Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):5:00The P.M. Edition: Delta variant reality check; Pfizer booster trial begins; Wildfire weather conditions; Hot housing market
Housing and Homelessness
The Southern California housing market is hot — some might say too hot. Home prices have risen by double digits every month for the last 11 months.
In June, the median L.A. County home price rose to almost $800,000.
As COVID cases continue to climb among the fully vaccinated (particularly community transmission), the CDC has released new guidelines to help curb the spread — including updated mask and testing recommendations.
New guidance recommends that fully vaccinated individuals get tested for COVID within 3-5 days after ANY known exposure, even if they aren’t symptomatic. The CDC also says those who have been exposed should wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until they receive a negative test result.
While L.A. County health officials have mandated mask wearing indoors for all people regardless of vaccine status, they still have not updated testing guidance. County guidance recommends those who are fully vaccinated and have a known COVID exposure, but are not exhibiting symptoms don’t need to get a test.
Even though breakthrough cases for fully vaccinated people remain uncommon, it still might be a good idea to get a test if you know you have been exposed or are experiencing any symptoms.
But how can you do that in L.A.?
While appointments aren’t necessary at L.A. County or City of L.A. testing sites, you can still schedule one by visiting the health department website or calling 211 to reduce your waiting time.
Here are some sites to get tested without an appointment and their hours (if you want to make an appointment, though, they are linked with each location):
- L.A. Union Station: Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.- 3 p.m.
- Edendale Library -- Echo Park: Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.- 3 p.m.
- The Forum Kiosk in Inglewood: Monday-Sturday 7:30 a.m.- 4 p.m.
- Angeles Community Health Center - Gardena: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
- East L.A. College: Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
- Doctor Now - Robertson Blvd: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.
- Sepulveda Recreation Center in Panorama City: Tuesday-Saturday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
- Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in South L.A.: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.
- South Gate Park Kiosk: Monday-Friday 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. (if you are a South Gate resident the City of South Gate is offering free transportation to the testing center!)
- San Fernando Park: Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Tests are free for everyone, regardless of immigration status or whether you have health insurance.
While ID isn’t required, county officials recommend bringing some sort of personal identification to your test, just to ensure results are matched to the correct person. Your identity is protected by federal law and can’t be used for any purpose other than giving test results.
Be warned, though, testing availability is much more limited on weekends, so it's important to check in beforehand and make sure your local testing site is open.
Arts and Entertainment(Courtesy Fantagraphics)
Pro wrestling can mean something different depending on how old you were when you first discovered it, how important the idea of your sports entertainment being “real” was to you, and whether it was part of your culture.
Comic book creator and Oxnard, California native Jaime Hernandez found wrestling early, essentially as long as he can remember. There was something that grabbed him about women wrestlers in particular.
Throughout his four decades in small press comics, he sketched women wrestlers as a hobby — something that wasn’t usually part of the stories he told with his brother in the acclaimed Love & Rockets comics, but work just meant for his own enjoyment. Eventually that interest made its way into the spinoff comic Whoa Nellie. But now he’s releasing those private drawings to the public in the form of the new book Queen of the Ring: Wrestling Drawings by Jaime Hernandez 1980–2020.
Everyone in the neighborhood knew Fabiola Favela’s ceviche. You have to trust someone to buy homemade seafood from a street cart, and Favela, 47, was that vendor in the poorest neighborhoods of Long Beach.
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down food carts across Los Angeles County and the rest of the country last year, Favela adapted, taking her knives and cutting boards to a friend’s kitchen. Together, the women, both undocumented, kept sales moving and money in their pocket — until this spring when Favela felt a tickle in her throat.
It was COVID.
For weeks, she couldn’t work. The money dried up, she said, and the Long Beach boarding house where she was subletting a room left an eviction notice with her name on it on the front door. That was the Friday before Memorial Day.
“They gave me the notice on May 28, and told me to be out on June 2, and every day (in between) was closed for the holiday,” Favela said. “I tried to ask the (people at) the courthouse, but they said I needed to make an appointment.”
Sheriff’s deputies knocked at 5 a.m. on June 2 and told her to leave, she said. That night, Favela and her 11-year-old son slept in a city park.
Hers is one of at least 221 households evicted in the city of Long Beach since July 2020, one of the densest clusters of evictions in Los Angeles County, the county with the most residential evictions in California, according to a CalMatters analysis.
An Eviction Moratorium — With Evictions
In the city of Long Beach, a CalMatters analysis found 83 evictions in the second half of 2020 and 138 in the first three months of 2021.
From July 2020 through March 2021, sheriff’s departments across the state enforced lockouts of at least 7,677 households, according to data obtained through public records requests from all but two of California’s 58 counties. Similar data from March 2020 until August showed the state carried out at least 2,000 evictions, bringing the total number of California households locked out throughout the pandemic to nearly 10,000, at minimum.
The number of evictions has accelerated in 2021 — and they are happening despite a series of moratoriums, approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature, that are supposed to protect people who were barely scraping by when the pandemic made them sick or cost them jobs, leaving them unable to pay rent.
But in Long Beach, it has been a mostly invisible crisis on the street — no vast tracts of unoccupied homes as seen in the foreclosure crisis during the 2008 Great Recession, no blocks of shuttered storefronts, no long lines for food or jobs.
The eviction crisis is also less visible, city tenant assistance groups say, because 75% of the people they work with are undocumented, and many of them already live in the shadows.
“This landlord would tell me: ‘These tenants need to go back to their country,’” said Cynthia Macias, board president of Housing Long Beach, a tenant advocacy group. “Or that they should be on Section 8 (federally subsidized housing) since they’re so poor.
“Excuse me? Like, it’s a pandemic. I don’t understand how I have to rationalize with you why this family chose not to work.”
They’re people like Favela, who found a new home in mid-June with money raised online. By late July, she took a job cleaning houses. She was supposed to start today.
But last week, her son started coughing, and she again felt a tickle in her throat.
The Root Causes?
Why is Long Beach a hotspot in a county that already makes up nearly half of the state’s confirmed residential evictions?
The reasons are both mundane and the result of extraordinary circumstances, a complicated mixture of failures in planning and landlords suspected of exploiting loopholes.
Three major factors, according to city officials, academics and residents, are high unemployment, the number of renters and the age of houses in this blue-collar port city.
At 11%, the city’s unemployment rate is higher than the state and county average, although Long Beach leaders say they’re optimistic about a recovery.
Renters comprise 60% of Long Beach residents, a number higher than Los Angeles County (54%) or Orange County (43%), which is on Long Beach’s southeast border, according to research by Seiji Steimetz, chairperson of economics and director of the Office of Economic Research at California State University, Long Beach.
While tenants in Long Beach are not significantly more likely to spend more than 30% of their income on rent than the residents in the rest of Los Angeles County, Steimetz said, people of color are far more likely to rent. Just 24% of Black households and 29% of Latino families own their homes, compared to 54% of white households, according to city statistics.
A third factor is that Long Beach’s housing stock is extraordinarily old compared to the rest of the county. In Long Beach, 82% of residential units are more than 30 years old, the age at which they generally need major upgrades, and 71% of Long Beach residential units are more than 50 years old.
Older housing stock means renters are more likely to be put out of their homes because state law allows landlords to evict for needed upgrades or repairs, even during the pandemic, said Christopher Koontz, Long Beach’s deputy director of development services.
But Koontz said the city suspects some landlords are exploiting the law to evict tenants, for instance by merely installing a new appliance. “The definition of ‘substantial remodel’ leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.
Ironically, just two weeks before the March 2020 shutdown caused by the pandemic, the city had enacted stronger tenant protections, requiring landlords to get construction permits and compelling them to notify tenants sooner about remodeling.
In June, four city council members wrote to Mayor Robert Garcia, warning that “effectively, any tenant or family residing in an older building is at risk of eviction.”
Later this month, the city council will take up a proposal to halt all no-fault “substantial remodel” evictions until the end of the year.
The California Apartment Association maintains that most evictions are due to nuisances and health and safety issues. Under the current statewide moratorium, landlords can evict tenants for a substantial remodel only if that is necessary to comply with health and safety standards.
It’s too late for those already evicted. In Long Beach, 83 households were locked out between July and December 2020. In just the first three months of 2021, sheriff’s deputies evicted 138 households, according to CalMatters’ analysis.
Many of the elected leaders who represent Long Beach, however, don’t want to talk about the eviction crisis in their backyard. Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, a Democrat whose district includes Long Beach, declined to comment through a spokesperson. Janice Hahn, the Los Angeles County supervisor whose district includes Long Beach, did not return multiple calls from CalMatters.
A Separate City, Unscathed
There’s one area of Long Beach relatively untouched by the eviction crisis. Signal Hill, a city that exists entirely within the borders of Long Beach, has had a total of five evictions during the pandemic.
One of the most affluent cities in the country, Signal Hill was founded in 1924, three years after a 600-barrel-a-day oil well sprung a gusher. Seeking to avoid a proposed oil tax in Long Beach, a cadre of oil men drew the borders of a new city and Signal Hill was born — and the oil tax avoided.
Today, Signal Hill is a kind of suburb within Long Beach, comprised of broad boulevards lined with cookie-cutter big box stores, office parks and coffee shops, scrubbed to a sparkle with the kind of refined sterility that comes when cities have lots of tax dollars to spend on roads and parks.
Its $75,000 median annual household income is $12,000 more than the surrounding city. More than 46% of its population has at least a bachelor’s degree, 15 percentage points higher than in Long Beach. Looking from just the right angle, on the right street, there are views of the Port of Long Beach and the poorer neighborhoods that line Signal Hill’s south and west border.
It was along that border that Long Beach saw its highest concentration of evictions, and it was along that border that Rasheena McCord made a life until the summer of 2020.
Living On The Street
Here’s what McCord knows about sleeping as a single woman on the street: Start at bus depots because they are brightly lit. Make sure some part of your body is touching all of your stuff. Treat anyone who approaches as a threat.
On the good days, she said, she’s able to scrape together money for a motel room. But not every day is a good day.
Before the pandemic and her eviction, McCord was in a two-bedroom apartment with her two children and her partner. Her family was just beginning to recover from the serious beating of her special needs son outside a Long Beach high school in May 2019. Three teenagers were charged, and one 19-year-old man was sentenced to eight years in prison that October.
The same month, McCord, 41, filed domestic violence charges against her partner. When he went to jail, she was left to pay the rent by herself. In the meantime, she said, the hospital where she worked as a caregiver and medical technician cut her hours from about 32 per week down to one eight-hour shift.
She fell behind paying the rent, and in February 2020, her landlord filed for eviction. A judge scheduled the eviction for March 24. When the state shut down at the outset of the pandemic and Newsom issued a stay-at-home order on March 19, McCord thought she might be safe from removal.
“With the whole stay-at-home order, I wondered if the eviction was even going to happen,” McCord recalled. “The landlord said, ‘That virus has nothing to do with (the) eviction.’”
She sent her children to stay with her parents in Los Angeles, but there was no room for her. So she spent her first night on the street. Within a week, she filed for unemployment and looked for help from the city and county.
“I had been trying to get hotel vouchers but because I’m not 65 or over, not mentally ill, not HIV-positive, not at high risk for COVID, which is freaking ridiculous,” McCord said.
She found a new job at a hospital in Artesia with significantly reduced hours, but she said she quit this January due to the concentration of COVID cases. McCord, who said she isn’t vaccinated, sold her car and went back on unemployment. She’s now staying in hotels, with help from Housing Long Beach.
Today, McCord sees far more families on the street, or living in cars, their belongings piled up to the rear window and stacked on the roof.
“You used to see that, like a family on vacation visiting from out of town. Now, it’s actually people freaking living in it,” McCord said. “Sometimes you may feel like man, I’m going through this s–t alone, am I the only person? Then, when you see these families, these little bitty kids younger than mine — babies — and the mom’s doing the best she can. I’ve never seen this many families homeless in my life.”
California’s eviction moratorium is set to expire after Sept. 30.
CalMatters data and interactives editor John Osborn D’Agostino and data reporter Jeremia Kimelman contributed to this story.
This article is part of the California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.What questions do you have about Southern California?
Arts and Entertainment(Rony's Photobooth)
Start the week by singing along to Grease. Learn capoeira under the stars. Attend an artwalk along a South Bay waterfront. Listen to live music by Quetzal. Swing along to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Or get nostalgic with LAist’s Mike Roe and guests as the TV Pilot Club revisits Living Single.
Monday, Aug. 2; 7:30 p.m.
The Slumber Party Massacre/The Clan of The Cave Bear
New Beverly Cinema
7165 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax
The New Bev screens a Grindhouse double feature starting with the 1982 film directed by Amy Holden Jones and written by Rita Mae Brown about a power-tool maniac who invades a pajama party. It’s followed at 9:15 p.m. by the 1986 film starring Daryl Hannah about possible interactions between the now-extinct Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnon.
COST: $12; MORE INFO
Monday, Aug. 2; 8 p.m.
Rooftop Cinema Club
1310 E. Franklin Ave., El Segundo
Head to the rooftop of the parking garage to watch a fun summer movie and sing-along with John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and the rest of the Greasers and Pink Ladies.
COST: $16.65 - $23; MORE INFO
Tuesday, Aug. 3; 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.
TV Pilot Club (Living Single) — An LAist Virtual Event
With enviable wardrobes, complicated love lives, and real careers for the characters, this ’90s show quickly became iconic and has recently re-emerged as beloved nostalgia viewing. On Aug. 3, LAist entertainment reporter Mike Roe and guests take a look back at the premiere episode and reflect on why the show resonated with audiences then and now. Grab a copy of Flavor Magazine, rewatch the pilot before the event, and RSVP to join the conversation with LAist entertainment reporter Mike Roe, Tre’vell Anderson, and Joi-Marie McKenzie Lewis.
COST: FREE with RSVP; MORE INFO
Tuesdays Aug. 3 - 31; 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday Night Dance Capoeira
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Learn the combination of martial arts and dance, originally developed in the 1500s by enslaved West Africans in Brazil who were unable to openly practice fighting techniques. Dance on the plaza each Tuesday this month with an instructor from ABADÁ-Capoeira. All ages and all abilities. No previous experience is required.
COST: Tickets start at $10; MORE INFO
Wednesday, Aug. 4
Cayton Children's Museum Reopens
Santa Monica Place
395 Santa Monica Place, Suite 374, Santa Monica
The children’s museum reopens its indoor operations with a new timed entry and pay-as-you-wish admission model for L.A. County residents. Kids can interact with discovery-based exhibits and art activities.
COST: Pay-what-you wish for county residents; $16 for non-LA County residents; MORE INFO
Wednesday, Aug. 4 - Saturday, Aug. 7
2021 Tribeca Drive-in
Rose Bowl Stadium
1001 Rose Bowl Dr., Pasadena
The screening series returns to the L.A. area, bringing new and classic films on select days through Aug. 26. This week’s schedule features The Princess Diaries and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy on Aug. 4; Rango and Moonlight on Aug. 5; Go Big: Sports Shorts, and Blockers on Aug. 6; and Hook, The Birdcage and Good Will Hunting on Aug. 7.
COST: $30 per vehicle; MORE INFO
Wednesday, Aug. 4; 7 p.m.
Chance Theater @ Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center on the Cripe Stage
5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, CA 92807
Anaheim’s resident theater company presents a staged reading of Krista Knight’s play, the fourth in the 2021 OTR Reading Series. In the dark comedy, a professor is suspicious of a student who turns in a violent play for class. She suspects him of being a possible school shooter. As her home life becomes more dangerous, she doubles down on her fear of the potential shooter.
COST: $15; MORE INFO
Wednesday, Aug. 4; 10 a.m. PT
Summer Happy Hours
Black List founder Franklin Leonard hosts virtual conversations with filmmakers to discuss how they took their shot with their very first short film. This week Leonard is joined by Leigh Whannell, who most recently wrote and directed The Invisible Man with Elisabeth Moss.
COST: FREE with RSVP; MORE INFO
Thursday, Aug. 5; 6 - 9 p.m.
San Pedro First Thursday ArtWalk
San Pedro Arts District, downtown San Pedro
Discover the arts scene along the waterfront as galleries are open late; then stay for the shopping and dining (and curated food trucks) in the neighborhood. There’s live music on the corner of Sixth and Mesa streets. An ArtWalk guided tour leaves at 6 p.m., from Sirens Java & Tea (402 W. Seventh St.).
COST: FREE; MORE INFO
Thursday, Aug. 5 - September
Tarantino Live: Fox Force Five & the Tyranny of Evil Men
The Bourbon Room
6356 Hollywood Blvd, 2nd Floor, Hollywood
"For the Record," the series that mixes music and theater, returns with an event that showcases scenes from director Quentin Tarantino’s films. Running Thursdays through Sundays, the show follows the “Fox Force Five” from Pulp Fiction as they fight tyrannical, evil men. The updated show now includes tunes from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, including “California Dreamin’,” "You Keep Me Hangin' On," and “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.”
COST: Tickets start at $49; MORE INFO
Thursday, Aug. 5; 8 p.m.
Popular Kids Club
1906 Cypress Ave., Cypress Park
The outdoor comedy show features headliners Matt Braunger and James Adomian with other cool kids performing and hanging out at this intimate venue. Hosted by Luke Wienecke.
COST: FREE / $5 suggested donation; MORE INFO
Thursday, Aug. 5; 4 p.m. PT
Visions: The War Widow
The UCLA Film and Television Archive presents a one-time screening of this 1976 PBS program that was originally broadcast at a time when LGBTQ+ people were frequently depicted negatively on television. Playwright/screenwriter Harvey Perr’s period drama sensitively portrayed two women falling in love during World War I, played by Pamela Bellwood and Frances Lee McCain. Both Perr and McCain join LGBTQ+ historian Jenni Olson for a post-screening conversation. Introduction by archive director May Hong HaDuong.
COST: FREE with RSVP; MORE INFO
Thursday, Aug. 5; 5 - 8 p.m.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Orion Walsh
Mile Square Park16801 Euclid St., Fountain Valley
The OC Parks Summer Concert Series heats up even more with the big band swing sounds of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the folk tunes of Walsh. Food trucks and booths will be available at each location for bites and beverages.
COST: FREE; MORE INFO
Through Thursday, Aug. 12
Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival
Various locations / online
The multicultural festival features both online and in-person screenings. Watch short film programs, features and documentaries that aim to inspire and empower at LADFF.com. There’s also an in-person screening on Aug. 5 of Nicholas Mihm’s documentary about the Santa Susana Field Laboratory In the Dark of the Valley (with Q&A) at the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino.
COST: $10 - $50; MORE INFO
Thursdays through Aug. 26
2021 Sunset Concerts
Skirball Cultural Center
Live, in-person concerts return to the Skirball, focusing on talents from the L.A. music scene that share in the values of justice, community building, kindness and honoring memory. The series opens with the Chicano rock of Quetzal (Aug. 5), followed by Run River North (Aug. 12); The Delirians (Aug. 19); and Extra Ancestral (Aug. 26).
COST: FREE with RSVP, parking $10 - $20; MORE INFO
Small Town News: KPVM Pahrump
There are only 95 independently owned news stations left in the U.S., and the new HBO series follows the operations and colorful personnel of one of those stations: KPVM in Pahrump, Nevada, located 62 miles west of Las Vegas. The six-part, half-hour docuseries from Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (HBO’s Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes, Carrie Fisher: Wishful Drinking) focuses on a scrappy news team trying to break into the big market with warmth and humor. Two back-to-back episodes debut on Monday (9 - 10 p.m. PT), with new episodes airing subsequent Mondays at the same time. The series will also stream on HBO Max.
Dine and Drink Deals
Here's the 411 on restaurant happenings in SoCal:
- Long Beach Burger Week runs through Sunday and features $5, $10, $15 and $20 creative burgers and deals at participating restaurants throughout the city, including The Crooked Duck, The Hangry Belly, The Kroft and The Hideaway.
- Both National Oyster Day and National IPA fall on Thursday and Angelenos can celebrate both at once at Messhall Kitchen in Los Feliz. They’re offering an oyster and IPA pairing for $24 and a half-dozen market oysters for $18 only on that day only.
- The all-new Moroccan-themed cocktail lounge The Oasis opens at the Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE Pool Sundeck on Thursday from 6-10 p.m. With great views of the city, The Oasis is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night through the end of summer. The $90 ticket package for two includes access, a pitcher of signature sangria and a mezze platter of flavorful bites. Additional cocktails and food are available for purchase.
- Venice Beach’s The Waterfront was formerly On the Waterfront, a 23-year-old restaurant known for German beers and big Bavarian pretzels. The pretzels had a cult following and after the new owners opened the latest iteration, they knew the pretzels had to stay. All month long, The Waterfront will donate all profits from the pretzels to the Venice nonprofit, A Safe Place for Youth.
- L.A.'s canned wine brand. Bev. recently opened the Venice Rosé Garden, the first Bev-owned tasting room opened by the brand. Bev's new beachfront outdoor tasting room also features morning yoga classes held every weekend led by @studioginger (code FIRSTTIME for 40% off the first class).
Good morning, L.A. It’s August 2.
The city is reopening, but for women, girls, and female-identifying residents, getting around L.A. is still not as safe as it is for men.
That’s what a new study commissioned by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation found. Researchers focused on three L.A. neighborhoods — Sun Valley in the San Fernando Valley; Watts in South L.A.; and Sawtelle in West L.A. — in an effort to understand how women, and specifically BIPOC women, experience navigating the city.
My colleague Ryan Fonseca reports that through community surveys, interviews with commuters and a series of in-person working groups, the study resulted in some useful insights.About The Morning Brief
The Morning Brief newsletter is sent mornings Monday through Friday. Subscribe to get it delivered to your inbox.
For instance, since women are often the primary caretakers in their families, “women’s mobility is also a determinant of the health and wellness of their families and other dependents,” the authors wrote.
Women also face more barriers to transportation, including less access to cars. Study participants who identified as female are more likely to feel unsafe, and to report harassment, when using public transportation than men as well.
The researchers echo what other experts have been saying for decades: that for BIPOC women, inequity is more pronounced. In addition to gender-based discrimination, people in this group face racial barriers, historic underinvestment, and economic disenfranchisement.
Read more about the study here.
Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A., and stay safe out there.
What Else You Need To Know Today
- The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department released some body cam footage of the fatal shooting by a deputy of David Ordaz, Jr., 34, who was experiencing a mental health crisis that day.
- At last week’s Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting, anti-vaccine sentiments turned into a torrent of racist and xenophobic tirades against Supervisor Andrew Do, the board’s chair.
- A USC advisory board found that during 2019 and 2020, campus police officers stopped Black people at higher numbers than any other racial group.
- San Bernardino school officials are planning for most of the district’s 53,000 students to return to campuses for in-person learning.
- A state commission is opening an investigation into allegations that Cal State Long Beach misused a sacred Native American site located on the university's campus.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending face coverings for vaccinated people in certain situations. Here's what you need to know about when to mask up.
Before You Go ... Viola Davis To LMU Grads: 'Live Your Truth'
Loyola Marymount University honored the classes of 2020 and 2021 after canceling last year's in-person commencement due to the pandemic. Their commencement speaker, the Oscar, Emmy and Tony-winning actor Viola Davis, told graduates how she found her true voice and how they can find theirs.
"Will you feel you are at war for living your truth? Yup,” she said. “Will you at various times feel like you're standing alone? Yup. Will you be ostracized? Maybe. But the reward is that you will feel alive.''
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending face coverings for vaccinated people in certain situations. Please tell me exactly when to mask up.
If you hung your mask up in May after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said face coverings were no longer necessary for vaccinated people, you're probably not eager to start masking up once more. And with Tuesday's announcement that some vaccinated people should mask up again in certain situations because of the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, your head may be spinning.
The new guidance is targeted at vaccinated people who live in areas with "high and substantial transmission," and it focuses on indoor settings.
Given that the recent rise in hospitalizations is probably because of people no longer wearing masks at the appropriate time, says Charlotte Baker, assistant professor of epidemiology at Virginia Tech, many health experts welcomed the reversal.
But there are many unanswered questions as people look for guidance in specific situations: Do I really need to mask up at the grocery store? How about on a college campus that requires students to be vaccinated? What about roller coasters?
"It's so subjective and situational," says May Chu, a clinical professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health, who led the research on masks and respirators for the World Health Organization. "It's easier to think it through if you know what the risks are that you need to evaluate."
To help you assess and mitigate your risk in specific situations, we asked specialists in ventilation, masking, public health and infectious disease for their input. They recommend thinking about the following questions when deciding whether to doff or don. Warning: The first few questions have easy answers, but they get trickier.
Are you vaccinated? This is one of the only clear-cut answers: If you haven't gotten jabbed yet, your risk in any public situation is high enough to wear a mask always.
Will everyone else there be vaccinated? On the flip side, when you're sure everyone else is vaccinated, experts agree the risk is so low there's no need to mask.
Do you have a cold, the flu or COVID-19-like symptoms? If you do, quarantine at home (and get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19). And if you have just a garden-variety cold or flu and have to go out, wear a mask for the health of everyone around you.
Are you going to be outside? Virus particles dilute rapidly outdoors. Virginia Tech aerosol expert Linsey Marr has compared it to a droplet of dye in the ocean: "If you happen to be right next to it, then maybe you'll get a whiff of it. But it's going to become diluted rapidly into the huge atmosphere."
Our experts believe that most vaccinated people are safe without masks in most outdoor situations without prolonged close contact.
These next questions don't come with neat, stand-alone answers. Consider each response as one piece of the puzzle as you make your mask decision.
Are transmission rates low to moderate in your county? In areas with high rates of vaccination, test positivity rates have fallen to the lowest levels since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic (under 5% is considered low). With low levels of virus circulating, going out without a mask is much safer. However, keep your eye on that rate as cases start rising again because of that delta variant, says Stanford University infectious disease fellow Abraar Karan. "The change over time will tell you in which direction the epidemic is heading," he says.
Whom do you live with? If you live with unvaccinated people (including children) or with people 65 and older or anyone else especially susceptible to the coronavirus, wearing a mask could reduce your risk of developing a rare breakthrough infection and passing it on to them.
"If you live in a high-risk area and with vulnerable elderly folks who haven't been vaccinated or even if they have, I would recommend masking up indoors in close spaces until we have more data about the necessity for boosters [for older adults and other vulnerable populations]," Karan says.
Will it be so crowded that you cannot maintain 6 feet of distance between people? If you're shoulder to shoulder with people, it's prudent to wear a mask depending on how long you're there and especially if you're in a higher-prevalence area, Chu says.
Will people be singing? Cheering? Screaming? Exercising? Even when you're inside, there are different considerations. Consider a sports bar with people shouting and cheering, a bar with a crowded dance floor and people singing versus a silent prayer meeting, Chu says.
Are there open windows if you're inside? That's an indication of good ventilation — most people won't know whether the air change rate is more than four times per hour or whether the venue has MERV 11+ filters or portable HEPA air filtration units, Marr points out.
High ceilings are also a bonus: That's an indication that there's good potential for dilution, Marr says.
The Bottom Line
None of the experts has tossed their masks. Baker, the Virginia Tech epidemiology professor, continues to mask up whenever she is indoors with anyone who may not be vaccinated. "I feel really naked not wearing one," she says.
"Erring on the side of caution doesn't hurt anybody," says Jessica Malaty Rivera, an infectious disease epidemiologist who has worked with the COVID Tracking Project. "And wearing masks does not deny the effectiveness of these vaccines."
And as for roller coasters? It's a tricky one, Baker acknowledges, since you're outside but close to others. If you knew everyone on the ride was vaccinated, it'd be OK to skip the mask. In lieu of that?
"I would wear a mask," she says.
Sheila Mulrooney Eldred is a freelance health journalist in Minneapolis. She has written about COVID-19 for many publications, including Medscape, Kaiser Health News, Science News for Students and The Washington Post. More at sheilaeldred.pressfolios.com. On Twitter: @milepostmedia.What questions do you have about Southern California?
Arts and Entertainment(John Lamparski)
Loyola Marymount University honored the classes of 2020 and 2021 after canceling last year's in-person commencement due to the pandemic.
Their speaker was actor Viola Davis, who told graduates how she found her true voice and how they can find theirs.
“You are your home,” she said. “Not just your GPA or your achievements, accomplishments, your gifts, but your mess, your fears, your testimony, your failures, your memories.”
The Oscar, Emmy and Tony-winning performer also urged the two classes to live their lives bravely.
"Will you feel you are at war for living your truth? Yup,” she said. “Will you at various times feel like you're standing alone? Yup. Will you be ostracized? Maybe. But the reward is that you will feel alive.''
The graduation, which was held at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium on Saturday, drew a crowd of 30,000.
A state commission is opening an investigation into allegations that Cal State Long Beach misused a sacred Native American site located on the university's campus.
The site is known as Puvungna to members of the Tongva nation, who also use it for religious ceremonies and cultural gatherings.
Several tribes asked the Native American Heritage Commission to look into dumping, the abuse of ceremonial areas and other allegations of misconduct. The commission voted unanimously to go forward.
Commission Chair Laura Miranda said the investigation will ensure that the site stays protected.
"The commission has taken previous action to designate this as a sacred area on public lands," she said. "The commission has taken certain steps in the 90s to ensure that this place would be protected in perpetuity. I think this is a follow through."
In 2019, the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians and other groups filed a lawsuit against Cal State Long Beach. The suit alleged that university officials dumped construction debris on Puvungna, and requested assurances that the land will never be developed.
The commission filed a brief supporting the plaintiffs. University officials have said that there is no plan to build there.
Criminal Justice(Robert Garrova / LAist )
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department late Friday released some body cam footage of the March 14 fatal shooting of David Ordaz, Jr. and a statement from Sheriff Alex Villanueva expressing "grave concerns" about the incident.
The video release and statement come a day after the Ordaz family announced they had filed a federal lawsuit