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Today LA Hit The Highest Single-Day Total Of New COVID-19 Cases So Far

People wearing masks has become the norm on Metro trains, photographed March 23, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Today L.A. County hit more disconcerting milestones, the worst being a new high of COVID-19 cases reported in a single day: 4,592. The death count is also high, with 59 people losing their lives.

The county also reported record hospitalization numbers today, with 2,173 people currently receiving treatment. Younger people are being hospitalized at a higher rate than any other point in the pandemic, comprising 20% of those undergoing such care.

Today's numbers bring the total number of deaths in the county to 3,988, and the total number of cases to 147,468.

Health officials are urging business owners to "take immediate action" to implement strategies to protect workers and customers. "The Health Officer Order to close indoor operations at many businesses must be followed," officals said in today's press release.

The following businesses are violating the order if open:

  • indoor gyms and fitness centers
  • places of worship
  • offices for non-critical work
  • personal care services (nail salons, massage parlours, tattoo parlours)
  • hair salons and barbershops
  • indoor malls
  • indoor dining at restaurants
  • indoor museums
  • indoor operations at zoos and aquariums
  • cardrooms and satellite wagering facitlies
  • all events and gatherings unless specifically allowed

Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County's director of public health, warned that the virus' spread could continue to grow if we're not vigilant:

"Each case represents a person that is capable of, and in all probability is, infecting at least one other person. If you do the math, it is easy to see why the alarm. In a matter of weeks, the 4,600 positive cases today could lead to over 18,000 infected people in a few weeks. And this is just from one day of new cases. Without aggressive action on the part of every person, we will not get back to slowing the spread."

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Unheard LA: Join Us For A Deeper Listen On Stories That Need To Be Heard


As the nation reckons with systemic racism, our community-centered storytelling show Unheard LA is taking a deeper listen.

Unheard LA was built on a simple premise: that while many stories go untold, even more go unheard. Now we’re doubling down on listening. Please join us for a special virtual edition of the series produced by KPCC/LAist.

Reflections on the ways in which racism has shaped lives and experiences in Southern California have been a signature part of Unheard LA since our very first show, back in 2017. And these stories are worth a second and deeper listen. That’s why we’re presenting a series of curated virtual shows, hosted by Bruce Lemon Jr., and featuring stories and live conversations with participants — all in collaboration with our newroom's Race In LA initiative.

Today we’ll put the stories of Candace Nicholas-Lippman, Dante Mitchell, and Janae Williams center stage once again (this time virtually) as they share their personal and authentic accounts of life here in Southern California. Dana Amihere, co-editor and developer of Race In LA, will also join us for a live conversation.

Watch and engage with us live right here, at the top of this page at 6 p.m. You can also view on Livestream and Facebook Live (you don’t need a Facebook account).


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Judge Dismisses Charges Against Social Workers In Gabriel Fernandez Case

Gabriel Fernandez. (NBC4)

An L.A. County Superior Court Judge today dismissed child abuse charges against four former county social workers in the case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez. Each defendant was facing up to 10 years in prison.

The Palmdale boy was tortured and murdered by his mother and her boyfriend in 2013.

It was a horrific case that made Gabriel Fernandez a household name around the world. Evidence showed he had been systematically beaten, shot with BB gun pellets and subjected to other abuses before he died.

Fernandez’s mother has since been sentenced to life in prison. Her boyfriend received the death penalty.

Many questioned how the abuses could have gone unaddressed by authorities at the time, especially since the County Department of Child and Family Services had been alerted.

In a highly unusual move, L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey filed charges against the four social workers. The DA claimed they had shown willful disregard for Fernandez’s well-being. The social workers' lawyers argued that the abuse and torture escalated months after the county had closed its file on the case.

The judge tossed the case after an appeals court ruled earlier this year that the social workers could not be held criminally liable because Fernandez was never in their custody and it was not up to them to stop the abuse.

In a statement, the L.A. County Department of Child and Family Services said it respects the court’s decision, adding that it has taken “significant steps to mitigate risk and improve our capacity countywide in order to best serve vulnerable children and families and as a department we remain committed to ensuring that reform continues.”

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Environmentalists Fear Oil Company Bankruptcy Could Strand SoCal’s Idle Wells

Some of the 2,000 idle oil wells owned by California Resources Corporation in Orange and LA Counties. (Screenshot of map compiled by Center for Biological Diversity using the CA CalGEM oil database)

The owner of more than 2,000 idle oil wells in Southern California declared bankruptcy this week, raising fears among environmentalists that those wells might never be properly sealed.

The local petroleum industry has been in decline for years, because what little oil remains underground is expensive to extract. But as those old wells sit idle and unsealed, they present a potential pollution hazard to drinking water underground and people living nearby.

In 2014, Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum spun off ownership of about 7,000 idle wells to a new company, called California Resources Corporation. About 2,000 are in Southern California, grouped near shorelines in Huntington Beach, Long Beach, and Wilmington and along the Santa Clara River in Ventura County. (This map shows their locations.)

On Wednesday, CRC filed for bankruptcy in order to restructure its debt. Spokeswoman Margarita Thompson said the filing acknowledges CRC’s legal obligations to cover the shutdown costs of the wells.

She added that the company is up to date on its payment for indemnity bonds for its idle wells, which is a form of insurance that would pay to close the wells if the company went under.

But environmentalists now want Gov. Gavin Newsom to intervene to make sure the company sets aside enough money to seal old wells, or push former owner Occidental Petroleum to do so.

“It's not supposed to be the case that oil and gas companies can shed their environmental cleanup responsibilities and obligations in the bankruptcy proceedings,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity.

She says the industry has set aside only a fraction of the money needed to permanently shut down idle wells. The California Council on Science and Technology estimates some $550 million is needed to permanently seal so-called “orphan wells” whose owners went broke.

An idle well is one that hasn’t been used in two or more years. There are some 35,000 idle wells in California, and if improperly closed, the hydrocarbons can leak into water aquifers or the air. When oil companies close or go broke, if they don’t have the money to permanently seal the wells, that obligation falls to the state.

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Put Down Your Phone And Look Up At The Sky Tonight

Comet NEOWISE is seen in the sky in Jean, Nevada on July 15, 2020. (David Becker/AFP via Getty Images)

About an hour after sunset, look at the horizon in the northwest portion of the sky, and you may be able to see NEOWISE (aka C/2020 F3), the brightest comet to pass by Earth since Hale-Bopp in the mid ‘90s.

The comet will get higher and higher in the sky (and easier to see) from now until July 23, when it reaches its closest point to Earth.


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Hundreds Of Getty Staff Call For Action On Racism In Open Letter

The Getty Center on Oct. 28, 2005. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The Getty is among the many institutions wrestling with how it handles concerns about diversity in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and renewed attention around the Black Lives Matter movement. Now more than 250 current and former employees have issued an open letter calling on the Getty's Board of Trustees to take immediate steps to address its own deficiencies.

The letter asks the board to set "actionable, measurable goals to increase diversity and repudiate racism at Getty." The signers also ask for a response within one week of the letter's receipt — it is dated Wednesday, July 15.

The letter reads, in part:

"Since its inception, senior leadership and the highest profile members of Getty staff have remained nearly entirely white. Racism abounds, from insensitive comments made by management and frequent microaggressions experienced by staff and visitors of color to collecting practices and exhibition programs that glorify the work of white heterosexual cisgender male artists to the exclusion of others."

The letter is signed by 167 current staff members at the Getty Trust, the Getty Museum, and other parts of the Getty organization — 148 signed their names, 19 signed anonymously. It's also signed by 85 former staff members, as well as other visitors, allies, and current and former interns.

The letter calls on the Getty's board to "ensure BIPOC voices are a part of every level of work at Getty" and that both senior leadership and board positions be held by people who've demonstrated a commitment to "equity and antiracism."

"It has become apparent that Getty leadership is unprepared to do this vital work," the letter states.

The Getty is criticized for not publicly stating: Black Lives Matter. The letter calls their social media statements "weak and noncommittal," and specifically calls out Getty President/CEO Jim Cuno for "careless and repeated mention of his former Black school friends," as well as Getty Museum Director Tim Potts for his "sweeping remarks about the nonexistence of art made by women or BIPOC." The Museum includes few pieces of art by women; the majority of the art on display is by white men.

The letter notes that these "harmful missteps are, unfortunately, endemic of Getty leadership."

Multiple employees said that the letter follows a recent staff meeting, following protests over the killing of George Floyd, where members of senior leadership were defensive about their handling of diversity. Those staff members requested anonymity due to concern over their jobs within the Getty organization and fear of retribution.

The Getty hired an outside firm to help with its handling of diversity in July 2019. Citing a recently formed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) council and task forces, the letter notes that these efforts have no funding attached to them. The letter calls for these groups to be given authority to enact change, rather than issuing recommendations to senior leaders.

Those leaders "have little incentive to move quickly and to make DEI a priority."

A Getty spokesperson responded to the letter in a statement:

"Getty’s Board and Senior Leadership are committed to immediately addressing priority issues, including building a diverse workforce, confronting and eliminating racism in the workplace, deepening our engagement with communities of color in the work we do, and expanding the diversity of perspectives and narratives brought to the work of all four Getty programs. We have said there is much work to do, and we must move forward with urgency in accomplishing it, along with our dedicated, talented, and deeply caring staff and our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council and Task Forces."

The open letter calls for specific action, saying that without it, the Getty's mission "is fraudulent."


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Glendale Schools Will Reopen With Online-Only Classes This Fall

Major school districts in Southern California are opting to continue distance learning into the fall. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Glendale Unified this week joined a growing list of school districts choosing to start the new school year with online-only learning. Glendale's school year starts Aug. 19.

In the Los Angeles area, L.A. Unified, Pasadena, and Long Beach Unified have also opted for distance learning.

While classes will happen online and at home, some Glendale campuses will be open to some elementary school-age students for child care.

Glendale Superintendent Vivian Ekchian told KPCC's daily public affairs show AirTalk that students allowed on campus will be in supervised groups of no more than 10 children, in rooms where they can safely distance themselves:

"We are going to follow the public health and CDC guidelines — every single bullet will be checked off, because we want to make sure that our students are safe."

Priority will go to families enrolled in state-subsidized programs, foster and homeless youth, and students eligibile for free school meals.

The district will also provide free laptops and wireless internet hotspots to any student that need them.

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Workplace Complaints And COVID-19 Outbreak Investigations Surge In LA County

Women wearing facemasks exit the Westfield Santa Anita shopping mall where a sign is posted at an entrance reminding people of the mask requirement on June 12, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Public health inspectors are receiving 2,000 to 3,000 complaints each week about businesses not complying with the county’s rules, according to Los Angeles County’s health officer.

The most common violations include failures to wear proper face coverings and to regularly sanitize high-touch areas, Dr. Muntu Davis told reporters today. L.A. County’s health department has opened 52 outbreak investigations at restaurants and 47 at grocery stores, he said.

Davis also gave an update today on the coronavirus outbreak among workers at Los Angeles Apparel, the clothing company started by former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney.

Last week, it was reported that four workers had died from COVID-19, and the county has now confirmed 375 positive cases among L.A. Apparel’s 2,290 employees, according to Davis. The clothing company remains closed.

“This is the largest outbreak investigation that we have at this time,” he said.

Davis also mentioned the “concerning milestones” L.A. County has reached this week, including record highs for daily confirmed cases and hospitalizations. Deaths from COVID-19 rose sharply this week, with health officials reporting 73 new deaths on Wednesday.

Yesterday, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that reinstating the strict stay-at-home order isn't off the table.

The reason behind the surge, Davis said: “We're not seeing compliance that we need with the public health directives in place to keep people's health and livelihoods safe.”

“Looking at the largest outbreaks that we are on our list, the ones with the highest numbers of coronavirus cases have occurred in food processing and distribution facilities — including meatpacking plants — manufacturing facilities, garment factories, and wholesale warehouses.”

People who work in those facilities are at higher risk, Davis explained, because of the large number of employees working long shifts indoors in close proximity with each other.

Davis did not provide details about enforcement, like how many businesses had been shut down, or if there are enough inspectors to follow through on the high volume of complaints pouring in.

The health department has a hotline for workers to report unsafe work conditions anonymously: 888-700-9995.

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If Unemployment Boost Isn't Renewed, Some Freelancers May Have To Leave LA

Michelle Faucheux lost work shooting commercials at the outset of the pandemic and hasn't been able to get back on set for months. (Chava Sanchez /LAist)

For many L.A. freelancers who’ve lost work during the coronavirus pandemic, the extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits passed by Congress has been a lifeline.

That money has covered their rent, paid for their health insurance and put food on their table at a time when work has, in many cases, completely dried up.

But that federal boost to unemployment is slated to go away at the end of July, and so far, there’s been no deal to renew it.

“Once the $600 goes away, I have no idea what we're going to do,” said Michelle Faucheux, a Silver Lake commercial producer who is considering moving home to New Orleans if the financial aid isn’t renewed.

Losing the weekly $600 wouldn’t just be hard on unemployment recipients like Faucheux. Experts say it could also upend California’s entire economy.


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Dr. Christina Ghaly On Why LA Is Shifting Its COVID-19 Testing Strategy

The poorest Angelenos are dying from COVID-19 at a rate four times higher than the wealthiest. (Screenshot of July 15, 2020 presentation from Los Angeles Department of Health Services)

Los Angeles County is opening new coronavirus testing sites in Montebello, South Gate, Azusa, Panorama City, Compton and Downey/Norwalk, and expanding capacity at existing sites in Bellflower, Pomona, El Monte and East Los Angeles, according to public health authorities.

Why? Because it's become increasingly clear that Black and Latino/Latina Angelenos and those living in the poorest parts of the county are getting infected with the virus and dying at much higher rates than others.

"Certainly anyone can sign up for a test at any of the city- or county-run sites, but I would ask that people respect the data that lies behind the selection of these sites as hotspot areas," Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of Health Services, said of the new and expanded testing sites.

"These communities are in need. They are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19. They have higher case rates, higher death rates, and we want these testing sites to be a resource for the people that live there or for people in the surrounding neighboring communities who are also disproportionately affected by COVID."


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Morning Briefing: ‘Private’ Comments Have High-Ranking Sheriff’s Official Under Investigation

Members of the community gather at the Compton Civic Center to protest the fatal shooting of Andrés Guardado by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy. (Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

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

According to an autopsy released by the L.A. County coroner’s office, 18-year-old Andrés Guardado was killed by a Sheriff’s deputy who shot him five times in the back. L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s chief of staff, Capt. John Burcher, wrote on Facebook that Guardado, who deputies have alleged was armed, “chose his fate.”

That post was uncovered by our friends at ABC7 news, and was part of a string of comments that Burcher made in response to a news article on Guardado. Burcher also said, “Why so much coverage over Guardado?” and called another commenter an “idiot” and a “moron.”

As of now, Burcher’s social media posts are under an “administrative investigation” and he has been reassigned to the agency’s East Patrol Division. Speaking to ABC7, Villanueva said that Burcher “remains as captain,” and seemed to defend Burcher’s actions.

“He made the comments as a private person,” said Villanueva, “not as a public official.”

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, July 16

City boosters sold Southern California as an outdoor paradise, waiting to be explored. That enthusiasm for the outdoors led to the "great hiking era," reports Hadley Meares, which ran from roughly the 1880s to the 1930s.

L.A. County's Office of Education has issued new guidelines for reopening Head Start that can be applied to any early learning setting, reports Mariana Dale. The agency oversees care for 11,000 kids through its Head Start programs and its facilities will remain closed through the end of July, but "after that, it will vary by delegate agency and site depending on community needs."

Many stories go untold, and even more go unheard. As the nation reckons with systemic racism, our community-centered storytelling show Unheard LA is taking a deeper listen. Join us live at 6 p.m. to hear that conversation.

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

The Past 24 Hours In LA

Policing The Police: “Inexcusable.” That’s what the attorney for Andrés Guardado’s family called Facebook posts by Capt. John Burcher, who until this week was the chief of staff to the sheriff. Attorney Adam Shea said in a statement that the comments “further confirm why an independent investigation [into Guardado’s killing] is necessary."

Coronavirus Updates: For the second day in a row, L.A. County has reported its highest rate of hospitalizations since the coronavirus pandemic began. The Rose Parade, an annual Pasadena tradition, will not happen on January 1, 2021, due to the pandemic. A federal medical team will assist at Eisenhower Health Hospital in Rancho Mirage.

#Pride: After 40 years in West Hollywood, LA Pride plans to find a new home.

Homelessness: L.A. City and County presented updates to a federal court this week explaining how they’re going to move 6,700 homeless people away from freeways. It’s complicated.

The Sequel: Breaking with other talent agencies, United Talent Agency has reached a deal with the Writers Guild.

Photo Of The Day

This chilled out bear was spotted this week in the backyard of a Monrovia home. The picture was captured by Michael Hayford, whose daughter Kristen Hayford works with the LAist Studios podcast team.

(Courtesy of Michael Hayford)

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