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FDA Warns COVID-19 Test Commonly Used In LA Is Faulty

A COVID-19 testing site at the Rose Bowl. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The FDA issued an alert this week saying the COVID-19 test made by the California company Curative poses a “risk of false results, particularly false negative results.” The agency didn’t specify the false error rate.

Curative has provided tens of thousands of tests for city and county sites throughout Los Angeles since last April.

The FDA also said swabbing the nose or cheek "must be directly observed and directed … by a trained healthcare worker." Currently at city of L.A. testing sites, patients are given instructions and told to swab themselves.

In a statement, Curative quoted Dr. Brian Monahan, Congress’s attending physician, as calling the company's test “the most accurate available.” Curative said Monahan issued a memo on Monday in which he said false negatives are “a problem for all coronavirus tests.”

The L.A. County Department of Health Services, which uses Curative tests at some of its sites, echoed Monahan’s assertion, saying in a statement that tests of the same type face “similar issues” with false negatives.

Curative said the FDA was aware of the test’s “limitations” when it authorized it for emergency use. The company said the test’s performance has not changed, and that it’s working with the FDA “to address their concerns and these limitations.”

The county encourages people who think they may have been exposed to the virus to quarantine for two weeks even if they test negative.

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Congresswoman Karen Bass Says Trump Should Be Immediately Removed From Office

Rep. Karen Bass speaks during a July news conference in Washington D.C. (Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

Rep. Karen Bass is among the Southern California members of Congress condemning yesterday's actions at the U.S. Capitol. She says Jan. 6 was a tragic day in U.S. history, one that will go down in infamy as the day the President of the United States incited a riot and attempted a coup.

In an interview with our newsroom, Bass said she agrees with calls for President Trump to be immediately removed from office, which could happen under the 25th Amendment.

The amendment includes provisions for the removal of a sitting president, if it's determined that individuals is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." That's a big if.

Bass says she doesn't think it's likely:

"I don't have confidence that members of the cabinet, who I believe are as corrupt as President Trump is, would actually vote to kick him out."

If the president is not removed via the 25th Amendment, Bass supports impeaching him again, but she doubts enough Republican senators would support removing Trump from office — a vote that requires a two-thirds majority.

Bass, a Democrat who serves on the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees, represents the 37th District.


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School Administrators Encourage Classroom Discussions On The Violence In D.C.

Pro-Trump insurrectionists clash with police and security forces as they storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

With school districts starting their spring semesters, education leaders are offering guidance on how teachers can lead sensitive discussions on this week's mob siege of the U.S. Capitol.

The L.A. County Office of Education compiled and distributed a list of existing outside resources, including one from an education non-profit, Facing History and Ourselves, that was quickly updated to reference Wednesday's violence.

The guide encourages teachers to practice self-reflection and talk with their colleagues before coming to class. In the classroom, they might consider reevaluating or developing a class contact to set ground rules for conversations.

Long Beach Unified took it a step further, developing guidance specific to the district. It includes some general tips and suggestions for teachers:

  • Make time to talk and more time to listen
  • Monitor your own emotions and pause to check your personal beliefs
  • Offer hope and affirm student safety

On Thursday, LAUSD issued a statement as well:

“...The Division of Instruction and the Office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity have compiled resources about elections, presidential inaugurations and related civil unrest that educators can integrate into their lessons in the days and weeks ahead. These resources include lesson plans, activities and support to help teachers and administrators deal with sensitive topics and establish a classroom environment in which students are free to express their point of view.”

Brent Smiley teaches early world history and American history to middle school students at the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies in Reseda, part of LAUSD. His students don’t start the second semester until Tuesday, but Smiley watched the news from D.C. with lesson planning in mind.

“As an American I was horrified by what I saw,” Smiley said. “As an American history teacher, I was kind of giddy.”

Next week, Smiley’s American history class will begin a new section on the U.S. Constitution, which he plans to use as the general framework for a seminar where students ask the questions.

“None of this is outside the curriculum at all,” Smiley said, “Overall, what’s the message? That the Constitution works. In each step it was followed, until they broke into the Capitol.”

Smiley is confident that teachers are prepared to understand the needs and emotions in their classrooms.

“Sitting in every classroom is a professional teacher who knows their kids better than anyone else in the chain of command.” Smiley said. “The message to the teachers? Go teach.”

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Homeless Deaths Keep Rising In LA, Fueled Partly By Fentanyl Overdoses

The number of deaths among people experiencing homelessness has doubled since 2014. (L.A. Department of Public Health)

Deaths among people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County continued to rise in 2019 and 2020, according to a report out today from the county’s Department of Public Health. There were a record 1,267 homeless deaths recorded in 2019, a 14% increase from 2018. The number has more than doubled since 2014.

The leading cause of death for unhoused Angelenos in recent years has been drug overdose, mostly involving methamphetamine. But county officials say they’re worried about a dramatic uptick in fentanyl overdoses. The synthetic opioid was involved in twice as many overdose deaths among L.A.’s homeless in the first seven months of last year as in all of 2019.

The overall mortality rate among people experiencing homelessness rose only slightly in 2019, after rising steadily by more than 30% in each of the previous four years. That’s because the total number of homeless people in L.A. County also surged, keeping pace with the increase in deaths.

The report, which was delayed due to the health department’s pandemic response, also provides some data for the first seven months of 2020. Between January and July, 929 people died while homeless in L.A. County, compared with 736 people in the same period in 2019. Just 36 of those deaths were caused by COVID-19, while 273 died of an overdose.

While Public Health has not yet reported on the number of deaths for the remainder of 2020, preliminary numbers from the Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office indicate the county will reach another record-high: 1,383 deaths.

Other leading causes of death for L.A.’s homeless include coronary heart disease and transportation-related injuries. From 2017 to 2019, the unhoused population was 17 times more likely to die of a transportation-related injury than the general public.

Many of the report’s recommendations focus on stopping drug overdoses, including bolstering substance use disorder treatment and supporting legislation to allow supervised drug injection sites.

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LA And Long Beach School Districts Have Concerns About Gov. Newsom’s School Reopening Plan

The entrance to the Long Beach Polytechnic campus. (Megan Garvey / LAist)

Superintendents from seven of the state’s largest school districts, including Los Angeles and Long Beach Unified, have sent a letter to Governor Newsom pushing back on his newly proposed reopening plan for schools.

Newsom’s Safer Schools for All Plan, released in late December, encourages California’s 1,037 public school districts to draft plans for offering in-person instruction, once COVID-19 cases reach a low enough threshold.

After those district’s reopening guidelines are approved by local labor unions, county and state officials, and adopted, they can be eligible to receive $450 per student. For LAUSD, that could mean at least $180 million.

But local school districts are not ready to jump on board yet. The letter argues that Newsom’s plan disadvantages large school districts, like LAUSD, that serve low-income families—many of whom are infected with coronavirus at disproportionate rates.

If those schools can’t open for in-person learning because of surging case rates, local districts worry they could lose out on the money offered. The letter calls Newsom’s proposal a reversal of the state’s commitment to equitable funding:

“Affluent communities where family members can work from home will see schools open with more funding. Low-income communities bearing the brunt of the virus will see schools remain closed with lower funding.”

The state’s plan recognizes the potential for unequal support, and promises to weight funding for “districts serving students from low-income families, English learners and foster youth.”

Instead of that, the signatory superintendents want money to be available for all schools.

Superintendent Jill Baker of Long Beach Unified says she signed the letter because she supports reopening schools, but wants to see a statewide standard for doing that, instead of leaving it up to individual districts, as the Safer Schools Plan suggests.

“None of the school districts were consulted about the plan before it was released,” Baker said. “The letter was an effort to describe what we think needs to be done from here, as the largest urban districts in the state of California.”

Baker says Long Beach Unified might only receive residual funding according to Newsom’s plan, after smaller districts with lower case rates get the first opportunities.

As of January 5, Los Angeles County had a daily new case rate of 65.8 positive cases of coronavirus out of 100,000 residents, adjusted for testing. For classes to reopen, a county must report less than 28 positive cases out of 100,000 residents over a seven-day average.

“Our proposal is to think about an equity-centered approach, to look at the variation of needs across the state,” Baker said.

Along with the demands about equal funding, the letter outlines several other declarations and recommendations:

  • The districts say they are ready to open for in-person instruction whenever health standards are met and the state determines schools should be open

  • Basic reopening guidelines should be standardized for every school district. Once safe, all districts should be mandated to offer in person instruction

  • Public health funds, not money from Proposition 98, should be used for school-site COVID-19 testing and other health-related costs

  • COVID-19 testing and vaccinations should be integrated with schools and funded by the state

  • Supplemental state funding should go towards reopening special education in-person

  • The state should explain how COVID-19 caseload thresholds are determined for deciding if in-person instruction is safe

UPDATE, Jan. 7, 12 pm: This article has been updated to reflect the coronavirus case rate throughout Los Angeles County.

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Morning Brief: A Dark Day

A protester is seen covered in blood after a fight broke out during a protest in support of President Donald Trump in Los Angeles on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images)

Good morning, L.A.

If you’re not sure what to think or how to feel after yesterday, you’re not alone. As the U.S. Congress prepared to confirm the votes of the Electoral College, pro-Trump insurrectionists invaded the Capitol building — scaling walls, breaking windows and breaching the House and Senate chambers and lawmakers’ offices.

Law enforcement eventually secured the area, but not before the reality of what we witnessed hit Americans who were paying attention.

Calling the insurgency “reprehensible,” Gov. Gavin Newsom added that it was an “assault to our democratic institutions.” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti echoed Newsom’s sentiment, saying that it was a “dark day for America.”

But the events weren’t limited to the nation’s capitol. In downtown L.A., Trump supporters clashed violently with counter-protesters, with several people bloodied and reportedly arrested. The gathering was eventually declared an unlawful assembly by LAPD.

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

What You Need To Know Today

Mental Wellness: If the events of yesterday — or the entire past year — have you feeling depressed, overwhelmed or otherwise not like yourself, here’s our guide to mental health support.

L.A.’s Surge: Another deadly day brings the total number of L.A. County residents who have died from coronavirus to 11,328. California's Public Health Officer has ordered hospitals to postpone non-serious surgeries and to accept patients from other hospitals that are over-capacity.

Uproar In The Capitol: Several SoCal members of Congress described their experience as the House chamber was evacuated: “I just never thought I'd see a day like this.” Joe Biden addressed the insurgency. Members of Congress reconvened on Wednesday evening to continue the process of certifying President-elect Joe Biden's White House win.

L.A. Kids: An L.A.-based therapist offers tips for parents on how to talk to kids about the D.C. insurrection.

Getting Groceries: Vons confirmed that it will lay off its delivery drivers and will instead use "third party" services.

Coming Up: From the vaccine rollout to drought and wildfires to the pandemic’s long-term effects on children, here are the stories our reporters will be following closely in 2021.

L.A. History: Biddy Mason, a formerly enslaved woman, went on to become one of the most important — and one of the wealthiest — landowners, midwives and philanthropists in early-American Los Angeles.

Before You Go… WeHo Gets Artsy

A sign for available restaurant space for lease is seen amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, is seen on May 15, 2020, on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Windows of WeHo program aims to extend a helping hand to the local artist community while also bringing light, color, and hopefully business to struggling stores.

“We’ve heard that over 95% of our artists are reporting a loss of income,” said Rebecca Ehemann, West Hollywood’s acting arts manager. “And in the creative city ... that number is significant, because artists are small businesses.”

The city is inviting artists to submit applications online, which will then be reviewed by the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission The city expects to have eight to 10 finalists who will each receive a $1,000 reward.

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