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LA Will Hold Off On (Re)Closing More Businesses ... For Now

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L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti delivers the 2020 State of the City speech. Screenshot of livestream

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said today that he will hold off on re-closing more businesses this week, even though the city is "still headed in the wrong direction" when it comes to handling the spread of COVID-19.

Garcetti added the caveat that the numbers today are a result of our actions two to three weeks ago, so we need to see if the situation improves now that bars, indoor dining and a host of other services are closed again. "Today we are holding off on any additional closures ... to see if our recent closures are working," he said.

This week, L.A. had three record days of more cases than we've ever seen before, the mayor said; each of those days surpassed the previous day's record.

"This is an extremely dangerous situation," he warned.

The mayor said we are still at an orange threat level, on the verge of red, as we were earlier this week. A red threat level would mean reverting back to a complete shutdown.

New poster design from the city of L.A., in partership with Shepard Fairey

WEAR THE F***ING MASK

OK, the mayor didn't use foul language, but we would like to. Garcetti cited today's New York Times graphic, showing that Los Angeles hit an average of 56% of residents wearing masks. He said we need to do better.

"Robert Redfield, the Director of the CDC, said that we could bring this epidemic under control in 4-to-8 weeks if just everybody would wear a mask," he said. "Every Angelino must wear a mask. No mask, no service — and I cannot say this enough."

In an effort to get the message out, L.A. is partnering with artist Shepard Fairey to encourage proper mask etiquette in public spaces and businesses. Anyone can download and print the poster here.

BUSINESS COMPLIANCE

The mayor said that over the past two weeks, the city has received 549 complaints of businesses that were not following the reopening guidelines set forth by the state, city and county.

"It is our goal to educate, to encourage before we have to turn to law enforcement," he said. "But as you've seen, we have not been afraid to do that, to refer criminal cases to our city attorney's office to file those cases, and to make sure that businesses that are violating public health orders are held accountable."

SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF

Garcetti announced that the city is joining L.A. County to offer new grants (not loans) to small businesses and non-profits as part of a $10 million cash assistance program. The goal is to serve businesses who did not receive federal PPP loans, for whatever reason, be it a lack of resources or staff or other language/application barriers.

The grants will be awared in six funding rounds. To apply visit lacovidfund.org. The next round of applications will open on Monday.

EMERGENCY RENTER RELIEF

So far, more than 200,000 people have applied for the renter relief program. The phones are open until 10 p.m. and online applications are open until midnight tonight. Apply here.

THE CENSUS

As of today, about 48.2% of Los Angeles residents have NOT filled out the 2020 census which can be accessed at my2020census.gov.

The mayor did not take questions from reporters today.

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After Decades As A Live Music Venue, The Satellite In Silver Lake Will Become A Restaurant To Survive

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Screenshot from The Satellite's Instagram page

After 25 years of live shows and dance parties, the owner of The Satellite, the music venue in Silver Lake known for hosting local musicians early in their careers, announced today that the venue will reopen as a bar/restaurant, in an attempt to survive these unprecendented economic times.

"To all of the Satellite fans out there, I am sorry to say that we will no longer be doing live shows or dance parties," owner Jeff Wolfram wrote in an Instagram post. "We would like to thank you for all the support you have shown us over the years."

The Satellite closed on March 12 and canceled all upcoming shows due to the pandemic. The city, county and state ordered bars and clubs to shut down several days later. Because of that, according to the post, the venue suffered an unrecoverable financial loss.

"We can no longer afford to wait for the day we will be allowed to have shows again," Wolfram wrote. "If we do that, we will not have the money to continue and will be forced to close forever."

Instead, Wolfram will remove the stage and convert the venue into a restaurant, with outdoor seating in the parking lot. The process may be slow due to lack of funds, the post says, and will involve a complete redesign.

The Wolfram family bought the venue in 1968. It has since been a restaurant, a German beer garden, a 70s disco club with gay dance nights, and then eventually, Spaceland, where acts such as Silversun Pickups, Foo Fighters, Elliott Smith and Lady Gaga played some of their first shows.

Spaceland Presents still operates as a club promotion and events company, booking shows as the sister company for The Echo/Echoplex and The Regent Theater.

Wolfram urged fans to support NIVA, an organization that is trying to raise government support to save other independent music venues from permanent closure.

In May, we spoke with the owner of Largo, who is also involved with NIVA. Read more on that here.

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Comedians Try Handing Out Masks In Huntington Beach. It Doesn't Go Well

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Chad and JT produce the comedic YouTube series "Chad Goes Deep." Screenshot from YouTube video

Mask-wearing has people on both sides of the issue expressing strong feelings. So when comedic YouTube duo Chad and JT recently tried literally giving masks away in Huntington Beach (with a healthy sense of humor), it touched a nerve.

In their video, which has already garnered more than 1.2 million views since it was posted earlier this week, Chad and JT encounter a slew of folks resistant to their offer of free masks. Sometimes it’s funny, like when people give a confusing rationale for going maskless, while other times it’s intense, with people shouting profanities and physically intimidating them.

“There [were] moments where I was like ‘Oh this could pop off,’” said JT. “And I was a little bit extra concerned because I was in my Rainbow sandals, so I was like ‘These aren’t ideal for wrestling or for running.’”

Chad and JT run the YouTube channel “Chad Goes Deep.” Chad told our newsroom's public affairs and culture show Take Two that he got the idea for this particular video while surfing in Huntington.

“I saw a lot of people not wearing masks and I was like ‘Oh, crud. Seems like the supply chain is boned up. There must be a shortage,” Chad said. What he found instead when they brought a box full of masks downtown was that people have other reasons for walking around without masks.

“It wasn’t a supply chain issue,” JT said. “People just think they suck. Which I understand -- people don’t like to be told what to do.” In the duo’s signature style of loose metaphors and tangents, JT gave this comparison: “[It’s] like when my mom told me I had to move out, it was also hard for me to hear and be told… but it was for the best though, and that’s what matters.”

Huntington Beach isn't the only place in Southern California where people are shirking the rule on face coverings. The New York Times put together a detailed map showing the likelihood you'll find people walking around maskless in different areas, and there are a number of local spots where the unmasked scofflaws roam.

Ultimately, the hostility Chad and JT faced didn’t impact the way they felt about their community. When Take Two host A Martinez asked the duo if they thought their actions made Huntington Beach a better place, JT responded: “Naw, it was already sick.”

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW FROM TAKE TWO:

CHECK OUT MORE OF OUR COVERAGE ON MASKS:

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Unemployment In LA Improved In June. But Those Gains May Already Be History

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A man rides a scooter past a shuttered movie theater on March 18, 2020 in Beverly Hills. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

California’s unemployment rate declined to 14.9% in June after hitting record highs of 16.4% in April and May.

Economists attribute the job gains to businesses reopening and adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, along with consumers slowly easing out of lockdown.

However, current levels of joblessness are still far higher than anything seen during the Great Recession. And because these numbers come from mid-June, some experts worry unemployment may already be rising again, with public officials ordering businesses to close as COVID-19 cases in the state surge.

“I don't think we should assume that things will continue to improve after the June data,” said UC Berkeley public policy and economics professor Jesse Rothstein.

Unemployment in Los Angeles County also improved, declining from 21.1% in May to 19.4% in June. L.A.’s battered leisure and hospitality sector posted a large monthly gain of 68,200 jobs as bars and restaurants reopened. The county’s retail sector also gained 21,600 jobs in June.

However, other sectors saw job losses as the effects of the pandemic spread beyond the service industry. More than 6,000 government jobs were lost in L.A. County between May and June.

No industry in California has been spared from job losses when comparing current employment levels with those seen in June 2019, back when statewide unemployment was at 4%. For example, L.A.’s professional and business services sector has lost 53,900 over the year.

“Early on, it was people who couldn't do their jobs because of the public health situation,” Rothstein said. Now, he added, “What we're seeing is people losing jobs, not because the jobs can't be done in this environment, but because companies don't have enough money to keep paying the workers.”

Newsom Order Mandates Online Learning in Southern California -- For Now

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Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new state guidelines for reopening schools at a virtual press conference on July 17, 2020.

Gov. Gavin Newsom today issued new rules that could force K-12 school campuses across much of California — including all of the greater Los Angeles region — to remain closed until their counties see declining rates of coronavirus cases.

Under the state’s new directive, both public and private schools cannot hold in-person classes if their county has been on California’s coronavirus monitoring list at any point in the last 14 days.

Schools must offer “distance learning only” until COVID-19 metrics improve and the county’s been off the watchlist for at least 14 days, the state rules say.

Most of the state’s counties — including Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties plus the Inland Empire — are currently on that monitoring list. Basically, unless conditions improve in Southern California in the next two to three weeks, any plan to start a new school year with in-person instruction might have to be set aside.

Here’s Newsom:

We all prefer in-classroom instruction for all the obvious reasons … but only if it can be done safely. As a parent, I believe that, and as someone who has the responsibility to support the education of 6-plus million kids in California, and have the backs of [school] staff.

Newsom’s move comes days after the state’s two largest school districts — L.A. Unified and San Diego Unified — said they wouldn’t reopen campuses for the foreseeable future.

And as EdSource points out, some districts in counties not on the state’s monitoring list — like San Francisco Unified — have opted for “online-only” starts as well.

But the governor’s move also comes as some local officials push to reopen schools with fewer restrictions. Orange County's Board of Ed recently approved a (non-binding) set of school-reopening guidance that casts doubt on the value of masks and social distancing.

MORE ON THIS STORY:

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4 Tips For Handling Confrontations Over Wearing A Mask In Public

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A worker places a placard on the window of a liquor store while wearing a face mask on April 10, 2020 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Clearly not everyone is on board with the mask thing. That's been leading to some heated confrontations online and in person.

To help you figure out how to navigate such a conflict should it happen to you, our newsroom's public affairs and culture show Take Two spoke with someone who knows a lot about defusing tense situations: an FBI hostage negotiator.

First tip? Use a mellow voice: think "late night FM DJ voice." And don't bother reasoning with people.

READ THE FULL STORY FOR ALL THE TIPS:

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Newsom: Counties Need To Get Off Coronavirus Watch List To Reopen Schools

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Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on the requirements for schools to reopen in-person, the plan for distance learning, and California's response to coronavirus. You can read highlights below or watch the full press conference above.

HOW TO REOPEN SCHOOLS

Schools can physically reopen this fall — but only if they've been off the state's COVID-19 monitoring list for 14 days. If schools don't meet this requirement, they have to start the fall with distance learning. The L.A. Unified School District has already announced that it will be opening with distance learning this fall.

While students, teachers, staff, and parents prefer in-classroom instruction, that's only if it can be done safely, Newsom said, adding that safety is determined by local health data.

Learning in California is non-negotiable, Newsom said, adding that schools must provide meaningful instruction during the pandemic — whether or not they're physically open. However, safety is also non-negotiable for both staff and students, he said.

The governor laid out five elements of the state's school pandemic plan:

  1. Safe in-person school based on local health data
  2. Mask requirements
  3. Physical distancing + other adaptations
  4. Regular testing + dedicated contact tracing
  5. Rigorous distance learning

All school staff and students in third grade and above must wear masks under the new guidelines. Students in second grade and below are encouraged to wear masks or face shields, but are not required to do so. The ability to see expressions through face shields is important for younger children, the governor said.

Staff have to maintain at least six feet of distance with other staff and students. The school day should start with symptom checks, Newsom said, and there are expectations around hand washing stations, sanitation and disinfection, and quarantine protocols. Each school site must also have continuity and attendance plans.

There is a requirement to test rotating cohorts of staff regularly, and the state contact tracing workforce will prioritize schools.

When it comes to distance learning, new statewide requirements include:

  • Access to devices and connectivity for all kids
  • Daily live interaction with teachers and other students
  • Challenging assignments equivalent to in-person classes
  • Adapted lessons for English language learners and special education students

The state put out criteria for when schools should close due to COVID-19 after previously reopening for in-person instruction:

  • Schools should consult with a public health officer first
  • A classroom cohort goes home when there is a confirmed case
  • A school goes home when multiple cohorts have cases or more than 5% of the school is positive
  • A district closes all schools if 25% of their schools are closed within a 14-day period

The guidelines include public and private schools through twelfth grade — the state is working with higher education leaders on guidelines for colleges.

The state is also putting up money to help students who can't afford the tools for distance learning. California has invested $5.3 billion in additional funding to prioritize equity in learning, Newsom said.

Additional standards and guidance will be coming on how to help students with special needs, State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond said during the press conference. One of the tools under consideration is the Zoom breakout room, to give students individual attention.

Officials have been training educators on teaching best practices for both distance learning and for students with special needs, according to Darling-Hammond.

Newsom said that today's announcement was personal for him as a father of four young children. He declined to comment on whether moving more slowly on reopenings would have allowed more schools to reopen this fall.

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

There were 9,986 new COVID-19 cases yesterday — the seven-day average is 8,838.

The positivity rate is down modestly, Newsom said — the 14-day positivity rate is 7.4%, while the seven-day rate is 7.1%. That's a 7.3% increase over that period, Newsom said.

There were 129,000 people tested, Newsom said — the average is 124,000 tests per day. The goal remains to increase testing, he added, though the focus of who gets tested is shifting.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are continuing to increase — a 22% increase over the past 14 days, from 5,595 to 6,808.

COVID-19 patients are occupying 9.2% of the state's total hospital beds, while 63% total are occupied.

ICU admissions are up 15% over the past two weeks to 1,941. That makes up 16.6% of the state's total ICU beds.

Thirty-two of the state's 58 counties are now on the state's COVID-19 monitoring list, though it's likely to go up to 33 soon, Newsom said.

There is a higher utilization of ventilators in Stanislaus, Imperial, and Tulare County in particular, Newsom said. Napa and other counties don't have a lot of ICU capacity remaining, he added, but the state hospital system is set up to absorb patients from other counties.

Newsom reminded people to wear a mask, physically distance, wash your hands, and minimize mixing to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

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This CHP Officer Solicited Sexual Favors In Return For Clearing Cars For DMV Registration

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(Anna Vignet/KQED)

A registered vehicle is often key to a person's mobility, employment and family life. Without proper registration people can face fines or even lose their car.

Some officers with the California Highway Patrol hold immense power in that respect, because they decide whether your vehicle gets cleared during a routine VIN verification appointment.

An investigation found one such officer, Morgan McGrew, had propositioned and harassed 21 women while on duty and conducting such appointments, according to records from a 2016 internal investigation obtained by the California Reporting Project, a coalition of 40 news organizations across the state, including KQED, KPCC/LAist and The Associated Press.

Among other things, McGrew was found to have used women's personal cell phone numbers that he obtained on the job in order to solicit sex or dates.

READ THE FULL INVESTIGATION FROM KQED:

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Most Nursing Home Staff in LA County Have Co-Workers Infected With COVID-19, Poll Finds

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Nearly 90% of nursing home staff in LA County said there were known or suspected COVID-19 cases among staff at their facilities. (California Health Care Foundation)

A majority of nursing home employees surveyed say they’re working at facilities where staff has contracted COVID-19, according to a new poll released by the California Health Care Foundation.

Statewide, 76% of nursing home employees reported known or suspected COVID-19 cases among staff at their workplaces. In L.A. County, that number is even higher — with 89% of employees surveyed reporting infections amongst their co-workers.

The poll surveyed 353 certified nursing assistants and other nursing home staff throughout the state from June 5 to July 12.

One in two respondents in the county said they were “extremely concerned” about contracting the virus while working at their facilities.

As of July 9, 61 health care workers in L.A. County have died from COVID-19 — 44 of them (or 72%) worked in skilled nursing or long-term care facilities, according to the county.

READ MORE:

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SoCal Health Officials To Employers: Stop Sending Employees To Get Free COVID Tests

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A health care worker hands a patient a COVID-19 testing kit through a car window at a drive-thru testing site at The Forum. (Courtesy of the County of Los Angeles)

Some Southern California employers are requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test before allowing employees to return to work. Public health officials say employers should not be directing their employees to free, government-run COVID-19 testing sites, calling it a waste of limited test kits that should be reserved for sick people with COVID-19 symptoms.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County's health officer, told the Board of Supervisors earlier this week:

“Not only are employers not legally entitled to the results, but it is interfering with people getting back to work, reduces our available appointments and puts occupational health responsibilities on the county when we should be using those appointment slots for community surveillance."

Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the L.A. County Department of Health Services, said requiring proof of negativity isn’t effective, because an employee could become infected after the test takes place.

“There really isn’t a scientific basis for requiring proof of negativity prior to returning to work. And to the extent that it pushes out individuals who do have a need for testing then it really can do harm,” she said.

This week, California shifted its testing strategy to focus on vulnerable patients and those with the highest risk of contracting the virus. Targeting testing could alleviate some of the supply chain shortages that have caused bottlenecks and forced patients to wait more than a week for results.

“Our obligation first and foremost is to meet the needs of those who need a test before those who want the test,” Ghaly said.

READ MORE ABOUT NEW TESTING GUIDELINES:

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Morning Briefing: The Getty Reckons With Racism

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

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L.A.'s path towards addressing racism is only just beginning. As protests against systemic injustice continue throughout the city, over 250 employees of the Getty and their allies signed a letter calling on the organization to address its own racist practices.

“If we do not acknowledge the ways in which racism and colonialism have shaped how we understand ancient worlds—and how they shape our world today—then to what kind of society are we contributing?” the letter reads. “Black Lives Matter! Three simple words that Getty has time and again refused to state publicly.”

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, July 17

More than three out of four frontline employees at California’s skilled nursing facilities say they’ve known of, or suspected, COVID-19 cases among staff at their facilities, reports Elly Yu. That number is even higher at L.A. facilities, and in nursing homes with a majority of Black or Latino residents.

Public health officials are asking private employers not to send their employees to free testing sites as a condition of going back to work, reports Jackie Fortiér.

In the latest essay in our Race in L.A. series, Los Angeles native Brandi Carter writes about being shaped by her father’s request that she spend one year at a historically Black college or university. That journey took her across the country to Atlanta – and lasted far beyond one year.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Reckoning With Race And Racism: Hundreds of current and former Getty staff members issued an open letter, calling on the cultural institution's board to do more when it comes to diversity. As the nation reckons with systemic racism, our community-centered storytelling show Unheard LA is taking a deeper listen.

L.A. Kids: Glendale Unified this week joined a growing list of school districts choosing to start the new school year online.

Coronavirus Updates: The COVID-19 death rate for Pacific Islanders in L.A. County is not as high as the data indicated a few months ago, but it’s still four times higher than the death rates for white people. Public health inspectors are receiving over 2,000 complaints each week about businesses not complying with the county’s reopening rules.

Money Matters: The owner of thousands of idle oil wells in Southern California declared bankruptcy this week. Some freelancers and gig employees in L.A. fear they might have to leave the city when the additional $600 in unemployment benefits ends at the end of the month.

Gabriel Fernandez: An L.A. County Superior Court Judge dismissed child abuse charges against four former county social workers, in the case of a murdered 8-year-old, Gabriel Fernandez.

Here’s What To Do: Participate in a found poetry project, watch a classic horror film, take a ghostly tour of Santa Ana and more in this week’s best online and IRL events. NEOWISE (aka C/2020 F3), the brightest comet to pass by Earth since Hale-Bopp in the mid '90s, will be visible this week.


Photo Of The Day

The sun sets over the City of Vernon, captured by Chava Sanchez.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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