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LA County posts 102 coronavirus fatalities on deadliest pandemic day since March
County public health officials confirmed 102 more deaths linked to the enduring COVID-19 outbreak, on Thursday, Jan. 20. It was the highest number of deaths since last March and a signal that high rates of serious illness and mortality are still to come, even amid renewed optimism that the latest winter surge has plateaued. [Article]
by , Daily Breeze. 2022-01-20
Coronavirus positivity rate inching downward at LA County schools
The number of Los Angeles County school campuses reporting COVID infections spiked as on-campus learning resumed this month, but the percentage of students and staff testing positive for coronavirus has started to decline, health officials said Wednesday, Jan. 19. [Article]
by , Daily Breeze. 2022-01-20
LA County inches closer to launching sought-after Aliso Canyon gas-leak health study
More than six years after the mammoth Aliso Canyon gas leak started near Porter Ranch, Los Angeles County health officials announced Tuesday, Jan. 18 that they are seeking independent third-party researchers to conduct the study into health impacts from the blowout, moving closer to launching the long-anticipated probe. [Article]
by , Daily Breeze. 2022-01-20
Environmental report approved For Burbank-to-LA portion of high-speed rail
The California High-Speed Rail Authority approved a final environmental impact report on Thursday, Jan. 20, for a planned 14-mile stretch of the project between Burbank and Los Angeles, bringing the region closer to high-speed train service meant to one day connect the Los Angeles area with San Francisco. [Article]
by , Daily Breeze. 2022-01-20
Port of LA broke Western Hemisphere cargo record in 2021
The Port of Los Angeles had a “landmark” 2021 that included moving more container units in a calendar year than any Western Hemisphere port had ever done, but also myriad challenges, such as ships parked for miles outside the harbor and a workforce pressed to its limits, Executive Director Gene Seroka said Thursday, Jan. 20. [Article]
by , Daily Breeze. 2022-01-20
Some ER patients waiting days for hospital beds in California
Even amid signs that this winter’s Omicron-fueled wave may be starting to crest in California, the situation at hospitals like Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa is worsening. Patients are sometimes waiting a day or two to be admitted and get a bed. Nursing homes are rebuffing the hospital’s requests to transfer recovering patients, saying they are short-staffed themselves because of the coronavirus. Across the Sharp health system, one of the largest in San Diego County, more than 1,000 health workers are now unable to work because of coronavirus-related reasons. At Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar, registered nurse Sandra Beltran said short staffing has led patients treated in the emergency room to sometimes wait 20 or 30 hours for a bed elsewhere in the hospital. That has a domino effect on the ER, where waits grow longer and staff have had to find new ways to assess patients. “People are being seen in the hallway,” Beltran said. “It’s tiring. You’re literally, for 12 hours, going from room to room.” Even amid growing signs Omicron is leveling off in California, new data show the total number of people hospitalized statewide is approaching the peak of last winter’s COVID-19 surge. Late last week, California averaged 52,000 people daily in its hospitals for all reasons — more than were seen during any seven-day period during the summer Delta surge. The state is now nearing its pandemic record of 55,000 people hospitalized, set last winter, according to state Department of Public Health data reviewed by The Times. [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
Omicron left testing labs overwhelmed, delaying results
As the Omicron surge drives infection rates to record highs, testing has emerged as an essential tool for limiting its spread. But over the last month, laboratories and manufacturers have struggled to keep up with the demand. In December, neighborhood pharmacies sold out of rapid antigen tests. Getting an appointment for the more sensitive and definitive PCR test took days, and results even longer. Once again, the pandemic had exposed a weakness in the country’s healthcare system. “I think that unfortunately, we are as unprepared for the type of surge we are experiencing — from a testing perspective — as we were a year ago,” said Omai Garner, who directs the clinical microbiology testing laboratory for UCLA Health. Free at-home coronavirus testing kits, now available to households around the country, promise to ease the bottlenecks, but questions over shortages and delays threaten to undermine confidence. Answers, however, lie in the numbers. Before the surge, Garner estimated that his lab was processing about 700 PCR tests a day. Today that number is close to 2,000. Nor was his lab alone in its running at capacity. “We had other waves in L.A. County, but this has surpassed all of them,” said Jennifer Dien Bard, director of Clinical Microbiology and Virology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “We’ve doubled, if not more, the volume we had just a few months ago.” The CHLA lab is now processing tests 24/7 and has tripled its staffing, and because the number of tests coming back positive is exceptionally high, testing volume will remain high for weeks ahead, turning lab managers into logistics experts as well. “We’re trying to predict the future,” Dien Bard said, describing how she has had to maintain a balance between being prepared and not hoarding supplies that have an expiration date. [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
Burbank airport fears impact of California bullet train
Several serious concerns emerged this week about the impact of California’s planned bullet train on Hollywood Burbank Airport, Burbank’s water supply and a massive commercial development if construction proceeds on a proposed 13.7-mile route through the area. Despite the issues, the California High-Speed Rail Authority approved its route plan on Thursday. In a series of unanimous votes, the board certified environmental documents that would establish the project’s future path from Burbank to downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station, which would include two tracks and a 50-foot deep underground station near the Hollywood Burbank Airport — when and if funding is in hand. State officials said they had carefully considered impacts along the route, a process that had taken 15 years, and that it was time to certify the documents. The rail authority asserts the project would reduce air pollution, cut energy consumption, reduce congestion, improve transportation and boost the economy. The segment would cost $4.3 billion to build, including the train station that would be about 200 feet from a future airport passenger terminal and about two miles of tunnels near Burbank. South of Burbank, the route would be located along an existing right of way used by Metrolink. A future bike path would have to be rerouted. Sound walls would help reduce but not eliminate significant noise impacts. Twelve residences and 133 businesses will be taken, the document indicates. Several new grade separations along the route would eliminate rail crossings and some other streets would be closed. [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
As Omicron Surges, California Students Demand More From Adults
One of the longest-running themes of the pandemic, now nearing its two-year mark as a full-blown crisis in the U.S., has been the maddening inconsistency of public health guidance. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) down to local and county agencies, constantly shifting policies and recommendations have led to COVID fatigue, blowback and angry outbursts. [Article]
by , . 2022-01-20
Coronavirus transmission rates falling across California
After weeks of an unprecedented spike in coronavirus cases that challenged hospitals, schools and other institutions, there are growing indications that the surge spawned by the Omicron variant is flattening and, in some parts of California, even beginning to wane. Health officials in San Francisco said Thursday they believe they’ve passed the peak of the latest wave. And in Los Angeles County, there’s cautious optimism that the days of exponential growth may be in the rearview mirror. But officials warn that hospitals will continue to face significant challenges in the coming days and weeks, and that Californians need to keep their guard up. “We can now confidently say that we are on the beginning of a downward trajectory,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of health. According to state data, San Francisco averaged nearly 2,700 cases a day from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9 but is now averaging about 2,000 cases a day. But he added, “The surge is not over yet. ... Hospitalizations, which trail the peak in cases, will still continue to go up. We are urging people to remain particularly vigilant for a little bit longer. Cases are still very high.” The California COVID Assessment Tool, published by the state Department of Public Health, estimates that the state’s effective transmission rate as of Thursday was 0.77, meaning each infected Californian is transmitting the virus to fewer than one person, on average. A rate that’s substantially less than 1.0 indicates the virus’ spread is decreasing. [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
L.A. student COVID-19 infections amid Omicron show decline
Campuses in the Los Angeles school district have lower coronavirus rates as well as improved attendance in their second week since returning from winter break. But infections remain near record levels and the data are difficult to interpret because health officials have suspended contact-tracing requirements. School officials said they are encouraged by the numbers, which come amid growing signs that the unprecedented surge of the Omicron variant could be peaking. For the school week ending Jan. 16, L.A. school officials recorded an infection rate among students tested of 11%. This compares with a rate of 17% during baseline testing conducted from Jan. 3 through Jan. 10, prior to the start of school after winter break. The first day of classes was Jan. 11. The last week of school before winter break — when the Omicron variant surge already was pushing up numbers — the student infection rate was 0.22%. Put another way, in testing during the week that ended Dec. 17, about 2 students in 1,000 tested positive. In early January baseline testing just before school restarted, about 170 students per 1,000 tested positive. And, during the first week of school, about 110 students per 1,000 tested positive. [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
COVID-19 test kit shortage hits California child care
Child-care providers serving California’s low-income families are scrambling to purchase rapid COVID-19 tests while banking on the state to boost their supply, hoping more frequent testing can prevent closures brought on by exposures to the virus. But what the state has to offer child-care providers — many of whom offer government-subsidized care out of their own homes — is not nearly enough to cover demand in the face of a national shortage. The state sent 100,000 test kits to child-care providers this week, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office. There are an estimated 1 million child-care slots in the state, including private and subsidized care, and more than 175,000 staff, according to Alexa Frankenberg, executive director of Child Care Providers United. “While that is a good start, it covers only a fraction of the workforce and children in care for just one test,” Frankenberg said. “And at this point is insufficient to address the multiple exposures that most child cares have faced during this surge.” [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
L.A. County files lawsuit over smell in Dominguez Channel
Los Angeles County filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing property owners and tenants of negligence in connection with a warehouse fire that sent discharge into the Dominguez Channel last year, causing a sickening odor to linger in the Carson area for weeks and displacing thousands of residents. The county, along with its fire protection and flood control districts, said the warehouse’s owners and tenants knew of fire code and hazardous materials violations before the Sept. 30 fire but did nothing to abate them. It is seeking to recover millions of dollars in costs associated with the investigations, cleanup and public relocation effort, as well as injunctions and civil penalties. According to the complaint, the fire and the subsequent discharge of hazardous materials into storm drains and into the channel “should never have occurred.” Months before the fire, the complaint says, the defendants knew hazardous materials illegally stored at the warehouse “posed a severe fire risk.” The warehouse on South Avalon Boulevard in Carson is owned by Prologis Inc. and was leased at the time of the fire by makeup companies Virgin Scent Inc. and Day to Day Imports Inc. Day to Day and Virgin Scent are owned and operated by Akiva Nourollah, Yosef Nourollah, Yehuda Nourollah and Yaakov Nourollah, according to the complaint. [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
Aliso Canyon disaster study urged by L.A. County
Los Angeles County health officials are calling for an independent study into the short- and long-term health effects on residents near the San Fernando Valley’s Aliso Canyon, which in 2015 was the site of the largest natural gas blowout in U.S. history. The county Department of Public Health’s request for proposals, announced Tuesday, seeks third-party researchers to lead the Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study, officials said. “We are committed to selecting an independent research group with the broad but also highly specialized expertise needed to shed further light on the health impacts of this catastrophic environmental disaster,” said Dr. Paul Simon, the department’s chief science officer. The announcement was a long time coming for residents of the surrounding Porter Ranch community, which was most affected by the massive October 2015 leak from Southern California Gas Co.'s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in the Santa Susana Mountains. The leak lasted 111 days and released more than 109,000 metric tons of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — and other chemicals into the area. [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
News analysis: Anthony, Noah, Gabriel and beyond: How to fix L.A. County DCFS
In the long, troubled history of L.A. County child abuse cases, certain names stand out as avatars of how the system can go terribly awry. Anthony Avalos. Gabriel Fernandez. Noah Cuatro. But since the spring of 2020, another name has wielded outsize influence over national perspectives and policies related to child welfare, and energized activists to push for sweeping reforms: George Floyd. The murder of the Black Minneapolis resident by a police officer in May 2020 set off a national soul-searching over the country’s racist past and the prejudices that still haunt its institutions. In L.A. County, that process has focused intense scrutiny on what a number of racial justice advocates and elected officials say is an implicit bias that may make some Department of Children and Family Services workers more prone to regard poor families and parents of color as unfit to raise their children. Racial disparities In 2020, three-quarters of children removed from their homes in L.A. County were Latino or Black, according to a motion — authored by Supervisor Holly Mitchell and passed in July by the Board of Supervisors — to begin implementing a controversial pilot project called “blind removal.” The program, first adopted in Nassau County on Long Island in New York, redacts all race and race-related factors from the dossiers used by social workers and supervisors in determining child welfare cases. And it is gaining popularity, despite critics who say that it has shown insufficient evidence of its efficacy and that it adds one more task to an overtaxed workforce. “For decades, Black and brown children have been substantially overrepresented in L.A. County’s child welfare system, and it’s past time for us to change that,” Mitchell said at the time. [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
What's behind L.A.'s shocking rail heists
The viral images were shocking: Railroad tracks in the heart of Los Angeles buried in a blizzard of debris, as scavengers picked at what was left behind by thieves who broke into cargo containers on idle trains. Last week’s thefts raised questions about how a key element of the supply chain could be so vulnerable. On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom showed up to express his own confusion and outrage, even helping cleanup workers bag trash at the rail yard in Lincoln Heights. “The images looked like a Third World country, " Newsom told reporters. “What you saw here in the last week is just not acceptable. So, I took off the suit and tie and said I’m coming because I couldn’t take it. I can’t turn on the news anymore. What the hell is going on?” [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
Celeb-heavy Los Angeles suburb gets tough on water wasters
In a wealthy enclave nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains that is a haven for celebrities, residents now face more aggressive consequences for wasting water — including the threat of having their water flows slowed to a trickle if they repeatedly flout conservation rules. [Article]
by , . 2022-01-20
Should California slash solar incentives? We took a survey
A high-stakes battle over California’s clean energy future is nearing its endgame. The state’s Public Utilities Commission has proposed major cuts to a rooftop solar incentive program called net energy metering, with a vote expected soon. The solar industry and its supporters staged large rallies in Los Angeles and San Francisco last week, urging Gov. Gavin Newsom and his appointees to preserve net metering. Celebrity solar advocates are weighing in too, with the actor Edward Norton writing a detailed Twitter thread and Mark Ruffalo — who, like Norton, has played the Hulk — tweeting that someone should “have a stern talk with” Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a critic of net metering. Meanwhile, Newsom is facing pressure to gut the solar program from organized labor and utility companies including Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison. The governor made his first public comments on the issue last week, saying only that “changes need to be made” to the proposal to cut solar incentives and add monthly fees for solar-powered homes. The Public Utilities Commission is nominally an independent agency, but Newsom appoints its five members. He recently named his energy adviser Alice Reynolds as the agency’s president and appointed John Reynolds (no relation) to an open seat. Solar industry workers and clean energy advocates urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to protect net metering at a Jan. 13 rally at L.A.'s Grand Park.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times) If all this is new to you, see my recent story on the arguments for and against revamping net metering. It’s a debate that has inspired tremendous passion, especially among people who have solar panels or hope to install them one day. So last month I asked readers of this newsletter to fill out a survey sharing their views on the idea of reducing incentives. [Article]
by , Los Angeles Times. 2022-01-20
Facing toxic lead contamination, a California barrio continues its long struggle for justice
The hot, dry Santa Ana winds that whip through Orange County’s Logan barrio are fierce and temperamental. In the mid-20th century, they’d deliver gusts forceful enough to wreak havoc throughout the Southern California region, destroying orange crops, uprooting trees, downing power lines, and upending lives. But in the Logan neighborhood, one of the city of Santa Ana’s poorest barrios at the time, children like Cecelia Andrade Rodriguez eagerly awaited the wind’s arrival in the fall. [Article]
by , . 2022-01-20
The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up
Anthony Mecke had drifted to sleep in the break room when a loud knock roused him at 1:23 a.m. “We just got the call,” a coworker said. Mecke, a moonfaced 45-year-old, is the manager of systems operation training at CPS Energy, the city-owned electricity provider that serves San Antonio. He started at the company not long after high school, working at one point as a cable splicer, a job he performed in hot tunnels beneath the sidewalks of San Antonio. He thought he’d seen it all. But when he hustled from the break room, where he’d sneaked in a power nap after an all-day shift, into the company’s cavernous control room, housed in a tornado-proof building on the city’s East Side, what he witnessed unsettled him.  [Article]
by , . 2022-01-20
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