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LA County Is Sending Mobile COVID-19 Testing Sites To Latino Churches

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A sign announces free COVID-19 Testing in Boyle Heights Chava Sanchez/LAist

L.A. County debuted free mobile COVID-19 testing on Wednesday at the Centro de Vida Victoriosa church in East Los Angeles as part of a partnership between the county and local Latino churches. The parnership aims to address a need for testing in Latino communities that have been devastated by the pandemic.

Pastor Carlos Rincón, a member of the racial equality faith group LA Voice, said doing the testing at the church can make a big difference in participation.

"I personally have seen some neighbors come and tell me, 'Thank you Pastor for having this service. I will do it now because I can trust that I'm safe because it's in the church,'" Rincón said.

Rincón said the impact of the virus is front of mind for his congregation, 90% of whom he said are immigrants from Central America.

"Even this coming Friday I'm going to do a funeral…of a young man," Rincón said. "He had some issues. He was homeless, kind of back and forth. But he died of coronavirus."

Latinos in Los Angeles have been disproportionately hit by the coronavirus pandemic, dying at three times the rate of white Angelenos.

According to county officials, the mobile testing centers will move every two weeks, and some will be open as late as 8 p.m. The testing is offered to people free of charge, and regardless of immigration or health insurance status.

The centers will also provide information about managing a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

More information on county testing sites can he found here.

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Hundreds Of COVID-19 Deaths Went Unreported During LA's Winter Surge

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Courtesy LAC+USC Medical Center

While L.A. County health officials say we're now on "the other side" of the deadly winter coronavirus surge, they've confirmed hundreds more deaths from the virus during that time that until now, went unrecorded.

Most of the 806 deaths happened between December 3rd and the beginning of February.

Officials track COVID-19-related fatalities by cross referencing vital records with death report forms submitted by hospitals. But that process, according to public health director Barbara Ferrer, faced significant hurdles, with more than 9,700 deaths logged in December and January alone:

"This was a period, as you all know, where very many deaths occurred across the county, and not all of them were reported to public health because of the volume of records."

The Department of Public Health will update its data and trend lines for that period to account for the deaths that weren't recorded at the time.

A CLOSER LOOK AT LOCAL CORONAVIRUS FATALITIES:

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California To Put State Funds Toward Stopping Pandemic Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans

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(Screenshot from Stop AAPI Hate)

Governor Newsom has signed into law a bill that provides $1.4 million in state funding to help combat the rise in attacks against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic.

Of the total amount, $300,000 will go to the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate and its online reporting tool to track assaults on members of the Asian American community, the group said in a press release.

Manjusha Kulkarni of the Asian Pacific Policy Planning Council, one of the groups behind "Stop AAPI Hate," told us she wants the data collected to spur community groups to action:

"We really do hope that they'll use the information, really as a galvanizing force to both address what's happening right now, but also to engage more civically with their elected leaders."

Stop AAPI Hate recorded 2,800 incidents of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans nationwide between March and December of last year; 245 incidents occurred in L.A. County between March and October.

There's been a spike in assaults on elderly Asian Americans recently in the Bay Area, including the deadly attack on an 84-year-old Thai man in San Francisco in January.

The rest of the state funds will go to the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

You can read AAPI's report on hate incidents in L.A. County here.

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Take A Look At The Jazz Legacy Of South Central LA

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(Photo illustration by Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Jazz was in its heyday in the 1930s and '40s when nightclubs like Club Alabam abounded on Central Avenue. The nearby Dunbar Hotel was a legend in its own right. When Black jazz greats of the era, like Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, came to town, racially restrictive covenants and segregation limited where they could stay. The Dunbar quickly became a mecca for Black performers. Over the years, South Central L.A. became the heart of the jazz scene on the West Coast.

MORE ON LA'S BLACK JAZZ SCENE

MORE OF OUR RACE IN LA SERIES COVERAGE

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Disneyland's California Adventure Reopens As A Big Food Court In March (Without The Rides)

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The new A Touch of Disney experience includes more of California Adventure than fans have had for the past year — along with more masking. (Courtesy Disneyland Resort)

It's been a long season of discontent for Disneyland fans, with the Southern California parks largely shuttered since the COVID-19 epidemic broke out a year ago. Now, a ray of hope for some: the chance to visit more of California Adventure, starting on March 18.

Of course, you won't be able to enjoy the attractions we all associate with the theme park — they're still closed, thanks to COVID-19 protocols. The new event is called "A Touch of Disney," since you're not getting the full experience.

What you will get: food and drinks from both parks, including the iconic Dole Whip and churros. You'll also be able to see Disney characters and take photos, including with some photo experiences only available during A Touch Of Disney. These experiences include taking photos in front of a Pixar parade float, as well as with the cars in Cars Land. Characters you'll be able to visit include Mickey Mouse and friends, Cars' Mater and Lightning McQueen in Cars Land, and Joy and Sadness at Pixar Pier.

Snap a photo with the Cars characters as part of A Touch of Disney. (Courtesy Disneyland Resort)

And of course, you'll be able to buy merch. There will be six seasonal, themed markets, along with some of the park's regular retail locations. Accompanying the experience will be what Disney describes as a specially curated soundtrack of reimagined Disney songs, playing throughout the park.

Disney's not-quite-reopening has been happening slowly, starting with Downtown Disney. The dining experience already extended into Buena Vista Street at California Adventure, but now more of the park will be opening up, including Cars Land and Pixar Pier. Combined with employees who've already been brought back as part of the Buena Vista Street dining, Disney says A Touch Of Disney will result in nearly 1,000 of its employees returning to work.

The company says A Touch of Disney will follow health and safety protocols, including requiring temperature checks and face coverings. Disney also made changes to promote physical distancing, as well as using enhanced cleaning procedures. The experience will have limited capacity due to those protocols.

There were 27 new cases of COVID-19 in Anaheim in the most recent reporting period, and no deaths. Orange County as a whole remains in the state's most serious risk-level tier, purple or "widespread." Its seven-day average positivity rate is 5.4% — L.A. County's seven-day average rate was 4.7% as of Monday.

While Disney previously made the move to cancel annual passes due to the pandemic, "Legacy Passholders" will still get some special perks at A Touch of Disney.

The new experience will be open Thursdays through Mondays, noon to 8 p.m., starting March 18. Your $75 ticket includes admission, parking, downloads of Disney PhotoPass photos taken at the park, and a $25 dining card. Tickets for March 18 through April 5 are available starting Thursday, March 4.

You have to buy your tickets in advance, with tickets for future dates released on a rolling schedule for as long as it lasts. You can also make reservations for the Lamplight Lounge and Carthay Circle Lounge's alfresco outdoor dining starting March 11.

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Yes, Heat Waves Do Feel Hotter In Low-Income Neighborhoods

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Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

It's not your imagination. Summer heat often feels hotter in low-income neighborhoods than it does in wealthier ones.

Researchers at UC Davis looked at the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the Southwest and found that the poorest neighborhoods were on average four degrees hotter than the wealthiest neighborhoods. Why the thermal inequity? Wealthier areas tend to have more green spaces, shade and energy-efficient buildings that keep them cooler.

In California, the biggest disparities were found in the Inland Empire and Palm Springs, where low-income neighborhoods were six to seven degrees hotter than other communities. The researchers also found disparities by race.

"We looked at every racial demographic, and by far, the Latinx community unfortunately faced the highest thermal inequity. It was not even close," says Jake Dialesandro, the lead author of the study.

As climate change accelerates, some researchers are urging policy-makers to take action to reduce energy costs and prevent heat-related sickness and death in lower-income communities.

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Vaccine Line-Cutters Are Stealing Spots Meant For Residents Of Black And Latino Neighborhoods

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People wait in a long line for COVID-19 vaccinations at Lincoln Park in Los Angeles on February 23, 2021. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Some COVID-19 vaccine appointments intended for people of color and low-income neighborhoods were used by the "wealthier, work-from-home set," according to a story in the Los Angeles Times, and L.A. County Supervisors are outraged.

The issue appears to lie in the state's My Turn appointment registration system, which L.A. County and others must use to distribute the vaccines. The system uses special access codes that are meant to register people in largely Black and Latino communities.

But Board Chair Hilda Solis says this weekend, people from more affluent neighborhoods were lining up for shots at a mobile clinic at the Ramona Gardens housing complex in Boyle Heights.

"I am disgusted," Solis said. "And I'm not disgusted by the work that we're doing, but I'm more disgusted about the behavior of people in the public that are not being responsible, and actually allowing those communities that are the hardest hit to be able to stand in line and get their vaccine."

Problems with the program emerged early last week, shortly after the codes became available, reports the L.A. Times:

"Three separate access codes intended for vulnerable populations in Los Angeles strayed far from their intended recipients, making their way into more affluent professional and social networks... Those circulating the codes did not seem to be aware that they were intended for hard-hit communities. In several cases, people thought they had stumbled upon a pilot program that was open to all."

It's not clear how many people were able to book appointments with those misused codes, or if any of them managed to get a dose of the vaccine that way.

Governor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday the state will move away from those group access codes to avoid such abuses in the future.

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A Radical Solution To High Power Bills: Base Them On Income

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Workers install solar electric panels on a residential rooftop in Santa Monica.(David McNew/Getty Images)

Your monthly home electricity bill pays for a lot more than just the energy you use. You’re likely also paying for things like:

  • wildland fire prevention
  • electric vehicle charging stations
  • solar roof subsidies and much more

Those extra charges can amount to double or even triple the cost to produce electricity, according to UC Berkeley professor Severin Borenstein, who analyzed the costs in a report to state regulators.

He’s advocating for a potential solution: basing bills on household income.

“Charging very high rates for each kilowatt hour of electricity, it's really unfair, it's a very regressive tax,” Borenstein said.

Power bills from state-regulated utilities like Southern California Edison, PG & E and San Diego Gas and Electric are higher than in many parts of the country, including within the city of Los Angeles, whose municipal utility LADWP charges lower rates.

Borenstein is presenting the concept of income-based energy bills on today to the state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates big utilities.

No decision would come out of the workshop itself, but it could shape the commissioners’ thinking on future rounds of rate-setting.

Borenstein says income-based power bills could have two parts, one for the energy that’s used, while the other would be a flat fee based on income. He proposes five different income tiers to determine how high the flat fee portion of the bill would be.

That could reduce power bills for lower-income households and it might raise what the highest earners pay, he said. Such a shift, he said, would result in the utilities still collecting the same amount of money to build and maintain their power grids, and to generate and transmit electricity.

In California, upper-income people have been the early adopters of solar roof panels, and electric cars because they can afford to make the investments in cutting-edge energy and transportation. But for California to meet its goals to end the use of polluting fossil fuels, the state needs to get lower-income people to also shift to electric appliances and transportation.

Borenstein said that lower power rates would encourage a shift among those lower-income households to cleaner electrical appliances.

One key factor cited by those participating in the PUC meeting: Having power is a necessity, not a luxury.

MEETING DETAILS

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How Can Banana Plants Help Us Fight Wildfires?

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Banana leaves have a high moisture content, and could protect homes against fires. (Helene Valenzuela/AFP)

It’s a law of the universe that journalists get crazy pitches whenever some sort of big news thing happens.

And it was last October, when the Silverado Fire was tearing through the bone-dry hills of Irvine, that I got a curious note from a reputable university. A professor, it said, had an idea to use a certain tropical fruit to help fight fires like the one we were watching on TV.

Bananas.

Which was basically my first thought when I read the email, but the idea, it turns out, could have some potential.

UNPEEL THE FULL STORY

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Morning Brief: Removing LAPD From Traffic Stops, Defiant Burbank Restaurants, And Tiger Woods Survives Crash

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A stunning cotton candy sunset on a Tuesday evening. (Aaron Mendelson / LAist)

Good morning, L.A. It’s Feb. 24.

Yesterday, the L.A. City Council took a step toward removing armed officers from making routine traffic stops, voting to direct various city agencies to explore alternatives.

Following yesterday’s vote, the City Attorney and others are now charged with requesting proposals from consultants to study the feasibility of unarmed traffic enforcement, including reviews of current state and local traffic laws and comparable programs throughout the country.

The L.A. Department of Transportation is tasked with soliciting feedback from communities, and the L.A. Police Department must provide data on the most frequently cited traffic violations, and the “gender and ethnicity of those cited or arrested.”

The motion was introduced in June by Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mike Bonin, Curren Price, and Herb Wesson, and decries the treatment of Black and Latino Angelenos at the hands of police, specifically during traffic stops for what are typically minor infractions.

“Law enforcement agencies nationwide and here in Los Angeles have long used minor traffic infractions as a pretext for harassing vulnerable road users and profiling people of color,” wrote the motion’s authors. “From jaywalking citations in Downtown and Skid Row to operations by the Metropolitan Division in South LA, the Los Angeles Police Department’s history of misusing traffic enforcement has fostered decades of distrust in communities of color that ultimately undermines true traffic safety initiatives.”

Berkeley moved forward with a similar strategy last summer, and officials in Cambridge, Mass. have considered one as well. Elected officials in other cities — including San Diego — have spoken out against so-called pretext stops, in which officers pull over a driver for a minor infraction as a pretext for investigating something else

Councilmember Harris-Dawson told LAist last year that part of the problem is that voters and taxpayers have opted to let police deal with a ridiculously broad array of societal challenges.

"You have armed officers directing traffic, you have them taking reports after accidents, you have them settling arguments between kids after school,” he said. “Many of these circumstances they ended up in because we sent them there."

Data supports the claim that traffic stops disproportionately affect drivers of color. As my colleague Robert Garrova writes, a recent report by the Los Angeles Police Commission’s inspector general found that 27% of people stopped by officers in 2019 were Black, in a city where Black people represent just 9% of the population.

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


What Else You Need To Know Today


Before You Go … 22 Great SoCal Coffee Subscriptions From Local, Indie Roasters

Coffee and beans from LA Coffee Club. (Courtesy of LA Coffee Club)

It's 6:30 a.m. on Day 351 of the coronavirus pandemic. You wake up groggy and stumble to the kitchen, desperate for the jolt that only coffee can provide. But where are the beans? The grinder? What even is a cup?

Maybe if you had a coffee subscription service, things would be a little easier.

From affordable to exclusive, we found nearly two dozen independent companies in Los Angeles and Orange counties offering coffee subscriptions and clubs. Some have multiple cafes while others sell directly to customers without a brick-and-mortar space. One club features a rotating selection of local roasters, including several that don't offer their own subscriptions. And so many more.


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