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Long Lines And Tech Issues, As Orange County Opens Vaccine Access To Those 65 And Older

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People wait in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site in a parking lot for Disneyland Resort on January 13, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Cars were lined up outside Disneyland Wednesday morning, not to get into the closed theme park, but to get the COVID-19 vaccine on the first day it became available to anyone over the age of 65 in Orange County.

Disneyland is the first of five mass coronavirus vaccination sites that the county plans to open, each with the capacity to vaccinate 7,000 people a day.

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu thanked the Disneyland Resort for making their space available. He noted that as of tomorrow (Thursday), the park will have been closed for 10 months because of the pandemic:

"Normally this parking lot would be hosting families and friends. Heading to Disneyland for a day of fun and magic in Anaheim. But right now, we are living in anything but normal times."

Some who were able to get appointments today reported having to stand in line for nearly two hours.

The Disneyland vaccine site is only open for people who have an appointment. If you show up without one, you'll be turned away, officials say.

Orange County decided to adopt the state's suggestion to expand vaccine distribution to the 65+ age group yesterday. As soon as officials made the announcement, more than 10,000 people scheduled appointments in less than two hours.

All that traffic overloaded the Othena app and website, where you go to make those appointments. If you went to the site today, you got a message saying registration would reopen at 6 p.m.

The chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Andrew Do acknowledged the issues and asked people to be patient:

"We are working on the technical side to increase the bandwidth in order to get people in to at least let them know that we have them in the system. And then when appropriate, we can then send out notices for the people that qualify."

Do added that people who are eligible to get vaccinated at this point should contact their provider first to see how they can get vaccinated through their health network, instead of through a publicly-run site.

As Orange County handles the mad dash, L.A. County officials say they do not have enough vaccine doses to expand access to those 65+. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says she plans to finish vaccinating heathcare workers and nursing home residents before they move on to the next group.

ORANGE COUNTY COVID CASES

READ MORE ABOUT LOCAL VACCINATION PLANS:

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California Lawmakers Eye Corporate Tax To Help Fight Homelessness

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File photo: A homeless encampment on First Street across from City Hall in downtown Los Angeles. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

A new bill would fight homelessness in California by raising the state's corporate tax rate on the most profitable businesses.

The supporters of the "Bring California Home Act" say that would raise $2.4 billion annually.

Los Angeles State Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) is lead author of the bill:

"An ongoing funding source gives local governments desperately needed structure and confidence to implement response plans and programs that combat homelessness."

Rivas says that money could:

  • Create affordable housing and rental assistance for 28,000 people a year
  • Expand emergency shelters for 25,000 people and families
  • Provide permanent housing for 43,000 people
  • Provide additional services such as employment support to 50,000 people

The tax increase would apply to corporations with annual profits of more than $5 million.

READ THE BILL:

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1.4 Million Californians Seek To Restart Their Frozen Unemployment Benefits

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A staffer works to process claims at California's unemployment office, March 30, 2020. (California Employment Development Department)

California’s unemployment department suspended payments to 1.4 million people over the holidays, just as jobless Californians were hopeful about receiving new federal benefits from the latest COVID relief bill.

Now, those with suspended accounts are scrambling to comply with the department’s new fraud prevention guidelines in order to get their payments flowing again.

The department has been contacting recipients in batches, instructing them to complete a new online identity verification process through a website called ID.me.

While some have already succeeded at getting benefits flowing again, others describe an opaque process that offers no clear timeline for resuming payments during a time of great financial hardship.

“I've contacted my representatives, and I was basically told, Well, there are food banks. Hang in there,” said Lindsay Green, an unemployed travel agent in Santa Monica. “It leaves me disappointed and not having any faith in this system.”

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David Valadao Is Sole California Republican To Back Impeachment

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The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232-197 on Wednesday to impeach President Trump for a second time. (Screenshot via CSPAN)

For the first time in history, the U.S. House of Representatives has impeached a president for a second time. And one California Republican crossed the aisle to join Democrats in officially charging President Trump with inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol.

Central Valley Congressman David Valadao was just sworn back into office on Tuesday. The Republican reclaimed his former seat in November, but the ceremony was delayed when he tested positive for COVID-19.

About 24 hours after rejoining the House, Valadao split with the majority of his party and joined nine other Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump. He said Trump’s rhetoric incited rioters who smashed their way into the Capitol, and it was, quote, “un-American, abhorrent, and absolutely an impeachable offense.

Voter registration in Valadao’s district skews heavily Democratic.

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LAPD Ready To Deploy Everyone In Uniform If Pro-Trump Protests Get Violent

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Trump supporters at an Aug. 2020 rally in Beverly Hills. (Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

The FBI has warned of possible armed protests around the country in support of President Trump in the coming days.

There are at least two pro-Trump protests planned for Saturday, one in Beverly Hills and one at L.A. City Hall.

The LAPD said it’s planned for increased activity during inauguration week and will have adequate resources to respond to "any situation."

Tthe department is prepared to go on tactical alert in the case of violence, said Capt. Stacy Spell, adding that everyone in uniform could be deployed if things get out of hand:

"That means not just our patrol officers, but also anybody in detectives, administrative functions, any kind of investigative assignments."

Spell said he wasn't aware of any plans to ask for assistance from the National Guard.

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department "remains prepared to peacefully manage any protests with the appropriate resources and personnel," a spokesman said in a statement.

In a video posted on YouTube, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the department will "honor and defend" the public's right to peaceful protest, "but it has to be in a manner that does not harm our communities."

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California Expands Vaccine Access To Everyone 65 And Older, But LA County Isn't Ready

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A pharmacist at UCI HEalth Center preps the COVID-19 vaccine. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

California's Department of Public Health is expanding access to the COVID-19 vaccines to everyone aged 65 and older, allowing the age group to skip ahead in the eligibility queue. But Los Angeles County won’t be expanding access just yet.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's move puts seniors ahead of first responders, teachers, childcare providers and food and agriculture workers, who are slated to receive vaccines after health care workers and nursing home residents.

In a statement, the governor said:

“There is no higher priority than efficiently and equitably distributing these vaccines as quickly as possible to those who face the gravest consequences.”

But L.A. County won’t start in on the 65+ group until it finishes vaccinating health care workers, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said today. There are still 500,000 to go, she said, adding that the county doesn’t have enough vaccines to achieve its goal of finishing that group’s immunizations by the end of the month.

So far, some 200,000 health care workers and nursing home residents have gotten vaccinated, Ferrer said.

"I know how frustrating it must seem now to folks here in L..A County," she said.

Ferrer said the county has asked the state for more vaccines, so that it can expand to the 65+ age group sooner, but has not yet heard back.

She expressed hope that by next week “we'll be able to enroll many more providers and many more pharmacies [in the vaccination effort], so that they can start in advance booking those appointments” for seniors.

The state plans to roll out a new email/text notification system next week to let people know when they're eligible to receive a vaccine, Gov. Newsom said.

Efforts are ramping up to create mass vaccination sites across the state, including at Dodger Stadium and Disneyland. Newsom said more stadiums and convention fairgrounds will also be converted into vaccination sites.

The change in California's vaccination plan comes a day after the CDC recommended it to help speed up the inoculation process, which has been criticized as moving too slowly. The federal government has also promised to increase vaccine supply to the states.

READ MORE ABOUT LOCAL VACCINATION PLANS:

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Congress Moves To Impeach Trump

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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, walks past members of the National Guard as he arrives at the U.S. Capitol today ahead of an expected House vote impeaching President Donald Trump. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

The House of Representatives is on track to impeach President Trump for the second time in 13 months — which would make him as the only president to receive the rebuke twice.

This time, though, impeachment could be bipartisan. Republicans all opposed the House vote in December 2019, arguing that it was politically driven. But now some GOP lawmakers are joining Democrats in pointing the finger at the president for using rhetoric that helped spark a violent insurrection at the Capitol last Wednesday that left at least five dead.

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Morning Brief: Business As (Un)usual

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Closed storefronts in Los Angeles's fashion district. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Good morning, L.A.

It’s no secret that 2020 was devastating for many businesses. In L.A., the distribution of federal relief loans was both extremely limited and extremely unequal. The city’s attempts to provide relief weren’t much better.

Many businesses were forced to fend for themselves. Speaking with local entrepreneurs, my colleague Emily Guerin found that those who were able to pivot their operations or offer a new product were more likely to stay afloat; those who couldn’t, or didn’t, faced a higher likelihood of closure.

For instance, like many other local eateries, the owners of Wanderlust Creamery in Santa Monica quickly turned to online ordering, shipping pints of ice cream all across the country. Other restaurants opened ghost kitchens. In fact, pandemic-related innovation goes on and on and on.

Still, most are hoping to return to their usual business practices soon — like everything else these days, it’s just a question of when.

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: L.A. County health officials on Tuesday reported 11,994 new cases of coronavirus and 288 new deaths.

The Housing Crisis: Freshman L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León announced a motion for L.A. to double the housing inventory for homeless people to 50,000 units by 2025.

The Vaccine: Gov. Gavin Newsom may adapt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines to everyone ages 65 and up, in effort to speed up vaccine rollout.

Money Matters: Labor groups representing some L.A. city employees have agreed to a tentative deal that would prevent layoffs and furloughs for the next six months.

Policing The Police: The details of LAUSD’s plan to cut its school police department’s budget are still in limbo, after six months.


Before You Go… Here Are LA’s Most Epic Breakfast Burritos

A birria breakfast burrito at Macheen. (Cesar Hernandez for LAist)

Breakfast burritos are pure comfort. They're cheap. They're filling. They offer the maximum bang for your caloric buck. They're a blank slate for creative line cooks. And they're delicious.

In Southern California, the home of the fast food industry, the breakfast burrito is a pillar at burger joints, many of which are immigrant-owned. Scan their menus and you're likely to find burritos coexisting alongside gyros, tacos, burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshakes.

We could all use a bit of comfort, especially in the pandemic era. So read on.


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