSGT Foundation are now facilitating grocery and toiletry deliveries. So far those have ramped up to about 50 stops a week. The foundation has started a GoFundMe page to delivery effort.

GO DEEPER:

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State Prisons To Start Early Release Program To Combat COVID-19

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Cramped quarters at the California Institution for Men in Chino. (U.S. District Court filing).

With more than 2,000 inmates sick with COVID-19 and 17 deaths, the state prison system is going to start releasing some inmates early to combat the virus' spread.

The program, set to begin July 1, is for inmates serving time for nonviolent crimes who have six months or less left on their sentence.They’ll have to prove they have a place to live outside of prison.

Inmates will remain under state supervision after their release, and will be tested for COVID-19 within seven days of leaving prison. If they test positive, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says it’ll work with state and local officials to find housing to isolate them.

CDCR says it’s working up an estimate of how many inmates qualify for early release. The state prisons are about 20,000 people over capacity, according to the most recent data.

The early release program is a small improvement, said Kate Chatfield of the reform group the Justice Collaborative. But she says it won’t apply to enough people.

“It doesn't take into account people who are elderly, people who are particularly physically vulnerable.”

The CDCR has also reduced the inmate population through expedited parole for some prisoners and by limiting the intake of new inmates from county jails.

Still, Rep. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) said the CDCR has not provided her with information about the steps it's taking to fight the virus. Torres represents the area that includes the men's prison in Chino, where 15 inmates have died.

“I’m still waiting for them to answer my letter [from last month],” she said. “I understand they’re busy, but how do I know how to help them — what resources do they need — if they're not communicating with us?”

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LAUSD Board To Discuss Reforms To LA School Police

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LA Unified School Board members Mónica García (right) and George McKenna are scheduled to introduce resolutions to consider school police reforms at the June 23, 2020 board meeting.

The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education will consider three resolutions to reform the Los Angeles School Police at its next meeting on June 23.

The three resolutions, published in the agenda for next week's meeting, were put forward by board members Mónica García, Jackie Goldberg and George McKenna.

"Reimagining School Safety and Investing in Our Highest Need Students"

García's resolution focuses on the school police budget. If passed, it would require Superintendent Austin Beutner to drastically reduce the Los Angeles School Police budget over the next three years, starting with a 50% reduction in the 2021-2022 school year and rising to a 90% reduction by 2023-2024.

The resolution calls for the funds to be reallocated "to the highest need schools in support of African American students."

"Reexamining the Role of the Los Angeles School Police Department and Reimagining Safety in Our Schools"

Goldberg's resolution calls for the creation of an "action planning group" that would explore whether the district needs its own school police department and review whether LASPD’s current policies "are appropriate for the role of a school police department, particularly with regard to use of force, use of K-9 units, pepper spray, and detention for arrest protocols."

Goldberg's resolution also would require changes to how the district's police department hires, what officers wear, and where they are stationed on campus. It also calls for a ban on using pepper spray until the planning group makes its findings in July.

"Reaffirming Our Commitment to School Safety for Our Students"

McKenna is calling to establish a committee to look at school police data and reports, and to make recommendations related to policies and training. Board members would appoint parents, educators, students, and community safety experts to this group.

According to the resolution, that group would also make recommendations to the board and superintendent by the end of August "to ensure peaceful and safe campuses and reaffirming the role of LASPD in ensuring safe, peaceful, and respectful engagements on our campuses and within our school communities."

Earlier this week, Beutner said he will recommend the board adopt policies banning the use of pepper spray and a controversial restraint called the carotid control hold. Beutner also said the district will review the school police budget over the summer.

The board will consider the resolutions exactly a week after grassroots group Students Deserve led a march calling to defund the district's school police force.

You can read the full text of the resolutions in the agenda for Tuesday's meeting below:

READ MORE:

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LA County Health Officials Fact Check Myths About COVID-19

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A sign is pictured as people exercise at Inspire South Bay Fitness behind plastic sheets in their workout pods while observing social distancing on June 15, 2020 in Redondo Beach, California, as the gym reopens today under California's coronavirus Phase 3

Los Angeles County's coronavirus task force delivered its daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic. Read highlights below or watch the full video above.

Los Angeles County officials reported 2,129 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 77,189 cases countywide. That large increase is due in part to “a large backlog” in case reporting from one lab, according to County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. In total, 2,712 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 1,058 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

Ferrer also reported 34 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 2,991 people.

So far, 93% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said.

She added that the county has "made a steady improvement in the decline of daily deaths" In early May, 45 to 46 people per day were dying from the virus on average. For early June, the daily death rate has dropped to 33 to 34 deaths per day, Ferrer said. But those figures should be viewed with caution, she explained:

"...we have lags in data on the reporting of deaths, so it's very helpful to look at it in terms of understanding the trend. The actual numbers will get adjusted over time as we have more complete reporting"

ADDRESSING MYTHS ABOUT COVID-19

Dr. Christina Ghaly, who oversees the county's Department of Health Services, took time at Wednesday's media briefing to address some of the myths being spread as the health crisis continues. She broke those down into five "misperceptions" and sought to set the record straight. The following list explains what Ghaly said is actually true about COVID-19 in L.A. County:

  1. An increase in reported cases isn’t solely due to increased testing — the virus is still continuing to spread. According to Ghaly, "more people are becoming infected and also, at the same time, we are identifying a greater fraction of those who are infected through the county's expansion of testing capacity to understand the actual... effective transmission rate in the county."
  2. The number of new cases is not the most important metric health officials are looking at. The hospitalization rate is a more helpful metric, Ghaly said, because it helps health officials better understand how the transmission rate is changing and the impact on the county's health care system.
  3. Just because restrictions are being lifted does not mean COVID-19 is under control in L.A. County. L.A. County's safer-at-home order helped slow the spread of the virus, but was also a "very crude measure," Ghaly said. "Reopening is just as important for the health of our society as closing was, but given that the vast majority of those living in Los Angeles County are still susceptible to COVID-19 and the infection, we need to rely on a refined set of practices that allow us to get back to work and back to living our lives safely."
  4. This is not an overreaction to a virus that’s basically the flu. COVID-19 is killing far more Americans than the seasonal flu typically does, Ghaly explained. "During mid-April, the counted deaths for COVID-19 in the United States were 15,000 per week," she said. "During a typical peak week of seasonal influenza, the count of deaths are more like 750." Ghaly added that the long-term health effects of COVID-19 are not yet fully understood, but said health officials are learning "that the long-term health consequences on many who survive are significant."
  5. Masks and other basic health measures make a difference. Keeping distance, avoiding gatherings, washing your hands and wearing face coverings have all been shown to limit the risk of spreading the virus, Ghaly said, despite what some on social media or at public meetings in Orange County are screaming. "I know it's a long road and I know it's longer than many of us would have predicted and certainly longer than many of us would have hoped for," Ghaly said, "but we can go on it safely if each and every one of us commits to doing the simple things that we know will make a difference."

OVERALL LOOK AT LA COUNTY NUMBERS:

Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose L.A. County or any other California county that interests you. These numbers are current as of Tuesday, June 15:

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.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Driver Of SUV Crashes Into Silver Lake Oyster Bar

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Photo courtesy Eric French/LAFD

One person was killed this morning, when an SUV crashed into Silver Lake restaurant L&E Oyster Bar on the 1600 block of Silver Lake Blvd.

LAFD responded to the incident around 10:35. The vehicle knocked down a tree before plowing into the lower level of the restaurant, which has a sidewalk patio.

One person was delcared dead on the scene. LAFD has not released their name or age yet. Two others, a 72-year-old woman and 53-year-old man, are being treated for serious conditions.

There was no fire, but damage looks extensive. LAFD is urging residents to avoid the area while they investigate.

UPDATE 2:00 p.m. KTLA is reporting that the driver of the car first hit a scooter while speeding. Witnesses said the victim was the person on the scooter:

"One witness told KTLA she was riding her bicycle along Silver Lake Boulevard around that time when she saw a dark-colored SUV speeding wildly and driving into opposing lanes of traffic to pass other cars.

Another bystander estimated the vehicle was going at least 75 mph — more than twice the posted speed limit — at the time.

Witnesses reported the SUV hit a scooter and then the driver lost control and slammed into a nearby building."

This story will be updated when new information becomes available.

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Why Tight Purse Strings By The Wealthiest Americans Is So Worrisome

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Researchers based at Harvard have been tracking spending patterns using credit card data and they're finding the wealthiest Americans are not spending anywhere near as much now than before the start of the pandemic.

That's not true for people at the bottom of the income ladder, who are now spending nearly as much as they did before the coronavirus pandemic.

Nathan Hendren, a Harvard economist and co-founder of the Opportunity Insights research team, said:

"When the stimulus checks went out, you see that spending by lower-income households went up a lot. For higher-income individuals, that spending is still way far off from where it was prior to COVID and it has not recovered as much."

Why's that troubling? Well, lack of spending by 25% of the wealthiest Americans made up fully two-thirds of the total decline in spending since January.

The View From L.A.

(Courtesy Track the Recovery)
  • As of early June, spending nationwide was down about 12.7% compared to January. That was up from a downturn of more than 30% in late March/early April.
  • California has seen some of the steepest downturns in spending. As of June 3, spending in the state is down 22.9%, up from a low of 36% in late March.
  • Downturns in the L.A. area have been steeper. Spending here was down 26.1% as of June 3. Lows reached near 37% in late March.

READ THE FULL STORY:

MORE ECONOMIC NEWS

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'Servant Of Pod With Nick Quah' Launches Today

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Nick Quah

Launching today, "Servant Of Pod With Nick Quah" is a weekly deep dive into the evolving world of podcasts.

In each episode, Nick:

  • Discusses industry news
  • Explores the most exciting angles of podcast culture
  • And gets into the weeds with established and up-and-coming producers

Along the way, Nick and his guests will also give listeners recommendations on the shows they should be checking out.

To kick things off, Nick tries to build a (very) brief picture of where the podcast world is right now with the help of "Team Coco’s" Adam Sachs and Earios co-founder Priyanka Mattoo. He also gets advice on how to be a decent podcast host from a great podcast host: "Death Sex and Money’s" Anna Sale.

Listen above and subscribe today.

Coming soon from LAist Studios:

Hollywood, The Sequel (June 23)

  • Through conversations with influential industry figures such as Kerry Washington, Guillermo del Toro, Glenn Close, Judd Apatow, Ramy Youssef and more, host John Horn will look at opportunities to change the entertainment industry for the better following this moment of severe disruption.

California Love (July 9)

  • In this anthology series, award-winning journalist and author Walter Thompson-Hernández takes listeners on a fiercely intimate audio tour of his beloved hometown of Los Angeles.

California City (July 13)

  • Deep in the Mojave Desert sits a would-be city of the future, a desolate plot frequented only by prospective investors and real estate agents promising a future of riches. But award-winning journalist Emily Guerin finds the reality is much different — a story of dreams overshadowed by deceit.

Most Of You Are Not At All Ready To Go Back To The Gym

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People exercise at Inspire South Bay Fitness behind plastic sheets in their workout pods while observing social distancing on June 15, 2020 in Redondo Beach, as the gym reopens. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/ AFP)

On Saturday, we took to Twitter to ask you, our dear readers, if you were ready go to back to the gym. The response was an overwhelming "hard no."

Gyms and fitness studios were given the green light to reopen in L.A. County on Friday June 12.

Since then, 24 Hour Fitness filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a Redondo beach gym unveiled their "excercise pods" (which look like cute little tents made of saran wrap) and the author of this post received a press release for a new line of "antimicrobial fitness accessories."

So no, things are not normal.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

SoCal Edison Wants To Harness Home Solar For A Virtual Power Plant

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Workers install solar panels on a house. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

On the hottest Southern California days, when we’re cranking up the A/C, we’re also stressing the power grid. Southern California Edison meets that extra demand by firing up gas-fueled power plants, which are costly to run and burn polluting fossil fuel.

Now Edison and the solar panel company Sunrun are teaming up on a cleaner alternative.

The goal is for batteries from thousands of home solar energy systems to be chained together and their power used to top off energy supplies when needed — essentially creating a virtual power plant.

The pilot project starts with 300 homes in Edison’s multi-county service territory. Each owner would receive a $250 incentive to contribute their excess power to the grid when it’s needed most.

If the system works, it could expand and ultimately replace those dirty gas-fired power plants.

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Morning Briefing: LA City Councilmembers Take Swift Action On Police

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Black Lives Matter-L.A. cofounder Melina Abdullah speaks during a presentation of the "People's Budget" to City Council. Screen grab from Channel 35

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

In the wake of Black Lives Matter-L.A.'s presentation on Monday to the L.A. City Council, five councilmembers introduced a motion that would replace LAPD officers with unarmed first responders for "non-violent, non-criminal situations."

Written by Council President Nury Martinez and councilmembers Herb Wesson, Bob Blumenfield, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price, the motion would deploy social workers and mental health experts to incidents such as psychiatric crises, substance abuse-related scenarios and neighbor disputes.

In response, BLM-L.A. called the motion a “courageous stance,” tweeting:

“No police dispatched for non-violent calls also makes a lot of common sense as it clears the way for those better equipped to handle such situations to do so. Let's do it!”

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, June 17

As fire season begins, Jacob Margolis examines how standard firefighting and evacuation practices will change now that coronavirus social distancing and safety must be taken into account.

In one of the first pilot projects of its kind, a solar panel company will get hundreds of its customers to supply energy to Southern California Edison at peak demand times, reports Sharon McNary. It’s a test to demonstrate whether widespread use of rooftop solar systems can replace the local gas-powered plants that have to provide extra power on the hottest days.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Money Matters: Unemployment has swept Los Angeles as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but joblessness has climbed much higher in parts of L.A. with large Black populations. The question of whether L.A.’s 100,000 vacant properties should be taxed could be on the November ballot in the City of L.A.

L.A. Protests: Black Lives Matter-L.A. co-founder Melina Abdullah led a panel of community leaders who presented a plan to City Council to invest General Fund money in social services. A rally organized by labor groups to push for reinstating the county's mask requirement got drowned out by counter-protesters.

Policing The Police: A City Council motion calls for a plan to replace LAPD officers with more appropriately-trained workers to deal with non-violent, non-criminal calls. President Trump signed an executive order banning the use of chokeholds by police, except when officers believe their life is in jeopardy. The L.A. Sheriff's Department will start deploying body cameras on some deputies later this year.

Coronavirus Fallout: Local public health officers are being second-guessed, harassed and threatened by residents and leaders, angry about pandemic shutdowns. The Center Theatre Group — which runs the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum and the Kirk Douglas Theatre — will remain closed until April. There are 1,337 new cases of coronavirus in L.A. County, and the region is approaching 3,000 total deaths.

Reopening L.A.: Given how fast L.A. County moved to reopen dine-in restaurant service, the widespread noncompliance we're seeing with safety guidelines shouldn't be surprising.

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Photo Of The Day

Graffiti begins to fade on the side of a building in downtown L.A.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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