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Another Devastating Day In LA County: 224 New COVID Deaths

Dr. Thomas Yadegar asks for a help while he attends to a COVID-19 patient inside a bedroom adapted with isolation doors at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center on Sunday. (Apu Gomez/AFP via Getty Images)

Los Angeles County health officials reported another devastating day in the COVID-19 pandemic, as another 224 people died from complications of the virus.

It's one of the deadliest days on record. This is notable: While higher death numbers were recorded last week, those totals included backlogged reports from over the Christmas holiday weekend. Today's numbers do not.

That brings the county's cumulative death toll to 11,071 — 700 of those deaths have been reported since New Year's Day. Officials this week say we are now seeing the beginning of a post-holiday surge in new cases and hospitalizations, which they warn could translate to as many as 175 deaths, on average, every single day.

This surge continues to push L.A. County hospitals to the limit, and staffing remains one of the biggest concerns. Dr. Christina Ghaly, L.A. County's Health Services Director, told the Board of Supervisors today that they're bringing in contract nurses and increasing their pay to hopefully attract more. She noted that there's a lot of competition for those workers.

Ghaly says they're also asking for help from the state and federal governments for county hospitals:

"We also are due to receive two, 20-person Department of Defense teams, one of which will be deployed to [Harbor-UCLA Medical Center] and one of which will be deployed at LA-USC.

She said that help is due to arrive by Wednesday or Thursday, adding that she believed "five private hospitals in the region ... are also due to receive federal health teams to help support their staffing."

Ghaly says while hospitals are full, and ambulances are experiencing long wait times to off-load patients, hospitals are not in the phase of rationing care. She said as of this morning, no hospital in the county is using internal disaster protocols.


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 Monday, Jan. 4:

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COVID-19 Kills Native American Leader Marshall McKay

Native American leader Marshall McKay. (Courtesy the Autry Museum of the American West)

Native American leader Marshall McKay has died in Los Angeles at the age of 68 after contracting COVID-19.

McKay developed severe symptoms and died at Hollywood Presbyterian on Dec. 29 at 68 years old. His wife was also hospitalized with COVID-19 in December, but has since recovered and been released.

McKay was the first Indigenous board chairman for the Autry Museum of the American West. He was a member of the tribal council of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation for more than 30 years and is credited with building the tribe's economic independence.

"He combined this wonderful set of tangibles and skills and knowledge," said Autry president/chief executive Rick West, "but Marshall was characterized almost as much by his immense capacity for intangibles like human empathy, human connection."

McKay was also an advocate in the Change the Mascot campaign, which calls on sports teams to do away with racist images and slurs against native peoples.

His mother was a renowned Pomo basket weaver, and he dedicated himself to the preservation and promotion of Native American arts and culture. To that end, McKay also served on the board of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.

The Yocha Dehe Tribal Council said this of his death:

“We know our pain is shared by so many families facing the devastating effects of this pandemic. We know also the pain of Marshall’s loss is shared by the many who loved him and learned from him. We will miss his strength and wisdom. He was a resolute protector of Native American heritage here, within our own homeland, but also throughout California and Indian Country.”

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LA County Could Require Grocery Stores To Pay Workers An Extra $5 Per Hour In Hazard Pay

Shoppers in a grocery store. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Larger grocery chains would have to pay many of their Los Angeles-area workers an extra $5 per hour in temporary “hero pay” under a plan taken up today by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

The requirement would apply to frontline grocery and drugstore workers in the unincorporated areas of the county. Now, county staff has until Jan. 26 to come up with language for a final vote.

Four supervisors on the five-member board voted to move forward with the proposal. Supervisor Kathryn Barger abstained.

The city councils of Long Beach and Los Angeles are considering similar proposals.

The move comes as L.A. continues to suffer from record-breaking COVID-19 case numbers, with public health leaders now warning residents to assume the virus is “everywhere.” Thousands of local grocery workers have gotten sick, and stores have seen increased outbreaks in recent weeks.

L.A.’s union grocery workers are facing increasingly hazardous conditions, said John Grant, president of United Food and Commercial Workers local 770.

“To wake up every morning and know that you're going into a petri dish of infection — it's basically playing roulette with your family's health,” Grant said. “The huge profits should be shared with those who are exposed."

Many grocery stores provided additional hourly pay in the early months of the pandemic, but California’s grocery industry is now urging local lawmakers to hold off on requiring “hero pay.” Employers say increased labor costs could lead to higher food prices at a time when many are already struggling to afford necessities.

“With all of this insecurity and unemployment, this is not the right time to put a cost increase on people that go to their grocery stores for the essentials,” said Ron Fong, president of the California Grocers Association.

Should it pass, the L.A. County ordinance would apply to grocery and retail drug companies that are publicly traded, or ones that have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 10 employees per location. The temporary pay bump would remain in place for 120 days after the order takes effect.

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LA County Extends Eviction Moratorium To End Of February

An eviction notice and paperwork. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the County’s eviction moratorium by a month to February 28. The motion, proposed by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis also strengthens and clarifies protections for renters facing intimidation or harassment from landlords.

“We recognize that this could be a real tsunami of evictions if the county did not step up and protect our renters in a responsible way,” said Kuehl. “No one should be threatened with eviction or made homeless by the pandemic.”

A UCLA study last year determined that as many as 449,000 people in L.A. County could face eviction due to the economic slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and tenants' inability to pay rent. Meanwhile, eviction defense lawyers say they’ve seen an uptick in illegal conduct by landlords in L.A. County, including illegal lockouts and frivolous lawsuits.

Attorney Amy Tannenbaum with Public Counsel says while the actions taken by the county are much-needed, they don’t go far enough.

“The current protections that provide long repayment plans or push off eviction are really not doing enough to provide peace of mind to tenants about what’s going to happen when that rent bill eventually comes due.”

Many local tenants rights groups are calling for a complete stay on eviction proceedings, rent cancellation and direct relief to landlords.

The Board also voted Tuesday to make updates to the county’s rent relief program, to ensure available federal rent relief dollars reach struggling renters and landlords in L.A. County.


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LA County Tells EMTs: Don't Bring Patients Who Are Declared Dead On The Scene To The Hospital

L.A. County paramedics load a potential Covid-19 patient into an ambulance before transporting him to a hospital in Hawthorne. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

As the flood of COVID-19 patients continues to overwhelm local hospitals, L.A. County's EMS Agency has issued a directive for ambulances: Stop transporting individuals whose hearts have stopped on the scene to a hospital.

The directive is effective immeidately and applies to adult patients in "blunt traumatic and nontraumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest" who did not respond to resuscitation.

It's always been the policy of the EMS agency that paramedics can declare a patient dead in the field. Usually, however, paramedics have the option to transport those patients to hospitals, so the hospital staff can make the formal death declaration and work with mortuaries and the deceased's family to make final arrangements.

Now, if the patient is declared dead at the scene, paramedics will work directly with the coroner's office to handle the body, instead of involving the hospital.

The policy is a direct response to "the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on EMS and 9-1-1 receiving hospitals," the directive says.

L.A. County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that paramedics will still make every effort to save a patient.

"There's still CPR, there's a minimum of 20 minutes to get spontaneous circulation back, there's requirements to provide medications in the field, there's requirements to transport certain kinds of individuals, all of that is the same. The only thing that's different, is for someone who really has died, who doesn't have return of circulation after all of those valiant efforts -- [for that person] the emergency department [will not] be involved in the management of the deceased's body."

This comes as over-capacity hospitals in L.A. County are moving ICU beds into spaces like cafeterias, conference rooms and outdoor tents, and making plans to ration care.

You can read the full EMS Agency directive here.

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College Students Could Be Missing Out On Financial Aid. We've Got Tips On Getting More Money

A poster at Alhambra High School explains the various forms of financial aid available for college-bound students. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

When President Obama changed the Free Application For Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to require tax information from two years prior, it was supposed to make it easier for students to get financial help to attend college.

But then the pandemic hit. And now students whose aid packages are based on higher, pre-pandemic income are potentially losing out on millions of dollars in grants, loans and scholarships.

At a time of plummeting college enrollment, a reasonable financial aid package could make all the difference in keeping students on track to get a degree.

"Your understanding of the affordability picture is then going to dictate your decisions about where you decide to apply and what you could actually pay for if you were to get in and have an admissions offer somewhere," said Jake Brymner, Director of Government Relations and External Affairs at the California Student Aid Commission.

But even prospective students can appeal their financial aid offers. Here's how:

Let Schools Know Your Financial Picture Has Changed

Even though students file their FAFSA with the federal government (undocumented students in California can file a California Dream Act Application for state aid), they need to contact individual schools to request a recalculation of their aid packages. Students can do this even if they haven't been accepted yet.

It's officially called professional judgment, and often known simply as a financial aid appeal. The process can vary so it's best to reach out to each school's financial aid office.

Higher education advocates also recently launched an online tool to help students figure out if they're eligible, and write an appeal letter.

Collect Documentation Of Your Current Financial Situation

You'll almost surely have to gather some — and maybe a lot — of paperwork for an appeal. Depending on your circumstances and your school's requirements, this could include your most recent tax returns, pay stubs, bills, and/or unemployment claims.

We're not going to lie, the process can be daunting.

"It requires additional documentation that sometimes isn't available, especially if you have a parent who only works on cash-based payments," said Lina Calderón-Morin, deputy director of the Southern California College Access Network.


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Morning Brief: LA’s Food Scene Takes More Hits

An empty plate. Richard Bell/Unsplash

Good morning, L.A.

For some of us (myself included), the 101 Coffee Shop encapsulated the feeling of moving to Los Angeles from elsewhere in the country. The kitsch, the Googie-inspired decor, the celebrity regulars and the vague air of Hollywood secrets combined to make it a uniquely local experience.

The beloved cafe recently announced that it would be closing for good, due to pandemic-related losses. I’m far from alone in mourning the news, but as my colleague Elina Shatkin points out, the 101 isn’t the only historic eatery to announce its closure as the coronavirus drags on.

Wah's Golden Hen in Virgil Village was in business for 48 years. Unlike the 101, about whose closure some high-profile Twitter users speculated before it was confirmed to Eater LA, Wah’s owners announced the end of their run with a note taped to the restaurant’s front door.

“Just over 30 years ago, we came to America with many hopes and dreams,” it reads, in part. “We soon joined the family business at Golden Hen, where we would raise our children and see many of our dreams fulfilled and more.”

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

What You Need To Know Today

L.A.’s Surge: Health officials say the anticipated post-holiday surge of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths has now begun. A shuttered Long Beach hospital reopened in order to serve non-COVID-19 patients, with authorities hoping it will relieve the burden on other facilities.

The Vaccine: In California, dentists will help to administer the coronavirus vaccine, and there is $300 million in the budget for vaccine distribution.

Pandemic Travel: L.A. County has made mandatory a 10- to 14-day quarantine for people traveling back to the region, but it’s not clear how it will be enforced.

On Set: Representatives for actors, producers and advertisers said they want all local filming to stop immediately to prevent the risk of spreading COVID-19 during the post-holiday surge.

Questioning The Count: Rep. Mike Garcia says he will join other Republicans in objecting to the Electoral College vote count.

Before You Go… Some Things To Do From Your Couch

The 'Ghost Adventures' team gear up for an eerie investigation inside Los Angeles’ Cecil Hotel. (Courtesy of discovery+)

L.A. is in the worst coronavirus surge yet, but many artists are coming up with creative ways to express themselves (and entertain us!) virtually. These online events will help us get through the stay-at-home order, which is vital to our communal health.

You and yours can ease into 2021 with a Golden Girls parody, catch the Marx Brothers on the big screen, go deep into the bat cave(s), and more. (Read the story)

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