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With Focus On Coronavirus, LA Lacks Contact Tracers For A TB Outbreak

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Published
A doctor examines a patient's x-rays at a TB clinic. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Los Angeles County’s top doctor is worried that the fight against the coronavirus could jeopardize decades of hard-won gains in the battle against tuberculosis.

Similar to the coronavirus, tuberculosis is spread through the air, and contact tracing is key to stopping its spread. That’s when health workers follow up with people who test positive and their contacts to help them quarantine or get health care.

“Before COVID-19 started, we had about 250 contact tracers, and these were sort of spread out across several of our programmatic areas, like tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and other communicable diseases,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, chief medical officer for L.A. County's Department of Public Health.

All of those contact tracers have been reassigned to COVID-19. Gunzenhauser said that will make it much harder to contain the spread if there is a tuberculosis outbreak.

“We had gotten down to just about 500 [TB] cases a few years ago. But then in 2018 and 2019, the number of cases crept back up. We are concerned we're going to see an additional increase this year,” he said. “We're looking to figure out how we can provide adequate resources so that tuberculosis can remain under control.”

Gunzenhauser said about 10% of people infected with tuberculosis die from the disease.

In 2018, California had the third-highest rate of tuberculosis cases among the 50 states.

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LA Opens New 'Bridge' Homeless Shelter In San Pedro

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The 16th "A Bridge Home" shelter opened under Mayor Eric Garcetti's program. (Courtesy of Mayor Eric Garcetti/Twitter)

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, along with local politicians and homeless services leaders, celebrated the opening of the 16th “A Bridge Home” homeless shelter in San Pedro on Monday morning.

It’s the latest opening in Garcetti’s “A Bridge Home” program, first announced back in 2018.

“Bridge housing” is intended to offer people experiencing homelessness a temporary location to stabilize after time on the street. But those who move in still need permanent housing to exit.

On Friday, the 15th shelter opened in North Hollywood with blessings from Jeopardy host Alex Trebek who, Garcetti said, donated half a million dollars for the shelter.

Garcetti says a total of 24 shelters should be open by the end of July.

When asked Monday about how quickly people moving into the “A Bridge Home” shelters exit to permanent housing, Garcetti responded, “It's lower and slower is the honest answer.”

“We were hoping it would be every three or four months, [or] six months. In the first [shelters], it was averaging more like a year… I anticipate it will be faster this year."

LAist has requested Garcetti’s office provide more information about how many clients who have moved into “A Bridge Home” shelters have exited to permanent housing, and how long it took them on average.

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Soledad Fire Consumes 1,300 Acres Close To Santa Clarita And Palmdale

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Brush fire in Southern California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Sunday at about 3:30 p.m. the Soledad Fire started in the hills between Santa Clarita and Palmdale, burning more than 1,300 acres in a little more than 15 hours.

Mandatory evacuations were issued for an estimated eight homes in the fairly remote area.

Wind gusts up to 20 mph pushed the fire through hard-to-navigate terrain, which prompted an aerial response.

Overnight, cooler conditions and calmer winds let bulldozer and hand crews gain ground on the fire.

The fire is now 30 percent contained 24 hours after it first started. There's always a chance it could start back up in a big way, but it's looking unlikely at this point.

The source of the fire remains unclear.

Expect high temperatures and strong wind gusts to continue through the end of the week. That means fires should be at the top of your mind (and really they should be through next rainy season).

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LA County Marks 'A New Chapter' Of COVID-19 Response As Cases And Hospitalizations Surge

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A COVID-19 test site at Carbon Health in Echo Park. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Watch Los Angeles County's coronavirus task force update on the COVID-19 pandemic above.

Los Angeles County officials reported 1,584 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 116,570 cases countywide. In total, 4,379 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 1,401 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer also reported 48 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 3,534 people.

So far, 93% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. She also noted that a lag in death and case reporting typically leads to smaller counts on Mondays.

Today’s reporting follows numbers released yesterday showing a new record for the most new COVID-19 cases in a single day last Friday: 3,187.

Ferrer said L.A. County is in "a new chapter of our response," adding:

"... unfortunately, where we are today is different than where we were two three or four weeks ago. Cases are surging, hospitalizations are increasing and, mostly, this is all a reflection of a lot more community spread."

There are currently 1,921 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in L.A. County, the "highest number that we've been reporting over many weeks," Ferrer noted. Of those patients, 28% are in the ICU and 18% are on ventilators.

Younger people, those in the 18-40 age range (represented in the green line in the chart below) account for nearly half of all new cases, according to public health data.

(Courtesy Los Angeles County)

And younger people are infecting others with the virus. The hospitalization rates among people ages 18-40 and 41-65 have both increased in recent weeks.

Ferrer said the evidence is clear: many people, including many younger people, are no longer following the health guidelines that helped flatten the curve in L.A. County.

"The sooner we can all recommit to taking care of each other, the sooner we get back to creating a new normal, where we go back to work, to school, we see our friends and our extended families," Ferrer said.

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MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

California Gov. Newsom: Coronavirus Positivity Rate Up To 7%; Only 6 Deaths Sunday

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Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on California's response to coronavirus, including the latest numbers and explaining why he feels it's safe to reopen. You can read highlights below or watch the full press conference above.

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

There are now 23 counties on the state's coronavirus monitoring list — six counties have joined the list since Newsom's last update, while two were removed. SoCal's Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties remain on the list.

There were 5,699 COVID-19-positive cases reported Sunday, with a seven-day average of 7,876 cases. Los Angeles County suspended data processing on Friday and Saturday due to system changes, during which the county had 5,830 cases.

There were 6 coronavirus-related deaths Sunday and 18 on Saturday. These are better numbers than the state has seen in a while, Newsom said, but still too many deaths. He said that while these numbers were encouraging, he noted that in the past week there was one day with 110 deaths.

"These individual data points aren't necessarily, in and of themselves, trendlines," Newsom said.

He also noted that those testing positive are getting younger, with 18- to 39-year-olds making up the majority of new patients and coming in with less acute symptoms. The state has also been able to address spikes in places like nursing homes and veterans' facilities, which has also helped to reduce the number of deaths, according to Newsom — though he also noted that deaths are a lagging indicator.

There were 127,000 tests conducted Saturday, a record for the state. California is averaging 104,000 tests per day over the past week. The positivity rate in the past 14 days is up to 6.8% — two weeks ago, that number was 4.9%, marking a 39% increase. The state's positivity rate over the past seven days is 7.2%.

Over the past two weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 50%, from 3,868 to 5,790 people currently hospitalized. That makes up 8% of the state's hospital beds, with 56% currently being utilized by all patients (including non-COVID-19 patients). However, Newsom noted that the utilization is much higher in certain parts of the state.

Intensive care unit admissions are also up. There was a small decrease over the past day — 0.3% — but they are still up 39% over the past 14 days, from 1,225 to 1,706. They are occupying 15% of the state's total ICU beds.

REOPENING

Newsom said he feels that California can safely reopen if people practice physical distancing and wear face coverings. He also noted the importance of both enforcement and personal responsibility.

ENFORCEMENT

The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control paid 5,986 visits to bars and restaurants between July 2 and July 5. The vast majority were "doing the right thing," Newsom said -- there were only 52 citations issued. The state wants to avoid businesses that are already struggling, Newsom said.

OSHA had 441,755 businesses contacts with businesses, ranging from in-person visits to e-mails and phone calls. The majority of them corrected deficiencies on the spot, according to Newsom. There were 344 licensees contacted by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, and comprehensive safety checklists were provided to businesses.

The governor mentioned enforcement of mask requirements being done in several Southern California cities by local law enforcement, including West Hollywood and Santa Monica. He also noted that tiered enforcement has been instituted, with fines that increase each time that someone is cited for violating the mandate.

Newsom noted that enforcement is being prioritized in counties based on the monitoring list, known violators, and high-risk workplaces. Extra attention is given to industries that should be either closed or operating outdoors.

Newsom used his press conference to reiterate workplace safety guidelines for all businesses:

  • Masks worn by staff and patrons
  • Physical distancing measures in place
  • Signage on masks and physical distancing
  • Occupancy limits posted
  • Restaurants in impacted counties: No dining or drinking outdoors, no alcoholic beverages without a meal

HOLIDAY WEEKEND ACTIVITIES

The governor said that the vast majority of people who used beaches that were open complied with social/physical distancing guidelines. He stressed both the need for social persuasion, with people helping to educate others about physical distancing, as well as moving indoor activities outside — notably restaurants.

GOV. NEWSOM'S BUSINESSES RECEIVING COVID-19 LOANS

The governor was asked about at least one of his companies receiving a loan to stay open during the pandemic. Newsom said that question would have to be asked of those running that business, since he placed his businesses into a blind trust upon taking office.

CONTACT TRACING

Newsom said that the state needs to work harder in its outreach to the Latinx community, specifically when it comes to contact tracing. The state needs the right messengers and to make clear to people that their information won't be shared with federal authorities. The state has 9,500 contact tracers trained so far, ready to be directed by county authorities — just shy of the 10,000 tracers goal the state set for the beginning of July.

COUNTY HEALTH ACTIONS

Newsom noted that 14 counties have issued local orders to enforce health orders, including Southern California's Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange counties. Three counties have said they would submit to state-issued orders, Newsom said, including Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The state is still awaiting action from six other counties on the state monitoring list.

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Despite Orders From Above, Some LA Cops Still Aren’t Wearing Masks

Updated
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Police in Van Nuys on June 1. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Hundreds of LAPD and L.A. Sheriff’s Department personnel have gotten COVID-19.

Deputies have been under orders to wear a mask in most situations since April 15, and LAPD officers have been under a similar mandate since May 14.

But officers from both departments have been spotted recently not wearing masks.

People are taking pictures, and they’re being posted on a Twitter account called LAPD Un-Masked.

"Police officers that don't wear the mask are wrong," Police Commission member Steve Soboroff told us. "You've gotta get used to it."

READ THE FULL STORY:

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'Love Black People' And Other Lessons For Amplifying Black Voices

Updated
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(Photo by Jonathan Velasquez on Unsplash)

Austin Cross, a producer for our newsroom's local news and culture show Take Two, reflects on what it really takes to amplify Black voices on public radio.

He writes:

"During this time, when the voice of Black America is too loud for any newsroom to ignore, it is my prayer that the practice of journalism will not emerge from this chapter unchanged and that we too will become part of the history we write."

To make good on that prayer, Cross learned to he became his own critic to "develop a mental rubric for booking guests and writing interview questions that were free from the vestiges of inherent white supremacy."

He has three key lessons: times change, let the story tell how you tell it, love Black people.

READ THE FULL ESSAY:

MORE FROM AUSTIN CROSS:

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With Big Budget Cuts At 4-Year Schools, Will Students Flock To Less Expensive Community Colleges?

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Compton College is part of California's 115-campus community college system. (Courtesy Compton College)

The recently approved 2020-21 state budget spared community colleges from the direct cuts imposed on the University of California and California State University systems. Together, those systems could see their budgets cuts by $1 billion.

But while the community colleges won’t lose funding this year, they will still face cost-cutting measures down the line.

Being able to continue spending provides a lifeline for community colleges. “I would rather have deferrals than having budget cuts because at least I know the money's going to come at some point,” said Keith Curry, president of Compton College.

The goal is to protect services such as counseling and the campus food bank. Curry is trying to increase enrollment by getting the word out that his campus is protecting student services and is affordable. He said enrollment is up this summer and he hopes fall enrollment will be higher than last year’s.

Stable enrollments lead to stable budgets as state funding follows students, and state and federal financial aid fills campus coffers. Community college administrators are busy trying to convince potential students that community college is an affordable higher education option and that despite the economic crisis and online instruction, it’s a good bet for people to reach their career goals.

READ THE FULL STORY:

Morning Briefing: 2020, Part Two

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File: Chuck McCarthy chats with his client Anie Dee (R) as they walk in the Hollywood Hills, May 24, 2018 in Runyon Canyon Park in Los Angeles. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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

Despite the cancellation of public fireworks, this weekend – as many of us probably know firsthand – still saw displays exploding in neighborhoods across the city.

But as some were celebrating, others were taking a moment for reflection. In a Sunday Sermon, Janaya Future Khan, a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement, spoke about what the Fourth of July means at this moment in time.

“When America claimed independence, they did so with the reality of enslavement around them,” Khan said. “[Now] for the first time, many of us are challenging the old American gods. We are looking at the American tenets of greed, of individualism, we’re looking at the celebration of the country as a whole and we’re trying to figure out what it means and what our place is in it.”

Hopefully, the stories you read on our pages and hear on our airwaves will help guide your journey in some small way.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, July 6

There have been a number of unconfirmed reports of LAPD officers not wearing masks, despite a May 14 memo requiring them to do so. Emily Elena Dugdale investigates.

The budget crisis is leading the state to withhold some funding for California community colleges. Adolfo Guzman-Lopez examines how this drastic measure might affect enrollment.

Summer camp activities move online, the Motion Picture Academy presents a family-friendly animation panel, writer Colson Whitehead sits down for a chat, and more. Christine N. Ziemba has this week’s best online and IRL events.

Take Two producer Austin Cross reflects on what it really takes to amplify Black voices. He writes: "During this time, when the voice of Black America is too loud for any newsroom to ignore, it is my prayer that the practice of journalism will not emerge from this chapter unchanged.”

Never miss an LAist story. Sign up for our daily newsletters.


The Past 24 Hours In LA

Covid Numbers: L.A. County health officials confirmed 7,232 new cases of COVID-19 for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. (The county's daily reports had been delayed by a data system upgrade.) Friday marks the highest report of single-day new cases to date with 3,187.The county reported 30 new deaths, but noted that the number is an undercount as "reported deaths are pending verification."

L.A. Protests: Demonstrators from local Native American tribes gathered near Olvera Street on Saturday to support the Black Lives Matters movement, and to remind Angelenos that Native people thrived in the area we now call Southern California hundreds of years before Spanish colonizers arrived and enslaved original inhabitants.

The Air We Breathe: Air quality reached hazardous levels in parts of Southern California on Sunday, as 4th of July fireworks pollutants stuck around even longer than usual, thanks to stagnant weather conditions Saturday night. These conditions came to fruition despite Mayor Eric Garcetti’s cancellation of public fireworks, and the fact that any type of use is illegal.

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Photo Of The Day

The Reyes Family, attending a protest for Indigenous people's rights in downtown.

(Sharon McNary/LAist.com)

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