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The First Covid Case In LA Was Discovered One Year Ago Today
The first case of COVID-19 in L.A. County was discovered one year ago today, Jan. 26, 2020.
Since then, more than one million people in the county have tested positive for the virus, and nearly 16,000 people have died.
Sadly, it's far from over. January 2021 is on track to be the county's deadliest month in the pandemic yet. Today, L.A. County health officials reported 291 new deaths and 5,927 new cases of the coronavirus.
Hospitalizations tend to be a good indicator of where the pandemic is heading. As of today, there are 6,307 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in L.A. County. Good news: that's about 1,600 fewer people than two weeks ago.
Yesterday, the state lifted the Regional Stay-At-Home Order and moved all counties back into the "Blueprint for a Safer Economy" color-coded tiers. Los Angeles County, along with the majority of the state, followed the state's lead and re-entered the most restrictive "purple tier," meaning outdoor dining can reopen (that will happen on Friday). Spa services and several other sectors can now re-open indoor services, at limited capacity.
County health director Barbara Ferrer said Angelenos should remain vigilant:
“COVID-19 transmission remains very high in Los Angeles County. And while we issued a new health order that allows some businesses to reopen, this does not mean that we have stopped the spread of the virus. The simple fact of the matter is that if we are not more careful than we have been in the past when sectors have reopened, case counts will rise again, creating the possibility of another surge. I know we’ve been battling this virus for a year now and all of us are tired of the restrictions, but we need to continue to be vigilant for a while longer."
Here's the article we published about the new coronavirus, one year ago, today:
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE NUMBERS:
LA County Supes Are Given The Legal Options For Removing Elected Sheriff
Last Fall, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors directed its lawyer to figure out how Sheriff Alex Villanueva could be impeached or removed, citing eroding community trust and their ongoing battles with him over transparency, accountability, deputy misconduct and other issues.
Today the supervisors got a report back on those options, although it’s not clear they’ll act on any of them.
County Counsel Rodrigo Castro-Silva said there are four possibilities:
- Amend the county charter. “The California Constitution allows a county charter to provide for the removal of an elected sheriff, as well as other elected officers. And the attorney general has given an opinion that a county charter may grant a board of supervisors the authority to remove a sheriff for cause by a four-fifths vote,” Castro-Silva said.
- Recall the sheriff. “The California Elections Code establishes the specific procedures for placing on the ballot the recall of an elected official, including the sheriff,” he said.
- A civil grand jury lodges an accusation of willful or corrupt misconduct that leads to a jury trial and conviction.
- The state attorney general — or a private party with the AG’s permission — files an action challenging the sheriff’s right to continue to hold office, which would lead to a trial.
The sheriff, who was elected to his seat in Nov., 2018, passed the halfway point in his four-year term last month.
Supervisor Holly Mitchell said just increasing oversight of Villanueva “will never be enough without good faith cooperation and collaboration from the sheriff, and in the absence of that, I believe we have a responsibility to act.”
But it’s unclear if the supervisors will act. The board accepted the county counsel’s report, but none of the supervisors offered a motion for further steps.
Villanueva phoned in to the board meeting and talked about what he called a well-funded, nationally-coordinated effort to delegitimize law enforcement.
“People are tired of political attacks and spin, it doesn’t make their lives any safer,” he said. “They would be more encouraged to see us work together to defeat the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and violence.”
Mitchell and other supervisors called attention to the news that California’s Department of Justice has opened a wide-ranging civil rights probe into the Sheriff’s Department. Mitchell called the announcement “alarming” and “an embarrassment.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she remained opposed to taking action to unilaterally remove the sheriff, adding, “it’s not within our jurisdiction of this board to take voting power away from the people.”
Newsom Recall Effort Gains Momentum
The people behind an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom say they only need 300,000 more signatures to get it on the ballot.
Proponents have until March 17 to gather the 1.5 million verified signatures to make it happen.
Anita Chabria is a Sacramento-based reporter for the L.A. Times. She told our newsroom's public affairs show, AirTalk, that the governor remains somewhat popular. But the longer the pandemic goes on, the more upset some people are getting:
"The governor is facing a lot of anger right now from people who are confused about vaccines, frustrated about schools, [and] angry about their business being shut down ... so there is a real populist frustration with the Governor right now."
In an L.A. Times investigation, Chabria and colleague Paige St. John found recall effort ties to QAnon, Proud Boys and other far right groups.
But the movement could still be a major threat to the Democratic Governor. If enough signatures are gathered, the recall vote would likely happen in the Fall.
Only one California governor has ever been recalled — Democrat Gray Davis back in 2003. He was replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
You can listen to the full interview with Chabria and discussion of the recall effort here:
All LA City Firefighters Have Been Offered The Vaccine; About 60% Have Accepted It
On Jan. 8, we reported that only about 48% of the LAFD's 3,400 sworn members had received the vaccine, despite being offered some of the first spots in line.
Now, over two weeks later, that number has gone up to about 60%. LAFD's Public Information Officer Erik Scott says as of Friday, 2,027 of the department's members have been vaccinated, of 3,400. That's approximately 59.6%.
Scott said this in early Jan.: “The LAFD is a reflection of society at large – most want the vaccine for obvious reasons, and some are hesitant for a variety of reasons.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday at a press conference that he's heard from firefighters that more are choosing to get the vaccine after seeing their colleagues get it, with no negative side effects:
"I think there were some people who were waiting for that first round to go and we expect that to be a steady trickle, that we'll continue to get those numbers up to two-thirds or three-quarters [of all LA firefighters]... three quarters is the magic number that the county is pushing for."
The mayor said for now, the department will continue to educate and encourage employees to get the vaccine before implementing any enforcement measures.
But Garcetti is encouraging all LAFD members to get their shot:
"I would just encourage every single firefighter, follow your union chief, follow your chief, [follow] their example, and get the vaccine. You're at that front of the line. You should. And we encourage you to do that."
The LAFD Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money for the fire department, is still using gifts to incentivize firefighters to get both doses of the vaccine, including a raffle to win prizes for their station.
Individual prizes include bicycles, gift cards and home security cameras.
READ MORE ABOUT VACCINES:
- Most LA County Adults Could Be Vaccinated By This Summer — If We Double The Pace
- Long Lines For Vaccinations At Dodger Stadium May Be Getting Shorter
- At This Rate, California Won't Finish Vaccinating 65+ Until June
- Here's Why Getting A Coronavirus Vaccine In LA County Is So Hard
This Next Huge Rainstorm Could Bring Debris Flows
Southern California’s about to get walloped by an atmospheric river that’s expected to drop between one to six inches of precipitation across different parts of the region between Thursday and Friday.
It could be enough to make a dent in the heavy rain deficit we find ourselves in, put a good amount of snow on our mountains, but potentially cause debris flows, especially in areas that recently burned.
The U.S. Geological Survey has a map detailing the risk associated with the different burn areas and it highlights what you’d expect.
The hills that the Apple, El Dorado, Silverado, Lake and Ranch 2 fires mercilessly tore through last year are all at an elevated risk for debris flows.
Soil is free to be eroded by rain, as the vegetation that long held it in place is gone. And the waxy, water repelling layer that often forms on the surface during a fire is ready to carry boulders and any remaining trees, downhill.
That said, it’s the Bobcat fire burn area that’s of most concern, according to Jason Kean, a research hydrologist with the USGS landslide hazards program.
“This is an area that has a long history of debris flows after a wildfire,” he said. “It’s probably got the highest threat in the world for this type of hazard.”
He attributes that to a combination of steep topography, a high frequency of fires, and a large population of people living on and along the bottom of the mountains.
“A garden variety storm can cause problems,” Kean said.
Look out for rainfall that exceeds a general debris flow-triggering threshold of half an inch per hour.
“We’re always prepared for things to go crazy, but there isn’t that anticipation that this storm system will bring ... significant problems,” said Stephen Frasher, public information officer with Public Works.
“Driveways and small roads near the burn areas could experience more mud than otherwise might be the case.”
Over the next day the department will update its debris and mudflow potential forecast, which is another tool that can help residents understand how much risk they’re in.
The National Weather Service in both Oxnard and San Diego could issue flash flood warnings. And in L.A. County, if it’s bad enough, you could get one of those deafening wireless emergency alerts telling you it’s time to evacuate.
Another reminder why in disaster-prone Southern California, it’s always good to have a go bag ready just in case.
LA Marks One-Year Anniversary Of Kobe Bryant’s Death
Today marks one year since the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others crashed in foggy conditions into a hillside near Calabasas. All were killed. The National Transportation Safety Board is set to release its report on the cause of the crash Feb. 9.
Northridge Congressman Brad Sherman and California Senator Dianne Feinstein have also re-introduced the "Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act," which would require terrain awareness equipment on all helicopters with six or more passengers.
The helicopter carrying Bryant did not have that gear, despite its being recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Kobe’s death rocked L.A., and gave way to myriad tributes to the late basketball star. Fans poured into the area around the Staples Center in the weeks following his death, setting up memorials, paying their respects and communing with other mourners.
Social media lit up today with murals, photos and memories of Bryant and Gianna. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, recently posted a note to Instagram about Mambacita (Gianna’s nickname).
"I will never understand why/how this tragedy could’ve happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn’t seem real. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud."
View this post on Instagram
In his farewell speech after his final game with the Lakers in 2016, Bryant had this to say:
"I grew up a die-hard, I mean a die-hard Laker fan. Die-hard. I mean, I knew everything about every player that's ever played here. So, to be drafted, and then traded to this organization, and to spend 20 years here, I mean, you can't write something better than this."
Why Is CA So Slow At Vaccinating Residents? One Expert Says State Needs A More Centralized Plan
California's rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines is one of the slowest in the country. Only 2.5 million residents have received shots so far, out of a state with 40 million people.
Nick Vyas is the executive director of USC's Center for Global Supply Chain Management. He says the state's approach – which has been to leave most of the planning and distribution of the vaccine to counties and hospitals – simply has not worked.
Vyas say responding to a pandemic is like fighting a war. That requires centralized planning.
If you have finite resources and a finite capacity, he explained, you should look at the entire state as one system.
"Vaccine distribution is a gigantic supply chain puzzle," he said. "And it cannot just be solved by a local community and municipality working independently [of the state]."
Vyas was a guest on KPCC's public affairs show, AirTalk. He said California's density, size and geography also factor into the slow rollout.
You can listen to the full conversation with Vyas here:
READ MORE ABOUT THE SLOW VACCINE ROLLOUT:
- Here's Why Getting A Coronavirus Vaccine In LA County Is So Hard
- SoCal Residents: Here's How To Figure Out When And Where You Can Get The Vaccine
LAUSD Plans To Apply For State Funding To Reopen Schools To Show ‘Good Faith’
Despite a litany of objections to a state plan for reopening schools, the Los Angeles Unified School District will submit a safety proposal in time to meet a Feb. 1 application deadline to receive millions in state grant money, the district announced in a statement today.
If the district were to miss the Feb. 1 deadline, LAUSD would miss out on $70 million in grant money from the state. The district could stand to lose another $205 million if a plan still isn’t submitted by March 1.
“We intend to send a draft application to Sacramento as a good-faith effort to demonstrate our commitment to reopen schools as soon as possible and in the safest way possible,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement.
Nevertheless, Beutner wants to make it clear that he’s not happy with the funding stipulations set by the state.
The Safe Schools For All plan, released by Gov. Gavin Newsom in late December, encourages districts to reopen for in-person instruction, once COVID-19 cases are low enough. If districts draft a safety plan with the support of labor unions, county and state health departments, they can be eligible for $450 per student once campuses reopen.
“It’s important that all in our school community understand schools in Los Angeles Unified are prepared to begin in-person instruction as soon as health conditions allow and they also understand how flawed the state’s approach has been in establishing this process,” Beutner said in the statement.
Superintendents of California’s seven biggest school districts, including Beutner, believe that plan is inequitable. In a letter sent to Newsom earlier this month, they argue that high COVID caseloads in metropolitan regions, such as L.A., would prevent their schools from reopening anytime soon. That would leave large districts to continue distance learning, while smaller, more affluent districts can reopen and receive extra state money.
The application requires school districts to submit both a safety plan and a ratified agreement with labor unions by Feb. 1 to be eligible for the funding. Beutner said the plan has long been ready, but it’s unlikely LAUSD will reach an agreement with United Teachers Los Angeles in time to meet the deadline.
“It is not reasonable to assume we can reach an agreement [with UTLA] based on a state health standard that is still being reviewed by the legislature and is not well explained or fully understood by many,” Beutner explained in the statement.
Beutner told KPCC’s Airtalk with Larry Mantle on Monday that LAUSD and UTLA are still bargaining over a general reopening plan. This week, they plan to consult with health experts to determine if the state’s COVID-19 case threshold for reopening should apply in Los Angeles.
In a press conference last week, UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz confirmed that the union is continuing to bargain with LAUSD over the reopening plan, but intends to release an agreement over small-group specialized instruction first.
UTLA did not respond to a request for comment on Beutner’s plan to submit a draft application to the state.
One More Way The Pandemic Is Hitting The Poor Harder: Water Bills
At least 1.6 million California households, or one in eight, have water debt and could face shutoffs when Gov. Gavin Newsom ends the state of emergency.
Unlike other utilities, California offers no statewide water bill assistance. Fewer than half of Californians get water from a system that offers any. Most smaller systems can’t afford to. Those that do provide limited help to few people, like San Francisco, where just 4.5% of eligible customers get aid.
The result: less than 20% of low-income households receive any assistance. Water disconnections plagued Californians long before coronavirus — at least 500,000 people experienced shutoffs in 2019, according to an estimate from the California State Water Resources Control Board.
“We were already very concerned,” said water board chairman E. Joaquin Esquivel, but the pandemic has “further unearthed the stress cracks.”
South Los Angeles is at the epicenter of the crisis. While average debt is $500, at least 155,000 households — mostly in Los Angeles — owe more than $1,000.
READ THE FULL STORY AND EXPLORE A MAP OF AREAS WITH WATER DEBT:
CA COVID-19 Update: How ICU Projections Led To Reopening; 'If You Miss A Friend, You Can Go Out To Eat'
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly provided an update on COVID-19 in California. You can watch the full press conference above, and read highlights below.
WHY THE STATE LIFTED REGIONAL STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS
Dr. Ghaly offered a more detailed explanation of the decision to lift California's regional stay-at-home order. Regions entered the stay-at-home orders based on current numbers, he said, while reopening is based on four-week ICU projections.
Ghaly has said the projections are based in part on the fact that around 12% of current cases will be hospitalized in 12 days, then 12% of that group will become ICU patients. Ghaly went through how the regional stay-at-home order that went into effect in early December helped to push down COVID-19 numbers, including spread and hospitalizations, and thus saving lives.
There are currently 54 counties in the strictest reopening tier, purple, including all of Southern California. There are just three counties in the red tier, and just one county in the orange tier, with none in the least restrictive yellow tier.
HOW ICU PROJECTIONS ARE MADE
The state's four-week projections are based on:
- Current estimated ICU capacity
- Current community transmission
- Current regional case rates
- Proportion of cases admitted to the ICU
Current projections show 33.3% availability of ICU beds in the Southern California region four weeks from now.
Here are the formulas used to make those projections:
WHAT CAN I DO NOW THAT THINGS ARE REOPENING?
Dr. Ghaly described what people can do now in purple tier counties with stay-at-home orders lifted. These activities include, according to a slide shown by Ghaly:
- "If you miss a friend, you can go out to eat outside at a restaurant together"
- "Visit a salon for a haircut or nail services with some modifications"
- "Kids (and adults) can visit a local park, wearing masks, to play"
But he stressed the importance of continuing to stay physically distanced and keep your mask on as much as possible.
MOVING TO AGE-BASED VACCINATION DISTRIBUTION, BUT STILL AWAITING DETAILS
The state has been working on simplifying its vaccine eligibility framework, according to Government Operations Secretary Yolanda Richardson. Those getting immunized now are health workers and those 65 and older, and after them will come education and child care workers, first responders, and food and agriculture workers.
Gov. Newsom said yesterday that after that group, the process will change and be based on age. The California Department of Public Health says this will allow the state to scale up capacity, and will help get the vaccine to disproportionately impacted communities.
Newsom said Ghaly would provide more details on the age-based approach today, but he didn't. It turns out that "[T]he forthcoming age ranges have yet to be announced, and may vary based on the amount of vaccine supply," according to Darrel Ng, spokesman for the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. "For example," he told us in an emailed statement, "lots of supply may mean a bigger age range becoming eligible at one time, whereas continued limited supply may mean a smaller age range."
We asked Ng where younger people with preexisting medical conditions will fit in the new approach, but he has not yet responded.
The state is also working to standardize vaccine information and data, as well as addressing supply by both administering what the state has as quickly as possible and seeking additional supply. The state plans to build a statewide vaccination network, Richardson said. It is looking into using third-party administrators to help with vaccine distribution.
The network will include public health systems, pharmacies, health systems, public hospitals, community health clinics, pop-up and mobile sites. The state plans to allocate vaccine to those who are vaccinating quickly and safely, to help speed up the process.
As part of the equity goals, the state will be working to allocate vaccines to make sure there is access for low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
LATEST COVID-19 NUMBERS
There were 17,028 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, which Ghaly said may reflect some weekend testing delays. But it still came in below the seven-day average of 22,317 new cases per day, which he cited as a positive sign.
The test positivity rate over the past two weeks is currently 9%, with the seven-day positivity down to 7.9%. The 14-day positivity rate is down one-third over the past two weeks, from 13.5% on January 12.
COVID-19 hospitalizations are down 20.4% over the past two weeks, while COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations are down 10.6% over the same period.
State Audit Finds California’s Unemployment Department Failed To Plan For A Recession, Causing Widespread Payment Delays
In a scathing report published Tuesday, the California State Auditor’s office says the state’s unemployment department failed to plan for a recession, leading to widespread payment delays for jobless Californians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The audit finds the Employment Development Department (EDD) is plagued with many of the same problems it encountered during the 2008-2009 recession.
Over more than 10 years, the agency did little to address these long-standing issues, according to the report. EDD’s unemployment branch did not begin planning for a recession until 2019, and had no comprehensive plan in place when the COVID pandemic struck.
The audit finds that EDD’s failings led to a number of problems as claims surged between March and September of 2020, including:
- Initial payments were delayed on nearly 40% of claims.
- Nearly half of claims were flagged for time-intensive manual review rather than being processed automatically.
- The department’s call center answered less than 1% of calls early in the pandemic.
- Calls that did get through were often unresolved, because new staffers could not answer all claims-related questions until they completed nine months of training.
- The department failed to answer hundreds of thousands of online questions, marking many as “resolved” without responding.
The audit was released one day after EDD officials held a press call to highlight widespread fraud in the state’s unemployment system. They said at least $11.4 billion in payments since March 2020 have been confirmed as fraudulent, and more payments are currently under investigation.
Department officials said new efforts to fight fraud are helping to weed out scammers early in the claims process. New applicants must complete an identity verification process through the website ID.me.
The audit found that the implementation of ID.me has sped up claims processing, with more than 90% of applications now being processed automatically.
However, the audit also found that the new identification process has been a barrier to many legitimate applicants. The report found that 20% of people who tried to use ID.me couldn’t successfully use the platform to validate their identity.
If You Got The First Vaccine Dose At An LA County Site, You Should Get An Email About Your Second Shot
If you’ve already received your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you might be wondering: Where do I get my second shot? Do I get an automatic appointment? Do I need to set 20 calendar notifications? How will I know where and when to go? Is someone going to tell me what's going on? HELP.
Suffice it to say, there has been a lot of confusion about this (and plenty of eligible county residents still haven’t been able to book an appointment for their first shot).
Here's what the Los Angeles County public health officials said via Twitter on Jan. 24, about second dose notifications:
“Residents who receive their first dose of the vaccine at a County-run large capacity vaccination site will be provided the date and location to receive their second dose, and automatically registered for their second dose appointment. They will also get email reminders.”
On Jan. 25, the department sent out another Tweet to clarify further -- explaining that second dose appointment reminders will be sent before the appointment, not necessarily right after your first shot. The appointments are automatically booked at the same location where you received your first shot, 21 days later. Again, this is only for county-run sites.
For residents who received the vaccine at a large county run site, emails confirming second dose appointments will be sent before your next appointment. They will be at the same location and time as your first dose, 21 days later.— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) January 26, 2021
We appreciate your patience.
In case you're confused about what this means (as you might very well be, seeing as it is very confusing), these are the county-run sites they're referring to:
- Pomona Fairplex
- The Forum
- Magic Mountain
- County Office of Education (Downey, CA)
We've heard that emails have already gone out to some people, so check your inbox and spam folder.
If you didn’t get your first dose at one of these sites, the county says you’ll have to register for the second appointment with that first provider. Dodger Stadium for example is operated by the city, not the county, so that's a totally different system, operated by Carbon Health.
Another caveat — as of Jan. 26, the above information about getting an email reminder for your second dose apointment is not on LADPH’s appointment website.
So, if you or someone you know needs this information and missed the Tweet, you might not have gotten the info.
begging LADPH to put this on their website. Twitter is great, but not everyone is on it. https://t.co/ToPgo5C8zR— Caitlin Hernández (@caitlinherdez) January 25, 2021
Right now, the groups eligible for the vaccine are long-term care residents and staff, health care workers and those 65-and-older — not exactly Twitter's core user demographic.
We will post more information about second doses as it becomes available.
Also, if you did get your vaccine from one of these large county sites and you didn’t get an email, we want to know about it. Get in touch with community engagement reporter Carla Javier by filling out this form.
UPDATE at 5:30 p.m.
We finally have some clarity about booking your second dose if you got your vaccine at a city-run site, like Dodger Stadium, which is operated by Carbon Health.
Here's the deal:
- Starting this week, if you get a first shot through a city vaccination site, you will be automatically booked for a second dose, which will be shared with you via text (with the option to reschedule if you absolutely can't make that appointment) within four days.
- For those of you who got your first dose before this switch, someone from the city or Carbon Health will reach out to you, to schedule your second dose appointment.
- The city is prioritizing second doses right now, given the limited supply.
As always, if you have other general questions about the vaccine, drop them here:
Morning Brief: Reporter Ryan Fonseca Explains The Story Behind The Story
Good morning, L.A.
Every so often, local officials implement regulations or changes to make the streets safer for pedestrians and bikes. There’s the Slow Streets program, two-way bike lanes, new crosswalk signals, and more.
But as KPCC/LAist’s transportation reporter Ryan Fonseca found while looking into the death of four-year-old Alessa Fajardo, who was fatally struck by a driver while crossing a Koreatown intersection on her way to preschool, changes aren’t being made fast enough to prevent tragedy.
Ryan spoke with me about who is really at fault in cases like this, and what’s being done — or not done — to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
In your article, you talk about how there were more than 100 pedestrian and bicyclist deaths the year that Alessa was killed. How did you decide to focus the story on the Fajardo family?
I remember seeing the breaking news and headlines on Twitter, back in October 2019, that a little girl had been hit by a driver and killed while walking to school with her mom. She was literally just feet away from her school, crossing like she normally did in the morning, and was killed.
I wasn’t the only one in the newsroom feeling pained by that news, and it just got me thinking about how local news was covering it. Immediately, the term used to describe it was “tragic accident.” The police were saying that, and reporters were reiterating it. And so that just stood out as kind of a striking word to use.
I've heard you talk about how using the word “accident” to describe such deaths is a misnomer. Can you say more about that?
I think we treat “accident” like a neutral term, because we've been using it for so long. But “accident” implies that there is no reason for this happening; like it was this unavoidable tragedy that couldn't have been prevented, and no one's really responsible or on the hook for it.
When you look more closely, though, and see that a huge percentage of vehicle collisions are the result of reckless drivers going over the speed limit, people being distracted, making unsafe turns, not yielding to pedestrians, not following the rules of the road, the word “accident” seems that much more irresponsible.
The other part of this is that L.A. officials have long known where the deadliest places in the city to be a pedestrian are, by which I mean the places where drivers are most likely to kill people who are not in cars. The city has a plan in place to supposedly address the high rate of people who are killed, called the Vision Zero program. But we’re over five years into this program, and traffic deaths have actually gone up.
From a city perspective, this wasn’t just a freak accident or a random occurrence. Taking all of that together, calling what happened to Alessa Fajardo an “accident” seems like an injustice.
What tools and solutions could the city implement to make the road safer, that they are either not implementing or slow to roll out?
It’s anything from actions that are relatively cheap and easy to do, like restriping crosswalks and putting in left turn arrows, to bigger changes like redesigning the roadways to include protected bike lanes.
There’s something called a pedestrian head start, which gives pedestrians a three-to-seven second head start in a crosswalk before cars can begin to move. It’s been on the docket for a possible improvement at the very crosswalk where Alessa was killed, but still has not been funded.
That kind of eats away at me a bit, because I just think about if that had been in place, Alessa and her mother, Erica, would have been, theoretically, several more seconds through the intersection. And they could have been out of harm's way.
How is the Fajardo family doing these days?
I first met them just a few months after this happened, so it was very rough for them. Alessa’s toys and all her possessions were still in the apartment. They showed me her lunchbox that she was carrying when she was killed.
They’re looking for a sense of change, to make their neighborhoods safer for the next little kid. They have a younger daughter, Clarissa, and they’ve made it a point to do all the things with her that they used to do with Alessa, to try to have her memory live on that way.
What Else You Need To Know Today
- A new LAUSD helpline aims to assist caregivers of young children with everything from virtual learning, to tantrums, to anxiety, and more.
- California’s unemployment department says that as much as 27% of benefits paid out during the pandemic may have been fraudulent.
- Three working L.A. mothers share how the stress and strain of the pandemic is still very much taking its toll.
- Former L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander was sentenced to 14 months in prison for his role in a City Hall corruption case.
- California will soon transition to age-based eligibility for the coronavirus vaccine.
- Outdoor dining and limited capacity spa services, such as nail salons, will reopen at the end of this week.
- California launched a long-promised website to help residents learn when they are eligible to receive the vaccine and schedule appointments.
- LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner said the district is ready to establish school-based vaccination sites if the county approves.
- Hail was reported yesterday in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, and even in Palm Springs.
Before You Go … Here’s What To Do This Week
Attend (virtually) any number of great movies and discussions, including one with Sofia Loren. Listen to African American poets, including L.A.'s own Inauguration star Amanda Gorman. Get sweet at a chocolate festival. Learn about the Saturday Night Live audition process. Try your hand at sous vide cooking. Head to Sundance without having to hop on a plane to Park City. And more.
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.
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