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Mayor Garcetti Says Too Many Angelenos Are Hanging Out With Friends, 'The Covid Test Is Not A Passport To Party'

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Courtesy Mayor of LA Facebook page

Mayor Eric Garcetti said today at his press briefing that there have been too many social gatherings in Los Angeles, which is, simply put, the main reason we are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases locally.

"There are still too many social gatherings, maybe too many pool parties this weekend, too many playdates, too many family barbecues" he said, adding that today, over 50% of those who tested positive for the disease are under 40 years old. Last week, it was 40% and several weeks ago, only 30% of positive cases were in the 18-40 age group.

Garcetti went so far as to make a plea to parents, asking them to do their part to keep kids and young adults from going to parties and gatherings with friends.

"I know it's the summertime," the mayor said, "and our muscle memory goes back to being together, to wanting to hang out with one another to thinking, 'Well, I don't know anybody who has been sick or in the hospital so I'm probably okay, and they're probably okay.' And so they're winding up in the hospital or if they're not winding up in the hospital, they're passing on to their parents and their grandparents."

He warned that the next weeks are critical to determining whether or not schools and the rest of the economy will be able to reopen, saying definitively, "do not get together with someone who's not in your household."

Reminder: outdoor dining, outdoor bars, gyms, nail salons and many other business are still open. So Garcetti is basically saying you can go to these places, just not with your friends.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS

Last month, the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health found that 83% of the 3,700 bars and restaurants they visited were violating reopening guidelines and public health protocols.

Today, the mayor said that the department is reporting a big improvement, with a 90-98% compliance rate among the same 3,700 stablishments.

"That's good news," Garcetti added, "people are hearing us, they're doing the right thing and helping save lives."

CODE ORANGE

Last week, Garcetti unveiled a new color-coded threat level tracker for COVID-19 risk in L.A. Today, he said, the threat level is orange.

"That's bad," he said. "If things get worse that dial could move to red. In this coming week or two, that would place us at the highest risk of infection, and we'd likely return to a mandated safer at home order."

The mayor added that we should assume that everyone around us is infectious. He said we are now seeing the highest hospitalizations we've had since the pandemic began.

TESTING

The mayor said that testing is full this week, likely because of a lack of testing over the holiday weekend. The city is adding more tests on Saturday, Sunday, and into next week. The turnaround time for tests should still be one to two days.

"We hear every single day that there are not enough tests," Garcetti said, adding that the city is expanding testing capacity by 100%, despite national "choke points" in the supply chain due to surges of the virus in states like Florida and Texas.

The mayor said that without national funding for increased testing as outlined in the next coronavirus relief bill, the numbers are not sustainable.

"Congress and the President need to set aside any of their differences and pass another relief bill now, to expand testing and direct assistance for cities like ours, that are stepping up and paying out of our pocket for these tests," he said.

Tests should ideally be reserved for those with symptoms, as well as anyone who thinks they have been exposed to COVID-19 and essential workers. Asymptomatic individuals should not just be getting tested so they can hang out with their friends, he said.

"A Covid test isn't an excuse to break the rules and engage in social gatherings outside your household," Garcetti said. "It's not an excuse to not wear a mask, or to not maintain social distancing. The test is not a passport to party."

The mayor made his point clear: don't hang out with your friends.

RENT RELIEF

L.A. residents who have a household income at or below 80% of the median income, which for a family of four is about $83,000, can apply for rent relief.

Applications will open on Monday, July 13 at 8 a.m. and close at midnight on July 17. The mayor said the application process is not first-come, first-served. For more information, call 844-944-1868.

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Independent Andrés Guardado Autopsy Shows He Was Shot 5 Times In The Back

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Hundreds of people spent their Father's Day marching from the auto body shop where 18-year-old Andrés Guardado was shot and killed by a Sheriff's deputy. (Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

An independent autopsy of Andrés Guardado, an 18-year-old killed by an L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy last month, found he was shot in the back five times, according to Guardado's family.

“These findings confirm what we have known all along, which is that Andrés was unjustifiably killed by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy,” Guardado’s parents, Cristóbal and Elisa Guardado, said in a statement.

The Guardado family commissioned its own autopsy while it awaits the county’s official one. The autopsy was performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet I. Omalu.

Preliminary forensic toxicology results show that Guardado “did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the incident,” according to a press release from the Guardado family’s attorneys.

Sheriff’s officials said Guardado produced a handgun at the scene, which his family disputes.

SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT GIVES (SCANT) UPDATE

At a news conference Wednesday, L.A. County Sheriff's Department Commander Chris Marks said the deputy who fired six rounds during the incident had not been interviewed yet and cannot be compelled to talk during the criminal investigation because of his Fifth Amendment rights.

“We want his cooperation, we want his statement, so we are on his time table on that,” Marks said.

“The principal deputy who did, in fact, fire his weapon and struck Andrés Guardado, is scheduled to be interviewed by Sheriff’s Bureau homicide investigators but that has not yet occurred."

Marks didn’t say when the Sheriff's Department would release findings from its investigation.

“Generally speaking, these investigations will last a few months,” Marks said.

INSPECTOR GENERAL DEMANDS ANSWERS

The county's inspector general sent a letter Wednesday to Sheriff Alex Villanueva asking that evidence recovered in the investigation of Guardado's death be handed over "immediately." According to the letter, Inspector General Max Huntsman first asked for the materials on June 22 and has received no response.

READ THE FULL LETTER:

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A Devastating Citrus Disease Finally Has A New Treatment

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A citrus grower in Florida holds a greening symptomatic citrus and a healthy one. (Gianrigo Marletta/AFP via Getty Images)

A disease that has devastated Florida citrus and threatens California crops may finally be tamed by a new treatment discovered by scientists at UC Riverside.

The disease, known as citrus greening disease, showed up in Southern California eight years ago. It's caused by a bacterium known as CLas, also called Huanglongbing or HLB, according to the university. It spreads through an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. When a tree is infected, its growth is stunted, it develops lopsided, green fruits, and eventually it stops producing altogether.

The Asian citrus psyllid, pictured here, spreads the bacterium that causes citrus greening disease. (Mike Lewis/UCR)

Previously, there was no cure, so growers often resorted to spraying antibiotics or chemical pesticides to prevent infection.

"There's also other methods that are non-chemical, where they actually have to wash these oranges or lemons and remove stems and leaves from the fruit," Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner Ruben Arroyo told KPCC/LAist.

But the disease was wreaking havoc on crops anyway.

The new treatment was discovered by UCR geneticist Hailing Jin. It's a compound found to occur naturally in a citrus relative known as a New Zealand fingerling lime. Jin traced the genes that give the fingerling lime its natural immunity and discovered that one of these genes produces the compound. After testing, Jin found the trees improved within a few months when they were treated by spraying their leaves or injecting them with the compound.

UCR says the treatment is easily manufactured, safe for humans and requires application a few times a year.

HERE'S MORE BACKGROUND ON CITRUS GREENING:

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Doctors Brace For Surge As COVID-19 Hospitalizations In LA County Reach All-Time High

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The scene at Antelope Valley Fairgrounds in Lancaster, where a field hospital was set up to prepare for an influx in COVID-19 patients. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Doctors in Los Angeles County are urging people to socially distance and wear masks as they see an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“[In terms of] capacity, we still have some room, but in my mind, it’s not going to take very much to really stress the system,” said Dr. Andrea Austin, an emergency physician in downtown Los Angeles.

Austin said she’s seeing more COVID patients, but also more people coming into the emergency room for non-COVID injuries and illnesses as businesses have reopened.

“We were really bracing for a New York situation in April, and fortunately, that didn't happen. But those plans are still in place,” Austin said. She said outdoor tents are still up at one of the hospitals where she works, but the concern will be about the work force.

“We can surge quite a bit as far as physical space. I think the challenge will be staffing at that point,” Austin said.

L.A. County health officials said Wednesday that the number of hospitalizations are the highest they’ve been since the pandemic began, with more than 2,000 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19. Four weeks ago, that number hovered between 1,350 to 1,450.

Dr. Larry Stock, an emergency physician at the Antelope Valley Hospital, said he's seen more people coming into the ER.

"We're seeing increased volumes of COVID patients and there's been a change. One, we're seeing younger patients," he said.

Stock said that volume has increased so much that the emergency room had to hold about 20 patients on Tuesday who were waiting for beds to become available so they could be admitted.

Another emergency physician, who works at a hospital in downtown Los Angeles, is seeing the same in his department.

“This is now an everyday occurrence, patients being held in the emergency room waiting to go upstairs to a bed,” said the doctor, who did not want to be identified.

“Hospitals, emergency rooms, ICUs, they are reaching their capacity and we are about to enter a very very difficult several weeks,” he said.

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Health Officials Expect COVID-19 Deaths To Climb As LA County Reaches 'Critical Juncture'

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A worker dressed in personal protective equipment helps a woman check in at a COVID-19 testing center at Lincoln Park amid the coronavirus pandemic on July 7, 2020 in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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

With the rate of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations climbing, local health officials are bracing for an increase in deaths as the region enters "a critical juncture in our pandemic," L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday.

"Tragically, we do expect that more of our loved ones and our neighbors may die of COVID-19 in the coming weeks with all of the increases we're seeing in hospitalizations," she said at today's media briefing.

County officials reported 2,496 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 123,004 cases countywide. In total, 4,690 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 1,415 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

Ferrer also reported 65 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 3,642.

So far, 93% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said, but she noted that the remaining 7% "represents dozens and dozens of people who may have thought that they were at no risk for having serious illness and even dying from COVID-19, but unfortunately this virus can affect many, many different people."

The rate of infection is also increasing. At the start of June the county was averaging about 1,300 cases a day, Ferrer said. Now it's averaging 2,400 new cases per day.

More than 1.2 million tests for the coronavirus have been conducted and reported to county officials. Of those tests, 9% have been positive, and the overall positivity rate is also rising and now stands at nearly 11%, based on a seven-day average. That's higher than benchmarks set by the state earlier this year meant to guide the speed of reopening.

Ferrer also provided a racial breakdown of the confirmed deaths, based on information confirmed for 3,389 of the victims. According to the latest available information:

  • 11% African American [9% of county residents]
  • 16% Asian [15.4% of county residents]
  • 45% Latino / Latina [48.6% of county residents]
  • 27% White [26.1% of county residents]
  • Less than 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander [0.4% of county residents]
  • 1% identified as belonging to another race or ethnicity

The mortality rate — measured as a number per 100,000 residents — among commuities of color and in neighborhoods with higher poverty levels remains disporportionalely high, and Ferrer noted that the county has so far failed to narrow that gap. She said:

"... it means that we need to redouble all of the efforts to make sure that access to testing, healthcare, support services is there, but we also need to be very mindful of protecting workers often who may be in job situations where they're not getting the protections they need to protect themselves both at work, and then again to protect their community and their families when they go home."

(Courtesy Los Angeles County)

Ferrer also reported that the vast majority of the businesses surveyed by health officials over the holiday weekend were complying with public health guidance on social distancing and face coverings. In total, about 1,100 restaurants, 80 bars, 70 hotels and eight breweries and wineries were visited.

"I want to be clear that this is just a sample, and it doesn't give us the full picture of what's happening all across the county," Ferrer noted. "But they do show major improvements over the samples that we had seen before, and we do hope that these efforts can be sustained."

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MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Coronavirus Outbreak Sickens 14 Firefighters At LAX Fire Station

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Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas speaks at a press conference. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Fourteen firefighters with the Los Angeles Fire Department have tested positive for COVID-19.

The outbreak happened at Fire Station 80, which serves Los Angeles International Airport and is part of the department's West Bureau. All 14 are currently quarantining at home and are either asymptomatic or displaying mild symptoms, according to LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey.

"The fire station has been industrially disinfected and all the shifts are being covered by other firefighters."

Officials say the firefighters tested positive for the virus either Monday or Tuesday, and no service has been disrupted.

Across L.A. County, the coronavirus positivity rate continues to rise, now averaging 11.6% over the past seven days. That's up from 10% just two days ago and 8.4% about a week ago.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS

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Gov. Newsom: 11,694 New COVID-19 Cases, Including LA County Backlog

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Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on California's response to coronavirus. You can watch the video above and read highlights below.

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

There were 11,694 new COVID-19-positive patients reported in California yesterday, Newsom said — though that number includes a backlog reported from laboratories in Los Angeles County. Removing L.A., the state's positives would be below 10,000 for yesterday.

The seven-day average is 8,116 cases each day this past week, which Newsom said was more of a key number to watch. There were 111 deaths in the most recent reporting period.

The state's positivity rate is up to 7.1% over the past two weeks. That's a 39% increase over that time period. The governor warned that this number could quickly spike, noting that other states have had numbers recently even above 20%.

Over the past two weeks, there has been a 44% increase in the number of hospitalizations, Newsom said. The state's hospital capacity is at 60% including all patients (both COVID and non-COVID). COVID-19 patients take up about 8% of that capacity.

Intensive Care Unit admissions are up 34% over the past two weeks. COVID-19 patients occupy 15% of the state's ICU beds.

There are now 26 of the state's 58 counties on the state's monitoring list. That includes L.A., Orange, and other Southern California counties. Three counties were added today; a week ago, there were 19 counties on the list. Being on the list requires those counties to make modifications to their stay-at-home orders.

So far, 18 of those counties have issued local orders making those adjustments, including both L.A. and Orange counties. Four have agreed to follow state-issued orders, including Riverside and San Bernardino counties. There are four more counties the state is awaiting action from, including the three announced today — Newsom said that he expects quick action from them. He said that the majority of counties are acting in the way that everyone would hope they would.

Newsom said that on either Friday or Monday, he will be providing an update on testing, including on how the state will be doing more targeted testing. A new testing task force, including new strategies, will be announced soon, Newsom said. The state will be working to change how it does testing to help avoid delays, moving away from relying on national labs that cause those delays. Newsom said that they still want to encourage people to get tested and said he didn't want people to feel discouraged from getting tested.

CAUSES OF RECENT COVID-19 HOSPITALIZATIONS

The governor noted that positivity rates, case numbers, hospitalization numbers, and ICU numbers, are all continuing to increase.

Newsom said that these are the key reasons for increased hospitalizations:

  • Not enough people wearing masks and physically distancing
  • Increased mixing outside of households
  • Prison and jail outbreaks
  • Essential workplace outbreaks

Newsom noted that more than 60% of the state's economy never shut down, at least in a modified way. Many of those essential workers put their lives and health on the line, Newsom said. This includes people like grocery employees, food workers, and farm workers, Newsom said. Many of them are young, and a large number are members of diverse populations, with Black and Brown people being overrepresented, Newsom said.

PREPARING THE STATE'S HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

He said he wanted to use today's update to talk about how the state has prepared its health care system for what's expected to be an uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations.

Californians staying home have enabled the state to save lives and to prepare the health care systems for a large surge, Newsom said.

There were three priorities in that preparation, according to the governor:

  1. Ensure Californians who need access to hospital care, receive it.
  2. Maximize capacity within current hospital settings.
  3. Build additional capacity outside hospital settings.

L.A. County has one of the largest numbers of hospital beds, according to Newsom, compared with other counties.

In March, the state had hospital surge capacity of 20%, no established alternate care sites, and no pre-positioned medical assets, according to Newsom.

Now, the state has capacity to treat 50,000 COVID-19 patients, has established alternate care sites and new hospital capacity, and has deployed federal medical resources to help in areas vulnerable to spikes in COVID-19.

There have been 35,000 applications for the California Health Corps with valid licenses in those health professions, Newsom said. So far, 741 Health Corps individuals have been deployed to skilled nursing, corrections, and other facilities — others have yet to be needed. The governor encouraged others to continue to apply, as there may be needs in different parts of the state that are under-resourced or needs for people with specific licenses.

CALIFORNIA HOSPITAL SYSTEM SURGE PLAN

Newsom said he has confidence in hospitals handling COVID-19 in the short term, and hospitals are preparing for a surge.

Hospitals have therapeutics now that are allowing for COVID-19 patients to have shorter hospital stays, including remdesivir, California Hospital Association President Carmela Coyle said in Wednesday's press conference. Fewer patients are being put on ventilators. Doctors and nurses have learned a lot about how to care for COVID-positive patients, according to Coyle.

The surge involves balancing caring for COVID patients with caring for everyone else, Coyle said.

"The best way that we can expand and have as much capacity as we need to treat COVID-positive and patients with COVID-19 disease is to make certain that we're stopping the spread of the infection in the first place," Coyle said. "And that is all about masks, and social distancing, and hand hygiene."

Doing those things helps doctors and nurses, and helps to save lives, Coyle said.

Each of the state's 416 hospitals has an emergency plan, Coyle said — those plans are being adjusted as more has been learned about COVID-19.

Hospitals are continuing to build inventory of personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns, as well as attempting to build up testing supplies, Coyle said. Staff are being cross-trained, such as training nurses to work in ICUs who don't normally do so. And more space is being sought in hospitals throughout the state to treat COVID-positive patients.

Hospitals are working together to be able to decompress hospital systems in certain areas, allowing patients to be moved to hospitals with more capacity, Coyle said.

And the U.S. Health and Human Services Department is sending 191 staff members to help in California, Newsom said.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

In March, the state had 1 million procedure masks and 21 million N95 masks, Newsom said. That was many more than other states had available, but that stash had been secured by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many of the masks had expired.

So far, the state has distributed 201 million procedure masks and 79 million N95 masks. The state has 232 million procedure masks in its current inventory, as well as 46 million N95 masks. California has also given masks to four other states to help with their needs, in partnership with FEMA — those masks are only given to other states when California's own needs are met at certain thresholds, Newsom said.

REOPENING SCHOOLS, IGNORING TWEETS

Newsom said that he isn't worried about "the latest tweets" when it comes to threats from the president to withhold funding from states that don't reopen schools, as well as the vice president's comments that states that reopen could be rewarded.

The governor said that what needs to be prioritized is safely reopening the schools. More personal protective equipment is being acquired for schools at all levels, including preschools and colleges. Both kids and teachers need to be kept safe and healthy, as well as other school staff, Newsom said. He added that he is far more worried about that than "a tweet."

The state is allowing flexibility when it comes to in-person vs. online learning in local school districts, as well as the potential for hybrid models, Newsom said.

Newsom said that he will be delivering another coronavirus update Thursday.

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Morning Briefing: Use Of Force In LA

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LAPD officers confront protestors at a Black Lives Matter protest following the death of George Floyd on May 30, 2020 in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Data on police use of force is notoriously hard to come by. But in an investigation for LAist, Aaron Mendelson found and broke down the numbers — and his report should surprise exactly no one. According to the state of California, law enforcement officers in L.A. used force on Black Angelenos at a higher rate than any other racial group.

"The racial disparities are a natural outcome of this entire system that we've created," civil rights attorney Connie Rice told Aaron.

Police shootings tend to get the most attention, but the most common type of force used against Black people in L.A. is physical force, including kicks and punches.

And lest you think that somehow doesn't sound as bad, in order to qualify for the state database that Aaron combed, those kicks and punches have to represent "substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.”

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today.

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, July 8

A new Bridge Shelter opened in San Pedro to provide temporary housing for homeless Angelenos. Matt Tinoco reports on its progress.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A. Law Enforcement: Police in L.A. County use force on Black people at hugely disproportionate rates, and at higher rates than any other racial group. County officials voted to study how to close Men’s Central Jail within a year, and invest the funds in mental health programs.

From COVID-19 To TB: L.A. County moved everyone who was doing contact tracing for tuberculosis to COVID-19. Now the chief medical officer is worried about a potential TB outbreak.

Today In Education: The LAUSD board reelected Richard Vladovic to a second consecutive term as board president. International students could lose their visas if they don't attend in-person classes, but that's a serious problem with many schools going online this fall.

The Devil’s Gate: A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit against L.A. County to reduce the scope of a project attached to the Devil’s Gate Dam.

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Photo Of The Day

The Laugh Factory unveiled a 148-foot-long mural as a tribute to Black Lives Matter, believed to be the largest tribute to BLM in the nation. Five artists were involved in the project.

(Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

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