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No big fireworks shows? Officials say pets still need July 4th protection


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Even though fireworks shows have been barred city Los Angeles County health officials due to the coronavirus, animal-advocacy officials warned that pets can still get spooked by illegal pyrotechnics that are all-too-common during the Fourth of July holiday.

The July 4 holiday is traditionally one of the busiest times of year at animal shelters as household pets spooked by fireworks.

“Pet owners are not always aware that their pets may react to the sounds and bright flashes of fireworks,” said Marcia Mayeda, director of the county Department of Animal Care & Control. “This can trigger the fight or flight instinct.”

Dogs and cats can escape from small openings in houses and fenced yards in search of a safe place and may be injured in traffic or wind up in a crowded local shelter, officials warned.

Animal-care experts advised owners to:

— make sure pets have up-to-date identification tags and, if possible, a microchip registered with owner contact information;

— keep pets inside in an enclosed room or, if they must go outside, make sure gates and fences are very secure;

— create a safe space at home, with windows closed and covered, and plenty of water and food; and

— be sure to leave animals with a responsible party if leaving town for the holiday.
Owners who do lose their pets, despite all precautions, are urged to quickly post signs in the neighborhood and go to the city or county animal shelter nearest to where the animal was last seen with a photo and detailed information about the dog or cat.

Officials with the city’s Los Angeles Animal Services agency said animal-care officers will be patrolling the city on the holiday, providing free rides home for licensed and microchipped pets who wander off. Some rescue agencies will also have volunteers in the west valley and northern city areas to help scan lost dogs to avoid them being impounded.

Man arrested for allegedly abducting baby from ex-girlfriend in Paramount


PARAMOUNT (CNS) – A 22-year-old man is in custody today after allegedly abducting his biological seven-month-old child by force in Paramount.

Gianni Winters, who was released from jail on bond on June 19 after being arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, allegedly went to the home of his ex-girlfriend on July 1 and kicked the door open to enter the residence, according the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Winters’ ex-girlfriend and mother of the baby told investigators that he forcibly took the baby from a family member and placed him in the rear seat of his car, without a car seat, and sped off, according to the sheriff’s department.

He also allegedly took money and jewelry from the home before leaving, the sheriff’s department reported.

Investigators located Winters in an apartment in the 12200 block of Heritage Springs Drive in Santa Fe Springs, and believing the baby may be in danger based on Winters’ previous reported history of domestic violence, detectives forcibly entered the home, according to the sheriff’s department.

Winters was taken into custody about 7 p.m., and the uninjured baby was safely returned to his mother, the sheriff’s department reported.

Winters was arrested for child abduction, child endangerment, burglary and home invasion robbery, according to the sheriff’s department. He is being held on $150,000 bail and scheduled to appear in Compton Superior Court on July 6.

Black transgender woman fatally shot in Downtown Los Angeles; No arrests made


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A Black transgender woman, who was fatally shot in downtown Los Angeles by a killer who remains at large, was the 19th trans and gender non-conforming person to be murdered in the United States so far this year, officials at the Los Angeles LGBT Center said today.

The shooting occurred near 15th Street and Hooper Avenue about 7:10 p.m. Tuesday. No arrests have been made and a suspect description was not released.

The woman, whose identity has not been released, was pronounced dead at a hospital, according to Officer Mike Lopez of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Her death is the 19th recorded murder of a trans and gender non-conforming person in the U.S. in 2020, and the sixth recorded murder of a Black trans and gender non-conforming person this year, according to the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

“Our grief is coupled with outrage at the epidemic of violence against trans people in this country, especially Black trans women,” an L.A. LGBT Center statement reads. “We call upon all people of good conscience to work together to help end the senseless and tragic violence against transgender people. This will require addressing the underlying conditions of anti-transgender bias and racism that increase the risk of violence for all trans women, particularly trans women of color.”

Newsom orders halt to indoor dining, other activities as virus cases spike


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Responding to continued spikes in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Gavin Newsom today ordered a halt to indoor dining and barred other indoor activities at businesses such as wineries, museums and casinos in counties that have been on the state’s COVID-19 “watch list,” including Los Angeles and Orange.

“The bottom line is, the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” Newsom said from Sacramento. “We’re seeing parts of the state where we are seeing an increase not only in the total number of positive cases but a significant increase in the total number of people that are getting tested that are testing positive, meaning the positivity rate, not just the total case rate, is beginning to go up to a degree that obviously generates some concern.”

In addition to shuttering many indoor business activities, Newsom also announced the creation of Multi-Agency Strike Teams that will target businesses that have been operating without meeting health guidelines — as he phrased it, businesses that have been “thumbing their nose” or “reticent” to take steps to protect employees and customers.

The strike teams will include various state agencies, including the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, CalOSHA, Department of Business Oversight, Department of Consumer Affairs and the California Highway Patrol.

“When we talk about compliance, this isn’t just talking about mask compliance, this is talking about heath and safety in our meat-packing facilities,” he said. “One should not have to put their life at risk to go to work as an essential worker.

“… It’s more education. I’m not coming out with a fist. We want to come out with an open heart, recognize the magnitude of these modifications … and what it means to small businessmen and women, what it means to communities, what it means to the economic vibrancy and health of our state, and in turn our nation.”

In ordering a halt to indoor business activities, Newsom said affected businesses in the 19-county “watch list” area are not being ordered to close entirely, but instead restrict themselves to outdoor operations. For restaurants without outdoor dining space, the order will likely force many to revert to carry-out operations.

“This doesn’t mean restaurants shut down, it means we’re trying to take many activities, these concentrated activities, and move them outdoors, which is a way of mitigating the spread of this virus,” Newsom said.

The ban on indoor operations will last for three weeks. The order affects restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums, and cardrooms. He said the state is working with tribal nations that operate casinos to determine guidelines that could allow them to continue operating.

Newsom had already ordered bars closed in Los Angeles County, but he ordered Wednesday that bars also be closed in all other counties on the state’s watch list. In Southern California, Orange and Riverside counties have already ordered bars to close ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. San Diego County has also ordered a bar closure, even though it is not on the watch list.

Counties earn spots on the state’s watch list by falling short on select criteria, such as the number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents and the overall positivity rate among people tested for the virus.

Newsom fell short of ordering all beaches to close across the state for the holiday weekend, but he closed all parking facilities at state beaches in Southern California and the Bay Area. In counties that have ordered local beach closures, state beaches will also close, Newsom said.

Los Angeles County has ordered a closure of all beaches for the Fourth of July weekend. Orange and San Diego counties have not issued such an order, but Ventura County also plans to close its beaches.

The governor also encouraged — but did not mandate — all counties on the watch list to consider cancelling all Fourth of July fireworks displays to prevent large-scale gatherings of people that could lead to spread of the virus. Los Angeles County has already issued such an order, but Orange County has not, although Laguna Beach has already voluntarily canceled its display.

“We want to again remind each and every one of you that if we want to be independent from COVID-19, we have to be much more vigilant in terms of maintaining our physical distancing from others and be much more vigilant as it relates to being in situations where we are transmitting COVID-19,” he said.

In his briefing, Newsom praised the overall efforts of counties to enforce health orders to prevent the spread of the virus, but he again warned that counties falling short in that area could face a loss of millions of dollars in state funding.

He also again warned residents to avoid public gatherings over the holiday weekend, including family gatherings, and he again urged everyone to wear face coverings and practice social distancing in public.

He said gathering with family and friends is an “understandable impulse” on the Fourth of July holiday as a way of celebrating independence.

“Clearly that spirit we appreciate and deeply respect, and I think patriotism — at least in a COVID-19 environment — can be expressed a little bit differently with consideration of our independence from COVID-19 that needs to come with conditions and considerations on wearing masks and making sure we’re physically distancing.”

LAUSD Police Chief resigns after 35 percent budget cut


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – One day after a divided school board slashed his agency’s budget by 35% in response to a wave of community protests calling for a defunding of law enforcement, Los Angeles School Police Chief Todd Chamberlain resigned from his post today.

“After humbly serving my communities, departments and personnel over 35 years in law enforcement, I have been placed in a position that makes my ability to effectively, professionally and safely impact those groups unachievable,” Chamberlain said in a statement. “In good conscience, and in fear for safety and well-being of those I serve, I cannot support modifications to my position, the organization and most importantly, the community — students, staff and families — that I believe will be detrimental and potentially life-threatening.”

There was no immediate word on who will take over leadership of the department.

“More information on the department leadership transition will be forthcoming,” a Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman told City News Service.

Chamberlain, a 33-year law enforcement veteran, became chief of school police in December. He took the job after retiring as a commander with the Los Angeles Police Department.

His decision follows a late-night Tuesday vote by the LAUSD Board of Education to reduce the school police budget by $25 million in response to weeks of protests by student activists and community groups who had called for the elimination of the department.

The board action on Tuesday also calls for officers to give up their uniforms and patrol off campus. Chamberlain told the board during the meeting the cut would lead to the layoffs of 65 officers in the 471-employee department.

The board motion called for the money to be redirected to fund staff to specifically serve the needs of Black students and a task force that will study ways to re-imagine the issue of student and campus safety.

“L.A. Unified has to continued to be a leader in showing what can happen when we believe in self-determination, when we empower communities to help this organization transform itself,” board member Monica Garcia said.

The 4-3 vote was supported by Garcia, Jackie Goldberg, Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez. Opposing the move were board President Richard Vladovic, George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson — all retired longtime school administrators who expressed concerns about safety risks.

Last week, the school board rejected a trio of motions aimed at cutting the department’s funding, unable to come to any sort of consensus on the issue. During that meeting, McKenna gave a lengthy, impassioned defense of school police and warned the board against making a knee-jerk decision in response to nationwide protests calling for defunding of law enforcement. He said school police “are being unfairly demonized.”

Proponents of defunding have countered that police are an intimidating presence on school campuses, particularly to Black students.

Goldberg’s chief of staff, Sharon Delugach, said Tuesday night that the resolution also would require officers to be unarmed and would prohibit the use of pepper spray. However, those provisions were not in the resolution read aloud to the board.

The portion of Garcia’s language that was preserved said the money saved would go to “support African American student achievement to the extent of the law.” And until safety alternatives are worked out, all schools would have access “to appropriate community support in the event of an emergency.”

Just before the vote, Garcia added an amendment that would bar the school district from replacing the school police by contracting with the Los Angeles police, the county sheriff’s department or a private security force.

The vote to reduce the police force came at the end of a 13-hour meeting that started with public comments over the issue, which has roiled the school district since June 8, when leaders of the teachers’ union joined with activists and called for the elimination of the police department.

“The school board’s action is a huge first step in the campaign for police-free schools and ground-breaking in terms of our movement for supporting Black lives in our schools,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said Wednesday, her first day on the job after taking over for former president Alex Caputo-Pearl. “It was the power and passion in the streets across L.A. and this country, uplifting the voices of Black students, educators and families that made this happen. We can’t let up. We must keep fighting for our babies and our students.”

The California Charter Schools Association said the board had taken “meaningful action to move our public school system forward by investing in resources, services, and supports that both create safe school campuses and also promote the well-being and learning of every child.”

Councilmen want police off traffic enforcement, end to ‘driving while black’


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Four Los Angeles City Councilmen today proposed to have Department of Transportation staffers or automated technology enforce traffic violations instead of armed police officers.

Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mike Bonin, Curren Price and Herb Wesson proposed the city consider using LADOT staff or technology to enforce traffic laws such as speeding, illegal turns and other vehicle code violations.

“For years, police officers have used traffic enforcement as an excuse to harass and demean Black motorists while violating their rights,” Harris-Dawson said. “We do not need armed officials responding to and enforcing traffic violations. This practice is expensive, costing the city millions and far too many innocent people their lives.”

“Driving while Black or Latino should not be a crime, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a young person of color who has not had a negative interaction that began with an alleged traffic infraction,” Wesson said. “It’s common sense. We don’t need an armed response to a broken tail light or a traffic accident. This is a logical next step to reimagining public safety in Los Angeles.”

The councilmen said police departments nationwide have long used minor traffic infractions as a pretext for profiling people of color. Data have shown that Los Angeles police officers stop and search Black and Latino motorists far more often than whites, the councilmen said.

If the proposal is adopted, LADOT and other city staff would consult with community stakeholders and suggest alternative methods of enforcement that do not rely on armed officers.

It was not immediately clear which City Council committee would first hear the proposal.

Coronavirus continues pressuring LA County hospital system


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – COVID-19 continued to put pressure on the Los Angeles County hospital system today, with the number of patients continuing its upward march as the county confirmed another 2,000-plus cases.

Public health officials warned Monday that the spiking numbers of coronavirus cases could cause the county to run out of hospital beds in the next two to three weeks, and out of intensive care unit beds potentially sooner.

As of Tuesday, the county was reporting 1,783 people in hospitals due to the virus, continuing an upward trend that has seen the number jump by more than 400 over the past month.

The county reported another 2,779 coronavirus cases Tuesday, although 186 of those were actually announced Monday afternoon by health officials in Long Beach and Pasadena. Long Beach announced another 321 cases Tuesday. The new cases lifted the countywide total to 103,850.

The county also announced another 45 deaths, but five of those were announced Monday by Long Beach. Long Beach added two more fatalities Tuesday. The new deaths gave the county an overall total of 3,371.

As of Tuesday, about 9% of the more than 1.1 million people tested in the county have tested positive. The increasing short-term positivity rate has been on the rise, raising further concerns in the county about spiking numbers and the possibility of an overwhelmed health system. The seven-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from 5.8% two weeks ago to 8.4% as of Monday.

Health officials on Monday said new statistics indicate that on average, one in every 140 people in Los Angeles County is infected with COVID-19 and capable of spreading it to others, likely without having any symptoms or even knowing they are carrying the virus. That figure is up dramatically from last week, when the estimate was one in every 400 people.

“What this means is that Angelenos in the activities of daily living when they go out are very likely to be in the locations or near persons who are currently infectious, and in fact a large typical store is likely to have multiple infectious persons enter the shop every day,” Dr. Roger Lewis, who leads the county’s statistical modeling efforts, said Monday.

Some pundits have attributed the rise in overall cases to increases in testing, but county officials said repeatedly in recent days that the metrics clearly demonstrate an increase in community spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Health officials said Friday that cases affecting younger people between 18 and 40 have jumped by 42% over the past two weeks, making that age group the driving factor in the increases.

County public health director Barbara Ferrer said Monday restaurants and bars continue to struggle with fully adhering to all of the safety protocols for operating. She said of the establishments visited by inspectors over the weekend, 49% of bars and 33% of restaurants were failing to meet physical distancing requirements. She said 54% of bars and 44% of restaurants were violating the requirement that workers wear face masks and shields.

Overall, 83% of restaurants were found to be in violation of some aspect of the operating guidelines, as were 65% of retail stores.

Ferrer said one Los Angeles business was shut down over the weekend because more than 150 people were found to have tested positive. She did not name the business, but statistics posted on the county’s website confirm the business was LA Apparel, which has three adjacent factories on 59th Street in South Los Angeles. According to the county, there were 23 confirmed virus cases at one of the facilities, 61 at another and 67 at the third.

The company’s owner told NBC4 Tuesday he was working to get the business reopened.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered all bars closed in Los Angeles County, and he hinted Tuesday that more statewide restrictions could be on tap in an effort to prevent an explosion of virus cases over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. He also said he may announce stepped-up enforcement of the state’s requirement that people wear masks while in public.

Los Angeles County announced Monday that all of its beaches will be closed over the holiday weekend in hopes of preventing large gatherings. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who is embroiled in a continuing budget battle with the Board of Supervisors, suggested Monday his agency might not enforce the beach closure order.

On Tuesday, he wrote on Twitter, “Enforcement efforts will be focused on vehicle & penal code violations, beach parking lot closures & street parking restrictions. (Sheriff’s) beach patrol will be patrolling the county beaches to ensure public safety.”

COVID-19 regulations claim landmark Chinatown restaurant


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – After more than 40 years as a fixture in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, the Plum Tree Inn has permanently closed its doors, another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced today.

The restaurant that served Chinese favorites and Szechuan specialties had been temporarily closed since March 30 after initially staying open during the shelter-in-place order to provide takeout service.

“Our dedicated staff, loyal customers and the Chinatown and downtown communities have been the backbone of our restaurant’s success and we appreciate all of the support everyone has shown us over the past 40 years,” said Mark Ting, the restaurant’s president and owner. “So it is with a heavy heart to announce that with these uncertain times, we have made the difficult decision to close our doors permanently. We are incredibly grateful to have shared so many wonderful memories with each one of you.”

First opened in 1979 on Hill Street in Chinatown, the restaurant moved to its location at 913 N. Broadway in 2007. Peking duck was one of its specialties.

Through the years, additional locations — all since closed — were opened in West Los Angeles, Woodland Hills and Las Vegas, along with fast-food versions in Northridge, Topanga Canyon, Hollywood, Cerritos, downtown Los Angeles and Toronto under the name Plum Tree Express.

Golden State Killer pleads guilty to 13 murders, including OC slayings


SANTA ANA (CNS) – The Golden State Killer went before a judge today to admit his guilt in a string of murders, rapes and other crimes in the 1970s and 1980s, stretching from Sacramento County to Orange County, after reaching a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.

Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., 74, this morning began the process of admitting guilt in 13 murders in a hearing before a Sacramento judge that was livestreamed on YouTube. By the noon lunch break, he was about halfway through entering his pleas, speaking in a raspy, trembling voice just above a whisper.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, who was in Sacramento for the hearing, took the defendant’s pleas this afternoon for the killings of 24-year-old Keith and 28-year-old Patrice Harrington on Aug. 19, 1980, in Dana Point; 28-year-old Manuela Witthuhn in Irvine in February 1981; and 18-year-old Janelle Cruz in Irvine in May 1986.

Under DeAngelo’s plea deal, the onetime Exeter and Auburn police officer is expected to be sentenced to at least 11 consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole and 15 concurrent life sentences.

Keith Harrington’s brother told City News Service it was a “totally surreal experience” hearing DeAngelo admit his crimes. He said he and his family still support the death penalty for DeAngelo, but believe the plea deal is the best form of justice they could get.

“This is the most amount of justice and most amount of closure we could ever obtain,” Ron Harrington said. “This guy is absolutely the worst of the worst… He is truly the poster child for the death penalty.”

But given the age of witnesses and investigators as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, it made the logistics of scheduling of even a preliminary hearing difficult to accomplish, Harrington said. Also, henoted, Gov. Gavin Newsom has put a moratorium on the death penalty in the state.

“The preliminary hearing in this case had 100 witnesses and the preliminary hearing was going to last literally months,” Harrington said. “And beyond that issue we’re also dealing with COVID-19. And how do you protect all these remaining victims and witnesses in the era of the coronavirus?”

The Harringtons, who lived in a single-story home in the gated Niguel Shores community, were attacked in their bedroom, according to Investigator Larry Pool of the Golden State Killer task force. Their bodies were found on their blood-spattered bed with ligature marks on their wrists and Patrice’s ankles, Pool wrote in a probable cause declaration.

Keith Harrington was a medical student and Patrice was a pediatric trauma nurse, according to Spitzer, who said DeAngelo bludgeoned the couple to death and left the binds on the bed.

“They were newlyweds, having been married only three months,” the county’s top prosecutor said, noting that Keith’s father, Roger, found the bodies.

Investigators in 1996 matched semen at the crime scene to the killer in the two other Orange County cases. The identity of the killer remained unknown until 2018, when investigators used a public genealogy database with DNA recovered from an item discarded by DeAngelo.

Witthuhn was attacked sometime between 11 p.m. on Feb. 5, 1981, and 2 a.m. on Feb. 6, 1981. The cause of death was skull fractures from a beating, Pool said, adding that her parents discovered her body in a sleeping bag when they went to check on her. There was no evidence of a struggle and she had ligature marks on her wrists and on her right ankle.

Witthuhn’s husband, David, had been admitted to an area hospital due to a stomach virus, so she was alone for the night, Spitzer said. After she visited him at the hospital, her spouse called her to make sure she got home safely.

“That was the last time he spoke with her,” Spitzer said.

Witthuhn slumbered in a sleeping bag because she felt cold without her husband there and was eagerly awaiting his planned release from the hospital the next day, Spitzer said.

DeAngelo took the bindings, along with jewelry, a lamp and a cassette from an answering machine, the D.A. said.

Cruz was killed about 5 p.m. on May 5, 1986, in her bed in her Irvine home. Blood covered her head and neck and she was partially covered by her blanket. She had hemorrhaging in her eyes and bruises on the bridge of her nose, according to Pool, who said the killer knocked out three of her teeth — with two found in her hair.

She had no ligature marks on her wrists like the other victims, but there were abrasions, leading investigators to speculate her killer squeezed her wrists so hard he left a mark, Pool said. Her lower lip was swollen, her tongue bitten. An ultraviolet light spotlighted semen on the victim, according to Pool. No murder weapon was found, but a pipe wrench in the backyard was missing.

The cause of death was “crushing skull fractures,” he said.

Cruz’s family had gone on vacation to Mexico, leaving her home alone, Spitzer said. One of the victim’s male friends visited her because she was afraid to be alone, he said.

“About 11 p.m., prior to his leaving, they heard noises outside the house,” Spitzer said. “They attributed the noise to a cat or a washer and dryer.”

Spitzer turned to the defendant and said, “You, Mr. DeAngelo, unlawfully entered the Cruz residence… You attacked her, you beat her and you raped her… You murdered her in the first-degree, bludgeoning her multiple times in her face and head.”

The victim “swallowed a significant amount of blood,” Spitzer said.

Various prosecutors from across the state read detailed descriptions of the defendant’s crimes, starting with the murder of 45-year-old Claude Snelling on Sept. 11, 1975, in Visalia. DeAngelo shot and killed Snelling as he attempted to rescue his daughter, who the killer was trying to kidnap.

DeAngelo also pleaded guilty to attempting to kill Detective William McGowen on Dec. 10, 1975, as the then-Visalia officer attempted to arrest him for a series of burglaries attributed to the “Visalia Ransacker” from April 1974 through December 1975.

DeAngelo admitted to the beating deaths of Goleta residents Debra Manning, 35, and Robert Offerman, 44, on Dec. 30, 1979, in their home in Santa Barbara County, and the beating deaths of Gregory Sanchez, 27, and Cheri Domingo, 35, both of Goleta, on July 27, 1981. DeAngelo also raped Manning and Domingo.

DeAngelo also pleaded guilty to bludgeoning to death Charlene and Lyman Smith, both of Ventura, with a fireplace log on March 13, 1980. Lyman Smith, a 43-year-old former deputy district attorney, and his 33-year-old wife were found dead by his 12-year-old son. The killer also raped Charlene Smith and stole some of her jewelry, prosecutors said.

DeAngelo is expected to be ordered back to court in August, when victim impact statements will begin.

Prosecutors on the case announced in April 2019 they would seek the death penalty for the Citrus Heights resident, but multiple issues cropped up in the case, with many witnesses dying, a source told CNS.

“Some key witnesses are 80 years old or above,” the source said, adding that includes many detectives who worked on the killings.

Support in recent weeks among the families of the victims was “overwhelming” for a plea deal, the source said.

LAUSD remains undecided about schools reopening this fall


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said today no decision has been made about students returning to school facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic when the academic year starts Aug. 18, but he said officials are working on a plan.

Beutner’s statements were presented along with a survey from LAUSD that showed 59% of families said they would be comfortable sending their child back to school for the fall semester, while 21% said they are uncertain and 20% said they would not be comfortable. Schools have been closed since March, transitioning to online learning, in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“The past few weeks, we’ve seen a troubling increase in the number of (COVID-19) cases in the community, and that’s a cause for real concern,” Beutner said. “This presents a challenge because we know the best learning environment with students is in the school.”

Survey respondents said they want to know that facilities are being sanitized, that everyone will wear masks and that social distancing will be maintained if children are allowed back on school campuses. Additionally, they want to see more testing, protocols for people who may be infected with the virus and contact tracing.

“None of these are cheap or easy, but we think we can implement these in schools,” Beutner said. “Simply put, if you’re going to be in a setting with lots of other people, like a school, it would be important to know if anyone else has a virus and what your risk of exposure is.”

Beutner has said testing and contact tracing should be mandatory to prevent the spread of the virus at schools.

Childcare is also something families said they would like LAUSD to provide, as parents are trying to return to work and many cannot work from home.

Beutner said LAUSD has the professionals to offer childcare but not the facilities. To operate a childcare program throughout the district, the superintendent said it could cost $3 million a day.

The state of California and Los Angeles County have released safety guidelines for school districts to consider for reopening amidst the pandemic; however, the decision to reopen schools and what protocols they will use, in compliance with local health mandates, is ultimately up to each district to decide.