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Inglewood Man, 32, Spent 93 Days in Hospital Due to COVID-19

July 10, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Michael Orantes after three months in the hospital. Image: KTLA

Many young people think COVID-19 only results in serious illness or death for seniors or those with underlying health conditions. And while that is often the case, a 32-year-old Inglewood man with no underlying conditions just spent 93 days in the hospital due to the virus.

Michael Orantes is a construction worker and the father of a 2-year-old little girl. He began experiencing symptoms in late March after returning home from Spain. After receiving a positive test result for COVID-19, he was admitted as a patient at the Centinela Hospital Medical Center, KTLA reports. 

He was placed on a ventilator and was unconscious for two months. According to ABC7, one of Orantes’s lungs collapsed several times. His doctor, Dr. Paryus Patel, told the station, “His heart started taking a pounding. His brain started taking a beating.”

Just yesterday, after 93 days, was Orantes deemed well enough to leave. He lost about 35% of his body weight during his stay. He still needs help to breathe.

In recent briefings from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, officials revealed that about half of all new COVID-19 cases are now people 18-40 years old, an uptick from the onset of the pandemic.

Also concerning, doctors say they’ve seen an increase in strokes among younger patients with COVID-19, including patients with no known risk factors for stroke. 

“We’re seeing a startling number of young people who had a minor cough, or no recollection of viral symptoms at all, and they’re self-isolating at home like they’re supposed to — and they have a sudden stroke,” Dr. Adam Dmytriw told the New York Times.

Officials have stressed the need to practice physical distancing, wear a mask, and avoid crowds and gatherings with people outside of your household as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state. 

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News

It’s Going to Be Hot This Weekend

July 10, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Chasing Sunsets
Credit: Amatullah Guyot

Temperatures are expected to soar across Southern California this weekend, according to the National Weather Service. A heat advisory is in effect for much of Southern California with temps in some areas rising over 100 degrees Farenheight. 

According to NWS, “High pressure will build into California from the desert Southwest through the weekend. Hot temperatures will spread from the Antelope Valley across the mountains and inland valleys of southwest California for Saturday and Sunday.”

The Antelope Valley is expected to hit temperatures of 100-110, the foothills/mountains are expected to hit 92-110, and the Valleys are expected to see temps of 95 to 105.

Residents are advised to limit time spent outdoors; wear light-colored, lightweight clothes; try to find shade or A/C; stay hydrated, and never leave a human or animal inside a hot car.

L.A. County currently has no information available regarding cooling centers. However, you can check for updates here or call 211.

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Lifestyle, News

People Lined Up Overnight for Downtown Disney’s Reopening

July 9, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
World of Disney store. Image: Disney

Downtown Disney reopened today and, despite rising cases of COVID-19 across the state, drew long lines of fans eager to return. Some guests even showed up hours early and waited overnight for the outdoor mall to open at 10 a.m. One guest told KTLA she’d been waiting since 11 p.m.

Much like everything else that’s reopened since the pandemic began, guests must get a temperature check upon arrival and wear masks and practice social distancing. There are also several new places where you can wash or sanitize your hands, which we’re all encouraged to do frequently. 

Downtown Disney is also operating with reduced hours, and only one parking lot—the Simba Lot—is open. A complete list of safety measures can be found here.

It’s unclear how well this opening day is going from a health and safety perspective. A tweet from Disneyland News Today claimed the World of Disney store was “a mess” with guests not following the distancing measures. A cast member told the Orange County Register that there were 1,000 people on an online waitlist to get into the store.

Other images show a bit more spacing outdoors, which is a safer place to be than indoors when it comes to COVID-19.

Disneyland and California Adventure were previously slated to reopen on July 17, but both reopenings are currently on hold. At the time, Disney said it would not have time to implement state guidelines, which hadn’t been released. Both unions and a petition had asked Disney to delay opening the parks, arguing it was too soon to do so safely.

Meanwhile, Orange County recently broke 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, citing 1,333 new cases on Wednesday. That’s the highest daily total for the county yet, according to NBC Los Angeles

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Food, News

Inspectors Say Most Restaurants Followed COVID Rules 4th of July Weekend

July 8, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Photo: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele

Today, Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer presented some encouraging news. Inspectors reported that nearly all of the restaurants, bars, and hotels they visited over Independence Day weekend were in compliance with key health protocols.

Inspectors visited 1,101 restaurants 4th of July weekend. They found 99% were offering only outdoor dining, takeout, or delivery. Ninety-eight percent were complying with physical distancing, 99% of customers were wearing masks when required, and 82% of employees were wearing face shields. Of the 82 bars and 8 breweries and wineries inspectors visited, all were closed.

Inspectors also checked 74 hotels and found 90% were complying with physical distancing and 97% were complying with orders to wear face coverings.

This is much better than the weekend of June 27 and 28, when inspectors found that 49% of bars and 33% of restaurants weren’t following physical distancing protocols and that 54% of bars and 44% of restaurants weren’t following orders regarding face masks and shields.

“This is just a sample and it doesn’t give us the full picture of what’s happening all across the county, but [it does] show major improvements over the samples that we had seen before and we do hope that these efforts can be sustained,” Ferrer said.

Yesterday, the Board of County Supervisors voted to develop a plan to fine and possibly shut down L.A. County businesses that fail to follow health orders.

During today’s briefing, the county also announced 2,496 new cases of COVID-19 and 65 deaths. The 7-day average positivity rate is now 10.4%. There are over 2,000 people in the hospital, 26% of whom are in the ICU and 17% of whom are on ventilators. 

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News

Applications for L.A. Rent Relief Open July 13

July 8, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr

If you’re a Los Angeles tenant who is struggling to pay rent due to COVID-19, you can apply for relief starting next Monday.

Los Angeles City Council voted on June 23 to approve the $100 million renter relief program. Up to 50,000 tenants can receive up to $1,000 per month for a maximum of three months. The payments are made directly to the tenant’s landlord.

Applications open on July 13 at 8 a.m. and close on July 17 at 11:59 p.m. The application period isn’t first-come, first-served. Applicants are selected at random after the window closes. You should only apply once. 

Eligible tenants must:

  • Live in the city of Los Angeles
  • Provide proof of tenancy (such as your lease)
  • Meet the program’s income limits of at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) prior to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Have been affected financially by COVID-19, such as loss of income, reduced hours, medical costs related to COVID-19, or increased childcare costs due to closed schools and daycare facilities

You can see more information on the Housing + Community Investment Department’s (HCIDLA) website here or call 844-944-1868 or 844-325-1398 (speech or hearing impaired). 

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News

L.A. County Moves to Fine Businesses That Don’t Follow Health Orders

July 8, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Sign to wear a mask
Sign to wear a mask / Photo by: Christina Champlin

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to develop a plan to fine L.A. County businesses that fail to comply with current health orders. In some cases, repeat offenders could even lose their license.

Even if a business is allowed to reopen, officials have made it clear that it shouldn’t do so until it can follow the health order, thus protecting customers and employees as much as possible. The motion, submitted by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Janice Hahn, notes that even as COVID-19 cases surge, several businesses are still non-compliant.

Over the weekend of June 27 and 28, inspectors said that 49% of bars and 33% of restaurants weren’t following physical distancing protocols. When it came to face masks and shields, 54% of bars and 44% of restaurants weren’t in compliance. Sixty-five percent of retail stores and 83% of restaurants hadn’t posted Public Health’s protocols. The latter won’t necessarily make a difference when it comes to you or an employee getting sick, but it is part of the local law. 

Right now, an Environmental Health Inspector might visit a non-compliant business three to five times before shutting it down. “At no point in the process is a fine currently issued in connection with a violation order or at any other time, even though DPH has code enforcement authority to issue fines for non-compliance,” the motion reads.

This process can take up to several weeks.

“We have neither the time nor the government resources to continue to spend weeks counseling businesses that should be prepared to adhere to public health rules before ever reopening,” the motion states.

This motion directs the Director of Public Health to work with County Counsel on a plan to incorporate fines into its Environmental Health Inspector enforcement. 

Fines will be based on a variety of factors, including the business’s maximum occupancy and the level of non-compliance. A business would incur a fine on its first violation, while a second violation could result in the business losing its license.

Public Health is instructed to report back to the Board in 14 days.

Meanwhile, Santa Monica and West Hollywood are both issuing fines for individuals who fail to wear face masks in public.

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News

L.A. County Reports Over 4,000 New COVID-19 Cases

July 7, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Masked person on Hollywood Boulevard
Pedestrians on Hollywood Blvd on March 19. Photo by: Christina Champlin

Today, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 4,015 new COVID-19 cases and 46 deaths. The county notes that while this is the highest daily total of new cases yet, this is partly due to a backlog of one lab’s tests from over the weekend. That backlog accounts for about 2,000 test results. 

The new numbers bring the county’s positivity rate to 11.6%. State guidance says that any county that wishes to reopen faster must maintain a 7-day average positivity rate of 8%. Los Angeles’s positivity rate was between 5-6% several weeks ago but has increased over the past month.

The county also reported 1,969 people in the hospital, 27% of whom are in the ICU and 8% of whom are on ventilators. 

Yesterday, L.A. County health officials noted that the rising positivity rate indicates a significant amount of community spread and advised residents to avoid the three Cs: crowds, confined spaces, and close contact with others.

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News

L.A. County Votes on Plan to Close Men’s Central Jail

July 7, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Men’s Central Jail Photo: Google Maps

Today, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to develop a plan to close Men’s Central Jail in DTLA within one year.

According to the motion authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, the Board is committing to a “care first, jails last approach based on evidence demonstrating that punitive environments are not only inhumane for those who are suffering from mental illness, but also exacerbate the illnesses faced by the most vulnerable people in our custody, while greatly reducing their likelihood of recovery, upon release.”

Or, as Solis said via a statement, “People are not made whole locked up in a decrepit cell.”

MCJ’s inmates would be transferred to the county’s six other facilities and alternatives to incarceration will be considered when applicable. The motion notes that some funds saved from the jail’s closure, versus paying to replace it, should support the release of county inmates and help them get back on their feet.

A report from Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Workgroup included a roadmap for how “a care first, jail last” model might be achieved. Strategies include scaling community-based services, using behavioral and mental health professionals instead of law enforcement when responding to individuals with those needs, supporting pre-trial release and diversion services, and offering treatment services in facilities that aren’t jails. And when implementing these strategies, ATI has further recommendations for making sure it’s done equitably. You can read the whole report here.

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is apparently against the closure, claiming via Twitter that without MCJ, there will be nowhere to house the county’s most violent offenders. 

Not that jails in the U.S. are ever built for luxury, but Men’s Central Jail, built in 1963, is considered particularly bad and has had its share of scandal. A 2011 report from the ACLU detailed allegations of deputy violence within the county’s jails; the ACLU sued the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department in 2012. In 2013, 18 LASD officials were charged as part of a federal probe into allegations of abuse. Former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca is now in prison for attempting to hide an inmate and FBI informant from investigators. In 2015, two deputies and a sergeant were found guilty in regards to the 2011 beating of a handcuffed visitor and the subsequent attempt to cover it up.  

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9.5% COVID Positivity Rate Means ‘Fair Amount of Community Spread’

July 6, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Los Angeles’s average positivity rate for the last seven days is 9.5%. In late June, Los Angeles County had crept over 8%, up from 5-6% several weeks ago. According to L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, this rising figure indicates “a fair amount of community spread.”

As a reminder, the positivity rate is how many people test positive for COVID-19 out of how many people are tested total. If 100 people are tested and 10 test positive, that’s a positivity rate of 10%. For a California county to apply for a regional variance and reopen faster than the rest of the state, it needs a 7-day average of 8%.

The positivity rate in Los Angeles County had decreased as our testing capacity increased and more people overall, including asymptomatic individuals, got a test. However, the positivity rate began to increase over the last month. 

There’s been a large increase in cases specifically among residents ages 18-40, who now account for almost half of all new cases. Hospitalizations among this age group have also gone up.

Ferrer pointed to data from the USC Dornsife Center’s Understanding America study to illustrate why this is happening. In short, people are going out more.

In April, 86% of residents stayed home as much as possible. Now, that’s dropped to 56%. The percentage of people coming into contact with people outside of their households was up to 55% at the end of June, compared to 31% at the beginning of April. Forty-three percent of L.A. County residents have a job where they interact with people on a daily or near-daily basis. Currently, 79% of residents are concerned that restrictions are being lifted too quickly. 

Ferrer noted that reopening does have its benefits. The percentage of L.A. County residents who are worried about running out of food, experiencing psychological distress, and who worry about their financial security has dropped. 

But until COVID-19 is behind us, the risk of infection is ever-present and health officials continue to stress practicing physical distancing, wearing a cloth face covering in public, washing your hands frequently, and staying home as much as possible, especially if you feel ill. Residents should also avoid the “three Cs”: confined spaces, crowded places, and close contact with those outside your household.

“What we do now determines where we are in 3-4 weeks. The sooner we all recommit to taking care of each other, the sooner we create a new normal, where we get back to work, school, and our friends, and extended family,” Ferrer said.

After hitting a record of over 3,100 new cases on Friday, the county reported 1,584 new cases today. Monday’s numbers are typically a bit low as some labs don’t report over the weekend. 

An earlier version of this article mistakenly indicated 1,584 deaths instead of cases. There were 48 new deaths today.

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News

L.A. County Reported Over 7K New COVID-19 Cases This Weekend

July 6, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Photo: L.A. County Dept. of Public Health

Los Angeles County hit a new record in COVID-19 cases over the weekend, announcing 3,187 new cases on Friday, July 3. That number is now the highest single-day total for the county, surpassing the previous record of 2,903, reported on June 29

On July 2, a release from Los Angeles County Public Health reported 2,643 new cases. The total for July 4 was 1,402, but was missing reports from one of the larger labs. 

As of July 4, 1,921 people were hospitalized, 28% of whom were in the ICU and 18% of whom were on ventilators. This, too, was a higher total than the 1,889 hospitalizations reported the previous week. 

In response to surging cases, bars, indoor service at restaurants, indoor museums, and card rooms have all closed once more in several counties, including Los Angeles. 

The county also closed its beaches and banned fireworks displays over Independence Day weekend. If you were in L.A. County on the 4th of July, you know residents lit off a massive amount of fireworks anyhow, which resulted in numerous service calls to the Los Angeles Fire Department and “very unhealthy” air quality on Sunday.

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News

Essential Workers Can Get a Free 30-Day Metro Bike Share Pass

July 3, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Metro is offering free 30-day Bike Share passes to all essential workers in Los Angeles County. Apply now through July 31 for unlimited, 30-minute rides and to unlock Electric Metro Bikes for free. The 30-day pass is effective from the date you enroll and won’t auto-renew. 

If you’re not currently a Bike Share pass holder, click here to apply. If you are a pass holder and an essential worker, you can email support@bikeshare.metro.net to enroll. If you’re a Bike Share for Business pass holder, email business@bikeshare.metro.net. 

You do need a credit or debit card to enroll. Also note that you will be charged after 30 minutes. To skip that fee, you can dock the bike before the 30 minutes is up and then start a new trip. There is no limit as to how many free, half-hour trips you can take.

Find more information here.

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Santa Monica Will Also Fine You If You Don’t Wear a Mask

July 2, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Sign to wear a mask
Sign to wear a mask / Photo by: Christina Champlin

The city of Santa Monica, similar to West Hollywood, will cite people and businesses who refuse to comply with health orders surrounding face coverings. 

According to a release from the city, people who don’t wear a mask when required to do so may be fined $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second, and $500 for the third. 

Businesses may refuse service to anyone who doesn’t wear a mask or practice social distancing. Additionally, businesses may be fined if they don’t enforce masks among their customers, either when patrons are inside the business or waiting in line to enter. Businesses may be fined $500 for the first violation, $750 for the second, and $1,000 for the third. 

Santa Monica also clarified when you’ll need to wear a mask. Essentially, it’s any time you might encounter others with whom you don’t live. That includes common hallways, parking facilities, any business that you might frequent, public transit, rideshare vehicles, and in-person protests. Exemptions apply to those with disabilities or conditions that would make wearing a mask unsafe and children under two.

For a complete list of when you should and shouldn’t wear your mask, click here

Businesses and individuals can also pick up free signs to help inform others of these regulations. Get yours at the Downtown Santa Monica Farmer’s Market or the Main Street Visitor Information Center. 

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