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Coronavirus

LA Teachers Union urge schools stay closed

COVID-19 cases spike for 3rd day In a row

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UPDATED | Monday, July 13 – The nation’s second-largest school system will continue with online learning until further notice because of the worsening coronavirus surge, Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Monday. The decision affects the education of half a million children who have been out of their classrooms since mid-March.

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District is discussing its options for a potential reopening of its schools on August 18 while the leadership of the Los Angeles teachers union is saying that campuses must remain closed and for distance learning to continue when the school year begins next month. According to the Los Angeles Times, Teacher’s Union leadership concluded it is not safe to bring children back on campus as COVID-19 cases across the County are surging.

We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance. Safety has to be the priority. We need to get this right for our communities,” United Teachers LA Union President Cecily Myart-Cruz tweeted Friday.

The planned reopening of the nation’s second-largest schools system, now at risk because of the ongoing spike of coronavirus cases, caused the Director of the Department of Public Health Dr. Barbara Dr. Ferrer to caution LAUSD officials that all public and private schools must prepare for students to continue learning entirely from home.

“Every single school district at this point needs to have plans in place to continue distance learning for 100% of the time,” Dr. Ferrer said in a recording of a private conference call between LAUSD officials and her held Tuesday the Times reported.

LAUSD officials have not embraced a decision on reopening according to a spokesperson in a phone call with the Los Angeles Blade Friday. School officials are considering two options for parents and teachers that encompasses either a learning-from-home program for the first six months of the school year or a combo plan that would be a mixture of the learning at home program coupled with part-time attendance at the schools in a structured small class environment that would physically distance students and also have required facial masks. At this time a final decision has not been made.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in an emailed statement says that it is ramping up contact tracing efforts as cases of COVID-19 increase. On Friday, the department confirmed 51 new deaths and 2,667 new cases of COVID-19. To date, LA County Public Health has identified 127,358 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and a total of 3,738 deaths.

Currently, there are more than 1,500 contact tracers at Public Health who interview people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are residents of Los Angeles County. Prior to the pandemic, Public Health had approximately 200 staff who did contact tracing as part of their regular duties, with a focus on tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, and other acute communicable and vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles.  With support from other County Departments, the State, and the City of Los Angeles, Public Health has trained hundreds of additional contact tracers.

Testing results are available for nearly 1,269,000 individuals with 9% of all people testing positive. The daily positivity rate (a composite of a 7-day rolling average) is higher at 10%. There are 1,995 people currently hospitalized, 26% of these people are confirmed cases in the ICU and 17% are confirmed cases on ventilators. This remains substantially higher than the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations seen four weeks ago.

Adding to concerns is that this upcoming weekend is forecast to see above-average temperatures

As Health Officer Orders remain in effect, Public Health, City and County partners have planned ways to safely operate cooling centers during times of high heat. Cooling centers will be open to provide the public relief from the heat. Residents who do not have access to air conditioning are encouraged to take advantage of these free cooling centers.

All requirements and safety protocols will be strictly adhered to according to a statement released by the Public Health department.

Areas of particular concern are:

LA Basin – Saturday, July 11 to Sunday, July 12

West San Fernando Valley – Saturday, July 11 to Sunday, July 12

East San Fernando Valley – Saturday, July 11,to Monday, July 13

West San Gabriel Valley – Sunday, July 12

East San Gabriel Valley – Saturday, July 11 to Sunday, July 12

Santa Clarita Valley – Saturday, July 11 to Sunday, July 12

Antelope Valley – Saturday, July 11 to Monday, July 13

To find a location near you, visit https://ready.lacounty.gov/heat/ or call 211.

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Coronavirus

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

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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”

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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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Coronavirus

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

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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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