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Under Heavy Demand, Long Beach Restricts Who Can Get Tested for COVID-19

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Screenshot shows graphic of COVID-19 cases in Long Beach as of July 13. (Courtesy City of Long Beach)

New cases and hospitalizations for coronavirus are up and so is the demand for testing.

In Long Beach, more than 12,000 tests were administered last week, putting a strain on city-run test sites open to all, including those without symptoms.

Starting tomorrow, tests will be limited to Long Beach, Signal Hill, Lakewood, Paramount, and Compton residents. Long Beach Health and Human Services director Kelly Colopy said:

"People from other cities will be directed to county facility testing or other private testing options as they become available. So if you're signing up for a test in Long Beach, you must be from Long Beach or one of those other cities."

Screenshot shows how the rise in positive cases in Long Beach compares to the city of L.A., L.A. County and statewide. (Courtesy City of Long Beach)

Colopy says Long Beach will open 1,000 appointment slots every day, with the capacity to administer as many as 1,400. On average 15% of those tested in Long Beach proved positive for the virus in the last seven days. That's the highest rate since the start of the pandemic, and higher than the 9% average for LA County.

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LA County Just Had One Of Its Worst Days Yet In The Coronavirus Pandemic

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A man wearing a facemask checks his phone near a sign urging people not to gather, while he walks on the beach in Long Beach on July 14, 2020. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

In a grim new milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles County just reported its highest count yet in both new cases and hospitalizations. It also reported a sharp spike in deaths.

More than 2,100 people are now hospitalized, and 4,244 new cases have been confirmed, the public health department reported in its daily news release.

In addition, 73 more people have died of COVID-19, which places among the highest fatality numbers we've seen.

That said, the public health department reports the higher numbers could reflect a lag in reporting from the weekend.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE LATEST FIGURES:

  • 51 people who died were over age 65, and of those 41 had underlying health conditions; 19 of those who died were age 41-65, and of those 12 had underlying health conditions; and one person who died was between 18 and 40 years old and also had underlying health conditions
  • 3,894 people have died so far in the county, including 149 in Long Beach and 100 in Pasadena, which have their own public health departments
  • 2,103 people are currently hospitalized — 27% in the ICU and 19% on ventilators
  • 140,037 positive cases have been reported so far across the county
  • Nearly 1.4 million people have been tested, with 9% testing positive

DEMOGRAPHICS:

The county has demographic information for 99% of those who died.

  • 46% Latino/Latina (48.6% of county residents)
  • 26% White (26.1% of county residents)
  • 15% Asian (15.4% of county residents)
  • 11% African American/Black residents (9% of county residents)
  • less than 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (0.4% of county residents)
  • 1% identifying with other races

CLOSURES:

The public health department reiterated that under revised health orders, the following types of business and locations are closed for indoor activities:

  • Gyms and Fitness Centers
  • Places of Worship
  • Indoor Protests
  • Offices for Non-Critical Infrastructure Sectors (see the state's list of critical sectors here)
  • Personal Care Services (including nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors)
  • Hair Salons and Barbershops
  • Indoor Malls

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS

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Santa Ana Unified Rejects OC Board Of Education Advice On Reopening Schools

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Los Angeles and San Diego public schools announced they will only offer a remote-only return to school. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In a controversial vote on Monday night, the Orange County Board of Education approved a non-binding recommendation for reopening schools that would not require physical distancing or wearing masks.

One of the county's largest districts, Santa Ana Unified, soundly rejected that advice on Tuesday.

In a statement, the district said it "will pivot entirely to distance learning to start the upcoming school year out of concern for the safety and well being of the entire school community." In an interview with LAist, a spokesman for Santa Ana Unified, Fermin Leal, said the county Board's 4-1 vote would not influence the district's decision. He said,

"Our district is guided by our own community, our own school board, and local and state health care experts, so the Orange County ... Board of Education decision really does not impact us in any way."

The elected OC Board's vote is contrary to guidelines issued by both the state and the Orange County Department of Education, which has advised that districts "encourage" students to wear masks and face coverings "to the extent feasible."

Leal said in considering whether or not to start the semester virtually, the district surveyed parents. About 40% said "full-time virtual learning" should be an option, 30% said it shouldn't be, and the other 30% were unsure.

Leal said the district will "rely on the advice from our local and state health care agencies, along with community input and our Board of Education" to determine if and when campuses will reopen again for instruction.

"We don't know if it's going to be a matter of weeks, months, or maybe even longer," Leal said. "A moving target."

Most districts in Orange County are still deciding on how to reopen their schools for the fall semester. Some, like Tustin Unified, are offering parents the option to decide between fully online learning or a hybrid model that would combine some in-person instruction with distance learning. Others are waiting for further guidance from health officials.

Even without a final decision, some school districts on Tuesday said that even if campuses either fully or partially reopen, they won't return without requiring masks and social distancing, despite the Board's guidance.

"The board majority's recommendations are not binding and La Habra City School District will not open our schools under these conditions," the district's superitendent, Joanne Culverhouse, said in a statement. "The health and safety of our staff and students will guide the decisions we make for reopening our schools."

In Huntington Beach -- site of several vehement anti-masks protests in the spring -- the high school district said on Twitter that face coverings and social distancing will be required on campuses.

And a day prior to the Board's vote, the leadership of the Anaheim Union High School District said on Facebook that it is "recommending that the AUHSD Board of Trustees vote for reopening schools using a full distance learning model to begin the 2020-2021 school year."

Several Orange County districts' own boards of education are expected to consider how to reopen their schools in meetings this week.

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Long Beach, Pasadena Schools Headed For ‘Online-Only’ Reopenings As Coronavirus Surges

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Jill Baker, the newly chosen superintendent for Long Beach Unified, delivers a message via video.

Long Beach Unified School District officials announced today that students will not return to campuses before Oct. 5 — the latest sign that a surge in coronavirus cases is jeopardizing plans to reopen schools across Southern California.

In a statement and video message, Superintendent Jill Baker said spiking rates of cases and hospitalizations prompted Long Beach Unified to shelve plans for a limited, part-time return to classrooms this fall.

Instead, Baker announced the district will start in “online-only” mode on Sept. 1. She promised a:

"robust online instructional program… to include daily live lessons, synchronous instruction, grading, and attendance taking. Our online program for fall will be more intense and consistent than what students experienced following our rapid closure in the spring."

MORE THAN JUST LONG BEACH

With Long Beach Unified’s announcement, three of California’s four largest districts have now decided against reopening campuses in time for the new school year. Los Angeles and San Diego made it official yesterday — and Fresno Unified, the state’s third-largest district, is reportedly considering an online-only start too.

Smaller school districts may soon follow suit: later this week, Pasadena Unified Superintendent Brian McDonald will ask his district’s school board to approve a plan to reopen in "a 100% distance learning model."

"We cannot and will not take chances," McDonald wrote in a letter to parents today, "with the health and safety of our students and staff."

PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS

Yesterday, L.A. County health officials announced schools that do reopen will have to require students, staff and visitors to wear masks, practically at all times.

But it’s up to each of the county’s 80 school districts to decide whether to reopen — and "how to best configure learning opportunities during the pandemic, considering the levels of community transmission and what the science tells us about the risks," according to a statement.

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Trump Administration Nixes Plan To Strip International Students Of Visas

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(Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

The Trump administration told a federal judge today it will withdraw a plan to strip visas from international students who are unable to enroll in in-person college classes this fall.

The news reverberated in Southern California, where many college campuses joined lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security after its now-rescinded policy was announced last week. The policy had required international students to take at least one in-person class. Students in colleges and universities who have switched to online-only instruction because of the coronavirus faced expulsion from the U.S.

Tens of thousands of international students attend colleges and universities in Southern California -- USC alone enrolls nearly 12,000 students, with thousands more at UCLA and other schools. California’s community colleges enroll nearly 22,000 international students, most of them in Southern California.

“We are pleased with the change in direction,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the chancellor of California’s 115 community colleges.

The college system joined a lawsuit filed against the Trump administration by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

Despite the news, Oakley said he’s not ready to withdraw from the lawsuit:

“We've seen over the last three years, many changes in direction in this administration … we're waiting to see what they do next.”

Becerra’s office is also waiting for more information from the Department of Homeland Security before it tells the court that it’s withdrawing its suit.

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California AG Blocks Access To Names In Gang Database Entered By The LAPD

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The California Department of Justice has blocked access to all names in the state’s gang database that were put there by the LAPD.

The database has been criticized for years, but law enforcement continued to rely on it.

Things began to change in January after the LA Times reported that LAPD officers were falsely identifying people as gang members.

Three officers have been charged with falsifying records, and more than 20 are still under investigation.

Last week, Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission his department will no longer participate in the database.

For now, the names the LAPD entered into the database remain in the system, but Attorney General Xavier Becerra said no law enforcement agency will have access to them.

LAPD entries account for nearly one-quarter of the almost 80,000 names in the system, he said.

Beccera said every police department in the state should audit its entries in the database to make sure they’re valid.

“It should now be obvious to everyone: CalGang must change,” he said.

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California Coronavirus Update: Contact Tracing Program Not Built For This Much Spread

Updated
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California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly delivers an update Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (California Public Health)

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly delivered an update Tuesday on California's efforts to get testing for those in need, as well as more updates on the spread of the coronavirus, via a Zoom video conference. (You can watch the full video above.)

NEW COVID-19 TESTING GUIDELINES

The state will be releasing new COVID-19 testing guidelines online this afternoon, Ghaly said. This includes prioritizing who gets tested, and which tests get processed first by labs.

Ghaly noted the importance of being able to get results as fast as possible for hospitalized patients, as well as for those in skilled nursing facilities. The state is working to make sure all COVID-19 testing in California is free, in partnership with health plans, Ghaly said.

Ghaly talked about different types of testing that are being explored, including pool testing, to help resources go further. He also noted supply issues that the state has faced with testing.

CONTACT TRACING NOT BUILT FOR THIS MUCH SPREAD

Ghaly noted the need to be targeted with contact tracing at this time due to the high rate of transmission, despite the state hitting its goal of 10,000 contact tracers.

"We did not build the current contact tracing program on this level of transmission," Ghaly said.

The state is working aggressively to bring down transmission rates to allow contact tracing to work efficiently, Ghaly said.

SHIFTING TESTING COSTS TO HEALTH PLANS, PROVIDERS

The state is reaching out to encourage more testing by local providers and local labs, said Business, Consumer Services and Housing Secretary Castro Ramirez.

The cost of testing is enormous for both the state and for California's health plan partners, Ghaly said. The state is working with health plans and health care providers to pay for testing their patients, while the state focuses its own testing on under-tested communities. Right now, tests cost around $100 per test on average, Ghaly said, adding that the state is working to reduce that cost.

Ghaly announced two new co-chairs for the state's coronavirus task force: Center for Infectious Diseases Deputy Director Dr. Gil Chavez and Kaiser Chief Health Officer Dr. Bechara Choucair. Chavez noted that he has dealt with other public health challenges in California such as SARS and Ebola.

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LA Metro Joins Public Transit Coalition Asking Congress For Up To $36 Billion More In Relief Funding

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Tap entry at the Pershing Square Metro Station in downtown Los Angeles on March 23, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Earlier this year, Congress passed and President Trump signed the nearly $2 trillion CARES Act to provide economic relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The stimulus bill allotted $25 billion in aid for public transit agencies, which experienced plummeting ridership and sales tax revenue amid stay-at-home orders.

Now a national coalition of public transit agencies say they need more money — up to $36 billion in additional federal funding — to stay afloat as coronavirus cases surge both locally and nationally.

The Senate is expected to start debating another pandemic stimulus bill next week, and leaders from both parties have expressed a desire to get it done before Congress recesses next month.

Back in April, L.A. County was allocated more than $1 billion in CARES Act funds to help keep regional public transit moving. That money is being distributed to the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other transit agencies that operate in the county — including LADOT, Foothill Transit, Access Services and Metrolink. L.A. Metro’s board of directors is tasked with dispersing the funds across all agencies.

L.A. Metro CEO Phil Washington spoke during a live-streamed media briefing Tuesday, noting that the agency expects a $1.8 billion shortfall over the next two fiscal years. He said the agency appreciates the federal dollars received so far, “but we need more in order to keep our county and the city of Los Angeles moving.”

Before the pandemic, L.A. Metro was averaging 1.2 million passenger boardings per day on its system, according to Washington. Right now, ridership is about 550,000 per day “and climbing,” he said, though the agency has projected it could take two years for ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels.

And Metro is in the midst of a massive expansion to nearly double its transit system, funded mostly through sales tax revenue. Roughly half of Metro's annual budget comes from sales tax.

“We have our work cut out for us and we need help from Congress,” Washington said. “We're building, but our loss of sales tax revenue is severely hampering our ability to keep people employed … building the infrastructure for this country.”

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MORE ON CORONAVIRUS AND PUBLIC TRANSIT:

'California City' Podcast Is A Tale Of Money, Power And Deception In The Mojave Desert

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Four years ago, as this newsroom's brand-new environment reporter, I was assigned to cover a story about the drought.

I had no idea it would turn into "California City," a seven-part investigative podcast launched by LAist Studios this week about the bizarre history of a half-built town in the Mojave Desert where, for over 60 years, real estate developers have sold a dream: If you buy land here, you'll be rich one day.

A lot of people did buy in California City. But most of them didn't make a penny.

To hear how the dream of California City has been carried on for more than half a century, you can listen and subscribe here.

To hear me talk about the podcast today, tune in to our public affairs and culture show Take Two with A Martinez at 2 p.m. on 89.3 KPCC, or livestream it here.

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OC Board Of Education Says Districts Should Reopen Without Mask Requirement Or Social Distancing

Updated
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Two children in a pre-school class at play while wearing face masks. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The Orange County Board of Education is recommending schools reopen next month without masks or social distancing.

The board voted 4-to-1 Monday night to approve the proposal. The vote is not binding on the county's 28 schools districts, since the board makes recommendations, not policy.

The recommendation issued by the elected board on Monday night is contrary to guidelines previously issued by the Orange County Department of Education that "encourage" students to wear masks and face coverings "to the extent feasible."

OC Department of Education Superintendent Al Mijares says it's up to locally elected school boards and superintendents to decide whether to reopen for the new school year.

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Morning Briefing: LA Closes Again (Mostly)

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Los Angeles freeways in the age of COVID-19. Chava Sanchez/LAist

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As coronavirus cases continue to surge in many California counties, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that those areas are going back to modified stay-at-home orders.

That includes L.A. (and other SoCal counties), and means salons, gyms, churches and more must shut their doors once again. The governor’s order came at the same time that L.A. County announced nearly 2,600 new cases, and deaths topped 3,800.

As a mask wearer and social distancer myself, it’s difficult to know what to say or think at this point. The numbers are going up because too many of us aren’t doing what’s needed to stop the virus, and the irony is that it looks like the folks who are most anxious for things to go “back to normal” – those who are crowding beaches and bars, and insisting on going maskless – are largely responsible for things closing back down.

It’s not a political statement to do what’s necessary to stop COVID-19 from spreading, thereby allowing the economy to reopen sooner rather than later. Wanting the latter without doing the former, though, is a statement – and I’m not sure it’s a statement I’d want to make.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, July 14

A federal judge has allowed for immigrant detainees at the Adelanto Detention Center to be released through a bail process. Elly Yu reports.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Closing L.A.: Coronavirus cases in L.A. County are still going up. Along with a number of other regions in California, L.A. must close gyms, salons, churches, non-essential offices, and more. LAUSD will not reopen schools in August for the next school year, and will instead continue to teach online.

Money Matters: More than $100 million are available to help Angelenos struggling to pay rent during the pandemic. Despite receiving up to $1 million in bailout loans, the Upright Citizens Brigade laid off nearly its entire staff and hasn’t brought them back.

It's Hot: June temperatures are out today. It's the third hottest month globally on record.

The Homelessness Crisis: L.A. officials have proposed an ambitious COVID-19 recovery plan to rapidly house 15,000 people in subsidized apartments.

Moldy Jam: Sqirl, a bastion of "south Silver Lake" foodie hipsterdom, allegedly sold moldy jam, operated a secret (and illegal) kitchen, and failed to credit its opening chef, as well as other employees of color, for their contributions.

Here’s What To Do: Virtual literary events rule, and a classic tamalería opens a new brick-and-mortar location in this week’s best online and IRL events.


Photo Of The Day

A padlock holds the front gate of Leo Politi Elementary School closed. LAUSD schools like this one won't reopen for on-campus classes next month.

(Kyle Stokes/KPCC/LAist)

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