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Los Angeles County

Surge becomes a Tsunami; 200,000 confirmed COVID cases in 7 Days

 “We ask residents and businesses to continue following the public health safety measures that we know reduce spread & keep people safe”

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Graphic courtesy of UCLA Research Administration

LOS ANGELES – LA County continues seeing high rates of transmission with more than 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 7 days, the highest numbers of cases in one week since the beginning of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations have also doubled in one week to 3,200 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and over 20% of those getting tested are positive for COVID-19. Health officials are pointing out that it’s important to note that although the case counts are higher than last winter’s peak, when L.A. County was recording about 16,000 new coronavirus cases a day, many people are becoming less severely ill due to the milder effects of the Omicron variant.

The exceptions are most notably those people who hare unvaccinated, and especially children and those with severe health issues. As the highly-contagious omicron variant sweeps across the world, threatening once again to overwhelm hospitals and already-exhausted health care staff, medical staff are prepping for yet another damaging battle, Stars and Stripes noted.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is urging residents to upgrade their masks to medical grade masks that do a better job at blocking COVID-19 virus particles and to reconsider attending higher-risk activities, including indoor activities where individuals are unmasked for long periods of time, as well as crowded outdoor events.

 “As the surge continues, we ask residents and businesses to continue following the public health safety measures that we know reduce spread and keep people safe,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health. “This includes wearing a medical grade mask that is more protective against the Omicron variant and not spending time around others who are unmasked. These upgraded masks can be a surgical mask or an N95 or KN95 respirator mask.”

On Saturday, Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a proposed $2.7 billion COVID-19 Emergency Response Package – including a $1.4 billion emergency appropriation request – to bolster testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers, strengthen the health care system and battle misinformation.

The Governor’s budget also calls for new legislation to implement supplemental paid sick leave policies given the current situation being driven by the Omicron variant to better protect our frontline workers. 

“From day one, California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” said Newsom. “Our proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities.”

Governor Newsom’s overall package includes: 

$1.2 BILLION: BOLSTER TESTING

  • Expand hours and capacity at testing sites throughout the state to help slow the spread.
  • Distribute millions of COVID-19 antigen tests to local health departments, community clinics and county offices of education and schools. This is critical to the state’s operational readiness and continued efforts to combat COVID-19, and it includes a $1.4 billion emergency appropriation request to the Legislature for California’s immediate needs.
  • Supporting the state’s testing facilities, including specimen collection and expanding capacity in order to meet demand.
  • Supporting state departments in testing their staff and congregate populations

$583 MILLION: GET MORE CALIFORNIANS VACCINATED & BOOSTED, COMBAT MISINFORMATION

  • Continue the “Vaccinate all 58” public education campaign to provide reliable information and build vaccine confidence while combating misinformation, all of which is in partnership with 250 ethnic media outlets.
  • Continue a robust community outreach and direct appointment assistance campaign by conducting door-to-door canvassing, phone banking and texting with over 700 CBOs and community partners in partnership with philanthropy.
  • In-home vaccination and testing programs to meet Californians where they’re at.
  • Provide free transportation to vaccination appointments throughout the state to help get more Californians vaccinated and boosted.

$614 MILLION: SUPPORT OUR FRONTLINE WORKERS AND HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS

  • Support and distribution of critical personnel resources for health care systems to help protect frontline workers, patient care and hospital surge capacity as well as additional staffing for vaccination sites.

$200 MILLION: SUPPORT STATE RESPONSE OPERATIONS

  • Resources to enhance the state’s emergency response and public health capacities, including staffing and information technology at California Department of Public Health, Office of Emergency Services and Emergency Medical Services Authority.

$110 MILLION: SUPPORT VULNERABLE POPULATIONS AND BOLSTER CONTACT TRACING EFFORTS

  • Increased public health and humanitarian efforts at the California-Mexico border to keep migrants safe, including vaccinations, testing and isolation and quarantine services.
  • Expanded statewide contact tracing activities to help keep Californians safe and slow the spread.

On Friday Newsom activated the California National Guard to support local communities with additional testing facilities and capacity amid the national surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant. 

This new action is on top of the existing 6,000 testing sites that have been set up across the state, the recent demand-based expansion of hours at state-operated sites and the 9.6 million tests that the state has distributed to schools since early December. 

California National Guard personnel arrive at Antioch Community Center testing site Friday
(Photo Credit: California National Guard)

The announcement comes as Omicron continues to spread rapidly across the globe, accounting for at least 80% of COVID-19 cases in California. The National Guard plan will deploy over 200 Cal Guard members across 50 Optum Serve sites around the state, providing interim clinical staff while permanent staff are hired, adding capacity for walk-ins, assisting with crowd control and back-filling for staff absences – all in an effort to conduct more tests for more Californians. Additional members of the Guard will be deployed next week in similar capacities. 

These measures will bolster California’s already robust testing program – the most extensive in the nation. Currently, 90% of Californians live within a 30-minute drive of a site. Amidst the surge, the state has been able to maintain a 48-hour turn around for PCR tests.

To date, California has administered almost 67 million vaccination doses and over 122.7 million tests.

The Los Angeles Times reported that L.A. County recorded 43,712 new coronavirus cases on Friday – the highest single-day total of the pandemic. The previous record, 37,215, came Thursday. Those numbers are well above the average daily peak last winter, when L.A. County was recording about 16,000 new coronavirus cases a day.

Across California, emergency rooms are coming under strain as they contend with both the rising case numbers and people seeking coronavirus tests – all as their workers are increasingly being stricken by the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

On Saturday morning The New York Times reported that the pace of daily new infections of the coronavirus has nearly doubled in the past week, surpassing two million known cases a day, underscoring just how quickly the Omicron variant has spread around the world.

On April 25 last year, the global average hit a high of more than 827,000 cases, a level that has been surpassed on each of the last 12 days as the world’s case curve charts a nearly vertical rise.

Health authorities around the world reported 2.1 million cases on average in the past seven days, nearly three times the amount two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database. The latest wave of cases has been driven by outbreaks in the United States and Europe, where the Omicron variant has become dominant.

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Hospitals Pushed To The Brink With Covid Cases On The Rise:

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Los Angeles County

Assemblymember Santiago: Up food access to undocumented Californians

A study from the Food4All Coalition, in partnership with UCLA research, 45% of undocumented Californians face food insecurity

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Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (Twitter/Assemblymember Miguel Santiago)

LOS ANGELES – The sharply rising costs of food, housing, gasoline, coupled with the inflation rate hovering at 8.3%  has many Californian scrambling to supplement their access to food. The cost for food alone in the Southern California region has risen 1% from February 2022 to March 2022, and food prices were 8.8% higher than in March 2021.

Governor Gavin Newsom had previously announced in January that he intended to extend CalFresh public food assistance programs in the budget to include undocumented immigrants ages 55 and over, a move advocates including state Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, who represents the 53rd District covering parts of downtown L.A. applauded as a first step in curbing food insecurity for millions of low-income Californians.

At the beginning of the month in Newsom’s revised budget the governor removed exclusions to the California Food Assistance Program for Californians 55 and older, regardless of immigration status.

Santiago, joined by the Food4All Coalition, the LA Regional Food Bank, the California Immigrant Policy Center, Gender Justice LA, and Nourish California gathered for a ‘ Food4All” rally Friday in Los Angeles to ensure that all ages are to be included in Newsom’s revised proposal.

“If you qualify for CalFresh program, you should have the ability to obtain the dollars to be able to feed your kids,” said Santiago.

Betzabel Estudillo ( Nourish California /Twitter)

Betzabel Estudillo, a senior advocate with Nourish California told the rally attendees; “This campaign has been years in the making. We appreciate the governor’s proposal, but the need is greater. Nearly half of undocumented Californians face food insecurity. It’s even worse for children – 2 out of every 3 are going hungry.”

Currently, all undocumented people are ineligible for CalFresh benefits. Only certain low-income immigrants that have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, including those admitted for humanitarian reasons and those with permanent residence, may be eligible for the benefits. Immigrants who receive disability-related assistance or benefits and children under 18 years old with permanent residency are also eligible, regardless of their entry date.

Newsom’s proposals would revise those CalFresh benefits restrictions.

According to a study from the Food4All Coalition, in partnership with UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, 45% of undocumented Californians face food insecurity.

“We’re pushing for a budget that includes over $500 million to be able to feed those who are the hungriest in the state of California,” said Santiago.

Newsom has until the end of June to finalize the budget.

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Los Angeles County

Federal charges alleging man disrupted a “Stop Asian Hate” rally with car

He was driving a black Honda four-door sedan and allegedly yelled, “Go back to China!” and other racial slurs at the demonstrators

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Screenshot/NBC 4 LA

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – A Diamond Bar man was arrested today on federal charges alleging that he disrupted a “Stop Asian Hate” rally in March 2021 by deliberately running a red light, blocking the path of demonstrators lawfully using a crosswalk and yelling racial epithets at them.

Steve Lee Dominguez, 56, is charged in a federal grand jury indictment with two counts of bias-motivated interference with federal protected activities. According to the indictment that was unsealed today, a year ago on March 21, 2021, a “Stop Asian Hate” rally occurred in Diamond Bar. The rally was a protest against the increase in hate crimes and hate incidents against members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community both locally and nationally – including the murders of six Asian American women five days earlier in Atlanta.

A group of rally participants assembled at the intersection of Diamond Bar Boulevard and Grand Avenue, carrying American flags and large signs in support of their cause. The demonstrators had gathered peacefully and lawfully crossed the streets using the marked pedestrian crosswalk when they had the right of way.

During the rally, Dominguez was driving a black Honda four-door sedan and was stopped at a red light at the intersection. Dominguez allegedly yelled, “Go back to China!” and other racial slurs at the demonstrators. Dominguez then allegedly deliberately drove his car through the intersection’s crosswalk at the red light, made an illegal U-turn and cut off the route of several rally participants lawfully crossing the street.

One of the victims was an Asian woman carrying a sign that read, “Stop Asian Hate.” Another victim was a minor Black female rally participant who carried a sign that read, “End the Violence Against Asians.” Another person who was cut off in the crosswalk was a 9-year-old child, and Dominguez’s car narrowly missed coming into contact with her and other victims, according to the indictment. No injuries were reported.

Dominguez allegedly then pulled his car over some distance away from the intersection, got out of the car and continued to yell racial epithets and threats at the demonstrators. He then called the police, identified himself as “John Doe” and falsely reported to police that the rally participants were blocking the street and he had to run a red light “because they were about to trample my car,” the indictment alleges. He also allegedly requested that police “get some control out” at the intersection.

If convicted of the two charges in the indictment, Dominguez would face a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

The FBI investigated this matter. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department initially responded to the scene and assisted in this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Veronica Dragalin is prosecuting this case.

          Any member of the public who has information related to this incident or other hate crimes is encouraged to call the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565 or report tips online at https://tips.fbi.gov.

Protesters Against Asian Hate Become Witnesses to Their Own Hate Incident | NBCLA March 2021:

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Los Angeles County

LA’s Union Station adds security after complaints about homeless attacks

Police patrolling the transit system experienced a sharp uptick in crimes involving the homeless with a higher percentage at Union Station

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency has added more security to Union Station, after staff and the SEIU United Service Workers Union which represents caretakers working there, demanded that the agency take steps to protect workers from ongoing assaults by some of the homeless population living near the station.

“These workers are essential workers, and they should not have to fear for their lives every time they punch in to keep our region’s premier transit station clean for its many patrons,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who also serves on the LA Metro Board of Directors.

“This is a good first step,” said Alejandra Valles, a spokesperson for SEIU United Service Workers West, which represents caretakers working there. “But there is no fix. This is a long-term problem that requires long-term solutions.”

According to a source at Metro with knowledge of the security issues within the system and who asked to remain unidentified, the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Long Beach Police Department who have the current contracts to patrol Metro’s transit system, have experienced a sharp uptick in incidents involving homeless people on transit properties but with a higher percentage of assaults at Union Station.

During the pandemic, the station became a haven for homeless men and women, many with serious mental health problems.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times described widespread fear among low-wage workers at the transit hub who were often mocked and threatened while working. A caretaker was beaten with a club in the bathroom last year where homeless men and women often bathe or use drugs.

During the first two months of this year, violent crime at the station has increased by 94% compared to the same period last year and property crime has doubled.

“Safety is still our top priority,” Metro spokesman David Sotero said in a statement late Thursday. He said the agency works with law enforcement, social services providers and private security “to increase physical security at Union Station and combat criminal activity.”

The Los Angeles Times also reports violent crime is up 94%. Union Station is owned by Metro and the Los Angeles Police Department patrols the property, but in small numbers and not at night.

Private security at the station hasn’t stopped the attacks experienced by janitors, SEIU president David Huerta told KABC 7 last week. “Our understanding, and through the workers’ testimony, is that when the call the police, the police escort the folks off the premises and those folks come right back,” said Huerta. “This is a center point of Los Angeles, the same way that the airport is a center point of L.A. You can see plenty of secured officers at the airport. There needs to be more resources put here to ensure workers can work in safety.”

From Monday, Metro will check that customers have business at the station and kick out anyone who engages in illegal activities. The entrances to the southern and northern gardens where the homeless often rest will be closed. Psychiatric teams will be deployed at the station, in addition to reinforced patrols. And all employees will receive quarterly training in de-escalating tense and potentially dangerous situations.

Deputy Chief of the LAPD Transit Services Bureau Donald Graham declined to say how many officers were deployed but said the department has doubled its resources at Union Station and is now working with private security to coordinate responses.

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