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LA County Expands Vaccine Eligibility To Janitors, Transportation Workers

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A bus driver wears a face covering while working at LAX amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

L.A. County is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to the following groups:

  • custodians and janitors
  • public transit workers
  • airport ground crew workers
  • certain social workers who handle cases of violence and abuse
  • foster parents who provide emergency housing for young people

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says the county is working to make appointments available for people in those groups. There will already be appointments available specifically for custodial and janitorial workers both Saturday and Sunday at the county-run super site at the Forum.

Ferrer continues to urge patience with the pace of vaccinations.

While the county is expanding eligibility to more people, supply still remains limited, which means it may take a while to find an available appointment, she says.

REOPENING UPDATES

For the first time since the state put its color-coded economic reopening system in place, Los Angeles County is within days of qualifying to leave the most restrictive purple tier and advance into the red tier.

Health officials are currently working on updating their guidance for restaurants, movie theaters, salons, and other businesses, which, under the state's guidelines, would be allowed to reopen at greater capacity in the new phase.

Those guidelines are expected to come out tomorrow.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said today that the state will certify L.A. County's red tier status by Friday.

Ferrer didn't offer any details about what will be in the new health order, but said it could go into effect as early as Sunday:

"We've been here before – if we're not really careful, it can result in an increase in cases. So I am going to urge all the businesses to take a hard look at the directives. We do need everyone to be 100% compliant with them."

Ferrer added that if the county's COVID-19 metrics continue to improve, it could get another upgrade to the orange tier within a few weeks.

Here are the color-coded tiers for context:

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A Deal Aims To Reopen LAUSD Campuses By April. Here’s What You Need To Know

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School zone traffic signs near Mariposa-Nabi Primary School in Koreatown. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

We told you last night that a deal was close to bringing Los Angeles Unified students back to their school campuses, potentially as early as next month.

Today, we finally got a look at the details of the agreement between LAUSD officials and United Teachers Los Angeles — and we also know a little about what’s not in the deal. Some highlights:

WHAT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WILL BE LIKE

When LAUSD elementary school campuses reopen — the district’s hoping this happens by April 19 — most students will spend half the day with their teachers in hybrid, in-person instruction: either three hours in the morning, or three hours in the afternoon.

At a press conference Wednesday, Superintendent Austin Beutner confirmed that elementary schools will have adults on campus to provide activities for students if they must remain on campus for the full day.

The agreement calls for classroom cleanings in the hour between the morning and afternoon cohorts of students.

WHAT MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL WILL BE LIKE

Middle- and high schoolers will report to school every other day. While these older students will stay on campus for a full six-hour day, they won’t be moving between classes like in a normal middle or high school.

Students will spend most of their day in the classroom of their advisory teacher — what we used to call “homeroom” teacher — but still attending classes via Zoom.

The plan is already raising eyebrows and eliciting mixed reactions from parents and students. But Beutner said the difficulties of redoing a middle- or high school’s master schedule while also following health guidelines proved too much to overcome:

If you want to see how the day will break down, hour-by-hour, find the schedules in the agreement here.

WHAT’S NOT IN THE DEAL

UTLA’s chief negotiator, Arlene Inouye, confirmed this agreement does not cover what the return to class will look like for special education students.

She said the bargaining teams wanted to set a “baseline” for what the return to campuses will look like for non-special education students before setting terms for the roughly 13% of LAUSD students with identified special needsan identified disability.

Inouye was confident that an agreement will be in place well before students return.

MORE ABOUT THE SAFETY STANDARDS AND CLEANING REGIMEN

These will include the vaccination of all school staff "to the best of the District's ability," and COVID-19 testing for students and staff returning to class. Other requirements will include physical distancing and masks, and daily disinfecting of classrooms, bathrooms and workspaces. More details here.

READ MORE:

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Hate Incident In Temple City Is Latest To Target Asians

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Recent incidents against Asian Americans has created concerns about racial targeting in the San Gabriel Valley. Amy V. Miller/Flickr Creative Commons

A Temple City man thought he was going on a morning walk with the family dog. That was before a stranger told him to "Go back to where you came from" and, minutes later, belligerently swung an object that looked to him to be an axe.

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is now investigating what happened Sunday as a hate incident -- the latest in a string targeting Asian residents in the San Gabriel Valley.

In a region that is home to more than a third of L.A. County's Asian population, the incidents are both surprising and concerning to residents, in light of recent anti-Asian violence around the country.

Read the full stiory here.

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Sheriff’s Report: ‘We Will Likely Never Know’ Motivation Behind Borderline Mass Shooting

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Mourners at a 2018 vigil for Borderline shooting victims hug Jason Coffman (l) and his wife Shari (r), the parents of victim Cody Coffman. (Barbara Davidson/Getty Images)

More than two years after a man fatally shot 11 people at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, a report released today by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department concludes that “we will likely never know the true motivation” for the attack.

The shooter, Ian David Long, a 28-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, killed 11 patrons and staff before taking his own life.

Ventura Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus also died during the incident. He was accidentally shot by a CHP officer as they exchanged fire with the shooter.

“The suspect did not leave behind a manifesto outlining his reasoning for the killings, nor did he leave behind a vast digital footprint that might have provided investigators with pertinent data to evaluate and interpret,” the report said. “Efforts to pinpoint either a triggering mechanism or a time frame when the suspect put his plan in motion presented a challenge.”

At the same time, there is some evidence of Long’s state of mind leading up to, and during, the attack. For nearly a year before the massacre, he visited websites that “demonstrate a propensity for mass violence, suicide, and murder,” according to the report.

It also reveals a second Facebook post Long wrote during the incident. (A post in which he mocked society’s “hopes and prayers” after mass shootings has been previously reported.)

“It’s too bad I won’t get to see all the illogical and pathetic reasons people will put in my mouth as to why I did it,” the report quotes Long as writing. “Fact is I had no reason to do it, and just thought…f--- it, life is boring so why not?”

The report includes a list of recommendations on how first responders in Ventura County can improve how they handle mass casualty events.

One addressed an issue raised by LAist at the time: Deputies waited 36 minutes after Helus was shot before making a second entry into the bar to help the wounded. That was in part because they were waiting for a SWAT captain to arrive, according to the department.

The report said active shooter training should teach deputies to be more adaptable and that they don’t always have to wait for SWAT.

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Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Sets Opening Date

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The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open on Sept. 30. (Joshua White/JW Pictures, ©Academy Museum Foundation)

Hollywood is filled with expensive movies beset by production problems. And a new museum honoring the history of the industry similarly has endured numerous delays and setbacks.

But now the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is poised to open, and its inaugural exhibits are coming into focus.

After almost a decade of planning and more than five years after construction started, the nearly $500 million museum built by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will finally open on Sept. 30.

Designers and curators shared a virtual preview of its galleries and installations today.

While exhibits will celebrate cinematic artistry and achievement, the museum also will confront the industry’s checkered history regarding diversity.

Among the initial offerings will be a gallery dedicated to Spike Lee’s influences, and exhibitions honoring Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, Ruth Carter’s Oscar-winning costumes from “Black Panther,” and Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Oscar-winning score from “Joker” — the first win in the category by a woman composer.

In the months leading up to its physical opening, the museum will present a variety of virtual programs.

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California To Help People With Developmental Disabilities Get The Vaccine

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A California Army National Guard soldier directs cars toward vaccination lanes. (Sharon McNary/LAist)

Starting Monday, Californians ages 16 to 64 with developmental disabilities will become eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

But proving eligibility at vaccine sites has been a struggle. People who qualify often have to track down the necessary paperwork on their own.

Now the state is trying to change that: it’s requiring California’s regional centers — nonprofits that help people with developmental disabilities — to send their clients personalized letters they can use to prove their eligibility.

Regional centers are also being directed to reach out to their clients online, by phone or in person to give them information on how to make an appointment, where to get vaccinated, and to answer any other questions they might have.

Starting Monday, the state will also prioritize people 16 to 64 who are immunocompromised with conditions like cancer or heart disease (you can see the complete list here), but it hasn’t said what documentation they’ll need to show.

People who are eligible can ask their medical provider if they’re offering the shot. Since they already have your medical history you probably won’t need qualifying paperwork.

GO DEEPER:

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Hail And Thunder In LA! Rain Will Continue Into Tomorrow, Possibly Friday

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The steady rain has arrived in L.A. and it will likely continue through tomorrow, with a chance of showers Friday.

We even got some pea-sized hail (!!) and thunder at noon today in La Cañada Flintridge:

And this was — one of the scenes — from the 818:

You can expect high tempertures in the 50s at the coast and farther inland, 60s in the Coachella Valley, and down to the 40s in the Antelope Valley.

The rainfall totals will range from around one inch at the coast to 1.5 to 2.5 inches in the foothills. Amounts in the deserts will mostly be less than one-quarter inch.

There's also a winter storm warning for the mountains through tomorrow night, with snow getting down to 3,000 feet. Above 4,500 feet, there could be half-a -foot to a foot of snow.

Dry weather is expected later Friday through Sunday with warmer temps, but but still cooler than normal.

And another round of light rain is possible next Monday or Tuesday.

Kroger Decides To Close Three LA Grocery Stores, Blaming City’s ‘Hero Pay’ Requirement

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Grocery workers in Southern California demonstrate in front of a Food 4 Less store on Aug. 5, 2020. UFCW 770

One week after the Los Angeles city council finalized a temporary $5 per hour hazard pay mandate for grocery workers, the supermarket giant Kroger has announced plans to shut down three grocery stores in the city.

On Wednesday, Kroger said it will close two Ralphs locations — one in the Westside Pico-Robertson neighborhood, and one in the Hyde Park neighborhood of South L.A — and one Food 4 Less location in East Hollywood. The stores will remain open until May 15.

Kroger blames the closures on the city’s new “hero pay” law, which requires that larger grocery and drugstore chains pay their frontline workers an extra $5 per hour for 120 days.

Proponents argue workers deserve compensation for facing increased risks during the pandemic. And they say companies can afford hazard pay, thanks to rising profits during the pandemic as consumers avoid eating out and buy more food to prepare at home. A recent Brookings Institution report found that Kroger’s profits increased by 90% in 2020.

But in an email announcing the store closures, Kroger said the temporary pay bump makes it “financially unsustainable to continue operating underperforming locations.”

Officials with UFCW Local 770 — the union that represents many grocery workers in the city of L.A. — said Kroger’s decision will eliminate jobs for more than 250 workers.

Union president John Grant said in an emailed statement, “Faced with sharing their windfall with their employees, [Kroger] chose instead to destroy 250 families’ lives in the middle of a pandemic.”

Prior to the L.A. city council vote, the city’s chief legislative analyst issued a report saying that temporary hazard pay could benefit workers, but warned higher labor costs could also lead to companies closing stores.

The California Grocers Association is challenging many local “hero pay” laws in court. The industry group’s president Ron Fong responded to Kroger’s announced closures in L.A. with a statement saying:

“Three more store closures in Los Angeles County means workers there stand to lose their good-paying jobs with generous benefits. Customers lose access to a neighborhood grocery close by. It’s a lose-lose all the way around and it is the direct result of elected officials who are passing these unworkable and costly mandates.”

L.A. County and other cities have passed similar mandates, and some have seen grocery store closures follow. Shortly after Long Beach passed a $4 per hour “hero pay” mandate, Kroger announced plans to shut down two stores in the city.

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State Of The State: Newsom Blasts 'Naysayers And Dooms-dayers' As He Touts Pandemic Progress

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California Governor Gavin Newsom delivers the State of the State address at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, on March 9, 2021. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images) PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty I

With a tradition-busting speech meant to mark the tragedies of the last year while inspiring hope for the future, Gov. Gavin Newsom also worked Tuesday night to shore up support from the Californians who can keep him from being thrown out of office.

Mothers. Nurses. Teachers.

They all got shout-outs from Newsom as he delivered the annual State of the State speech from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, hundreds of miles and a world away from the event’s usual digs at the Capitol in Sacramento. Instead of standing in the chandeliered Assembly chamber before an audience of applauding lawmakers, Newsom stood beneath dusky skies on a lush green field evoking the rebirth of spring, and looked out at an almost empty stadium symbolizing the Californians killed by COVID-19.

Instead of talking to the Legislature about an ambitious policy agenda for the coming year, as he did last year on homelessness, Newsom spoke directly to Californians whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID was no one’s fault—but it quickly became everyone’s burden,” Newsom said.

“Forcing hard-working Californians into impossible choices—go to work and risk infection, or stay home and lose your job. It magnified daily worries about feeding your kids, paying rent and keeping loved ones safe.”

READ THE FULL STORY FROM CAL MATTERS:

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Mudslides Force Evacuations In OC's Silverado Canyon

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The road to Silverado Canyon during the 2007 Santiago Fire. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Additional reporting by Christopher Greenspon.


When it rains, it slides. Tuesday night's mild storm caused mud and debris slides in an area of Orange County scorched by the Bond Fire late last year. That fire, which burned for a week in December, blazed across nearly 6,700 acres in the Santiago Canyon area of Orange County.

Shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday, the Orange County Sheriff's Department issued a mandatory evacuation order for Silverado Canyon. Nearby Modjeska and Williams canyons are under voluntary evacuation orders. Officials worry that more rain could trigger additional mudslides.

"Based on the rain last night and this morning, there were four areas where there were significant mudflows between homes, impacting homes, impacting parked cars and basically making Silverado Canyon impassable," says Shannon Widore with OC Public Works.

Due to several feet of mud making it impassable, Silverado Canyon Road is closed between Olive Drive and Ladd Canyon. You won't be able to go farther east than 28251 Silverado Canyon Road, although everything west of that remains open.

Crews from various Orange County agencies, including the OC Fire Authority, are working to clear the road, which should take several hours. After that, officials will need to assess the safety of the road. If everything looks good, Silverado Canyon should reopen by midday or early afternoon.

Although last night's expected rainfall did not meet the threshold for a pre-emptive evacuation order, a small amount of rain can still have an outsized impact, especially on steep terrain charred by fire.

"Basically, the water wouldn't be able to saturate into the ground so once it hits the burned hillsides, any significant amount of rain would cause the mud and debris flow to come down the hill," Widore explains.

Orange County officials have not received any other reports of mud or debris flows from last night's rain.

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California Could See A Strong But Unequal Economic Recovery

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A server at Casa Vega wears a face shield and a face mask while working at the restaurant. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Is a speedy economic recovery for California — and the rest of the country — in the cards? UCLA economists think so.

With mass vaccination underway and more business reopenings around the corner, the UCLA Anderson Forecast, published today, predicts national GDP growth of 6.3% this year after a 3.5% decline in 2020.

The study is also optimistic that jobless Californians will soon find work. It expects the state to return to a record low unemployment rate of 4.1% by 2023, after hitting a record high of 16% in April 2020.

The big picture may be hopeful but forecast director Jerry Nickelsburg worries that California's recovery will be uneven.

He says the high-income tech industry will lead the state's rebound. Meanwhile, low-wage workers in the hardest hit sectors — including tourism, hotels and food service — could take the longest to recover.

"Inequality, which was getting worse in the last decade, absent policy interventions is going to become even worse in the next decade," Nickelsburg said.

The forecast also examines the much-hyped claim that workers are fleeing California in droves. They found scant evidence to back up the assertion.

Nickelsburg says remote work has given some Californians the option to leave high-cost cities for cheaper suburbs and smaller cities. And with college students not attending classes on campus, rents for apartments near universities have plummeted in many areas. But he says beyond the alarming headlines, the state’s economy isn't in danger of permanent damage from a mass exodus.

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How To Prepare Your Kids To Return To The Classroom

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Redondo Beach Unified students are back on campus for hybrid learning. (Courtesy of Redondo Beach Unified School District)

By the end of March, several L.A. County school districts, including Pasadena Unified, Glendale Unified, Long Beach Unified and Downey Unified, are planning to bring elementary students back on campus. Others have already reopened in-person instruction for younger students.

Many kids (and parents) are stoked, but as with any first day of school, the transition can come with some stress. The L.A. County Office of Education is encouraging parents to set their kids' expectations before they go back, to prepare students for school to look different than it did before the pandemic.

County education officials aren’t sure how kids will handle hybrid learning, so they’re asking parents who send their kids back to be on the lookout for warning signs of anxiety and grief.

READ OUR FULL STORY:

READ MORE:

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Morning Brief: Indoor Dining, Women In The Music Industry, Reopening Disneyland

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People walk around the Lakewood Mall. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Good morning, L.A. It’s March 10.

It is with the greatest of hesitance that I say: Indoor dining could resume soon.

In a meeting yesterday, Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County’s public health director, said the county is likely to graduate from the state’s most restrictive purple tier to the slightly less restrictive red tier this weekend. (The color-coded tier system guides what can be open, and exactly how open it can be.) Counties are eligible to move into the red tier when they have an adjusted daily case rate of four-to-seven per 100,000 people, and an average positivity rate of five-to-eight percent.

My colleague Elina Shatkin reports that in the red tier, restaurants can open indoor dining at 25% capacity or 100 customers, whichever is lower. Wineries and tasting rooms can only begin indoor service in the next tier (orange) and bars, breweries and distilleries must remain completely closed until then.

There are a few reasons that L.A. County — after a terrifying and deadly winter surge — is already looking at moving into the red tier: Coronavirus cases have dropped, officials have adjusted their vaccination strategy, and the benchmarks have changed slightly.

But, we’ve been down this road before. After being required to close soon after the pandemic began, restaurants in L.A. were allowed to reopen for indoor dining — yes, indoor dining! — in May of last year. At that time, there were no official guidelines, and restaurants were on the honor code for following protocol.

That did not go well.

From there, city and county officials closed restaurants again, then reopened them for outdoor dining, then closed them for outdoor dining again, all of which culminated in some restaurateurs simply ignoring the rules altogether.

All of which is to say, let’s take it one step at a time. It will be great if L.A. moves into the red tier, and not just because more businesses can reopen — it will mean that fewer people are getting sick.

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 … Disneyland Announces Its Reopening

Mickey Mouse welcomes visitors. (Courtesy of Disneyland Resort)

Get your mouse ears and Disney-themed face masks ready. At Tuesday's Disney shareholders meeting, CEO Bob Chapek announced that the company expects to reopen Southern California parks — with limited capacity — by late April.

"Here in California, we're encouraged by the positive trends we're seeing and we're hopeful they'll continue to improve," Chapek said.

While he didn't offer a specific date, he said it should be announced "in the coming weeks." The state announced last week that theme parks could reopen as soon as April 1, but there are some logistics that mean it won't be happening quite that soon.


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