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California Makes Double Masking Official

A man wears a double mask as he walks in Times Square on April 6, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

California health officials updated the state's mask guidance today, urging everyone to consider wearing two masks instead of one, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

With the emergence of more contagious variants and vaccine supply still lagging, Governor Gavin Newsom says it's time for Californians to double mask, until a higher proportion of the population is vaccinated:

"This is not the time to spike the ball. There's no mission accomplished sign behind us. We really have to work through this next six to eight/nine weeks, the next 100 days, until we get to that abundance frame with the vaccines.''

Newsom criticised Gov. Greg Abbot's decision to end the statewise mask mandate in Texas, calling it a "terrible mistake," and pointing out that the COVID-19 positivity rate in Texas is about five times higher than California.

The new state guidance brings California in line with the CDC, which promotes wearing a cloth mask over surgical or disposable one. A February CDC study found that wearing two masks could reduce COVID-19 exposure by over 90%.

Those face coverings should also be tight fitting, and free of gaps that could allow any respiratory droplets to escape or enter.

It's important to note which masks you should be wearing over one another. For those details, we recommend reading the California mask guidance here and here and the CDC's mask tips here.

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How To Get A Vaccine Appointment In LA And Surrounding Counties, A Guide

Moderna COVID-19 vaccines ready to be administered at a vaccination site at Kedren Community Health Center in South L.A. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

Booking an appointment for your free COVID-19 vaccine can be an exercise in managing emotions...frustration, exhaustion, impatience and confusion come to mind.

The vaccine rollout has been plagued by supply issues, delays, changing orders, chaos and inequity. And in counties with cities that have their own health departments (like Long Beach and Pasadena), it can be even harder to know which plan to follow.

Also, you have to make sure you're eligible.

To keep track of all the moving parts, we reached out to cities and counties in the greater Los Angeles area for specifics.

This is an evolving landscape, so please follow up with the resources below to confirm the most current details.

Here's your guide to booking vaccine appointments in Southern California:

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LA Is 'Very Close' To Moving Into Next Reopening Phase, Health Official Says

A couple walks their dog in downtown Los Angeles. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Just how close is L.A. County to breaking free of the state's most restrictive purple coronavirus reopening tier, and into the less restrictive red tier?

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told LAist/KPCC that we're "very close."

"The number is 7.2 new cases per hundred thousand residents," she told us yesterday. "The number we need to get to is 7."

Then we'd need to hold that 7 number for two weeks.

Here's what would change if L.A. County did move into the red tier:

  • Indoor retail would be allowed at 50% capacity (it's now capped at 25% in the purple tier)
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums could open indoor spaces at 25% capacity
  • Movie theaters would be allowed to open for indoor seating at 25% capacity
  • Hotels could open fitness centers (at 10% capacity)
  • Gyms, fitness centers and climbing facilties could open for indoor service at 10% capacity
  • Restaurants could open indoor dining at 25% capacity

For more info about restrictions in each of the state's reopening tiers, take a scroll through this handy PDF.

For some more context, here's the breakdown of tiers, by color:

Screenshot via California's "Blueprint for a Safer Economy"

Meanwhile, Governor Gavin Newsom said yesterday, he's confident that if COVID-19 metrics continue trending downward, fans could be in outdoor stadiums this upcoming season. What does that mean, exactly? Well, the Dodgers' first home game is April 9...

Ferrer says if we want that to happen, L.A. County will have to do three things: get more shots in arms, continue to encourage mask wearing and make a plan for enforcing physical distancing at the ball park.

She says she can see sports stadiums opening "perhaps as soon as April," but all of this will hinge on what happens in March. If case numbers go back up, a trip to the ball game isn't likely.


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California Lawmakers Approve School Reopening Deal, But Will It Lead To Reopened Campuses?

An example of what an LAUSD classroom could look like. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

California lawmakers this morning easily approved a $6.6 billion package aimed at coaxing reluctant public schools to resume on-campus classes for the youngest and most at-risk students by April 1.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised a speedy final signature on Assembly Bill 86, which both State Senate and Assembly lawmakers approved by wide margins this morning.

“The goal of (AB 86) is to spur districts on the sidelines to act,” said Asm. Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, “and also help those that are already acting.”

The legislation includes $2 billion in incentives which public schools can only claim if they promise to bring all students in kindergarten through second grade back to campuses by April 1. In order to claim the incentive funds, districts must also agree to take steps to partially reopen middle- and high schools as soon as their county exits the “purple tier,” the highest and most restrictive tier on California’s COVID-19 monitoring system.

Districts could use the incentive money to pay for physical safety measures. The bill also includes $4.6 billion in aid schools can use to combat learning loss through tutoring programs, a longer school year and direct support for students at risk of missing graduation.


But in school districts like Los Angeles Unified, it’s not clear the bill’s passage will spur change.

LAUSD’s teachers' union has said it wants all staff members vaccinated before campuses reopen. They’re still negotiating with the district on a series of on-campus safety protocols. United Teachers Los Angeles leaders have panned AB 86 as, effectively, a subsidy to rich communities where schools are already prepared to open.

Other critics, like Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, voted for the bill, but said it represented a punt from Gov. Gavin Newsom; Wilk felt the governor could have done more to compel reluctant districts to reopen.

“I believe with or without this bill, school districts that want to reopen will, and school districts that don’t want to reopen, won’t,” Wilk said on the floor of the state Senate. “So if this is not a school reopening bill, what is it? I believe it’s a CYA maneuver by Gov. Newsom to get parents to believe he’s doing everything he can for them.”

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, also said she was voting to support the bill despite concerns about its flaws. She also urged lawmakers to pass follow-up legislation to address the needs of students who were completely checked out during the last year.

“I know people are really anxious to get their kids back to school in every community,” Gonzalez said, “but there’s justifiable fear” of the virus, she added, especially in low-income communities.


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Morning Brief: Vaccine Access, Rain, And Hero Pay

Covid-19 safety warnings. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Good morning, L.A. It’s March 4.

We’ve reported a great deal on the disturbing inequity in coronavirus vaccine administration across racial and socioeconomic lines — wealthier, white Angelenos are more likely than any other group to have received at least one dose.

The reasons for that are myriad, complex and overlapping, but my colleague Jackie Fortiér reports that two of the biggest contributing factors are lack of access to the internet or to health centers offering the vaccine, and hesitancy to get a vaccine that appears to have been developed remarkably quickly.

Jackie notes that the science behind the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — messenger RNA technology — has been studied for over a decade. But the Trump administration gave its vaccine rollout program the unfortunate name “Operation Warp Speed,” leading many to believe that researchers cut corners.

"It created the perception that boom, let's just get the drug to market no matter what," said Rhonda Smith, executive director of the California Black Health Network.

But as Jerry Abraham, Kedren Health’s director of vaccine programs, told LAist in early February, the problem isn’t just mistrust or a cynical perception.

“What is most frustrating is, you may have heard me say, ‘What vaccine? We weren’t even offered a vaccine,” he said. “So misinterpreting lack of access for hesitancy was, to me, very offensive, because the Black and brown health care workers that came [to vaccine sites], came with their sleeves rolled up, and they were ready for a vaccination.”

As of Feb. 20, 47.8% of white Angelenos over the age of 65 had received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 28.9% of Black Angelenos over the age of 65. It’s the continuation of a trend that’s been going on all along; on Feb. 8, 25.4% of white Angelenos had received at least one dose, compared to just 3.5% of Black Angelenos.

At that time, L.A. County public health director Barbara Ferrer called the discrepancy a “glaring inadequacy.”

And unequal vaccine distribution is a continuation of another trend: The ways in which COVID-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color since its onset.

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

What Else You Need To Know Today

  • Civil rights leaders are asking LAPD to provide more support to Asian American people who are the targets of violence and harassment.
  • With 67% of the vote in, Sydney Kamlager was more than 50 points ahead of the second-place finisher for the vacant state Senate seat representing California's 30th District.
  • Wednesday marked 30 years since Rodney King was assaulted by four LAPD officers, which led to unrest the following year that has had a lasting impact on L.A.
  • As a low-pressure system moved through SoCal, we saw some light rain.
  • Grocery workers in L.A. will receive a temporary $5 per hour pay raise.
  • A fire in an L.A. Department of Water and Power station caused 39,000 Angelenos to lose power.
  • A new campaign by the civil rights organization Equality California aims to get COVID-19 vaccine information to LGBTQ Angelenos.

Before You Go … Everybody Loves The Sunshine: Don’t Erase The Black Angelenos Who Helped Shape The City

(Photo illustration by Chava Sanchez)

Essayist Lynell George writes:

“When you're from Los Angeles and far from home, it is never unusual to spot a hint of the familiar in some on-screen backdrop: a car commercial, a music video, a glammed-up police procedural. But when you hail specifically from "Black Los Angeles" — finding your personal cross streets swirl up on television, especially from afar, prompts a unique set of emotions.

In late March 2019, I was time zones away from both those L.A.s, jammed into a hole-in-the-wall blues lounge in New Orleans. Waiting for change, I glanced at a soundless news report on the above-the-bar flatscreen. Something, though, held my vision. I couldn't look away.”

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