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Long Beach Opens Vaccine Eligibility To Everyone 16-And-Over

A woman receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccine site in Long Beach. Chava Sanchez/LAist

All Californians 16-and-older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines starting April 15, but the city of Long Beach is moving ahead of the state, opening up eligibility starting today.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia made the announcement:

"If you are a Long Beach resident and you want to get vaccinated and you're over 16-years-old, you can walk to the Convention Center Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and receive your vaccine."

These appointments are walk-up only. You can start making online appointments April 15, when the state change takes effect.

What if demand is so high, that the city runs out while you're in line? Mayor Garcia says they'll make an appointment for you on site, for the following days.

San Bernardino County has also expanded coverage to everyone 16-and-older. Minors will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

To schedule an appointment, visit the County vaccination page or call the COVID-19 helpline at (909) 387-3911, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Important caveat: You'll need to show proof of residence in both Long Beach and San Bernardino to get the vaccine.

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Parent Group Sues LAUSD, Hoping For Fuller Classrooms And No Mandatory COVID Tests

Inside an L.A. Unified School District classroom at Walgrove Avenue Elementary in Venice that's been prepared for students' return to campus in April. (Kyle Stokes/KPCC/LAist)

A group of Los Angeles Unified School District parents has sued the district, hoping to force the school system’s leaders to bring more students back to campuses full-time “at the earliest practicable time.”

The plaintiffs, under the banner of a group called “California Students United,” have also asked a judge to strike down LAUSD’s requirement that all students take weekly COVID-19 tests, or risk being barred from entering campus.

Naming both the school district and Superintendent Austin Beutner as defendants, the lawsuit also criticizes United Teachers Los Angeles, saying the teachers' union pushed LAUSD to adopt an overly-cautious plan for reopening campuses.

“By conceding to UTLA’s demands,” the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint, “adopting its mandates, and preventing LAUSD’s schools from reopening for in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible, (Beutner and the district) … have denied Plaintiffs their fundamental right on behalf of their school-aged children to an education.”

LAUSD officials currently plan to reopen a relatively small number of elementary campuses next week, with most early education facilities and elementaries reopening the week of April 19. Middle- and high schools will begin reopening the week of April 26.

But at all levels, schools will welcome back students in smaller groups for part-time “hybrid” instruction — largely, California Students United argues, because LAUSD’s reopening agreement with UTLA hinges on the rule that students and staff must all remain six feet apart at all times.

Ten days after LAUSD and UTLA finished negotiations on the agreement, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said that three feet of distancing is enough under certain conditions. State and L.A. County public health officials have also relaxed their guidelines for schools — but under the LAUSD-UTLA agreement, the six-foot rule still stands.

“That’s preventing kids from having a full day at school,” said Danna Rosenthal, a parent leader with California Students United, who said UTLA has selectively ignored science that didn’t comport with its policy goals.

Rosenthal said that schools closed in 2020 when health professionals raised an alarm. But, she said in an interview, when “those health professionals…all tell the schools to reopen, that it’s safe, why are– especially UTLA, why are they not listening to the same science? Somehow it now seems like that science is not good enough.”

It’s not clear how many LAUSD parents would embrace a wider reopening. District-wide, most parents are opting for their students to remain fully virtual after campuses reopen.

Part of this might be because of LAUSD’s reopening plans for middle- and high schools, where students will essentially continue to take courses online, just from inside a classroom.

In LAUSD neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID-19, survey responses show parents are especially hesitant to send their children back to campuses. That said, even in more affluent neighborhoods like Woodland Hills and Venice, parents appear divided over in-person schooling.

“The entire country has suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote the founders of Parents Supporting Teachers, an advocacy group allied with UTLA, in a statement. “To try to singularly place blame on either a school district or a labor union, is both an improper indication of privilege and a complete dismissal of the trauma that communities of color have endured over the past year and continue to endure.”


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Teen Driver Charged For Traffic Killing Of Monique Muñoz

One LAPD investigator described the fatal Feb. 17 crash at Olympic Boulevard and Overland Avenue as "complete devastation." Officials believe the victim, 32-year-old Monique Muñoz, died almost instantly. (Courtesy LAPD West Traffic Division via Twitter)

The 17-year-old driver who crashed a Lamborghini SUV into another car at a high rate of speed, killing that driver, Monique Muñoz, has now been charged for her death.

A spokesperson from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office confirmed at least one charge has been filed against the driver, but would not say what the charge or charges were. The driver has not been named by prosecutors or police due to his age.

"Because this case involves juvenile proceedings, we are legally barred from disclosing any further information at this time," spokesperson Ricardo Santiago told LAist today.

The fatal crash happened on Feb. 17 at the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Overland Avenue in West Los Angeles. According to L.A. Police Department investigators, the 17-year-old male driver entered the intersection "well in excess of the speed limit" and struck Muñoz's car as she was about to turn left from the opposite side of Olympic. The 32-year-old woman died at the scene.

In March, LAPD investigators told me they sent their case to the DA's office and recommended the driver be charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. One detective said that was based on accounts of the driver's behavior behind the wheel right before the collision, plus the fact that he's been cited previously for similar behavior.

The driver is set to be arraigned in Juvenile Court on April 23 in Inglewood.

After Muñoz's death, her family and friends rallied for justice on social media and organized community protests, saying DA George Gascón was not moving fast enough to prosecute the driver. Amid that outrage, a lot of rumors and speculations spread about how police and the DA's office were handling the investigation and case.

I sorted through the facts here:

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Variants Loom As Vaccines Ramp Up In LA

A dose of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Chava Sanchez/LAist

It’s crunch time for Angelenos. Our COVID-19 cases have plateaued at a low level, allowing businesses to resume some indoor services with restrictions. The vaccine floodgates will open on April 15, when everyone 16-and-over can sign up for a free shot. Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer is hopeful.

“For the first time I booked a vacation for the summer … because I feel really confident that the situation will be so much better,” Ferrer said.

But the prospect of a summer filled with friends depends on a finicky thing -- human behavior.

As coronavirus cases rise in other parts of the country, LAist spoke with Ferrer about several topics, including how teenagers will get vaccinated and why she thinks masks will stick around.

Read and listen to the full interview here.

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Help Wanted: LAUSD Hiring 1,100 Temporary Custodians To Keep Reopened Campuses Clean

The plant manager of Panorama High School shows off a new electrostatic sprayer cleaning machine during a campus tour on March 10, 2021. (Kyle Stokes/LAist)

The L.A. Unified School District plans to hire 1,100 new, temporary custodians — which amounts to at least one extra custodian for every district campus.

These temporary workers will help fulfill LAUSD’s promises to keep campuses clean as they begin to reopen. (The first wave of elementary campuses reopen in the coming week.)

The district has pledged to ensure staff wipe down every classroom between rotating groups of students. LAUSD has also said staff will disinfect every restroom and high-touch surface in the school hourly.

"It is a daunting task," said Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99, the union that represents LAUSD custodians:

“If you don’t increase staff to do the work appropriately, there’s going to be injuries, the work’s not going to get done appropriately.”

But Arias said LAUSD does seem committed to hiring the additional custodians. SEIU Local 99 is still negotiating with the district over the fine details of the cleaning regimen.

As part of the agreement with the union, the district may fill its need for temporary custodians by contracting with outside cleaning companies.


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Here's How To Get Money If You Owe Back Rent

(Photo illustration: Lisa Brenner/LAist | Source photos: Florian Berger/Unsplash, Matt Artz/Unsplash)

Thousands and thousands (and thousands) of Angelenos owe rent to their landlords.

If you’re one of them, pay attention: you may be eligible to have it paid through California's Rental Relief program. The program will pay 80% of your rent to your landlord, if they agree to forgive the rest.

But it’s kind of confusing. Do you live in the city of L.A.? You’ll apply through an L.A. city-specific application. Do you live in L.A. County, outside of the city limits? Apply through the state’s application.

There are also different income requirements for each — and you have to act quickly, because applications are only accepted until April 30.

We've put together a guide to walk you through the labyrinth, and point you to some organizations working hard to help.


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Morning Brief: Your Vaccine Questions, Help With Rent, And Art Blooms In The Desert

Businesses for lease in Boyle Heights. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Good morning, L.A. It’s April 8.

Every day, our newsroom’s call-in show, AirTalk, welcomes a physician to answer listeners’ questions about COVID-19 and the vaccine. Earlier this week, host Larry Mantle spoke with Kimberly Shriner, an infectious disease specialist at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. Here are some of the questions she got, and her answers. (The conversation has been edited for length and clarity):

In California, we’re seeing a gradual reopening of businesses, houses of worship, and other public spaces. How are you feeling about this?

I am very concerned, actually. I think that we're in very good shape right now, and I'm very pleased that there's enthusiasm about the vaccines. The faster we get more people vaccinated, the better off we'll be. But [the medical community is] very, very worried about what's happening on the East Coast and in Europe.

It's possible that we could dodge that event because we have so much intrinsic disease in Southern California in particular, so many people have had Covid, and then so many people are getting vaccinated. But it's going to be a race to the finish here.

You have to be happy about the fact that we're about a week away from those 16 years of age and older being vaccine eligible.

Absolutely. We are close, I think, to getting on top of this pandemic in this country, but these variants are very worrisome. We know the vaccines hold up really well against the certain variants, but that could change if a more virulent variant emerges. But, right now, the vaccine seems very, very strong and very good. So the faster we get people vaccinated, the faster we can get on top of this.

I have two toddlers. They obviously are not going to be vaccinated for quite a while. How are parents of kids supposed to get back into the world if their kids aren't vaccinated?

Both Pfizer and Moderna are looking at vaccines in young children. Moderna is dropping it down to six months of age. That information will probably be available in the next few months. Children under five tend not to get very sick with the disease, although we do worry about this Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). So, I would still be cautious.

If you've been fully vaccinated, you get a comparatively mild case of COVID-19 after full vaccination. Is it possible to develop long haul symptoms?

That's an excellent question, and we don't know yet. We're just beginning to crack the surface a little bit on this [long haul] syndrome, which up to 30% of people who have COVID may develop. There has been anecdotal information that individuals who have long haul syndrome feel better after they've been vaccinated. It's as if the vaccines kind of reset things.

People that have had vaccinations and then get COVID, whether they're susceptible to long haul syndrome or not, we don't know.

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

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What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go … Desert X Takes Up Residence In Palm Springs

Nicholas Galanin’s “Never Forget” (John Horn/LAist)

It's not just wildflowers that bloom in California this time of year — it's also when massive art installations blossom across the Coachella Valley.

Every two years, a group of international artists creates a variety of site-specific works for Desert X in and around Palm Springs, many set against the massive wind farms that pepper the landscape. Many of this year's artists are making bold statements about women's rights, diversity, immigration, land use, indigenous communities and various political and historical issues tied to the valley.

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