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Morning Briefing: The ‘Invisible Population Behind Bars’

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As L.A. County’s coronavirus numbers continue to go up, concern is mounting over the safety of the incarcerated population. At a low-security men’s federal prison in San Pedro, more than half of the inmates have tested positive for the virus, and two have died – the largest outbreak in any prison in the nation.

Meanwhile, only 24 female inmates have been tested in California’s two largest women’s prisons, and some who are being held there believe women’s facilities are being overlooked as COVID-19 in men’s prisons gets more attention from the press and public.

In an interview with Robert Garrova, the ACLU’s Peter J. Eliasberg said the current situation violates California’s responsibility to protect prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment.

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“The state has an obligation, when it puts people in a jail or prison, to reasonably guarantee their health and safety, and that’s not happening,” Eliasberg told Garrova.

As inmates’ positive test results mount, though, many residents and officials are turning their focus to reopening. Long Beach and Santa Monica have begun discussions on how to do so. Gov. Gavin Newsom says California is a week or two away from loosening restrictions, and federal guidelines won’t extend beyond their April expiration.

With that focus shifting, some inmates worry they’ll be left behind – particularly the women.

“It’s this invisible population behind bars,” Romarilyn Ralston, who directs a program that matriculates formerly incarcerated people, told Emily Elena Dugdale. "Women are still considered second-class citizens, and when we become incarcerated, we’re forgotten.”

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, April 30

L.A.’s Asian Pacific Film Festival. Impro Theatre takes on Hemingway. Louie Pérez of Los Lobos drops in for a chat. Christine N. Ziemba reminds us to have fun, but stay home.

California's population of Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians is small, but state health data shows they are dying from COVID-19 at almost four times their population share in the state, reports Josie Huang.

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DragCon is taking place via livestream this year. Leo Duran explores how that will change the dynamic of the event...and suggests some easy costumes to wear at home.

Aaron Mendelson examines data that shows a slight reduction in the gap between coronavirus deaths and population share among Latinos.

Some spouses of immigrants have filed suit over their inability to receive federal stimulus checks because their spouses don't have a social security number, reports Libby Denkmann.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are now at least 22,485 coronavirus cases and 1,056 deaths in L.A. County. There are over 48,000 cases and 1,900 deaths in California. Worldwide, there are over 3.1 million cases and over 227,000 deaths.

COVID-19 Testing For All Angelenos: L.A. Mayor Garcetti announced that starting tonight, all L.A. County residents – even those without symptoms – can get tested for COVID-19 at no cost. The mayor said that makes L.A. "the first major city in America to offer wide-scale testing to all of our residents." But brace yourself for slow load times on the city website where you can register.

Prisons: More than half the inmates at the Terminal Island federal prison in San Pedro -- 570 -- have COVID-19. Inmates in California's women's prisons say they have the same concerns about safety and testing as inmates at men's prisons, but they feel they're not getting nearly as much attention.

L.A.’s Workforce: As local and state leaders rush to create new ways for essential workers to access child care, questions about how they'll deliver services remain unanswered. We talk to some of the 2,900 people working to provide hundreds of thousands of meals to LAUSD kids every weekday. A new ordinance will require places like hotels, airports and performance venues to give laid-off workers the opportunity to return to their jobs when those businesses reopen.

Curbing Domestic Violence: L.A.'s Violence Intervention Program has started offering food, toys and rental assistance to families dealing with domestic abuse in order to lessen economic stressors.

Re-Opening California: California might be a week or two away from modifying its stay-at-home orders. Long Beach officials are asking for the community's input on how to safely reopen. Gov. Newsom got a surprise at a news briefing when a reporter put an OC Supervisor on the phone, who defended keeping beaches open. Santa Monica leaders are organizing a task force to consider reopening businesses.

The Future Of Social Distancing: Riverside County will extend social distancing and face mask requirements until June 19, calling it the "new normal." California officials are thinking about what schools might look like when they reopen. Existing federal social distancing guidelines will not be extended further.

L.A.’s Food Scene: Hummus Labs in Pasadena opened its doors during the dine-in restaurant ban. Owner Joseph Badaro figures the only way for things to go is up.

Unwind, Chill, Relax: Going to the theatre may be out, but how about letting the theatre come to you? The Geffen Playhouse is now operating the Geffen Stayhouse, in which its actors do shows right from their homes. Plus, the meditation app Headspace is now free for L.A. County residents, thanks to a partnership with the County Mental Health Department.

Opposite Of Chill And Relax: In what has become a nasty referendum on how movies are released, Universal and theater owners are fighting over “Trolls: World Tour" and over the very viability of the multiplex. While other studios have yet to choose sides, exhibitors have fired an industry-wide warning shot at Hollywood moguls: abandon us now, and pay the price later. Also, our air quality has gone downhill.

Your Moment Of Zen

LAist Studios operations manager Taylor Coffman captured this image of the empty Santa Monica Pier at the end of March.

(Taylor Coffman / LAist)

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