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LA County Allows Indoor Religious Services Under Modified Health Order

A man prays while attending an Easter service at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Sunday, April 12, 2020. Many churches are adapting their services as Christians around the world are celebrating Easter at a distance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP

Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health announced today that it would change its health order to reflect recent Supreme Court rulings against state attempts to limit indoor worship services because of the coronavirus.

In a news release issued Saturday afternoon, the department said that places of worship can have both indoor and outdoor services “with mandatory physical distancing and face coverings over both the nose and mouth that must be worn at all times while on site.”

The modification comes as L.A. County experiences a dangerous surge in Covid-19 cases.

The public health department on Saturday confirmed 13,756 new cases and 60 deaths.

The county has now posted more than 600,000 confirmed cases, with more than 100,000 of them reported since Dec. 11.

Intensive care unit capacity for Covid-19 patients stayed at 0% in L.A. County and the 10 other counties designated by the state as the Southern California region.

“L.A. County is experiencing the fastest acceleration of new cases than at any other time during the pandemic,” according to public health officials.

Worship services and protests are constitutionally-protected and have legally continued through the pandemic, but public health officials say they should take place outdoors.

Today the department reiterated that it “strongly recommends that places of worship continue to hold services outdoors.”

Morning Brief: Gascón Backtracks

George Gascon speaks to attendees at the local Democratic Party's drive-in watch party near the L.A. Zoo on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Good morning, L.A.

The county’s newly sworn-in district attorney, George Gascón, ran on a platform of criminal justice reform. But after only 11 days in office, he’s already partially reversing a new policy under pressure from critics.

The policy did away with all sentencing enhancements, which add time to prison sentences based on certain variables. Prosecutors can no longer ask for a longer sentence because the defendant had a gun, is listed in the state’s gang database, or has a prior strike.

But some prosecutors and victims’ advocates pushed back hard, and on Friday Gascón took a step back, saying he will allow for longer sentences in cases affecting “the most vulnerable victims.” In a memo to his staff, he announced that people accused of hate crimes, elder abuse, child abuse, and sex trafficking can still be given additional years in prison.
In an open letter to the community explaining the change, Gascón said he was being “responsive” to the concerns he’d heard, while reiterating his arguments against sentencing enhancements in general.

“[E]nhancements have never been shown to enhance safety, but excessive sentences have been shown to increase recidivism and drive future victimization,” he wrote. “Enhancements are also the primary driver of a system of mass incarceration that needlessly siphons billions into jails and prisons [and are] three times more likely to be applied to defendants who are African American or mentally ill.”

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

What You Need To Know Today

Census Representation: The Supreme Court cleared the path for the Trump Administration to remove immigrants without legal status from census data.

Naughty Or Nice: Santa Clauses didn’t get what they wished for this year — to be near the top of the line for the COVID-19 vaccine — but they've still managed to make virtual visits a reality.

Still Going, Brother: Pro wrestling has continued during the pandemic, despite several outbreaks in the industry.

First Person: A mother and daughter sound off on mixed-race identity and how they label themselves (or don't).

Weekend Reads

There's a lot going on in the world right now, and it’s hard enough to keep up with our day-to-day lives, let alone to stay current on the news. But if you have some time this weekend, here’s what you may have missed:

ICU beds in SoCal are completely full, and a doctor explains that front line workers are "overwhelmed." (LAist)

We talked to a virologist, who helped explain the risk of things like holiday shopping, going to medical appointments and ore. (LAist)

L.A. County's outdoor dining ban was overturned, but you still can't eat outside. (LAist)

Local politicians denounced LAPD's response to a protest outside the official residence of Mayor Eric Garcetti, in which at least one officer used a baton to strike people. (LAist)

A local Kaiser employee, responsible for disinfecting the rooms of coronavirus patients, speaks out. (L.A. Watts Times)

Federal agents have continued to deport unaccompanied minors, despite a judge’s ruling against the practice. (La Opinión)

A library aide at an Eagle Rock elementary school is amping up storytime by bringing in guest parrots (!!). (The Eastsider)

Racism in transportation planning has a long history, and its residual effects are still very much in place. (StreetsBlog)

In Riverside, a nurse explains what it’s like to hold patient after patient’s hand as they die alone from the coronavirus. (KCRW)

From systemic racism in health care to burnout among nurses and hotel workers, Chasing the Vaccine explores the lasting damage of the pandemic. (Capital and Main)

Here’s what it takes to bring essential items to some of L.A.’s hardest-hit — and least resourced — communities. (L.A. Taco)

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