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West Hollywood City Council announces local emergency over COVID-19 crisis



By the time the West Hollywood City Council met Monday night, many city establishments had already shut their doors to the public. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health had sent out a series of strident health recommendations regarding COVID-19, which rendered some of the mandates drafted by the council moot. The city’s resolution had already circulated on social media that afternoon, and public comments, largely submitted online, had poured in throughout the weekend. A revised version of the full resolution will be posted when made available.

What residents need to know is that the City of West Hollywood has followed the City of Los Angeles, LA County, the state of California and the federal government in declaring an emergency, which is currently scheduled to last 60 days, roughly until the end of April.

Bars, nightclubs, gyms, schools, theatres, gathering spaces and restaurants throughout West Hollywood, as with the rest of the county, are closed, save for limited take-out, drive-through and delivery services.

The amendment did not include recovery programs, although the West Hollywood Recovery Center has elected to voluntarily close and conduct meetings online via Zoom until at least April 1, a date initially hoped for as a beginning to end of the crisis.

City buildings will also be closed and those that work for the city will be allowed to work from home. Parks will remain open, but park facilities will close. Most public transit will not operate, but Dial-A-Ride and the city shuttle, which primarily cater to senior citizens, will continue to be available. It is stressed, however, that residents 65 and older stay home if at all possible. The council will be setting specific hours for senior citizens to shop at local grocery stores, for both their safety and to help maintain social distancing.

“I realize this is a lot of information,” said City Attorney Lauren Langer. “Everything is moving quickly. Staff has been working all day and all night to get these documents out to you.”

Prior to the meeting, the LA Public Health Department stated there were five confirmed cases of the virus in West Hollywood. Representatives from the DHP were at the council meeting, practicing along with the few in attendance, the CDC recommended social distancing.

The council members, too, sat a minimum of six feet apart, while Mayor John D’Amico, who did not feel well, phoned in remotely. D’Amico was unsure of his symptoms and was following the guidelines that suggest a person self-quarantine if they feel even mildly sick.

Many community members had expressed concern over job losses and looming rents. The council voted to put a moratorium on evictions, allowing six months for tenants to repay their landlords any back-rent. There will also be financial services available for those out of work that might not qualify for unemployment, including for people who work in West Hollywood but live elsewhere in the county. A fund will be established that citizens can donate to for this purpose, as well.

Details will be added to the city’s website as they become available. Check their coronavirus information page.

Some taxes will also be lowered for businesses with the agreement that they keep staff on the payroll. Councilmember John Duran suggested that this item might have to “go farther” if the crisis lingers.

Originally, there was to be a four-week break between council meetings due to construction in the council chamber, but now the team will meet at either a yet-to-be-determined location or through virtual means on April 6.

In the meantime, City Manager Paul Arevalo has been given authority through the emergency proclamation to make further amendments to the resolution if necessary before the council meets again. Arevalo stated that he would run any changes by the council and he and Langer would work to make sure their guidelines match with the ever-changing national recommendations.

Arevalo has also been given the authority to work on gathering and moving the West Hollywood homeless population off the streets. Healthy volunteers will soon be called upon to deliver meals to older and at-risk residents, as well as provide assistance to Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Charitable organizations like Project Angel Food will, too, be working to close the gap and are in need of volunteers.

The city is looking at training staff from local hotels for emergency outreach positions, too.

Hotels and retail stores have not yet been advised to close and they are encouraged to practice the recommended social distancing of 3-to-6 feet as they continue operation.

“It’s an uncertain time, but we are making sure we can provide for our West Hollywood residents as best we can,” said Councilmember Lindsey Horvath.

It should be noted that the measures, while extensive, are not yet to the lockdown level of Northern California cities like San Francisco, which has gone as far as to close all but essential businesses and placed curfews on residents. West Hollywood leadership does not yet feel such measures are necessary, but Duran said that the city is well-positioned for fluid change in the weeks to come.

“This is all unprecedented,” said Duran. “There is no previous experience to base all of this on. But, fortunately, our small and nimble government can respond to issues quickly as they come up. We can constantly adapt as we move forward day to day.”

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CDC: 85% of gay & lesbian adults in U.S. are vaccinated against COVID

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBTQ persons limited because of the lack of routine SOGI data collection at the national & state levels



Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/GSA

ATLANTA – A new study report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), found that found 85.4% of gay and lesbian Americans above age 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of October 2021.

The study, conducted from August 29 until October 30, 2021, also found that by comparison, only 76.3% of heterosexuals reported receiving at least an initial dose by the same date.

The report noted that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have higher prevalence of health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-LGBT populations.

The potential for low vaccine confidence and coverage among LGBT populations is of concern because these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBT persons are limited, in part because of the lack of routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity at the national and state levels.

In March of 2021, the Blade reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that have contributed to those communities being hit hardest, and Mega-vaccination centers set up by California health officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been addressing and tracking the issue- the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked.

This lack of data collection has frustrated and angered California State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Fall that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California.

“We’re one year into the pandemic, and LGBTQ people continue to be erased in our public health response to COVID-19 — similar to our invisibility throughout history. No government is successfully tracking COVID-19 cases in the LGBTQ community, despite a law I wrote mandating that California do so,” Weiner told the Blade. “And, we now know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve also just learned that vaccination demographic data doesn’t include LGBTQ data. It simply shocking that in 2021, progressive health agencies continue to forget about our community,” he added.

The CDC also noted that gay and lesbian adults were more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 and to believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“We know that the prevalence of certain health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, smoking, and obesity, are higher in LGBT populations, and access to health care continues to be an issue for some people in the LGBT community,” Dr. A.D. McNaghten, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and corresponding author of the study, told ABC News. “We wanted to see if vaccination coverage among LGBT persons was the same as non-LGBT persons.”

The CDC data recorded that bisexual and transgender adults had similar vaccination rates to heterosexual adults with 72.6% of bisexual adults fully vaccinated by the end of October, as were 71.4% of transgender adults. The numbers however for Black and Hispanic lesbian women had lower rates of vaccination at 57.9% and 72.6%, respectively, compared to Black and Hispanic heterosexual women at 75.6% and 80.5%, respectively.

Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%).

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White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”



President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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COVID-19 Cases increase by nearly 10 times in one month

While hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID



Graphic courtesy of UCLA/Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

LOS ANGELES – A total of 31,576 new COVID-19 cases were documented on Monday — up ten times the number of cases reported on Dec. 17, 2021, when there were 3,360 new cases recorded the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported Monday.

There are  4,564 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, nearly 6 times the number from one month ago when 772 people were hospitalized. The daily positivity rate is 16.5%, more than 8 times the 2% daily positivity rate on December 17th.

Just one week ago, the county surpassed 2 million total COVID-19 cases, with the figure reaching 2,289,045 cases as of Monday.

“On this national holiday where we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, we remember his deep commitment to health equity.  As Reverend King memorably said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,’ ” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Tragically, we have seen this play out in real life and very clearly over the past two years with the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color. From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation,” she added.

“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the health department said in a statement released last week.

As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.

There are also 27 new deaths due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 31,576 new positive cases.

The public health department also noted that while the number of children hospitalized with the virus remains low, the number of them admitted to L.A. County hospitals “significantly increased” over the past month, with the largest increase among children younger than 5 years old.

The increase mirrors trends seen nationwide for the age group — the only one not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The county also saw its highest coronavirus death rate in nearly 10 months over this past week, with an average of 40 COVID-19 deaths a day.

“From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation. As we continue to implement strategies – enforcing worker protections through our Health Officer Orders, providing resources needed by many to survive the impact of the pandemic, funding community-based organizations in hard hit areas to serve as trusted public health messengers, and increasing vaccination access in under-sourced neighborhoods – we also need to come together to address the impact that racism, historical disinvestment, and social marginalization have on COVID-19 outcomes,” Ferrer said.

“While these conditions predate the pandemic, without deliberate collective actions to address the root causes of health inequities, we are unlikely to close the gaps we have documented for 2 long years,” she added.

California has recorded more than 7 million coronavirus cases after its fastest accumulation of reported infections in the history of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The unprecedented count, recorded in California’s databases late Monday, comes one week after the state tallied its 6 millionth coronavirus case.

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