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Morning Briefing: What The Strawberry Harvest Has To Teach Us

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Jacob Margolis met Maria, an undocumented farm worker, while reporting on the effects of the coronavirus on California’s strawberry industry. An employee in the fields for nearly 20 years, Maria is among many laborers whose jobs may be at risk; farms that cultivate the sweet fruit – which grows quickly, must be harvested right away and has a short shelf life – could wind up without enough buyers this season.

“What will happen if I lose my job?” she told Margolis. “The kids, the rest, the food. How am I going to pay the rent?”

Maria’s far from the only one who’s worried. KPCC+LAist contributor Betto Arcos has the story of Tomas Delgado, the owner of Candelas Guitar Shop, who fears he might have to close after over 70 years. Aaron Mendelson spoke to tenants who are as afraid to be at their homes as they are to be out and about. And just yesterday, the Los Angeles Times announced the closure of three community papers and the loss of 14 jobs.

These changes are happening faster than we can process them; we’ll be working to comprehend the lives we left behind and the lives we know now as a result of the coronavirus pandemic for years to come.

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In the meantime, the best we can do is put one foot in front of the other as change keeps swirling around us -- something that Soren Bjorn, president of Driscoll's, has learned to do with his fast-growing, short-lived fruits.

"There's no stopping the crop,” Bjorn told Margolis. “You cannot hit pause. The berries are going to keep coming.”


Coming Up Today, April 17

Mike Roe reports on a father/daughter thriller graphic novel set in the world of L.A.'s 1980s country music club scene; specifically, North Hollywood's Palomino. Betto Arcos profiles the owner of Candelas Guitar Shop, the oldest music store in L.A., who is worried about his shop’s survival.

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Aaron Mendelson asks how tenants in substandard housing are coping with the stay at home orders in L.A. – what is it like to stay at home when home isn’t safe? Plus, calls to L.A. County's domestic abuse hotline went up a whopping 68% in March compared with March 2019, reports Robert Garrova.

Alyssa Jeong Perry shadows a street team reaching out to unhoused Angelenos, and Matt Tinoco provides a status report on measures to protect the city’s homeless population from the coronavirus.

Maria, an undocumented farmworker in Oxnard, shares her concerns with Jacob Margolis for the pandemic’s effects on the strawberry crop and how she makes a living. The situation at food banks is not good at all, reports Elina Shatkin.

Shatkin also has a list and explanation of how restaurants have turned into markets, and Sharon McNary has everything you need to know about coronavirus in the public water system.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story of an L.A. community college expecting a surge in students needing help with their basic needs and mental health. Meanwhile, Kyle Stokes reports on the daunting challenges faced by the parents, teachers and school districts of students with disabilities.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are now at least 10,854 cases of coronavirus in L.A. County. There are over 27,500 cases in California, and more than 2.15 million worldwide. L.A. officials are making efforts to expand COVID-19 testing for African Americans. 60,000 Angelenos have been tested so far. Meanwhile, the White House unveiled guidelines to plot a course out of the coronavirus disaster.

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Concerns For The Most Vulnerable: Reports of suspected child abuse in L.A. County have plummeted in recent weeks, which has experts concerned: "these children are out of sight,” says one. The Long Beach and Pasadena health departments are tightening restrictions on skilled nursing and assisted living facilities after a spate of COVID-19 deaths. California's state prisons are making the controversial request that inmates with sleep apnea stop using CPAP machines that help them breathe out of alleged concern over the spread of COVID-19.

Rent And Paid Leave: If you didn’t pay rent this month, you are not getting kicked out, we also have gathered other important information for L.A. renters. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave for essential workers in food service who have contracted or been exposed to coronavirus, or been ordered to isolate or enter quarantine.

Strawberry Fields: Tens of millions of pounds of strawberries produced by California farms could end up in the trash, and some farms could be facing financial peril.

Money In The Time Of… : The Los Angeles Times on Thursday announced the closure of three community papers: The Burbank Leader, the Glendale News-Press and the La Cañada Valley Sun. The federal small business loans program is out of money, and many proprietors never even got the chance to apply.


In Non-COVID-19 News

The Census Bureau proposed a new timeline for the 2020 count, but some lawmakers aren't feeling enthusiastic about it without knowing how the bureau plans to adapt in-person canvassing around the pandemic.

A new study in Nature Scientific Reports says that the possibility of extreme flooding along U.S. Coastlines is going to double every five years.


Your Moment Of Zen

A mass testing site as a moment of Zen might seem strange, but testing more widely is a key ingredient of saving lives and reopening the economy. That’s why we find this image of the facility that opened this week at the Forum in Inglewood reassuring. Who can get tested? L.A. County says: “ALL individuals who are symptomatic, or individuals who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing.”

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(Courtesy the County of Los Angeles)


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The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.