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LA City Council To Consider Rent Relief For Olvera Street Businesses

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Shuttered businesses on Olvera Street at the start of the pandemic. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The L.A. City Council's budget committee today agreed to a plan that would forgive six months of rent for businesses along downtown’s historic Olvera Street. The full council will still have to approve the measure.

A move to forgive rent from July through December would be welcome news for the 60 or so businesses that call the historic monument home. They pay rent to the city, and while they can delay payments during the pandemic, they currently are expected to pay up at some point.

Gregory Berber owns La Luz del Dia restaurant, which he says pays about $13,000 a month in rent. Berber told us his family has been selling food on Olvera Street for close to a century. Since the pandemic hit, he said, business has been down 90%.

“It’s sad. If you come down here, what you see most people doing is taking pictures of an empty street," Berber said. "If Olvera Street doesn’t have foot traffic, none of these businesses will be able to survive.”

He and other Olvera Street business owners said without support from the city, they may have to permanently close.

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Judge: Uber, Lyft Use 'Circular Reasoning' To Avoid Making Drivers Employees

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A California judge said Uber and Lyft have refused to comply with a California law, known as AB5, passed last year that was supposed to make it harder for companies in the state to hire workers as contractors. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

A California judge has ordered rideshare companies Uber and Lyft to begin treating their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.

California Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman said Lyft and Uber use "circular reasoning" by only treating tech workers, not drivers, as employees:

"Were this reasoning to be accepted, the rapidly expanding majority of industries that rely heavily on technology could with impunity deprive legions of workers of the basic protections afforded to employees by state labor and employment laws."

The judge's order does not take effect for 10 days. Both Uber and Lyft, of course, say they plan to appeal.

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COVID-19 Cases Top 210K In LA County; Nearly 5,000 Have Died

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

Los Angeles County officials reported 1,920 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 210,424 cases countywide.

In total, 8,775 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 2,112 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted that the overall figure is an undercount due to the backlog of cases statewide. She also provided an update about where things stand with that backlog:

"The state did finish sort of processing all of the labs that were backlogged, but now those all have to come into our system and be processed by us. So we're working expeditiously to make sure that this is going to be accurate ... we hope that some time this week we'll be able to not only report out what our backlog looked like for L.A. County accurately, but also go back over the past couple of weeks and adjust all our numbers so they reflect better what the trend has been for the past two or three weeks."

Ferrer also reported 19 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 4,996 people, nearing what she called an “unfortunate milestone” of 5,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the past six months.

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

WHAT THE LATEST NUMBERS SHOW

Ferrer said she and health officials are “cautiously optimistic” that the county’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 are working — a phrase she's employed often in previous briefings.

Daily hospitalizations decreased last week to less than 1,900 patients a day, she said, and deaths per day is currently at about 31, down from an average of 41 per day at the end of July.

(Courtesy L.A. County)

The number of daily confirmed cases has started to fall from the high of over 3,000 in mid-July to "slightly over 2,100" on Aug. 7, Ferrer said.

"We're hoping we're going to get back to a decline," she added, but noted that the backlog could lead to some adjustments in the data.

"We'll stay in the cautious space until we actually see our numbers for the past two weeks," Ferrer said.

(Courtesy L.A. County)

NEW RULES FOR YOUTH SPORTS

Ferrer also noted the new protocols for youth sports released last week to align with state guidelines.

Sports where physical distancing can’t be observed are prohibited, though athletes and coaches can still hold gatherings for “training, conditioning and skill building,” Ferrer said, provided physical distancing can be maintained.

Sharing personal items like water bottles and uniforms is prohibited, and shared equipment should be sanitized between usage, she said. County health officials also advise regular breaks to wash or sanitize hands.

“We're hopeful that as players and coaches adjust to the new modifications, everyone's going to be able to work as a team to keep each other safe,” Ferrer said.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS AND OUR NEW REALITY:

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California Coronavirus Testing Backlog Eliminated As State Health Officer Resigns

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Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on California's response to coronavirus following the resignation of Dr. Sonia Angell as state Public Health director on Sunday night.

You can read highlights below or watch the full press conference above.

HEALTH OFFICER RESIGNS FOLLOWING PROBLEMS WITH STATE'S COVID-19 DATA SYSTEM

The governor declined to comment on what he called "personnel conversations" when asked about whether he asked for Dr. Angell to resign and whether it had anything to do with the state's COVID-19 data reporting issues, which led to inaccurate case numbers and positivity rates. Newsom said that he considers Angell a friend.

While the governor's administration didn't know about the problem with the data until Monday evening, problems with the state's computer systems were known earlier but not reported to the governor's administration, Newsom said.

"Forgive me for being human here," Newsom said when asked for additional details about Dr. Angell's job performance and why she was leaving. "One thing I won't do as a human being is get into detailed personnel conversations with you, out of respect, and a deeper responsibility not to go into a back-and-forth."

Newsom said that the data reporting issue was an IT problem, but added that "there were some personnel judgment questions as well."

When pressed about Dr. Angell's resignation again, Newsom added, "We're all accountable in our respective roles for what happens underneath us," but declined to get into specifics about Dr. Angell.

"I don't want to air any more than that, but if it's not obvious, then I encourage you to consider the fact that we accepted the resignation, appreciated her work — we all have a role and responsibility as it relates to what happens within our respective departments," Newsom said.

Newsom said that he felt it was appropriate to accept Dr. Angell's resignation.

California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced that there were personnel changes being made in the Public Health Department and thanked outgoing state Public Health director Dr. Angell. The acting health officer will be Dr. Erica Pan.

TESTING BACKLOG ELIMINATED

Newsom talked about the problems with state systems tracking COVID-19 cases. The decades-old equipment used in state systems hasn't been up to needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, nor were they up to the needs before the pandemic, Newsom said.

California has added system capacity to better handle the volume of COVID-19 data coming in, Ghaly said. They've also added additional oversight to make sure that the data is accurate. The state has been able to process four times as many records per day with changes made over the weekend, according to Ghaly.

There were 295,000 backlogged records — they have all been processed by the state over the weekend, Ghaly said. Those cases still have to be processed by counties, who add demographic information to those cases.

Once processed by counties, those will be added to the state's final case counts. That information will be available in the next 24-48 hours, Newsom said — case rates won't be available until the state has that information.

It will be a long-term issue to fix the state's IT systems, Newsom said.

FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT RESPONSE

Newsom began by addressing President Donald Trump's executive action on unemployment, which would require states to pick up 25% of a $400 per week pandemic unemployment assistance extension. The White House proposal would cost California at least $700 million per week, Newsom said.

The state doesn't have the ability to provide this funding without cutting other programs, Newsom said.

"There is no money sitting in the piggy bank," Newsom said.

When the national fund is drained down, the state would have to absorb the entire cost of $2.8 billion per week.

Newsom said that the program would leave out people with the greatest need and delay unemployment checks. The new system would require extensive reprogramming of the state's unemployment system, according to Newsom.

COUNTY MONITORING LIST

The state's COVID-19 county monitoring list was frozen due to the problems in the state's data system, Newsom said. Once the data has been updated, the state will update its list, which currently includes 38 counties, but he said he didn't expect any dramatic changes.

EVICTIONS

The state is working with lawmakers to address concerns about evictions in California, Newsom said. He noted that a lack of compromise at the federal level is making the problem more difficult for the state.

More than 50% of Californians live in jurisdictions with local eviction moratoriums, Newsom noted. So far, 62% of those who have fallen behind on rent are Latinx, while 9.5% are Black, Newsom said. The state is working with the state Legislature to protect vulnerable tenants and landlords, according to Newsom.

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS: DECREASES IN HOSPITALIZATIONS, ICU ADMISSIONS

Due to the issues with the state's COVID-19 data, an updated positivity rate across the state was not shared.

There were 7,751 COVID-19-positive cases Sunday, Newsom said. An average of 137 people have died per day from COVID-19 over the past two weeks, with 66 deaths reported Sunday. The governor again stressed that these deaths are a lagging indicator of COVID-19 spread in the state.

There has been a 19% decrease in COVID-19-positive hospitalizations over the past two weeks. Right now, COVID-19 cases are using 8% of the state's hospital beds. ICU admissions for COVID-19 patients have decreased 13% over the past two weeks. Those ICU patients are using 20% of the state's ICU beds. The number of available ventilators has risen, with 13,105 ventilators available.

There were 172,000 tests reported yesterday, with 111,000 on Saturday. The state has conducted 9 million tests so far.

FUNDING FOR CONTACT TRACING, ISOLATION, QUARANTINE

Newsom announced $63 million in grant funding from Kaiser Permanente to provide community-based support and services to help with contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine efforts. An additional $18.8 million has come from philanthropic partners to support local public health efforts, according to Newsom.

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Swarm Of Earthquakes Hits Just South Of San Andreas Fault

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A cluster of earthquakes occurred beneath the Salton Sea in the Brawley Seismic Zone, just south of the San Andreas Fault — labeled here — on August 10, 2020. (Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey)

Starting this morning, a swarm of dozens of small earthquakes hit just south of the San Andreas Fault, beneath the Salton Sea, all within a few hours of each other.

The largest was a magnitude 4.6, and was followed by numerous magnitude threes.

They occurred in an area known as the Brawley Seismic Zone, a transition point between the San Andreas Fault and the Imperial Fault, which extends down into Mexico.

The quakes occurred about seven miles south of the San Andreas so, naturally, people had concerns about a larger quake being triggered on the fabled fault.

"It's a really active area right there in the Sea. Lots of small earthquakes and they tend to be swarmy," said Morgan Page, research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "In the past these swarms have gone on for about a week or so."

Page said of the most recent quakes: "Hopefully it'll just die out and nothing bigger will happen."

Over the past 20 years there've been three similar clusters of earthquakes in the Brawley Seismic Zone, most recently in 2016.

"There's quite a long history of these fairly short lived swarm episodes that are reasonably close to the San Andreas and none of those have led to anything," said Zachary Ross, a seismologist at Caltech.

After the 2016 cluster, Ross co-authored a paper that dug into earthquake clusters in the area. It's particularly seismically active because that's where the Pacific and North American tectonic plates meet.

"We have faults that are building up strain all the time," Ross said.

The USGS is currently running models to determine just how much this series of quakes might've increased the likelihood of a bigger quake in the region.

On any given week there's a one in 10,000 chance that a magnitude seven, or greater, earthquake will hit on the southern San Andreas, according to Page. There's a 20% chance one will hit sometime in the next 30 years.

When it does hit, a major San Andreas quake could have disastrous consequences for much of Southern California.

It's always a good time to get your earthquake supplies and plan ready.


THE BIG ONE IS COMING. GET PREPARED

We don't want to scare you, but the Big One is coming. We don't know when, but we know it'll be at least 44 times stronger than Northridge and 11 times stronger than the Ridgcrest quakes last year. To help you get prepared, we've compiled a handy reading list

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Charter Schools Will Be Nervously Watching This Week's LAUSD Board Debate

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More than 250 students at South East High School, an L.A. Unified School District school in South Gate, protested the proposed co-location of a charter school on their campus on May 22, 2018. (Kyle Stokes/KPCC)

It’s been barely a month since huge changes to California’s charter school laws took effect — and already, charters in Los Angeles are complaining that local officials’ plans to implement the new law could put their schools at risk.

On Tuesday, the LAUSD board will vote on a newly-written plan to implement Assembly Bill 1505.

While the law is certainly likely to make it harder to open some new charter schools, many local school leaders complain LAUSD officials' proposed plan goes even further, stretching the district’s new regulatory powers in ways that could “ban new charter schools and close existing quality schools.”

LAUSD’s policy, “as drafted, is profoundly illegal,” said Myrna Castrejón, president of the California Charter Schools Association.

Officials in LAUSD’s Charter Schools Division — the department that would actually carry out this new policy — declined an interview request.

But school board member Jackie Goldberg said most of the 224 independently-run charters currently operating in LAUSD have little to fear from the district’s new policy. She argued the charter association’s concerns stem from features of the new law, not from LAUSD overreach. Goldberg said:

“Their view is: ‘We like the old system. Anything you’re doing to change the old system was wrong.’”

So what's the dispute about? Why are charter schools so concerned? And do they have reason to be worried?

READ OUR FULL STORY:

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Yes, This Summer Has Been Hotter Than Normal

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A pedestrian uses an umbrella on a hot sunny morning in Los Angeles in October 2017 amid a late-season heatwave. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

If this summer has felt warmer than normal, that's because it has been.

This July was the 11th hottest on record for the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Here in California, temperatures have been about two degrees hotter than average, making this the 19th warmest start to a summer on record. Drought conditions, particularly in the northern part of the state, have slightly worsened over the past few months, due to high heat following a less than stellar rainy season.

(Courtesy National Weather Service)

In July, we saw heat waves cook SoCal's valley and desert areas with triple-digit scorchers. Death Valley hit 128 degrees, one of the hottest days ever recorded on planet Earth.

Hotter temperatures lead to an increase in heat-related deaths, especially among marginalized populations.

High temperatures also increase our wildfire risk, in part, because they dry vegetation to dangerously low moisture levels. High heat has been a contributing factor to the above-average number of fires we've seen across the state this year, including the 29,000-acre Apple Fire still burning in Riverside County.

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Morning Briefing: A First, And Last, Job For Beloved Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round Man

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Julio Gosdinski, who has died at 49, was the longtime operator of the Griffith Park merry-go-round and for the last nine years a co-owner as well. (Courtesy Dora Herrera)

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

Over the weekend we learned of the death of Julio Gosdinski, the beloved longtime operator of the Griffith Park merry-go-round.

“This was his ‘first and last job,’ is what he likes to say,” his friend Dora Herrera, who is an officer with the Friends of Griffith Park board, told reporter Josie Huang. Gosdinski was found dead at his home Friday at age 49.

He came to the U.S. from Peru when he was 12 and started working on the merry-go-round when he was a teenager. Gosdinski played such a big role in running and maintaining the famous carousel, friends say they're worried about what's next for the attraction he co-owned.

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

— LAist

Coming Up Today

Christine N. Ziemba has your guide to weekly events. Watch wacky videos compiled from found footage. Listen to risky storytelling. Get crafty and drink crafty. Head to the latest SFV drive-in.

Residents and staff at some nursing homes in LA County weren’t tested until months into the pandemic. At one nursing home in L.A., residents were tested on May 22, but an outbreak had already been underway. At least 16 people there have died. Investigative reporter Elly Yu spoke to family members grappling for answers.

Long before coronavirus, many restaurants had complained that the "Big Four" food delivery apps — UberEats, Postmates, GrubHub and DoorDash (which owns Caviar) — were charging too much in commissions and fees. Amid the economic devastation of the pandemic, Gina Pollack examines complaints that have only grown louder and more intense, and found a growing number of restaurants are ditching the big third-party apps.

The most significant changes to California’s charter school law since its passage in 1992 took effect before this school year, and already charter advocates are unhappy about how LAUSD is handling the changes. The California Charter Schools Association says LAUSD’s board will vote this week on a proposed implementation plan that grossly abuses districts’ new powers under the new law and Kyle Stokes is following the story.

The Past 48 Hours In LA

Rabbits In Danger: A devastating virus for both wild and domestic rabbits has officially arrived in L.A. County. Julia Paskin reports on the concerns being raised. One of those: If the rabbit population diminishes, wild animals such as coyotes and raccoons will travel deeper into residential communities in search of prey.

Penguin Encounters: The Aquarium of the Pacific has reopened its popular penguin exhibit and is offering one-on-one encounters — with some new rules and a $150 cost per person for a half-hour.

Apple Fire Update: As firefighters gain more control over the Apple Fire, which has now burned in Riverside and San Bernardino counties for more than a week, they're now working on "burn area repair."

No Mask, Big Fine: If you're planning to be out and about in Hermosa Beach, be sure to have your mask handy. The city has started enforcing a new ordinance. First fine: $100. Second fine: $200. Third and more: $500.

Pandemic Relief — With Big Caveats: After failing to get an agreement in Congress to extend some critical pandemic relief programs, President Trump on Saturday issued several executive orders, including one that brings back a weekly supplement for unemployment benefits — but at a lower amount. He's calling on an extra $400 in relief, down from $600, and says states must pay 25% of the total.

'Cautiously Optimistic': It's a phrase they've used a lot, but L.A. County public health officials said again over the weekend that they're "cautiously optimistic" about current hospitalization trends. They also announced 61 new deaths, bringing that total to 4,977, and also said to expect the positive COVID-19 cases to rise once a state backlog is fixed.

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Photo Of The Day

The cardboard fans came early and stayed late to witness the Dodgers on Sunday take the weekend series against the rival San Francisco Giants 2-1.

(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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