Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):
LA County Makes 10 Day Travel Quarantine 'Mandatory'
L.A. County has long suggested that residents quarantine for 10-14 days, after traveling. But now they've made it official.
On Dec. 30, the county public health department issued a mandatory directive ordering anyone traveling from ourside the Southern California region to self-quarantine for 10 days.
This includes travel by air, bus or rail, in addition to "intermingling with non-household members."
The Southern California Region includes the following counties: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.
The directive specifies that this is a "furtherance" of the State’s Travel Advisory, which was released on Nov. 13 and advises Californians to avoid non-essential travel outside of their region.
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Francisco, spoke our newsroom's public affairs show, AirTalk, about the mandatory directive. He told host Larry Mantle that he thinks it's a good policy, but is concerned that it won't make a difference due to lack of enforcement.
"I think it's extremely difficult to enforce this," he said. "I don't think it's been adhered to in SF (which already has a similar order). Just personally, I've heard of lots of people traveling all during this time... I'm worried that it will just, again, be something that you can aspire to, but no one will end up doing it."
READ THE FULL STORY:
LA County Health Officials Warn COVID-19 Deaths Could Top 1,000 Per Week
Los Angeles County health officials say the anticipated post-holiday surge of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths has now begun.
The county reported 77 additional deaths and more than 9,000 new confirmed cases today. But while those numbers are relatively lower than what we've seen over the past month, officials warn that's only because of reporting delays from over the New Year's holiday weekend.
The increase in cases will likely continue to mount over the coming weeks, due to the sheer volume of holiday travel and New Year's Eve parties that occurred despite repeated warnings from public health and elected officials to refrain from holding traditional get-togethers.
County public health director Barbara Ferrer said skyrocketing hospitalizations have led to a 700% increase in COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of November, when the current surge began:
"Another way to look at this is, we're losing, on average, a person every 15 minutes here in L.A. County. We may very well be on our way to weekly death tolls of a thousand people or more."
Ferrer warned that at the current rate, as many as 8,500 people could be hospitalized every day, which could translate to about 175 people dying daily.
She spoke during one of the county's regular updates on the COVID-19 pandemic. You can watch a replay above.
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. or any other California county that interests you. These numbers are current as of Sunday, Jan. 3:
SAG-AFTRA Calls For Hold On Productions Due To Covid Surge
Local hospitals are out of beds. Someone in Los Angeles county is infected with the coronavirus every six seconds. And dozens of TV production workers now have COVID-19.
The idea of filming a TV series, commercial or feature film around L.A. County is not only dangerous, it also runs the risk of creating more patients for an overtaxed health care system. So on Sunday, representatives for actors, producers and advertisers said they want all local filming to stop immediately.
"Southern California hospitals are facing a crisis the likes of which we have never seen before," Gabrielle Carteris, the president of the actors' union SAG/AFTRA said in a statement. "This is not a safe environment for in-person production right now."
Stacy Marcus, the chief negotiator for the Joint Policy Committee, which represents advertisers, added:
"It is simply too great a risk to performers, crew, and industry personnel to continue production knowing that hospitals are in crisis mode and the number of cases continues to rise."
Late last month, the L.A. County Department of Public Health recommended production be halted for a few weeks as local infection rates and deaths hit all-time highs.
Film LA, which tracks on-location shooting, says the shutdown will largely affect commercial production, which accounts for half of local filming and was gearing up for ads for the Super Bowl, scheduled for Feb. 7.
Because of the pandemic, December's film and TV production was down sharply from a year ago. Most big studios and streaming sites previously paused production until later this month.
Warner Bros., CBS, NBC Universal and Netflix all have reported multiple new coronavirus cases, including people working on the TV shows The Kominsky Method, Never Have I Ever and Mr. Mayor.
Rep. Mike Garcia Will Join Unprecedented Challenge To Presidential Election Results
One of Southern California’s newest members of Congress plans to object to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election when the House and Senate jointly meet to count Electoral College votes on Wednesday.
GOP Rep. Mike Garcia, who represents Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley, announced Monday he would join the estimated 140 House and 12 Senate Republicans who will dispute the certified tallies of Electoral College votes in several swing states.
“I do believe there is enough evidence of compromised processes and breakdowns in election integrity by certain state legislatures that do in fact warrant a closer examination,” Garcia said in a statement. “We need a full forensic audit of several states to ensure all Americans have confidence in our elections."
President-elect Joe Biden won 74 more Electoral College votes than President Trump in November; Biden also collected 7 million more popular votes across the country. Almost 90 judges, including many nominated by Trump, have rejected the president’s lawsuits trying to overturn the outcome of the election, and Republican and Democratic officials in swing states say there is no evidence of significant voter fraud.
What happens on Wednesday? As the AP explains, the Constitution requires Congress to meet to finalize a presidential election:
The presiding officer [usually the Vice President, in this case Mike Pence] opens and presents the certificates of the electoral votes in alphabetical order of the states. The appointed “tellers” from the House and Senate, members of both parties, then read each certificate out loud and record and count the votes. At the end, the presiding officer announces who has won the majority votes for both president and vice president.
An objection by just one senator and a single member of the House will force the chambers to allow two hours of debate, followed by a vote on the challenges. Those votes are almost certain to fail, because Democrats control the House and enough Republicans in the Senate have said they believe the Biden victory is legitimate.
Garcia won the 25th District seat formerly held by Rep. Katie Hill in a special election in May, and was re-elected in November by a margin of 333 votes. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield said Sunday he supports the challenge, and LAist is reaching out to other Southern California Republicans to ask if they plan to join it.
Some Republican House members, including California Rep. Tom McClintock, oppose their colleague’s efforts, arguing in a letter that Congress should respect states’ authority to oversee elections. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged fellow Republicans to avoid this confrontation, arguing it will hurt his party’s brand in upcoming 2022 elections.
Regarding election fraud, Los Angeles-area Rep. Ted Lieu is one of two Democrats who sent a letter asking FBI Director Chris Wray to open a criminal probe into Trump’s call with the Georgia Secretary of State, during which he urged Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes.
“As Members of Congress and former prosecutors, we believe Donald Trump engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes,” the letter said. “We ask you to open an immediate criminal investigation into the President.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's last name. LAist regrets the error.
COVID-19 Update: Holiday 'Surge Upon A Surge' Still Coming; $300 Million For Vaccines In Proposed Budget
Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on COVID-19 in California. Watch the full video above and read highlights below.
LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS
There were 29,633 new COVID-19 cases in California in the latest reporting period from Sunday, but Gov. Newsom noted that they appear to be low, a potential result of delays caused by the holiday season. The seven-day average is still at 37,845 new COVID-19 cases per day.
The average number of daily tests conducted dropped to 285,500 over the past week, but there were 421,000 tests conducted on Saturday and 314,000 on Sunday. The positivity rate is at 12.4% over the past two weeks.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are growing more slowly, with an 18% increase over the past two weeks. However, Newsom noted that this is likely a lull before a "surge on top of the surge" due to new cases and hospitalizations associated with the holidays. There's been a 22% increase in ICU admissions over the past two weeks.
Newsom noted that, over the past two months, hospitalizations have increased by a multiple of seven, while ICU numbers have gone up by a multiple of six.
Meanwhile, ICU capacity remains at 0% in both Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, meaning that these areas are using their surge capacity.
There were 97 deaths due to COVID-19 in the latest reporting period, but that's likely low due to weekend and holiday reporting delays. There have been an average of 336 deaths per day over the past week, with 3,959 COVID-19 deaths in the past two weeks. The disease is currently more deadly than it has been at any previous point in this pandemic, Newsom said.
There have been nearly 1,300 state and federal staff deployed to local areas across the state to help with the response to COVID-19.
COVID-19 VACCINES PLAN
The governor said that California is aggressively working to accelerate the pace of vaccine administration. The plan to do this is by more directly engaging the health care system.
The plan includes having the vaccine distributed by:
- Pharmacy techs
- National Guard members
- Clinic and doctor partnerships
The state has received nearly 1.3 million doses of vaccine so far, with another 611,500 doses arriving this week. The state has given 454,306 of those vaccine doses to people so far.
Newsom said that the state has had more difficulty with distributing the Moderna vaccine than the Pfizer vaccine.
The state continues to work through Phase 1A of vaccinations, which is about three million people, which includes health care workers and long-term care residents. Phase 1B includes about eight million people, while Phase 1C is expected to be a much larger group.
Phase 1B Tier One includes people who are age 75+, workers in education and child care, emergency services, food and agriculture. Further details of this next tier will be announced Wednesday.
Phase 1B Tier Two includes those 65+, along with workers in transportation/logistics, industrial, residential & commercial sheltering facilities/services, critical manufacturing, incarcerated individuals, and the homeless.
Phase 1C includes those 50+, those 16-64 with underlying medical conditions and/or disability, along with workers in water/waste management, defense, energy, communication & IT, financial services, chemicals/hazardous materials, and government operations/community service. While this phase will be discussed Wednesday, complete details will not come until later.
The Community Vaccine Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting on Wednesday to discuss Phase 1B, the 1C roll out, and operational details of the vaccine's administration. You can find that discussion at covid19.ca.gov.
COVID-19 VACCINE BUDGET
Newsom said that the state's current budget includes a proposed $300+ million for vaccines. This includes funding for:
- Information technology: CALVAX end-to-end vaccine management
- Logistics & commodities: Transport containers, dry ice, freezers, and more
- Public education campaign: Engage public & key stakeholders through "culturally competent" campaign
Newsom noted that dry ice storage continues to be an issue both for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, despite Moderna not needing to be stored at as cold a temperature in distribution facilities.
Newsom is set to send his 2021-22 budget to the Legislature this week, with more details to come Friday.
ENFORCING THE STAY-AT-HOME ORDER
Mobility over the New Year's Eve weekend was down 23% compared to traffic volume in 2020 prior to the pandemic. It was similar to numbers seen in late March after the original stay-at-home order.
But the state is also stepping up enforcement of the regional stay-at-home order, particularly in L.A. County. The goal is to reduce super-spreader events/parties and to make sure bars and restaurants are in compliance with the orders. In L.A. County, the efforts have been focused on shutting down residential gatherings.
MORE CONTAGIOUS COVID STRAIN IDENTIFIED IN CALIFORNIA
The new strain has been detected in California, with four people identified in San Diego, with one hospitalized. There were two others identified with the strain in San Bernardino. Contact treacing and disease investigation are currently underway. Newsom said that others are expected to be identified by this afternoon, thanks to genomics testing being conducted.
Early data shows that this new strain may be more contagious, but is not more severe. The CDC believes that current COVID-19 vaccines will still protect against the new strain.
Newsom emphasized that the same tactics that are already being used need to continue with this new strain: masking, not mixing, not traveling, keeping your distance, and washing your hands.
CALIFORNIA'S OXYGEN STRATEGY
Gov. Newsom said that there are five parts of the state's oxygen strategy, needed due to potential shortages from the large amount of oxygen required to help COVID-19 patients:
- Technical Assistance
- Bulk Oxygen Support
- Home Oxygen Support/Hospital Discharge Support
- System Procurement
The state has created a state oxygen team as part of its efforts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been deployed to help with oxygen in several areas, including five facilities in Los Angeles County.
CALIFORNIA PHONE EXPOSURE NOTIFICATIONS
So far, eight million Californians have activated the CA Notify service on their phones, indicating that 20% of the state is participating. Newsom encouraged Californians to add your phone to the effort.
SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS
Newsom said that thousands of small businesses have already applied for state funding to support them through the pandemic, with $500 million in small business grants. The first application round has been extended through Jan. 13, with grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 and daily webinars available in multiple languages. You can apply at CAReliefGrant.com, with the grants open to small businesses, which Newsom noted includes nonprofits and cultural institutions.
More details on support for small businesses is set to come out Friday, such as waiving fees.
Shuttered Long Beach Hospital Reopens Monday For Non-COVID Patients
The shuttered Community Hospital Long Beach reopened Monday to help deal with the COVID-19 surge that is inundating area hospitals.
The hospital closed in 2018 after it was found to be sitting on an active earthquake fault line. But city officials say new leadership has spent more than $6 million over the past 18 months to reopen the hospital, including:
- replacing equipment and supplies
- fixing utility systems.
- catching up with deferred maintenance.
That means the facility, which first opened in 1924, now meets current seismic standards. With the improvements, the California Department of Public Health last week gave the hospital the green light to accept new patients.
The hospital will have 11 ICU beds, as well as space for 40 other patients who are not as critically ill.
Some important caveats: Only non-COVID patients will be treated, and walk-ins will not be accepted. The available beds are intended to free up space in other hospitals to focus on those with the virus.
As of late last week, there were more than 500 COVID-19 patients in Long Beach-area hospitals.
"With hospitals across our city and state at capacity, this reopening is critical for the safety and care of our community," said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. "Community Hospital is a local institution and I'm incredibly grateful to our hospital partners and the state for getting it open. We expect the hospital reopening to have an immediate impact on local capacity and our ability to save lives."
Morning Brief: New Year, New Opportunities
Good morning, L.A.
The new year is here and, along with it, the ongoing, unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases. L.A. County has reported well over 10,000 new cases a day for the past week, and hospitals continue to swell with new patients for whom there is not have enough space or staff.
Meanwhile, as we look towards the not-so-distant one-year anniversary of the pandemic hitting L.A., some of us have started to wonder which changes to daily life will become permanent. Will we all go back to in-person grocery shopping? Or gathering in public spaces? Will we want to?
Experts see some things changing, and some remaining the same.
Anthony Dukes, a professor at the USC Marshall School of Business, tells my colleague Julia Paskin that people’s pre-pandemic preference for shopping in-person will likely stick around, especially when it comes to food. Authorities in the realms of education and public space, on the other hand, see lasting change — hopefully for the better.
"I think, if there's a silver lining to this year, it's seeing folks, cities, organizations and businesses kind of co-opt [public] space," said Midori Mizuhara, an urban planner with the Gensler architectural firm in Los Angeles.
Adds Pedro Noguera, Dean of USC's Rossier School of Education, "My hope is that schools will see the disruption as an opportunity to do things differently."
Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.
What You Need To Know Today
Coronavirus Updates: L.A. County surpassed 800,000 coronavirus cases, the fastest acceleration of the virus to this point. On Sunday, the county reported 12,488 new cases and 91 new deaths due to COVID-19.
Ch-ch-changes: New laws affecting health care, law enforcement, education and more are taking effect with the start of the new year.
The Parade That Wasn’t: Pasadena streets were eerily quiet over the weekend, with the Rose Bowl parade and game canceled for the first time in decades.
A New Class: Michelle Steel, a new member of Congress from Orange County, talks about her move to Washington D.C.
Food Service: Facing an impossible situation professionally, restaurant workers talked to us about how they’re feeling going into the new year.
Race In L.A.: In the most recent installment of our series examining race and racism, contributor Laurel J. Davis writes about how she’s “gotten used to the sprinkling of macro- and micro-aggressions from some of my own people about my skin tone and hair texture.”
Before You Go… Keep Your Battery Charged — Literally
Have you tried starting your car recently only to find the battery dead? Even though you can clearly see you didn't leave any lights on?
You wouldn't be alone: AAA reports a 6.2% increase in calls for a dead battery throughout Southern California since March, when the first stay-at-home orders were issued. Here’s how to avoid the dreaded pandemic-related dead car battery.
Help Us Cover Your Community
- Got something you’ve always wanted to know about Southern California and the people who call it home? Is there an issue you want us to cover? Ask us anything.
- Have a tip about news on which we should dig deeper? Let us know.
The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Never miss an LAist story. Sign up for our daily newsletters.