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Morning Brief: Investigating California’s Nursing Homes, Reopening Schools, And Salsa Dancing Under The Stars

A man waits for his food at a Mexican restaurant. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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Good morning, L.A. It’s April 6.

Today, following a months-long investigation, KPCC/LAist reporters Aaron Mendelson and Elly Yu put a spotlight onnursing home operator ReNew Health.

Connected to at least 26 nursing homes across California, ReNew acts as an owner, operator, management company or administrator. At least 198 people have died from COVID-19 at ReNew facilities. And beginning in February 2017, regulators spent three years documenting 128 federal violations at ReNew nursing homes.

Aaron and Elly’s investigation into the company’s myriad wrongdoings draws on the findings of those regulators as well as state records, court filings and government databases. They also conducted dozens of interviews, including with former ReNew employees and people whose family members died in the company’s facilities.

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Last year, state health officials took the extraordinary step of denying ReNew’s owner, Crystal Solorzano, licenses to take over nine existing nursing homes. Officials cited a lengthy list of serious violations at her facilities, and even concerns about Solorzano’s character. But due to what advocates call a “completely exploited” licensing process, ReNew Health nevertheless began operating those facilities, and is still doing so today .

“California has, in a sense, rolled out the red carpet for bad providers,” Tony Chicotel, an attorney with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, tells LAist. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a bad provider … You can get in the building, you can be a squatter, and they can’t get you out.”

My colleagues found that nursing homes are failing some of the most vulnerable Californians: The elderly, people with long-term illnesses, and those with mental health conditions.

It’s a distressing situation for Californians with family members in one of the state’s 1,200 licensed nursing homes, which house around 100,000 patients at any given time.

We explore those failures in our story. We also are partnering with other nonprofit newsrooms in California to hold the state’s Department of Public Health accountable, and this will not be the last story we do on this issue.

Please read and share our investigation, which is made possible by the support of our members.

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

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Before You Go … This Week’s Outdoor Pick: Salsa Under The Stars

Metro Art presents a night of live music and salsa dancing at Union Station. (Courtesy of Metro Art Los Angeles via Facebook)

Get ready to move (in a safe, socially distant manner). Lyrik Cruz leads upbeat Salsa classes all month long for dancers of all levels. The programs will be held at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and COVID-19 protocol such as masks and social distancing will be in effect.

Or, you could: Attend Q&As with Oscar-nominated filmmakers and cast members. Laugh along with Lapkus & Tompkins. Learn how to thrive in a post-apocalyptic world. Check out Reservoir Dogs at the drive-in. Sample Nigerian dishes at a new downtown L.A. spot. And more.

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