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Mayor Garcetti Calls For Safety Of Police And Protesters Following Tumultuous Demonstration

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Elected officials in LA denounced LAPD response to Sunday's protest outside the mayor's residence. (Screenshot from Twitter account of user @justrinidad)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's office on Wednesday released a statement to KPCC/LAist about a chaotic protest outside his official residence Sunday that saw police using batons on demonstrators. The protesters, who have been there daily, are critical of the mayor's record on homelessness and policing, and opposed to the possibility of his appointment to a Biden administration post.

In the written statement, the mayor acknowledged the free speech rights of protesters and "the difficult job that police officers have to do every day."

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LAHSA Cancels 2021 Homeless Count For Safety Reasons

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A homeless encampment along the perimeter of the bridge housing complex being erected in MacArthur Park. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) typically does "point-in-time" counts to tally the number of unhoused people living in the city every year.

But the organization says that conducting the 2021 count just isn't safe, given the current surge in COVID-19 cases. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agrees — the federal bureau has exempted Los Angeles from doing the count, which is required under the Los Angeles Continuum of Care.

According to a news release issued late today:

"After listening to community partners, receiving guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and taking into account curfews and stay-at-home orders across the region, LAHSA determined that there is no safe way to gather the 8,000 volunteers necessary to conduct the 2021 PIT Count and collect data as accurately as it has done in previous years."

LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston said they didn't come to this decision easily, but felt it was the right thing to do.

The organization also hasn't been able to recruit the same number of volunteers as previous years, due to the pandemic.

LAHSA will still conduct a count of residents living in shelters, however. The organization is also working to make sure the cancelled count doesn't result in less Measure H funding.

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live

Unheard LA: Join Our Storytellers As They Tackle The Origin Stories That Define Us

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Unheard LA is KPCC/LAist's live storytelling series featuring authentic first-person experiences. As we take a break from the stage, we've created a series of new virtual experiences that revisit some stories from past shows as starting points for deeper listening and insightful conversations.

Tonight at 6:30, storytellers Angela Sanchez, Matt Sedillo, and Jin Yoo-Kim will join Bruce Lemon, Jr. and Race In LA's Dana Amihere to dig into origin stories and the early life experiences that make us who we are.

Pay-what-you-want tickets available here. Watch live above starting at 6:30 p.m.

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Some Economists Predict Pent-Up Demand Will Drive California's Economy If Covid-19 Vaccine Can Be Distributed

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Two actresses sing at an L.A. home circa 1925. The 1920s marked a period of rapid economic growth, something UCLA forecasters see coming if the COVID-19 vaccine is widely distributed in the coming months. (General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

A new forecast predicts the U.S. economy will get worse before it gets better. That’s the bad news.

The good news? UCLA economists making the forecast see much better days ahead once the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed. So good, in fact, that they’re comparing it to the rapid economic growth in a similar period from last century.

The Roaring Twenties, which also marked a period of significant social change, followed another devastating pandemic: The 1918 Flu.

Here’s what the latest UCLA Anderson Forecast quarterly report is forecasting:

A difficult next few months:

  • slow growth for the U.S. economy
  • high unemployment
  • difficulty paying the bills for many people

But the report predicts a light at the end of the tunnel:

  • an increase in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) from 1.8% this quarter to a strong 6% towards the middle of 2021 and continued growth into 2022.
  • Additionally, the report estimates that California’s unemployment rate will gradually improve, dropping from 8.9% in this quarter to 6.9% in 2021, 5.2% in 2022 and 4.4% in 2023.

The forecast comes with a big asterisk: it assumes mass distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine will succeed by the middle of next year. If that assumption holds, the economists anticipate a burst of pent-up consumer demand that will help the economy recover.

Leila Bengali, an economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast and co-author of the California section of its latest report, joined our newsroom’s local news and culture show, Take Two, to describe why mass vaccination could spark economic growth. Bengali told host A Martinez:

“Once that [vaccine distribution] happens, consumers will feel comfortable and safe and able to go out and consume services."

“So, think about haircuts, travel, leisure and hospitality — more so than the goods we’ve all been able to consume now during this period of time where we can order goods online and for delivery," she said. "So once the vaccine becomes widely available and consumers feel more willing and able to resume life closer to normal, we’re expecting some pretty substantial growth.”

According to Bengali, California’s economy is expected to follow the country’s recovery as a whole, although there will be some differences when it comes to the unemployment rate. While travel-dependent industries such as leisure and hospitality could see a slower rebound, the forecast predicts the technology sectors, residential construction and logistics will make strong gains and lead the state’s recovery.

Listen to the interview:

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Playgrounds Can Reopen Following An About-Face For California And LA County

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L.A.'s Sycamore Grove Park seen on Oct. 1, 2020. (Mariana Dale/LAist)

California has reversed course and will now allow outdoor playgrounds to stay open in regions under stay-at-home orders.

In updated guidance released this morning, the state had this to say:

"Playgrounds may remain open to facilitate physically distanced personal health and wellness through outdoor exercise. Playgrounds located on schools that remain open for in-person instruction, and not accessible by the general public, may remain open and must follow guidance for schools and school-based programs."

Some criticized the state's original decision to close playgrounds, arguing that it would harm children who have no other options to play outside.

Dr. Timothy Brewer, an epidemiologist and professor of medicine at UCLA's school of public health, said there is no solid data to show that outdoor activities are high risk for COVID-19.

"We know how critically important it is for kids to get physical activity, so I think being smart, wearing your face mask, keeping your physical distancing while being allowed to enjoy the outdoors is probably going to help both our mental and our physical health."

The state's announcement doesn't automatically reopen playgrounds where local jurisdictions like L.A. County may have their own orders in place.

But within hours L.A. officials were following suit.

Echoing Brewer, county Supervisor Hilda Solis noted on Twitter that play is important for children and that "low-income communities of color living in dense housing often do not have access to a yard."

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You Don't Have To Drive So Far To Get To An LA Drive-In Anymore

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A Rooftop Cinema Club outdoor drive-in. (Courtesy Rooftop Cinema Club)

Have you ever wanted to go to the drive-in, then looked on a map and realized that most of them are a good drive away from the city of L.A.? New drive-in pop-ups are here to help, fitting into the nooks and crannies of the city to offer movie lovers a COVID-safe way to watch classics, and even the occasional newer film.

The Hollywood Legion Drive-In even started screening the recently-released Tenet this past weekend ahead of its forthcoming home video release. Arena Cinelounge Sunset opened a drive-in behind the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. And Rooftop Cinema Club took over the Santa Monica Airport.

With the last scheduled tentpole release of 2020, Wonder Woman 1984, debuting on streaming alongside theatrical release, the future of cinemas has rarely seemed shakier. But the future of drive-ins looks headlight-bright.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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LA’s New DA Gascón Runs Into Internal Resistance On His Second Day

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L.A. DA George Gascon. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

George Gascón was sworn in as L.A. County’s new district attorney on Monday, and by Tuesday he already had to deal with an act of defiance by a member of his staff.

Gascón ordered a deputy DA to drop train-wrecking charges against Emanuel Padilla, who had been arrested at a protest against the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.Gascón had determined there wasn’t enough evidence to support the charges, according to DA spokesman Max Szabo.

But the prosecutor refused, Szabo said.

Gascón found another deputy DA to deal with the matter, said Szabo, who declined to name the defiant prosecutor or discuss whether the individual faces discipline, on the grounds that it’s a personnel matter.

The protester, Emanuel Padilla, was released last night after spending 20 days behind bars. He praised Gascón.

The Sheriff’s Department slammed the DA’s move, saying in a statement that it’s “disappointed and perplexed that the charges were dropped despite the clear factual evidence.”

The incident is the latest sign of the resistance Gascón faces from those on his staff who oppose his reformist policies.

READ OUR FULL STORY ON THE CLASH OVER THE CHARGES:

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LA County Records Highest Number Of Single-Day COVID Deaths Since July

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As COVID-19 cases in L.A. County continue to rise UCLA Medical Center doctors and staff protested Wednesday for safer working conditions. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Los Angeles County today recorded another 75 COVID-19 deaths, the highest number of single-day deaths without a reporting backlog since July.

At one point during today's briefing, county public health director Barbara Ferrer fought back tears, while warning that more people could die in the weeks to come:

"While this trend line provides a frightening visual of our reality, the more terrible truth is that over 8,000 people — sorry — over 8,000 people who were beloved members of their families are not coming back. And their deaths are an incalculable loss to their friends and their family, as well as our community."

This slide, presented during the L.A. County health department's briefing on Wednesday, Dec. 9, shows an alarming uptick in coronavirus-related deaths. (Courtesy L.A. County Department of Health)

The average daily number of COVID-19 deaths have surged more than 250% in just the past month. Hospitalizations also remain at a record high: 3,299 people are in L.A. County hospitals with COVID-19. Health officials also confirmed more than 9,000 new cases today.

The Southern California region, which includes 11 counties, is currently under stay-at-home orders due to a high number of hospitalizations that dropped available ICU beds under the 15% threshold set by state officials.

As of today, the Southern California region has only 9% of its ICU beds available.


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, Dec. 8:

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LBPD Says Officer Who Fired Foam Round That Hit KPCC/LAist Reporter Was Within Policy

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Minutes after he was struck in the neck while covering a protest in Long Beach, our higher education reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reported his own injury on social media. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)

Two Long Beach Police Department officers who fired 40mm foam-round launchers at a May protest — with one round striking KPCC/LAist correspondent Adolfo Guzman-Lopez in the neck, sending him to the ER — acted within department policy, according to LBPD documents released this week.

Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna previously said he believed the foam round ricocheted off another person or object before striking Guzman-Lopez. The incident took place near the intersection of 3rd Street and Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach on the afternoon of May 31.

The names of the officers who fired, Amanda Aknin and Alvin Do, had not been released before this week. Aknin was involved in a controversial incident in 2018, when she used her Taser twice on a man who alleged he was unconscious at the time.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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Depression And Burnout Hit LA’s ICU Nurses As Cases Surge

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Nurses treat a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

With Southern California's health care system straining under the worst surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, the hardest hit are hospital intensive care units.

"Right now the ICU is crazy," said Jun Jai, an ICU nurse at L.A. County-USC Medical Center. "It’s so much worse than before." He added:

"All the nurses [are] burning out. Everyday you go, it’s non-stop running from morning to the evening."

Chanel Rosecrans, who quit her job as an ICU nurse in October, said, "Before work I would pray ‘til I cried, begging God, Please [don’t] let me lose a patient tonight. I can't take it."

Rosecrans added: "I didn't want to have to just sit and wait for all these people to pass away, but it felt like all these people were just doomed."

READ OUR FULL STORY ON LIFE IN THE ICU:

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The People And Stories Behind California’s Community College Enrollment Drop

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Joseph Askin suspended his studies at the Santa Ana College Fire Academy, which trains students for firefighting careers. (Screenshot from video by Joseph Askin)

Enrollment drops at Southern California community colleges range from nearly 23% percent at Compton College to just 3% percent at Los Angeles City College compared with last fall. The reasons vary -- but it all comes down to students who were already vulnerable being pushed over the edge by the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s been especially difficult for nontraditional students like Norma Patricia Paniagua of Downey, who has been attending classes on and off for 20 years at Los Angeles Valley College. Determined as she is to finish her business degree -- she was just one semester shy of graduating when the pandemic hit in March -- she couldn’t balance raising a family and taking college classes.

“I'm a single mother of two boys,” she said . “So I now had to become a full-time parent, full-time teacher, and full-time worker all at once at home.”

In addition to financial hardships, counselors say many students have not adapted to the online learning environment because they miss the engagement with instructors and students.

“[Online classes] didn't give me the same joy,” said Fredderick Thomas, a Glendale College student. “And I think that's why I chose not to enroll for the fall.”

College administrators say it’s important to amplify these students’ stories to underline to local and state policymakers how the pandemic is making learning gaps worse and leading students to suspend their studies. The goal is to seek funds to help students, whether it’s now or when the economy improves.

“These numbers are not just numbers to me, they're people,” said Andra Hoffman, chair of the L.A. Community College Board of trustees.

She and other college administrators say it’s important to hear how these students are falling through the cracks because after the pandemic campuses will be reaching out to these students to help them return to their path toward a college degree.

LAist asked students who have suspended their studies to record videos telling us what led to their decision. Check out this one from Joseph Askin, who was studying at Santa Ana College for a career as a firefighter, and see others on TikTok.

@laistvids

Joseph wants to become a fire fighter but he decided to take some time away from college in 2020. ##fyp ##college

♬ dear katara - L.Dre

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Morning Brief: Restaurants Get Whiplash From Reopening Back-And-Forth

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Wine glasses at a restaurant. Chuttersnap/Unsplash

Good morning, L.A.

For local restaurant owners and staff, the pandemic has been a long, traumatic rollercoaster ride. They’ve grappled not only with the baseline financial terror of possibly closing (for those that have even made it this far), but also with city, county and state orders that have forced them to close, open, close, open and close again.

Yesterday, the situation took yet another confusing turn. My colleague Elina Shatkin reports that L.A. Superior Court Judge James Chalfant issued a preliminary injunction that overturned L.A. County's recent ban on outdoor dining. The move comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the California Restaurant Association and attorney and local restaurateur Mark Geragos.

At first pass, that sounds like a good thing for local eateries, many of whose owners loudly decried the outdoor dining ban. But it’s 2020, and nothing could be that simple! After county officials issued their now-overturned prohibition, California imposed a three-week stay-at-home order on L.A. County, which overrides the county ban. The state order requires restaurants and bars to remain closed, except for to-go services.

The short version? The county’s outdoor dining ban was overturned, but as long as the state’s stay-at-home order is in effect (for now, until Dec. 28), it doesn’t matter – restaurants will still have to stick to take-out and delivery.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


What You Need To Know Today

Criminal Justice Reform: Just one day into the job and facing criticism from some of his own staff, L.A. District Attorney George Gascón said his decision to lock up fewer people and shorten the sentences of people already behind bars will not endanger the public.

Money Matters: L.A. City Council opted to pass most of the city analyst’s cost-saving recommendations in order to meet a $675 million budget shortfall. The council also voted to pursue the purchase of a Chinatown apartment building to protect tenants from a big rent increase. Outdoor dining is closed everywhere in Southern California – except Manhattan Beach.

Coronavirus Vaccine: More than 80,000 doses of a new coronavirus vaccine should arrive in L.A. County next week, but the first batch won't be enough to vaccinate all of the health care workers in L.A. County.

Public Radio Friends: KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic has two hosts for the first time, and they're also the first people of color to host the show in its four decade-plus history.

Foodie Gift Guide: Check out our guide to gifts for the local foodie on your list, including crazy cookbooks, face-melting hot sauces, artisanal boba, fresh kimchi and more.


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