News Brief: L.A. Surpasses 200,000 Cases of COVID-19

August 7, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Screencap via LA County Public Health / Facebook

In today’s roundup, we touch on a grim milestone in L.A.’s coronavirus battle and new controversies surrounding LA Apparel’s CEO, Dov Charney. Also, some details on a proposed people mover at the Clippers new arena complex. First, the news.

Morning News Rundown

Yesterday, Los Angeles passed a dubious milestone when Public Health confirmed we have now exceeded more than 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in L.A. County, more than any other county in the United States. There are 1,741 current hospitalized cases, with 29% of those in the ICU. 4,869 people have died, to date. [LA Public Health]

Citing 300 confirmed coronavirus cases among employees at Los Angeles Apparel, the City of Los Angeles is looking to speed up enforcement of a subpoena for records of the embattled South Los Angeles company. For his part, LA Apparel founder Dov Charney (same guy ousted from American Apparel after being accused of sexual misconduct) has denied any wrongdoing and said that Public Health is misleading the public “because they’re looking for a political win.” [KCET]

Speaking of Charney, how did his company end up getting a multi-million dollar government contract making masks for the Air Force under a program designed for small business owners of color? Short answer: We don’t know. [Daily Beast]

L.A.’s 13th District will be accepting applications for a $5,000 small business grant program beginning on Aug. 13. The district includes parts of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Echo Park, Hollywood, Koreatown, Silver Lake, Elysian Valley, and Glassell Park. [We Like L.A.]

Remember the hubbub last week when footage emerged of alleged law enforcement officers attending a party at Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood that appeared to be in violation of the county’s policies on indoor gatherings? Yesterday, LAPD confirmed two officers were in attendance. Public Health and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control are still investigating the incident. [CBS Los Angeles]

Later today, the governor is expected to announce official guidance for the reopening of California colleges. Many schools have already decided on their own to open the fall semester virtually, with hopes to pivot later in the year to in-class learning if Public Health guidance allows. [ABC 7]

A Worthy Read

Writing for L.A. Taco, Lexis-Olivier Ray documents what happens when an unhoused individual suffers a hit-and-run and details how local government agencies fail to offer justice and aid under such circumstances (unless a member of the press gets involved, that is). [L.A. Taco]

Something Random

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: Local writer dives deep on proposed people mover to be part of planned 28-acre Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Complex. Ok, that’s a mouthful, but seriously. Louis Keene, who authors a Clippers-centric urban planning newsletter, got ahold of the grant application for the people mover at the forthcoming mega arena and spills the details in his latest post. It’s going to be 53 feet high and would have three potential stops. Neat! [Unstatable]


News Brief: Car Caravan Protests LBUSD Proposal to Have Teachers Instruct From Empty Classrooms

August 6, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Photo by Steven Brewer via flickr cc

On the docket today: Teachers and parents protest LBUSD’s proposed instruction guidelines, the County puts some teeth into its ban on big gatherings, and UCLA football players have tested positive for coronavirus. Also, why was Jake Paul’s home raided on Wednesday? First, the news:

Morning News Rundown

Teachers and parents held a car caravan outside the LBUSD headquarters on Wednesday night in protest of the district’s proposed plan to have teachers conduct virtual instruction from empty classrooms. LBUSD has set a deadline of Aug. 14 to decide what instruction protocol will be for the coming school year. [Long Beach Post]

Following a large gathering in Beverly Crest this week that resulted in the shooting death of a 35-year-old woman, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued a “legally binding” ban on gatherings and parties. [We Like L.A.]

On Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said he has authorized the city to shut off LADWP service in the “egregious cases” of large gatherings or house parties in violation of the county’s order. [We Like L.A.]

Only hours after Mayor Garcetti’s warning about possible utility shutdowns, a local news chopper spied hundreds of guests at a private wedding at a mansion in Holmby Hills. The event dispersed just before midnight following the arrival of LAPD. [KNX 1070]

At least eight UCLA football players have tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to campus for the fall semester, according to a Wednesday update from L.A. County Public Health. [CBS Los Angeles]

Close to 1,000 pre-COVID0-19 eviction orders have begun processing by the L.A. Sheriff’s Department this week, according to attorneys from landlords and tenants. The orders were handed down before a countywide moratorium stopped evictions from moving forward in March. Landlords argue that these eviction orders are valid because they were initiated before the moratorium went into effect. Tenants rights groups strongly oppose. L.A. County’s blanket moratorium on COVID-related evictions has been extended through Sept. 30. [Daily News]

A new report from the office that coordinates L.A.’s on-location permitting shows productions are on the uptick since cratering at the beginning of the pandemic. Since June 15, FilmLA has received 577 film permit applications from 422 unique projects. One caveat: The vast majority––almost two-thirds––are for the advertising industry, including still photography and commercials. Only 9% of the applications are for film and television productions. [LA Mag]

A massive fight involving close to 100 people broke out at the Cambria Hotel & Suites in Anaheim on Wednesday afternoon. Two people were arrested, two were taken to the hospital, and the cause is still being investigated. [FOX 11]

Something Random…

FBI agents raided the Calabasas home of YouTube personality Jake Paul on Wednesday in connection with a riot that took place at an Arizona mall back in May. On his Twitter account, Paul said his appearance at the riot was only to “share our experience and bring more attention to the anger felt in every neighborhood we traveled through.” He claims he did not participate in or condone the violence. Misdemeanor charges against Paul were filed and then dropped without prejudice by the Scottsdale Police, who are letting the Feds take the lead on the investigation. As for the raid, multiple firearms were seized, though no arrests are planned at this time. [ABC 7]


News Brief: Burbank City Council Blocking Rent Control Initiative From Ballot

August 5, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via flickr cc

Today’s daily brief includes a contested rent control ballot initiative in Burbank, a deadly house party in Beverly Hills, and allegations of a violent gang of Sheriff’s deputies in Compton. Also, someone decided we needed an AirBnB type app, but for private swimming pools. First, the rundown:

Morning News Rundown

Thousands of Burbank residents have signed a petition to put a rent control initiative on the November ballot, but the city council has so far blocked the the measure through legal challenges. A judge will hold a hearing on the council’s objections this Friday, which is the last day a measure can be added for the November election. [LAist]

A house party at a rented mansion in Beverly Hills turned deadly early Tuesday morning when gunshots were fired just hours after police had been called to the scene to break up the gathering. A 35-year-old woman died and two others were injured. [LA Mag]

A forthcoming lawsuit by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy claims that a patrol station in Compton has become overrun by a violent subset of deputies who call themselves “The Executioners.” The group exerts power through threats of force or intentional work slowdowns, and it includes some 40 members. Roughly half of those members have matching tattoos of “a skull with Nazi imagery, holding an AK-47,” according to allegations by Deputy Austreberto Gonzalez. [NBC Los Angeles]

Broken Spanish is the latest DTLA restaurant to permanently close due to the pandemic. Chef Ray Garcia announced the closure in an Instagram post on Tuesday. [Eater LA]

Los Angeles County elementary schools won’t be opening any time soon, or at least until the case rate falls below state criteria for a waiver. The County’s case rate is 355 cases per 100,000 residents. It needs to be below 200 for a potential waiver. [We Like L.A.]

A local union says 28 workers at a Westlake Food 4 Less have tested positive for coronavirus. Workers from the store, along with other community members, are planning a demonstration on Wednesday morning to demand additional safety precautions against coronavirus. [ABC7]

On Monday, L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer expressed cautious optimism that recent measures to close bars and restrict indoor dining have led to a stabilization of infection rates and hospitalizations county-wide. [KCET]

Bicycle accidents involving cars are way down since the pandemic started, according to a statistical analysis. Overall bicycle-car accidents were down 71% over an 11-week period compared year-over-year. [Crosstown]

David Lacey, husband of Los Angeles County DA Jackie Lacey, has been charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault stemming from an incident with Black Lives Matter L.A. protestors outside the Lacey home in March. Lacey allegedly pointed a gun at the protestors. [Los Angeleno]

Worthy Read

Writing for the LAnd Magazine, Lexis-Olivier Ray and Samantha Helou Hernandez dive deep into the rise and fall of Sqirl and its owner, Jessica Koslow. Sqirl made headlines last month when allegations of moldy jam created a public uproar and put a spotlight on the restaurant’s workplace practices. In this exposé, we get an inside view of what went down, including eye-opening perspectives of the under-recognized staff who helped power Sqiril’s––and Koslow’s––ascent. [The LAnd]

Something Random…

Pool as side hustle? A new app is encouraging Angelenos to rent out their residential swimming pools by the hour––sort of like AirBnB, but for pools. L.A. Public Health guidelines don’t expressly prohibit or allow the renting of a private pool, so we’ll see where this goes. [We Like L.A.]


L.A. Two-Bedroom Apartment Rates Down 6.9% Year-Over-Year

July 30, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Cancel Rent sign posted the LA Tenants Union. Photo by Brian Champlin

Los Angeles has one of the most expensive rental markets in the country, but that doesn’t mean its prices are immune to the ever-increasing financial effects of COVID-19.

A new report by Zumper compiled rental data from over 1 million active listings in the top 100 metro areas in the U.S. and found that L.A. rents are markedly down compared year-over-year.

Last month, L.A. ranked as the seventh most expensive metro area, with median L.A. rent listings for a one-bedroom apartment at $2,140. Two-bedrooms were at $2,970. Year-over-year, those listings rates were lower by 6.9% and 4%, respectively.

As local rent decreases, the national average is actually on the uptick. One-bedroom are up 0.3% month-over-month to a median of $1,233 and two-bedrooms are up 0.6% to $1,493. Year-over-year, the national average for a one-bedroom is up 0.7%, while a two-bedroom is up 1%.

Zumper called the current trend a “squeezing” of the price distribution among national apartment prices. That is to say, the more expensive metros are trending downward while traditionally lower-cost areas are going up. The divergence is likely due to the considerable financial challenges of the pandemic. With decreasing incomes and rising unemployment, it’s possible that people are flocking to lower-cost areas to save money.

Locally, it’s clear L.A. renters have endured a massive burden over the past few months. A May study published by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy indicated there are at least 449,000 unemployed people in Los Angeles with no replacement income in rental housing, with those individuals occupying approximately 365,000 units of rental housing. The risk of homelessness and the demand for relief is as high as it’s ever been.

L.A.’s Housing and Community Investment Department said that the city’s rent relief program received 221,000 applications. Only 50,000 households are expected to receive funding from the $103 million program.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors extended the county’s temporary eviction moratorium through at least Sept. 30. After September, the county will evaluate extending it further on a month-to-month basis.

Although the moratorium has been in effect for months, that hasn’t stopped some landlords from attempting to evict tenants illegally. According to data compiled by the L.A. Times, as of June 18, there have been 290 cases of potential illegal lockouts and utility shutoffs in L.A. since Mayor Garcetti announced the moratorium back in March. These tactics were battled by local tenants’ rights groups like the Los Angeles Tenants Union, who organized protests to push back against the evictions.

This week, the Times reported an expected decline in California’s commercial real estate rents. A new Allen Matkins/UCLA Anderson Forecast survey polled a collection of California commercial real estate developers and financiers, one-third of whom indicated they plan to reduce new office developments by more than 15%. Three-quarters of the respondents also said they were experiencing stress related to current tenant leases.

Per the Times, the forecast was roughly as pessimistic as similar data from December 2008 during the Great Recession.


Magnitude 4.2 Earthquake and Multiple Aftershocks Rattle Los Angeles Early Thursday Morning

July 30, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Screencap from the USGS website shows the epicenter of Thursday’s earthquake

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake shook Los Angeles early Thursday morning, followed by multiple aftershocks. The U.S. Geologic Survey reported the epicenter in the city of San Fernando, just south of Sylmar and approximately one mile north of Pacoima.

The first quake struck at approximately 4:29 a.m. and multiple aftershocks have since followed. The first, which occurred at 4:38 a.m., measured as a magnitude 3.9. Back to back quakes were also recorded at 6:48 a.m. and 6:49 a.m, measuring 3.8 and 2.8, respectively.

During the first earthquake, shaking was felt throughout Los Angeles County, from Pasadena to Santa Monica. Although the jolts offered many Angelenos a most unwelcome morning wakeup call, initial reports showed no major damage throughout the area.

In the aftermath of the first quake, the LAFD conducted a systematic survey of the City of Los Angeles by ground and air and reported no major infrastructure damage, loss of life, or serious injury directly attributable to the earthquake.

If you were in the area and want to contribute a report of what you felt to the U.S. Geologic Surcey, you can submit it here.


Survey: One-Third of U.S. Museums May Not Survive the Pandemic

July 24, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Photo via the Annenberg Space for Photography

Bad news for museum-lovers in Los Angeles and around the country: A new survey by The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) found that one-third of its member museums are in danger of closing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With the help of New Hampshire-based research firm Dynamic Benchmarking, the AAM polled museum directors from 760 museums around the nation. A third of those surveyed said they lacked confidence that their institution could survive 16 months without additional financial relief, while 16% believed there was a significant risk of permanent closure.

Among the AAM’s surveyed museums, 87% said they have 12 months or less of financial operating reserves, and more than half now have less than six months of their operating expenses. Forty-four percent had furloughed or laid off some portion of their staff, and 41% anticipated reopening with reduced staff. Like all brick-and-mortar businesses, if they’re not open, they can’t bring in as much money.

“There’s a large public perception that museums rely on government support when the reality is they get only a quarter of their funding from the government,” AAM president Laura Lott told NPR. Without revenue from the public––in the form of admission fees, retail sales, and events––the cash reserves of these institutions are quickly depleting.

Here in L.A., the effects of COVID-19 have underscored the important educational role of our city’s museums while also highlighting their fragility.

Not long after L.A. enacted its Safer-at-Home order, over 30 local institutions sprang into action to offer educational resources and online lessons for students now studying from home. Unfortunately, some museums, even those offering online programming, haven’t made it through the past few months.

In June, the Annenberg Space for Photography announced it was closing forever. That same month, the A+D Museum, a progressive architecture museum in the Arts Districts, also announced it was shutting down for good and moving to a virtual-only space.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the stages of California reopening back in May, museums were slotted in Stage 2. At that time, there was hope that if cases continued to trend downward, some institutions might open up in the latter half of Stage 2, albeit with a likely reduction in attendance to accommodate social distancing policies.

But with the recent spike in coronavirus cases statewide and Newsom’s rollback of indoor dining at the beginning of this month, there’s more uncertainty now than ever about the timing of reopening. Just this week, L.A. County Public Health said that COVID-19 is on track to be one of the leading causes of death in the county.

The longer these trends continue, the worse it gets for museums whose operational budgets are quickly running dry.


Car Thefts in Los Angeles are Spiking Since the Pandemic Started

July 22, 2020 by Brian Champlin
An empty 101 freeway at rush hour. Photo by Christina Champlin

Safer-at-home and ongoing social distancing have meant Angelenos are driving less, which has been a boon to easing Los Angeles traffic. Indeed, with street sweeping laws relaxed in the past few months, many residents are leaving their cars parked on city blocks for extended periods of time. But a rise in parked cars also offers a richer set of targets for would-be thieves. Now, according to research compiled by USC Annenberg School of Journalism’s nonprofit group Crosstown, car thefts in Los Angeles are being reported more than at any time over the past decade.

The Crosstown report, published this past Monday, evaluated publicly available data provided by the LAPD to assess the trend of car thefts in L.A. before and after Safer-at-Home started in March. The results were stark.

In total, there were 5,744 car thefts reported to LAPD between April to June 2020, including a 31% spike in thefts in April. This second-quarter analysis found a 7% increase from the same period last year, and the Q2 total is also more than 10% higher than any other quarter on record back to 2010. June alone had 2,055 stolen vehicles reported, more than double the same month last year.

Crosstown’s research shows that the three neighborhoods recording the most vehicle thefts for 2020 are Boyle Heights (327 incidents), followed by Sun Valley (304) and Van Nuys (293).

You can read the full report here. If you want to check out the raw 2020 LAPD data for yourself, visit this dashboard.


COVID-19 Hospitalizations of Young People Continue To Rise in L.A. County

July 15, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Screencap via LA County

44% of people currently infected by COVID-19 in Los Angeles County are ages 18-40, and over the past few weeks there has been a marked increase in hospitalizations within that age demographic, according to the latest briefing from Los Angeles Public Health.

“We are at an alarming and dangerous phase in this pandemic here in L.A. County,” L.A. Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said today. “These alarming trends reflect behavior from three weeks ago, and it will take several weeks to see if our behavior now, including the rollback of previously opened sectors, slows the spread of the virus. What we do today impacts our lives in the weeks and months ahead.”

Since Memorial Day, younger people (ages 18-40) have been getting infected at significantly higher rates than before. That rise in infections had also led to an increase in hospitalizations among the same age range. There are currently 2,193 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county, and over 25% of those are 18-40. In April that same demographic made up just 10% of the hospitalized cases. The percentage has been rising steadily since the beginning of May (see graph below).

Screencap via LA County

Overall, in the three week period starting June 20 total COVID-19 hospitalizations have been increasing between 7-17% per week. COVID-19 Intensive Care cases have also increased during this same three-week period.

Hospitalization and ICU trends portend a likely increase in deaths over the coming weeks, and just yesterday the county reported 73 new COVID-19 fatalities, one of the highest totals in weeks. Given an expectation of increasing deaths, Dr. Ferrer implored residents to stick to strict social distancing protocols and avoid close contact from individuals outside their household.

“Even though we all miss summer barbecues, pool parties, and other fun and normal things we would be doing on a hot summer’s day in July, it still isn’t safe or smart to return to friends or family that you don’t live with,” Dr. Ferrer said.

The briefing also highlighted an ongoing racial disparity in both infection and mortality within the county. Latinx residents are twice as likely to be infected and die of COVID-19 as White residents. African Americans are 25% more likely than Whites to be infected, and twice as likely to die from the virus. Areas with of high levels poverty have also continued to show significantly higher rates of infection than wealthier communities.

The disparity in infection spread by race and income underscores the need to provide adequate testing capacity for the county’s most vulnerable populations. With that in mind, L.A. Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly announced the county would be expanding testing sites by 65% over the coming weeks.

All new sites will be in areas of high testing demand, including locations in Montebello, South Gate, Azusa, Panorama City, Compton, and Downey. The county will also be adding new access at existing testing locations at areas determined to be high-need, such as Bellflower, El Monte, and East L.A.

44 deaths and 2,758 new cases were reported today, bringing the pandemic totals to 3,932 dead and 143,009 confirmed infected. Since the crisis began, roughly 1.4 million people have been tested in L.A. County. 9% have tested positive over time, and the most recent 7-day rolling positivity rate is 9.8%. Currently, the county is averaging 2,859 cases per day on a 7-day rolling basis.

Late in the briefing, Dr. Ferrer made the point that the spread of infection is in all of our hands. As a county, Angelenos were able to lower the infection rate before and they can do it again if the right behaviors are implemented. Nonetheless, a renewed Safer-At-Home order isn’t something the county is ruling out completely.

“We do know as a fact that we have to do everything we can to protect the healthcare system for everybody,” Dr. Ferrer said. “That’s why nothing can be off the table.”


Your Face Here: Dodgers to Fill Stands With Cutouts For 2020 Season

July 15, 2020 by Brian Champlin
view of dodger stadium from the top deck
View of Dodger Stadium from the Top Deck / Photo by Christina Champlin

When the Dodgers 2020 season starts on July 23 they won’t have live fans, but they will have fan faces. And that face could be yours.

Like several other MLB franchises, the Dodgers will employ “virtual” fans to occupy the stands at some seats this year. Specifically, they’ll be using 30×18 inch weatherproof cutouts of fan faces to create the appearance of an actual crowd in certain sections of the stadium during home games. And you, the viewing public, can now submit your photo to be used as one of these virtual fans. But getting a spot isn’t free.

A cutout slot is selling for $149 at the field and loge levels, and $299 for placement at the dugout club behind home plate or at the new “home run” seats behind the outfield wall. Net proceeds will to go to the Dodger Foundation,  the official charity of the Los Angeles Dodgers

If you want to grab a spot, you’ll likely have to act fast. A presale for season ticket holders started yesterday, and sales to the general public began this morning at 10 a.m. Space is limited, and orders will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

To book a cutout, the most important thing you’ll need (besides the funds) is a good photo. The submission guidelines outline the basics: A waist-up shot, arms at your sides, good lighting, a contrasting background, no selfie-style shots. Most importantly, you should be wearing either official Dodger gear or plain clothes.

Cutouts cannot be used to cheer on an opposing team, according to the official guidelines. So if you’re a sneaky Giants or Astros fan who thinks you’re going to showcase your team’s logo amongst the virtual crowd, think again.

There are additional restrictions on political statements, social media handles, third party branding, or any form of obscene, lewd, or otherwise inappropriate language. Submissions will also be rejected if they include negative references to other teams.

As a bonus, if you do book a cutout you’ll be able to pick it up at the end of the season, and it will be authenticated as game-used via the MLB Authentication Program.

Should the Dodgers bring live fans into the stadium later this year, they’ve stated said they would reserve the right to relocate or remove fan cutouts, and no refunds would be issued.

Complete guidelines are embedded below.


Amazon to Test Cashierless ‘Dash Carts’ at New Grocery Store in Woodland Hills

July 14, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Image via Amazon

The smartest shopping cart in the world is coming to The San Fernando Valley. On Tuesday, Amazon announced its new Dash Cart technology will launch at a soon-to-be-opened grocery store in Woodland Hills. The cart removes the checkout line altogether, using computer vision algorithms and sensors to tally a shopper’s inventory and then charge them as they exit the store.

A screen at the top of each cart allows shoppers to view a running total of their purchases via an Alexa Shopping List. Charges are processed by payment information on a customer’s Amazon account.

If the technology works out, it could represent a major shift in the grocery shopping experience. Theoretically, a shopper could enter a store, add what they want to their cart, and “just walk out.”

“Our primary motivation for building this was to be able to save customers time,” said Dilip Kumar, VP of Amazon’s physical retail and technology, according to CNET. “The alternative solutions are standing in the express checkout lanes or fumbling through self-checkout stations.”

The Woodland Hills store is slated to open later in 2020. It will be located on the 6200 block of Topanga Canyon Boulevard (CA-27), in a 35,000 square foot space formerly occupied by Toys R Us. This will likely be the first in a series of new of outlets coming to Los Angeles.

In October of last year, the Walls Street Journal reported that Amazon had signed at least a dozen leases on retail properties around Los Angeles as part of an apparent retail expansion. The following month, Amazon confirmed that they were opening new stores in Los Angeles and that Woodland Hills would be the first location.

These new stores will not be new Whole Foods Markets, which Amazon acquired in 2017. Instead, the stores will be a distinct brand, likely offering food products at lower prices, according to reporting by the Journal.

The Dash Carts aren’t Amazon’s first foray into cashier-less retail. The company has been working on the technology for years and now even sells it to other retailers.

Amazon previously tested its “Just Walk Out” technology at Amazon Go locations throughout the country, including a grocery store in Seattle. At the Seattle store, customers gain entry by scanning a credit card. As they move throughout the store and shop, cameras track their movements to identify which items they remove or return to shelves. A virtual cart is created with the total order. When the customer leaves, their card is automatically charged. No app installation or Amazon account is necessary, according to an explanation on Amazon’s website.


L.A. Unified Will Not Start Classes in Person On Aug. 18

July 13, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Screencap via LAUSD

This morning, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner announced that L.A. campuses won’t reopen for in-person learning when the new school years starts on Aug. 18.

The LAUSD school year will begin via online learning only, with in-person classes to commence only when public health conditions allow.

During his Monday update, Beutner emphasized the need to protect the health and safety of the roughly 700,000 students and 75,000 employees that comprise L.A. Unified. Specifically, there is an ongoing concern that schools could become a breeding ground for new outbreaks.

Beutner pointed to a research study from the University of Padova and Imperial College London that showed 40% of positive COVID-19 cases had no symptoms. According to Beutner, best practice protocols like hand-washing, mask-wearing, and reducing class sizes won’t be enough with so many possible asymptomatic carriers.

“There’s a public health imperative to keep schools from becoming a Petri dish,” Beutner said.

Even as schools could become new points of infection, they also present the opportunity for ongoing testing, Beutner argued. Regular attendance and consistent cohorts (people in the same groups in the same place) would allow for easier testing and contact tracing of individuals.

But that’s only if the schools can come up with the funding. LAUSD estimates it would cost $300 per student to do weekly testing for staff, students, and any family members of students who are suspected of infection. The superintendent called on the federal government to assist with funding.

LAUSD’s announcement to postpone in-person learning while requesting additional federal funds comes even as the current administration pushes schools to bring students back in the fall. Over the weekend, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos repeated a threat that President Trump made to deny funding to schools that do not reopen for in-person learning in the fall. The demand to fully reopen schools, however, has received pushback on multiple fronts.

On Friday, the L.A. Teachers Union called for campuses to remain closed for the start of the upcoming school year due to health concerns for students and teachers.

That same day, the American Academy of Pediatrics reversed a previously held position and said it’s no longer confident that opening schools amidst the continued spread of COVID-19 is the best option for children.

With the public health landscape rapidly changing, it remains difficult for the school system to project the outlook over the coming months. Beutner promised that more detailed plans about online schooling will be made public by the first week of August.

In the interim, a press release from LAUSD laid out the following general guidelines for the upcoming school year:

  • The school year will resume on schedule.
  • Teachers will receive expanded training in online education to better meet the needs of students.
  • Students will receive additional training at the start of the year to become better online learners.
  • Online support for parents will be increased to make it easier for them to participate in the education of their students.
  • Principals will continue customized planning for the safest possible reopening this fall.
  • Free meals will continue to be provided at the current distribution stations.

Investigation Ongoing Into Weekend Fire at San Gabriel Mission

July 13, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Photo via City of San Gabriel

An early morning fire that badly damaged the San Gabriel Mission this past Saturday is still under investigation, city officials say.

Firefighters responded at 4:24 a.m on July 11 and worked for more than two hours to suppress the blaze, which completely destroyed the roof of the building and gutted much of the interior. In total, 80 firefighters and 28 fire units responded, including personnel from San Marino, Monterey Park, Alhambra, Arcadia, South Pasadena, and Pasadena. The incident was later classified as a four-alarm fire.

As of yesterday, the City of San Gabriel said the investigating is ongoing, though arson has not been ruled out, according to reporting by LAist. The preliminary investigation showed no immediate sign of arson.

Mission San Gabriel was founded in 1771 as the fourth of what would be 21 Spanish missions built throughout the state to spread Christianity and assimilate indigenous populations.

The name most often associated with the missions is Father Junipero Serra, who founded nine of the California missions from 1769 to 1782. In recent weeks, Serra’s name has been in the news as protests for racial justice continue throughout the country and demonstrators have sought to remove statues of Serra from churches and public spaces.

Historians have argued that the practices by which Native Americans came to stay at these missions were highly coercive. The newly baptized indigenous peoples became a sort of captive labor force, performing agricultural and maintenance work. Threats of violence, including corporal punishment, were used to dissuade the laborers from leaving, and flogging was not uncommon.

Earlier this month, a statue of Serra was toppled by protestors in Sacramento. In June, a statue of Serra was pulled down on Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles.

As a precaution, the San Gabriel Mission recently removed its Serra statue from public view, signaling a concern of potential vandalism. Given that the fire took place at a religious institution, and in light of the recent acts of vandalism against Serra statues, a representative from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was dispatched to assist with probe.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gomez, defended Serra as a “good faithful man” when answering reporters’ questions on Sunday.

Serra was canonized by the Catholic Church in 2015.