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Joanne Wallfisch swims on a tether in a backyard pool in Pasadena (Sharon McNary/LAist)

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Summer swim season will be very different this year, with many pools still closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Those who swim regularly have missed their fix, like Jo Wallfisch. She and her friends on a Masters swim team have been fish out of water since pools were shut in March.

She's been compensating by working out in a backyard pool, tethered at the waist by a line attached to a heavy fishing pole.

Before she's ready to return to swimming at a big public pool, she wants certain questions to be answered.

"The main things are, like, changing rooms," she said. "Can we share lanes? If not, how many people are gonna be able to swim at the same time?"


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Public health expert Chris Wiant says the water is safe in a pool that is properly maintained with chlorine disinfectant. The challenge is all the other people using the pool.

"You can be, say, standing in the shallow end of the pool and the water's fine. But if you're still coughing on the person who's three feet from you, you're just as exposed as you are if you're not in the pool," he said.

And that's the challenge facing Kurt Knop, president of the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, which hosts 450,000 visitors a year.

The constant cleaning required to keep the virus away could be daunting.

"Doors, handles, locker rooms, every aspect for at least for the short term -- for sure it's going to be very different," he said.

Knop is working with other pool managers to advise public health officials about how to safely return to the water.

It might involve swimming by appointment, and no locker for your clothes, no parents at swim meets. They'll be live streamed.

In the meantime, you've still got options -- a backyard pool or the beach.

Sharon McNary What are the new rules for pools now we're living with the pandemic? Mon, 25 May 2020 07:00:00 -0700 It's Summer: But Will It Be Safe To Swim In Public Pools?
Older Korean immigrants in Orange County line up for a food drive before the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Korean Community Services)

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Covid times call for comfort food.

But for some older Asian immigrants stranded in their homes, the pandemic means adapting to whatever donated food they receive.

Food pantry items such as refried beans and boxed mac-and-cheese are not what Phan Le would normally buy, but the 70-year-old Vietnamese immigrant in Garden Grove is willing to try anything.

"If you cannot provide [Asian] food, I'm ok with any kind of food," he said.

Tonya Pham, who used to work at a Vietnamese grocer, is more apt to find someone to pass off the non-Asian food to.

"Maybe because of the seasoning, there is a difference," said Pham, 62, who also lives in Garden Grove. "I like to eat Asian food because I'm Asian."


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The pandemic has made it harder than ever to get culturally-specific items to needy Asian seniors in Orange County, home to the country's third-largest Asian population (after Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties).

Food banks are facing a dramatic spike in demand. One of the largest, Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, said its staff is stretched too thin to set aside products for Asian clients anymore.

Rice is a common denominator in Asian diets, but different cuisines favor different lengths of grain. (joannamryan via Flickr)

Administrator Kelly Alesi recalled that pre-pandemic, Second Harvest gave boxes of dragon fruit to an Asian community organization to distribute among their seniors. But that's no longer possible.

"We're not holding any certain item for any certain organization," Alesi said. "If we have rice, it's being equitably distributed amongst all of our partner network. We don't have the capacity or the manpower to program specific things."

During the pandemic, Asian service organizations have been delivering food to seniors stranded in their homes. (LOVE)

The thought of Asian seniors struggling to prepare and eat food foreign to them saddened Ellen Ahn, executive director of Korean Community Services based in Buena Park. For these immigrants, Asian food can "provide an extra level of comfort and security," she said.

Ahn thought about the sacrifices many made to move to the U.S. and work in service jobs or mom 'n' pops.

"Some of them made it, but there are a lot who live in senior apartments, who gave everything to their children and aren't left with much," Ahn said. "Some are lucky they have kids who could take care of them, but some aren't."

She started working on a plan.


Her friend Tricia Nguyen leads the Santa Ana-based Southland Integrated Services, which serves Orange County's Vietnamese population. Nguyen was also having the impulse to do more to help seniors facing food insecurity.

Last month, the two started brainstorming with leaders of Chinese and Cambodian service organizations, as well as a Catholic nun who works with Vietnamese immigrants.

"And then next thing you know, we have over 12 organizations joining this cause," Nguyen said.

They decided to call their initiative LOVE -- as in Love Our Vulnerable and Elderly.

The new LOVE initiative aims to help deliver culturally-appropriate food items to 5,000 Asian seniors in Orange County. (Photo courtesy of LOVE )

It would allow them to take donations from the public and to also pool their own resources to bulk purchase items. Their hope is to buy staples such as rice, soy sauce, fish sauce and noodles, using contacts they have at Asian grocery chains.

Because all the groups are serving Asians, there is a shorthand to their conversations about what to stockpile for their clients.

"You know, the South Asians want lentils. Some of us [East Asians] want red beans," Ahn said. "That's the sort of nuanced discussion that can only happen in an [Asian Pacific Islander] group."


The coalition has also set up an online warehouse where member organizations inventory and share donations. Ahn has offered up packages of lo mein that were donated for her Korean clients who wouldn't know what to do with them, but perhaps a Chinese service organization could use them.

Nguyen said there was a conscious effort to make LOVE a pan-Asian effort. It's a way to unite at a time when Asians are being shunned and attacked verbally and physically because of the pandemic.

"We wanted to show that even though there's so much going on, like racism, we can rise above that do something great for our community," Nguyen said.

The community organizations are all bringing their donations to a site in Santa Ana on June 6 to assemble food and toiletries into boxes.

The plan is to distribute these packages to at least 5,000 seniors and to keep on supplying them for an indefinite period.

Ahn said she will feel better letting her seniors go to the Asian grocery store themselves once a vaccine is found.

Her wish for LOVE: "I hope this has a life until that moment."

Josie Huang In Orange County, a group of Asian non-profits have joined forces to get culturally-appropriate food to the needy in their communities. Mon, 25 May 2020 05:30:00 -0700 Ramen & Rice, But Definitely Not Refried Beans: What It Takes To Build A Food Pantry For Asians
People dance at dusk on the beach in Santa Monica earlier this month. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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By Allison Aubrey, Laura Wamsley and Carmel Wroth | NPR

It has been around two months of quarantine for many of us. The urge to get out and enjoy the summer is real. But what's safe? We asked a panel of infectious disease and public health experts to rate the risk of summer activities, from backyard gatherings to a day at the pool to sharing a vacation house with another household.

One big warning: Your personal risk depends on your age and health, the prevalence of the virus in your area and the precautions you take during any of these activities. Also, many areas continue to restrict the activities described here, so check your local laws.

And there's no such thing as a zero-risk outing right now. As states begin allowing businesses and public areas to reopen, decisions about what's safe will be up to individuals. It can help to think through the risks the way experts do.

"We can think of transmission risk with a simple phrase: time, space, people, place," explains Dr. William Miller, an epidemiologist at Ohio State University.

Here's his rule of thumb: The more time you spend and the closer in space you are to any infected people, the higher your risk. Interacting with more people raises your risk, and indoor places are riskier than outdoors.

Dr. Emily Landon, a hospital epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at University of Chicago Medicine, has her own shorthand: "Always choose outdoors over indoor, always choose masking over not masking and always choose more space for fewer people over a smaller space."

Our experts shared their thoughts via phone and email interviews.



Risk: Low to medium

(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

Meeting in a spacious outdoor area with only a small group isn't too risky. But our experts say that safety here depends on whom you invite and what their behaviors have been. "If you have a gathering with one other household that [has] followed social distancing, this would be a low-risk activity," says Dr. Judith Guzman-Cottrill, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Oregon Health & Science University.

What alters risk? To lower risk, avoid sharing food, drinks or utensils -- make it a BYO-everything party. Dr. Andrew Janowski, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Washington University in St. Louis, notes that the food itself isn't the risk, but touching shared dishes or utensils could be.

Watch out for drinking, says Dr. Abraar Karan, a physician and public health researcher at Harvard Medical School, as it can make people sloppy about social distancing. It also increases the odds that people will want to use your bathroom. "Once you move into the house with others, the risk profile goes up," he says.

Some experts suggest wearing a face covering, but Landon points out that you can't realistically stay masked while eating and drinking. She suggests an alternative to a meal would be a backyard lawn tournament: That way, "the kids can play together but still with their masks on." It could be fun for the grown-ups too.


Risk: Medium to high

The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia will use mannequins to enforce social distancing when it reopens this month. (Olivier Douliery / AFP via Getty Images)

Indoor dining "is still amongst the riskier things you can do," Landon warns. The trouble is, says Miller, "people tend to linger in restaurants. So even if spacing is OK, the duration of exposure is longer." Also, he says, talking "appears to lead to some release of the virus."

Karan notes that one outbreak in Guangzhou, China, took place in a restaurant with no windows and poor ventilation, and the air conditioning appears to have blown droplets between tables.

What alters risk? Janowski says the risk level depends on how well the restaurant has adapted for the pandemic. Eateries should reduce and space out seating, require servers to wear masks and offer easy access to hand-washing stations.

They should also provide single-use options for condiments so you don't have to touch shared ones, says Janowski. And they should close all self-serve areas such as soda fountains or buffet tables.

If you do go to a restaurant, look for outdoor seating. Landon says she would go with only members of her household, because "I don't want to have to take my mask off in the close proximity of a bunch of other people."


Risk: High

Demonstrators demanding their church be allowed to reopen during a rally against stay-at-home directives on May 1, 2020 in San Diego (SANDY Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images)

Worship services involve people from different households coming together indoors for an extended time. "All of the ingredients are there for the potential for a lot of people becoming infected in the short amount of time," says Kimberly Powers, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She points to outbreaks linked to churches: In one, 35 out of 92 people who attended a service at a rural Arkansas church developed COVID-19.

Singing -- whether from the pews or the choir -- is high risk, several experts noted, citing a study of a choir practice in Washington state where over half of attendees became infected.

What alters risk: If people are appropriately socially distanced, wear masks and avoid singing, it may reduce the risk, Karan says. Also, avoid any shared worship items such as hymnals, Janowski adds.

Risk goes down if places of worship adapt, Guzman-Cottrill says. "My parish began having in-person services last week," she says. The church had advance sign-ups to limit attendance to 25 people. Attendees were required to be healthy, wear face coverings and sit at least six feet apart.


Risk: Low

Surfers Selim Nait (left) and Marin Brousse said they felt safe from COVID-19 with the conditions at Venice Beach on May 23. (Josie Huang/LAist)

As long as you can stay socially distanced, this could be a pretty safe activity, our experts say.

The water itself is not a risk. "The sheer volume of water will dilute out the virus, making the water a highly unlikely source of infection," says Janowski.

What alters risk? The key question is, how close are you to others? "Can you ensure that you can stay six feet [or more] from anyone outside of your designated family?" asks Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Watch out for crowds at entry points and bathrooms. Maintain social distance both on land and in the water.

Landon says her biggest worry about pools and beaches is kids. At pools, "they make friends with everyone," she says. "If you want to be able to see grandma for Sunday lunch, because that's what's really important to your family, then you don't want your kids running around with other people's kids."

She says a beach is better than a pool in terms of space. Go early in the morning or late afternoon, when crowds are smaller, and look for beaches that mark off spots for people to set up their areas.



Risk: Medium to high

(Photo by Keenan Barber on Unsplash)

Family-oriented celebrations are usually a summer tradition, but they come with a lot of risk right now. Many weddings have been postponed, with good reason.

"Outdoors reduces the risk, but as people are celebrating and drinking, it seems like they may not social distance as readily," says Karan, the Harvard physician. "These types of events end up being large crowds where people are having extended face-to-face conversations."

The larger the guest list, the greater the potential that one of them is infected, says Powers, the UNC epidemiologist.

What alters risk? The danger varies greatly depending on the size of the gathering and how closely people gather.

If you are considering hosting a celebration, make it a small one with mostly local guests. "Bringing people from other communities" is high risk, says Landon of the University of Chicago. "If people have to travel by car, by plane, from other places, you're really asking for it."

And really think twice about inviting your relatives, particularly older family members or those with underlying conditions. People may feel pressure to attend, even though it's hazardous to their health -- and even more so if you emphasize that you're going to try to make it safe, says Landon. One of the largest clusters of deaths from the virus in Chicago occurred after a funeral in which one of the attendees spread it to many of his family members.


Risk: Low to medium

Every other urinal is blocked off at this public restroom in England. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Restrooms have been designed to prevent disease transmission, says Landon: "There are all sorts of things that you can catch from other people's poop, and you almost never do, because they're set up with all hard surfaces that can be cleaned."

The risk depends on the number of local COVID-19 cases and how clean the bathroom is, says Janowski of Washington University, noting that a bathroom involves multiple high-touch surfaces.

There isn't yet sufficient data to know if there's risk from toilet flushes aerosolizing the virus. Landon says that other viruses, such as norovirus, can be aerosolized by flushing, but norovirus doesn't often spread that way as long as bathrooms are cleaned. The CDC says it's "unclear whether the virus found in feces may be capable of causing COVID-19."

What alters risk: Miller says the main risk comes from restrooms that are small, busy and poorly ventilated -- like "those restrooms in a gas station off the highway where the restroom is outside."

Choose a bathroom that looks clean and is well stocked with supplies such as paper towels, soap and toilet paper. Avoid bunching up in a line to use the toilet or staying there long, if you're within six feet of others. Wash your hands after you go, and use sanitizer if you need to touch any surfaces after that.



Risk: Low

Landon doesn't think it's a big risk: "What happens in the bathroom is going to be sucked out of the bathroom ventilation, and you can clean all the hard surfaces really easily."

Miller agrees: "You can run the fan, leave the door open after [so air flows] and clean the bathroom later. And if you use the bathroom after they do, just wash your hands."

What alters risk? It's possible that your friend is infected but asymptomatic, says Janowski. "It would be reasonable to decontaminate the bathroom after a friend uses it, including cleaning the high-touch surfaces of the door, toilet and sink."


Risk: Low

(Photo by Cara Fuller on Unsplash)

Experts said that if both families have been quarantining and limiting their exposure to others, this is pretty safe. "If one family is very active or parents have higher-exposure jobs, then the risk increases," Miller says.

Landon thinks this arrangement could be a good idea, especially if the house is "in the woods where you're not going to have a lot of contact with other people," she says.

What alters risk? Landon suggests talking with the other family beforehand to make sure you share the same expectations for the precautions everyone will take in the two weeks before arrival and while you're there. Ensure that no one has signs of illness -- if they do, they need to stay home. Miller recommends cleaning the major surfaces in the house on arrival. "And the more that people can reduce exposure in the days leading up to the trip, the better," he adds.


Risk: Low to medium

The consensus is that staying at a hotel is relatively low risk, especially once you're in your room. It's best to limit your time in common areas such as the lobby, gym, restaurant and elevator, where the risk of exposure is higher.

What alters risk? Bring disinfecting wipes to wipe down the TV remote control and other common surfaces. You might also want to remove the bedspread since it may not be cleaned after every guest, suggests Miller. Ask about the hotel's cleaning policies, as many have new COVID-19 protocols. "Beware of the elevators! Use the knuckle of your little or ring finger to press the buttons," says Miller.

Other suggestions: Order room service rather than eating at the restaurant, avoid the exercise room and wear a face covering in public spaces.


Risk: Medium to high

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

A haircut involves "close contact and breathing that is extended for several minutes," Karan notes. "This is the primary mode of transmission that we know happens. And cloth masks certainly are not perfect for this."

Janowski says this is one of the highest-risk scenarios on this list, because there's no way to keep six feet from someone cutting your hair. "All it takes is [having] one asymptomatic but infected worker, and suddenly many customers are at high risk of infection," he says.

What alters risk? Landon believes the risk is not terribly high if both you and your haircutter wear masks and if COVID-19 is not very prevalent in your area. Look for a salon or barbershop that has (and enforces) policies to protect its employees, such as wearing protective gear and sanitizing hands, she says: "By protecting their employees, they're protecting you too."

And make sure that your barber or stylist is all business, says Karan: "Stopping to chat at close distance like this is something we all love doing with our barbers normally. This is not the time for it."



Risk: Varies

The Grove outdoor mall in Los Angleles. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

How risky this is depends on what kind of mall it is, how crowded it is and how much time you spend there, our panel agreed. "Crowds with high density lead to substantial increase in risk," says Miller. "The major mitigating factor is that people don't mingle in a single place for long."

What alters risk? Outdoor malls are preferable to indoor ones. And empty malls are better than crowded ones. Avoid the food court and go with purpose, not leisure, says Landon: "As much as you may like retail therapy, you should browse online before you go. Know what you're going to pick up or try on. Wear your mask. Go in, look at it. Make your decision and get out."

Be alert while you're there to avoid close contact. "Maintain your space," says Miller. "Try to go at off-peak hours." Bring hand sanitizer, says Guzman-Cottrill, and use it frequently, especially if you touch any shared surfaces such as handrails or elevator buttons.


Risk: High

From another era: DJ Kap Slap performs during the 2017 Global Non Profit F Cancer L.A. Event at Create Nightclub in Los Angeles. (Jesse Grant/Getty Images for F Cancer)

There is consensus among the experts that going to a nightclub is a very high-risk activity. Crowds, ultra-close contact, singing, sweating and inhibition-loosening alcohol are a potent cocktail of risk factors. When drinking, people become less compliant with rules, Miller says, and they may breathe heavier from the dancing -- "which means more virus is being shed," he says. If there's an infected person in the mix, the virus can spread easily.

"This is a very high-risk situation for an outbreak, as we saw in South Korea just recently," says Karan, referring to an outbreak tied to several nightclubs and bars. "Don't go to bars or clubs right now."

What alters risk? Nothing makes this a good idea right now. If you want to dance, have a dance party at home with the people in your intimate circle. If it's a small outdoor gathering, dancing under the stars -- six feet apart -- would be much less risky too.


Risk: Low

(Photo by Will Truettner on Unsplash)

"As far as summer activities go, this is least risky from a virus perspective," says Katz of Georgetown University. You're outdoors and isolated. Miller agrees -- but he says that if you're going with a group, be sure you can trust your fellow campers. Have they been social distancing and following the guidelines? If not, they could be asymptomatic spreaders of the virus.

What alters risk? Of course, risks can creep in, depending on the particulars. "Are you camping in an isolated outdoor location with your family?" Katz asks. This is the lower-risk scenario. It's more dangerous if you're at a crowded campground with a shared restroom and communal picnic areas, she says. "Sleeping in tents together with others [not from your household] can certainly be a setup for transmission," adds Karan.

Bottom line: The activity itself is low risk, but the people whom you'll be in close contact with during the trip could increase the hazard.



Risk: Low

Friends practice roller skating on a closed basketball court in Venice Beach. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

Unless you're playing group sports, exercising outdoors is a good way to burn off steam while staying socially distant. Our experts agree that sports such as golf and tennis are safer than contact sports such as basketball and football. "I would personally avoid contact sports until we have a better sense of transmission risk here," Karan says.

And running? "If you're not on a crowded path where people are brushing past each other, then I think that's a great form of exercise right now," says Powers.

What alters risk? The more people involved in the activity, the higher the risk. It's possible to spread the virus when you're in close proximity to others -- even if you're asymptomatic -- so it's best to wear a mask if you can't stay socially distanced.

The risk depends on the sport. A game such as basketball is tricky, Landon says. "You're touching the ball and you're going to be breathing in each other's faces," so she suggests playing only with people in your household. Tennis carries a much lower risk. "You're far apart on either side. That's definite social distancing," she says.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit

NPR The urge to get out and enjoy the summer is real. But what's safe? Sun, 24 May 2020 15:30:52 -0700 You Want To Camp, Party, Swim, Shop, Congregate, Etc. Here's What Experts Say About Your Coronavirus Risk
At a public restroom in England, every other urinal is blocked off. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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By Tovia Smith | NPR

While toilet paper has been an issue since the start of the pandemic, now toilets themselves are the concern. As stay-at-home restrictions are lifting, many are feeling a long pent-up urge to go out; what's stopping them is concern about their urge to go while they're out.

As in, use the bathroom.

Loath to risk the germs in a public restroom, if they can even find one that's open, many are limiting their outings while others are getting creative.

Shu Santani, a pediatric cardiologist in Vancouver, never used to think twice before going for his usual two- to three-hour run. Now, everytime he heads out, he becomes kind of obsessed.

"It's the anticipation of, 'What if I have to go to the bathroom?' " he said, mocking his usual panic. "Do I have to go to the bathroom? Uh oh, now I'm thinking about going to the bathroom, and now I feel like I have to go to the bathroom."

Recently, his worst fears came to be. He really did have to go. His route took him by countless businesses that were closed, before he finally found a car mechanic's shop that was open. But they wouldn't let him in.

"The panic grows as the third and fourth options exhaust themselves," he said.

He was considering just going outside, then thought better of it.

"I can't imagine it would be popular if someone saw me leaving my presumed viral sheddings somewhere in their petunias," he said with a laugh. So he changed his route and finally found a hospital that did let him in.


It was a relief to Santani. But for many people, the prospect of using a public restroom is hardly comforting.

Among those who cringe at the idea is Cheryl Bowlan, 69, who is moving from California to Portland, Oregon, and will be driving the 12 hours with her husband. With all the planning and packing, she only recently realized she would have to use the public rest stops along the freeway. It left her just a little panicked.

"I woke up early one morning and all of a sudden, ding, it occurred to me. Ick! Nasty!!" she recalled. "There are hundreds of people going through there every day, and I didn't want to do that."

Experts say such fears are well founded.

"It's miserable. Disgustingly miserable," said Dr. Greg Poland, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Just the fact that bathrooms tend to be highly trafficked and too cramped for social distancing makes them risky, he said. But on top of that, poor hand washing leaves door knobs, faucets and other surfaces contaminated. And flushing the toilet can create a plume of vaporized germs up to six feet high, he said. While it's not yet proven the coronavirus can spread that way, it is known that other viruses can.

"It really is a nightmare," said Poland. With all that going on, he said, "you have a bio weapons factory in [there.]"


Some businesses are trying to adapt, by installing touch-free doors, faucets and hand dryers, for example. Or they're switching to touch-free paper towel dispensers to avoid the possibility of hand dryers blowing coronavirus through the air -- another potential, though not yet proven, risk.

Businesses are also cleaning and disinfecting more frequently and requiring face masks to enter. Some are even hiring bathroom monitors to control crowds and enforce distancing.

Steven Soifer, president of the American Restroom Association, which advocates for clean and safe public bathrooms, said many businesses are also installing dividers between urinals or closing down every other one.

"There's a new term out there," he said. "It's called 'social piss-tancing.'"

Soifer hopes the heightened awareness brought by COVID-19 will prompt what he sees as a long overdue overhaul of public restrooms. "We're advocating for more revolutionary toilet design with the single stall, fully enclosed water closets with toilet seats covers" that are typical in Europe, he said. "That would address many of the issues."

But that would take more money than many businesses would want to invest, and more time than many people can wait, including Cheryl Bowlan.

"It suddenly popped into my mind that I'll just do it in the car," she said.

Bowlan is one of a growing number of women who have bought a portable urinal called the "Feminal." It's an ergonomically correct canister with a screw cap, designed by urology nurse Linda Asta. Once a niche product for outdoorsy types or bedridden patients, it's now a mass-market, high-demand item.

"All of a sudden sales have actually quadrupled in a month and a half," Asta said.


There are also a slew of other urinals and portable potties for men and women on the market too, as well as feminine funnels, including the Go Girl and the She Wee. Adyn Sonju, a partner at The Tinkle Belle, said her product allows women to "go wherever the men go" and has what she described as a built-in squeegee feature that eliminates the need for toilet paper.

"It's freeing to be able to go anywhere and know that you can just go when you need to go," Sonju said. "You just carry it with you like a portable restroom."

The Sani-Girl is a disposable option with year-over-year sales that are on track to triple this spring, according to founder Susan Thompson. She thinks the product will not only "change women's lives as they venture back out and start to get their lives back," but may well change bathroom behavior forever, given the public's newly heightened awareness of germs and the "shock" of the pandemic. She adds that some customers even use it in public restrooms so they don't have to sit or touch as many surfaces.

The portable products do carry their own risks if you don't hold them in place just right, so most manufacturers recommend practicing at home. You don't want your first try to be on the road, or after a few drinks during a night out. But after a few (hopefully) dry runs at home, they say going on-the-go will be the safer way to go.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit
NPR Why some people are finding an alternative if they can't make it home when they need to go. Sun, 24 May 2020 12:30:18 -0700 One Doctor Calls The Public Restroom A 'Bio Weapons Factory.' You're In Good Company If You Are Afraid
The Venice Beach boardwalk was missing the usual international tourists but still drew plenty of locals.(Josie Huang/LAist)

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Hare Krishnas twirled on the boardwalk, reggae musicians hawked their CDs, and graffiti artists sprayed new designs dreamt up during quarantine.

Venice Beach showed glimpses of its old self Saturday, but L.A.'s iconic counter-culture vortex was decidedly more subdued than usual.

With international travel to Los Angeles dramatically down, tourists from Asia and Europe were not there to buy novelty tees or take selfies in front of the "Touch of Venice" mural.

"I would say it's like 70% less than what this weekend would bring normally," said Los Angeles Police Sgt. Theresa Skinner, who oversees the department's Venice Beach detail. "This is wall-to-wall people, normally."

Musicians plied their trade to smaller audiences in Venice Beach. (Josie Huang/LAist)


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Attractions such as Muscle Beach, the pier and basketball courts remained closed.

Sgt. Theresa Skinner said that beachgoers have been overall been compliant with COVID-19 protective measures. (Josie Huang/LAist)

That thinned the number of visitors, so it was possible to keep a wide berth from one another on the beach, though much harder on the boardwalk. Some protected themselves with face coverings as has been recommended by authorities, but some did not.

Police were educating beachgoers about face coverings rather than citing them. Skinner said she was pleased with the public's behavior, which she described as "very, very compliant and respectful."

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday that city beaches were for active use such as surfing, swimming and cycling along the newly-reopened bike paths. He discouraged sunbathing, but that was clearly on display on the beach.

Police allowed sunbathers if they practiced social distancing. (Josie Huang/LAist)

Joudi Hamed, a Citrus College student from Glendora, was among those who showed up to lounge on the sand.

"It's usually hella crowded," Hamed said. "It's so weird seeing it like this."

She had not gotten Garcetti's memo about sunbathing, underscoring how difficult it is to keep up with the ever-changing patchwork of city and county COVID-19 guidelines without a regular "Matrix"-like upload of data.

Joudi Hamed, center, came to Venice Beach from Glendora with friends. (Josie Huang/LAist)

Hamed said she and her friends were maintaining social distancing from others, but she also recognized there was a risk to being out in a popular public spot. And she was OK with it.

"You're going to get it at some point," Hamed said of COVID-19. "Might as well enjoy life."

The LAPD's Skinner recognized that allowing sunbathing "might go against the mayor's order a little bit," but she said she didn't have a problem with it if people were social distancing.

"We just ask for voluntary compliance and hope that they do it," Skinner said.

"Active" users of Venice Beach, such as surfer Marin Brousse, didn't mind others sitting on the sand.

"You can't blame them," Brousse said. "If they don't have a yard, they just got to enjoy the sun for a little bit."

Surfers Selim Nait (left) and Marin Brousse said they felt safe from COVID-19 with the conditions at Venice Beach Saturday. (Josie Huang/LAist)

Brousse's friend and fellow surfer Selim Nait said: "As long as they stay far away and social distance, it's all good."

Venice resident Joe Murray, though, expressed concern about people congregating on the beaches.

"We're not supposed to do that," Murray said. "They're technically in non-compliance when they're doing that."

He said he himself is itching to get back on the basketball and paddle tennis courts once they reopen. But he's waiting for the all-clear before he goes back on the beach with a lawn chair.

Murray wistfully said he's been watching his neighborhood start to buzz again, and he enjoyed the "peace and quiet" while it lasted.

Maurice Miller, with Behnaz Afrakhte of El Segundo, said he felt hopeful at the sight of crowds on the Venice Beach boardwalk. (Josie Huang/LAist)

For Maurice Miller of West L.A., the sight of crowds was a sweet salve. The retired military veteran said quarantine had made him realize what a social person he was. And as he sat on a grassy spot and gazed at the boardwalk, he said he felt upbeat.

"I'm actually happy," he said, "because it seems like it might revert back to normal society in a few weeks, I hope."

Josie Huang Thousands Come To Venice Beach To Take In the Beach Air, Many Without Masks Sat, 23 May 2020 17:22:31 -0700 The Tourists Are Missing, But Venice Beach Is Still A Draw
A parklet on Spring Street in downtown L.A. (LADOT/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Angelenos will almost certainly be able to eat in the streets later this summer. Will we also be able to drink in them? Probably, but in a limited capacity.

Several cities -- including Long Beach, Pasadena and Sierra Madre -- are working to transform streets, sidewalks and parking lots into outdoor dining and recreation areas. These "open streets" proposals, which are temporary, would go into effect when L.A. County officials lift the ban on dine-in eating at restaurants.

Whenever that happens, officials will likely impose limits on how many patrons can be inside a restaurant and how far apart tables must be placed. Adding tables outdoors should help restaurants make up some of that lost revenue.

But what if a customer wants a beer with their al fresco burger? Or a mimosa with that Sunday morning waffle? It gets trickier.

Fortunately, California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which regulates the production, sale and distribution of booze in the state, has offered a bit of regulatory relief.


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Earlier this week, the agency issued a notice that allows dining establishments already licensed to sell alcohol to do it in areas adjacent to their business -- in the parklets, sidewalks and parking spots envisioned by "open streets" proponents.

The loosened restrictions, which would also be temporary, could require businesses to jump through several hoops.

They'll need to file an application, which costs $100. They'll need to submit a diagram of the area where they plan to serve booze. They'll need to explain what kind of barriers they'll use to demarcate this area. And they'll need to forward their application to local law enforcement.

Most crucially, these loosened restrictions only apply in counties where stay-at-home orders have been lifted. In Los Angeles County, we're a ways off from that.

Elina Shatkin You'll almost certainly be able to eat in the streets later this summer but what if you want a beer with nosh? It just got a little easier. Sat, 23 May 2020 08:30:00 -0700 You Might Be Able To Drink In LA's Streets This Summer
United States Attorney Nick Hanna speaks at a press conference on March 25, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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A Hollywood executive was arrested today on charges that he misused federal small business loan funds to pay his personal expenses.

The U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California is charging William Sadleir, the former head of Aviron Pictures, with fraudulently applying for a $1.7 million loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was designed to help small businesses affected by coronavirus pay their employees.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Sadleir allegedly used the loan on personal non-business expenses, including car payments and credit card bills.

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Central District of California, called the allegations "brazen."

"We believe that rose to the level of criminal conduct," he said.


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Sadleir is the latest Hollywood figure to be charged with abusing the PPP. Earlier this month, Maurice Fayne, who stars in Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, was charged with federal bank fraud for spending a $2 million PPP loan on jewelry and child support.

Meanwhile, small businesses around the country have reported difficulty accessing Paycheck Protection Program funds, and expressed frustration that much of the initial round of funding went to large companies.


In April, Sadleir applied for three PPP loans through JP Morgan Chase on behalf of Aviron, whose past films include "Serenity" and "A Private War."

Each application claimed the company had 33 employees and monthly expenses of over $200,000.

As part of the application, Sadleir certified that the loan money would be used to pay workers, make utility and mortgage payments, and cover other basic expenses.

The Small Business Administration allowed PPP applicants to self-certify that their business has been affected by the coronavirus, and that they will use the loan for its intended purpose, in order to expedite the distribution of the money.

But many observers have pointed out that these self-certifications, which are essentially an honor system, could easily be falsified -- which, according to the criminal complaint, is exactly what Sadleir did.

Aviron did not have 33 employees, according to the complaint. And Sadleir did not work currently at Aviron: he left in January 2020 not long after Aviron's lender, BlackRock, filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York accusing him of fraud and fraudulent concealment.


After receiving his $1.7 million PPP loan, on May 1, Sadleir transferred much of the money into his nearly empty personal bank account at JP Morgan Chase, according to the criminal complaint. He used that money to pay off two personal credit cards, where he'd charged purchases at the Arclight Hollywood, the wine and liquor store Wally's, and the restaurant Spago, among other places. He also attempted to make a $40,000 payment on a car loan.

Around May 5, J.P. Morgan Chase put a hold on Sadleir's bank accounts, and on May 21, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California charged him with fraud and making false statements to the Small Business Administration and to J.P. Morgan Chase.

"The Paycheck Protection Program was implemented to help small businesses stay afloat during the financial crisis, and we will act swiftly against those who abuse the program for their own personal gain," said United States Attorney Nick Hanna in a press release.

Sadleir was released on a $100,000 bond. He was also charged with additional fraud today by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.


Emily Guerin The former head of Aviron Pictures allegedly misused Paycheck Protection Program funds for personal expenses, including credit card and car loan bills. Fri, 22 May 2020 18:26:11 -0700 Hollywood Executive Charged With Fraud For Misusing Federal Paycheck Protection Program
A woman enters a Los Angeles office of the state Employment Development Department. The EDD released dismal employment figures today, showing that 1-in-5 L.A. County workers are jobless. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

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Unemployment in Los Angeles County rose to a staggering 20.3% in April, with coronavirus-related business closures putting roughly one-in-five L.A. workers out of a job.

Statewide unemployment came to 15.5%, setting what the California Employment Development Department described as a historical record, and eclipsing California's 12.3% peak during the Great Recession.

"This is unprecedented," said UC Riverside economics professor Gloria Gonzalez-Rivera, commenting on the grim unemployment report released by the EDD on Friday.

Chart shows a rise in the state unemployment rate. (California EDD)

The survey was taken in mid-April, capturing the economic toll of shuttering businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19. But with hundreds of thousands of Californians still filing claims for jobless benefits every week, the unemployment rate is likely even higher today.

California's leisure and hospitality industry -- which includes hotel, entertainment and restaurant workers -- saw the biggest losses. Compared to April of last year, close to 935,000 workers in that sector lost their jobs statewide.

Gonzalez-Rivera said L.A.'s economy has been hit hard because it relies so heavily on these kinds of service sector jobs, which often require face-to-face interaction. Other parts of California with higher concentrations of jobs that can be done remotely have fared better.


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"The regions that are technologically savvy will not be suffering as much as the economies that are relying on physical presences," she said.

Tech-driven San Francisco County had an April jobless rate of 12.6%. Unemployment in Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, rose to 11.7%. Meanwhile, L.A.'s unemployment rate now ranks as the sixth-highest among California's 58 counties.

Still, no region was spared from widespread job losses. Other Southern California counties also saw large unemployment spikes in the latest report, with San Bernardino's rate hitting 13.4%, Orange County at 13.8%, Ventura's at 14% and Riverside's at 15.3%.

David Wagner "This is unprecedented," said one local economist. Fri, 22 May 2020 17:30:00 -0700 Why LA County's Unemployment Rate Is So Much Higher Than Most Of California's
The Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California, currently holds about 1,100 immigrant detainees. (David McNew/AFP/Getty Images)

Advocacy groups for immigrant detainees have filed a civil rights complaint with the federal Department of Homeland Security, alleging detainees have been subject to chemical exposure at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino County.

The facility currently holds about 1,100 detained immigrants, including asylum seekers and people who are fighting deportation.

Since May 11, several detainees have reported to advocates that the frequent use of a disinfectant used at the facility has caused people to have eye irritation, bloody noses, and cough up blood.

The Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on Thursday.

According to the complaint, detainees reported that the disinfectant, HDQ Neutral, was being sprayed around housing units about every 30 minutes. According to the manufacturer's safety sheet, the disinfectant should be used "only outdoors or in a well-ventilated area."

In an emailed statement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said: "Disinfectant formulations used at Adelanto are compliant with detention standards, registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and used according to manufacture instruction for routine cleaning and maintenance of the facility. Any assertion or claim to the contrary is false."

The agency said it is "committed to maintaining the highest facility standards of cleanliness and sanitation, safe work practices, and control of hazardous substances and equipment."

According to the agency, one ICE employee and one ICE contract employee have tested positive for COVID-19 at the facility so far.

Elly Yu The facility currently holds about 1,100 detained immigrants, including asylum seekers and people who are fighting deportation. Fri, 22 May 2020 17:24:54 -0700 'Bloody Noses, Burning Eyes': Advocates File Complaint Over Chemical Disinfectant Use At Adelanto Detention Center
The World Health Organization in 2019 issued its first-ever guidance for how much screen time children under 5 should get: not very much, and none at all for those under 1. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

Parents, congratulations. You've survived more than eight weeks of your kids being home 24/7. Whether you're working at home, still reporting to your essential job ... or even if you were already a stay-at-home-parent in the Before Times, this has been rough. But you did it.

Now as we look toward an uncertain future, where summer programs are being cancelled and schools are debating whether or not to resume in the fall, we're with you on the specific feeling of wanting to cry and throw up -- all at the same time.

You also probably feel like you want to give up, throw in the towel, let all rules go and allow your children to play by the order of "Lord of The Flies." Actually, that probably happened a while ago ...

Here at LAist, we want to help you process what's going on -- and all that you, your partner, and your kids are feeling -- by presenting our No Guilt Guide to Parenting during this very weird time.

Here's our first installment. Stay tuned for more each week.

This story was written by Megan Larson and Darby Maloney.


Before the global pandemic forced kids to get on Zoom for school and FaceTime for playdates, the screen time issue was already a source of angst for a lot of parents. It doesn't help that we're all now more glued to our devices than ever before ... for everything from telecommuting to grocery shopping to online workouts.

As part of an ongoing series about parenting in a pandemic, KPCC's Take Two had a couple of experts weigh in on how to think -- and what to do -- about screen time.

Jenny Radesky is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan, where she does developmental research on the many ways families use digital media. She was also part of the team that drafted the screen time guidelines for The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Heather Turgeon is a psychotherapist in Los Angeles and co-author of the books: Now Say This: The Right Words to Solve Every Parenting Dilemma and The Happy Sleeper.

Both of our experts are also moms with kids in elementary and middle school, so you know they get it. Turgeon stresses, above all else, that we all need to "be compassionate and forgiving to ourselves" right now. Afterall, there's no rulebook for how to do pandemic parenting.

Here are some key things we learned:


Bottom Line: Good news -- not all screen time is actually considered "screen time."

Here's what our experts said:

What counts as screen time:

  • TV shows that kids use to "veg out."
  • Game Apps that are not educational (see more on apps below)

What doesn't count as screen time:

  • School and extracurricular activities done online (example: Zoom ballet or music class)
  • Video chats, texting, emailing with family or friends is considered "connecting," rather than vegging out
  • Things deemed "learning time," such as Googling about the kind of food sloths eat, or even watching "how to" videos on making paper airplanes or baking a cake.
  • Watching sports. Think of all those classic games airing on ESPN!
  • Exercising to a online video such as Yoga or GoNoodle.
  • Playing video games with family.
  • Watching shows and movies as a family. Turgeon says research shows that "watching [TV and movies] together is beneficial."
  • You can find ideas for fun online learning here

Our Real Life Example: Take Two's Senior Producer Megan Larson's 7-year-old daughter really likes watching people make elaborate baked goods (like the host of YouTube's Nerdy Nummies) and then attempt to recreate them at home. Sure, there's a mess, but she's also learned to (sort of) clean up. Megan considers that a win. Also, Outschool has some really cool online classes for as low as $5. Harry Potter Taxonomy Class, anyone? Additional ideas for fun online learning are here.

At The Frame Editor Darby Maloney's home, family watching happens most nights of the week. Each night is different. Survivor one night. Top Chef another. Incidentally, both of those shows are great for discussing human dynamics in a fun way. One night is movie classics night, which sometimes gets switched out for a documentary. On other nights, rom-coms are the go-to. Having a structure of what to watch each night helps avoid indecision. Her 12-year-old daughter is also in charge of a Google spreadsheet, which includes lists of films and TV shows, with a column for where to watch them, how they're rated, and maybe a trailer link. This prevents nights of irritating scrolls through streaming libraries, which can take the fun out of movie night quickly.

TIP: There are ways kids can watch with friends or distant family members, too; there are apps for this, such as Rave or Netflix Party, but it's also easy enough to connect a couple kids through FaceTime or Zoom or Google Meet on a phone or tablet, and then have them all hit "play" on the TV remote at the same time, so they can watch together in real time.

Six-year-old Leo (R) and his three-year old brother Espen complete homeschooling activities suggested by the online learning website of their school, as his mother Moira, an employee of a regional council, works from home in the village of Marsden, near Huddersfield, northern England on during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)


Bottom line: Do some research and trust your gut.

For kids five-years-old and younger, parents can trust content from PBS Kids and the Sesame Workshop, as well as tried-and-true shows such as Blue's Clues.

"When we know that thought has been put into constructing a story and an educational message for kids, we know that's worth their little brains' time," says pediatrics professor Radesky. "It's going to connect with them. They're going to learn new things from it."

For the 10-to-12-year-old crowd, Radesky says, "there's a gap in knowing what quality media is for kids, but Common Sense Media can help. They're a non-profit resource for parents of all ages to find guidance on all kinds of content that's right for your family. Information is in Spanish and English."

Our tips for the 10-12 year old set: Darby has found that Glee, The Good Place and Gilmore Girls were all good fits for her 12-year-old daughter, and also made for good family viewing. They recently started watching Veronica Mars, which is also good, but a little darker than the others. The Amazing Race and The Great British Baking Show are also consistent wins for this age group -- and easy on the parents for family viewing.

Megan recently watched the Michael Jordan ESPN docuseries, The Last Dance, with her kids. A few swear words aside, it was a good family viewing experience. Also, the documentary, Free Solo. The Goldbergs is a zany, but relatable family sitcom, and Lost in Space is good for adventure. Her 12-year-old appreciates the humor of The Office, but can only handle two episodes at a time before Michael Scott's behavior starts to get to him.

An 11-year-old girl logs into Facebook on her iPhone at her home in Palo Alto, CA. Though Facebook bans children under 13, millions of them have profiles on the site by lying about their age. The company is now testing ways to allow those kids to participate without needing to lie. This would likely be under parental supervision, such as by connecting children's accounts to their parents' accounts. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)


Bottom Line: Choose apps where your kid is being challenged, instead of being targeted by advertisers.

Be wary of downloading apps that call themselves "educational," but really haven't been vetted by anyone who will make sure that your child is truly learning something. (heck Common Sense Media for app reviews.)

Choose media that is open-ended or creative -- not the kinds of games or apps that are filled with "bubbles and explosions" and prizes for the smallest little effort.

Expert's real-life example: Professor Radesky had her son try an app she was studying in her lab and he said to her, "Wow mom, if I watch this ad video I get extra candy. I'm really good at this game!" This, she explained to him, is not really play, but more of an attempt by an advertiser to get his attention (#capitalism). Though it may crush your child to hear that it's not his ace gaming abilities at play in these situations, she stresses the importance of talking to your kids about being smart media consumers.

(Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP)


Bottom line: This depends on the age of your kid and how they react to the screen time, so watch his or her behavior.

The AAP and the World Health Organization (WHO) both have recommendations based on the age of the child. Our experts stress the value of balancing screen time with real world play.

"I think a lot of kids, especially the older ones, they've forgotten the art of playing in the physical world," says psychotherapist Heather Turgeon. "They don't look like they remember how to, or want to, but with some time and getting over the sort of feelings of withdrawal of not being on a screen, they actually can discover so many cool things."

The most important question to ask when assessing screen time for your kid is whether or not it's a good match for your particular child.

Professor Radesky says some kids can spend a couple hours playing video games or scrolling through content on YouTube, and then give up the device easily when asked and go about their day relatively cheerfully. Other kids cannot -- they become irritable or distracted when asked to put the screen down. That signifies an unhealthy attachment.

Expert's real-life example: Radesky's 10-year-old son went down "a rabbit hole" looking at Star Wars content on YouTube for a long period of time, and he was "scattered" the rest of the day. What did she learn? That aspect of YouTube was "not a good match for his brain."

"We really want to see that kids get fired up about things other than video games," Turgeon says. "So if the screen time is impinging on your child's ability to engage in the real world, then that's telling you something."

She suggests watching for changes in mood, focus or sleep patterns after your kid consumes new content.

Our real-life example: Darby's 12-year-old daughter started watching Riverdale during this lockdown. Her friends had already been watching the teen soap opera, so she wanted to watch multiple episodes at a time to catch up with them. But her parents soon found that when she watched three episodes in a row, she emerged from that screen-time acting rude and confrontational. So they capped it at two episodes with the rule that if that behavior returns ... then it's clear Riverdale isn't a good match for her.

In this 2018, photo, Henry Hailey, 10, plays the online game Fortnite in the early morning hours in the basement of his Chicago home. His parents are on a quest to limit screen time for him and his brother. The boys say they understand sometimes, but also complain that they get less screen time than their friends. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)


Bottom line: Talk with your kids.

  • Agree on a screen time limit with your child and help them stick to it. Decide the length of time your child can play a game or watch a show and then put on a timer. If they're able to stop at the agreed-upon time, then they can maintain that privilege the next day.
  • Encourage self-regulation. Talk with them about what they watch and how they feel in their bodies and heads after they watch it.
  • Believe in kids' ability -- and desire -- to play without screens sometimes.
  • Use yourself as an example. Turgeon says to be "transparent about this dilemma that we're all in, where we're so reliant on screens." If you tell your kid not to use any apps, but can't put down your own phone, you've definitely undermined your authority.

Expert's real-life example: As a way of helping her 12-year-old son to reflect on his own screen time, Turgeon identified with his problem by saying, "I feel like I'm on screens all the time now!" Her honesty helped bring the issue out in the open, allowing them to both recognize it and both put their devices down.

Our real-life example: Megan finally relented at the start of the stay-at-home order and let her sons play the video game Fortnite. She hates it, but all their friends were playing and socializing through it. She realized, though, that while one son seemed very happy playing and walked away easily, her other son became frustrated and annoyed and walked away feeling down and defeated after being, well, killed off. She talked to him about it, and figured out what bothered him so he could identify it the next time and make adjustments to his play as needed. Sure, she'd like him to drop the Fortnite habit, but that is not an option in this current situation so ... they compromised, kept a time limit on the game and agreed to keep communicating about it.

TIP: This may be a battle at first, but Turgeon suggests dragging out some cardboard boxes (or whatever else you have in the garage) and challenging your kids to build something -- a fort, Nerf gun shields, an elaborate hideout. Or take inspiration from Caine's Arcade: at nine-years-old, Caine built a massive arcade in his dad's East L.A. auto shop, which then became the subject of a 2012 short film that inspired a movement.

Quoting the late Fred Rogers, Radesky says: "TV is the only appliance that's better after it's been turned off; because you can take what you just learned and apply it to the world around you."

It may seem harder to do that when screens are our main tool for connecting with the world right now, but if we believe in our kids' ability to play, and point them toward content that inspires them to connect with others in real life, then we're doing okay.

Darby Maloney As part of an on-going series about parenting in a pandemic, we had  a couple of experts weigh in on how to think - and what to do - about screen time. Fri, 22 May 2020 16:18:38 -0700 Screen Time Fun Time: Tips And Tricks For Elevating What Your Kids Are Watching During Quarantine
The Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens normally is open 24/7 but the doors are now chained closed. (Sharon McNary/LAist)

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Occupying less than one square mile of land just east of the 605 Freeway at Carson Street, Hawaiian Gardens is the smallest city in Los Angeles County.

But it has a big problem.

Nearly 70 percent of its tax revenue comes from one business: The Gardens Casino. And since the coronavirus shutdown, the loss of casino income is costing the city about $1.1 million a month.

"I've been in this business for 20 years and I've been at six other cities, and there's just really nothing like it," said City Manager Ernie Hernandez.

"The bottom line is, nobody depends this much on one source."


The first thing you see as you drive up to the casino is the fake volcano.

"The theme here is Hawaiian. So it has a volcano and has music and smoke and fake lava that lights up," Hernandez said as he led a tour of the exterior.

Under the massive shaded portico out front, there are lanes for valet parking -- a stretch limo is at the curb for the high rollers. This place is open 24/7, and it's normally jumping, with boxing matches, weddings, tournaments.

More than 2,000 cars can park in the lot. But it's quiet and empty now. The double doors don't even have locks on them, so are held closed with chains and padlocks.

The Gardens Casino security manager Dan Sanchez with a fake volcano at the parking lot entrance (Sharon McNary/LAist)

Security Manager Dan Sanchez is not used to the quiet.

"We're so used to the hustle and bustle of it," Sanchez said. "And just seeing it closed is kind of just really odd."

Inside are 200,000 square feet of space with 225 gaming tables, the second largest card room in California. No slot machines or video poker like in Las Vegas or tribal casinos, just card players sitting elbow-to-elbow, face-to-face. Or at least, there used to be.


Hawaiian Gardens is home to nearly 15,000 people, so it's one of the more densely-populated cities in the area. Most families speak Spanish at home, and nearly one-quarter of the population is poor.

While police, fire and road repair services are safe for now, with the casino money slashed, many other free services Hawaiian Gardens provides to its residents to improve quality of life and reduce crime could be cut. They are possible only because of the revenue that comes from the casino.

One program encourages homeowners to remove security bars from their windows. The city offers free bar removal, new windows or home security cameras. That's on hold for now, along with other non-essential services.

"We have some recreational and quality-of-life programs that really nobody else has," Hernandez said. "I mean, we have a tattoo removal program. We have most of everything, our service, especially to the seniors, at zero costs. And most cities can't afford to do that."

Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Jesse Alvarado at Lee Ware Pool, which might remain closed if the city's budget is cut. (Sharon McNary/LAist)

The city's only public pool, at Lee Ware Recreation Center, is closed during the coronavirus outbreak, but when the health precautions abate, the pool might remain closed if the city cannot pay lifeguards and swim teachers.

Free public events, like a popular car show, Independence Day celebration, Halloween and Christmas tree lighting gatherings will also likely be canceled, Hernandez said.


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The city of Hawaiian Gardens, incorporated in 1964, is named for a Prohibition-era thatched roof fruit stand where, local legend has it, you could get some illegal moonshine in your soda if you knew how to ask for it. The city developed as a bedroom community, nearly all single-family homes. But over the years, as the housing stock aged and large nearby employers such as the Long Beach Naval Shipyard and big factories closed, the population got poorer and crime rose.

For years, the city budget was bolstered by fees from a big bingo hall, but by the mid-1990s the city was in dire financial straits. So voters approved a proposal for the operator of the bingo game to create a card club.

The card club operated out of a big tent back when it started in 1997. But that was replaced in 2016 by a $90 million gambling hall.

The casino is controversial -- partly because the money doesn't all stay local, some goes to a political cause in Israel. The casino also recently admitted to violations of the federal Bank Secrecy Act and agreed to nearly $6 million in settlements.

But as the casino grew, so did its share of the tax base. The city's fortunes rise and fall on the casino's daily take. And now it's too big to fail.

The interior of The Gardens casino (courtesy City of Hawaiian Gardens)


For now, city manager Hernandez has no easy answer to the casino's continued closure.

Los Angeles County has other shuttered card clubs in small cities, including Commerce, Bell Gardens, Gardena and Inglewood. Hernandez said, together, the card club cities have laid off about 7,000 workers, adding to the region's sudden unemployment problem.

The city and casino are pushing state and local health authorities to permit the cardroom to operate in Phase 2, which is when lower-risk businesses can open with physical distancing precautions. But the California Gambling Control Commission places cardrooms such as the Gardens in Phase 3, when higher-risk businesses may reopen with distancing measures.

"We've taken note of the reopening plans put forth by other states and the gambling industry," said Commission spokesman Fred Castaño. "We can't go into specifics because it's not finalized, but we are studying the plans closely and will work to incorporate the best practices that arise from these plans."

That slower re-opening plan puts The Gardens and Hawaiian Gardens officials at a competitive disadvantage to California's tribal casinos, which began reopening this week.

Tribal casinos have more flexibility under their sovereign nation status to set their own rules. They have installed physical distancing measures, such as separating players and gambling machines with plexiglas dividers.

Card rooms like The Gardens are likely to also adopt similar safety measures, said Sanchez, the casino security chief. But, stuck in Phase 3, they have no projected date to reopen.

"And so not only does that present an immediate danger to our revenues, but from a consumer standpoint, it puts us at a great disadvantage if [tribal casinos are] gonna open up already and we're not making these decisions," Hernandez said.

The immediate worry for Hawaiian Gardens is the loss of revenue while the casino is closed. But a longer-term worry is whether its customers will be fickle and move their gambling habits to tribal casinos that are opening up -- and whether they will ever return.

Sharon McNary The shutdown of The Gardens Casino is costing its host city $1 million a month. The loss will force cancellation of many services to this predominantly low-income area. Fri, 22 May 2020 16:01:13 -0700 The Smallest City In LA Has Lost Its Volcano, Its Casino, And Most Of Its Money
Angelenos cast their votes in the March 2020 primary. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

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COVID-19 has caused delays to the 2020 Census operations that will likely be felt for years.

One critical process tied to the census is redistricting -- in other words, the redrawing of voting district lines. If that gets delayed, which is looking very likely, there could be serious ramifications for California's political processes.

Every decade, a group of 14 California citizens is tasked with drawing the district maps for U.S. representatives, state senators and state assembly members.

This year will be only the second time a commission is formed. Prior to the passage of Proposition 20 and Proposition 11 in 2008, the state legislature would draw the lines themselves (critics argued this meant maps were drawn with political motivations).


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The redistricting process went fairly smoothly a decade ago, but this year, with the Census Bureau asking Congress for extensions to complete the census, the complicated job of drawing districts will involve new obstacles.

Normally, census enumerators would go door-to-door collecting forms starting at the beginning of May. Now, for fear of spreading coronavirus, that work is being pushed to later this summer, with a projected end date of October 31.

That means the deadline to determine how many representatives in Congress each state gets is also being delayed -- most likely until April of 2021.

This is where work gets tricky for the state's redistricting commission.


The normal redistricting process goes something like this:

  • Commissioners receive California's population data from the Census Bureau by April of the year after the census (in this case it would be April 2021).
  • They take three or four months to redraw voting district maps using that data.
  • Commissioners need to make sure that all districts are approximately equal in population -- that's why census data, and any population or demographic changes, are so important.
  • During the whole process, the commission must avoid splitting up voting districts with populations that share a common social or economic interest.
  • They're also supposed to hold meetings to hear concerns from the public and interest groups.
  • Maps should be drawn and approved by Aug. 15, 2021.

According to Stephanie Ramirez-Ridgeway, chief counsel to the State Auditor's Office, census population data might not even get to the commissioners until after that deadline. That would be a serious problem, because politicians deciding whether to run in 2022 wouldn't have maps to reference.

And that's not the only issue. Ramirez-Ridgeway has another concern:

"I don't have a commission yet. That's the other crazy wrinkle here."

The 2010 commission will keep serving for the next couple of months, until the 2020 commission is chosen via bingo ball (yup, bingo ball) from a pool of eligible candidates. That means no one is working on resolving this timeline challenge.


According to Eric McGhee with the Public Policy Institute of California, there's two likely scenarios.

"Either the commission will just have a big fail and not draw anything at all, or they'll move that deadline," McGhee said.

If the commission doesn't draw maps, the state constitution says the problem should be taken to the California Supreme Court, which may hire an independent group to do the work.

Or the commission could ask the Supreme Court for help. The justices can't permanently change the redistricting deadline since it's written into the state constitution. But according to Ramirez-Ridgeway with the Auditor's Office, they could potentially offer a one-time extension. She said,

"I think we're going to see courts struggling -- across the board -- to catch the law up to our circumstances. It's going to be a fascinating legal question."

Unlike the Supreme Court, state voters do have the ability to change the constitution. McGhee with the Public Policy Institute predicts the legislature might choose that option and put a deadline change on the ballot, either in November or in a special election.

But even if the deadline is changed, there's the issue of the March 2022 primary election. Candidates are supposed to file nomination forms 88 days before an election, which would be around December. So if the census data is delayed, and district maps are drawn much later in the year, it could bump up against that deadline.

McGhee with the PPIC said, most likely, the 2022 elections will need to move as well. Earlier this year State Sen. Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) introduced a bill to do just that, with the intention of shortening the election cycle between the primary and general election. Now with a pandemic in the mix, McGhee expects that bill to pass.


Caroline Champlin If 2020 census data is released too late, the state redistricting commission might not have enough time to redraw voting district boundaries. Fri, 22 May 2020 15:37:41 -0700 Coronavirus-Related Census Delays Could Affect California's 2022 Primary Election
(Illustration by Chava Sanchez)

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The last thing Lucia Gomez told me before she got off the phone after telling me her dad's story was, "I'm glad we were able to have those memories at the end." It was raining, I think. Or maybe I was just crying. It was another sad coronavirus story. At least that's how I saw it then.

A few days earlier, I'd been standing in the yard watching my cousin Benito and his helper David, both day laborers, drill a big hole in my one-room place to install a portable air conditioner. I don't even remember what day it was because every day now feels like a scene from Memento. But it was a hot day and I remember thinking, "This is a hard job."

I had no business "overseeing" the gig. Truth be told, I was putting off writing a radio piece I had been chasing down for about two weeks while secretly hoping it would fall through. The story was an obituary for Gaspar Gomez.

Gaspar isn't a famous celebrity, though you should have seen him on the dance floor.

But you know Gaspar ... sort of.

He was a day laborer like the ones you've seen waiting for gigs at Home Depot or working on the construction crew renovating your kitchen.

Like my cousin, who has basically built my entire extended family's houses at this point. Like the workers I would see every day as I walked along Raymond Avenue past California Boulevard to the KPCC studios in Pasadena back before the quarantine.

I often wonder if they're still out there.

Gaspar is one of the first known day laborers to die from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County. He died May 3 at the still-young age of 51, leaving behind his wife, five daughters and a son.

But Gaspar is much more than a day laborer and much more than a story. He loved his family, he loved to dance, and he loved working with his hands -- it's how he built his life here.

And that's why I had hoped his daughter Lucia wouldn't return any of my messages. I didn't want to write an obituary, especially one about someone who could have easily been my cousin.

That's why I was standing there watching Benito and David do the work I couldn't. Then I realized they were wearing masks and I wasn't. So I put one on because I didn't want to be selfish or entitled.

I walked the dogs and wondered the whole time how many more sad coronavirus stories I would have to write. I thought about all my colleagues who are doing important reporting, and telling heartbreaking stories daily in the middle of a pandemic that they are not immune to and an economic crisis that's endangering their livelihoods.

This too is a hard job.

When I got home, I heard from my family about three people we knew who had coronavirus. One of them died. His name was Robert Olvera, and he was a father and a volunteer at the kids' jiu jitsu school. His son was my niece's sparring partner back when the school was open.

I sometimes forget that as hard as it is to write sad coronavirus stories, it's so much harder living them. And that even though we are in physical isolation, we are going through this together.

Lucia called me back a few days later, and we talked about her father.

The reason she took so long to get back to me to do the obituary was because she was busy planning her father's memorial. It's a much harder and longer process to do in the era of COVID-19. It's expensive, too. Lucia's had to organize a GoFundMe to raise money for the services.

We talked after she read the obituary this week. She told me she cried while reading it. I told her I cried while writing it.

But even in all that, we were able to find joy and laughter while she told me stories about her father. Like how he would tap his toes when a song he liked came on the radio, or how "when the song ended he would tap and sing 'tan tan' every single time."

Gaspar's favorite musicians were Los Originales de San Juan and Chalino Sanchez. He especially loved to dance zapateado to Chalino's "El Pavido Navido" -- something I learned to do dancing with my tias as a young boy.

The last time Lucia danced with her father was at a family quinceañera a few months back.

"When I close my eyes and think of him, I think about that," she said. "I think about his laugh and his love of music. He left so many good memories behind. People loved him because he was the type of guy who helped everybody."

And she remembers that Gaspar definitely danced zapateado that night, tapping his toes rapidly all over the dance floor to the very end of his favorite songs.

Tan tan.

About the Mis Ángeles column: Erick Galindo is chronicling life in Los Angeles for LAist. He took on this role after serving as our immigrant communities reporter. Erick came to us last year from LA Taco, where he was the managing editor.


Erick Galindo I didn't want to write an obituary, especially one about someone who could have easily been my cousin. Fri, 22 May 2020 14:14:16 -0700 Mis Ángeles: What A Day Laborer's Death Taught Me About Hard Work And Joy
The Slow Streets program launched in the Del Rey and Sawtelle neighborhoods last week. LADOT has received more than 175 applications from residents and community groups that want to bring the initiative to their streets. (Courtesy office of L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin)

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A new initiative to give Angelenos safe space to stay active on neighborhood streets while still practicing safe social distancing is off and running -- with a few hiccups but growing interest to bring it to more communities.

The Slow Streets program launched in two West L.A. neighborhoods last Friday: Del Rey and Sawtelle. The goal is to give residents more room to safely get fresh air and exercise on their streets by limiting car traffic, and prompting drivers to slow down and share the road.

Mayor Eric Garcetti formally announced the initiative in a media briefing, saying it's meant to promote pedestrian safety, community equity and responsibility.

"This is about how we live with COVID-19 -- and we can have that space without infecting one another, even as more of the city opens up," Garcetti said. "It's about doing right by our neighbors and showing respect for everyone's health."

(Courtesy Jonathan Wells)

Here's how it works: the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has an online application for neighborhoods that want to join the program, though to be considered, applicants must include a "sponsoring organization" like a neighborhood council or city councilmember's office to demonstrate local support. The goal is to empower communities to decide if and how they want the program to roll out in their streets. Those sponsors run point with the city to help plan which streets to include, then monitor the program once it launches.

The safety initiative is designed for residential zones, though no streets are actually closed to cars. A mix of A-frame barriers, cones and signs indicate which streets are for local traffic only, and advise drivers to slow down and be mindful of other road users. Signage also includes reminders to practice social distancing and wear face coverings.

As of today, LADOT has received over 175 applications, according to spokesperson Colin Sweeney, though not all had the required sponsoring organization and a few were from areas outside of the city of L.A.

Two more neighborhoods have officially joined the program, Sweeney said. Eagle Rock is rolling out its Slow Streets changes today, and Mid City West launches this weekend.

So how is Slow Streets being enforced? Essentially like this:

There is no police traffic enforcement attached to the program, Sweeney said. In fact, even if residents do everything right from a public health standpoint, the program could still be taken away because of people behaving badly in cars.

LADOT has an online feedback form and is asking residents in Slow Streets zones to let the city know "if they observe violations of public health guidelines or motorists not slowing down," Sweeney explained.

"We can suspend at any time a specific Slow Streets location if reported or observed violations continue," he said.

A-frame barriers displaying messages about social distancing and the city's new Slow Streets safety initiative were kicked to the curb in Del Rey. (Courtesy Jonathan Wells)


Jonathan Wells and his family have lived in the Del Rey neighborhood for seven years and enjoy biking and walking around the community. He told me he wishes the program had been implemented sooner (I reported previously on why an earlier plan was delayed), but said he does feel safer walking and biking in his neighborhood with the signs in place.

"I think that it's important to do these experiments," Wells said. "Anything that makes it safer for people to get out and exercise in a way that they can still social distance is a good thing."

Not everyone is a fan of the program, though. On recent walks and bike rides, Wells noticed some signs and cones had been knocked over, damaged and kicked to the curb. He's been in contact with the Del Rey Neighborhood Council, which is monitoring the initiative.

The council's president, Matt Wersinger, says local volunteers are on the lookout for downed signs and are restoring them whenever possible.

LADOT's Colin Sweeney confirmed this week that "some signs were being damaged or removed without authorization" in Del Rey. He said the department continues to work with the neighborhood council to keep tabs on the program.

The local Nextdoor page is simmering right now, according to Wells (though he said "that's just par for the course"), with some users adamantly trashing the initiative.

"I don't know where they're in a rush to go to, but... they're afraid this is going to be permanent," he said.


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The program was designed to be low-cost and temporary, though city leaders and safety advocates have said they're interested to see if the experiment can offer a better understanding of permanent safety improvements down the road.

Nextdoor aside, Wersinger said the feedback has been mostly positive, and the group will continue community outreach.

"There were families with kids that came out to thank us for doing this because they'd seen a significant change in the speed of cars on the street," he said. "Those drivers that did still choose to use any of these streets were being a lot more conscious of what was happening around them due to the signage."


Del Rey residents have noticed an uptick in the number of cars taking Redwood Avenue and Beethoven Street near the busier corridor of Washington Boulevard. Traffic in those spots has returned to a level that's unsafe for pedestrians, Wersinger said, so in order to avoid diverting drivers to other side streets, the city will take out some signs and barriers.

The two sections where Slow Streets is being removed, per LADOT, are:

  • Redwood Avenue from Washington Boulevard to Maxella Avenue
  • Beethoven Street from Washington Boulevard to Short Avenue

That "malleable" nature is a key strength of the program, Wersinger said, because it gives residents the ability to work with the city to make adjustments based on how traffic changes moving forward.

"We're volunteers; it costs [the city] nothing," he said. "And it also gives us the opportunity to be the ears to our neighbors... versus folks downtown who might not necessarily have the best understanding of our neighborhood block by block."


Ryan Fonseca The city has received more than 175 applications from residents and community groups that want to join the safety initiative. Fri, 22 May 2020 13:25:00 -0700 LA's Slow Streets Program Is Picking Up Speed (Despite Some Attacks On Signs)
Arts & Entertainment
Find the Bumdog. (Bumdog Torres for LAist)

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In mid-March, we published a profile of Bumdog Torres. A few weeks ago, he reached out and pitched us a photo essay. We said yes. The result -- 6 Feet Back From Life: A Homeless Man's Photo Essay On Life During Coronavirus -- and the response to the piece has been overwhelmingly positive. So we decided to keep it going. Bumdog will be a regular contributor to LAist. This photo essay, #findthebumdog, is the first in a three-part series.

Coming soon: "Alley Dogs: Part 1" and "Alley Dogs and Other Portraits."

I think it was sometime in 2009 or 2010 that a friend of mine who was a photographer sent me a link to a Chicago TV story about a newly discovered photographer named Vivian Maier. Like many people, I was blown away as much by her story as her images. What was so inspiring about her photography was that it didn't seem much different than the photos you see in old family albums. The images were ordinary but with a beautification that comes with a conscious effort.

View this post on Instagram

Untitled Self Portrait, Undated ©️ Estate of Vivian Maier. #vivianmaier

A post shared by Vivian Maier (@vivianmaierarchive) on

I never considered myself a photographer. Even though I have a good understanding of composition, it's film composition. Not the moments of still photographs but photographs in movement. I might capture some moments, but it's the movement, not the moments, that keep me interested. Otherwise, I don't have the patience.

I've never had a real photographic camera. I've had video cameras but nothing dedicated to photography. By 2014, every smartphone came with a very good camera. I'd never had a smartphone but I began to creatively visualize an iPhone -- and not just any iPhone. I wanted the iPhone 4s, the last one designed under Steve Jobs.

In October of 2014, I had been deported out of Thailand back to Los Angeles (long story) and found myself at old haunts in the Fairfax District. I was seeing friends I hadn't seen in almost 10 years. One of them was "Slayer," a homeless graffiti artist, tagger and dumpster diver.

A few days after I returned, he showed me an iPhone 4s he had found in the trash. The carrier was Japanese so you couldn't use it as a phone, but everything else worked, including the internet. I asked him how much he wanted for it. He didn't want to sell it. He said he was in love with it because of the music it could play, which was what he was into.

However, I also knew he was into meth, which meant he was GONNA sell it. It was just a matter of when, where and who to. For the next few days, I shadowed him, sometimes checking in on him two or three times a day, letting him know I was still interested. He told me he wouldn't sell it for less than $150. I knew that wasn't true. When he started jonesing, it was gonna be up for grabs.

Sure enough, after a few days, he started itching and he mentioned that a friend of his had scored some really good meth and was willing to give him a deal. I told him I would give him $50 for the iPhone. He was grudging at first, but joyful thoughts of a future high overpowered all other considerations and he sold what he had professed so much love for, as I've seen many times before.

I kinda felt bad because he was right. His friend did have some really good dope. I know this because Slayer spent the next three to four days without sleep, walking in circles through the alleys, screaming arguments to himself. He definitely got his money's worth...and so did I.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Various flowers shot on an iPhone.

The iPhone 4s, although it also shot video, was the best dedicated still camera I'd ever had. And I now had the patience that comes from having plenty of time on your hands. I began taking photos of flowers and interesting things I would come across in alleys, alleys that I always stuck to.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Items in an alley in the Fairfax District.

Then one day, I found a couple of mirrors next to a trash can. Remembering Vivian Maier's famous self portraits, I took the opportunity to shoot my first self-portrait, as opposed to a selfie where you are staring straight into the camera. It was the first of many photos I called #findthebumdog.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

A couple of self-portraits.

Most of the mirrors I shot in were thrown away and broken. The symbolism of using them to shoot self-portraits didn't escape me. It also gave me some discipline because the fragmented reflections took effort and concentration to get right.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

The world, seen through mirrors.


All of the photos in this essay were shot on the iPhone 4s or iPhone 6s.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Triple Portrait.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Middle: "A Bumdog Collage Nail to a Tree."
Right: "Bumdog in a Basket of Deplorables."

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

A colored installation of a mirror I came across on Santa Monica Blvd. All the panels are movable. I was there for a few minutes, maneuvering them around until I got the most out of it. When you look at the mirrors below, you can see pieces of my shopping cart.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Left: "Self Portrait in Car Driveway Mirror." Right: "Double Portrait in Scooter Mirrors."

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

"Find the Bumdog with a Sleeping Anastasia" - When I take mirror shots with people in them, they are usually women. Because almost all women, even when they are homeless, keep mirrors with them.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Left: "Woman in Front of Rite Aid" - Not only did I have to focus on the shot, I had to make sure she didn't wake up and start screaming at the sight of me hovering above her.
Middle: "Self Portrait with Michelle."
Right: "At the mouth of a Meth Tent."

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Dorthea Jean in her camp, with pocket mirror in my hand.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Anuch, Scotty and another dude, taking a siesta in front of the old Fairfax Theater.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Left: Leia walked by me outside of Coffee Bean with a mirror in her pullcart. Middle: Kristen in her camp #findthebumdog. Right: Brooke and her boyfriend Steve, sitting in front of Coffee Bean. Brooke had her back to me because she was doing her makeup at the time.

On Beverly Blvd. there's a cafe called Insomnia. It used to be open 24 hours. Eventually, they only stayed open until 2 a.m. and by the time I started going there, it was only open until midnight. It has been here for about 30 years. In the bathroom, graffiti was actually encouraged, including on the mirror. I heard that Banksy himself had scrawled something into the mirror, which was possible because he had done a few works a few blocks away. I found out it had been sold and remodeled, when I was walking behind the alley and saw all the debris piled up. Including the mirror. I took some photos then decided to put it on my shopping cart and use it to take some more photos elsewhere. I figured I'd have it for a couple of days. Instead, I had it on my cart for another year. I called it the #insomniamirrorseries.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

The mirror in its original natural habitat.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Left: The mirror where I found it, discarded with the rest of the trash.
Middle: The corner of Wilshire and Detroit.
Right: Wilshire and Fairfax in front of the 99 Cent Store.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

It was best when I was able to find interesting pieces of street art to put next to it. Here's the mirror on the side of the Gemini Gallery.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Clockwise: "Find the Bumdog with Frank Sinatra," "Find the Bumdog surrounded by Happy Faces," "Find the Bumdog with the Dali Lama," "Find the Bumdog with the Cookie Monster."

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

"Bumdogs on Bumdog" - From a "Dog Hotel" on Highland just below Santa Monica Blvd.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

"Panhandlers in the Fairfax District" - It can be difficult to shoot photos of homeless people as many are suspicious of being photographed, even if I know them. Panhandlers on the other are another story. $5 says it all.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

"Panhandlers on Hollywood Blvd." - There was something wrong with my iPhone lens that day which is why all the photos are blurred.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Left: Soren (on the left) and Selah (on the right) wearing Bumdog t-shirts. Their father Mike is beside me in the photo.
Right: Neighborhood twins Betty and Adair wearing Bumdog t-shirts.

Not only do these two sets of twins live in the same neighborhood, they actually live two doors down from each other.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Three Swedish art students I met on Melrose.

People from all over the world would come to take their photo in front of these wings. I actually knew the artist, Colette Miller, back in downtown L.A. before she started making them. I had taken a few photos in front of them myself.

One day, while I was watching people take shots in front of it, I got the idea to photograph someone in front of the angel wings while holding the mirror. The first one was a German tourist. I decided to make a series of these shots, and went to the wings every time I had a chance.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

German tourist in front of angel wings.

It wasn't easy. As I stood there next to my shopping cart, I looked like I was begging for change and people would avoid me. I would stand there for hours before anyone would agree to hold the mirror. A lot of times, after being there all day, I would lose the light without finding a willing subject. There was a certain time of day when the light would hit just right across a person's face.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

Passersby in front of angel wings - Once, when it was just the right time, there was nobody in line to take a photo in front of the wings, I told this brother who was just walking by that I needed help and asked if he could please hold the mirror while I photographed him. He agreed. One of my best shots.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

People in front of angel wings.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

"The Bumdog Signal" - Here's another shot on the same day I found the mirror. In fact, this was shot in the same alley on the same block. I put the mirror down to shoot something, looked up and saw my silhouette on the wall.

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

"Bumdog at the Witching Hour" - I took this shot around sunset aka "magic hour."

(Bumdog Torres for LAist)

One day, I waited at the wings all day and couldn't get anyone to hold the mirror for me. As I was losing the light, I began to notice my shadow falling across the mural. I waited a little longer until it was in the right place and shot this.

If you like the photographs you see here, you can buy prints of them directly from Bumdog for $10 each. You can also buy DVDs of his two movies for $25 each as well as the custom made T-shirts you see in several of his photographs for $75 each. (All the money goes directly to him.) His Paypal, Venmo and CASH accounts are all under, where you can also contact him.

Photo Editor: Chava Sanchez


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Bumdog Torres Inspired by Vivian Maier, a homeless photographer begins to get recognition for his work. Fri, 22 May 2020 12:30:19 -0700 In His Own Words: LA's Homeless Photographer Records Life On The Streets With Self Portraits
The area stretching from Malibu to Beverly Hills is reporting unusually low census response rates (brown/beige), unlike other similar-income areas like Rancho Palos Verdes. (California Census Office)

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If you look at a map of responses to the 2020 Census in Los Angeles County, two things will probably jump out.

First, you'd see a big concentration of low response rates, color-coded orange, in South Central and Southeast L.A. This was predictable. That region is considered one of the hardest to count in the country. Many residents of these areas don't have internet access -- a particular challenge with the first primarily online census.

If you keep looking at the map, you'll notice another strip of orange low response rates, stretching from Beverly Hills, along the coast, all the way up to Malibu.

This is very unusual. Because according to the California Complete Count office, the region was supposed to be a fairly easy place to count. On an index measuring hardest to count tracts ranging from 0-133 (0 being easiest, 133 hardest), most of those West L.A. tracts got a score around 20, while most tracts in Southeast L.A. are pushing 100.


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Two months into the 2020 Census, some tracts in West L.A. are still only at 25% of households responding -- far behind the county as a whole, currently at 56%.

For comparison, during the 2010 census, 70% of households in those same Westside tracts turned in their forms. While the pandemic has altered this year's timeline, that's about the rate that had been expected for this year.

It raises the question: Why isn't West L.A. responding like usual?

LAist talked to Westside representatives, residents and Census Bureau officials to get to the bottom of this.

Areas deemed "hard to count" by the Census Bureau are marked in dark orange. That Malibu-Beverly Hills stretch is not among them. (California Census Office)


Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who represents West L.A., was surprised to see her constituents responding to the census behind the rest of the county.

"I don't want the Westside to be considered a bunch of losers," she said.

Kuehl acknowledged that COVID-19 is a big distraction, and suggested that people might just be too busy to fill out their information.

"I think there's a kind of a Maslowian hierarchy about what is important to you at the moment," Kuehl said. "We're all so focused on all of the extra things we have to do and think about because of this pandemic."

Still, other parts of Los Angeles are responding to the census at higher rates despite the coronavirus hitting their communities as well (and in some cases, harder).

Another possible explanation Kuehl brought up is UCLA's transition to remote learning. Students usually living on and off-campus may not be there anymore.

"That's almost 50,000 students," she said. "Many of them -- because school's out -- let their apartments go and they moved back home. They've done a lot of shifting around."

Plus, those off-campus students might not realize the Census Bureau wants them to fill out a census form corresponding with their school address.

To count students living on-campus, the Census Bureau would usually do a "Group Quarters" count, working with university administrators, and in some cases, conducting in-person interviews. This year that process was delayed, and now the bureau will receive student information directly from the university.

The same issue of missing students could also apply to the Malibu area, where Pepperdine students living on-campus were told to leave their dorms.

But there's still the question of residential census tracts in Bel Air and Western Malibu, where the population skews older than college-aged.

Kuehl admitted she doesn't know what's going on with those constituents, but she has a message for them nonetheless:

"Come on, Westside, get with it -- do your census form!"


The Census Bureau office of Los Angeles is working with community and government organizations to target residents in West L.A. and encourage census participation.

Bureau spokesperson Patricia Ramos said one clue about the low response rates in these areas might have to do with residents who own a second home.

"Possibly a lot of the residents who have responded so far, they might live in the city of Malibu full time, for example, while another fraction of the residents, that might not be the case," Ramos said.

Even if people are living in another home, they still need to be accountable for their local residence. According to Ramos, census takers will eventually stop by that house to collect a response, and to preempt that, respondents should mark whether or not they live in that household full-time on Question 1 of the census form.

CENSUS FORM EXPLAINED: What's on the form and why

Those responses will determine local funding for the next decade, and if West L.A. residents aren't counted, local schools, hospitals and streets could all pay the price. Ramos said imagine, for example, if the city needs to decide which roads to repave.

"They need to know how many people live in a particular area, and how heavy the usage is going to be -- be it a little road in Bel Air, or a main thoroughfare that goes from the Westside all the way to the Valley, an example is Beverly Glen," Ramos said. "They're arteries."

Ramos said, if you live in this area and know your neighbor isn't in town, you should call or email them to get them to do their form. At LAist, we wondered, if a lot of people aren't home, is it possible they left the area to avoid COVID-19, like what happened in New York City?

Robin Greenberg, President of the Bel Air and Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council doesn't believe that theory.

"No, I don't think anybody is traveling. I think everybody is walking on our street -- we see everybody walking all day long," Greenberg said. "They're home. There's nowhere to go."

Greenberg said her husband has completed their household's census form, but besides talking with him about it, she hasn't discussed the census with anyone else. She figured her neighbours would understand the importance of the census and fill it out.

"I just don't know what it would be, honestly. There's nothing I could attribute it to," Greenberg said.

Caroline Champlin The region was expected to be very responsive to the census, with fewer language barriers and better internet access than other places in L.A. Fri, 22 May 2020 07:00:00 -0700 Census Response Rates In Wealthy West LA Areas Are Weirdly Low -- And No One Knows Why
LEFT: Chongqing special flavor boiled fish at Yun Chuan Garden in Monterey Park. (Ron Dollette/Facebook Creative Commons). MIDDLE: A trio of frothy boba drinks at Bubble Republic, a boba and snack shop in the city of San Gabriel. (Courtesy of Bubble Republic). RIGHT: Assorted hummus and dips at Hummus Labs in Pasadena. (Courtesy of Hummus Labs). (Photo collage by Elina Shatkin)

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When Fiona Ng, the head producer at KPCC's AirTalk, asked me early in the coronavirus pandemic if she could write a story about a Monterey Park hot pot restaurant offering a crazy deal -- giving away a pot to anyone who ordered takeout -- I jumped at the chance.

Every week, she would pitch me new ideas. She didn't go hunting for these stories. She discovered most of them while she was out and about, living her daily life.

A native of Hong Kong, Fiona has lived on-and-off in the SGV for more than a decade. She's fluent in Cantonese and speaks Mandarin well enough to get by. And since she doesn't cook, she eats out... a lot. That kind of unique perspective and boots-on-the-ground experience is rare, and it can't be taught.

Fiona's initial story evolved into a short series about COVID-19's impact on the San Gabriel Valley dining scene -- old school restaurants pivoting to stay afloat, new ones struggling to establish themselves, diners banding together to show their support. These stories only scratch the surface of the 626's vast and diverse restaurant culture but we hope they offer a glimpse into an ecosystem that often doesn't get enough attention.

--Elina Shatkin

A takeout hot pot from Uniboil, a hot pot restaurant in Monterey Park. (Fiona Ng/LAist)

Order A Hot Pot -- Get The Stove, Pot And Ladles For Free

While some restaurants have been able to adapt to the brave new world of takeout and delivery, that's not so easy for hot pot joints. They involve groups of people sitting together at tables with embedded stoves, cooking meals in bubbling pots and sharing the same ladle to dispense broth. Alan Pun, who owns Uniboil in Monterey Park, knows this better than anybody. So he's trying something unique -- throwing in the stove, the pot, the ladles and the fuel with every takeout order. READ MORE

A bevvy of boba drinks at Bubble Republic, a boba and snack shop in the city of San Gabriel. (Courtesy of Bubble Republic)

A Boba Shop Attempts A Grand Reopening During The Coronavirus Quarantine

Competition among the San Gabriel Valley's boba vendors is fierce. That's why Michael Tu decided more than a year ago that Bubble Republic, his cheery San Gabriel shop, needed a facelift. On February 24, he closed the cafe for what he thought would be a four-week remodel. He reopened in late March to a changed world. READ MORE

(Courtesy of Chengdu Taste)

Chengdu Taste, LA's Premier Sichuan Restaurant, Fights To Survive

You can't talk about Sichuan cuisine in Southern California without name-checking Chengdu Taste. Since opening in 2013, the Alhambra restaurant has won heaps of praise and cultivated a diehard fanbase. Co-owner Sean Xie figured 2020 was the year to expand. Like many of us, he's rethinking his expectations. READ MORE

Hummus. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

When Life Gives Your Restaurant Lemons, Use Them To... Make Hummus?

Joseph Badaro was raised in Temple City but he likes to say he grew up in his mom's kitchen. Standing at her side, he learned how to roll grape leaves and soak, boil and blend garbanzo beans. He knew that one day, he would open a restaurant. He didn't expect it would be in the middle of a pandemic. READ MORE

Chongqing special flavor boiled fish at Yun Chuan Garden in Monterey Park. (Ron Dollette/Facebook Creative Commons)

How Facebook Foodies Are Fighting To Save San Gabriel Valley Restaurants

For San Gabriel Valley lifers Alan An and Brian Ngoy, food is much more than a hobby -- it's its own culture. When stay-at-home orders required restaurants to close their dining rooms, the hungry duo started a Facebook group so friends and family could share intel. Three weeks later, they had 7,000 members and the group has become an indispensable resource for matching hungry San Gabriel Valley residents to nearby restaurants. READ MORE

LAist Staff Old school restaurants pivoting to stay afloat, new ones struggling to establish themselves, diners showing their support. A glimpse into the 626's vast and diverse restaurant culture. Fri, 22 May 2020 05:00:00 -0700 How Hard Is Coronavirus Hitting San Gabriel Valley's Restaurants?
University of California President Janet Napolitano addressed the UC Board of Regents during its May 21, 2020 meeting. (Screenshot from University of California Board of Regents)

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The Regents of the 10-campus University of California voted unanimously on Thursday to suspend the requirement that first-time applicants submit scores from SAT or ACT standardized test scores for admission.

"I think it's an incredible step in the right direction," said UC Regents Chair John Perez.

The vote suspends the requirement through 2024 while UC studies whether to require scores from another test that UC either creates or adopts.

"By one measure this is a conversation 43 years in the making, since the 1977 adoption of the test as a weeding mechanism, as a way to decrease the number of students admitted to the University of California," Perez said.

The proposal to put the standardized test requirement on hold while UC re-evalutes its admissions criteria was first floated by UC President Janet Napolitano, who had already dropped the test requirement for applications due in the Fall 2020 because of the COVID-19 crisis. She said she was "unpersuaded" that requiring the tests for admissions "was sufficient to outweigh all of the extensive mitigation measures we employ to counteract the effect of the standardized test on certain populations."

Many of the Regents and members of the public who commented during the online Regents meeting cited research showing that the standardized tests favor students from higher-income families who can afford expensive test preparation courses.

Applicants for Fall 2020 can submit SAT or ACT results, but they aren't required to do so, and UC admissions offices may choose whether to consider those scores. The new policy extends that arrangement for another year, and adds another two years during which UC campuses will not use the standardized scores for admissions decisions even if students submit them.


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UC's vote comes after years of activism from advocates of low-income students of color who were buoyed by a growing body of research that suggested higher SAT and ACT scores have more to do with a student's ability to pay for preparation material and tutoring than with college readiness.

Some of these advocates reminded UC's Regents of the effects of the standardized tests during the online meeting's public comment period.

UC Regents Chair John Perez (screenshot (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez))

"The pay-to-play tests unfairly discriminate against low-income and students of color, shutting too many talented students out of the UC," said Michele Siqueiros, president of the L.A.-based Campaign for College Opportunity.

Her group supported a lawsuit filed against UC by civil rights advocates last year alleging that the entrance requirement discriminated against students who don't have the resources to do as well as students who can afford expensive test preparation.

"Many students attend summer test prep programs before they took the SAT," UC Student Association President Varsha Sarveshewar, who is a recent UC Berkeley graduate, told the Regents.

"Others including me, benefited from private tutoring. This usually cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Fun fact, when I was editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, our biggest advertisers were test prep centers."

In the fall of 2019, UC's nine undergraduate campuses admitted more than 107,000 students. Of those admissions:

  • African American, 4%
  • Latino, 24%
  • Asian American, 30%
  • White, 21%
  • American Indians 0.4%

Percentages of Latinos and African Americans are larger in the California population as a whole and advocates say UC admissions should reflect that.


During the six-hour discussion, five UC Regents said they were either hesitant to do away with the standardized test requirement in one fell swoop, or said the requirement should stay in place since campuses have the freedom to place the scores lower on the list of admissions factors.

A UC task force released a report earlier this last year that concluded standardized test scores are not the main factor keeping low-income and minority students out of the university system.

"Both grades and test scores are predictive of a wide variety of UC outcomes, even after taking into account student background," said UCSD economist Julian Betts, who reiterated his endorsement of the task force's findings during the Regents meeting.

But the reaction to the Regents' decision to suspend the test was largely favorable.

"The UC system includes several of the world's most respected public higher education institutions," Bob Schaeffer, interim Executive Director of FairTest, a group that opposes standardized test for college admission, said in a written statement.

"FairTest expects many colleges and universities now in the process of evaluating their own admissions testing mandates to heed the message from California and adopt ACT/SAT-optional policies."

Beatriz Rafael of Inner City Struggle, an East L.A. community organization, said the students she works with as they apply for college often say the high-pressure tests are not an accurate reflection of their full high school experience

"I continuously hear my youth talk about their low test scores and the triggering, the anxiety, and impacting their self-esteem as a scholar," she said. "Those hard-working four years at a high school, doing all they can do to make themselves competitive applicants - their efforts are overlooked just by the test scores."

So when she heard the Regents voted to suspend the tests, she was excited.

"This was definitely a big step," she said. "We needed to end these inequities and consider a more holistic approach."

Eric Kim, who works at the test prep company LA Tutors, said the company offers scholarships to students who might not be able to afford the same preparation as their more affluent peers.

Kim said he was surprised that the Regents moved quickly to phase out the standardized tests, but added that it was "definitely a move in the right direction in terms of making it a more equitable, fair process for college admissions."

Still, he said he wonders about UC's upcoming effort to replace the SAT and ACT with its own test, and how the university system will ensure that it will be "more fair".

"If the UC system simply replaces one test with another, I'd be interested to see how they can remedy the concerns they had about the SAT and ACT with the implementation of their own assessment," he said.

Kim doesn't think the decision will affect LA Tutors too much in the short term because SAT and ACT prep account for about 10 to 15% of the company's business.

"If this ends up being a trend that other colleges pick up on, we would obviously have to focus our attention on some of the other tests that are out there" - like the GMAT and GRE - "as well as academic tutoring," he explained.

KPCC/LAist reporter Carla Javier contributed additional reporting to this story.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez The vote by the UC Regents to suspend the tests was unanimous. Thu, 21 May 2020 18:44:00 -0700 In 'Incredible Step' UC Regents Suspend SAT And ACT Admissions Requirement -- Possibly Forever
FILE - A group of around 50 teachers and parents from El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills attend a protest on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. (Kyle Stokes/KPCC)

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UPDATED -- Leaders of at least four Los Angeles charter schools have applied for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, or "PPP" -- a federal government relief program originally intended to help small businesses weather the coronavirus crisis.

The board of Gabriella Charter Schools, which operates two campuses in Echo Park and South L.A., authorized a $1.3 million PPP loan.

So did Ivy Academia in the west San Fernando Valley. That charter school's board accepted $962,300 through PPP.

The board of City Charter Schools, which runs campuses in Mid-City and Baldwin Hills, also applied for $997,000, the school's executive director said.

A fourth network, Fenton Charter Public Schools, also received a $5 million loan in mid-April. But last week, Fenton administrators decided to return the funds after deciding the schools didn't need the money, documents show.

And these four schools weren't alone. Through a fairly cursory review of governing board documents, KPCC/LAist found another three L.A. charter schools that have at least considered applying for part of the $660 billion pot of PPP funds.

Board documents don't make clear whether Granada Hills Charter High School or Birmingham Community Charter High School followed through with loan applications.

But board members for a third school, El Camino Real Charter High School, decided against applying -- in part, because they feared accepting PPP funds would be seen as controversial.


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Government entities are not eligible for PPP loans. But while charter schools are publicly funded and tuition-free, they are not exactly government entities.

Charter schools are operated by nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits are eligible for the PPP program -- and national advocacy organizations have encouraged charter schools to apply for PPP funds.

Charter schools also receive the vast majority of their revenue from the government. While California is pondering cuts in K-12 spending, school funding has continued to flow uninterrupted during the pandemic thanks to an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

To United Teachers Los Angeles -- a labor union which opposes charter schools on a number of policy issues -- this raises the question: Why would charters need PPP money?

"There's been talk in the news," noted UTLA member and teacher Maria Sanchez, "about ... how some small businesses weren't given a chance to get a loan because [the money] was all taken. The fact Gabriella Charter was getting a loan when they have the same funding as public schools just didn't seem fair to me."

A Facebook Live video shows supports of United Teachers Los Angeles holding a protest outside the home of a charter school board member. The teachers union opposes a plan to have Gabriella Charter School 'co-locate' on the campus of the LAUSD-run Lizarraga Elementary. Gabriella's administrators oppose the move for a different reason; the charter already shares space on the campus of LAUSD's Trinity Elementary, and the district's plan would split the school between two campuses. (UTLA Facebook Page/Screenshot)


The coronavirus crisis has forced many charter schools to shoulder extraordinary costs for meals, masks, gloves, cleaning supplies and technology for teaching kids online.

District-run public schools face these costs, too -- but officials with the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) contend their member schools don't have access to the same funding tools to cover these costs.

For example, the L.A. Unified School District used $77 million in bond funds to purchase thousands of laptops during the crisis. Charter schools have long lamented that they don't have the authority to put similar construction bond or parcel tax questions before voters.

Additionally, if state lawmakers enact Gov. Newsom's proposed budget, California would delay its June payments to public schools. Charter schools -- which are often much smaller than districts -- are not as resilient as districts in handling these cash flow interruptions.

Ricardo Soto, CCSA's chief advocacy officer and general counsel, says that while school districts are able to borrow money to make payroll at "single-digit" interest rates, charter schools often must turn to private lenders to borrow funds at rates rivaling those of payday loan providers.

Meanwhile, the federal government has said the PPP loans -- which have interest rates of 1 percent or less -- can be forgiven if borrowers use them to cover payroll costs.

Soto says this makes PPP loans a good solution: the loans give charters "more flexibility with the other funding that they might have -- including from the state -- to address these other extraordinary expenses that they've had to incur during the crisis to continue to serve families and students."


Soto said interest in the PPP program among charter schools has been widespread. He personally has been contacted by at least 15 charter schools across California considering the program. (His official advice to the charters: Ask your own lawyers about applying.)

Here are the four in L.A. we know about for sure:

  • Gabriela Charter Schools turned to the PPP program as a solution to "major cash flow issues and revenue shortfalls starting this year," executive director Liza Bercovici said in a written statement. She said the school needed a loan "to begin shoring up cash reserves in anticipation of this fiscal crisis."
  • City Charter Schools executive director Valerie Braimah said in an email that her small network of schools has limited reserves, lost revenue from spring fundraisers and took on huge costs for technology upgrades. "Our responsibility as fiduciaries for the organization," she wrote in an email, "is to make sure we can keep our employees and continue to serve our students. PPP is critical to our ability to do so now and in the early months of the next school year when cash is held up by the state."
  • Ivy Academia charter school executive director Joe Herzog said in a statement that his school closely followed the advice from legal counsel and the U.S. Treasury Department.
  • Fenton Public Charter Schools gave the money back after concluding that, thanks to "cautious fiscal planning of prior years," the school would be able to meet payroll "through June 30, 2020," according to a memo shared with the school's governing board.

In addition, we identified two schools whose governing boards at least considered a PPP loan: Granada Hills and Birmingham charter high schools.

The board documents do not indicate whether these two boards actually went through with PPP loan applications or accepted funds. We've reached out to both Granada and Birmingham leaders to ask and will update this story if we get a response.

Another caveat: This list is not exhaustive. We did not check agendas for each of the 200-plus charter schools in L.A.

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


Accepting PPP funds has opened up borrowers to scrutiny.

Restaurant chains like Shake Shack, Ruth's Chris and Potbelly Sandwiches returned their loans after public outcry that the program was intended to help small businesses -- not large, publicly traded firms. Kura Sushi returned its PPP loan after we reported on the $5.9 million the Irvine-based chain received.

Fears of this sort of reaction, in part, drove El Camino Real Charter High School's board to table a proposal to apply for a PPP loan on May 5.

During the meeting -- a recording of which was posted on the school's website -- El Camino's executive director David Hussey suggested the PPP loan could serve as a "safety net for the school if we needed to use it."

But El Camino also had an existing line of credit and cash reserves, and two board members objected on principle to the notion of accepting taxpayer money when small businesses might need the funds.

Board member John Perez noted that L.A. Times reporting prompted blowback against local private schools that had received PPP loans. Eventually, the Brentwood School returned its loan after President Trump criticized private schools for taking loans through the aid program, the Times reported.

Board president Scott Silverstein sounded torn.

"There are so many things that are unknown at the moment," Silverstein said, saying he recognized the school faced an "ethical conflict here."

In the end, Silverstein's motion to apply for a PPP loan died for lack of a second.


Fri., May 22, 10:45 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from City Charter Schools.

This article was originally published on Thurs., May 21.

Kyle Stokes [UPDATED] At least four L.A. charter schools -- publicly-funded, but operated by nonprofits, not school districts -- have received PPP funds. Thu, 21 May 2020 18:11:28 -0700 Charter Schools Are Still Getting Public Funding. So Why Are They Applying For PPP Loans?
Gaspar Gomez of Pacoima loved his family, dancing, and working with his hands. He died from COVID-19 on May 3 at age 51. (Photo courtesy of the Gomez family)

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More than 3,300 people have died in California during this pandemic.

Today, L.A. reached a sad milestone: More than 2,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County.

LAist will be regularly sharing the stories of some of those we've lost.

We begin today with the story of Gaspar Gomez, of Pacoima. Gaspar was a father, an immigrant and one of the first known day laborers to die of COVID-19 in L.A. County. He was 51 years old.

Gaspar Gomez left Mexico City and headed to Los Angeles when he was just 16 years old. He didn't have much money, but he did have a big personality and an unwavering work ethic.

He also had the love of his young life with him, his 15-year-old paramour and future wife, Maria, who was his ride-or-die all the way to el otro lado.

The journey, Maria would later recall to their children, was difficult, but Gaspar made it through with his trademark smile and infectious laughter.

Once in L.A., he quickly found work on a construction crew. He helped build and remodel several homes and other buildings in the San Fernando Valley.

As his daughter Lucia Gomez, 30, remembers, he was good at the work he did and enjoyed making things with his hands. Finding work wasn't always easy, and his life was seldom so. Still, Gaspar smiled.


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"He was just so happy even if life was throwing rocks at him," Lucia remembered of her father. "He was still smiling, still looking at the positive side."

Gaspar's marriage to Maria did not last, but they had four beautiful children. The kids would spend summers with their dad, an avid lover of dancing and backyard carne asadas.

"If a good song came on, he would stomp his foot with so much happiness," Lucia recalled. "And when the song ended he would tap and sing 'tan tan' every single time."

She remembers her dad taking them to a restaurant in Van Nuys called La Perla.

"It was more of an adult place, of course," Lucia said, "but they had a little dance floor and he loved it because they had dancing."

Gaspar's favorite musicians were Los Originales de San Juan and Chalino Sanchez. He especially loved to dance zapateado to Chalino's "El Pavido Navido."

Not long after the divorce, Gaspar went through a deeply sad period and he didn't see his children for three years. But Lucia said he battled his way out of the darkness, thanks in large part to his second wife, Elba.

"She really changed his life," Lucia said. "She really got him to follow the correct path again and be a better person."

Gaspar and Elba raised two more daughters of their own in Pacoima, where Gaspar continued working, smiling and dancing, even during the pandemic.

Lucia isn't sure how or where her dad contracted the virus.

But on April 14, Gaspar started feeling sick. Twenty-four hours later, he was admitted to the hospital with a high fever and difficulty breathing.

He fought the virus for 20 long days in the hospital until his doctors saw no more hope, and his family finally decided it was time to let him go.

His condition wasn't improving. His doctors told Lucia and Elba that it was just a matter of time: They could let him go now, in peace, or he could hang on a little longer, in pain and with no chance of recovery.

"It was hard for Elba to make that decision. She just couldn't make it," Lucia recalled. "And I had to make a decision of saying it's best that we let him go because it's selfish of us to keep him like that, you know? I didn't want him to be in more pain and die in pain. He doesn't deserve that. That's not how I want to remember him."

Gaspar died on May 3, 2020.

He is survived by his wife Elba; daughters Lucia, Maria, Stacie, Janette and Sara; and by his son, Cristian.

The family has established a gofundme page for funeral expenses.

Erick Galindo Gaspar Gomez was a father, an immigrant and one of the first known day laborers to die of COVID-19 in L.A. County. Thu, 21 May 2020 16:20:00 -0700 Remembering LA's Coronavirus Victims: Gaspar Gomez, 51, Of Pacoima
A man sleeps in front of closed shopfronts earlier this month in what would be a normally busy fashion district in Los Angeles. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP)

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California's unemployment office has processed 5.1 million claims for jobless benefits since the coronavirus pandemic hit. But some who became unemployed before the pandemic have already run out of benefits, and their claims remain in limbo.

Some people have now gone months without benefits or much hope of finding a job. And they're getting increasingly desperate for financial help.

California's unemployment office will begin processing extensions for this group on May 27. But some with exhausted claims may have to wait until June, or even July, before they start receiving payments again.


"It's not a comfortable way of living, knowing that there's a good chance you could lose everything in just a month or two," said Richard Torres, a Riverside father who exhausted his unemployment benefits more than a month ago.


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After Torres lost his job as a truck dispatcher in October 2019, he applied for unemployment. His $271 in weekly benefits weren't enough to cover his bills, so he tapped into his savings in order to make ends meet.

Then his benefits ran out in mid-April (unemployment recipients typically can't collect benefits for more than 26 weeks in a single year).

Going out to find another job isn't an option, because he has to stay home to care for his 6-year-old son. Riverside County closed its schools in March.

"I'm pretty much a full-time teacher, parent and daycare provider. So it does limit me to going out to look for work," he said.

Torres estimates his savings could last through July if he stretches every dollar. But some expenses have increased due to the stay-at-home orders. He had to upgrade to high-speed internet so that his son could participate in his school's remote learning.

"How much of my savings am I going to have to dip into before all this ends?" Torres asked. "It seems to be stretching out a lot longer than a lot of people thought it would."

Relief may be on the way, though.


Torres and others with exhausted claims are now entitled to 13 more weeks of unemployment benefits under recent federal legislation.

The problem is, those extensions have not yet been processed by California's unemployment office.

A number of states, such as New Jersey, have begun processing the 13-week extensions. But officials with California's Employment Development Department (EDD) said complicated federal guidelines have made it difficult for the state to quickly roll out extensions.

"It's quite complex in the way these things have to be built," said EDD spokesperson Loree Levy. "Every state is having quite a challenge in building this one."

EDD has said it will begin automatically filing extensions on May 27 for those with exhausted claims, as long as they first started receiving benefits on or after June 2, 2019.

The department will contact people in that group online and through the mail about how to certify for extended benefits.

But some may not be contacted until June. Those with claims dating back further than June 2019 will have to wait until July before they can apply for an extension.


"I know they're inundated with all these applications," said Deborah Jacob in Thousand Oaks, whose benefits ran out in early April. "I don't feel that the state has really worked hard enough."

Jacob was let go from her job in a hospital HR department last September. Her $420 weekly unemployment check covered essentials like her rent and car payment, but not much more. She ended up depleting her savings by the time the pandemic arrived.

Jacob said she's now had to delay her rent payments. Her two adult children have stepped in to support her financially. She doesn't understand why it's taking the state so long to process her extension.

"I just feel slighted," she said. "It's very demeaning that I have to rely on my children to provide food for me right now, because I have nothing."

David Wagner On May 27, California will begin processing extensions for those who've run out of unemployment benefits. Thu, 21 May 2020 14:25:00 -0700 'I Have Nothing': Desperation Deepens As Californians Wait For Unemployment Extensions
Arts & Entertainment
Inside an Escape Room L.A. Zoom, faces of extreme focus while we had an outer-space adventure. (Mike Roe)

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Here's the closest I've been to an outside-the-home adventure in months:

I'm in a virtual escape room Escape From Planet X.

I volunteer to get off the ship, to search the planet for fuel. But when I got back, the door was locked -- and no one could hear me.

To be honest, it felt a little more true to our current existence than escaping from it.

But I had fun.

Here's a look at how escape rooms have gone virtual during stay-at-home orders:

Little green men peek into your ship during Escape From Planet X. (Courtesy Escape Room L.A.)

Los Angeles's escape rooms are shut down right now, and it's unclear when they'll be able to open back up -- especially with the tight passages and constant touching of different puzzles as you try to find your way out.

Basically all conditions ripe for spreading a virus.

So escape room creators have been going virtual. Escape From Planet X comes from Escape Room L.A., one of two virtual rooms they've started, with plans for more on the way.

"I think it feels very much like doing an escape room, the overall experience," Escape Room L.A. Creative Director John Hennessy told LAist.


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The games are run on Zoom -- you and up to five of your friends join for $15 per person, with up to 60 minutes to escape. While trying one ourselves, our group made it out in 45 minutes.

A game host leads you through the world, sharing her screen and acting as your guide. You get to see a map and close-ups of different rooms you visit, objects you see, and puzzles you need to solve.

It reflects ingenuity born out of, well, desperation as many businesses that rely on in-person experience scramble to reinvent. Prior to the pandemic, there were more than 2,300 escape rooms nationwide, according to Room Escape Artist, a site that covers the industry. An industry report last year found that the average room was making about $315,000 in revenue a year.

Then came COVID-19.

Escape Room L.A. had to lay off their staff when the coronavirus stay-at-home order was issued -- including Hennessy himself.

"I don't know if it was denial on my part -- we just kind of thought we would get through it," Hennessy said. "I took probably about a week where I was just in shock a little bit -- I didn't do anything, I just hung out at my house."

His restlessness got to him, and he started hearing that other escape rooms were doing live streaming games. He didn't think it would work to have someone with a GoPro on their head going around an actual room, but then he realized he could use Zoom's screen-sharing function to create a whole new experience.

These virtual games have allowed Escape Room L.A. to bring seven staff members back as game hosts -- and the one other staff member who had been full-time previously has found another gig, according to Hennessy.

"We're at a point now where we need to find more staff to do the games," Hennessy said.

Brian Corbitt of 60out Escape Rooms said the same, with the big impediment to opening up more game slots right now just being hiring more actors.

The main difference with a physical escape room, Hennessy said, is that splitting up as you often do in traditional rooms isn't as easy. So, you're all looking at the same puzzles at the same time, working together to solve them.


The first virtual game from 60out Escape Rooms is an adaptation of their in-person Miss Jezebel experience. The game lets you control a live actor who serves as your in-person avatar over Zoom. You get to tell the actor what to do and what to say while he's undercover investigating black widow Miss Jezebel in what 60out describes as a "raunchy adventure."

And at a remove, you're able to do quite a bit to embarrass the actor you're controlling, Corbitt said.

"We had to add some interactions that would be a lot more fun than just watching through the screen," Corbitt said.

Corbitt was inspired by the Rocky Horror Picture Show, creating a bawdy horror comedy. He originally wrote the game for April Fool's Day three years ago.

"I just want to create a room where we just screw with people," Corbitt said.

He'd been tiring of the similar themes that escape rooms were going to over and over again.

"Back then, all the themes were you're in a lab, or you're defusing a bomb, or it has zombies, or you're in an Egyptian tomb," Corbitt said.

In Miss Jezebel, players have to essentially improv their way through the escape room/interactive show.

He also promises that, given the current circumstances, things aren't going to be too hard. The game is on "easy mode," Corbitt said, and they're aiming for 100 percent of players to escape. But there's plenty to do, with most players still escaping with five minutes or less remaining in their 60-minute time limit.


A navigation system in Escape From Planet X. (Courtesy Escape Room L.A.)

Escape room designers agree that these online games have been popular beyond their expectations. They keep trying to add more times, and many of those times keep selling out.

"This actually might be more than just a long-term solution -- I think this may actually revolutionize the industry," Corbitt said.

While most of the players remain locals, Hennessy said, going online has opened them up to players finding them from around the world.

"We've had people so far from as far away as Rome and the Philippines," Hennessy said.

Corbitt said that 60out is looking to add times that are easier for European and East Coast players. They're such a hit that he said "it wouldn't make sense" not to keep doing them, even when the physical location is open again.

Escape Room L.A.'s started doing promotions on Facebook, helping to draw in people from around the country and beyond. (Though not from outer worlds like in our game -- yet.)

Hennessy is also looking at developing some of these virtual escape rooms into mobile apps, letting you enjoy an escape room experience on the go, any time you want.


Escape Room L.A.'s current games are more traditional adventure, but Hennessy is hard at work developing a creepy Victorian game, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. They also have a Mayan pyramid-based game. While it's a completely different experience than their physical Lost Pyramid game, Hennessy said that players were less interested in something similar to a current room, so they're going in a different direction for future online games.

Corbitt declined to discuss upcoming games being developed by 60out, but they've announced a circus-themed game set to be released by the end of the month, as well as a downloadable mystery game for kids coming soon.


Our victory faces post-escape. (Mike Roe)

When we interviewed Hennessy, he said his team had a meeting scheduled to talk about how they might be able to start bringing physical games back, once they're allowed to.

"We're going to start working on putting together some kind of system, and procedures -- not only for our participants, for the people who work there, so everyone feels safe and comfortable," Hennessy said.

He expects the rest of this year to be hard for escape rooms, along with entertainment in general.

"I mean, people are not going to want to do something fun that's going to feel like they're in a medical ward," Hennessy said.

Corbitt's more hopeful about in-person gaming -- he feels escape rooms are in a unique position relative to other entertainment venues like theaters, arcades, or bowling alleys.

"We actually have the potential to really have isolated entertainment," Corbitt said.

His vision: groups of players come in, and games are staggered and sanitized. That way, you only come in with family and friends, and don't have to interact with strangers.

"If escape rooms do not adapt, they will not survive. But the potential of surviving is far greater than it was before," Corbitt said.

He also thinks that virtual rooms will push everyone to be better and more creative. And that the experience is something video game creators can't copy yet, thanks to that added human element -- both with the performers, and the level of interaction with your own friends.

As with many other areas of our world right now, Hennessy said that the future of escape rooms depends on the future of the virus.

"If things take a turn for the worse, then we might not be opening in the near future at all," Hennessy said.

You can sign up for virtual escape rooms from 60out and Escape Room L.A. online now. You can also watch Celebrity Escape Room on NBC Thursday night -- 60out partnered with NBC to create a celebrity escape experience that's part of Red Nose Day, raising money for charity.

Mike Roe How do you turn these real-life puzzles into online experiences? Thu, 21 May 2020 10:48:11 -0700 Coronavirus Shut Down Popular Escape Rooms. Now The Industry Is Going Virtual

BRIA of Belleville, a rehabilitation and skilled nursing facility in Belleville, Ill. (Whitney Curtis for The New York Times)

Robert Gebeloff, Danielle Ivory, Matt Richtel, Mitch Smith and Karen Yourish of The New York Times; Scott Dance of The Baltimore Sun; Jackie Fortiér and Elly Yu of KPCC/LAist; and Molly Parker of The Southern Illinoisan.

In the suburbs of Baltimore, workers at one nursing home said they were given rain ponchos to protect from infection. Twenty-five employees at the facility, where most residents are African-American, tested positive for the coronavirus.

One of the many black residents of a nursing home in Belleville, Ill., died in April amid a coronavirus outbreak. But his niece complained that he was never tested for the virus.

In East Los Angeles, a staff member at a predominantly Latino nursing home where an outbreak emerged said she was given swimming goggles before professional gear could be obtained. She said she later tested positive for the virus.

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the nation's nursing homes, sickening staff members, ravaging residents and contributing to at least 20 percent of the nation's COVID-19 death toll. The impact has been felt in cities and suburbs, in large facilities and small, in poorly rated homes and in those with stellar marks.

But COVID-19 has been particularly virulent toward African-Americans and Latinos: Nursing homes where those groups make up a significant portion of the residents -- no matter their location, no matter their size, no matter their government rating -- have been twice as likely to get hit by the coronavirus as those where the population is overwhelmingly white.


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More than 60 percent of nursing homes where at least a quarter of the residents are black or Latino have reported at least one coronavirus case, a New York Times analysis shows. That is double the rate of homes where black and Latino people make up less than 5 percent of the population. And in nursing homes, a single case often leads to a handful of cases, and then a full-fledged outbreak.

The nation's nursing homes, like many of its schools, churches and neighborhoods, are largely segregated. And those that serve predominantly black and Latino residents tend to receive fewer stars on government ratings. Those facilities also tend to house more residents and to be located in urban areas, which are risk factors in the pandemic.

Yet the disparities in outbreaks among homes with more Latino and black residents have also unfolded in confusing ways that experts say are difficult to explain.

The race and ethnicity of the people living in a nursing home was a predictor of whether it was hit with COVID-19. But the Times analysis found that the federal government's five-star rating system, often used to judge the quality of a nursing home, was not a predictor. Even predominantly black and Latino nursing homes with high ratings were more likely to be affected by the coronavirus than were predominantly white nursing homes with low ratings, the data showed.

To better understand the disparities in Maryland, California and Illinois, The Times teamed up with The Baltimore Sun, KPCC/LAist and The Southern Illinoisan to interview dozens of current and former nursing home workers, residents and their relatives.

The Villa at Windsor Park nursing home on the South Side of Chicago. (Danielle Scruggs for The New York Times)

Eric Russell, who moved his mother to a different nursing home in the Chicago area after she tested positive for the virus, said the prevalence of cases in homes with more black residents was alarming, and needed to be more widely understood and examined by the authorities.

"Nobody gave a damn about the black people dying at a higher clip," Mr. Russell said. At his mother's former nursing home, Villa at Windsor Park on Chicago's South Side, where most residents are black, at least 121 residents and employees have been infected and 24 people have died.

Company officials said in a statement that they had proactively sought testing for Villa at Windsor Park residents and tried to limit the spread of the virus.

The coronavirus has been infecting and killing people of color at disproportionately high rates in the United States, data has shown. And officials in the nursing home industry say that the situations playing out inside homes largely reflect the circumstances unfolding outside their walls.

"Typically, what occurs in the general population is mirrored in long-term care facilities," said Dr. David Gifford, chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association, which represents the industry. Nursing homes within communities that have been hot spots for the virus are more likely to see outbreaks, he said, especially in large facilities with lots of employees coming in and out.

Small nursing homes, which are disproportionately occupied by white residents, tend to have fewer outbreaks than larger facilities, and urban nursing homes have more outbreaks than suburban or rural ones.

But the Times analysis found that a racial disparity remained even after accounting for a variety of factors, including the size of a nursing home, the infection rate in the surrounding county, the population density of the neighborhood and how many residents had Medicaid or Medicare.

Large homes with few black and Latino residents were less likely to have outbreaks than large ones with more black and Latino residents. A home in an urban area was less likely to get hit by the virus if it had a small black and Latino population.

The Times analysis, which covers the 22 hardest-hit states for which data is available and the District of Columbia, represents a snapshot in time, and the picture could change as the crisis wears on. Based on data collected as of May 16, the analysis could not determine whether there was a disparity in rates of illness or death for white residents and people of color within nursing homes because data was not available.

About 1.3 million people live in the nation's nursing homes, according to federal data. About 80 percent of those residents are identified as white by nursing home administrators.

Long before the pandemic, there was disparity in homes. Those with more black and Latino residents tended to score worse than mostly white homes on quality metrics used by regulators. And they were more likely to have been punished for serious rule violations.

"I had roommates who pushed the call button because they needed help to go to the bathroom," said Armand Harris, who said he was discharged in February from Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward, Calif., after receiving care for cancer and kidney disease. "After about a half-hour or 45 minutes, they would just go on themselves."

Gateway Care and Rehabilitation is a nursing home in Hayward, Ca.(Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Officials from Gateway, which has had a diverse group of residents who are black, Latino, white and Asian, did not respond to specific criticisms from former residents, workers and relatives that the home had serious problems with hygiene and attentiveness to residents before the coronavirus crisis. In a statement, they said workers were doing all they could to keep residents safe and healthy. They said there had been "significant mischaracterizations and misrepresentations" about their handling of the crisis, but gave no specifics.

The situation there only grew worse, the interviews suggested, once the pandemic hit. At least 100 residents and employees were infected, and 17 died, including some of Mr. Harris's friends. "I got out in the nick of time," said Mr. Harris, who is of mixed racial background. The Alameda County district attorney's office said it was investigating deaths at Gateway and the safety and well-being of its residents.

Nationally, at least 106,000 people have been sickened by the virus in more than 4,000 skilled nursing facilities, which do not include stand-alone assisted living centers, retirement communities and other long-term care facilities. Almost 19,000 people have died, and that is quite likely a significant undercount. All sorts of nursing homes, including those with mostly white residents, have been affected.

In Maryland, 80 percent of nursing homes with high black and Latino populations have been hit by the coronavirus, double the rate for homes with hardly any such residents.

At the FutureCare Lochearn nursing home, in Baltimore, 158 residents and 75 employees tested positive for the virus over a few weeks, and 20 have died. Holly O'Shea, a spokeswoman for FutureCare, said the large number of infections reflected the widespread testing that the company sought out.

Anita Kelly, whose father fell ill at FutureCare, said she was angry that testing had not come sooner, and said she wondered whether the fact that her father and most other FutureCare residents were black had played a role. Her father, Alexander F. Gaskins, a former interior decorator who tested positive for the virus, died on April 19.

"They wouldn't stand for it," Ms. Kelly said of how officials might react if the pandemic was disproportionately affecting white Americans. "But it's killing us at a higher rate and we don't take it serious."

In some facilities that had coronavirus outbreaks, concerns about how residents were being cared for came well before the virus. Bria of Belleville, in southern Illinois, has been tied to at least 22 cases and two deaths. It is one of more than 300 nursing homes in the state where the virus has been detected. Bria, where many residents are black, has a one-star overall rating, the lowest available, from the federal government.

Juanita Willis helped look after her uncle Ralph Wellmaker, who had lived at the home since last summer. Ms. Willis said she had raised concerns about sanitation and staffing at the home, and she described the care there as "just horrible."

Ms. Willis, a nurse at a St. Louis medical center, is still unsure whether her uncle had the virus. She last visited him in early March, shortly before visitors were told to stay away. In mid-April, she received a call from a hospital social worker asking about funeral arrangements for her uncle, learning for the first time that he had died two days earlier. His death certificate listed cardiac arrest as a cause of death, but records indicate he was not tested for the virus, according to the local coroner's office.

"It is very upsetting," Ms. Willis said. "I think once they got the first case, they should have tested everyone in the facility."

In a statement, Bria officials defended the quality of care at the Belleville facility, noted the difficulty in securing coronavirus tests and said Mr. Wellmaker lived in a part of the center separated from people known to have had the virus.

"Bria of Belleville took early and aggressive steps to protect the health and safety of its residents and staff," the facility's administrator, Stephanie Birch, said in a statement.

Along with residents of nursing homes, thousands of nurses and aides have been sickened by the virus in an industry where African-Americans make up an outsize share of the work force.

Dozens of nursing home workers interviewed across the country described short-staffed, disorganized facilities that sometimes lacked adequate protective gear amid the pandemic. Workers fell ill, alongside their patients.

In Baltimore County, at the Forest Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where many residents are black, workers said they were given rain ponchos and nylon hair bonnets in early April, after Maryland required all nursing homes to provide the staff with protective equipment.

Forest Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in Catonsville, Md. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

They have since received proper supplies, including face shields, masks and gowns. But at least 97 people, including 27 workers, have contracted the virus and eight residents have died.

Ron Colbert, the facility's administrator, said the home was restricting visitor access, screening anyone who entered for symptoms, and following federal guidelines for personal protective equipment and patient isolation. Asked in an email about the ponchos and hair bonnets, Mr. Colbert did not respond.

Donna Johnson, a cook at Forest Haven who says she was given a mask for protection, said she came down with a 102-degree fever in April and tested positive for the virus. She said she worried that the virus made its way in because some staff members were working in multiple facilities.

She said her strongest concern was for the residents.

"It's so unfair to them," Ms. Johnson said. "They contracted this through no fault of their own."

In East Los Angeles, at the Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center, a five-star facility where many residents are Latino, Alma Lara-Garcia, a certified nursing assistant, said workers were not given masks until April, well into the outbreak in the United States.

Ms. Lara-Garcia said administrators told her that they were going to order medical-grade eye protection, but that suppliers were out. Instead, she said, she was given orange plastic swimming goggles. The goggles did not fit under her glasses, so she did not wear them.

Not long after, she said, she started to feel sick. She said she was told to come into work anyway. Days later, she said, she was sent home when she complained of a sore throat and uncontrollable coughing, and she eventually tested positive for the virus at a county-run testing site.

Tiana Thompson, Buena Ventura's administrator, said that the facility had worked to secure protective gear for workers and that Ms. Lara-Garcia had not been asked to work while sick.

"At no time has Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center asked any employee who reported experiencing Covid-related symptoms to report to work," Ms. Thompson said in an email.

At least 83 residents and employees have contracted the virus, and at least a dozen of them have died.

Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center in East Los Angeles. (Chava Sanchez/KPCC/LAist(

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.


In examining racial disparity in coronavirus infections at nursing homes, The New York Times gathered data on infection reports from state and local health agencies and joined the information to databases of information about facilities, including the federal government's Nursing Home Compare data and Brown University's Long Term Care Focus data.

While the analysis could not fully explain why some homes have seen outbreaks and others have not reported any infections, it did identify variables that increased the likelihood of a home reporting a problem, and found that the racial disparities persisted even after accounting for these variables.

There is no official published data on the race of nursing home patients by home. The Times obtained Medicare claims data and supplemented it with the Brown University data, which incorporates information from Medicaid and Medicare claims.

The analysis bypassed states that have published limited information, focusing on the District of Columbia and 22 states where at least 20 percent of facilities reported at least one coronavirus case.

LAist Staff Homes with a significant number of black and Latino residents have been twice as likely to be hit by the coronavirus as those where the population is overwhelmingly white. Thu, 21 May 2020 07:00:06 -0700 The Striking Racial Divide in How COVID-19 Has Hit Nursing Homes
Alma Lara-Garcia, a certified nursing assistant who worked at Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center, says she was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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Every night after walking a mile home from her job as a certified nursing assistant in East Los Angeles, Alma Lara-Garcia would strip off most of her clothes before she went in the house.

"I didn't care if the neighbors saw," she said. "I would take off my overshirt, down to my camisole and take off my shoes and pants before I'd go in."

Only then did she feel it was safe to enter the home she shares with her four teenage children. She knew the coronavirus was circulating at the nursing home where she worked, Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center. But she had no idea it would kill so many of the elderly residents she cared for, or that she would become one of dozens of staff members to fall horribly ill.

Lara-Garcia is Latina. Most of the residents at the 100-bed Buena Ventura facility are also Latino. An increasing volume of evidence shows that COVID-19 is taking a disproportionate toll on people of color. A collaboration between KPCC/LAist, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Southern Illinoisan has found the same pattern in nursing homes. This is true even though all nursing homes, by nature, care for people with underlying health conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the disease.


In the 22 hardest-hit states for which data was available, plus the District of Columbia, nursing homes with many black and Latino residents were twice as likely to have at least one case than those with mostly white residents, according to a New York Times data analysis.

Race and Latino origin turned out to be a major predictor of whether a nursing home has a COVID-19 outbreak, the analysis found, even after accounting for a facility's location, federal quality ratings, size and infection rate in the surrounding community.

Buena Ventura has an overall rating of five stars -- the highest rating on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' website -- although it has just two stars for staffing, a measure of hours spent with each resident by nurses and aides.

Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center is among the 20 worst-hit homes in a county where nursing facilities have been devastated, according to public health data. So far, 59 of Buena Ventura's residents and 24 of its staff have confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Twelve people at the nursing home have died of COVID-19, according to the county health department.

The map below shows nursing homes with at least 25 reported cases of COVID-19 (red) and homes with no reported cases (blue) as of May 15, 2020.

Source: The New York Times; Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; California Department of Public Health.

Overall, the county has reported 990 COVID-19 deaths at institutional facilities, most of them at nursing homes, according to L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

Despite Lara-Garcia's intimate role as a caregiver -- spooning food into the mouths of fragile residents, carefully bathing them and communicating with family members about their well-being -- she said the severity of the outbreak at Buena Ventura was never fully explained to her and her colleagues in the rank-and-file staff. She said supervisors didn't walk her or colleagues through the thought process behind infection control or keep them updated on the number of residents and staff who became infected.

The lack of information communicated to her and fellow certified nursing assistants, who are generally among the lowest paid health workers, felt disrespectful, she said -- she knew the residents and their families better than almost anyone.

"CNAs, you know how they say, we wipe butts only," Lara-Garcia said. "We do more than that, you know. We have the right to know what goes on."

Lara-Garcia said her incomplete understanding, and the lack of communication in the early days of the outbreak was potentially dangerous, as the virus spread unseen, eventually infecting even her.

KPCC/LAist and The New York Times made multiple requests to interview the managers and administrators of Buena Ventura but none made themselves available.

Buena Ventura administrator Tiana Thompson emailed a written statement that said in part:

"Our healthcare center has worked closely with [California Department of Public Health] and L.A. County Public Health to assure compliance with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services evolving guidelines. As with all health care providers in the country, we have acted aggressively to acquire and provide the recommended [personal protective equipment] for our staff and have been able to do so in compliance with the CDC's recommendations."


Buena Ventura sits on a residential street half a block away from the I-5. The neighborhood is 98% Latino, according to census data. The rooms at Buena Ventura, which house up to four residents each, surround a grassy courtyard with a small, Spanish-style fountain.

Lara-Garcia, who speaks Spanish and English, said she liked working there because she shares the same culture and language with many of the residents.

"It felt like home," she said.

But in mid-March, when federal health authorities released new guidelines for nursing homes to combat the coronavirus, Lara-Garcia said the atmosphere became tense. Administrators ordered staff to feed residents in their rooms, rather than in the communal dining room, and suspended all group activities, Lara-Garcia said. Family members were no longer allowed to visit.

Months later, Lara-Garcia cried recalling how family members of residents begged her through the windows to take care of their loved ones.

"They would say 'Alma, take care of my mom,'" she recalled. "'I leave my mom in your hands.'"

Lara Garcia said staff had their temperatures checked at the beginning and end of their shifts. She said they were not given masks, gloves or any other gear designed to prevent the spread of infection, what's known as personal protective equipment, or PPE.

"The only thing they were asking of us was to wipe the door handles, the controls to the TV, the controls to the bed," she said.

Lara-Garcia said she and other staff didn't know the new measures were due to the coronavirus until she and a few others started asking questions. As one of the few bilingual staff members, Lara-Garcia said she often acted as an interpreter between the mainly English-speaking nursing home administrators and the largely Spanish-speaking nursing home staff.

"I started asking, what was the reason? You know, and they said that the state had implemented that law that no one could go out, or no one could come in, only the workers," she said.

Soon after, it became clear the virus had made its way into Buena Ventura.

Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

One morning in early April, Lara-Garcia said, administrators gathered the staff in the dining room and told them that two people had tested positive for COVID-19, one staff member and one resident. Lara-Garcia had noticed that some of her patients had been moved from their rooms, without explanation.

On April 9, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported that there was at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 at Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center.

Even so, Lara-Garcia said it wasn't until the second week of April that she and fellow staff members were given surgical masks and gloves and told to wear them at all times. She said she and other staff members were given a paper lunch bag and told to put their surgical masks in the bags after their shift and reuse them for three days. This is in line with CDC guidelines when critical protective equipment is scarce.

Lara-Garcia said her supervisor also gave her bright orange pool goggles to wear while working, to try to keep her from getting infected with the virus. At first, she thought it was a joke.

"Why are we wearing this? They're not even 99 cents," she remembered thinking.

The goggles didn't fit under her glasses, so she didn't wear them. Administrators told her that they wanted to order medical grade goggles and masks, but suppliers were out.

A week later, Lara-Garcia said, the situation at Buena Ventura deteriorated. She described how one nursing station was converted into a makeshift isolation area. More and more of the residents Lara-Garcia cared for were moved into it. And she observed more and more of her coworkers becoming ill.

Lara-Garcia said she and other staff members were not told there was a risk that staff and residents could transmit the virus even if they didn't have symptoms, something the county health department began cautioning the public about at the beginning of April.

Alma Lara-Garcia holds the kid's swimming googles she said a manager gave her to protect herself while working with COVID-positive residents. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Lara-Garcia said the confusion took a toll on her mental health. She sometimes met a fellow CNA in the bathroom and they cried together, away from residents, whom they didn't want to upset.

"We were scared, we didn't know what was happening," she said.


More than half of all reported COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County have been among residents and staff of what local public health officials call "residential congregate settings," mostly nursing homes. Two-thirds of the health care workers who have died of the disease in L.A. County -- 20 out of 26 people -- worked in nursing homes, according to county health officials.

April Verrett, president of SEIU Local 2015, which represents nursing home employees, including Buena Ventura staff, said some workers have sent photos of themselves wearing rain ponchos and garbage bags because they lacked protective gowns. Others were using plastic bags on their hands instead of gloves.

A banner outside of Brier Oak on Sunset announces that they are now hiring certified nursing assistants. Brier Oak has had more than 150 cases of COVID-19 and four deaths, according to L.A. County public health data. (Chava Sanchez/Laist)

Certified nursing assistants like Lara-Garcia often make minimum wage, or close to it, despite being the backbone of care at nursing homes. (Lara-Garcia said she made $15 an hour at Buena Ventura; minimum wage in the City of Los Angeles is $14.25 for employees of for-profit companies with more than 25 workers.)

If the workers get sick or may have been exposed, Verrett said, "they cannot afford to miss a shift, let alone two weeks." Two weeks is the length of time that health officials recommend quarantine for people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Nursing home staff are often undertrained and responsible for too many patients with complex challenges, said Steven Wallace, who teaches public health at UCLA. They often have to rush from room to room, sometimes skipping essential steps like thorough hand-washing, he said.

At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, public health officials prioritized getting hospitals prepared with staff and equipment, fearing they could be quickly overrun with COVID-19 patients. Nursing homes were an afterthought.

"That then changed as they were seeing outbreaks in nursing homes and realizing that in nursing homes, once an outbreak occurs, it's really hard to manage," Wallace said.

Federal, state and local guidelines for nursing homes evolved rapidly -- and still are.

"It would be difficult for an administrator because every day you open your mail and there's a potential for changing protocols. But you know, that's your job as an administrator, to make sure the protocols are followed."

Like hospitals, nursing homes have struggled with a lack of personal protective equipment. But unlike doctors and nurses, less-skilled workers at nursing homes, including nursing aides, janitors and kitchen staff, may not be trained to handle a virus outbreak.

Also, because they are low-paid, nursing aides frequently work at multiple locations to make ends meet, meaning they could transport COVID-19 from one facility to another.

A CDC investigation into one of the first COVID-19 outbreaks at a U.S. nursing home, in Kirkland, Washington, found that the virus's spread was likely aided by inadequate infection control, staff members who continued to work while they had symptoms, and staff who worked at multiple facilities, among other factors.

A resident at Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center in East Los Angeles looks out the window. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)


In mid-April the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health began listing nursing homes with confirmed COVID-19 cases on the department's website. But it didn't report the actual number of cases and deaths at first. That left people like Sylvia, whose mother is a patient at Buena Ventura, reliant on the scraps of information they received from nursing home administrators. Sylvia asked us not to use her last name because she fears speaking out could cause her mother to lose her spot at the facility.

Sylvia's 73-year-old mother, who is partially paralyzed and has dementia, has lived at Buena Ventura for about six years.

She and her sister would visit their mother daily before Buena Ventura was locked down. Their mother also had a cell phone they could call, but it went missing just before COVID-19 cases started showing up at the facility.

They were frantic for information from the nursing home's administrators.

"My sister is, you know, is literally going insane, calling them every single day, three times a day," she said.

Eventually they got word that their mother had been moved to a new room, with three new roommates. One day, Sylvia went to stand in the parking lot where she could look through the window of her mother's room and talk to her on a replacement cell phone a sympathetic nurse had brought into the facility.

Sylvia was surprised to see someone else's purse on the nightstand, and pictures of strangers hanging in her mother's new space. In the rush to contain the COVID-19 outbreak at Buena Ventura, Sylvia suspects that aides hadn't had a chance to remove the former patient's personal belongings.

On April 21, the county health department reported that nine residents and two staff members at Buena Ventura had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Just two days later, on April 23, county health officials reported the first death at Buena Ventura. The number of COVID-19 cases at the facility had ballooned to 13 residents and eight staff members, according to county data.

In May, Sylvia said administrators told her family that her mother had tested negative for the coronavirus. But Sylvia would like proof. She's glad her mother was moved to a room where she can see her through the window, but she cried recently describing the loneliness she sees her mother enduring, without much human interaction, and without the homemade food they used to bring her.

"She's already lost a lot of weight," Sylvia said. "She will not eat their food if it looks gross, if she doesn't know what it is, if she doesn't like the taste, she'll return it," she said.

Sylvia feels like she doesn't know what is going on at Buena Ventura, even though it's just a few minutes from her house. She's frustrated by the lack of communication from nursing home administrators.

"Nobody wants to meet with us. Nobody has attempted to talk to us. Everybody's busy, they're short-staffed, they're overwhelmed with all this COVID contamination in their facility," she said.

She'd like to know when her mother will be tested again for COVID-19, and if, like Silvia and her sister suspect, their mother has been routinely exposed to the coronavirus.

"They should be able to provide this information openly and transparently, without having the family members, you know, wondering or asking about it," she said.


Nursing homes across Southern California began to face staffing shortages as more and more of their workers tested positive or feared coming to work.

On April 24, L.A. County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced a shift in strategy to fight outbreaks at nursing homes: All residents and staff would be tested for the virus, regardless of whether they exhibited symptoms.

A spokesperson for the public health department did not respond to a request for details on when Buena Ventura staff and residents would be tested.

On the same day, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the California National Guard would be deployed to hard-hit nursing homes to boost staffing and help with infection control and testing. Buena Ventura received a team of eight health care workers, according to a National Guard spokesperson.

On April 28, L.A. County health officials reported that 41 residents and 15 staff members at Buena Ventura had contracted COVID-19. Four people from the facility had died of the disease.

At one point the state health department also sent a 'strike team' to Buena Ventura to help manage the outbreak, including isolating residents and assessing exposures.

But by the time reinforcements were sent in, Lara-Garcia said she had already gotten sick.


As more and more residents became ill in the first weeks of April, Lara-Garcia said she came down with a cough. She said she told her bosses, but that they told her she should keep working since her temperature wasn't over 100 degrees.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that workers who have a fever -- defined as a temperature over 100 degrees -- or other symptoms of COVID-19, like coughing and shortness of breath, should leave the workplace and be prioritized for testing.

Lara-Garcia said it wasn't until about a week later, when she told her supervisor she had a sore throat and uncontrollable coughing that she was sent home. Later, she said her supervisor sent her an email with a link to the county's website where she could schedule a coronavirus test.

In her emailed statement, Tiana Thompson, the administrator at Buena Ventura, disputed Lara-Garcia's account. Thompson wrote: "At no time has Buena Ventura Post Acute Care Center asked any employee who reported experiencing COVID related symptoms to report to work. To the contrary, staff who showed symptoms of COVID were sent home and referred for testing."

Thompson said she was unable to provide details about Lara-Garcia because of federal health privacy regulations. But she said Lara-Garcia "was never told to come to work when feeling ill."

Alma Lara-Garcia feels like her workplace failed to protect her and the residents. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Lara-Garcia said she got tested at East Los Angeles College, the closest site to her home, on April 15. Two days later, she said, she got the results: She had COVID-19.

She said a supervisor offered her access to a hotel room so that she could isolate herself, but Lara-Garcia declined.

"Who will take care of me, or look after my kids if I'm in a hotel?" she asked.

Instead, she had her kids move two of the mattresses out of the master bedroom that she normally shares with them into the living room. The kids slept on the mattresses on the floor for the next two weeks so that she could stay alone in the room.

"You know, it was really bad because I didn't have the attention that you will usually get even at the hospitals," Lara-Garcia said, recalling her physical pain. "I just sat in bed and cried. I just felt like I was gonna die because it's unbearable, especially my stomach. I developed some kind of rash on my body. I didn't know the agony," she said.

At one point, she said she contemplated suicide.

"Honest to God, I wanted to go to the kitchen and grab the knife," she said. "That's how bad it was. And then knowing on the other side of the door that my kids were not being cared for. It was really awful."

On April 29, exactly 14 days after Lara-Garcia tested positive for COVID-19, the director of staff development at Buena Ventura texted her, asking if her symptoms had subsided.

Lara-Garcia texted back that the fever was gone but she still had a "dry cough." The director of staff development replied: "if you have no fever and the cough is dry, you are allowed to come back," which is within CDC guidelines for returning health workers.

Alma Lara-Garcia's teenage children took care of her while she was recovering from COVID-19. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Lara-Garcia said she still hasn't gone back to work at Buena Ventura. She's angry. She feels like they played with her health, and that she wasn't given the information needed to keep safe.

But she said she needs to start making money again soon to support her family. She's considering going to another, nearby nursing home, where her friend told her they pay $24 an hour -- a huge increase from the $15 an hour she said she was making at Buena Ventura.

But there's a catch: She'd have to work with COVID-19 patients. She said if they give her the right equipment to protect her from the virus, she'd probably take the job.

Elly Yu contributed reporting.

Jackie Fortiér More than half of all reported COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County have been among residents and staff of what local public health officials call "residential congregate settings," mostly nursing homes. Thu, 21 May 2020 07:00:00 -0700 LA's Nursing Homes Serving Black And Brown Patients Are Hardest Hit By Coronavirus. What's Going On?
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said "we had a little bold" in addressing jail overcrowding. (Kyle Grillot for LAist)

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The COVID-19 pandemic sparked calls for the early release of non-violent inmates from crowded county jails in Los Angeles and elsewhere. But that appeal did not have the same effect on all the sheriffs in the region.

The sheriffs in the most populous counties, L.A. and Orange, agreed that it made sense to let some inmates out early in an attempt to create more space for social distancing behind bars.

But in Riverside and San Bernardino, local law enforcement rejected the idea.

"We had to think big and be a little bold" when it came to addressing the challenges posed by the coronavirus, said L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who oversees the largest local jail system in the nation.

L.A. jails now hold nearly 5,000 fewer inmates, a drop of 30%, in part because of Villanueva's early releases.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes followed suit.

When you have people "stacked on top of each other, and you get one person infected, it spreads like fire," said Commander Joe Balicki, who oversees Orange County's jails. OC lockups now hold more than 2,200 fewer people, a 44% drop.


It's a different story in the more conservative Inland Empire. Riverside Sheriff Chad Bianco has refused to release inmates early. When asked if his policy threatens inmates' health, he had a blunt response.

"If you don't want to catch this virus while you're in custody, don't break the law," he told us.

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon has taken a similar approach.

While it's understandable to be concerned about infections, "people who are in custody made choices to commit crimes," said San Bernardino District Attorney Jason Anderson.


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Of course it's important to remember that more than half of all jail inmates in California are awaiting trial -- they're innocent until proven guilty but can't afford bail.

Sheriffs' release policies are just one factor contributing to the drop in jail populations.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes. (Chris Carlson/AP)

Crime is down during the pandemic. Police are choosing to release more people. And the state's Judicial Council eliminated bail for most misdemeanors and low-level felonies.

Prisoner advocates say releasing more non-violent inmates is an obvious way to drastically reduce overcrowding, arguing that jails by their very nature are extremely dangerous during a public health crisis like this.

"So many people housed in the jails live in dorm settings, in these congregate units, and that in the current pandemic is a recipe for disaster," said attorney Sara Norman of the Prison Law Office.

Norman's organization has sued Riverside County, while other groups have sued L.A. and Orange counties, accusing sheriffs of endangering inmates by not releasing more of them.

An ACLU lawsuit against Orange County demands the release of elderly inmates and those with pre-existing health conditions -- about 500 people in all, said Jacob Reisberg, one of the group's lawyers.


"Those vulnerabilities make it imperative they be released immediately," he said.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. (Riverside County Sheriff's Department)

The relationship between release policies and COVID-19 cases inside jails is unclear.

San Bernardino, with its no early release policy, has had just three cases as of the beginning of this week, while L.A., which cut its population by nearly one-third, has had more than 640.

Orange County has had 364 cases; Riverside has had 190 cases and the only two coronavirus-related inmate deaths reported in the four counties. Bianco believes one of the two Riverside sheriff's deputies who died may have contracted the virus from a prisoner he had escorted to the Riverside University Health System.

But we can't draw conclusions based on those numbers -- for example, San Bernardino has only tested about 1% of its inmates, while L.A. has tested nearly 12%. For its part, Riverside has not released data on how many inmates it has tested.

Sheriffs across the region say they're providing inmates soap and other cleaning supplies to fight the virus, and are screening staff. They're also isolating the sick and quarantining those who come into contact with them.

L.A. has placed nearly half its jail population under quarantine.

But Heather Harris of the Public Policy Institute of California says achieving social distancing remains a challenge in any jail.


Another important factor is capacity. Only San Bernardino was below capacity when the pandemic hit. LA, Orange and Riverside were all overcrowded.

"Some jails might have pods where you are housed with multiple people," she said. "Sometimes they might have cells where maybe you could be alone in a cell, but that cell might be exposed to a hallway."

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon. (San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department)

Villanueva has partly explained his large number of cases by making an unusual accusation -- he's claimed some inmates infected each other on purpose to try to get out of jail.

Villanueva has dismissed the idea of releasing any more inmates.

"There is no way we could release that many inmates to have the social distancing recommended by the CDC," he said. "You'd be putting out on the street people that you would not want to see out on the street."

Riverside Sheriff Bianco suggested the push to release inmates has nothing to do with public health.

"The last thing we need is for this crisis to be used to further a political agenda of decriminalization, anti-incarceration and regulations that undermine and compromise the safety of the public," he said.

In a video released last month, Bianco called on Riverside residents to lobby their elected leaders to block the implementation of the zero bail policy instituted by the Judicial Council.

Inmate advocates argue it's the sheriffs who resist releasing non-violent inmates who are more interested in politics than the well-being of the people in their jails.

Frank Stoltze The sheriffs in L.A. and OC agreed releasing some inmates early is a good way to fight COVID-19. The sheriffs in Riverside and San Bernardino refused. Thu, 21 May 2020 07:00:00 -0700 Different Sheriffs, Different Attitudes Towards Releasing Some Inmates Early
Arts & Entertainment
Memorial Day weekend will be a little more subdued this year as live commemorations have been scaled back. (Steve Holden / Flickr Creative Commons)

Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on schools, stores, businesses and events. With in-person concerts, talks, comedy shows, food festivals and other gatherings cancelled, we have turned our events column into a "nonevents" column. It will remain this way as long as social distancing and stay-at-home orders are in effect.

During this difficult time, please consider contributing to your local arts organizations or to individual artists and performers.

The three-day weekend ushers in the unoffical start of summer. A number of SoCal restaurants are offering holiday to-go specials. The Airborne Toxic Event, Scarypoolparty and Sublime all perform virtually. CHIRLA holds a star-studded music festival. And there's a drive-in movie at The Muck and a drink-in screening of The Thin Man.

Friday, May 22; 7 p.m.

Let Your Light Shine with Ernie G
The En Casa con LA Plaza series continues with comedian Ernie G. Watch via Zoom or Facebook Live as he chronicles his journey from comedy clubs to high schools and corporate TEDx Talks, advancing his messages of inspiration and purpose.

Learn how to make homemade gnocchi through an online workshop with the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles. (various brennemans / Flickr Creative Commons)

Friday, May 22; 12 - 1:30 p.m. PDT

Making Gnocchi at Home
The Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles presents a Zoom cooking lesson with Elisabetta Ciardullo, founder of Think Italian! Events. She'll teach you how to make homemade gnocchi. The Zoom invite and ingredients will be sent upon registration, and the session will be recorded.

A statue in memory of Johnny Ramone stands at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on January 14, 2005. (Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)

Friday, May 22; 5 p.m. PDT

Los Angeles Tourism's Magic Hour
Film historian Karie Bible takes viewers on a visit through Hollywood Forever Cemetery. As the only sanctioned tour guide of the cemetery, Bible leads a Zoom tour of its nooks and crannies as well as examines the lives and final resting places of both stars and lesser-known personalities.

A hiker stretches on the trails at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. (Andrew Cullen for LAist)

Friday, May 22; 7 p.m.

Discovering Griffith Park: A Local's Guide
The Autry hosts a virtual book launch by Casey Schreiner, founder and editor of Modern Hiker. He'll talk about his book, Griffith Park, its history and lesser known spaces.
COST: FREE, but registration required; MORE INFO

Friday, May 22; 12 p.m. PDT

Sofar Sounds' Listening Room continues its series of live, online performances as a way to support independent artists during the pandemic. While all shows are free, optional donations can be given directly to the featured performers or to the Sofar Sounds global artist fund. 100% of the money donated will be distributed to artists. In addition to Pomona's own Alejandro Aranda (Scarypoolparty) performing on Friday, other performers this weekend include: Tuyo from Brazil, at noon on Saturday; and Yasmin Williams from Virginia at 3 p.m. on Sunday

Friday, May 22; 6 p.m.

Indie Indoors: Asembl (not so) live
This livestreaming series allows audience interaction from a safe distance. Check out performances by indie musicians Andy Cook and duo Megan Mahoney & Mariah Mercedez.
COST: Donations suggested $5 - $30; MORE INFO

The Airborne Toxic Event returns with a new release and as a quartet (since violinist Anna Bulbook left the band). (Courtesy of the artist)

Friday, May 22; 7 p.m. PDT

The Airborne Toxic Event
While the band has pushed back its tour to 2021, they're still going to perform songs from their new album, Hollywood Park, on Friday. The livestreamed event will be available on Facebook and YouTube.

Saturday, May 23; 5 p.m. PDT

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy Q&A
To celebrate the virtual cinema release of a documentary about Kennedy, a award-winning master of Mexican cuisine, join a virtual Q&A with director Elizabeth Carroll, chef Alice Waters (Chez Panisse), chef Gabriela Cámara (Tale of Two Kitchens), food writer David Tanis (New York Times) and moderator Lesley Tellez (author, Eat Mexico: Recipes from Mexico City's Streets, Markets and Fondas).
COST: FREE (donations encouraged); MORE INFO

Saturday, May 23; 6 p.m.

Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl
This music documentary tells the story of the pop songstress as she goes punk in an attempt to take back control of her career. Nash rocketed to pop stardom at 18, was defrauded by her manager and wound up nearly homeless. Directed by Amy Goldstein, the film blends performance footage and dramatized sequences. It's being released via Alamo on Demand beginning on Friday, May 22. A live performance and Q&A with Nash (aka Britannica on Glow) takes place on Saturday at 6 p.m. for ticket holders

Lupillo Rivera performs at RiseUp AS ONE at Cross Border Xpress on October 15, 2016 in San Diego. (Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Univision)

Saturday, May 23; 4 p.m. PST

Cuidate y Cuentate (Take Care and Be Counted)
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles hosts a virtual concert that features artists, medical care experts, educators and influencers. Participants include Lupillo Rivera, Ozomatli, Miami Symphony Orchestra, Edward James Olmos, Kate del Castillo, Veronica del Castillo, Omar y Argelia, Henry Zakka, El Piolín, Elisa Beristain, Javier Ceriani, Pepe Garza, Gustavo Adolfo Infante, Erazno y la Chokolata, Chikilin and Anthony Valadez. Watch on LATV Network, KWHY Channel 22, IGTV, FB livestream and YouTube.

Saturday, May 23

Film Festival Day
Enjoy a virtual screening of Angela Pinaglia's documentary Life in Synchro, focusing on the women of synchronized skating. The event benefits several film festivals around the country. The film is available to rent from May 22 to 31, with a live virtual Q&A on Saturday at 4 p.m. PT with Pinaglia and cast members.

Andrew McMahon performs at Riviera Theatre on March 2, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Ryan Bakerink/Getty Images)

Saturdays, May 23 and 30; 4 p.m.

OC Parks Sound Checks
OC Parks continues its virtual concert series on Facebook (@OrangeCountyParks) or Instagram (@OCParks) for the next two weeks. This Saturday, listen to the music of Justin Ratowsky from Cali Conscious, followed by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness on May 30.

Saturday, May 23; 3 p.m. PST

Sublime with Rome
Join a virtual BBQ (BYOB and food, obvs) plus band performances that benefit the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, helping musicians and artists through this tough time.
COST: $9.99 - $14.99; MORE INFO

Britney Spears performs on NBC's "Today" show on June 30 2000. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Saturday, May 23; 10 a.m. - noon

Virtual Dance Class
If you've always wanted to dance like Britney Spears, this virtual workshop is for you. Choreographer Zae Northy, who has worked with both Spears and Janet Jackson, will teach moves to the best Britney jams. A session for beginners will kick off and run for 45 minutes followed by a session for intermediate/advanced dancers. These classes are for all ages.

The Risk! storytelling show returns, virtually, this weekend, hosted by founder Kevin Allison. (Risk! Storytelling)

Saturday, May 23; 5 p.m.

RISK! Livestream Online Show
Host Kevin Allison leads a fantastic lineup of storytellers who tell tales they never thought they'd reveal in public. The show is accessible via Zoom and will feature stories from Allison, William Mullin, Jiji Lee, Katie Featherston and Ophira Eisenberg.
COST: Pay what you can but $12 suggested donation; MORE INFO

This 1934 studio shows the first drive-in theater in Los Angeles, which was located at 10860 West Pico Blvd., near what is now Westwood Blvd. Automobiles wait in line outside the theater, which has a sign advertising the movie "Handy Andy," starring Will Rogers. The adjacent property is planted with low crops. (Dick Whittington Studio/Huntington Digital Library)

Saturday, May 23; 6:30 p.m. PDT

Drive-In at The Muck
The Muckenthaler Cultural Center - 1201 W. Malvern Ave, Fullerton
Drive-in movies are making a comeback and the Muckenthaler Cultural Center partners with the Frida Cinema in Santa Ana to screen Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride. The film starts at 8:15 p.m., and please remember to maintain social distancing guidelines. Bring your own snacks and food. Limited capacity.
COST: $20 per car; MORE INFO

Alec Mapa performs on stage during Voices For The Voiceless: Stars For Foster Kids on June 29, 2015 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Voices for the Voiceless)

Sunday, May 24; 7:30 - 9 p.m. PDT

Uncabaret: Zoom Edition #5
Beth Lapides hosts a night of live music and comedy via Zoom. This week's guests include Julia Sweeney, Alec Mapa, Abby McEnany, Moon Zappa, Alex Edelman, Hannah Eibinder and Jamie Bridgers. Plus, music from Mitch Kaplan and the band.

Monday, May 25; 5 - 8 p.m.

Drink-In Theatre: The Thin Man
Watch the 1934 film starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as detective duo Nick and Nora Charles. Attend a virtual watch party on the Facebook Live channels at Thirsty in LA and Art Beyond the Glass. Join other guests for a cocktail at 5 p.m. before the movie starts streaming. There's a 15-minute intermission so you can remotely mingle.

Monday, May 25; 10 a.m.

Virtual Memorial Day
Each year, Forest Lawn's annual Memorial Day commemoration draws thousands of visitors to its six memorial parks to honor those military members who have given their lives to protect our country. While we are still under stay-at-home restrictions, Forest Lawn holds a live virtual ceremony on Facebook with Scottish bagpipes and drums, guest speakers, a benediction and patriotic music.

Monday, May 25; 12 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Operation SoCal Strong
To commemorate soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as COVID-19 frontline workers, historic planes and WWII warbirds are doing a slow flyover 19 locations in Southern California. Beginning with Loma Linda University Medical Center, the flight plan includes Newport Beach, the Queen Mary, Riverside National Cemetery and USC Medical Center.


Tavern offers a special Memorial Day meal offering: harissa chicken dinner for two with sides and dessert. (Javier Espinoza)

Dine & Drink Deals

Who doesn't miss going out to eat or stopping by a bar for a drink? Here are a few options from restaurants and bars as we work our way back toward normal.

  • The Curious Palate in Santa Monica Place has reopened for curbside pick up and takeout, offering select dishes, family meals and all-day happy hour deals on local craft beer and wine. Customers can use the promo code "CURB" at checkout when ordering online for a 20% discount.
  • Spread Kitchen and Miry's List are offering Memorial Day picnic boxes featuring pita pockets, baba ghanoush and fattoush salad ($21/per person). Throw in a boozy watermelon granita for $14. You must place your order by midnight on Friday, May 22 for pickup on Sunday, May 24 or Monday, May 25.
  • Conservatory West Hollywood has options for Memorial Day at home (takeout or delivery), including cocktails, ribs, sausages and all the fixings. The Memorial Day box special ($95) is available to order from Friday through Monday this weekend.
  • Lucques Catering presents the 20th annual "All-American Summer Rib Fest - Quarantine Edition" featuring a feast of slow-cooked ribs, beef brisket, hot wings and sides. The barbeque menu is available for pickup on Saturday and Sunday. The meal is capped by an apricot and berry cobbler with vanilla crème fraîche. $65 per person.
  • Suzanne Goin's Tavern offers a Harissa Chicken BBQ dinner for two ($39 pp) for the holiday weekend, available for pre-order and pick up through Tock, Friday through Sunday, 4 - 8 p.m. Tavern also offers a DIY burger box for six.
  • Perch LA's delivery menu includes steak frites with truffle cheese fries, wild mushroom risotto, a mimosa kit as well as produce and meat from the Perch Pantry.
  • Perch's sister restaurant, Mrs. Fish, also offers five different bento boxes (starting at $20), nigiri, hand rolls and a newly launched hot menu.
  • The Grub Gals (Betty Fraser and Denise DeCarlo) shuttered their Hollywood staple Grub in February and have pivoted to catering. Their weekly menus now offer each dish ($12) in vegetarian and vegan versions, too. Add-ons (like cookies) are available, as are bottles of organic red and white wine. There's a 48-hour pre-order required. Text order to 310-383-7028.
  • Although Dry River Brewing's Boyle Heights taproom is still closed, customers can order its small batch, barrel-aged sours, new beers and Michelada kits to-go, for delivery or for Safe Pickup from 12 to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Sundays. Ages 21+.
  • Three Weavers Brewing Company, which celebrated its sixth anniversary this year, recently updated its designs and reinvented one of their favorite seasonal beers: Return of Sassy has become Even Sassier now available in 4-packs of 16 oz. cans. It joins Cloud City Hazy IPA, a new year-round hazy IPA. The beers are available for delivery or pickup from the Inglewood taproom. 21+.
Christine N. Ziemba Gnocchi. Griffith Park. Drive-in movies. Forest Lawn's annual Memorial Day commemoration. Plus, dine and drink deals. Thu, 21 May 2020 06:00:00 -0700 Fabulous Online And IRL Events Happening This Memorial Day Weekend: May 22-25
A nearly empty chamber for a remote L.A. City Council meeting. (Screenshot shows streamed meeting)

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The L.A. City Council heard from dozens of people opposed to Mayor Garcetti's proposed 2020-21 budget Wednesday as members weighed the plan, which is filled with cuts for city departments and furloughs for roughly 16,000 civilian city workers.

The plan "does not reflect the values of Los Angelenos," said Izzy Rojas, a caller during the council's public comment period, which these days are done by phone.

"Right have a moral imperative to provide services that keep people housed and healthy...not to allocate more money to policing those people," Rojas said.

In response to COVID-19 decimating tax revenues, last month Garcetti released a budget with $230 million in spending reductions slated to take effect when the new fiscal year begins July 1. (A large chunk of L.A.'s rainy day fund was already swallowed up to cover the shortfall from the coronavirus crisis for the current year.)

The cuts include:

  • Department of Public Works - Street Services: programs like graffiti abatement, sidewalk repairs and urban forestry tree planting will be scaled back, while 311 wait times will increase (that's the number you dial to report a pothole that needs to be filled, for example).
  • Transportation: the budget for Vision Zero, the initiative to eliminate traffic deaths in L.A., will be cut by about 5%, or $3.4 million
  • Department of Cultural Affairs and the L.A. Zoo will see cuts
  • Gang intervention programs will be cut by 10% or about $3 million

Sanitation workers, firefighters and uniformed police officers were spared from furloughs. But most civilian city workers will face a 10% pay cut. There's also a hard freeze on hiring that will carry over into the new budget year.

Callers objecting to the austerity measures in the mayor's budget filled phone lines and prompted Council President Nury Martinez to extend the comment period.

Many callers echoed Black Lives Matter organizer Melina Abdullah who said she was "outraged" that Garcetti's plan boosts spending on the city's police and fire departments, while imposing belt-tightening on social programs.

"It increases the LAPD budget at a time when crime is down," Abdullah said. "When funds are most needed for things like housing, for things like good jobs for our people, for things like mental health resources."

A big point of contention: the city had already put itself in a tight financial spot because it negotiated pay raises for police, fire, and other city employees after the council adopted last year's budget. Those increases in spending wiped out projected surpluses -- something critics say set L.A. up for fiscal trouble before coronavirus appeared and stalled the economy.

An October report by City Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn projected $200-400 million in deficits in the coming years, and city department managers were asked to be on the hunt for savings.

Nithya Raman, a candidate for L.A. City Council District 4 running against incumbent David Ryu, pointed out the cost of the pay bumps on Twitter.

During Wednesday's meeting, caller Kim Isaac called the proposed budget "horrific."

"We are in the middle of a pandemic. People need services," she said. "We don't need more money for the police."


With the mayor's budget on the table, the ball's now in the city council's court. The Budget and Finance Committee met last week -- but so far, as the pandemic continues, this process is moving along without the usual number of hearings. City departments submitted comments in writing instead of presenting to the committee.

L.A.'s revenue problems could get much worse before they get better. Garcetti's proposal is probably overly optimistic about when tax dollars will be flowing again, according to estimates from the Office of Finance, which projects revenues could be lower by an additional $45 to $400 million in fiscal year 2020-21.

A CAO report, published Tuesday, recommends the council adopt the mayor's budget as is, without any spending cuts restored.

Last month, Garcetti told Larry Mantle, who hosts our newsroom's public affairs show AirTalk on 89.3 KPCC, the council will likely have to meet regularly to update the spending plan.

"This will be the most dynamic budget I think we've ever had," Garcetti said then. "We'll probably be reassessing it every two or three weeks."

Federal reimbursements, new stimulus spending, state money, and changes in the timeline for reopening major parts of the economy would all affect the city's financial situation, the mayor noted.

On Thursday, the CAO and Chief Legislative Analyst will present their findings on Garcetti's budget and its impact on the city.

Libby Denkmann Mayor Garcetti's proposed budget for the coming year includes millions in cuts to city programs and partial furloughs for employees. Critics of the budget proposal say the city needs "#CareNotCops." Wed, 20 May 2020 19:00:46 -0700 'Horrific': LA City Council Gets An Earful About Mayor Garcetti's Pared-Down Proposed Budget

Governor Newsom holds an online roundtable with key Hollywood figures on May 20, 2020. (Screenshot from California Governor's live stream)

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Gov. Gavin Newsom told a panel of filmmakers that the state will introduce guidelines on Monday that could potentially help restart Hollywood production, but he offered few details and cautioned that Los Angeles County might not be ready to implement the new rules.

In what Newsom is calling his "Economic Recovery & Reinvention Listening Tour," the governor solicited feedback from director and producer Ava DuVernay ("Selma"), actor Jon Huertas ("This is Us") and Netflix executive Ted Sarandos, among others.

The panelists in Wednesday's online conversation said that while they're eager to return to work, there are still no industry standards on workplace safety, which could delay restarting production until 2021, especially if film and TV sets are opened prematurely.

"Of course people want to get back to work now, because we have to work in order to sustain ourselves," Huertas said. But he said in conversations with the producer of his NBC series, he was told, "We may not go into production until January if there's a second wave."

Sony Picture Studios halted film and TV production amid coronavirus fears. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Newsom's industry session came on the heels of a report outlining the breadth of unemployment in Hollywood. Board of Supervisors chair Kathryn Barger said that nearly 900,000 industry employees have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

DuVernay reminded the governor that some of the most affected are crew members who go from one job to the next as gig workers. "I can comfortably sustain myself through these times," she said, but noted that her brother, a barber, "has nothing."


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Netflix currently has more than 200 projects in various stages of post-production, Sarandos said, with much of that work happening in people's homes. He said that while a small documentary crew might be able to start filming soon, it's an altogether different question for a movie with a crowd scene of several hundred.

But proving that there are no uniform guidelines for physical production, Netflix is currently filming in South Korea, Iceland and Sweden.

With no industry safety standards in place, and the cost of implementing any such measures bound to cost time and money, one panelist worried that future productions could leave California to film in states and countries with looser rules.

"Someone needs to pay for all this," said Danny Stephens, who works as a grip. "But the last thing we want to do is price ourselves out of the business."

Newsom ended the conversation by noting that even if the state on Monday unveils a framework for the resumption of production, "that doesn't mean the light goes on everywhere." He singled out Los Angeles County for its continued high level of coronavirus cases.

"It remains a challenging part of the state, still."

John Horn Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state will introduce guidelines for resuming filming on Monday, but Los Angeles may still have to wait. Wed, 20 May 2020 18:25:00 -0700 Lights, Camera... But No Action? LA Film Production Still Stalled
Tents above the 101 Freeway in Downtown Los Angeles. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

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Both the city and county of Los Angeles have submitted preliminary plans to a federal judge who has ordered the "humane relocation" of thousands of homeless people currently living beneath L.A.'s countless freeway overpasses.

As part of the order, homeless encampment residents must be offered some form of shelter before any action can be taken.

Though the plans are hardly set in stone, court documents outline a rapid expansion of safe parking sites, thousands of modular "pallet shelter" tiny homes, and another option called "Safe Sleep," modeled after a pilot government-sanctioned campsite at the West Los Angeles VA.

In their plans, officials are also including residents who have been moved inside due to the pandemic. For both groups, they'll try to place people into supportive housing, reunite them with family, provide rental assistance, and extend some hotel leases beyond the initial three-month contract.

"In all, the City commits to creating 6,100 new shelter opportunities in the next 10 months," reads the city of Los Angeles' report to federal Judge David Carter. The city says it will do that in two phases: first for people currently in hotels and recreation centers, then for people beneath freeways.

The report supplied by Los Angeles County outlines a schedule for moving forward, though notes there are likely only about 200 to 350 people beneath freeways in the county's unincorporated jurisdiction.

The county says it aims to provide Judge Carter with a list of potential locations for safe parking and sleeping pilot sites by May 21, and operation protocols for the safe parking and sleeping sites by May 27.


Last week, Judge Carter dropped a bombshell court order that compels both the city and county of Los Angeles to find shelter for those who've made freeway bridges and ramps their home. Citing the coronavirus pandemic and the adverse respiratory effects of living close to freeway pollution, Judge Carter ordered "that this subset of individuals experiencing homelessness be relocated away from freeway overpasses, underpasses, and ramps."

The order stunned many on all sides of the homelessness crisis. Its demands come on top of attempts to shelter thousands of people in recreation centers and hotels because of the coronavirus pandemic.


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However, the wording of the order does not mean that the moment it becomes effective, L.A. will send cops to clear out underpass encampments. It lists several preconditions before that could happen.

Among others, anyone living beneath an overpass must be offered an alternative space in a shelter or other accommodation before being ordered to leave, and that offer must be given with advance notice.

The order also stipulates that any shelter or accommodation must come with access to health services, security, and hygiene facilities.

It's likely an attempt to compromise in the wake of a 2019 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Martin V. Boise. Judges ruled in that case that cities cannot prosecute homeless people for sitting or sleeping on public property if there isn't anywhere else to go.

Carter, for his part, has expressed publicly that he's more interested in just getting the ball rolling on bringing people indoors, and restoring the use of public space, after what seems like years of nonmovement. Speaking last year at an event in Anaheim, Carter offered some clarity on his logic.

"Our public is not going to stand for homeless people taking our parks, or our beaches, or our libraries. But also, our public is not going to stand for the truly homeless person, who has either mental disease or just is homeless because of circumstances, being incarcerated. And that's a tough balance," he said.

A tentative balance has been struck in nearly 20 cities in L.A. and Orange counties with a settlement agreement brokered by Carter. In that judicial consent decree, cities agree to add more homeless shelter beds in exchange for court permission to enforce anti-camping laws. It's possible a similar agreement could be reached by both the city and county of Los Angeles.


The two plans filed separately in the court could have been filed as one joint plan had the city and county of Los Angeles not disagreed about who is going to pay for the provision of services for people relocated from under freeways. If they'd agreed, Carter would have presided over a hearing on Wednesday to broker the details.

That hearing didn't happen.

In its report to Judge Carter, L.A. County said the city of L.A. declined "to participate in the joint filing, stating that [the city of L.A.] could not agree out of a concern over the payment for 'services' at city-owned interim shelters and similar sites."

The county's filing said that the city requested services at any potential shelter sites be paid for using money from the Measure H sales tax. Measure H funds homeless services countywide, and is projected to generate less revenue in the near future due to the economic recession, according to county officials.

By contrast, the city's filing estimates that sheltering people who live near freeways will cost approximately $100 to $130 million in capital costs. As for providing supportive services for those people, the filing says "ongoing operating and service commitments needed to sustain these interventions and keep people off the streets come with a substantial cost, one that must be shared between the city, the county, and LAHSA."


Matt Tinoco What does a court order to clear out homeless camps from under freeways actually mean? Wed, 20 May 2020 17:39:25 -0700 LA Officials Submit Plans For Relocation Of Homeless Away From Freeways
A coroner's van is parked outside the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. (Courtesy Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner)

By Yingjie Wang and Elly Yu

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As we reported a few days ago, Los Angeles County this April saw a jump of more than 50% in people dying at home compared with at-home deaths last April, according to data from the county's medical examiner-coroner's department.

Last April, Asians accounted for 4% of at-home deaths; this year, they account for 8% (that number was 6% in April 2018 and April 2017). In other words, that 8% is the highest rate in the last four years, according to an LAist analysis of case data from the Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.

Source: L.A. County's Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner

In April this year, 34 Asians died at home, compared to 12 last April (18 Asians died at home in April 2018, and 17 in 2017).

At the same time, the percentage of Hispanic/Latino American deaths at home increased from 23% to 25%, and the percentage of at-home deaths among Caucasians dropped from 48% to 43%, and the percentage of at-home deaths among Blacks dropped from 19% to 18%.

If we look at the whole picture using data provided by the LA County Department of Public Health, 18% of people in L.A. who died from COVID-19 are identified as Asians, while they make up just 15.4% of the population.


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Reasons for the spike in at-home deaths -- among Asians, Latinos, or Angelenos as a whole -- remain unclear, as many causes of death are still under investigation. Experts say more deaths may be happening at home because people are staying at home more, or that more people are dying at home from COVID-19, or other untreated illnesses.

Also noteworthy: Despite a slight drop in the proportion of African American at-home deaths, the number is still disproportionately higher compared to other ethnic groups. On top of that, African Americans are also dying of COVID-19 at a higher rate compared to other groups: African Americans make up 9% of the county's overall population, and 12% of COVID-19 deaths.

We'll bring you more as we analyze the data.


Yingjie Wang An LAist analysis of recent coroner data reveals some surprising numbers about Asian at-home deaths during the pandemic. Wed, 20 May 2020 17:22:51 -0700 LA's Seeing An Uptick In At-Home Deaths Among Asians
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. (Kyle Grillot for LAist)

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva Wednesday said the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission lacks the authority to subpoena him and he will not show up Thursday to testify about how he's protecting jail inmates from coronavirus.

The panel had subpoenaed Villanueva amid concerns about a growing number of cases inside the country's largest local jail system.

"I will not be adhering to any subpoena," Villanueva said during a news conference live streamed on the department's Facebook page.

"It's unfortunate he is going to ignore the subpoena," Commission Chair Patti Giggans said. She did not say whether her panel will go to court to try to enforce it.

The commission issued the subpoena May 7 after the sheriff had rejected invitations to attend previous meetings.

It was the first time the nine-member group -- appointed by the Board of Supervisors -- used its new subpoena power.


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In March, voters overwhelmingly approved Measure R, which gave the commission the power to compel the department to produce documents and testimony during investigations into the agency.

But Villanueva said he doesn't believe the measure is legal because sheriffs, unlike other elected county officials, are named as officers in the California Constitution and are accountable only to the voters. The voter-approved measure tries to "supersede" state law and that is "unconstitutional and it's not permitted," the sheriff said.

Because sheriffs are "enshrined in the state constitution ... county supervisors cannot easily oversee the sheriff in the way that mayors and councils can hold appointed police chiefs accountable," said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA, in a Sept. 2019 commentary for CalMatters.

The legality of Measure R aside, the sheriff appeared uninterested in meeting with the panel, which had been sharply critical of some of his policies long before the pandemic. Members likely would have questioned him about why COVID-19 cases are on the rise and why so many inmates are in quarantine.

"If they're engaged in a public shaming endeavor, which it looks like on face value, they are sadly mistaken," Villanueva said. "We're not going to be participating in that."

Informed of the sheriff's comments, Giggans said, "it is not about trying to shame him. We are trying to do our oversight job. If he is talking about shame, maybe he is feeling shame."

Villanueva said his assistant sheriff had "volunteered" to appear before the commission.

More than 600 inmates have gotten COVID-19 in L.A.'s jails. The sheriff said he's "cautiously optimistic" that the worst is over.

The department is doing well protecting inmates from the virus, said Villanueva, who then added what's become a trademark hint of suspicion: "We are succeeding in our efforts in spite of people trying to derail them."

Villanueva, who campaigned on a platform of transparency, encouraged the public to go to the department's website to get information about the agency, suggesting that would be preferable to getting information from the oversight panel.

"I want people to decide for themselves, without any interference, without any middleman," he said.

Villanueva has been resistant to independent oversight. Last year, in an unprecedented move, he launched an investigation into County Inspector General Max Huntsman, accusing him of improperly accessing documents during an inquiry into the Sheriff's Department.

Frank Stoltze The sheriff says Measure R, the voter-approved measure that gave the panel subpoena power, violates the state constitution. Wed, 20 May 2020 17:09:00 -0700 Sheriff Villanueva Says Oversight Panel Can't Subpoena Him, Refuses to Testify
A parklet in Long Beach, in front of Lola's restaurant. (Brad Davis, AICP/Flickr Creative Commons)

Additional reporting by Lita Martinez and Monica Bushman.

We can't guarantee there'll be swinging, swaying or records playing, but there will be dining in the streets.

The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday night approved a plan to open some of its streets for al fresco eating -- one of the first cities in Los Angeles County to do so. Pasadena, Sierra Madre and Palm Springs and are considering similar options.

Long Beach's Open Streets initiative, which is currently focused on Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach and on Bixby Knolls, has several components.

In some cases, the city might close entire streets to vehicles. In others, it might partially close streets. In others, it might allow restaurants to transform their parking lots into dining areas or expand sidewalk dining.

"It's not a one-size-fits-all model," Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said this morning on our newsroom's public affairs show AirTalk, which airs on 89.3 KPCC.

But before outdoor dining can become a reality, the city must clear important hurdles under the state's current reopening guidelines. Positive COVID-19 cases must be under 8% for at least a week in a county before next steps can happen. Los Angeles County is currently at 9% -- and as of this week, more than 11% of Long Beach residents are testing positive.

A parklet on Spring Street in downtown L.A. (LADOT/Flickr Creative Commons)

As Los Angeles (and the rest of Southern California) moves toward loosening stay-at-home orders, officials will likely impose limits on how many patrons can be inside a restaurant at the same time and how far apart tables must be placed. Allowing restaurateurs to seat patrons outside would expand an establishment's capacity and help its bottom line.

Besides, in Southern California patio dining (although not necessarily sidewalk dining) is so popular it's practically a sport. The physical distancing practices demanded by coronavirus have given that choice new weight.

One of the best ways to transmit coronavirus to a lot of people all at once is for them to sit near each other in an enclosed space (such as a restaurant or a movie theater) and breathe the same recirculated air (you may know it as air conditioning). In the pandemic era, dining outside isn't merely an aesthetic preference, it's a health-centric one.

"What we're hearing is people are much more comfortable eating outside as opposed to being inside with COVID," says Sierra Madre City Manager Gabe Engeland. "And being outside, from all the information we're seeing, is safer. As long as you're still social distancing, practicing good hygiene."

A parklet on York Boulevard in Highland Park. (LADOT/Flickr Creative Commons)

Officials in Sierra Madre are in talks with 20 downtown restaurant owners about a program that would waive permitting fees and provide equipment, such as K-rails and fencing, so these businesses could turn sidewalks, parking spaces and parking lots into pocket-size oases known as parklets. Put a few folding tables and bistro chairs out there and voilà.

Many of restaurants in Sierra Madre are independent operations and don't have much ability to spread out seating in their relatively small dining room. This program could potentially give each restaurant an additional 400 square feet of room.

"It provides, I think, a unique opportunity for the diner to feel safer, to have physical distance and and enjoy something that's maybe a little bit more European or South American," Long Beach Mayor Garcia said on AirTalk.

Right now, these initiatives are temporary but if they work well, they could be here to stay.

"We still have to follow all the state's rules when this can happen... because we want to do this safely," Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors said on AirTalk. "If we do it safely, we're going to be able to keep it open longer term and, like Long Beach, we're also looking at how this might work permanently in some of these spaces."

Parklets aren't new. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Long Beach was already working with architect Alan Pullman to transform curbside parking spaces outside some downtown restaurants. And they've been part of downtown L.A. and Highland Park, among other Los Angeles neighborhoods, for years.

Restaurants will still have to wait, however, for Los Angeles County officials to allow dine-in eating.



4:30 p.m.: This article was updated with the current postive testing rates in L.A. County and Long Beach.

This article was originally published at 1:30 p.m.

Elina Shatkin Pasadena, Palm Springs and Sierra Madre are all considering similar initiatives. Wed, 20 May 2020 16:30:00 -0700 Long Beach Will Let You Dine In The Streets -- And Other SoCal Cities May Follow
Arts & Entertainment
Warfield and his dog Sandy Blue II (Photo Courtesy Kevin Warfield)

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The Palais Garnier might have had the Phantom of the Opera. But the Hollywood Bowl has the Sax Man. At least it used to.

If you've passed through the tunnel that bores under Highland Avenue on your way to or from a show at the Bowl in the past 36 years, you've heard the sweet sound of an alto saxophone belonging to one Ken Warfield, aka "Sax Man." But with the cancellation of the 2020 season at the hundred-year-old amphitheater -- compounding the crushing blow to musicians, audiences, and paid staff -- comes the silencing of this unsung Hollywood legend.

"I was so looking forward to my 37th year," Warfield said by phone this week, audibly crying. "But that's not gonna be at this time. But when they open again, by God's grace I look to be there to see all of my friends."

Warfield's repertoire is a mix of jazz standards -- Coltrane, Miles -- and original tunes like "Hollywood Bowl Days and Nights." He plays an alto because it has "the best sound for the tunnel," as well as a keyboard. His dog, a dachshund/chihuahua mix named Sandy Blue II, sits on his lap. "Every now and again," he says, "she'll jump off and go say hi to the people."

Warfield grew up in Los Angeles and is no stranger to heartache. Music has always been the cure.

When he was 2 years old, he ingested some lye, which put him in the hospital for three months. His mom brought him a ukulele, and he taught himself how to play. He sang in the choir and played baritone horn in school, but says he left music to run track in high school because the band director was late to class.


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In 1968, Warfield was operating computers at Rexall Drugs when he heard Jimi Hendrix come on the radio. "I decided, 'Uh-oh, I gotta get into music.' I forgot about music," he says. He bought a bass guitar and started a band, Acapulco Soul. They played all over L.A., including for Mayor Tom Bradley at City Hall.

His highest profile gig came when Solomon Burke, a founding father of soul music, took him on a world tour.

Warfield started street performing around 1980 during his time as a custodian at the La Brea Tar Pits. "When I ventured out into the world, I started playing on Wilshire and Fairfax in front of the May Company," he says. "But at the time, the police were a little difficult. They told me, 'Get outta here! Go back to San Francisco.' Well... I was born and raised here."

In 1983, he was playing in front of Canter's Deli on Fairfax, and a guy came by and said, "Hey, why don't you go up to the Hollywood Bowl? Everybody's up there." So he did, on a night during the Playboy Jazz Festival -- Count Basie and Herbie Hancock were on the bill that year. He set up near the Bowl side of the tunnel, but a security guard told him he couldn't play there.

"I kept saying, 'Well, thank you sir, but where can I play?'" Warfield recalls. "And finally he said, 'On the other side of Highland.' As I was walking down the stairs in the tunnel, I was singing 'cause I was so happy that I would be able to play."

With the official blessing of the Bowl, Warfield has been down there every summer since, nearly every night during the four-month seasons. He used to set up shop near the stairs leading to the buses, but the fumes made him sick so he moved in just a little west.

He arrives two hours before every show starts, and is "pretty much the last person to leave after all the people have gone home." Music from the venue doesn't penetrate the tunnel ("unless they're playing too loud"), and Warfield keeps on playing even during the show.

"I play because I love the music," he says.

On a few occasions, he's ventured above ground to hear the likes of Ella Fitgerald and Miles Davis take the Bowl -- he has a standing invitation from operations director Ed Tom -- "and then back into the tunnel."

Every night, a migrating audience of thousands hears a free Warfield concert. Many just walk by, some sing along, some smile and throw in a buck or a pocketful of change.

"There's one fellow who walks by and said, 'I've been watching you for 20 years!'" Warfield says, "and then he throws a couple of dollars in my box. Even though everyone doesn't walk by and tip me, that's okay, because I'm still giving myself to the people, and they find their way to help me make my life wonderful."

This is Hollywood, so naturally the Sax Man has seen his share of weird. There was the guy who came into the tunnel "howling like a wolf" and getting right into Warfield's face. "So I headbutted him," he says. Another time, a pair of ticket scalpers stood in front of Warfield, blocking him from the crowd. He kindly asked them to move aside.

"The next thing I know, some guy had grabbed me, basically picked me up and slammed me on the ground," he says. "While I was falling down, I was thinking, Well, I hope I don't break my saxophone, 'cause then I'm really gonna be mad. All of a sudden the guy got up. I looked to my left, laying there on my back, and there was a gentleman standing there, and he had just shown the unruly character his badge. He was a security guard at the Hollywood Bowl -- Art Aguilar is his name -- and he basically saved my life that night."

All in all, though, "I've had nothing but wonderful experiences," Warfield says. "Mainly playing my horn, making a few dollars, and making a lot of friends."

An average night yields anywhere from $4o to $100, which he prudently saves and stretches for the year. In the off-season, he roams the streets of Hollywood with Sandy Blue, playing his recorder or harmonica.

At 72, Warfield is on Supplemental Security Income, which provides almost enough to cover his rent (He lives about five miles from the Bowl.) Losing this summer's yield is certainly a blow -- a friend surprised him by starting a GoFundMe campaign -- but he says he'll be okay.

The harder loss is the sound of music, Warfield says with a lump in his throat, and he tells me a story.

He started playing the sax in 1975. That was the year his brother, a gifted saxophonist, turned 23. He was supposed to sit in with Warfield's band on the night of his birthday, but he never showed. At 3 a.m., Warfield got a call from the police to come down to Santa Monica and Genesee, "and there was my brother laying on the floor with a bullet hole in his head."

"The night that he died, my mom came," he remembers. "I was 27 years old. I said, 'Mommy, Mickey's dead!' And she looked me in the eye, and she said, 'Pull yourself together, son.' And I said, 'I can't even go crazy! That's the worst thing I ever had to see.' And then I said, 'But Mom, I got a gig tonight.' And she said, 'The show must go on, son.' And we had a great gig that night."

"Even though it's the worst thing I ever had to see, it's one of my best blessings," says Warfield, whose mother recently turned 90. "My mom says, 'If you worry, don't pray. But if you pray, don't worry.' And the Hollywood Bowl is probably one of the biggest blessings that I've had. I look forward to the Bowl opening again when it does. The people at the Bowl have been my true blessing -- hundreds and hundreds of people come through that tunnel every night, and I have so many friends there that it brings tears to my eyes. I say it's only tears of joy."


Tim Greiving Bowl guests have been treated to the sweet sounds of Ken Warfield's alto sax for 36 years. The cancellation of the summer season has silenced this unsung hero -- for now. Wed, 20 May 2020 15:09:59 -0700 With No Hollywood Bowl This Year, 'Sax Man' Looks For Light At The End Of The Tunnel
City Hall from Grand Park on March 24, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

On Friday, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez asked Councilmember José Huizar not to attend any more council meetings until there's "legal clarity" regarding his involvement in the bribery scheme embroiling City Hall.

For the past few years, federal investigators have been working on a sweeping corruption probe involving L.A. city staff, members of the City Council, developers, lobbyists and more.

News broke last week that a Granada Hills developer had agreed to plead guilty in connection with a scheme to bribe public officials -- including an unnamed L.A. city councilmember -- to smooth the passage of real estate projects. According to prosecutors, that developer, George Chiang, became a "close political ally" of a member of the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

L.A. City Councilmember Jo Huizar in 2014. (Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC file photo)

Huizar, who represents communities including Boyle Heights, downtown L.A., El Sereno and Eagle Rock, had been a member of that committee until November 2018. His duties were revoked following an FBI raid on his home and council offices in connection with the federal investigation.

Following the Martinez's request, Huizar issued a statement saying he does "not wish to be a distraction" and would "limit my participation in Council while working to meet the needs of my district."

Huizar has not yet been charged with any crimes, but calls for his resignation are mounting at City Hall.

Here's a roundup of what fellow city councilmembers, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other L.A. leaders have said about the corruption scandal -- and Councilmember Huizar's possible role in it.


Gil Cedillo - CD 1

"He is not weighing in on this," said a spokesperson with Cedillo's office.

Paul Krekorian - CD 2

"I applaud and strongly support Council President Martinez for taking a firm stand with regard to Councilmember Jose Huizar's status during the pending federal investigation.

"The corrupt conduct described publicly by the U.S. Attorney is shocking and revolting. Any elected official who has engaged in such conduct has betrayed the public's trust and forfeited the privilege of serving the people. Such conduct also betrays the trust of the vast majority of elected officials and other public servants who work hard every day to represent the people's interests.

"I recognize that no criminal charges have yet been announced against Councilmember Huizar, but the facts and evidence described by federal prosecutors make clear that he is the unnamed Councilmember referenced in their public statements. The people of the 14th District, and the rest of Los Angeles, therefore can no longer have confidence that Councilmember Huizar is representing their interests fairly and honestly, and with his full attention. Worse, the ongoing cloud over him causes the potential for every action the Council takes in which he is involved to be tainted."

Bob Blumenfield - CD 3

"My blood boils as I learn more details about this horrific tale of corruption. This is the absolute antithesis of what public service is all about. The public's trust has been broken and from what we continue to discover from the Department of Justice and news reports, he (Huizar) should no longer hold a seat on our City Council. He should resign. I understand that he hasn't been indicted or pleaded guilty but where there is smoke there is fire and right now it's hard not to choke."

David Ryu - CD 4

Ryu put out a short tweet Friday: "Jose Huizar should resign."

His office later provided this statement to LAist:

"I support Council President Nury Martinez in asking Jose Huizar to refrain from attending Council meetings, and thank her for her leadership, but Jose should not have to be asked. If he knows that he is guilty, he should have resigned long ago."

Paul Koretz - CD 5

"The Councilmember believes it would be inappropriate to comment [at] this time," said a spokesperson from his office.

Nury Martinez - CD 6

The council president has not issued a statement beyond confirming the move to us, and she has stopped short of calling it a suspension.

Monica Rodriguez - CD 7*

Marqueese Harris-Dawson - CD 8*

Curren Price - CD 9*

Herb Wesson - CD 10

The councilmember and his office declined to comment.

Mike Bonin - CD 11

"If he is indicted, Councilmember Huizar should resign, and the Council should immediately appoint his elected successor, Kevin DeLeon, to fill the remainder of the term. The constituents of the 14th District must have their voices represented."

John Lee - CD 12

The councilmember and his office declined to comment.

Lee was elected to the Council District 12 seat in August 2019 after former councilmember Mitch Englander resigned from his seat at the end of 2018. Lee had served as Englander's chief of staff.

In March, Englander surrendered to federal authorities on charges that he "obstructed an investigation into him accepting cash, female escort services, hotel rooms and expensive meals from a businessman during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, and later lied to the FBI about his conduct," according to a statement from the FBI.

Englander later took a plea deal and agreed to plead guilty to one count of "scheming to falsify material facts," according to Department of Justice officials.

Lee was with Englander on that Vegas trip. Following news of the charges brought against Englander, Lee issued a statement, saying: "I did everything in my power to pay for and reimburse expenses related to this trip. I was unaware of any illegal activities for which Councilmember Englander is being charged."

Mitch O'Farrell - CD 13

"Councilmember O'Farrell supports the call for Huizar's suspension," said a spokesperson for his office.

Jose Huizar - CD 14

"I have proudly served on the Los Angeles City Council representing Council District 14 for the last 15 years. It has been my honor to work side-by-side with the constituents who elected me to represent them. During this critical time, I have been working with community groups and nonprofits throughout the district to provide PPE and food to those who would otherwise go without. The establishment of critical rent relief programs and support for small businesses in Council District 14 are essential, and I intend to move forward with this work and carry out my duties to protect the safety and economic wellbeing of the residents of Los Angeles during this COVID 19 crisis. I do not wish to be a distraction to the important work that is being done and will respect the Council President's wishes that I limit my participation in Council while working to meet the needs of my district."

Joe Buscaino - CD 15

"Whatever ends up happening to Jose Huizar on the legal front, it is blatantly obvious he has compromised his ability to represent his District and should step down immediately."

*The offices of councilmembers Monica Rodriguez, Marqueese Harris-Dawson and Curren Price did not respond to our requests for comment.


The mayor addressed last week's news at a Friday media briefing and had this to say about the scandal and Councilmember Huizar:

"We cannot tolerate the kind of behavior that's come to light in recent weeks. It is absolutely unacceptable... we can't let this dark cloud continue to hang over us... I support what Council President Martinez said about making sure that he (Huizar) should step aside for the remainder of this investigation, and, if he is charged, he should resign immediately."


City Controller Ron Galperin

Galperin tweeted this Friday:

His tweet thread went on to say: "While I believe strongly in the principle that someone is innocent until proven guilty, the shocking information about his alleged corruption and serious breach of the public trust are not compatible with continuing as a representative of the people.

"To violate the public trust is the most serious affront to the people we are entrusted and sworn to serve."

City Attorney Mike Feuer

Feuer's office did not respond to our request for comment, but he was quoted in the L.A. Times last week saying that "the right thing to do would be to step down," if a councilmember was indicted.


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Ryan Fonseca Here's a roundup of what fellow city council members, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other L.A. leaders have said about the corruption scandal -- and Council member Jose Huizar's possible role in it. Wed, 20 May 2020 11:30:00 -0700 'Where There Is Smoke, There Is Fire': LA Leaders Weigh In (Or Don't) On Huizar's Future At City Hall
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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UPDATED: May 24, 2020

Life in L.A. has been fundamentally changed -- and it keeps changing. After months of shut downs, lost work, and stay-at-home orders, California is reopening in fits and starts.

We're currently in "Phase 2" of Gov. Gavin Newsom's plan, which rests on six key metrics, with stages and phases. L.A. County has a recovery plan too. That one's structured in steps and batches. And L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti also has a plan. His is built around five pillars. If that sounds confusing, that's because it is.

Here's another confounding set of messages: as more things reopen, officials are still urging people to stay at home as much as possible.

At the start of Memorial Day weekend, we asked Garcetti how Angelenos should evaluate risk as things reopen. He said people have to make their own assessments about the risks they want to take by going out, adding:

"I think it's okay to take a step forward, but don't dash forward. Don't go crazy and stay out all weekend."

The guide below is everything we know so far about the coronavirus in L.A. We've been publishing this resource since January, and it reflects reporting from every corner of our newsroom and beyond. It's also a reflection of the 2,600 questions you've asked and we answered. Keep asking.


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On January 30, a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern" was declared by the World Health Organization over an outbreak of a new, deadly, novel coronavirus which began in Wuhan City, China.

On February 11, WHO announced "COVID-19" as the name of he disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 is an abbreviation of "coronavirus disease 2019."

On March 4, L.A. County declared a local and public emergency, and Gov. Gavin Newsom made the call to declare an emergency for the state of California the same day.

On March 11, WHO made it official: COVID-19 is a pandemic.

On March 19, California, the nation's most populous state, ordered its nearly 40 million residents to stay home and practice social distancing (with some exceptions).

On March 26, the United States surpassed China as the country with highest total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world.

On April 11, the U.S. became the nation with the most confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

As of May 24, the U.S. still has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, and our local numbers were still rising.

The global total is now more than 341,000 deaths and over 5,332,000 confirmed cases. The local total is now more than 2,090 deaths and over 44,000 confirmed cases.




Stay-at-home orders for L.A. County will extend into the summer. Restrictions will be "gradually relaxed" along the way. There is no specific end date. Here is the revised public health order from May 22.

Face coverings are still mandatory in L.A. County. You are required to wear one when you're out of your home and interacting with people you don't live with -- even outdoors, and even in nature. If no one is around, keep a face covering in your pocket in case other humans appear. For the runners out there, put one on when passing. The idea with cloth masks is to stop the virus from getting out, not in.


May 8: Some retail shops in L.A. County were allowed to reopen, with restrictions.

May 9: Some hiking trails and golf courses in L.A. County were allowed to reopen, with restrictions.

May 13: More retail shops and manufacturing businesses in L.A. County were allowed to reopen, with restrictions.

May 13: The beaches in L.A. County were allowed to reopen, with restrictions.

May 13: Tennis courts, archery ranges, equestrian centers, community gardens and other select recreational facilities in L.A. County were allowed to reopen, with restrictions.

May 16: Angeles National Forest trails reopened, with restrictions.

May 16: Descanso Gardens reopened, with restrictions.

May 19: Pet grooming/training/retail/mobile businesses and services in L.A. County were allowed to reopen, with restrictions.

May 19: Car washes in L.A. County were allowed to resume operations, with restrictions.

May 22: Beach bike paths and parking lots in L.A. County were allowed to reopen, with restrictions.

May 22: Graduation car parades and curbside pickup at indoor malls were allowed in L.A. County.

May 31: City recreation zones along the L.A. River (ie: parks and walking paths) will be allowed to reopen, with restrictions.

Ongoing: Joshua Tree National Park, some California state parks, various campgrounds, and other natural spaces are reopened, with restrictions.


On May 8, some L.A. County businesses were allowed to reopen for curbside pick-up only. The official requirements for reopening were released by the county. L.A. city also released guidance about the changes business owners have to make to "prepare and effectively manage the safety of employees and customers." Face coverings and physical distancing were required.

Stores approved to reopen during this wave included:

  • Florists
  • Toy stores
  • Music stores
  • Bookstores
  • Clothing stores
  • Sporting goods stores
  • Car dealerships
  • Some individual cities, like Long Beach, listed additional shops and activities

L.A.'s city and county hiking trails and golf courses reopened to the public on May 9. Runyon Canyon remained closed. Griffith Observatory remained closed. Golf courses were reservation only, one person per golf cart, and foam fillers were added to every hole so players wouldn't have to touch the flag. Masks and distance were still in effect there too

L.A. County beaches and City of L.A. beaches reopened on May 13 for "active" use. No biking, sitting, sunning, gathering, piers, boardwalks, or parking. Masks and distancing required. Yes, even at the beach.

Select recreational facilities were also allowed to reopen, with limitations, under the revised Health Order, including:

  • Tennis courts (reopening protocols)
  • Pickleball courts (reopening protocols)
  • Shooting ranges
  • Archery ranges
  • Golf courses
  • Equestrian centers
  • Model airplane areas
  • Community gardens
  • Bike parks

Additional businesses were greenlit in the May 13 update as well, provided they also complied with health department protocols. This batch of shops includes retailers that allow doorside pickup (but not ones in indoor shopping centers or malls), and manufacturing/logistic businesses that supply lower risk retail businesses.

The public was still not allowed in retail businesses.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said on May 18 that California counties were allowed to move deeper into the second stage of reopening, but to move at their own pace. He acknowledged that L.A. County is a hotspot and would likely take longer. He said statewide announcements (which may not immediately apply to us) are expected soon for:

  • In-store retail (not just curbside pickup)
  • Getting a haircut
  • Churches (within weeks, not months)
  • Sporting events without spectators in the first week of June
  • Other parts of the economy

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on May 19 that pet grooming and training retail businesses and mobile services were allowed to operate, effective immediately. Customers will be able to drop off and pick up their pets outside the store (or home if a mobile service). Car washes were also allowed to resume operations.

Some beach bike paths and parking lots run by L.A. County -- and some run by the City of L.A -- reopened on May 22. Parking lots at Cabrillo and Venice beaches, Dockweiler State Beach, Will Rogers State Beach, Zuma Beach, and Surfrider Beach were included.

Graduation car parades and curbside pickup at indoor malls were also given the green light.

All businesses must follow the county's retail protocols for safe operations. People must follow the face mask and distancing protocols. And vehicle parades have their own exhaustive set of rules.

Restaurants have also received guidance from the state about how to reopen dining rooms when their time comes. It includes options for front-of-house and back-of-house changes that authorities can choose from. Many of the rules will be set at the county and local level.

Some L.A. County officials have targeted July 4 for a full or staged reopening of retail, restaurants, and malls. However, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county has yet to qualify to move further into the second stage of reopening businesses, as defined by the state.

The state also ancipates releasing guidelines for resuming film, television and commercial production on May 25. But again, L.A. County is not yet ready for additional stages of reopening.

There are a variety of metrics counties need to hit to move forward, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. These include:

  • No more than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over seven days
  • And EITHER less than 25 coronavirus positives per 100,000 residents
  • OR less than 8% positive tests

We asked Garcetti how Angelenos should evaluate risk as things reopen.

He said that "we've never been fully closed," and we should get comfortable living in a "gray area" between being open and closed for a while. People will need to make their own individual assessments of the risks they want to take by going out, he added.

"I think it's okay to take a step forward, but don't dash forward. Don't go crazy and stay out all weekend."



On May 14, the CDC released its revised reopening guidelines for U.S. institutions.

The White House task force dismissed earlier drafts from the nation's health protection agency for being too "prescriptive," and for not aligning with White House messaging.

Here are some of the CDC's decision-making tools for: workplaces, schools, restaurants and bars, camps, child care programs, mass transit systems, and cleaning and disinfecting.

There are additional "mitigation strategies" for: first responders, law enforcement, homeless populations, retirement communities, tribal communities, correctional and detention facilities, shared housing, community events, faith-based organizations, and more.

In the past, state and local health departments viewed the CDC "as the central federal agency responsible for communicating to the public" during a crisis, Politico reports. "But since March, the White House has shifted much of that work to its coronavirus task force."



A local public health emergency was declared by county officials on March 4.

The first possible community spread case -- meaning the source of infection was unknown -- was announced on March 9.

L.A. County announced the first death from COVID-19 on March 11.

Confirmed cases and deaths are being tracked on the public health department's website.

On March 15, L.A. County officials said they were closing all offices to the public, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a moratorium on evictions, and an executive order banning dine-in restaurants and entertainment facilities went into effect at midnight.

L.A. County followed with a similar list of actions, closures, and restrictions the following day, including strongly discouraging gatherings of more than 50 people.

The "Safer at Home" emergency order was issued by L.A. County and city leaders on March 19. It included the following directives:

  • Residents should remain at home.
  • Do not gather in enclosed spaces with more than 10 people.
  • Close all non-critical businesses (that can't operate remotely) until further notice.

"I want to be clear about this," said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti during the announcement, "that the only time you should leave your home is for essential activities and needs -- to get food, care for a relative or a friend or child, get necessary health care," and the like.

Jobs that are critical to safety, health, and the security of city, as well as an "economy of recovery," are exempt. Examples Garcetti cited:

  • Emergency personnel
  • First responders
  • Government employees
  • Medical personnel
  • Vital infrastructure workers
  • Health care providers
  • Transportation services
  • Grocery stores
  • Restaurants (but for take-out or delivery only)
  • News outlets
  • Hardware stores
  • Gas stations
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Plumbers, electricians
  • Dry cleaners and laundromats

But social distancing must be enforced in all of these cases.

You are allowed to go outside, take a walk, and enjoy an open space. But some outdoor areas are off-limits because of crowding. And even in outside, you are required to stay 6 feet away from people.

On March 25, Garcetti said the stay-at-home order would likely be in place until May.

On the same day, public health officials issued an Emergency Quarantine Order and an Emergency Isolation Order. Here's when to home-quarantine, and when to self-isolate.

(Screenshot via Megan Erwin/KPCC/LAist)

On March 27, Garcetti tonight used what may have been his strongest language yet to urge people to heed his stay-at-home orders.

"These aren't suggestions, I remind you, these are orders. We are in the midst of a pandemic," Garcetti said.

The city punctuated that message with a piercing emergency alert sent moments after his nightly address reminding people to keep staying at home, and to only go out for essential activities. L.A. County sent an alert as well.

Official guidance on general mask-wearing arrived on April 1. Garcetti made the recommendation that all residents wear face coverings whenever they're out of the house and interacting with people.

About a week later, that was changed to a requirement. Shoppers and store employees must wear face masks starting April 10.

L.A. County echoed with a face covering ordinance a few days later, bringing some uniformity to the patchwork of mask rules across the 88 cities. You now have to wear a mask when shopping anywhere in L.A. County.

County health officials have also extended the stay-at-home order to May 15. They laid out new data that shows current social distancing practices are working -- but we need to do better.

We are bending the curve, but if we stop physical distancing, the projection is that "virtually all residents in Los Angeles County would have been exposed or infected with COVID-19" by mid-summer, said the director of L.A. County's Department of Health Services.

Testing was still only being recommended for people who were symptomatic.

Garcetti said he doesn't see large gatherings like concerts happening again this year, but relative normalcy may come sooner. Similar to Gov. Gavin Newsom's six strategies, the mayor laid out five key marks for the city to hit in order to lift the stay-at-home order:

  • Widespread virus and blood testing
  • Real-time disease surveillance to detect outbreaks faster
  • Rapid, aggressive response to potential outbreaks
  • Increase hospital capacity
  • Ongoing research and development

On April 17, Garcetti said testing capacity has increased and urged everyone with symptoms to get a free test.

Based on the current modeling, mid-May is the projection to begin rolling back the current restrictions, said Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health at a briefing on April 21. But, she said, there is no "magic day."

Ferrer said on April 22 that CDC staff members would be helping the health department improve infection control practices at skilled nursing facilities, and that approximately 40% of all deaths countywide have been at institutional facilities.

On April 23, COVID-19 became the leading cause of death in L.A. County, surpassing coronary heart disease, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the flu.

On April 27, Ferrer said that county residents living in areas with high rates of poverty are dying at a rate about three times that of communities with low poverty rates.

"This data is deeply disturbing and it speaks to the need for immediate action... this would mean increased testing, better access and connection to health care and support services, and more accurate culturally appropriate information about COVID-19, and we're joining with our partners in the community to make sure this happens."

On the same day, Mayor Garcetti said L.A. might be baby stepping toward normalcy in the next two to six weeks. There are plenty of caveats. There's also this: because what we've done is working, most of us could still get the coronavirus. "If we open up the wrong way," he said, 95% of us could get COVID-19 by August 1, citing a USC study.

Garcetti added "it's not really about a date, or how few cases you have -- it's about the infrastructure you have to handle opening up."

A day later he announced a major testing change: all L.A. city residents, even those without symptoms, could get tested for COVID-19, for free.

On May 4, Garcetti called the reopening situation "fluid," and said he thought by May 15 the city would be ready to take some steps forward. Ferrer said the city would be releasing recovery plan guidelines. This was in response to the Governor's expected order which may allow some businesses to re-open beginning May 8.

On May 5, Garcetti's position was more concrete: "I'm sorry, we're not going to be moving on those things this Friday (May 8)." He did, however, give permission to the Flower District downtown to prepare to reopen in time for Mother's Day, under strict monitoring by the public health department.

The mayor said that moving forward he would follow the county's guidelines on retail businesses. Curbside retail, he said, is something that might be allowed next week, or more likely, the following week.

The timeline from L.A. County officials the following day was different.

Certain businesses and recreational spaces in Los Angeles County would be allowed to start reopening on May 8. According to County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Shops that reopened would be for curbside pickup only. And all of the actual shopping still had to be done online or over the phone.

Barger said that easing restrictions aligned with the state, and the decision to open some stores and not others was "less about what products are sold, and more about the ability to maintain social distancing."

On May 6, Garcetti announced a revised timeline that better aligned with the county and state plans. He said L.A.'s stay-at-home order would be amended to allow some low-risk businesses and areas to reopen on May 8 and 9.

On May 7, as L.A. braced to enter the second of its five-stage plan for reopening, officials urged residents to continue staying home as much as possible, and to continue adhering to public health guidance about social distancing and masks.

On May 8, some L.A. County businesses were allowed to reopen for curbside pick-up. City and county hiking trails and golf courses reopened to the public on May 9. L.A. beaches reopened on May 13 for "active" use, and select recreational facilities were also allowed to reopen under the revised Health Order. Some additional businesses were greenlit too. [see: REOPENING L.A. for details]

Garcetti announced on May 15 the launch of the city's "Slow Streets" program, which will temporarily restrict traffic to give pedestrians more room to safely walk, skate and ride bikes.

He also extended the relaxed parking rules until June 1.

As L.A. reopened, officials still urged people to stay at home as much as possible.

About one million people ignored that request the second weekend of lifted restrictions. About 40,000 of those people out and about in L.A. might have been infected with COVID-19, according to Ferrer (which means this many people could have possibly gotten it in the process).

Ferrer said on May 18 that the death toll at institutional facilities in L.A. County continues to climb. She said about the residents and staff who tested positive for COVID-19: the vast majority did not display symptoms.

On May 19, some L.A. County officials on the Economic Resilience Task Force have targeted July 4 for a full or staged reopening of retail, restaurants, and malls.

However, Ferrer said, L.A. County has yet to qualify to move further into the second stage of reopening businesses, as defined by the state. The state threshold for a testing positivity rate is 8% for more than a week; the county has just recently gotten down to a 9% rate. Ferrer said:

"I think reopening has proven to be a lot harder than we may have envisioned, and as we are all making major adjustments to our businesses and our day-to-day lives that we thought we'd never need to make. Many of us may be experiencing fear, frustration, anxiety, and depression."

When asked about the task force's goal of reopening by July 4, L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said any decisions made will be driven by public health and data.

Garcetti announced on May 19 that some pet-related retail and mobile businesses and car washes were allowed to operate, effective immediately, provided they follow the county's retail protocols for safe operations.

Beach bike paths and some parking lots run by L.A. County, and some run by the City of L.A, were allowed to reopen on May 22. Graduation car parades and curbside pickup at indoor malls were also given the green light -- all with many layers of protocols.

And circling back to the July 4 comment made by County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Garcetti on May 22 said what she meant was it would be nice to open by July 4, "but nobody said the county is planning to quote-unquote open up all the doors to everything on July 4."

He also announced that city recreation zones along the L.A. River (ie: parks and walking paths) would be allowed to reopen at the end of May.

We asked Garcetti how Angelenos should evaluate risk as things reopen. He said that "we've never been fully closed," and we should get comfortable living in a "gray area" between being open and closed for a while. People will need to make their own individual assessments of the risks they want to take by going out, he added.

"I think it's okay to take a step forward, but don't dash forward. Don't go crazy and stay out all weekend."

Here are current local totals of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Here is an L.A. County breakdown by area.



On March 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for far stricter guidelines in the state. He asked all seniors and people with underlying conditions to isolate at home, restaurants to operate at diminished capacity, and wineries, bars, and brewpubs to close.

In a March 18 letter to President Trump, Newsom projected that more than half of the population of California will be infected with the virus over an eight-week period. He asked for $1 billion in federal funding and requested the hospital ship USNS Mercy be sent to Los Angeles.

On March 19, about an hour after the L.A. County orders were announced, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all residents of California to stay home or otherwise remain at their place of residence in order to slow the spread of the virus. There are exceptions for people who maintain critical infrastructure in 16 key sectors, including:

  • Chemical
  • Commercial Facilities
  • Communications
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Dams
  • Defense Industrial Base
  • Emergency Services
  • Energy
  • Financial Services
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Government Facilities
  • Health Care and Public Health
  • Information Technology
  • Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste
  • Transportation
  • Water and Wastewater Systems

On April 13, Newsom announced what he described as a shared framework with Oregon and Washington about how to economically reopen California. More details came April 14 with a plan that includes six key metrics for loosening the stay-at-home orders. They include:

  1. More testing, tracking, isolating/quarantining, and supporting people who are positive/exposed.
  2. Protecting the most vulnerable from infection and spread.
  3. Hospitals and health systems being able to handle surges.
  4. The ability to develop therapeutic drugs to meet the demand.
  5. The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to allow for physical distancing.
  6. The ability to determine when/if to reinstitute measures like stay-at-home orders.

The governor's tasked 80 leaders to help plan for the state's economic recovery, with an advisory council that includes all four of the state's living governors. He said the task force -- which will divide up into sub-groups covering entertainment, hospitality, retail, manufacturing, regional issues, etc. -- will work on actionable ideas in real time, not some future report.

Newsom said on April 21 that local officials can lift some stay-at-home restrictions, as long as they don't conflict with state orders. His comments, made a daily press briefing, were in response to a question about Riverside County opening up golf courses and Port Hueneme opening beaches.

The governor reviewed testing numbers on April 22, saying the 465,000 tests administered so far in California were not enough to modify stay-at-home orders.

On April 27, Newsom said he hoped the state was weeks, not months, away from making significant changes to the stay-at-home orders -- but that those decisions will be driven by data, and require people to abide by physical distancing orders.

As an example of what not to do, he brought up the photos of people crowding the beaches in Orange and Ventura counties. He gave special attention to Newport Beach's weekend crowding situation.

Newsom has phases on phases to go with his six key metrics. On April 28, he laid out a "resilience roadmap" with four steps towards a full reopen. He also said that despite distributing millions of masks, the state is not even close to where it need to be with personal protective equipment yet.

Newsom said on April 29 that the state was possibly "a week or two away from significant modifications on our stay-at-home order," as long as coronavirus numbers remained stable.

Two days later the governor said the state is now "days, not weeks" away.

On May 4, Newsom said parts of the state would start moving into Phase 2 of reopening on May 8, and that guidlines would be forthcoming. This phase includes changes like retail beginning to reopen for pickup. Here's more on the six key metrics on the "State Reopening Roadmap Report Card."

Social/physical distancing is even more important in Phase 2, he said on May 5.

Announcements about counties moving further into Phase 2 were expected May 12, with detailed guidelines for dining, offices, and malls.

Ten counties got that green light for May 13. L.A. was not one of them.

The state said it ancipates releasing guidelines for resuming film, television and commercial production on May 25. But, L.A. County is likely not yet ready for that either.

There are a variety of metrics counties need to hit to move forward, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. These include:

  • No more than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over seven days
  • And EITHER less than 25 coronavirus positives per 100,000 residents
  • OR less than 8% positive tests

Newsom said on May 22 that the state was days away from putting out guidelines for reopening churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship.



Note: President Trump usually opens coronavirus news briefings with his own remarks. His comments in a number of past briefings have later been contradicted by information provided by other officials. He has also repeatedly used stigmatizing language to describe COVID-19. Following the president's remarks, health experts and other adminstration leaders provide additional updates.

Voluntary, nationwide guidelines were announced on March 16, initially set to last for 15 days.

President Trump and the White House coronavirus task force asked Americans to close schools, avoid groups of more than 10 people, homeschool kids where possible, avoid discretionary travel, and refrain from visiting bars, restaurants, and food courts.

On March 18, the border between the U.S. and Canada was closed for "non-essential" travel. On March 20 came an announcement closing the U.S. and Mexico border to non-essential travel.

Meanwhile, a Level 4, "Do Not Travel" global health advisory was issued by the U.S. State Department advising all citizens to "avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19."

At a March 23 briefing, Trump said the REAL ID deadline will be postponed and that surgical and N95 masks would be distributed by FEMA. An executive order was also announced by Attorney General William Barr making certain items illegal to hoard.

On March 27, Trump announced at a briefing that he invoked the Defense Production Act, "to compel General Motors to accept, perform and prioritize federal contracts for ventilators." He put it differently on Twitter that day.

The task force said on March 31 that Americans should brace for 100,000 or more people to die in the coming months in the pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx renewed pleas to observe precautions. Birx said she's "reassured" by what L.A. has accomplished with social distancing in terms of how other cities might be able to respond as well.

On April 3, Trump said hospitals treating uninsured coronavirus patients would be reimbursed by the administration with funds from the economic relief package. The president also announced new CDC recommendations that people wear non-medical cloth face coverings when out in public.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said eligible taxpayers could receive stimulus payments within two weeks (others said some checks could take months).

On April 9, the federal government released new guidelines about when people in critical infrastructure roles can go back to work if they've been exposed to a confirmed or suspected case of the coronavirus. The CDC recommendations include taking temperatures before work, wearing face masks at all times, and practicing social distancing as much as duties allow.

On April 16 came a three-phased approach to normalization, albeit without time requirements. The strategy is contingent upon states having data about case levels, the capacity to treat all patients and test healthcare workers, and the ability to trace the contacts of those infected. States can decide on a county-by-county approach, according to an 18-page document obtained by NPR.

Each phase would require a 14-day period of a "downward trajectory" of cases to advance to the next one. Here's an overview --

Phase One:

  • states or regions would have social distancing guidelines similar to those in place now
  • a prohibition on gatherings of more than 10
  • maximized physical distance
  • working from home when possible
  • the closures of schools and bars etc.
  • strict physical distancing protocols would be ordered for places like restaurants, theaters, sporting venues, churches and gyms.
  • vulnerable people would be urged to stay home.

Phase Two:

  • states and regions that show no signs of a rebound could expand gatherings to 50 people.
  • resume non-essential travel.
  • working from home would still be encouraged.
  • schools could reopen and bars could operate with "diminished standing-room occupancy."
  • vulnerable people still would be urged to stay home.

Phase Three:

  • states and regions could expand guidance so that vulnerable individuals could go out in public.
  • visits to hospitals and nursing homes could resume.

NPR has the full guidelines documents.

On April 20, Trump announced via Twitter his intention to "temporarily suspend immigration."

"In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!"

He gave more details during an April 21 news briefing, and said the measure was needed to protect the jobs of U.S. workers. He also said secondary orders were under consideration.

On April 22, Trump signed an executive order to temporarily ban some green carder seekers from coming to the U.S. It goes into effect on April 24 and will last for two months, further extending the wait for green card seekers, some of whom first applied decades ago.

But the move is far less wide-ranging than Trump had indicated in his tweet.

His order exempts green card applicants who are the minor children and spouses of U.S. citizens. It also has a carve-out for health care workers, including nurses and doctors and people doing work that is "essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak."

There were mixed messages out of Washington on May 22.

The U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to the office of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, warning him that the city's long-term stay-at home orders may be "arbitrary and heavy handed." Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the White House's main medical advisors included Los Angeles as one of the regions where the spread of coronavirus remains a concern.

Garcetti responded to the DOJ letter in a coronavirus briefing: "We are not guided by politics in this, we are guided by science."

L.A.'s latest stay-at-home order was originally supposed to be lifted May 15. It's still in place, but city and county officials have relaxed some provisions to allow beaches and hiking trails to reopen, and businesses to reopen for curbside pickup.

Birx said she would ask the CDC to investigate the problem areas "to really understand where are these new cases coming from, and what do we need to do to prevent them in the future."


A CDC illustration. (Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM)

SARS-CoV-2 is in the family of coronavirus pathogens that usually cause short-lived illnesses.

They get their name because of how they look, which is spiny around the edges, like a crown. And some coronaviruses are scarier than others. Scientists are still trying to figure out how dangerous this new (or "novel") coronavirus is.

"Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms may include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and headache. But they can vary in severity. Thousands of people have died, but "other patients have had milder illness and been discharged," the CDC said.

On February 11, the World Health Organization announced "COVID-19" as the name of he disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 is an abbreviation of "coronavirus disease 2019."



This photo from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a microscopic view of a coronavirus. (CDC/Getty Images)

Coronaviruses generally jump from person to person on the droplets from coughs and sneezes.

The CDC's current best guess is that the incubation period for novel coronavirus -- that's the time from exposure to when symptoms first start showing up -- is somewhere between two and 14 days.

Health officials continue to stress the importance of good hand hygiene and washing technique.

We still don't know how easily this coronavirus can spread through the air.

L.A.'s public health director Barbara Ferrer said the virus is too big and heavy to linger in the air, while others are investigating the possibility of spread via "bioaerosols." The World Health Organization says it doesn't seem to linger or travel more than 3 feet, but at least one medical expert says it's way too soon to know that.

Another question is viral load, or the amount of the virus in your system. It's still unclear whether viral load can affect your chances of getting sick, and recent studies suggest that it could affect the severity of your illness, Ferrer said.

On May 15, public health officials announced that L.A. County had reduced the rate of COVID-19's spread from three people for every one person infected, to just one.



It depends on where it is.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is "stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces," according to a study from National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine.

  • detectable in aerosols for up to three hours
  • up to four hours on copper
  • up to 24 hours on cardboard
  • up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel



MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) are two members of the coronavirus family that tend to make people sicker. "About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died," according to the CDC. And SARS was responsible for a global outbreak in 2002-2003 that killed 774 people.

"The novel coronavirus is more genetically related to SARS than MERS," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier.

But scientists don't know yet if novel coronavirus will act the same way as SARS or MERS; they're using information from both pathogens to guide their research.



Maybe. It has happened.

A tiger in New York City with a respiratory illness (I know, nothing makes sense) was the first animal to test positive in the U.S. That was in early April.

On April 22, two pet cats in New York were confirmed to have COVID-19 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

The CDC's website said it has been aware of reports about pets, including cats and dogs, being infected. Most had close contact with an infected person.

There's an evolving FAQ with CDC guidance on protecting animals. Specific recommendations were laid out in the press release from the USDA:

  • Don't let pets interact with people or animals from outside of your home.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent mingling with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash and keep at least 6 feet away from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.

If you're sick (either suspected or confirmed COVID-19), you should:

  • Avoid contact with your animal friend, and isolate.
  • That means no petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, or sharing food or bedding.
  • Have another member of your household care for your pet if possible.
  • If that's not possible, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after interactions.

Meanwhile, adoptions of shelter pets in L.A. have been "off the charts."



You can track the global scope and spread of COVID-19 with this map and list from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Also, these U.S. numbers from the CDC are updated daily.

The map below also shows cumulative confirmed cases, deaths, and recoveries. It's updated in near real-time throughout the day. Zoom out to see more of the world.

The data is maintained by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, which pulls from: World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China, local media reports, local health departments, and the DXY.



Symptoms can include: low-grade fever, body aches, fatigue, coughing, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, new loss of taste or smell.

Severe symptoms can include: high fever, severe cough, shortness of breath, inability to wake or stay awake, persistent chest pain or pressure, confusion, bluish lips or face.

These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. However, some people infected with the virus have no symptoms at all.

There also may also be additional symptoms beyond what we've listed above.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and Harvard Health have additional details.

Meanwhile, across the country, doctors are reporting cases of children with a rare inflammatory condition linked to the coronavirus.

The illness, initially known as Pediatric Inflammatory Multi-System Syndrome (PIMS) and renamed the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), is similar to a disorder known as Kawasaki Disease. Symptoms include high fever, rashes and inflammation that can affect organs, including the heart.

Doctors at Children's Hospital Los Angeles have treated patients who've exhibited symptoms consistent with this condition since April. Specialists say symptoms can range broadly, and there's been concern over coronary artery enlargement or aneurysms in kids.

The CDC says "different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, we know that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care."

If a child shows the following symptoms, contact a medical professional immediately:

Abdominal pain
Neck pain
Bloodshot eyes
Feeling extra tired

If a child shows the following symptoms, seek immediate emergency care:

Trouble breathing
Pain or pressure in the chest that does not go away
New confusion
Inability to wake or stay awake
Bluish lips or face
Severe abdominal pain



The orders from L.A.'s public health department set out timeframes, restrictions, and criteria for self-isolation and self-quarantine.

For people who have contracted COVID-19, the guidance from the CDC is to self-isolate for 10 days, plus 3 days without fevers and/or symptoms. The virus may shed for longer than initially thought, which means a person may be able to infect other people for a longer.

If you think you might have been exposed, or if have COVID-19 symptoms, isolate, and call your doctor for next steps (or dial 211 in L.A. County if you need to find a clinician).

If you experience severe symptoms, get immediate medical attention.

If you are caring for someone with COVID-19 at home, here are some things to keep in mind. These tips come from UCLA's Dr. Robert Kim-Farley with the Fielding School of Public Health (and a former staffer with the CDC):

  • Make sure they wear a mask
  • Make sure you wear a mask
  • Monitor for trouble breathing
  • Monitor for persistent chest pain or pressure
  • Call their healthcare provider if symptoms become more severe (especially if they're elderly or have pre-existing conditions).
  • Clean surfaces frequently
  • Try to keep the patient in one bedroom, and ideally one bathroom
  • Don't shake the laundry before washing (to avoid aerosolizing virus particles that may be on their clothes).
  • Restrict unnecessary visitors
  • Wash hands frequently



L.A.'s public health department issued orders about when to home-quarantine and when to self-isolate.

The CDC requires people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to notify everyone they were in close contact with -- including during the 48 hours before symptoms started -- so those people can self-quarantine for up to 14 days. Close contact means less than 6 feet apart for 10 minutes or more.

People who have tested positive also need to self-isolate for 10 days, plus 3 days without fevers or symptoms, according to the CDC.

These categories of separation are all designed to stop or slow the spread of contagious diseases. Here's how they differ, according to the CDC and Harvard Health:

  • Quarantine: a separation for people who have a contagious disease, have symptoms consistent with a contagious disease, or were exposed to a contagious disease. A person's movements are restricted when they are quarantined

  • Isolation: a less restrictive separation that keeps people who are sick away from people who are not sick

  • Self-Isolation: a voluntary action to stay at home by people who are sick (or are likely to be sick) and are experiencing mild symptoms

  • Self-Quarantine: a voluntary action to stay at home by people who may have been exposed but are not experiencing symptoms

  • Social Distancing: keeping your distance from other people. The distance reduces the risk of breathing in droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or, in some cases, breathes. It can also mean cancelling events or gatherings (the term "physical distancing" means the same thing.)



Drive-thru testing sites (and a few walk-in clinics) are open across L.A. County. The test is free, but you can't just show up. You have to register/apply first. There are a few ways to do that:

1) APPLY ONLINE if you live anywhere in L.A. County. You can get screened via the online portal.

COUNTY: Anyone in the county experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can apply for a test, but it doesn't necessarily mean everyone will get one. You'll be asked some questions on the eligibility form, and then you'll be asked for your contact information for next steps.

CITY: If you live in the city of L.A., you do not need to have symptoms to register for a test.

2) GET A DIRECTIVE from a health care provider. Call your doctor and they'll give you the next steps. If you don't have a health care provider, call 211 and they'll direct you to a nearby clinician. L.A. public health officials are asking people not to call 911 and not go to the emergency room unless you're experiencing severe symptoms and need immediate medical attention.

Initially, the tests were limited to people most at risk. Restrictions were relaxed a few times to allow for same-day or next-day testing for anyone with symptoms, and testing of certain front-line workers without symptoms.

There's a lengthy testing FAQ and testing information page put together jointly by the city and county.

On May 6, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state was launching a new site where people can enter their zip code to find testing locations and schedule a test. It includes mobile testing sites, although it doesn't include private hospitals.

Pharmacies were also given permission to test for coronavirus, under state guidelines released May 12. There are 6,492 pharmacies in the state where that could potentially happen.

But, testing or not, if you experience severe symptoms, get immediate medical help.



No. California health officials are waiving all co-pays for COVID-19 testing. That applies to people on all insurance plans, and people who don't have health coverage.

You can also be tested for free regardless of your immigration status. And the federal government has said that getting tested or treated for coronavirus will not count toward the public charge test for getting a green card.

And if you don't have insurance, here are some options for getting it: Covered California and the entire individual health insurance market has extended the enrollment window to June 30; enrollment for Medi-Cal is open year round; and in L.A. County, there's the no-cost health care plan My Health LA.



Drive-thru testing sites (and a few walk-in clinics) are open across L.A. County.

Here's a map of the locations.

But, again, you can't just show up.

You have to be approved first.

Get screened online to request a test, or try to get a directive from a health care provider.



At some testing sites, a health professional will administer a nasal swab.

At other places, you'll be given a testing kit for an oral swab that you can administer yourself.

Here's an instructional video from local officials, and here's a first hand account of the process.



The turnaround is "about three days" for L.A. County-operated sites.

"There are certainly some cases in which it's taking longer than three days," Christina Ghaly, director of health services at Los Angeles County Health Agency, told us. "That number is an average."

Many of you asked us about this.

Some people were told their test results would be available in one or two days, and it wound up being five. Others said they were told five days, and they were still waiting.

The city/county guidance says results typically take "3-5 days."

When they're ready, you will be notified by email. Results can then be viewed online.

If you don't have an email address, you will get a call.

And here are some steps you can take if it's been more than five days and you're still waiting.



It's a blood test to see if you've formed antibodies against the coronavirus, which is a way of telling whether you've ever had it, even if you never developed symptoms. Antibodies are proteins your body produces to fight infections.

This test hasn't gotten as much attention as the test to see if you actively have the coronavirus, but widespread testing for antibodies will be crucial to figuring out how much the virus has spread, how deadly it is, and when we might get back to something approximating normal life.

To help kickstart that effort, L.A. County and USC teamed up to test for antibodies in 1,000 Angelenos.

County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis told us that people will be tested to determine if they've been infected, and if so, "what their antibodies look like." Davis said the data will help to make some "general estimates and predictions" about how far the virus has spread and how deadly it is.

At least one SoCal hospital is experimenting with transferring antibodies from a recovered patient. The hope is that the antibodies will attack the virus to help a sick person heal.

The county/USC study participants are all adults, and they were selected to create a random sample that reflects the county's demographic makeup. They'll got the "serology" test at six drive-thru sites on April 10 and 11, according to ABC7.

Those leading the study intend to repeat the tests every two weeks for three months.

Neerja Sood, a vice dean at USC involved in the project, told The Washington Post that the test kits were donated by a private individual who read his Wall Street Journal op-ed about the importance of randomized testing.

Preliminary findings were announced April 20. The data suggests many more people in L.A. County could potentially be infected than the official count. It also suggests the mortality rate for the county could be lower.



You could be contagious for up to 14 days, according to Dr. Shruti Gohil, University of California Irvine Medical Center.

However, Gohil said, since asymptomatic carriers may not know when Day 1 was, it's "encouraging to know ... their ability to spread the disease is far less than those who are actively symptomatic."



Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, told us: "We don't have conclusive evidence on that."

She said that "in general you can be protected when you've had an infection, but not always. We're just going to have to wait for the researchers and the scientists to let us know what they're finding out about that."



There is no vaccine yet. Scientists started working on a plan in January, before COVID-19 even had a name. A number of companies have been working on vaccine development, and clinical trials are underway. The timeline is unknown, but experts have been weighing in with estimates.

For treatment, at least one SoCal hospital is experimenting with transferring antibodies from a recovered patient. The hope is that the antibodies will attack the virus to help a sick person heal.

Cedars-Sinai is participating in a clinical trial of the drug remdesivir. A small trial of an experimental antiviral drug has shown encouraging results, the hospital announced on April 10. And on May 1, the FDA approved the drug for emergency treatment for COVID-19. Prior to that, the FDA's FAQs had advised "there are no FDA-approved drugs specifically for the treatment of COVID-19."

But the effectiveness of remdesivir is still being studied.

"This is not a cure-all," said Jonathan Grein, who is the director of epidemiology for Cedar-Sinai. "Specifically, not everyone with COVID-19 will need this drug or even benefit from this drug."

The president has promoted malaria drugs as a possible treatment. The AP reported that a nationwide study -- not peer reviewed -- of hydroxychloroquine use at U.S. veterans hospitals found no benefit and more deaths among those given the drug, versus standard care. (And, despite FDA warnings, President Trump said on May 18 that he'd been taking hydroxychloroquine with zinc to protect against symptoms, should he get the coronavirus.)

The CDC's guidance for for clinical management of the coronavirus includes, "infection prevention and control measures and supportive care, including supplementary oxygen and mechanical ventilatory support when indicated."

For children with the associated illness MIS-C, the CDC says doctors may order blood tests, chest x-rays, echocardiograms, and abdominal ultrasounds to look for inflammation or other signs of disease. They may also provide supportive care like medicine and fluids for symptoms, and medication to treat inflammation, noting:

"Most children who become ill with MIS-C will need to be treated in the hospital. Some will need to be treated in the pediatric intensive care unit (ICU)."




There's currently no established link between ibuprofen and coronavirus complications, but there is a lot of conflicting information being circulated.

The World Health Organization officially weighed in on Twitter on March 18 with this guidance, in all its double negative glory:

Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of of ibuprofen.

The CDC has issued no coronavirus-related guidance regarding the use of anti-inflammatories as of March 20.




The first official guidance on general mask-wearing arrived on April 1.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti made the recommendation that all residents wear face coverings when out and about (but not to put masks on kids under 2-years-old. It's a suffocation risk).

This isn't an excuse to suddenly all go out, you need to stay at home. But when you have to go out, we are recommending that we use non medical grade masks.

He spelled out two categories of face coverings/masks, and who should wear what:

1. Surgical -- These are medical grade masks (like the N95) and they're reserved for medical professionals. There's been a dangerous shortage.

2. Homemade -- These are cloth face coverings and can be bandanas, scarves, hand-sewn masks, etc. They should be worn by everyone else, including essential services workers and those with vital infrastructure jobs.

About a week later, Garcetti changed the city's mask-wearking recommendation to a requirement: shoppers and store employees must wear them. This applied to grocery and drug stores, restaurants, hotels, taxis and rideshares, construction sites, and other non-medical, essential businesses. Employers were also required to provide face masks to their employees, or reimburse them for the purchase.

L.A.'s Public Health Department issued face-covering guidance, and it was written into the evolving county health order.

People leaving their homes must wear "a cloth face covering whenever there is or can be contact with others who are non-household members, in both public and private places."

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors passed a face covering ordinance, which added additional uniformity across the 88 cities.

And the L.A. County Sheriff's Departments did not dance around the message: wearing a face covering is law.

The CDC also officially messaged cloth masks for everyone, and recommended people in critical infrastructure roles wear a face mask at all times when they go back to work after being exposed to (a confirmed or suspected case of) the coronavirus.

Check your city's particular rules about wearing a mask in certain situations. Some cities, like Beverly Hills and Glendale, have issued additional guidance.

Where to get a face covering? Pay to make it fashun, or DIY and make it your own:



The EPA released a list of products that are "qualified" for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Some Clorox and Lysol products are on the list, but so are dozens and dozens of others.

Here's what the EPA says about killing the virus:

"Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, meaning they are one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product. Consumers using these disinfectants on an enveloped emerging virus should follow the directions for use on the product's master label, paying close attention to the contact time for the product on the treated surface (i.e., how long the disinfectant should remain on the surface)."

As far as keeping your hands virus-free, the CDC says handwashing for at least 20 seconds is still your best bet. If that's not possible, it recommends using an "alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol."



"There is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food," according to the CDC, but the virus can live on surfaces.

To reduce risk, go contactless when getting meals delivered.

In whatever app you're using (or on the phone), ask your driver to leave your food outside your door. You might have to leave the message as a note.

Once you've brought it in, put the food on your own plates, throw out the packaging and wash your hands for 20 seconds before eating.

And tip well.

If you're doing takeout in Los Angeles, look for new signage about special parking zones for to make pickup easier.



There's a food bank locator.

And a locator for food pantries, soup kitchens, food shelves, and other food help.

Grab & Go meal sites are set up for students and families.

CalFresh EBT cards can now be used to buy food online at Amazon and Walmart. Apply online or call (877) 847-3663.

CalFresh P-EBT is an additional food benefit -- up to $365 per child -- to help qualifying families. Applications accepted from May 22 through June 30.

Emergency meals can be delivered to seniors 60+ who live in the city of L.A. Call (213) 263-5226 or go online and sign up.

And the state is reimbursing restaurants to deliver free meals to seniors. Apply online or call 211.

Some restaurants are operating as pop-up general stores and we have a neighborhood guide.

WIC is allowing online applications for its special supplemental nutrition program.

And the author who wrote the book on SNAP cooking has advice about how to eat on $4 a day.

Here's a number to call to find lower-cost fresh food.

And there are more food resources available across the county.

If you know of something we should add to this list, share it with us at



Farmers markets were initially deemed "essential," and allowed to stay open.

But, like other outdoor spaces, there were crowds and questions about safety.

So, operations were suspended in the city of Los Angeles, and any market that wished to reopen was required to submit a social distancing plan for approval.

The city is keeping a list of L.A. markets that were given permission to reopen.

Santa Monica has also instituted changes to its farmers markets. Check for updates about market operations there on the Santa Monica city website and @SMFMS on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


We made a guide with everything we know so far about COVID-19 and food (and what we don't know), including tips for minimizing risk at the grocery store:

1. Try to go at a less busy time. Generally, earlier is better, and weekdays seem to be less busy than weekends.

2. If you're a senior or in another high-risk group, take advantage of the "senior shopping hours" many stores have introduced.

3. Wear a mask.

4. Wear latex gloves if you have them, be careful about tearing, and avoid touching your face when they're on.

5. If you don't have gloves, use hand-sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. If you don't have either, use an plastic produce bag to touch certain items or produce.

6. Before you touch your cart, wipe it down with an antiseptic wipe.

7. While you're in the store, stay at least 6 feet away from other shoppers.

8. While you're in the store, touch as few things as possible.

Read our full food-related guide with sections on unpacking groceries, changing clothes, raw produce, and more.