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LA Loses Rose Ochi, Civil Rights Leader and City Hall Insider

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Rose Ochi, a civil rights leader and LA City Hall insider, died earlier this month. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Los Angeles' civil rights community is mourning the loss of attorney Rose Ochi, who died earlier this month at age 81.

She was the first Asian American woman to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney General, as an advisor to the Clinton White House on race relations.

Ochi was also integral in the push for the federal government to designate the Manzanar camp in Owens Valley as a national historic site in 1992.

Naomi Hirahara followed Ochi over the years as a Rafu Shimpo newspaper reporter and editor. She noted how Ochi was able to straddle the civil rights world and City Hall, where she worked closely with Mayor Tom Bradley as director of the city’s Criminal Justice Office.

"She's was a very, very special individual because she was able to hold on to both worlds, and she was respected in both circles," Hirahara said.

Ochi's path to fighting for civil rights was set as a child. Born in East L.A., her family was shipped to Arkansas during World War II and incarcerated at a camp because of their Japanese ancestry. Ochi, then called Takayo, was given her western name by a schoolteacher.

"Even as a young child, you're made to believe that you're not a real American, and that you're an outsider," Ochi said in a 2013 interview with the Discover Nikkei project. "That empowered me throughout my life to be able to challenge institutions."

Aside from making history as an assistant attorney general, she was also L.A.'s first Asian American woman to serve on the police commission.

Hirahara said people couldn't help but pay attention to Ochi when she entered a room because of her confidence and the striking gray hair she didn't bother to dye.

She was very direct and intimidating, using her legal skills to tackle issues such as criminal justice.

"She was kind of like Wonder Woman figure," Hirahara said. "There was no one quite like her."

Ambulances, Emergency Rooms Pushed To Capacity

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Paramedics wearing facemasks work behind an ambulance at the Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park, California on March 19, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

As calls from COVID-19 patients flood L.A. County’s medical system, the area’s ambulances and emergency rooms are being stretched to capacity.

Some ambulance drivers report waiting for up to six hours to unload patients at hospitals, and their standard response time to 9-1-1 calls has grown from nine to 12 minutes.

To address the problem, emergency medical dispatchers are sending drivers to hospitals with shorter wait times, and some medical centers have hired extra staff to monitor patients so ambulances can get back in the field.

But, says Cathy Chidester, the director of L.A. County’s Emergency Medical Services Agency, it still might not be enough.

“Every single hospital is stressed,” she said.

Chidester said the agency is considering other ways to mitigate the overload. Some hospitals have erected triage tents to create more space, and a decision was recently made to direct patients under the age of 17 to pediatric medical centers.

But as coronavirus cases continue to rise, Chidester is concerned about wait times getting longer and hospital availability getting smaller.

“They [might] have less ambulances, or maybe a little bit less people waiting in their lobby,” she said, “but they’ve all incorporated their surge strategies.”

LA County Reports ‘Fastest Acceleration Of New Cases’ Yet

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Covid-19 testing underway in Crenshaw. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

L.A. County’s Department of Public Health confirmed 13,315 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, and 58 new deaths attributed to the disease. The number of daily cases continues to skyrocket.

Today’s numbers bring the total in the region to 623,670 positive cases and 8,875 deaths. To date, more than 4.37 million tests have been administered to Angelenos, and 13% have come back positive.

There are currently 5,549 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county, with 21% of those patients in intensive care. ICU space in Southern California is maxed out.

In a statement released Saturday, health officials said that “L.A. County is experiencing the fastest acceleration of new cases than at any other time during the pandemic.”

“We are bearing witness every day to the terrible suffering caused by a virus that is spreading out of control throughout the county,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, in the same statement. “Places where people from different households gather and do not follow safety directives contributes to unnecessary COVID-19 spread that results in hospitalizations and deaths that could have been avoided.”

Officials continue to urge the public to follow basic safety measures, including staying home as much as possible, always wearing a face covering, and maintaining distance from others.

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 Sunday, Dec. 20

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