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L.A. Mayor bans rent hikes during coronavirus crisis

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Many landlords are now barred from raising rent during the coronavirus crisis, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Monday. The long-awaited move will cover thousands of apartments currently under Los Angeles’ rent stabilization program, just days before rent is due across the Southland on April 1.

The new policy will only cover buildings built during or before 1978. Most newer units won’t benefit from the executive order, but as many as 624,000 will. Garcetti didn’t give any indication as to when the order could be lifted.

Garcetti’s executive order comes just days after the Los Angeles City Council placed a temporary ban on evictions for renters affected by the virus. Garcetti signed the ordinance which affects both residential and commercial tenants. City Council also waived late fees and moved to allow renters up to a year to make late payments, but stopped short of an eviction moratorium.

Garcetti also announced Monday that farmers markets across the city would be shut down, due to concerns regarding overcrowding.

“This is a defining week in our history, a critical week in our future,” Garcetti said. “The more we do, the quicker this will end. The less we do, the longer it will take. And we know the longer that it takes, the more people will lose their lives and we know more damage will be done to our economy.”

Pasadena grab-and-go meal program suspended

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PASADENA (CNS) – The grab-and-go meal program for Pasadena Unified School District students will be suspended starting today after a kitchen employee was possibly diagnosed with COVID-19.

The district says the grab-and-go meal service that was being provided at seven of its school sites will be suspended until at least later this week.

“We know that this may cause hardship to our families and are working with neighboring school districts to provide meals to PUSD students,” Superintendent Brian McDonald said in a statement.

The coronavirus diagnosis was not confirmed, McDonald said. But the district is carrying out “extensive cleaning and sanitizing of our kitchens and facilities to minimize any risk of surface transmission,” he said. Once the kitchens and facilities have been sanitized, the district says it will reopen to provide students with meals while schools are closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

L.A. County toll up to 2,136 cases, 37 deaths

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – L.A County’s coronavirus toll today stood at 2,136 cases and 37 deaths.

Five more deaths from COVID-19 and 332 new cases were announced by Los Angeles County health officials over the weekend.

No further information was released about the latest fatalities, but five of the six deaths reported on Saturday occurred in people over the age of 60, and one was between 50 and 60 years old. Two of those people did not have any reported underlying health conditions, according to officials.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families and friends of individuals who have died. I ask that everyone please do your part to not infect others or become infected yourself by adhering to the public health directives and practicing social distancing,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County Public Health. “More than ever, it is crucial that we practice social distancing, and if we are sick, even with mild illness, make every effort to self-isolate from others for at least 7 days and 3 more days after being symptom free. … Those who have been in close contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days. If we all commit ourselves to stay home, stay away from others when sick, and stay 6 feet apart when out, we will save lives.”

Ferrer said 453 COVID-19 patients — or 21% of the county’s positive cases — have been hospitalized. Officials also said 24 Los Angeles Police Department employees and six members of the Los Angeles Fire Department have tested positive for COVID-19.

“All of these individuals are self-isolating at home and recovering,” spokeswoman Jessica Kellogg said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, meanwhile, said Sunday the city is establishing the Los Angeles Convention Center as a federal field hospital. California’s National Guard helped prepare the center Sunday, he said.

Garcetti also said the city is in the process of opening up five new emergency shelters to move the homeless indoors. Currently, the city is operating 540 shelters, which are about 91% filled.

He announced that the city was working with UPS and Everlywell to get coronavirus test kits to seniors and community healthcare providers on Skid Row.

The first homeless person who tested positive for COVID-19 turned up at Dockweiler State Beach, he said. That person was taken to a medical facility for treatment.

The U.S. Navy medical ship Mercy, which contains beds and which arrived Friday, has received its first three patients. Mercy will not be taking coronavirus patients, he said.

Garcetti said the city’s logistics officer is working to get 1 million masks to first-responders.

Garcetti is also asking hotel and motel owners to provide rooms for Angelenos who are homeless or who need to isolate with coronavirus. He said he believed those rooms would be paid for out of funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The owners will be paid by the city for the rooms. We’re not asking them to donate the rooms,” Garcetti said. “We believe these expenses will be reimbursed by FEMA. It’s a reimbursable expense.”

He urged hotel and motel owners to go to Coronavirus.LACity.org/Rooms.

The mayor said 6,741 coronavirus tests have been conducted by the city, and that he expects to triple that number by the end of the week. He also said a fifth test site will be opened Monday.

As the grim weekend numbers came in, Angelenos were for the most part adhering to the county’s order to stay off beaches and nature trails to slow the spread of the virus.

One exception occurred Saturday in Manhattan Beach, where a surfer who refused to exit the water when prompted by lifeguards was given a citation.

Manhattan Beach Police Sgt. Justin Hidalgo said the man was cited for surfing within a restricted area because a county lifeguard had put out the “blackball” flag (yellow flag with a black circle in the middle of it) and he still decided to surf.

Hidalgo said it was unclear what the fine is because a judge, through the court process, would have to determine the amount.

Most of the county’s individual coastal cities had already closed off beaches, parking lots and pathways over the last week, and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area closed of all its facilities on March 22.

“I ask that you help us by not going to our beaches and not going to our hiking trails, at least for the next few weeks,” Ferrer said. “ … Many of our parks do remain open so there are opportunities for people to go outside and enjoy our beautiful county, but only if we practice social distancing.”

The county’s mortality rate from the illness has risen above the levels seen across the country and in New York City, which has been particularly hard-hit by the virus, Ferrer said. Of the people who have tested positive for the virus in Los Angeles County, 1.8% have died. She said that is a higher mortality rate than the nation as a whole, and above that seen in New York City, which has a rate of about 1.4%.

Pasadena officials close Rose Bowl Loop after complaints

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Pasadena officials announced Sunday that the Rose Bowl Loop is now closed. Pasadena Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian said that although visitors were largely following social distancing directives, the closures are due to an “over-abundance of caution.”

“We were getting a lot of people that expressed concern,” Derderian said. “Even though we were closely monitoring it, we thought to mirror what LA County is doing.”

Electronic signs once directing Loop visitors to maintain social distance now request that visitors head home. Police continue to patrol the area, and Rose Bowl parking lots are closed. 

Pasadena also closed its pickleball courts, and will close tennis courts on Monday. If residents cannot stay away, Derderian cautioned, larger barriers could be put in place.

Mayor Terry Tornek said although he was disappointed to see the Loop close, he feels it was the best move. Residents are still encouraged to get fresh air and exercise, but are now asked to do so in their own neighborhoods, Tornek said. 

“Happily in Pasadena, in every neighborhood there are nice places to go walking,” Tornek said.

According to Los Angeles County Mental Health Director Jonathan Sherin, Angelenos will benefit from getting fresh air occasionally, even as many across the Southland self-isolate. 

Los Angeles parks remain open, but the county closed trails on Monday, due to overcrowding. County officials announced the closure of beaches and bike paths along the ocean on Friday after images taken last weekend showed crowded beaches. Griffith Park was also closed. 

As of Friday, 1,804 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 26 people have died, health officials said. There are 10 reported cases in Pasadena.

Rose Bowl Loop may close if visitors don’t maintain social distance

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The Rose Bowl Loop could be closed following this weekend if visitors don’t maintain proper social distancing, a Pasadena official said Friday. 

“We’ll see how the weekend goes,” Pasadena Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian said. “We need people to follow the mandates of social distancing.”

Electronic signs have been installed to remind visitors to maintain at least six feet of distance between one another, even among members of the same family. Police officers are doing regular patrols around the 3.1-mile path that surrounds the Rose Bowl and Brookside Golf Course, Derderian said. The path is used by runners and walkers of all ages. However, complaints are still coming through regarding lax compliance.

Despite the complaints, Derderian said Pasadena is expecting an influx of visitors this weekend. 

“I would hope people would self-regulate,” Derderian said.

Mayor Terry Tornek did not respond to a request for comment.

Keeping the Loop open is at the top of officials’ mental health strategy for the city, Tornek said in a video message released Thursday evening. Los Angeles County Mental Health Director Jonathan Sherin said Angelenos would benefit from getting fresh air occasionally, even as many across the Southland self-isolate. 

Some Los Angeles parks remain open, but the county closed trails on Monday, due to overcrowding. County officials announced the closure of beaches and bike paths along the ocean on Friday after images taken last weekend showed crowded beaches. Griffith Park was also closed. 

As of Friday, 1,465 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 26 people have died, health officials said. There are 10 reported cases in Pasadena. 

Los Angeles Department of Aging provides resource guidance amid pandemic

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles Department of Aging launched a resource map today that provides locations for residents to pick up meals on behalf of people 65 and older, and department officials reminded residents of coronavirus testing available to them.

All 85 congregate meal sites operated by the city of Los Angeles will remain closed until further notice, but department officials said the city and its community partners have been distributing packaged and frozen meals to older adults enrolled in the city’s meal program, and people can still pick up products at meal sites.

People enrolled in the food programs must send a family member, friend or caregiver under the age of 65 to pick up meals at the sites.

The map of the meal sites is available at https://bit.ly/2JbY04T. The map will be updated as needed, department officials said.

If a senior is not aware of who their meal provider is, or not enrolled in the Department of Aging meal program, they can call the department at 213-482-7252 to enroll. The phone line is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Seniors who already receive regular home meal delivery will have their services continued without interruption, the department stated.

The Department of Aging can be reached for other services and is providing social programs for people to interact remotely during the pandemic, as well as mental health resources.

The city of Los Angeles now has COVID-19 testing available to residents 65 and older, people experiencing symptoms of the virus or those who have underlying health issues.

People who are eligible can make an appointment at coronavirus.lacity.org/testing. People who do not have internet access can call the Mayor’s Help Desk at 213-978-1028 for assistance.

Teen who died of possible COVID-19 lacked insurance, says Lancaster mayor

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LANCASTER (CNS) – A 17-year-old Lancaster boy whose death was originally attributed to coronavirus but is now being investigated by federal health authorities sought treatment at an urgent-care center but was turned away because he had no insurance, according to the city’s mayor.

In a video posted to YouTube, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said the unidentified teen “had been sick for a few days.”

“He had no previous health conditions. On Friday (March 13), the Friday before he died, he was healthy. He was socializing with his friends,” Parris said. “By Wednesday, he was dead.

“Wednesday, he had gone to an urgent care for an HMO. He didn’t have insurance so they did not treat him and sent him to AV (Antelope Valley) Hospital. En route to AV Hospital, he went into cardiac arrest. When he got to AV Hospital, they were able to revive him and keep him alive for about six hours, but by the time he got there, it was too late.

“We’ve learned that once you go into respiratory issues — you have trouble breathing, you’re short of breath — and you have a fever, that is the time to get medical treatment without delay,” he said.

The boy’s death was announced Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and was initially reported as a coronavirus case — making the teen the first known juvenile to die of the virus in the United States. Later that day, however, health officials walked back the diagnosis, saying “the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality.” They said the case was being investigated further by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the teen’s death is no longer included among the county’s 21 fatalities attributed to COVID-19, as of Friday morning.

But Parris said the boy’s death should still be taken as a warning of the severity of the virus and the need for people to adhere to stay-at-home and other guidelines mandated by health officials.

“To me it’s fabulous that everybody is just coming together to get the job done,” Parris said. “Everybody is doing their job and I’m hoping that you are too. Your first priority, keep your kids home. make certain that if you’re one of the people who are vulnerable to this — meaning my age — that you stay away from people.”

He said that when he leaves his house and returns home later, his wife requires him to off his clothing in the garage then take a shower before he can talk to her.

“That is how serious we’re taking it, and I hope you’re taking it as serious as that,” he said.

Crime drops in L.A. County as residents stay home during coronavirus pandemic

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The number of crimes committed in Los Angeles County has declined as people heed stay-at-home orders issued in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to local law enforcement officials.

“Crime is down 8% since the onset of the local COVID-19 pandemic,” Burbank police Sgt. Derek Green said Thursday morning. “Calls for service are down about 13% (and) traffic collisions down about 6%, likely attributed to less vehicles on the road.”

On Wednesday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva released figures from his department also reflecting a crime drop.

“We took a pulse of the overall county crime numbers yesterday, and it was for violent crimes … a 10% drop, and for overall crime throughout the county, it was a 6% drop,” Villanueva said.

The Los Angeles Police Department was similarly responding to fewer crimes.

“I think we are seeing a reduction in both violent and property crime (and) we’re surely seeing a reduction in our call load,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore told ABC7 earlier this week.

Burglaries in Los Angeles are down 16 percent and personal thefts by 15 percent, Josh Rubenstein, the LAPD’s communications director, told CBSLA.

“That would make sense because people are at home right now, so those property crimes are down,” he said.

It’s a similar story in Pasadena and elsewhere countywide.

“Right now, like other cities, we are seeing less crime. But we take into consideration that a lot of businesses, schools and restaurants are closed down and people are staying at home and looking out for each other,” Pasadena city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian told City News Service.

The reduction in crime rates may also be due to an increase in patrols, according to Derderian.

Moore said an increased number of LAPD officers are on the streets because of a switch to 12-hour shifts. He stressed that a 12-hour shift is longer for the officers involved.

“The 12-hour shift for an officer really means a 15- or 16-hour day at a minimum, because (of) time to travel to the workplace (and) prepare for the work shift,” Moore said. “And when they work a solid 12, then they have to come back to the station dump their gear, and get ready to go home.”

Some officers are being provided places to sleep at a police training facility at the end of their shifts, rather than going home, Moore said.

Garcetti announces federal, state funds for homeless amid coronavirus outbreak

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Los Angeles could receive $32 million from the proposed $2 trillion federal stimulus package, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a Wednesday evening press briefing. 

The amount would be in addition to the $19 million already provided by state government and parts of both grants would go toward emergency shelters, isolation units and supportive housing, Garcetti said, as the city tries to stymie the spread of coronavirus among Los Angeles homeless. 

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Garcetti said. “We’re gonna spend whatever money we have [to help Angelenos].”

Additional funds will go toward first responders and homelessness outreach, Garcetti said, adding that his staff will be looking into the feasibility of streetside testing for the virus and its associated disease, COVID-19.

Improving housing and healthcare for the homeless, particularly along downtown L.A.’s Skid Row, is just the latest among Garcetti’s efforts to stall COVID-19 infections. On Wednesday morning, the city closed Runyon Canyon to prevent infections on crowded park trails, and Garcetti said more parks and recreation centers could soon see themselves shuttered.

Despite these preparations, Garcetti made it clear the worst of the contagion remains ahead. When asked whether New York City’s infections, which topped 20,000 on Wednesday evening, could serve as a preview of what’s to come for Los Angeles, Garcetti made it clear that he believes so. As of Wednesday, there were 799 reported cases in Los Angeles County and 13 deaths. 

“We have not seen the darkest days, but we will march forward,” Garcetti said.

California automakers halt production over coronavirus

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After mounting pressure from local authorities amid concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced Thursday he would suspend production at the company’s Silicon Valley manufacturing plant.

BYD North America, a fellow electric vehicle manufacturer, announced Saturday it had halted production at its factory in Southern California.

The temporary closures follow other automakers’ decisions earlier last week to shut down. Detroit’s Big Three — Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler — announced its plants would be closed through March 30.

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