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California's New Guidelines Allow Bars and Breweries To Open Sooner Than Expected

Stock: A bartender mixing a drink. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Today the California Department of Public Health officially eased COVID-19 restrictions on breweries and wineries and gave a signal on when bars could reopen.

Under the new guidelines, breweries, wineries and distilleries that don't serve food will be allowed to reopen outdoors in counties in the purple and red tiers. Previously those establishments would have to wait for future tiers to reopen.

There are some caveats:

  • Advanced reservations are required
  • Visits are limited to 90 minutes
  • Alcohol consumption must end at 8 p.m.

The new rules start this Saturday March 13.

But be advised: Counties have the ability to amend the state rules to be more strict. So we don't yet know how this will affect L.A. (!!). We know, this whole thing is like a riddle.

If you're like, wait my neighborhood bar has been open this whole time that's because breweries and wineries that serve food are technically restaurants (it's confusing). And restaurants have are allowed to be open outdoors in the purple tier, which we are currently in.

As far as indoor service at breweries and wineries – that won't be allowed until counties reach the "orange" tier.

Ok, now that we've got that cleared up, let's talk about bars.

Bars will still be closed until a county makes it to the "orange" tier. But when they do, they'll be allowed to reopen outdoors.

Bars won't be allowed to reopen indoors until a county reaches the least restrictive "yellow" tier.

If you're a visual person, this might help clear up the confusion.

Here are the amended rules for breweries, wineries and distilleries:

Here are the amended rules for bars:

You can read California's fully amended "Blueprint For A Safer Economy" here.

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LA Releases Pre-Approved Designs To Make Backyard 'Granny Flats' Easier To Build

One of two preapproved modular designs by Connect Homes. (Courtesy Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety)

The city of Los Angeles has launched a program designed to make backyard "granny flats," or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), easier to build.

The new ADU Standard Plan Program aims to simplify the process by offering homeowners and builders access to 20 preapproved designs.

Mayor Eric Garcetti says those units are critical to increasing the city's housing supply, but the permitting process can take weeks, months, or even years in some parts of L.A. city and county.

Dana Cuff is director of UCLA's City Lab and helped co-author a 2017 bill that made it easier to build ADUs in California. She says these backyard units are a good solution "if we're trying in Los Angeles to produce as much housing that fits within our existing communities as possible, and that's affordable and accessible to a wider population." She added:

"This also shows that they can be well designed."

The designs range from a Mission Revival-style cottage and flower-shaped pavilion to more simple structures with small footprints.


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Talking About The COVID-19 Vaccine Can Be Tricky. We’re Here To Help

A dose of the Pfizer BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at UCI Health Center in Orange. Chava Sanchez/LAist

If you've been nervous to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine with your family or friends, we want to help.

It can be intimidating to discuss something so technical and personal, so we called up two experts for advice on asking and answering the tough questions.

The short answer: no matter how you do it, speak with authenticity and empathy — and without judgment.

The longer answer — with actual tips, sample questions, ways to break the ice, ways to validate other viewpoints, and more — is in our new full story: “How To Talk About The COVID-19 Vaccine With Friends And Family.”

As Dr. Omai Garner, the director of Clinical Microbiology with UCLA Health System, told us: we should have questions about the vaccines, and to "feel good about having questions."



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Vaccine Talks: My Mom Is Diabetic, Cleans Offices And Is Not Eligible Yet For The Vaccine. Or Is She?  

Maria Alvarado. (Photo by Amanda Alvarado)

This is part of a series of conversations that Cal State Northridge students had with loved ones about COVID-19 vaccinations. Planning your own conversation with family or friends? Here are some tips.

Amanda Alvarado, San Fernando

My diabetic mother has been required to clean potential contaminated areas of COVID-19, risking herself to disinfect areas for other employees. Yet, even after explaining the situation to her doctor she was told she needs to wait until around April for the vaccine.

Then I found out the city of San Fernando, where we live, was supposed to receive vaccine priority codes on March 8 that anyone could access. But when I signed up, the city informed us earlier this week that they had not received any priority codes. I kept trying. I was able to schedule us both an appointment for next week to get our first dose of the Pfizer vaccine through a COVID-19 ambulatory clinic opening in North Hollywood.

Now I worry more than ever how my mother’s body will react to the vaccine due to her chronic illness and I was upset with how she is deemed ineligible, yet we see areas on the wealthy Westside, like Beverly Hills, where a quarter of its residents already received their first shot of the two-dose vaccine.

My mom remains optimistic as she waits for "her turn" but it's not fair to see her have to wait when others in affluent areas are cutting ahead of those of us who are in greater need of the vaccine. Yet, we are in this process together, remaining resilient through the unexpected that is in our direction.


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Vaccine Talks: Having Hard Conversations With Loved Ones In The COVID Labyrinth

Syringes containing a dose of the new one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are viewed at a vaccination event at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in South L.A. on March 11, 2021. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Navigating the labyrinth that’s become the vaccination system in Southern California is one challenge. Having hard conversations with loved ones about getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is another.

Mistrust and misinformation are real concerns in our communities. And thousands of Angelenos have to grapple with another wave of decisions during the pandemic: Do I get the vaccine or wait?

Daniela Gerson, a journalism professor at Cal State Northridge, asked her students to document these exchanges with family and friends.

You’ll be able to read those experiences and conversations from Gerson’s “Engaging Diverse Communities” class on LAist this week as part of the “Vaccine Talks” series. You can also hear their voices on KPCC’s L.A. news and culture program Take Two.

Gerson shared with us how her students navigated these conversations:

My student Fabiola Perez Lopez’s fury charged the flatness of our Zoom session. We had just reviewed reports that Watts, where she lives, has among the lowest vaccination rates in L.A. and how white, work-from-homers were taking advantage of a loophole to access vaccines reserved for communities like hers which the pandemic had hit hard.

Fabiola, front row right, with her siblings and her mother. (Photo by Jorge Damian Gutierrez)

“Once we started to get the vaccine I pictured seeing everybody getting vaccinated,” Fabiola reflected. “It was just like the opposite.”

Yet, even in Fabiola’s family, not everyone would get the vaccine if they could. While her parents -- supermarket and fast food workers who were already sick with COVID-19 -- eagerly got the vaccine, one of her brothers says it’s too soon to put in his body. Other loved ones share rumors they’ve seen on social media that someone has died and flip flop on whether they should take the vaccine.

My CSUN journalism students reflect the spectrum of Los Angeles — Latino, Black, Armenian, Asian, Arab and white — and hail from across Southern California. Across those differences, a clear common experience emerged as many families struggled together as vaccine opportunities have become more widespread with a decision of when, and if, to take the vaccine.

In an effort to understand the vaccine gap, my students started interviewing their own loved ones who were eligible or could be soon. If their conversations are any indication, access is just one of many roadblocks to a successful vaccination effort.

A mother in Glendale hesitates to get the vaccine out of fear of the health impacts. A father in Palmdale is desperate for the vaccine, but still on oxygen after having COVID-19 and not eligible.

At the same time, in those sometimes difficult conversations some surprises emerged, and opinions changed. A grandmother in Oxnard defied doubts others expressed and signed up for it. Siblings teamed up to convince their health worker mother to get the shot even as she feared it. A call from a doctor and some nudging from a grandson won out over social media rumors spreading in Armenian.

One shared truth that has emerged is the road to vanquishing COVID-19 from our communities is a labyrinthian one playing out in conversations across the dinner table, via social media posts, and over calls to the doctor across Southern California.

Interested in talking to your loved ones? Here are tips on how to do it well.


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LA County Restaurants, Museums, Gyms (And Others) Could Reopen Indoor Operations Monday

Rachel Thorlund, manager at The Den Cafe, walks past a closed table following reimposed restrictions on indoor dining in Orange County, Nov. 17, 2020. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

L.A. County health officials say some businesses will be able to open indoors as soon as Monday.

The exact date of the reopenings depends on when the state of California reaches its goal of administering 2 million vaccines in communities hardest-hit by the virus -- and that could happen as soon as tomorrow.

Restaurants would be able open indoors at 25% capacity with other restrictions in place, including an 8-foot distance between tables, and one household per table with a limit of six people.

Other businesses/organizations will be able to reopen:

  • Museums, zoos and aquariums can also open indoors at the same 25% capacity.
  • Gyms, fitness centers, yoga and dance studios can open indoors but only at 10% capacity. Masks are still required.
  • Indoor shopping malls can increase capacity to 50%, with food courts at 25% capacity.

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Hollywood's Failure To Embrace Black Storytellers Is Costing The Industry Money, Report Says

(Nathan DeFiesta/Unsplash)

It’s hard to calculate the exact moral price tag of Hollywood’s propensity to hire so many white men.

But a new report assigns a very specific economic value to its failure to be more inclusive: $10 billion.

Every year.

That’s how much the movie and television business loses "by stifling Black talent throughout the film and TV industry ecosystem — and at every step of the content-development process," according to a study released Thursday by McKinsey and Company.

The consulting firm concluded that filmed entertainment between the years 2015 and 2019 would have grossed 7% more had had persistent racial inequities been addressed.

The report studied more than 2,000 films and included interviews with dozens of industry leaders. It worked with the BlackLight Collective, a group of Black executives and creators.

Inclusive productions not only can connect with a broader audience — the nation’s population is about 40% non-white — but they also overperform despite being underfunded, the report found.

Part of the problem: who holds the power. McKinsey says just 13% of top executives in television are non-white, while the film percentage drops to only 8%. Until those numbers change, little else will.

Correction: An earlier version of this story gave incorrect percentages for non-white executives in the TV and film industries. This story has also been updated to more accurately reflect the study specifically addressed the lack of opportunity for Black professionals in the entertainment industry.

Monica Bushman contributed to this update.



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Located In A Mall, The Museum Of African American Art Faces Unique Reopening Challenges

A colorful quilt at the African American Museum of Art traces a family lineage. The top right square reads: "Maternal Family History- Jones- son of Joan. Origin Welsh. Acquisition- Slavery . Settled in Milo Oklahoma after Slavery." (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

As local museums await the green light from L.A. County health officials to reopen, the Museum of African American Art is in a unique situation. Located inside the Macy's at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, would-be visitors can shop at the store, which is open at 25% capacity, but cannot view the museum’s exhibits.

Revenue from rentals, gift shop sales, and memberships is down 68%. The museum has only been able to stay afloat thanks, in part, to a small recovery grant from California Humanities and some corporate grants.

Keasha Dumas Heath, the museum’s executive director, said she feels like the museum fell through the cracks of the reopening guidelines.

"We're a small, nonprofit organization,” she said. “We are not funded by the county or the state, we don't have an endowment. We don't run very well on empty.”

Reopening will involve significant expenses, including plexiglass barriers and hand sanitizing stations. But even being able to reopen at 25% capacity would help, after being closed for almost a year.

"There was this belief ... that museums might attract more tourists, travelers, people visiting from out of state or from outside of the country” who could possibly transmit the coronavirus, said Heath. “Their premise was, in part, that visitors to retail spaces were a different demographic from museum visitors. But in our case, the retail shoppers are the exact same folks who come into our museum."

Once L.A. County moves to the less-restrictive red tier of the state's reopening framework, indoor museums can reopen at limited capacity. Health officials are expected to make an announcement regarding that move in the next few days.

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Inadequate Training, Ignoring The Law: Report Sharply Critical Of LAPD’s Handling of George Floyd Protests

Police push back protestors at a May 2020 protest near and Fairfax and 3rd. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The LAPD, regarded as one of the nation’s best police departments, was ill-prepared and in disarray during the early intense days of summer protests over the killing of George Floyd, leading to the improper use of force against peaceful protesters and the unlawful detention of thousands of demonstrators, according to an independent report commissioned by the city council and released today.

The report found significant deficiencies in seven areas, including command and control, preparedness and training, and the use of less lethal tools. For example, inadequate training led to officers improperly using 40-millimeter hard foam projectiles against crowds of moving people, according to the report. It said most officers had received only two hours of training four years ago.

With regard to command and control, the report noted that members of command staff "did not always know who was in charge, which led to a chaos of command."

There were times when "command staff officers arrived on the scene of a protest and issued orders without coordination with the incident commander," it said, adding:

"[m]ultiple command staff officers gave orders, sometimes conflicting, regarding the same protest."

The report said the department was not adequately prepared to handle situations in which "small groups of disrupters" throwing objects at police mixed in with larger crowds of peaceful protesters.

In one particularly critical finding, the report found the LAPD ignored the law when it detained thousands of people for mere infractions. An infraction “only requires the arrestee to provide proof of identification and sign a promise to appear, in order to be released,” it said. “It does not authorize the transportation of the person to another site or prolonged detention of the person.”

The department also had no plans for taking care of the thousands of people it arrested:

“As a result, those arrested were detained at the scene of the arrests for hours, handcuffed on the pavement, detained in buses, and taken to remote locations, without water or the use of bathroom facilities.”

The report noted that both officers and protesters in close quarters were also unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19.

The report said these problems are not new. The LAPD mishandled protests at the Democratic National Convention in 2000, in MacArthur Park in 2007, at the Occupy L.A. city hall camp in 2011, and during 2014 protests against the killing of Michael Brown in downtown L.A. “It is unfortunate that the same issues have arisen again and again, with the Department being unable or unwilling to rectify the problem,” it said.

The report makes 22 recommendations. One urges the Department to “research and adopt a variety of strategies and tactics that would minimize the extent to which protesters “‘transfer’ their grievances toward the police.”

In a statement, the LAPD said Chief Michel Moore "has taken responsibility for activities over the summer," and "we have also identified lessons learned." It said the department has subsequently provided crowd control training to nearly 4,200 officers, and command and control training to over 7,500 officers.

The Police Protective League, the union that represents the rank and file, issued a statement saying the report echoes what its members said in a survey after the summer protests: "we were understaffed, poorly equipped and ... there was neither a clear mission nor strong command presence while officers grew fatigued from working excessively long hours."

Two other reports on last summer’s protests are pending – one by the LAPD and another by the National Police Foundation, which was hired by the L.A. Police Commission. Meanwhile protestors have filed a class action lawsuit against the LAPD and city alleging widespread excessive force and illegal detentions.

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Long Beach Expands Vaccine Eligibility To Residents 16 And Over With Underlying Health Conditions

Drivers check-in at Long Beach Convention Center in January for vaccination appointments. (Thomas R. Cordova/ Courtesy Long Beach Post)

More Long Beach residents are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines.

Starting tomorrow, people 16+ with underlying health conditions will be able to get vaccinated — the city started offering vaccines to people with disabilities on Monday.

That news came as Long Beach Unified officials announced this afternoon that the city's health department has approved back-to-school plans for the district, which is one of the largest in the state. Under those plans:

  • Elementary schools (transitional kindergarten through 5th grade) return on March 29
  • High school seniors return April 19
  • Middle school (6th through 8th grades) return April 20
  • High school 9th, 10th and 11th graders return April 26

All families have been asked to choose between in-person and distance learning, with some of those surveys still in progress for the upper grades.

Long Beach also started making shots available this week to more essential workers this week: city employees, transit and airport workers, and custodians and janitors.

"Everything is going in the right direction," Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said.

"We were averaging 740 cases a day, we're down to 31. And our positivity rate has gone from 17.4% to 2.3, so really dramatic changes."

City officials also said today they will allow some indoor dining at restaurants as soon as L.A. County qualifies for the red tier — that could happen in the next couple days.

State guidelines allow indoor dining when counties enter the red tier, but health departments can make their own decisions on when to allow it. The Los Angeles County public health department hasn't said yet if they'll allow indoor dining. Long Beach has it's own health department.


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Morning Brief: Getting Kids Back In School, Mudslides, And The Roaring 2020’s

Silhouettes of palm trees swaying in the wind against a building. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Good morning, L.A. It’s March 11.

After a great deal of back and forth, officials at the L.A. Unified School District and its teachers’ union have reached an agreement about reopening campuses for in-person learning.

The agreement includes a handful of key points, reports my colleague Kyle Stokes, including that all teachers and school staff are offered the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, and that schools remain closed until the recommended two weeks after the second dose.

In addition, students and staff will be tested for the coronavirus weekly; masks and social distancing will be required; and meals will be provided for all students, whether they are learning online or in person. Preschoolers will return for full-time, in-person learning; elementary school students will return for hybrid learning; and middle and high school students will continue to learn online for the time being.

The deal comes after a very, very long year for kids, parents and teachers.

In L.A., the digital divide — the difference in access to the internet and computers — became apparent almost immediately, as some students were unable to log in to classes for a wide variety of tech-related reasons. Kids with special education plans were also at a significant disadvantage, as were their parents.

The district reopened for some much-needed services in October, but was forced to shut those down again when coronavirus cases surged over the holidays.

Since vaccines have become more widely available, district officials have been inching towards a deal with teachers. But even LAUSD’s superintendent, Austin Beutner, refused to reopen campuses until a specific set of criteria were met.

A specific date isn’t in the agreement, but according to sources, officials are hoping to welcome elementary school students back for hybrid learning on April 19, and to welcome middle and high school students back in late April or early May.

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 … Thunder, Rain, And Hail!

Rain falls in L.A. on Monday, Dec. 28. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Rain arrived in L.A. yesterday, and it will likely continue through tomorrow, with a chance of showers Friday.

In La Cañada Flintridge, there were reports of thunder and pea-sized hail (!!). Parts of the 818 looked like they were blanketed by snow. It’s also going to stay chilly through the weekend, so don’t be afraid to break out that L.A.-winter parka.

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High-Risk Farmworkers Line Up For COVID Vaccine

Regina Francisca Isidro (center) speaks to a nurse at the vaccination clinic. (Sharon McNary/LAist)

California’s hundreds of thousands of agricultural workers are at high risk for infection from COVID-19 because of the crowded conditions where they work and live.

So getting them vaccinated could be a life-saver. On Sunday, 500 farmworkers received their first vaccine dose in Oxnard.

The United Farm Workers Foundation partnered with the Ventura County Health Department to give the shots. They set up an outdoor clinic under pop-up shade tents in an alley behind the nonprofit organization’s office.

Oxnard, home to many farmworkers, has seen about 40% of the county’s COVID-19 infections, said Rigoberto Vargas, director of the Ventura County Public Health Department.


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