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WATCH: Tonight's Vice Presidential Debate, With Fact Checking From NPR

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The stage is set ahead of the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall of the University of Utah October 7, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP)

Tonight is the first and only vice presidential debate of the 2020 campaign. Vice President Pence and Democratic nominee Kamala Harris face off in Salt Lake City at 9 p.m. ET./ 6 pm. PST.

The televised event will be held in person, but will feature plexiglass barriers between Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

Concerns about spread of the virus are heightened in light of the outbreak in the White House.

READ THE FULL STORY AND WATCH LIVE:

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LA County Reports Highest Single Day Number Of New COVID-19 Cases Since August

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PPE hangs near the entrance to a COVID-19 testing site in Echo Park. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Los Angeles County reported its highest single day number of new coronavirus cases since August on Wednesday.

More than 1,600 cases were recorded, pushing the total number to 277,445 in all.

Overall, though, case numbers are at their lowest point since early May, and the county's testing positivity rate now meets the threshold to move into the next tier of the state's reopening plan.

L.A. County is also meeting the state's new equity metric, meaning transmission is slowing in the county's lowest-resourced areas.

Public health director Barbara Ferrer says that doesn't mean we will actually be moving to a new tier anytime soon, however:

"What is standing in our way to advancing to a higher tier, the red tier, is that we continue to see more than the average of 700 to 800 new cases a day."

The county must reach and maintain its number in all three categories for at least two consecutive weeks to advance to the less restrictive red tier.


OVERALL LOOK AT LA COUNTY NUMBERS:

Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose L.A. County or any other California county that interests you. These numbers are current as of Tuesday, Oct. 6:

READ MORE ABOUT HOW LA IS REOPENING:

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Larger Theme Parks Like Disneyland Can't Reopen Until Coronavirus Numbers Are Stable

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File: Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom today provided more detail on when theme parks might reopen.

The short answer: not anytime soon.

The more complicated answer: larger theme parks aren't the same as smaller ones, so they may be treated differently.

Newsom addressed the issue during the question period at a news conference to announce a new climate initiative.

Word that reopening guidelines are not imminent, comes a week after Disney announced laying off 28,000 employees from its parks in California and Florida, as well as the news that Disney Chairman Bob Iger had quit the governor's economic task force — not surprising given the delays in guidelines.

Newsom first thanked Iger for his support and insight during the pandemic as part of that task force.

"There's disagreements in terms of opening a major theme park — we're going to let science and data make that determination," Newsom said. "I understand ... the frustration that many business leaders have that they want to move forward, sectorally, to reopen. But we're going to be led by a health-first framework, and we're going to be stubborn about it."

Newsom said that officials feel "there's no hurry" to put out reopening guidelines, but that they're continuing to work with the theme park industry. He also noted that the question of reopening amusement parks is more complicated than just whether Disneyland should be open.

"Amusement parks aren't just Disney. You've got all kinds of amusement parks, including smaller parks that are out there in the piers, like down in Santa Cruz, and others that may be impacted. And so we're trying to work through all of those things," Newsom said.

He added that the situation is complex, and that officials don't anticipate parks like Disneyland opening anytime soon.

"These are like small cities, small communities, small towns. But we don't anticipate in the immediate term any of these larger theme parks opening until we see more stability in terms of the data," Newsom said.

Theme parks have previously proven to be a potential place where infectious disease can spread, with people coming together in large numbers from many different communities. There was a large outbreak of measles traced to Disneyland in late 2014 through early 2015. There were also several cases of people suffering from measles who visited the park last year, potentially exposing others — though there were also concerns about visitors to Universal Studios.

Two weeks ago, Disney officials made a public plea for the parks to be allowed to reopen. For now, that's not happening.

Even ahead of Disney's massive layoffs, the shutdown of the parks already has had a devastating impact on local economies. The delay was soundly criticized by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. President Todd Ament released this statement tonight:

"Does anyone believe this Governor is making decisions based on science and health care anymore? He said that he would issue theme park guidelines soon. Then he said they would be very, very soon. Now he says they will NOT be issued anytime soon? There is no science and health care behind this. There is no rational explanation for having guidelines for zoos, museums, beaches, schools, parks, bowling alleys, indoor dining, outdoor dining, but not theme parks. What he is doing, is destroying Anaheim."

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Chinese Megadeveloper To Pay Over $1 Million To Avoid Prosecution In City Hall Corruption Probe

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The Luxe Hotel viewed from Figueroa Street. The hotel sits across Figueroa from L.A. Live, near Staples Center. (Libby Denkmann/LAist)

Katy Perry concert tickets, a family trip to China and campaign cash: these are some of the gifts that the Chinese megadeveloper Shenzhen Hazens admitted to providing to suspended City Councilman Jose Huizar — through a local subsidiary.

The Department of Justice announced today that a local subsidiary of the company has agreed to pay more than $1 million to avoid prosecution for its involvement in a large-scale bribery scheme at Los Angeles City Hall.

The developer was after Huizar’s help ushering a $700 million-dollar hotel redevelopment project through the Planning And Land Use Management Committee, which he chaired.

Shenzhen Hazens established Jia Yuan USA Co., based in Arcadia, to redevelop the Luxe Hotel near Staples Center in DTLA. According to DOJ and FBI investigators, Jia Yuan USA Co. showered Huizar with gifts and campaign donations in exchange for his approval for the project.

The company worked through George Chiang, a Granada Hills real estate developer and consultant -- one of five men to plead guilty so far in the scheme, including former Councilman Mitch Englander.

The non-prosecution agreement is predicated on full FBI cooperation by Shenzhen Hazens and its L.A.-area subsidiaries, and it “does not preclude or limit the investigation or prosecution of individuals, including any current or former Jia Yuan officer, employee or agent,” the DOJ added.

Huizar is facing trial on 34-counts of racketeering and corruption charges related to his time as chairman of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee. He allegedly used his perch overseeing downtown development deals to enrich himself, enjoy lavish trips, and grow the campaign coffers of his wife, Richelle Huizar, who was running to succeed him on the council.

Five men have pleaded guilty so far in the large-scale bribery scheme. Huizar's trial date is set for June.

Read the DOJ’s full non-prosecution agreement here:

UPDATES: This story has been updated with additional details.

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We’ve Compiled A List Of Where Playgrounds Have Reopened

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Kids: 1 Caution tape: 0. As seen Oct. 1 at L.A.'s Sycamore Grove Park. (Mariana Dale/LAist)

Last week, the California Department of Public Health gave the go-ahead for outdoor playgrounds around the state to reopen with safety precautions.

If you live in, say, Santa Ana, where jungle gyms have been open since June 29, that might seem like old news, but as of Monday some Los Angeles city parks were still cocooned in chain-link fences and caution tape.

One of our readers asked if we could keep track of what’s open and what’s not. We started with the counties and the largest cities in the greater L.A. metro area and we’ll update our list as we find out more information.

SEE WHAT’S OPEN NEAR YOU:

HELP US TELL THE STORY

  • Has your neighborhood playground reopened? Are you planning to visit? Email me at mdale@scpr.org.

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NBC's Latest Attempt To Shoot A Sitcom Safely During A Pandemic

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A screen grab from the Connecting pilot. (Courtesy NBC)

A variety of shows are heading back into production with COVID-19 protocols in place, but none of the others are quite like NBC's Connecting... The new sitcom shot remotely, with the actors serving as their own crew.

While the studio provided them with lights and other high-tech equipment to make it look as good as possible, it's an approach that provides one of the most obviously safer versions of making a show during the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a show that embraces the reality of many as they quarantine, exploring issues such as quarantine bubbles, the uptick in food delivery apps — and the Black Lives Matter protests that began this spring.

We spoke with Keith Powell and Jill Knox, a real-life married couple playing a fictional married couple, about what it was like being their own crew. They're the only two who get to interact with each other regularly in person, but everyone managed to work remotely to create a show largely shot in their own homes.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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Employees Push Back On Cal State University Layoffs

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The California State University Employees Union staged a protest of staff layoffs near the campus on October 3. (Screenshot via CSUEU video)

A union representing workers at California State University, Fullerton is protesting the university’s move to lay off 46 workers on campus.

According to university officials, the layoff notices reflect the reality of running a campus that is far from fully open.

We've got a campus sitting there, that we mostly are not using a lot of the facilities because we're not able to in a safe and healthy manner,” said CSU Fullerton Vice President of Human Resources David Forgues.

Union leaders are pushing back. Vicky McLeod, vice president of the campus’ California State University Employee’s Union, said, “some of the employees who got the layoffs are our lowest paid.”

McLeod’s union represents 16,000 clerical workers and other classified staff systemwide and is asking why the Fullerton leaders aren’t tapping into reserves to keep people on the job.

Parking officer Juan Vasquez is among the union members notified that they would be out of work. He said he’d been working 40 hours a week despite most campus operations shifting online. That work has included taking stock of equipment and planning how to improve parking structures, as well as writing parking tickets.

“I wasn't expecting to be laid off during the pandemic,” Vasquez said. “We still have students on campus, we have residents, we have people attending in-person classes that are parking their cars on campus.”

The union staged a rally on Saturday next to CSU Fullerton to protest layoffs.

A Cal State Fullerton spokesman said reserves were not an issue in the layoffs, and that a lack of necessary work drove the decision.

Forgues, who heads the university’s human resources, said the layoffs weren’t taken lightly.

"We went through and took a look at all of our management and we reduced our management numbers,” Forgues said ahead of the weekend protest. “We did the hard work of taking a look at our temporary employees and reduced there as much as we could… these folks are valued members of our community.”

Most CSU campuses did not issue layoff notices. State Assemblyman Kevin McCarty sent a letter to CSU Chancellor Tim White expressing concern over the layoffs.

“[Layoffs] are not on the table at Long Beach State at this time,” said campus spokesman Jeff Cook. He said his campus absorbed $21.7 million in state funding cuts this year and in response has frozen hiring and tapped into reserves.

The CSU Chancellor’s office gives campus administration wide latitude on fiscal and policy matters. Cal State Northridge laid off eight employees while most other Cal State campuses in Southern California issued no layoff notices. The San Francisco campus issued about 120 layoffs, the Sonoma campus about 40, and CSU Monterey Bay about 25 layoffs.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled David Forgues' last name and misstated McLeod's title. LAist regrets the error.

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Why You Know Way More About Wildfires Than You Used To

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L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby during a community meeting held on Zoom and Youtube (YouTube screenshot)

Goodbye to in-person press briefings; so long to packed community meetings.

Fire agencies had already been experimenting with putting more communications online, but the pandemic has pushed them to go all-in with social media and online messaging direct to the public.

It's meant we've had access to photos, videos, more informative fire maps, and explainers about fire than ever before, and it's mostly online.

READ MORE ABOUT DIFFERENT WAYS FIRE INFORMATION IS COMING TO YOU THIS YEAR:

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Morning Briefing: Vertical Farming Is Coming To Compton

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A farm operations associate tends to plants in the grow space at Plenty's vertical farming facility in South San Francisco. (Spencer Lowell/Courtesy of Plenty)

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

Good morning, L.A.

Mark your calendars: As of next year, Compton will become a hub for the future of agriculture. A San Francisco start-up is constructing a 95,000-square-foot vertical farming operation inside a former warehouse in the area, and once it’s up and running, the operation will grow non-GMO, pesticide-free fruits and veggies under the warmth of LED lamps. Robots will serve as their plant parents (and a few humans, too).

Vertical farming is just what it sounds like — rows and rows of plants that are grown indoors, on walls, thanks to the wonders of modern technology. (Learn more here.) The company, known as Plenty, chose Compton as a way to reach underserved communities, and also because it, like so much of Southern California, has a rich history of farming.

Places such as New Jersey, Dubai, Belgium and San Francisco already have vertical farming facilities, and interest is growing. Investments in the industry grew nearly eightfold between 2016 and 2017, reports LAist contributor Stefan A. Slater, with money coming in from such high-profile individuals as Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt.

The first Plenty facility opened in the Bay Area in 2018. We’ll see how it fares here soon enough.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, October 7

The pandemic has forced fire departments to accelerate their adoption of online and social media communications about big, disastrous blazes, while keeping in mind that not everybody has access to high-speed internet. Sharon McNary has more.

NBC's new show, Connecting, was shot remotely here in L.A., with actors filming themselves at home and being directed via video conference. Mike Roe spoke to some of the cast to learn more about the process.

Although the date for the 2020 census to end has been moved back to Oct. 31, Caroline Champlin reports that some local outreach organizations haven't publicized the new date because they are out of money after the long and dragged out process.

Mariana Dale has a list of which counties and cities have reopened their playgrounds and other recreational facilities.

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


The Past 24 Hours In LA

Policing Law Enforcement: L.A. County’s inspector general says there's evidence the Banditos clique of sheriff's deputies is "gang-like." Three months after the LAUSD board voted to make cuts to the school police, the proposal is still in limbo.

Election 2020: Watch our election cram session with Larry Mantle and a panel of expert guests to brush up on all 12 ballot propositions in one hour. About 2,100 voters in the Woodland Hills area opened their ballots and realized they didn’t have an option to vote for President of the United States. Here’s what we know — and don't know — about President Trump’s COVID-19 symptoms and treatment.

County Services: The census may count people, but its data is also the basis for determining what type of roadwork is done, when and where. Free flu shots will be available at some county libraries starting later this month. Local small businesses needing financial help due to COVID-19 are getting another chance to apply for relief this week.

The Future Is Now: A new vertical farming operation in Compton is slated to open next year; can it change the way we grow and eat food? The Nobel Prize in physics for 2020 recognizes research on black holes, including work by UCLA’s Andrea Ghez. College application season is now in full swing, but instead of SAT cram sessions, road trips to visit campuses and essay-writing workshops at the library, we have … Zoom.

Here’s What To Do For Halloween: Spooky screenings, immersive drive-through experiences, Victorian mourning rituals, and more make up the season’s best online and IRL Halloween events.

Final Good-Byes: Eddie Van Halen, the guitarist and songwriter who gave the L.A. rock band Van Halen its name and shaped its sound, died Tuesday at the age of 65.


Photo Of The Day

An official mail-in ballot drop box is posted outside of an L.A. library.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This post has been updated to reflect changes in what's coming up for today.


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