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Grim LA Metro Bus Accessibility- that’s if the bus will even stop says gay disabled rider

For Metro, clearly you’re not serving everyone equally and you need a policy change

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Mark Chaney (Photo courtesy of Mark Chaney)

LOS ANGELES – Living in the bustling city of Los Angeles, it’s very common to see people using a variety of different modes of transportation. Some have cars while others prefer to use popular apps like Uber and Lyft, but for some, the only option they might have is the L.A. Metro – the bus. Mark Chaney, an openly gay man with cerebral palsy, spoke with the Los Angeles Blade about what it’s like using L.A. Metro bus during the time of COVID-19.

Chaney just recently moved to Los Angeles, but was initially using modes of public transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I started using public transportation when I was in the Bay Area,” Chaney said, “I was taking BART which was a lot easier.” He described his utilization of BART, a subway in the Bay Area, as being simple and easy in comparison to the bus system in Los Angeles. When talking about the bus system, Chaney said, “I didn’t really think [the bus] was going to be a challenge.”

Initially, Chaney attempted to use technology apps to get to and from places, but popular transportation apps like Uber and Lyft can be incredibly expensive when using them daily, so the bus seemed to be the best option. “When I moved to LA about two years ago, I started taking the bus,” he said, “It was the most cost effective option.”

Prior to realizing that there were no rearward bus disabled accommodations, Chaney would try and get on the bus through the back entrance which has no ramp or rail. Because of COVID-19 restrictions and safety precautions to protect the drivers to unnecessary exposure LA Metro had adapted its fleet to rear entrances with the exceptions of wheelchair riders.

LA Metro’s buses usually have two entrances – one towards the back and one in the front close to the bus driver. The issue with the back entrance is that it doesn’t have the types of accommodations for people with disabilities. The two types of accommodations that are offered in the front are lowering the bus closer to the ground, a process known as ‘kneeling,’ to make it easier for people to step onto and also allowing for a ramp to be flipped out onto the ground to accommodate wheelchair users.

Chaney talked about one of his experiences with the back entrance and how it led him to be injured. “I fell off the bus, hit my head on the sidewalk, knocked myself unconscious, and had a severe concussion,” Chaney indicated, “That occurred when I wasn’t using the ramp accommodation. It was one of the worst injuries I’ve ever had.”

Chaney told the Blade that his disability fluctuates – some days he does better while other days he might potentially fall or lose his stability and balance and be severely injured. He notes that “there’s not always a straight line progression.”

So, to get to and from places, Chaney needs to use the bus – specifically, the front entrance. Everything seemed to be going great in the era of pre-Covid, but once new COVID-19 guidelines came into play, it made it much more difficult for Chaney to get on the bus. “In order to use the front of the bus, you have to use the ramp rather than lowering the steps. During this time of COVID, I was seeing resistance to lowering the ramp that I have never seen before.”

When Chaney talked about “resistance” he said that it first looked like the “attitudes” of the drivers having to lower the ramp- ” [they] were rolling their eyes, getting angry at me, and gave me comments,” Chaney said.”

Chaney recalls a specific incident where he told a bus driver “thank you” in response to them lowering the ramp and they responded with “I don’t need your comments” in a hostile manner. These types of incidents aren’t isolated and in fact, they occur fairly frequently. Because of incidents like this, Chaney has had to file six complaints to the LA Metro.

In another incident, a bus driver wouldn’t give Chaney priority seating. “I had an operator give me the ramp, but she said that I wasn’t allowed to sit in the disabled seating because I don’t have a wheelchair,” he said, “It was just another example of a barrier.”

This issue becomes highlighted when Chaney explains the fact that there are plastic chains that block one’s ability to get to seating on the bus. “When I get on the bus, there is a plastic chain that blocks you from getting to the seats. Basically, it blocks off the front of the bus to get to the disabled seating as well as seating in the back for people without disabilities.” This means that Chaney getting denied priority seating makes it nearly impossible to sit down in a safe manner. 

Another barrier that Chaney points out isolates him is that the seats might be pushed up which requires physical strength to push them back down, Although Chaney says that on good days he has the physical strength necessary to push the seats back down, he still thinks it’s important to address because not everyone has the ability to. Whether the seats are blocked off through plastic chains that the drivers need to remove or whether the seats are pushed up it is clear that there are issues with accessibility he points out.

Photo Credit: The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

In some extreme instances, Chaney has been driven by once and then refused ramp service all on the same day this past Valentine’s Day. Chaney was sitting on the bench and the bus drove right past him while the next bus refused to open the front door and let the ramp down. These ramps for Chaney and others who need them are important because they have rails on both sides and can prevent people from getting extreme physical injuries.

Just recently, Chaney comments on an event that happened at the end of February. “I was waiting for the bus with a homeless passenger. The first bus slowed down and then drove off,” Chaney said, “The second bus stopped and when I requested the ramp, he stated he was not letting the other passenger on and then drove off without allowing me on the bus or giving me the ramp.”

In terms of getting on the bus, Chaney notes that it’s difficult, but what about getting off the bus? “Getting off is usually fine because once I get on it’s okay. I had one driver that when I got off- he didn’t put the ramp down,” Chaney said. In this one instance, the bus pulled up too close to the curb which made it impossible to lower the ramp. This doesn’t occur all the time, but it too can be an issue.

Chaney told the Blade in a final reflection; “There are good Metro operators that I’ve had that have been helpful to me and others, but the system has not been working for everyone. For people that hear this story – if you see something like this, be an ally, be an advocate, stand up and say something, let the disabled person know that you see them. Also, let the person doing whatever is wrong know that you see them too and it’s not okay, he says.

Asked by the Blade what he wants the officials at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to hear?

“For Metro, clearly you’re not serving everyone equally and you need a policy change,” he replied.

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Coronavirus

Los Angeles County surpasses 2 million COVID cases

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

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Los Angeles Blade file photo

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County health officials are urging residents to postpone nonessential gatherings and avoid some activities – especially those that will include people who are unmasked, unvaccinated or at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

This comes as Los Angeles County recorded a grim milestone Monday as the Department of Public Health reports that the County has now confirmed more than 2 million total cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The Los Angele Times reported early Tuesday that hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles Unified students returned to campus from winter break Tuesday morning amid a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases.

As they stood in long lines to enter campus, the district’s health-screening system crashed. These conditions, including staffing shortages, student absences, and apprehensive parents and students, put the district’s carefully laid plans to open campuses in the nation’s second-largest school district to the test.

Although some students and parents were anxious amid the Omicron surge, they said they wanted to be back in the classroom. District leaders said strict campus safely precautions are in place, the Times reported.

The surge, which has now created uncertainty in the business community as some restaurants and other retail operations close up due to staffing shortages or out of caution, prompted County Public Health to ask that residents postpone nonessential gatherings just ahead of the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend.

Public Health officials are also concerned as LA-based Super Bowl is a mere month away. The recommendation is voluntary and officials have not imposed any new restrictions that could put any events in jeopardy.

The latest Public Health data shows vaccines are still the best way to protect against the coronavirus. In L.A. County cases have continued to increase rapidly across all groups however at significantly lower levels for vaccinated individuals. For the week ending December 25th, case rates were much higher for those unvaccinated. There were 991 new cases per 100,000 unvaccinated; 588 cases per 100,000 fully vaccinated without boosters; and 254 cases per 100,000 fully vaccinated with boosters.

The vaccine also continues to provide very strong protection against hospitalization and death. One way to evaluate the protection offered by vaccines is rate ratios. These ratios compare rates of an outcome in unvaccinated people with rates of the same outcome in fully vaccinated people. The higher the rate ratio, the more protective the vaccine is against the outcome.

The hospital rate ratio was 9 when comparing those unvaccinated vs those fully vaccinated without boosters, meaning a 9-fold higher rate of hospitalization for the unvaccinated compared to this protected group. More markedly, the hospital rate ratio was 38 when comparing the unvaccinated vs fully vaccinated with boosters, meaning those fully vaccinated and boosted were 38 times less likely to be hospitalized than those unvaccinated.

“With surging transmission and rapidly rising cases and hospitalizations, our already understaffed health care providers are under enormous strain as they try to care for so many COVID infected people,” Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Health Director said.

About 14% of the patients with COVID-19 were in the ICU, and 7% were on a ventilator.

“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 LA County Public Health Department said in a news release.

“However, at the moment, vaccinations alone are not sufficient to get us back to slowing the spread.  We all need to exercise more caution in the weeks ahead.  One effective strategy for reducing transmission is to wear a high-quality mask whenever around non-household members,” Ferrer said.

“Given the dominance of the highly infectious Omicron variant, well-fitting masks provide a great layer of protection to both the wearer and all those nearby. It is also time to pause those non-essential activities where people are unmasked and in close contact with others. The reality is that parties and events, especially those indoors, make it easy for the virus to spread. Limiting our time with others to those more essential work or school activities is a prudent action for us to take when-ever possible until the surge subsides,” she added.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and are recommended for everyone 5 years old and older to help protect against COVID-19. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status. Appointments are not needed at all Public Health vaccination sites and many community sites where first, second, and third doses are available. 

To find a vaccination site near you, or to make an appointment, please visit:

www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) or www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). 

If you need assistance, you can also call 1-833-540-0473 for help: 

  • Finding an appointment
  • Connect to free transportation to and from a vaccination site, or 
  • Schedule a home visit if you are homebound. 

For more information regarding COVID-19 in LA County you can also visit the Public Health website at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov 

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Coronavirus

LA County launches new COVID test collection program

Testing partner sites listed on LA County’s website have been pre-screened to ensure that they offer testing with no out-of-pocket cost

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Screenshot via Spectrum News1 LA

LOS ANGELES – LA County Department of Health Services launches new program designed to increase and facilitate access to COVID-19 tests for LA County residents unable to obtain appointments.  The program will allow residents to pick up a PCR test kit, perform the test, and return the completed kit to designated locations for processing. Residents will be notified of their test results within 24-48 hours.

The “Pick-Up Testing Kit” program is the latest in a series of LA County efforts designed to expand testing capacity as demand grows across the county. Recent efforts to increase capacity include increasing the days and hours of operation for existing sites, adding mobile testing units, and providing intermittent availability of Home Testing Kits via mail. 

The new “Pick-Up Testing Kit” program will operate at 13 testing sites across LA County. “Pick-Up Test Kits” will be available without an appointment and until daily supplies are exhausted. The “Pick-Up Testing Kits” will test for both COVID-19 and Influenza (A and B), the same as all LA County operated testing locations.  

“We look forward to reducing the waiting time to get tested for individuals unable to book an appointment,” said Paula Siler RN, MS Director of Community Mobile Testing Operations at the LA County Department of Health Services.  “Once all 13 Pick-Up Testing locations are fully operating and once our Home Testing Kit by mail program is simultaneously relaunched later this week, we will have successfully added over 10,000 additional daily Covid tests available to the residents of LA County.”

For details and a full listing of “Pick-Up Testing Kit” locations and hours of operation please visit: Pick-Up Testing Kit

The new “Pick-Up Testing Kits” are available to all LA County residents who are experiencing symptoms or believe they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. To preserve limited resources, the “Pick-Up Testing Kits” are not intended for use by those testing as a requirement to return to school, work or participate in other activities where routine testing is mandated. The “Pick-Up Testing Kits” offer only PCR testing not rapid testing.

Individuals who need to get tested as part of a requirement for work, school, or other activities should seek testing via their employer, school district or the entity requiring the testing.

LA County residents can find COVID-19 testing sites at covid19.lacounty.gov/testing/

All testing locations listed within the county testing website offer COVID-19 tests at no out-of-pocket cost, regardless of insurance coverage or immigration status.

It is important that LA County residents understand that not all COVID-19 testing sites within the LA County region are affiliated or operated by LA County. COVID testing sites are also being operated by private companies, private health care systems and local municipalities and some of these privately operated sites do charge for their testing services.

Only the testing sites listed within the LA County COVID-19 testing website covid19.lacounty.gov/testing/have been vetted by LA County.

As of January 7, 2021 – there are approximately 260 COVID-19 testing locations listed in the LA County’s COVID-19 testing site (covid19.lacounty.gov/testing/), of those, the county operates about 66 community sites and 7 state sites. The remaining locations are operated by testing partners.

Testing partner sites listed on LA County’s website are sites that have been pre-screened by LA County to ensure that they offer testing with no out-of-pocket cost, regardless of health insurance or immigration status and that they offer testing using a test approved by the FDA.

LA County does not have oversight over testing sites not directly operated by the LA County Department of Health Services.

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Coronavirus

LA County cases explode as mask mandate extended till February 15

President Joe Biden saying there’s “no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated after U.S. hits 1 million new cases in 24 hours

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Screenshot via CNBC on YouTube

LOS ANGELES – California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Wednesday that the state will extend its mask mandate for indoor public spaces for another month as an unprecedented wave of the Omicron variant of coronavirus infections continues to inundate the Golden State.

The statewide order was reinstituted in mid-December, and was originally set to be reevaluated January 15. But given the sharp recent rise in infections and hospitalizations, the order will be in place through at least February 15, said Ghaly.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health modified its Health Officer Order to include additional safety measures to reduce transmission risks, the Department acknowledging that vaccinations alone are not sufficient to prevent spread of the Omicron variant.

As soon as possible, but no later than January 17th, employers in LA County are required to provide their employees who work indoors in close contact with others with well-fitting medical grade masks, surgical masks, or higher-level respirators, such as N95 or KN95 masks. These upgraded masks are better at blocking virus particles from going through the mask.

The new modifications include an alignment with the State Public Health Officer Order changing attendance thresholds at mega events; for outdoor mega events, the new attendance threshold has been lowered to 5,000 attendees, and for indoor mega events, the new threshold is 500 attendees.

Operators of mega events, performance venues, movie theaters, and entertainment venues are responsible for the messaging, signage, and compliance of masking requirements unless spectators or customers are actively eating or drinking. Additionally, Public Health recommends that food and drink be consumed in designated dining areas.

Lastly, food and drinks are prohibited at card room gaming tables and masks must always be worn while indoors at card rooms, except for when actively eating or drinking in designated dining areas. 

As the case count continues to climb, numerous events are being cancelled or moved to a virtual setting. The Los Angeles Times reported that the 64th Grammy Awards will not take place Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, due to the rapid spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

The Recording Academy, which presents music’s most prestigious awards show, said Wednesday that “holding the show on January 31 simply contains too many risks” and added that a new date would be announced “soon.”

The Times also reported Wednesday that more than 1,000 police officers, firefighters and paramedics in the Los Angeles region are ill or at home quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus, spurring additional concerns about public safety as the Omicron variant continues its rapid spread.

More than 500 employees of the Los Angeles Police Department – including 416 officers – were at home quarantining as of Jan. 1 after positive tests, the department said. In the last week alone, the LAPD had seen 424 new cases, officials said.

The Los Angeles Fire Department had 201 employees out due to the coronavirus and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department was missing 552 employees, including 389 deputies, officials said.

The Los Angeles County courts system will pause all criminal trials for two weeks beginning Wednesday, as infections continue to surge across the region due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

While the coronavirus-positive patient count has more than doubled in the last nine days in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, a number of the patients who have tested positive in some L.A. County hospitals were admitted for something other than the coronavirus. That is starkly different from what was seen in earlier surges, when most coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized because they had been sickened by the virus.

Earlier this week, Public Health noted that pediatric hospitalizations increased by nearly 190% between December 4th and December 25th. While the numbers of children hospitalized remain very small, those 0-4 years old saw the biggest rise in rates with a 3.25-fold increase, followed by 12-to-17- year- old teens, who had a 3.0-fold increase, and 5-to-11 -year- old, who saw an increase of 1.5-fold. Cases among children have also increased by 207% from the two-week period starting on November 8th to the two-week period ending on December 26th.

Other cancellations included the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra January 8, “Strings for the Ages” concert at The Broad Stage.

The City of Palm Springs alerted its residents Wednesday that Mayor Lisa Middleton tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. In a Facebook post, the City wrote:

Middleton is following medical advice and direction and will spend at minimum the next ten days days at home in isolation as she recovers from what she described as mild symptoms. During isolation Middleton will continue her mayoral duties to the maximum extent possible.

On Tuesday, Middleton woke up with a sore throat and has not left home except to get tested. Following the positive result, Middleton immediately notified the small number of people she had contact with outside of her home over the last several days.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, we in Palm Springs have recognized the need to be extremely cautious when it comes to wearing a mask and have continually encouraged vaccinations and booster shots in order to keep everyone in our community safe,” said Middleton.

“I am grateful for the advice of medical experts, and in particular the diligence of Riverside County Public Health officials. I feel extremely fortunate that my symptoms are mild. The health and safety of our residents and visitors are our number one priority in Palm Springs and I encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated, boosted and regularly tested. This is the best way we can take care of one another,” said Middleton. “We are all in this together.”

On Monday the United States hit a record 1 million new cases in just a 24 hour period. President Joe Biden addressed the nation, saying there’s “no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated.”

Biden Under Pressure As U.S. Hits 1 Million Covid Cases In A Day Amid Testing Shortage:

At the White House, the administration’s point man on handling the crisis, Jeffrey D. Zients spoke to reporters noting:

“The coming weeks are going to be challenging.  We’re going to see cases continue to rise because Omicron is a very transmissible variant.  But it’s important to stay focused on three things.
 
First, we have the tools to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities safe.  And importantly, we have the tools we need to keep our schools open.

Second, the impact of rising cases depends on a person’s vaccination status.
 
While we are seeing COVID cases among the vaccinated, if you’re fully vaccinated and especially if you’ve gotten a booster shot — if you’re eligible for a booster shot — you’re highly protected, and it’s very unlikely that you’ll get seriously ill.
 
But if you’re unvaccinated, you have a good reason to be concerned.  If you get COVID, you’re at a high risk of getting severely ill, being hospitalized, and even dying.
 
So, please, get vaccinated.  Get your kids vaccinated.  And if you’re eligible for a booster, get a booster shot.

And third, the Biden administration is deploying every available measure to help states, communities, and hospitals confront this Omicron challenge.  Military doctors, nurses, and EMTs are now in place assisting local hospital staff in states across the country, with additional teams ready to deploy as needed.
 
We’ve shipped 2.4 million pieces of personal protective equipment — PPE — in the last two weeks alone to help keep healthcare workers safe.
 
We’ve established free testing locations across the nation, with additional new sites opening soon in Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Delaware, Texas, and Washington State.
 
And we’ve worked aggressively to stock our nation’s medicine cabinet with a diverse portfolio of COVID treatments.  It’s important to remember that we have more effective treatments available now than at any point during the pandemic.”

He also added; “In addition, we’re working with Pfizer to accelerate the delivery of these pills, and we’ll now have the first 10 million treatment cycles — courses — by the end of June instead of the end of September.  These pills can dramatically decrease hospitalizations and deaths and are a game-changer, with the potential to alter the impact of COVID on people and on our nation.”

In Los Angeles Public Health is reminding residents to avoid visiting the emergency room unless they need emergency medical care. Residents should not be visiting the emergency department solely to get a COVID test or for minor complaints that could be resolved through their primary care physician. Emergency room visits should be reserved for those patients who are feeling severely ill – for example, those who are short of breath – or who have serious concerns about their health and who require immediate emergency care. 

To keep workplaces and schools open, residents and workers are asked to:

  • Get tested to help reduce the spread, especially if you traveled for the holidays, have had a possible exposure, or have symptoms, or are gathering with people not in your household
  • Adhere to masking requirements when indoors or at crowded outdoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status

Residents are legally required to be isolated if they have a positive COVID test result and that vaccinated close contacts with symptoms and unvaccinated close contacts need to be quarantined.  

For updated isolation and quarantine guidance, please visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and are recommended for everyone 5 years old and older to help protect against COVID-19. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status. Appointments are not needed at all Public Health vaccination sites and many community sites where first, second, and third doses are available. 

 To find a vaccination site near you, or to make an appointment, please visit:

www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) or www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). 

If you need assistance, you can also call 1-833-540-0473 for help: 

Finding an appointment

Connect to free transportation to and from a vaccination site, or 

Schedule a home visit if you are homebound. 

For more information regarding COVID-19 in LA County you can also visit the Public Health website at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov

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