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Mayor Garcetti Says That In Retrospect 'Some Things Did Open Up Too Quickly'

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Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke from City Hall today to reiterate that there are "no imminent plans" to shut the city down further, despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

The last time the mayor spoke was Sunday, when he conceded that L.A. opened the economy too quickly. He repeated that again today.

ADMISSION OF REGRET

The mayor said in response to a question from a reporter, that he does in fact believe Los Angeles reopened too fast. He did not directly take responsibility for that decision, however, using the pronoun "we" instead of "I" when speaking about reopening, or simply stating, as he does below, that "things" opened up.

He said:

"I do think that we all can see, in retrospect, that some things did open up too quickly, that we didn't stick with the methodology of do something and wait three weeks and see the effect, then take the next step. it became kind of a domino effect, with the, as I call it, irrational exuberance of everybody thinking we could rush back to normal."

The mayor didn't specify who was responsible for those decisions or apologize for allowing a timeline he now says was too fast. He explained that miscalculating and estimating is just part of the process of dealing with the current situation, where we have to reopen things and then scale back if numbers go up... playing it by ear, so to speak.

"I love the quote that I've been quoting from a UCLA professor who said 'that's how these things work, you try to open the economy you see what happened, and then you dial it back a little bit,'" he said, "but I'm proud that we've done that in a way that we have been smart, we can learn, we can take a small step or two forward and again see what the impact is, and so far, 7-10 days into that work, we're seeing some hopeful signs, even though this is still very fragile."

The mayor added that there are always "tons of regrets" in this process, which relies on science-- a field riddled with uncertainty:

"Remember when we were in junior high in high school, we had the composition books and you learn about something and you experiment, you see what the outcome of that is and you adjust...and that thing didn't work and you go forward until you get to the answer? That's what science is."

NO REPEAT SHUTDOWN...FOR NOW

The mayor said that the level of threat today is still orange and confirmed that he will not be closing any "additional businesses or activiites" this week. He said we should know in "the next week or so" if things get worse and if we risk being overwhelmed with more cases... in that situation, we may have to roll things back again. But he doesn't see that happening in the very near future.

Garcetti said the reason we're not going back into a full shutdown right now is becuase of the delay between exposure and positive confirmed cases of infection:

"...because, as I've communicated every single time, it takes three weeks or so to see the effect of our actions both when we open, and also when we restrict, and see where that COVID-19 needle moves. We know today's statistics are a snapshot from a couple weeks before between the closures two weeks ago."

He also urged businesses to follow the reopening guidelines exaclty as they're laid out, so that we don't have to take more steps backward:

"Businesses need to follow all the rules, all of the time. It's not a pick and choose menu, you can't decide which things you want to abide by in which you won't. All of them, and they're easy to find at coronavirus.la city.org/business."

THE NUMBERS ARE GETTING (SLIGHTLY) BETTER

Garcetti said that our hospitalization numbers are slightly down from the peak of 2,232, but are still the third highest hospitalization record in the city so far. But he said that "this success is fragile."

He again cited younger Angelenos as a group that he's concerened about.

"The numbers make it clear," Garcetti said. "8.7% of all those affected in California are younger than 18 years of age, and in Los Angeles we just had 30% of the cases, about a few weeks ago, among folks 40 and younger."

He urged young people not to gather with others, with a reminder that even if they don't feel sick or have symptoms, they can spread the disease to family members "and kill them."

The mayor added some good news: the transmission rate has gone down over the past 10 days.

He attributed that to "our collective work." Last week, he said the rate was 1.06. The high in recent weeks was 1.17. Today that rate has dropped to .94, so below the point of one, which he decribed as "below that magical threshold of one, meaning that every person who's contracting COVID-19 is now estimated to be passing that on to less than one person, but only if we keep up this work."

He closed today's press conference by asking that everyone continue to wear masks and follow guidelines, so that we can bring the numbers back down.

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The Pandemic Takes A Financial and Mental Toll On Child Care Providers

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A staffer checks a child's temperature before she enters Young Horizons Child Development Center in Long Beach. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a financial and mental toll on the people who work in L.A. County’s 7,275 licensed child care businesses. That’s according to a survey from UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.

More than 80% of those surveyed said they’re taking care of fewer kids to comply with social distancing guidelines — in L.A. County groups of children are limited to 10 — but providers said they’re still worried about the health of kids, staff and their families.

More than three-quarters of survey respondents said they’re losing money with fewer families enrolled.

There’s little choice but to forge ahead, said Jeannette Romero, executive director of Pasadena Day Nursery for Child Development

“We’re putting aside our fears and making sure we’re leading by example and following all the guidelines that we have in place for us,” she said.

Romero said her center has 11 children currently enrolled, which is less than one-quarter of capacity. At this rate, Pasadena Day Nursery, in operation since 1910, has enough funding to operate through September, she said.

Beyond that point, Romero doesn’t know what will happen.

HEAR MORE ABOUT HOW PROVIDERS ARE WEATHERING THE PANDEMIC:

GO DEEPER INTO LAIST’S COVERAGE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD

California Hospitals Concerned About Staffing Shortages Due To Surge

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The L.A. Convention Center is being converted into a field hospital to be managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Via L.A. Mayor's Twitter account

Hospital officials in California say they’re concerned about staffing as hospitalizations from COVID-19 reach all-time highs in the state. L.A. County officials said Wednesday they saw more than 2,200 people hospitalized for four days in a row.

“Capacity is made up of not just space and beds, said Carmela Coyle, of the California Hospital Association. "In fact, those things are among the easiest to resolve. But it is all about staff and personal protective equipment, and testing. And unfortunately all three of those things are in short supply."

Coyle said there are about 50,000 staffed hospital beds across the state -- and about 45,000 are currently taken.

Staffing concerns were serious enough that last week, the U.S. Air Force sent medical support teams to several hospitals in California, including Eisenhower Medical Center in Riverside County.

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COVID-19 On Track To Become One Of The Leading Causes Of Death In LA County, Officials Warn

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

COVID-19 is poised to become one of the leading causes of death in Los Angeles County, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at today's media briefing.

Ferrer presented a chart showing how COVID-19 deaths measure up to other leading causes of death in L.A. County from January through June this year.

(Courtesy Los Angeles County)

She noted:

"While this isn't a perfect comparison, because this year's data for other leading causes of death has not yet been finalized, it does appear that COVID-19 is on track to claim more lives in L.A. County than any disease except coronary heart disease. It's killing more people than Alzheimer's disease, other kinds of heart disease, stroke, and COPD."

For about a month, roughly 30 people are dying from COVID-19 each day, she said.

But Ferrer was also hopeful, saying the steep increases in the rate of infections seen in recent weeks have leveled off, and this week marks what she believes can be "a critical turning point in determining whether our collective efforts are beginning to take us in a better direction."

Right now, those efforts don't include a complete shutdown like the one back in March, she said.

"I'm going to say that definitively," she said. "We are not planning to shut down this week."

BY THE NUMBERS

Los Angeles County officials reported 3,266 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 164,870 cases countywide. In total, 6,843 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 1,758 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

Ferrer also reported 64 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 4,213 people.

So far, 92% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, she said.

Ferrer also provided a racial breakdown of the confirmed deaths, based on information confirmed for 3,927 of the victims. According to the latest available information:

  • 40% Latino / Latina [48.6% of county residents]
  • 11% African American [9% of county residents]
  • 26% White [26.1% of county residents]
  • 15% Asian [15.4% 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

MORE YOUNGER PEOPLE GETTING INFECTED, MORE OLDER ADULTS DYING

Ferrer presented data on the infection rate by age group. It showed a higher rate of new COVID-19 cases among teens and young adults. The rate is highest for adults ages 18 to 29, more than doubling over 30 days.

(Courtesy Los Angeles County)

"We've seen that nearly 60% of the cases we're now seeing are among our young adults, and that hospitalizations are also increasing among young adults," she said, "but 75% of those who are dying right now are older adults."

Ferrer once again implored people in L.A. County to follow public health guidelines:

"I know it's a sacrifice, especially on beautiful summer days, but I'm asking people to stay home as much as possible. Avoid gathering with people you don't live with. I understand that this is a challenge, and we all want to see our friends and our family that we don't live with. But if we continue to gather for barbecues, pool parties, dinners and other events, it's very hard to slow the virus... a lax attitude to this virus can be deadly for someone you love, or for yourself. You could be infected, not know it, and pass the infection to someone you love, who may not be as lucky as you."

FEDERAL AID

L.A. County received $1.2 billion in federal relief through the CARES Act, and the county's Board of Supervisors has approved the allocation of that money. Supervisor Hilda Solis broke down where some of that money is going.

  • About $300 million will be used for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing
  • $160 million for grants for small businesses and to "ensure employers comply with worker protection requirements," Solis said.
  • $85 million for food security programs
  • $100 million for rent relief
  • $15 million for childcare, which Solis said she "will ensure is prioritized for essential workers."

"Through this funding we'll be able to continue to meet the moment by bending the curve of COVID-19 and prioritizing our most disadvantaged communities were more resilient, L.A. County," Solis said.

WAIVERS FOR SCHOOLS

Ferrer mentioned Governor Gavin Newsom's recent announcement that local health officials will be able to issue waivers to school districts and private schools, allowing for reopening classrooms for in-person learning.

The county health department will consult with state health officials to assess each request, she said. An application system is in the works and should be available "by the end of this week or early next week," she added.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:


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Newsom: California Reporting Record Number Of Coronavirus Cases

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California reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases yet today.

Test results for 12,807 people came back positive. That's out of more than 127,000 tests and tops the seven-day average of 9,420, Gov. Gavin Newsom said today.

In addition, 115 new deaths were reported statewide. That's more than the seven-day average for deaths, which is 90, Newsom said (for comparison, the previous week's average daily number of deaths was 98). The governor stressed the importance of looking at the seven-day averages, as daily death numbers this week alone fluctuated from just nine to 115.

So far the state has had 413,576 positive cases of COVID-19 out of more than 6.6 million tests. The seven-day positivity rate now sits at 7.6%.

Newsom spoke from a warehouse in Sacramento, with stacks and stacks of boxes as a backdrop, in one of his regular updates on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can watch the full video above or read highlights below.

PROCURING PPE

Newsom said the state is stepping up its efforts to procure personal protective equipment, or PPE, as it tries to keep up with a burn rate of 46 million masks per month.

"Our PPE strategy has been a success. Our PPE strategy was predicated on the lack of a national strategy, where many had recognized and California early on recognized that we were competing, not only with other states, but other nations, including the United States, our federal partners themselves, in terms of getting adequate supplies of PPE."

The state has procured millions of masks for frontline health care workers and essential workers in other sectors, including farm and grocery workers. As just one example Newsom cited, the state has received about 146 million N-95 masks (the kind medical workers need), with 150 million more coming in the next few weeks.

But given the rate at which the masks are being used, Newsom said, the state needs to "go big and continue to be bold." He said Sacramento is working to extend contracts with suppliers to make that happen.

Newsom said early steps the state took to modify Californians' behavior gave officials more time to focus on procuring PPE, and he said despite some exceptions, he's seen improvements in compliance with public health guidance. He thanked residents for recognizing their own ability to help bend the curve yet again through individual action.

"We will succeed in extinguishing this virus. We will succeed in going back to some semblance of a higher vigilance but semblance of normalcy when we get this vaccine, when we work through the therapeutic efforts, and when we get on the other side of this. But when that happens will be determined on our behavior, day in, day out, individual by individual."

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The Gelatina Gets A Pop Culture Glow-Up

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This sweet and spicy mango gelatina from GeLATINX comes doused in Chamoy and topped with a small bottle of Tajin and tamarind candy. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
Myra Vasquez runs GeLATINX out of her home where she makes elaborate, custom-made gelatinas. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

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Saturday, 8 a.m. Boyle Heights.

Myra Vasquez stands, masked, on the porch of her 113-year-old Craftsman house. Following physical distancing guidelines to insure everyone's safety, she prepares for the dozens of customers who will show up in the next few hours to pick up one of her elaborate, eye-popping gelatinas.

Ah, the gelatina. Loved by people on both sides of the Mexico-United States border, the wobbly, silky dessert is a staple at birthdays, weddings and graduations. But even its fans often see it the way many people see Jell-O salad: good in a pinch but never much better. The mass-produced gelatinas you'll find in supermarkets such as Northgate Gonzalez and Vallarta would support that theory. While other desserts -- Mexican character cakes, pan dulce and bizcochitos (cinnamon and anise sugar cookies) -- have undergone glow-ups in recent years, most young Latinx pastry chefs have ignored the gelatina. Vasquez wants to change that.

Through her cottage business GeLATINX, the 45-year-old, self-taught baker is reimagining this culinary art form, combining traditional Mexican ingredients with modern techniques and a multicultural palate.

This gelatina created by Myra Vasquez is filled with Gansito. (Cynthia Rebolledo for LAist)

Flavors include café de olla, Gansito (the Mexican equivalent of chocolate Twinkies) and guayaba with cheesecake. Vasquez often tops her custom-made creations with graphic art images (created by her husband, Nico Avina) of Latinx icons such as Selena and Juan Gabriel.

"Myra created a gelatina that captured the essence of Selena," says Xochitl Palomera, who requested one for an office holiday party. "It didn't just look pretty, the flavor was amazing. It was grape and lechera [condensed milk]."

The praise and comments flooding GeLATINX's Instagram account suggest Vasquez is not only satisfying a sweet tooth, she's tapping into a vein of deep nostalgia.

"I've had customers tell me, 'Oh, my gosh. I remember when my grandma used to make these in the summer. We'd come in the house and abuelita would have gelatinas for us,'" Vasquez says.

A busy mother to two boys, Vasquez co-owns Espacio 1839, a Boyle Heights retail store that highlights local artists and gives people of color a platform in the gentrifying neighborhood. Vasquez previously owned a similar space, Teocintli, that hosted free spoken word, creative writing and theater workshops.

"Our priority is to keep any money that comes from Espacio going back into the space so we can keep our doors open to the community," Vasquez says.

To provide these services, Vasquez has always had to find other ways of providing for her family. "I was an early childhood educator for 18 years and ran a licensed daycare out of my home," she says. Two years ago, she decided to close the business and focus on her health.

This sweet and spicy mango gelatina from GeLATINX comes doused in Chamoy and topped with a small bottle of Tajin and tamarind candy. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Not one to stay put for long, Vasquez was inspired by her Tía Chela to start making -- and eventually selling -- gelatinas.

"Anybody that knows me, knows I like to cook. I've always created pastries, cupcakes, flans and things like that for my kids' birthday parties and family gatherings but I'd never really thought to put it out there," she says.

When coronavirus stopped day-to-day life in its tracks, GeLATINX became the only source of income for Vasquez and her family.


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Despite the quarantine, people still need to eat and, Vasquez says, they still need to celebrate special moments -- birthdays, anniversaries, the occasional wedding, downsized now because of coronavirus. Thankfully, she has been able to keep her head above water.

Pivoting to survive, Vasquez, with the help of her husband and mother-in-law, started making masks.

"We're hanging in there. We haven't opened [Espacio] for almost four months so that's hard but we're doing our best. We have the online store open and that's helping us out," Vasquez says.

She also has her community. Espacio has become a cultural hub and that was never more clear than when poet Yesika Salgado paid one month's rent for the space in April.

"It's our community that is holding us up. Without them we are nothing," Vasquez says. "Yesika told us the donation was in the name of all the artists we've ever supported. I cried for a whole week."

Most of Vasquez's gelatina molds -- she currently owns 52 -- are vintage or come from mercados in Mexico, where she also sources many of her ingredients. Hunting for them is part of the fun, although she hasn't done that in months.

"I just think about what is going to make your mouth water," Vasquez says. "What's going to make you think, 'Oh, my god. I want a bite of that'?"

Vasquez incorporates fresh fruit, creamy textures and flavors such as red velvet and mango chamoy in her gelatinas. You might spot a layer of mazapan (an almond and honey confection) or a layer of choco-flan (chocolate flan) in one of her desserts.

But with the hoarding and panic buying that happened at the start of the pandemic, Vasquez, like many others, struggled to source essential ingredients.

A gelatina from GeLATINX. (Cynthia Rebolledo for LAist)

"In the beginning, when COVID started, there was nothing at the markets. I was having to cancel orders," she says. "I have a limited menu now, there are certain flavors that I can't offer because I can't be running to the market all the time. I try not to expose myself because I have my kids and a senior that lives with me."

Completely self-taught, Vasquez has developed proprietary techniques for what she refers to as her "gelatinarte." It's a process that demands patience, precision, practice and a healthy tolerance for failure.

A classic fruit gelatina decorated with mango, coconut flakes, grapes and strawberries. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

"Making gelatinas can be stressful because you don't know how it's going to turn out until you've flipped over the mold. They can take anywhere from six to eight hours because they have to sit, especially if I'm doing layers," Vasquez says. Given that she sells them for $18 to $35 each, that's a steal.

Since launching GeLATINX in September 2019, Vasquez has experienced steady growth, especially in the last few months. She now makes anywhere from 15 to 20 gelatinas a week.

"My customers don't want to go out in public and they don't want to stand in line. [COVID-19] has helped me out," Vasquez says.

Her two most popular items are the mosaico de tres leches, creamy trio of red, green and white, and the classic fresa (strawberry). She currently uses powdered gelatin, made from collagen, for her desserts but she is exploring vegan options.

A fresa (strawberry) gelatina from GeLATINX. (Cynthia Rebolledo for LAist)

On a Saturday morning back in March, her first customers were a young couple who wanted something special for a birthday. Before placing the gelatina in the trunk of their car, Vasquez opened a pink pastry box to reveal a large red and yellow gelatina with sweet and spicy mango chamoy trickling down its ridges. Their faces lit up when they saw the cake. They were followed by a young girl picking up a café de olla gelatina for her mother's birthday. Then, an older gentleman arrived to fetch a frutas con agua de coco.

Over the next two hours, Vasquez sold eight of her gelatinas, in most cases to customers who know her only from Instagram. The photos of her lovingly sculpted creations creations have been seductive enough to draw people out of their quarantine malaise.

"The reward is seeing my gelatinas tagged on social media, people enjoying them at their intimate parties, the reaction on children's faces when they see their gelatina for the first time," Vasquez says. "I feel like those moments are the biggest compensation in these hard times."

The gelatinas from GeLATINX are custom-made and always elaborately decorated. On the left, a decorated mixed fruit gelatina and on the right, a mango chamoy gelatina. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

WE LOVE TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS

California Would Lose Seats In Congress If (And It's A Big If) Trump Can Omit Immigrants Lacking Legal Status From Counts

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A view of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images)

President Trump issued a memorandum on Tuesday seeking the exclusion of immigrants without legal status from the census numbers that are used to divide congressional seats among U.S. states.

If this were to happen — and there are many reasons it might not — it could have major consequences for California.

The state, which currently holds 53 of the 435 seats in Congress, already faces the potential loss of two seats because the population has declined. Douglas Johnson, a research affiliate with Claremont McKenna College, said the loss of Congressional seats could double if the more than two million immigrants living here without legal status are eliminated from the census count.

But there are several reasons why the memo might not lead to much: To begin with, the 2020 census does not collect data on immigration status. An attempt by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question was derailed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year.

Secondly, Jonson said, such an exclusion would be unconstitutional. He told us:

"The constitution is clear. Each house district has to have an equal number of persons. Person’s a person. There’s not much leeway in that term."

Still, Alejandra Ramirez Zarate with the racial justice organization Advancement Project California worries the memo may deter some immigrants from participating.

She's been trying to get word out to immigrant families that it’s safe to complete the forms and speak with census enumerators.

“What a more powerful way for our descendents to know that we were here than by responding to the 2020 census. By participating when we’re told that our existence doesn't matter.” Ramirez-Zarate said. “This is how you can save your democracy.”

READ MORE:

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Morning Briefing: Cal State Faculty Pushes For Anti-Racist Policies

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The John F. Kennedy Library at Cal State LA. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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Faculty at Cal State University are pushing for anti-racist policies to be adopted across the school’s system. The suggested changes include making ethnic studies courses a requirement for graduation, defunding and disarming campus police, and offering free tuition to Black and Indigenous students.

The effort is being led by the union that represents the system’s faculty.

So far, CSU administrators have pushed back, suggesting that students should be required to take a general social justice course instead of ethnic studies. But Sharon Elise, the union's associate vice president of racial and social justice and a sociology professor at CSU San Marcos, says ethnic studies in particular would be a step towards greater understanding of racial disparities.

Ethnic studies "are explicitly linked to the struggles of people of color in society," Elise told Marina Peña. "These programs emerged from those struggles, and they express the academic side of those struggles."

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, July 22

Slate's Slow Burn is one of the best podcast documentary series around, with each season driven forward by a simple framework: what was it like to live through a prominent historical event? In this week’s episode of Servant of Pod with Nick Quah, join Nick as he dives into the making of Season 4 with Slow Burn host Josh Levin.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Coronavirus Updates: California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly noted that treating reopening the economy as a "green light" to resume normal life has led to an increase in hospitalizations, case positivity rates, and deaths.

Immigration: President Trump is expected to sign a memorandum calling for the exclusion of unauthorized immigrants from the numbers used to divide up seats in Congress among the states.

California Kids: The Cal State University Board is considering whether to create a requirement for all students to take at least one ethnic studies course. Students and faculty have called for even more reforms, though, including defunding campus police and offering free tuition to Black and Indigenous students.

State Of The Arts: State data shows more than 230,000 Californians in arts and entertainment filed unemployment claims since the pandemic hit in mid-March. In Episode 5 of Hollywood, The Sequel, producer and actor Gloria Calderon Kellett has a simple piece of advice for Hollywood executives trying to fix the industry’s diversity problem: just do it.

Long Live The Gelatina: Business is booming for Myra Vasquez, who updates a classic Mexican dessert — the gelatina — with a world of flavors and unapologetic Latinx pride.


Photo Of The Day

Originally from Missouri, Kyle is pictured here working on his make-up. He’s been sleeping on Beverly Boulevard, and is striving to become a clothing designer one day.

(Bumdog Torres/LAist)

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