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Mayor Garcetti's Daughter Tests Positive For COVID-19

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Mayor Eric Garcetti's 9-year-old daughter tested positive for COVID-19 this week, after coming down with a fever.

In an address to the city from his home (which you can watch above), Garcetti said his daughter is doing fine and has mild symptoms. But he and his wife are in quarantine, in accordance with public health guidelines, and his daughter will isolate for at least 10 days, from the time her symptoms first appeared.

Garcetti said he and his wife have both tested negative.

When asked by a reporter how his daughter contracted the virus, Garcetti said they have no idea.

"We follow very strict protocols. We haven't mixed households. There's no behavior she is engaged in that doesn't adhere strictly to the protocols of our health officials. So how do you explain that to a child? It's a scary thing. I'll admit, she had some tears in her eyes, but I reassured her that it was going to be okay."

All of this comes amid a massive surge in COVID-19 cases, during which Southern California has run out of ICU beds.

"Yesterday was the single worst day of cases and deaths ever recorded in Los Angeles," the mayor said. "More than one person dies every 15 minutes from COVID-19 in California."

The mayor used this time to make a plea for Angelenos to stay home during the holidays, and limit gatherings with those outside their households.

"This is my city, and this is your city," Garcetti said. "I send you strength and love in this toughest night. We will get through this together."

MORE COVERAGE OF THE CORONAVIRUS SURGE:

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After Contempt Of Court Threat, Sheriff Testifies At Oversight Panel

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A screenshot of Thursday's Civilian Oversight Commission meeting. (Facebook Live screenshot)

The last time L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva testified before the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission was in July 2019. After a judge told him to honor a subpoena to testify or explain why he shouldn't be held in contempt of court, the sheriff appeared at Thursday's oversight panel meeting.

The virtual gathering marked a rare moment of comity in a tempestuous relationship.

In October, the Commission called on Villanueva to resign, citing his alleged failure to rein in "violent deputy cliques or gangs" operating in the Compton and East L.A. stations, his alleged attempts to block efforts to "ensure independent oversight of deputy-involved shooting investigations," among several other complaints.

The sheriff's hour-long testimony Thursday focused on deputy cliques. He said his department has made it "very, very clear" to deputies that the days of cliques are over.

But some commission members pushed back, questioning whether Villanueva has done enough.

READ OUR FULL STORY ON SHERIFF VILLANUEVA'S TESTIMONY:

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Southern California Has Run Out Of ICU Beds For Coronavirus Patients

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Clinicians work after manually proning a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Sharp Grossmont Hospital on Dec. 14 in La Mesa. At the time, state ICU capacity was .5%. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Southern California's intensive care unit capacity has hit a critical point as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the region continue to climb.

ICU availability to treat the sickest coronavirus patients is now at 0% in the 11 counties that make up Southern California.

While that doesn't mean there are no open beds, officials say they have to keep space open for non-COVID patients, too. L.A. County, home to more than 10 million residents, reported fewer than 100 ICU beds available on Thursday. That number went down again on Friday.

In the release of the daily numbers on Friday, county health officials noted that:

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to accelerate at alarming speed. Of the 5,100 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, 20% of these people are in the ICU. Today's number reflects an increase of nearly 1,500 patients in just one week; on December 11, the daily number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 was 3,624.

Meanwhile, hundreds of frontline health care workers have been vaccinated since the Pfizer vaccine arrived in L.A. County earlier this week but thousands more are still waiting.

Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county's Department of Public Health, says herd immunity against the virus is the ultimate goal. However, it will take many months to get through the first stages of priority vaccinations before the vaccine is widely available to the general public.

"Unfortunately we're still a long way away from that. While we're very excited about the vaccine availability and rollout, we in no way want to communicate the message that the vaccine will save us," Simon says.

Public health officials yesterday recorded more than 21,000 new COVID-19 cases, the highest ever single-day number of confirmed cases.

Numbers released Thursday were less, but still high:

And new cases went up again Friday:

MORE COVERAGE OF THE CORONAVIRUS SURGE:


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 Thursday, Dec. 17.

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UCLA Launches A New Center To Study LGBTQ Health

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Rainbow flags. (Jasmin Sessler/Unsplash)

The LGBTQ+ community has a new center devoted to addressing its physical and mental health needs.

Launched today by UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health, the center is led by epidemiology professor Matthew Mimiaga, who said his goal is to reach historically marginalized communities and take a holistic approach to addressing the health disparities they face.

"The LGBTQ community has a higher prevalence and incidence of life-threatening physical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental health problems, such as depression and substance use, chronic and other infectious diseases," Mimiaga says.

The center will also partner with local organizations — including the Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth — that serve the LGBTQ+ community.

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Frontline Workers' Unions Want To Shut Everything Down For A Month To Stop This COVID-19 Surge

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A nurse at a Nov. 23 vigil for health care workers who have died from COVID-19. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

As COVID-19 cases and deaths surge around the region, a coalition of unions representing frontline health care workers, public school teachers, and grocery, food service and hotel workers is calling for a "circuit breaker" — they want the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to enact a four-week lockdown to try to bring the numbers down.

That would include curfews and the forced closure of all nonessential businesses, along with a financial safety net to keep workers and businesses afloat during the shutdown.

The coalition argues such a move would save lives by lowering the number of cases, relieving the pressure on hospitals, and allowing health agencies to improve their testing and contact tracing capabilities, ultimately leading to a quicker reopening of the broader economy.

"Healthcare workers throughout Los Angeles are reaching their breaking point," said Sal Rosselli, President of the National Union of Healthcare Workers:

"They are understaffed, overworked and inundated with patients fighting for their lives. COVID-19 cannot be allowed to spread following the December holidays the way it spread after Thanksgiving. We all have to work together to keep this from getting worse, and that starts with people having the financial security to stay home."

Coronavirus infections and deaths have hit essential workers, the poor, and people of color especially hard.

Congress appears to be nearing a deal on another COVID-19 relief bill, but it does not appear to include aid to state and local governments.

READ THE COALITION'S ONLINE PETITION:

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Orange County EMS Director Orders Overflowing ER's To Stop Sending Ambulances Elsewhere, If At All Possible

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Paramedics wearing facemasks work behind an ambulance at the Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park on March 19. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Hospitals in Orange County have been ordered to stop diverting ambulances to other medical centers when their emergency rooms get too busy. That order came out late last night, hours after the county reported record high single-day high numbers of new deaths and cases.

The surge in coronavirus cases has strained hospital resources to the point where too many are requesting ambulances to go elsewhere.

Orange County EMS Medical Director Dr. Carl Shultz told us that, for the moment, it will be up to hospitals to implement their own emergency room overflow plans.

"In situations where a particular hospital is completely overwhelmed, the ambulance company has permission to move those patients to another hospital that's less impacted."

Ambulance companies can make that call, though, only after waiting at least one hour to unload the patient. That allowance is being made to avoid another potential problem: a shortage of ambulances.

So should you call 911? In a real emergency, yes, Shultz says, but if you're in a position to safely transport yourself to an ER, Orange County officals are asking you to do that and not call for an ambulance unless necessary.

Usually when hospitals receive too many emergency cases or have a shortage of specialists, they temporarily divert ambulances bringing in new cases so they have a chance to catch up with the patients. Instead of going to the closest hospital, ambulances may be directed to take patients to a medical center with more capacity for faster care. But that only works when it's just a few hospitals and just some of the time.

As of today, the Southern California region is reporting 0% availability of hospital beds. The region includes L.A., Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Diego, Imperial, Mono and Inyo counties.


OVERALL LOOK AT ORANGE COUNTY NUMBERS:

Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose Orange County or any other California county that interests you. These numbers were current as of Thursday, Dec. 16, and do not include today's updates:

READ MORE:

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Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine Has Arrived. Here's What We Know So Far.

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A dose of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Southern California, and the initial groups of health care workers are getting the first of the two-part immunization.

The launch of the vaccination process comes as the number of coronavirus cases is roaring out of control and hospital ICU's are filling to capacity. So it's more important than ever that everyone who can get vaccinated, does so.

We know you have lots of questions about the vaccines. Well, we have answers.

CHECK IT OUT:

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Why LA County Needs To Learn More About Veteran Suicide

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(Israel Palacio on Unsplash)

Suicide among military veterans is an ongoing problem, but efforts to cope with it are hampered by data that’s often old and incomplete.

There’s a push in L.A. County to get a better, real-time understanding of not just the number of veterans who are lost to suicide, but more information on the indivuals behind the numbers.

A study of all L.A. County suicide deaths during the past five years found nearly 6% could be confirmed as veterans. That’s in a county where veterans make up about 3% of the larger population. Sharon Birman, Chief of Suicide Prevention at the West L.A. V.A. Medical Center, presented the data at a virtual conference this fall.

“That’s really scary, that’s compelling data,” Birman said. “That says ... we need to pay attention to this vulnerable population.”

READ THE FULL STORY HERE:

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Air Pollution Is Fertilizing Invasive Grasses In Our Hills, Making Wildfires Worse

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Dry grasses partially cover a fire danger sign in Lagunitas (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Drive down any of our freeways that snake along our gorgeous golden hills and you may be forgiven for appreciating how beautiful they look.

But the flowing grasses that cover them are invasive species, flammable in wildfires.

And you're helping those grasses grow, simply by driving your gas-powered car.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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Morning Brief: Cambodia Town

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Cambodia Town in Long Beach. The city has the largest concentration of Cambodians outside of Cambodia. Photo by Laurie Avocado via Flickr

Good morning, L.A.

Long Beach is home to Cambodia Town, the largest community of Cambodians outside of Cambodia. This week, one of its own was sworn in to serve on the Long Beach City Council for the first time.

Suely Saro, an adjunct professor at Cal State L.A.’s School of Social Work, was elected to serve the city’s 6th District, beating out incumbent Dee Andrews. Her swearing-in ceremony was held on Tuesday.

My colleague Josie Huang reports that Saro was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after her parents fled the violence and terror of the Khmer Rouge. The family later relocated to Southern California.

Early in her career, Saro worked as a labor organizer, and as the executive director of a nonprofit organization that works with Southeast Asian girls and women to build a more equitable community. At her swearing-in ceremony, Saro spoke about the significance of her win.

"Representation matters,” she said. “Seeing that you matter at an official council level … [it says that] decisions are going to be made with you in consideration."

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


What You Need To Know Today

The Housing Crisis: A new state effort to provide housing to the homeless is resulting in some longtime motel residents being forced out of their rooms – and made homeless in the process.

Money Matters: The coronavirus pandemic has likely stripped away the wage gains made after the Great Recession by California’s lowest earners. The Long Beach City Council passed a resolution that would require "hero pay" for all frontline grocery workers — a move other cities, including Los Angeles, are also considering.

Coronavirus Updates: An additional 138 people have died from COVID-19 in L.A. County, surpassing the grim daily record set in late July.

Your Local Butcher: For 200 years, generations of Basque, Dutch and Portuguese residents have shaped Chino — and all of their foodways converge at Hottinger’s Meat Market.

First Person: Storytellers Daniel Mazzacane, Ash Nichols, and Pickle share deeply personal moments in their journeys to fully realizing their identities as part of KPCC’s “Unheard LA.” series.


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