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Person under 18 dies of coronavirus in Los Angeles, health experts report



Los Angeles County on Tuesday confirmed four more deaths linked to the coronavirus, including the first of a person under the age of 18.

The number of deaths in the county from the virus is now 11. Tuesday’s update also included a previously reported death in Long Beach. The young person who died was from Lancaster. No further details were immediately available.

“This is a devastating reminder that COVID-19 affects people of all ages,” L.A. County Public Health Department director Barbara Ferrer said.

Two of the people who died were between the ages of 50 and 70. One had underlying health issues and resided in the West Adams neighborhood, health officials said.

Officials also confirmed an additional 128 cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the county’s total to 662. Of those positive cases, 42% occurred in individuals between the ages of 18 and 40, and 39% were in people ages 41 to 65.

At least 119 residents, or 18% of all positive cases in the county, have been hospitalized for the virus.

In Orange County, officials announced 27 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 152. There have not been any deaths linked to COVID-19.

San Mateo County saw a jump of 19 new cases and its second fatality, pushing the county’s overall total to 161 positive tests. The number of cases increased by more than 10% in one day, according to Preston Merchant, a public information officer working in the county’s joint information center.

The county’s second death occurred Monday at the Atria Senior Living facility in Burlingame. The facility received news of confirmed COVID-19 cases in their community on March 15. A number of residents tested positive for the virus, and Monday’s fatality was the senior facility’s first coronavirus-related death at its Burlingame location.

“Our thoughts are with their family during this difficult time,” Atria said in a statement. “We remain in close communication with all our residents and their families and continue to provide our support as we navigate this unprecedented situation together.”

Atria said it is working closely with the San Mateo County Health Department, and officials have been on site to confirm proper health and safety measures are in place.

The number of coronavirus cases in California surged to nearly 2,500 Tuesday afternoon and the death toll climbed to 50 as officials issued urgent warnings about the need for more hospital beds and equipment as medical facilities begin to fill up.

Gov. Gavin Newsom says he believes California will need 50,000 hospital beds for patients suffering from the illness caused by the coronavirus. That marks a significant increase from the 20,000 beds his administration forecast last week. The Democratic governor said the state’s 416 hospitals were doubling their “surge plans,” a move that will result in 30,000 new beds across the system.

San Francisco officials warned that a surge in coronavirus infections was expected to come within a week or two, and voiced dismay over images of the public crowding beaches and parks across California.

“The worst is yet to come,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of public health, at a news conference Monday.

San Francisco has already taken steps to decompress the healthcare system — banning almost all visitors to hospitals and long-term-care facilities, canceling elective surgeries and routine medical visits, ordering that appointments be done by phone or video if possible, and opening up tents to care for patients who have mild symptoms in order to keep hospital beds free for those more seriously ill.

A steep rise in people being hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County likely signals the approach of a wave of extremely sick patients that could overwhelm hospitals in the coming weeks, experts say.

As of March 6, five people in the county had been hospitalized at some point with COVID-19. Two weeks later, on Friday, that figure had jumped to 48. By Monday, the total had climbed to 90.

Though the raw numbers remain relatively low, the rate of increase has set many doctors and nurses on edge after watching the disease’s alarming trajectory in China, Italy and, most recently, New York City.

Two Cal State Long Beach students tested positive for the virus and were in self-isolation off campus, the university announced in an email to students Tuesday morning.

One student had not been on campus for two weeks, the university said. In the second case, public health officials determined there was no opportunity for on-campus exposure. Students who might have come into close contact with the patients were being notified by health officials, according to the email.

As the number of cases continues to rise, officials throughout the state kept up their call for an increase in testing capacity and reporting.

Frustrated public health directors in six Bay Area counties have ordered an assortment of commercial, university and pop-up testing sites that are screening residents for COVID-19 to begin reporting not just the positive cases, but the negative results too.

Dr. Sara Cody said testing remains woefully inadequate as Santa Clara County wrestles with mounting deaths. As of Tuesday, 16 people had died in the county, more than half of the virus fatalities in California.

Santa Clara County’s Sheriff’s Office confirmed four cases among staff, including a deputy who is self-isolating at home.

California requires labs and hospitals to report known cases of COVID-19, but not the number of negative tests. Cody said that information is critical to tracking the spread of the virus. She warned that Santa Clara County’s current critical situation is a window into what will be seen in San Francisco and other Bay Area communities in the next one to two weeks.

Contra Costa County is one of the six counties that ordered new requirements. On Friday, health officer Chris Farnitano said the county would issue an order for negative tests to be reported as well.

Meanwhile, California remains largely shut down under state and local orders. L.A. County officials have cracked down on nonessential businesses, which Sheriff Alex Villanueva declared Tuesday includes gun stores. If gun sellers don’t close their doors, he said, they will be cited and face penalty, including the loss of their business licenses.

Officials previously closed beach parking lots, parks and hiking trials amid concerns some people were not staying at least six feet apart while in public. Laguna Beach took the restrictions a step further and closed its beaches entirely on Monday.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu called for the closure of Runyon Canyon Park and Lake Hollywood Park on weekends.

“Making this request pains me greatly. I grew up in a two-bedroom apartment off the 101 Freeway, and our city’s parks were my only access to outdoor space,” Ryu said of his recommendation to Michael Shull, the general manager of the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks. “I don’t make this recommendation easily, but closing Runyon Canyon Park on weekends, when we have seen the highest volume of visitors, should follow to keep everyone safe.”

In Sonoma County, all parks and open spaces were closed indefinitely, public health officials announced this week.

The closure includes city, county, state and federal parklands and recreational lands operated by private groups and nonprofits, according to a news release.

“Closing parks is a difficult decision, but it is the right decision at this time,” Sundari Mase, the county’s interim health officer, said in a statement. “Allowing crowded conditions in parks is not in our best interest during this health crisis. The best action we can take is to stay close to home and limit our outdoor time to our yards and neighborhoods.”

Mase announced the closure Monday after too many visitors flocked to outdoor spaces over the weekend.

Criminal and civil trials were discontinued in California for at least two months after a sweeping order was issued late Monday by the state’s chief justice that aimed to sharply reduce public traffic in state courthouses.

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said in her order that court facilities were “ill-equipped to effectively allow the social distancing and other public health requirements” that had been imposed across California to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Even if court facilities could allow for sufficient social distancing, the closure of schools means that many court employees, litigants, witnesses, and potential jurors cannot leave their homes to attend court proceedings because they must stay home to supervise their children,” Cantil-Sakauye said in the order.

The 60-day delay — which puts the courts in California’s 58 counties on a uniform trial delay schedule — came the same day that the presiding judge of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Kevin C. Brazile, blocked public access to county courthouses except for attorneys, staff, defendants and “authorized persons,” a vague category that includes news reporters. The clerk’s office will still be available to accept filings and assist people by phone or electronically.

The California National Guard on Monday provided details about how personnel would be deployed across the state to assist in coronavirus aid. Officials said the guard was being used purely for humanitarian purposes, such as distributing food and medical supplies as well as helping at food banks and working with officials on the Grand Princess cruise ship, which docked in California after an outbreak of the virus on board.

With the coronavirus pandemic further stifling the efforts of California and other states to issue Real ID licenses, President Trump on Monday said he would extend the Oct. 1 deadline for people to apply for the identification cards to board domestic flights in the United States.

Times staff writers Priscella Vega, Paige St. John and Luke Money contributed to this report.





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What and where are the MLK holiday events in Los Angeles?



For those who want to serve or celebrate on Monday’s King holiday, there are options across Los Angeles, including school and park cleanups and a parade.

The annual Kingdom Day Parade will start at 10 a.m. at Western Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The parade route runs down MLK Boulevard to Crenshaw Boulevard., where it turns left and then ends at Vernon Avenue. The grand marshal is Keke Palmer of ABC’s “GMA3: Strahan, Sara & Keke.”

ABC7 Eyewitness News anchors Michelle Tuzee and Leslie Sykes will serve as hosts of this year’s parade, whose theme is “Equality for All Humanity, Our Next Step.” After the parade, there will be a festival in Leimert Park with booths, food and music open until 5 p.m.

For another take on the meaning of the day, there will be a dialogue at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica in Forbes Hall. The theme is “Confronting Structural Racism in Traditionally White Spaces.” The goal, according to organizers, is to “examine structural racism through the lens of whiteness and privilege, including a reflection upon issues of fragility, microaggressions and responsibility.” The discussion will conclude with “sharing strategies for working toward reconciliation and justice.”

In Long Beach, more than 500 volunteers are expected to complete 20 service projects across the city in an event sponsored by the Port of Long Beach, Habitat for Humanity, the City of Long Beach and various organizations.

Participants are invited to assemble at Seaside Park, near 14th Street and Chestnut Avenue, for a kickoff rally and celebratory remembrance at King at 8 a.m. There will be a pancake breakfast before the short program.

“We want all volunteers to attend to confirm their volunteer project site information and we will send you to your site by 9 a.m.,” organizers have advised.

The projects include: a cleanup of Seaside Park; a spruce up and organizing of a clothing bank for Long Beach City College students; landscaping at Willow Springs Park, and yard work for the elderly.

In Hollywood, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the nonprofit Big Sunday will collect clothes for women, men, boys and girls of all ages and sizes. New and gently used work clothes, casual clothes, warm clothes and coats and athletic wear are needed. New socks and underwear are appreciated, too, as are donations for the purchase of those items.

Volunteers will help sort, count, fold and pack donated clothing. Last year, these efforts resulted in the distribution of more than 50,000 articles of clothing.

There also will be breakfast, arts and crafts projects throughout the morning and entertainment from the Blue Breeze Band. The address is: 6111 Melrose Ave.





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Student hunger affects some at Los Angeles colleges. Classmates are trying to help


The window of the food pantry is in an inconspicuous location on the second floor of the student services building at East Los Angeles College, and that’s for the best. Some of the students who come here don’t want the whole campus to know they’re hungry.

“It’s really a sensitive topic for some people,” said Anthony Dominguez, a biochemistry major who sometimes works at the pantry and hands out packaged noodles, granola bars, energy drinks and other items.

After I spoke to Dominguez, I watched a student sidle up to the window and show his ID. He was handed a pouch of apple sauce and a granola bar, then walked away.

But he lingered nearby, watched me interview another pantry customer, then approached.

“It was awkward the first couple of times I came,” he said, asking me to identify him by his initials, J.C.

J.C. told me he lives in a South Los Angeles neighborhood that sees a lot of violence. He said he has lost friends and cousins to murder, and he wants to become a homicide detective to bring killers to justice.

His dad is a janitor and his sister takes care of their ailing mother, a dialysis patient. If there’s food at home he’ll eat there, but there’s not always enough to go around. A counselor told him about the pantry.

“I just broke down,” he said of his conversation with the counselor. “I told her I was struggling.”

la-me-lopez

Students line up at East L.A. College Friday for a food give-away.

(Steve Lopez/Los Angeles Times)

So are a lot of students. Armond Aghakhanian, chief development officer for the East Los Angeles College Foundation, says a recent poll found that 70% of the school’s students “have experienced hunger/food insecurity.”

That’s a startling statistic, but not a surprising one. The Times reported two years ago that in the nine-campus Los Angeles Community College District, 65% of the 230,000 students couldn’t afford balanced meals and nearly one in five had been recently homeless, according to a district study.

But there’s some good news along with the bad.

The pantry in the student services building is one of several on campus, and professors and staff are among the donors to them. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank has outreach workers on campus, enlisting eligible students in the state’s CalFresh food program. And the same food bank, which sends a mobile pantry to Pasadena City College, Citrus College and Cerritos College, hopes to add East L.A. College to the list.

Aghakhanian told me the ELAC Foundation has also challenged donors and restaurants to feed hungry students, and hundreds of vouchers have already been distributed. Eligible students are given a minimum of 21 $5 vouchers, and participating restaurants include Armando’s Mexican restaurant, Carrows, La Azteca Tortilleria, McDonald’s, Pacific Dining Food Management Services, Panda Express, So-Cal Burgers Chill & Grill, Tamales Lilianas and Z’s Crazy Good.

Student George Gurrola, 46, said he dines at Z’s Crazy Good with the vouchers, and they’re a big help. He said he served in the Marines for six years, later got a degree in business and worked for five years as a website designer before getting laid off.

He couldn’t find anything that matched his salary, so he moved in with his parents, got a job as a security guard and went back to school for a master’s in marketing. With the help of an East L.A. College program designed to encourage local entrepreneurship, Gurrola has started a sport sandal business. He wants it to be based in Boyle Heights and he plans to hire from the neighborhood, but his budget is tight for now, and the burgers at Z’s Crazy Good are a godsend.

“I’m not sure what’s normal, but I’m pretty much eating rice and beans at the moment,” he said when I asked if there’s enough food to go around in his parents’ home. “It’s bare bones. My parents are retired and just don’t have the money, and I don’t want to be a burden on them. I should be supporting them, and not the other way around, so I feel bad about that.”

Gabriel Buelna, a member of the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees, told me he’d like to expand the voucher program to every campus in the district, but he also wants to remove the stigma students might feel about using food coupons.

“Let’s get the relationship with the restaurants and create a bureaucracy-free system where you can go and get the food and the restaurants get reimbursed because we went and got the donors,” Buelna said.

He said that in East L.A., for instance, participating restaurants can offer “an ELAC special.” Maybe it’s a “bean and potato and egg special with three types of mole,” and instead of the usual $7, it’s $1.99 or maybe even 99 cents if you flash your student ID. Students would get fed, restaurants would groom long-term customers and community colleges would take a step toward becoming colleges of the community, Buelna said.

Around this time of year, I always hear from readers asking for recommendations on good causes to donate to. If you’d like to support the ELAC food program, you can get information at www.elacfoundation.com

Or you could help support the L.A. Regional Food Bank’s mobile pantry expansion by going to LAFoodBank.org/donate, or get more information on that program by emailing Roger Castle at [email protected]

I stopped by the food bank Friday, and Chief Executive Michael Flood said more food has been donated this year and more food has been distributed than ever before in the nonprofit’s 46-year history.

The reason for the growing demand is that despite low unemployment rates and the fact that California has the world’s fifth-largest economy, low wages and the high cost of housing have pushed millions of residents to the brink. Flood said one reason for the increase in donations is the U.S. tariff war with China. Food producers unable to sell their goods overseas are making substantial donations of frozen meats, fresh produce and nuts.

More than 30,000 people a year volunteer to work at the food bank, and on Friday, employees from Zappos and UDR Apartments worked the assembly line, sorting and packing donated food for pickup and distribution throughout the county. Volunteer coordinator Ana Martinez said the food bank is good through the end of the year, but more volunteers will be needed after the holidays and well beyond, because hunger isn’t going away.

So many of our social and economic problems are overwhelming; it’s easy to get discouraged or to think there’s no way for an individual to make a difference.

But hunger — whether it’s in the homes of our neighbors or on college campuses — shouldn’t exist in the richest nation on the planet.

And there are ways for each of us to make a difference.

[email protected]





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Thanksgiving: Heavy Snow Closes I-5 ‘Grapevine’ North of Los Angeles



Heavy snow caused local authorities to close Interstate 5, the “Grapevine,” north of Los Angeles, as a winter storm continued to pound California on Thanksgiving morning.

Snow had already fallen in the area on Wednesday morning, as the storm began overnight, dumping rain on Los Angeles and snow on the surrounding mountains.

Local ABC affiliate KABC-7 reported Thursday:

Interstate 5 over the Grapevine has been closed Thursday morning due to heavy snow as a Thanksgiving storm continues hitting the area, authorities said.

The California Highway Patrol ordered the shut down of both directions of the freeway shortly before 4:40 a.m.

Authorities with Caltrans said it will assist vehicles already on the pass to the other side and then clear the roadway. It was not immediately known when lanes will open.

California High Patrol officers escorted drivers through the Grapevine for several hours amid heavy snowfall Wednesday morning.

Drivers were urged to use the Highway 101 as an alternative.

The Los Angeles Times reported that some ski resorts were forced to close because the snow was too heavy and blizzard conditions created logistical problems.

The winter weather may have caused nightmares for some Thanksgiving weekend travelers, but it is a boon to the state’s farmers and fisheries.

Thanksgiving is the traditional start of the rainy season. The state depends on winter precipitation to supply water to the rivers and reservoirs for the rest of the year.

Snow falling on the mountains is most important of all: aside from the benefit to ski resorts, the snowpack creates a vast natural reservoir that melts throughout the spring and early summer.

For five years, from 2011 to 2016, very little rain fell during the winter months, causing the worst drought in the state’s recent history.

However, since the winter of 2016-17, California has enjoyed rainy winters. In that sense, the winter of 2018-9 is off to a good start.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.





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