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Vaccinations Begin For LA County's First Responders

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File: A pharmacist at UCI Health Center preps a COVID-19 vaccine. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

All 16,000 Los Angeles County firefighters and paramedics should receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines by Sunday.

That includes first responders who work for the cities of Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach, which operate their own independent fire departments, as well as emergency medical technicians with private ambulance services. City of Los Angeles firefighters have also begun receiving the vaccine.

Dr. Marianne Gausche Hill, medical director of the county's Emergency Medical Services Agency, says the effort to fast-track those vaccinations comes as local hospitals continue to be inundated with COVID-19 patients. The state reported earlier that intensive care unit capacity throughout Southern California remains at 0%, and the stay-at-home order for the region has been extended indefinitely.

"We will continue to work together as a team, with our fire department colleagues to help our law enforcement colleagues as well as others."

L.A. County is one of the largest emergency medical service areas in the country — 1 in 25 paramedics in the United States practice here.

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How 2020 Lowered Our Standards As Parents

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Published
A dumpster. (Photo by Alp Duran on Unsplash)

2020 has been a year of many firsts; the first global pandemic in our lifetime, the first primarily virtual presidential election, the first time schools shut down across the country for an indefinite amount of time.

For a lot of parents, it was also the year of lowered standards. We realized this here in the KPCC/LAist newsroom when one brave soul broke the floodgates, admitting to serving her children cookies for lunch and hosting Minecraft play dates. The rest of us were so heartened that we weren’t the only ones who’d let our previously perfect children sink into depths of filth, rot and screen time, that we decided to share our shame with you.

So, here it goes. These are the just some of the ways that LAist staff/parents saw our standards lowered directly into the garbage in 2020:

“Not cleaning the bathroom for weeks on end.”

“Sometimes I don’t feed my kids breakfast until well into brunch-time.”

“Sometimes we just let them watch screens ALL DAY.”

“Sometimes I just let my 16-month-old eat the toilet paper she puts in her mouth.”

“Cookies for breakfast.”

“Sometimes I realize no one has eaten lunch and it's like, 3 p.m.”

“My two youngest barely wear shoes anymore (not sure where they are).”

“I was once the ‘no Fortnite’ mom, but clearly that happens all the time now (at least my 10-year-old is socializing while annihilating his friends).”

“Everything my 13-year-old has learned in the past nine months has probably come from TikTok.”

“There are piles of laundry everywhere, all the time.”

“My four-year-old is an excellent Minecraft player.”

“I ate five cookies and ice cream yesterday at 11 p.m.”

“My son has been wearing the same pajamas for like, five days straight. No changing clothes, no showers.”

“My husband allows our three-year-old to basically consume 80% of her daily calories via chocolate milk. “

“Fudge for lunch!”

“I’ve let my two-and-a-half year old stay in his overnight diaper until lunch. (No poop! Only pee! But still.)”

“I was going to do no screens until he was two. He turned two in June and was already a Daniel Tiger fiend by that point.”

“As I sit here at 11:21 p.m. in my daughter’s bed, I should add that my kids go to sleep WAY too late.”

“I haven't held back with swearing, and my tween daughter is emulating me, and now it's getting a little out of control.”

“My 12-year-old has started watching R-rated movies. They aren't violent or scary, but she's now seen The Kids Are Alright, Little Miss Sunshine and we're going to be showing her Bridesmaids soon. All great movies! But not in the bounds of the MPAA rating system.”

Happy New Year, everyone!

Southern California Stay-At-Home Order Extended

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File: California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly delivers an update Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (Courtesy California Public Health)

California's regional stay-at-home order has been extended for all but Northern California, as both Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley remain at 0% capacity for intensive care units.

The state's order applies to any region where the ICU capacity has fallen below 15%, according to Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency.

Here's the current capacity by region:

  • Bay Area: 10.4%
  • Greater Sacramento: 19.1%
  • Northern California: 27.9%
  • San Joaquin Valley: 0%
  • Southern California: 0%

Ghaly noted that 0% does not mean there are no beds available. Instead, the state takes a more protective stance on capacity: if too many COVID-19 patients are occupying a hospital's ICU beds, that hospital may be unable to provide adequate care for other urgent care patients. So the state caps the number of ICU beds that can be taken up by COVID-19 patients. It also measures capacity by region, so even though one hospital may have fewer COVID-19 patients, others may have more patients than beds. It may have to divert patients, which spreads the impact around.

In the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California in particular, the ICU capacity is not improving, Ghaly said.

A region can reopen once its ICU capacity rises above 15% again. Ghaly said the state will continue to provide daily updates to its projections.

AVERTING THE NEED FOR CRISIS CARE

The state's overarching goal is to keep as many hospitals as possible from needing to implement crisis care for as long as possible.

Ghaly described three levels of care as the surge takes a greater toll on hospitals, from conventional to contingency to crisis care.

Contingency Care: Hospitals are converting singles to doubles, instituting longer shifts for staff, reusing and adapting supplies, and potentially being forced to delay care.

Crisis Care: Hospitals are resorting to cots, rationing certain supplies and therapies, seeing a significant change in nursing and doctor ratios, and possibly triaging medical care and ventilators.

That last scenario, Ghaly said, is something that "we need to plan for, be prepared around, but do everything in our power today to keep us from being in this situation across the state."

Hospitals are currently handling the surge as well as possible by adapting operations and space, Ghaly said, though he warned that it's time to prepare for the possibility that some hospitals may have to move into crisis care mode.

Ghaly noted that it is the hospitals, and not the state, that make the call on whether to resort to crisis care. The state's role is to provide assistance.

But if a hospital reports shifting to crisis care, other hospitals in the region will be asked to share resources or modify operations temporarily.

PLANNING AHEAD

In Los Angeles County, some hospitals have had to turn away ambulances and convert conference rooms and gift shops into makeshift patient holding areas.

Dr. Shruti Gohil of the UC Irvine School of Medicine says her hospital hasn't reached that point yet, but hospital officials there formed contingency plans for additional space back when the pandemic began.

"When we hear about a pandemic, there are groups within the hospital who are scoping out spaces in advance, so some of this stuff may sound scary, as though it's happening overnight. But actually, plans have been, probably, depending on the hospital, laid out in preparation for some time."

Hospitals consider several factors when converting a space for patient care, including ability to control crowding, tripping hazards, and whether air flow can be sealed off to prevent it from being shared with other spaces, Gohil said, speaking with our newsroom's public affairs show, AirTalk, which airs on 89.3 KPCC.

OVERALL LOOK AT CALIFORNIA'S NUMBERS:

  • 20,390 hospitalizations, 36.5% increase in last 2 weeks
  • 4,308 in ICU, 35.1% increase in last 2 weeks
  • 31,245 new cases (37,459 seven-day average)
  • 20,390 hospitalizations, 36.5% increase in last 2 weeks
  • 4,308 in ICU, 35.1% increase in last 2 weeks
  • 1.1 transmission rate in Southern California (more than 1.0 means cases are increasing)
  • 130.1 cases per 100,000 people per day in SoCal

Here's a look at longer-term trends in the state. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose California or any county in the state that interests you. These numbers are current as of Monday, Dec. 28:

(LAist)

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2020 Investigations — Year In Review

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(Dan Carino for LAist)

This week, we’ll be looking back at our coverage of 2020, one of the strangest, most difficult years through which many of us have ever lived. Reporting on it was hard, and at times very painful. But even through the tragedy of the coronavirus, there were some bright spots. Today, we’ll take a look at some of our newsroom’s award-winning investigations.

While our team of reporters and editors are busy bringing you daily news and insight about all aspects of life in Southern California, we’re also hard at work on other projects: our investigative and enterprise stories.

Some of these stories originate as leads from trusted sources. Others begin when we get tips from readers like you. And some just start with a simple question.

An investigative or enterprise story might take a few weeks to report, edit, fact check and publish; more often, though, they take months, or even more than year, to produce. We put the time — and considerable human and financial resources — into these stories because we believe in the power of journalism, in transparency — in the public’s right to know. Our investigative and enterprise stories don’t just aim to break news; we produce them to shine new light on wrong-doing by those in power, to point out social inequities. to provide original insight and analysis, and to help our readers better understand the players and inner workings of the region they call home.

This year, before the pandemic hit, we’d gotten off to a big start, with two major investigations into Southern California’s housing crisis that exposed dangerous — and even deadly — conditions at the bottom rung of the rental market, as well as a deep dive into a simmering battle at a highly regarded Orange County public school.

During the pandemic, we brought you more stories about conditions at public institutions and private facilities that laid bare the way race and class determine who’s most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Some of these stories were reported Elly Yu and Aaron Mendelson of our investigative team, while others were done by beat reporters such as Carla Javier and Jackie Fortiér, who despite their daily reporting obligations made the time to bring you stories we know you care about.

Deceit, Disrepair and Death Inside A Southern California Rental Empire By Aaron Mendelson
Virtually unknown to his tenants or the public, Mike Nijjar is one of the biggest landlords in California, with connections to a vast rental empire centered in some of the poorest parts of Southern California. But while Nijjar lives in a 12,000-square-foot hillside mansion with six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a waterfall, a tennis court, a reflecting pool, a screening room and a vineyard, his tenants fight off roaches, rats, bedbugs, bees, maggots and mold, all while struggling to get even minor issues fixed. In one case, officials said conditions at a property connected to Nijjar were so bad that an infant died. (Read the story)

Facing The Music: The Uncertain Future Of The Orange County School Of The Arts By Carla Javier
A standoff with the Santa Ana school district could bring down the curtain on one of Southern California’s most popular — yet highly controversial — charter schools. The battle has been brewing for years, if not decades. It includes finger-pointing over who’s at fault; hurt feelings and high emotions all around; lawyers, of course; and children — lots of them — caught in the middle. (Read the story)

Neither Human Nor Ghost: Chinese Immigrants Scrape By In San Gabriel Valley’s Boarding Houses By Yingjie Wang
In the modern-day tenements of L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley, known in the community as “boarding houses,” one- and two-bedroom apartments are home to thousands of Chinese immigrants who live in overcrowded, unsanitary and potentially deadly conditions for days, weeks or months at a time. Many boarding houses operate in violation of housing laws, but the substandard conditions persist, despite repeated vows by city leaders to crack down. (Read the story)

LA's Nursing Homes Serving Black And Brown Patients Are Hardest Hit By Coronavirus. What's Going On? By Jackie Fortiér (with additional reporting by Elly Yu) Every night, after walking a mile home from her job as a certified nursing assistant in East Los Angeles, Alma Lara-Garcia would strip off most of her clothes before she went in the house. "I didn't care if the neighbors saw," she said. "I would take off my overshirt, down to my camisole and take off my shoes and pants before I'd go in." Only then did she feel it was safe to enter the home she shares with her four teenage children. She knew the coronavirus was circulating at the nursing home where she worked, Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center. But she had no idea it would kill so many of the elderly residents she cared for, or that she would become one of dozens of staff members to fall horribly ill. (Read the story)

Immigrant Detainees At Adelanto Say Officers Pepper-Sprayed Them For Peacefully Protesting By Elly Yu
Immigrant detainees at Adelanto Detention Center say they were injured or left struggling to breathe after officers in riot gear shot pepper bullets and discharged pepper spray at them, allegations that were first reported by LAist. Four detainees were treated at an off-site medical facility, and multiple detainees told LAist that officers used that force as they staged a peaceful protest against continuing lockdown conditions — conditions that included the requirement that they remain in their cells for at least 23 1/2 hours a day. (Read the story)

'10 To A Room, A Few Feet Apart': Advocates Say LA County's Incarcerated Youth Are At High Risk By Stephanie O’Neill
For a story that LAist broke this past spring, attorneys and advocates for youth offenders said children and young people held at juvenile facilities across L.A. County were unable to practice social distancing, not being given access to adequate soap or hand sanitizer, eating and showering communally, and lacking basic protections from the coronavirus. "We need to get as many kids out of the system as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Elizabeth Barnert, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UCLA who is a pediatrician at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar. (Read the story)

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Estimated $1 Billion For California Child Care In Federal Coronavirus Relief Package

Updated
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Breakfast time at the toddler class at young horizons. A limited number of children returned to the child care facility on Monday May 4th as cities try to support essential workers. Chava Sanchez/LAist

The coronavirus relief package President Donald Trump signed into law Sunday night includes $10 billion for child care programs. California’s cut is slightly more than $1 billion.

“It is far less support than we think the system actually needs,” said Kate Gallagher Robbins, director of child care and early education at the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C. “But for providers who are currently putting expenses on their personal credit cards, for families who can't afford to pay for child care that they need, it's hugely important."

The center created state-by-state estimates based on several factors including how previous stimulus dollars for child care were distributed, poverty rates and the number of kids in the state. California’s is the second largest payout in the country, coming in just behind Texas, which will receive about $74 million more.

The act also includes $250 million for the federally funded early education program Head Start.

“Child care is critical for any type of economic recovery,” said First 5 LA vice president Christina Altmayer. “Child care workers are essential so that parents can go to work, be they frontline emergency workers or just everyone in terms of their day-to-day job.”

The legislation also gives the states more time to spend money from the previous federal stimulus package.

“One of the challenges there’s been is developing the infrastructure that’s necessary for the distribution of funds,” Altmayer said.

California funneled most of the money from the first stimulus act into subsidies for child care providers, vouchers to help essential workers pay for child care and waiving fees for low-income families.

It’s likely at least some of the new money will be spent on similar programs. The most recent state budget outlined how the state would spend up to $300 million in future federal dollars:

  • $150 million to help families pay for child care.
  • $125 million to pay stipends to providers who are caring for children through the state subsidy program.
  • $25 million to help child care providers who have closed during the pandemic reopen.

Child care advocates had called for $50 billion to help sustain providers and support families. In California, at least 1,420 child care centers and homes shut down during the pandemic and more than 13,000 closed temporarily.

“We need to continue to expand help to families in need," said California Child Care Resource & Referral Network public policy director Keisha Nzewi. "And we need to make sure we have a child care industry to come back to once everyone is back to work outside of the home.”

California and other states have 60 days from the bill’s final approval to provide the federal government with a plan for how they’ll spend the money.

“This is a moment for advocates, for parents to providers, [to] reach out to your state agencies,” Robbins said. “Tell them what you need.”

IMPORTANT LINKS:

Help Finding Child Care: The Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles website locates the nearest child care referral agency where you can get help finding a provider and see if you qualify for financial assistance.

L.A County Department of Public Health Early Care & Education COVID-19 Toolkit: Guidelines for minimizing risk and what to do if there's a coronavirus case (or if a provider suspects one).

READ MORE ABOUT CHILD CARE:

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