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$5 ‘Hero Pay’ Now In Effect For Grocery, Drug Store Workers In Unincorporated L.A. County

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Grocery Store Worker COVID-19 Hero Pay
Photo Courtesy of Supervisor Hilda Solis' Office

A $5 per hour “hero pay” went into effect on Friday for grocery and drug store workers in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve an urgency ordinance to enact a $5 per hour hazard pay, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger voting in opposition. 

Barger cited unintended consequences and a concern that the ordinance only covers a ”small sliver” of the essential workforce during the meeting.

The ordinance applies to companies that employ at least 300 workers nationwide and more than 10 employees per store, according to the L.A. County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA).

Workers must work at least two hours in a one-week period physically within a grocery retail or drug retail store in an unincorporated area of the county to receive the new “hero pay,” according to the department.

“While many sectors were able to transition their workforce to working from home, millions of workers in face-to-face service industries were deemed ‘essential’ to ensure that our communities continue to operate, and basic needs continue to be provided,” the motion co-authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchel reads. 

The supervisors said frontline grocery and drug retail workers have been met with COVID-19 exposures and outbreaks in their place of work. 

The inability to practice social distancing consistently at work due to large crowds has not only increased exposure risks but also contributed to the psychological distress workers have felt during the pandemic, with research finding that employees with direct customer exposure were five times more likely to test positive with the burden of the crisis affecting the most vulnerable low-income communities, especially low-income workers of color, according to the motion. 

Meanwhile, some of the largest grocery retailers in the nation and county have flourished and expanded their market share, the supervisors argue. 

“These employers employ a labor workforce that consists of low-wage workers who have been disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout of this pandemic, with nearly half of low-wage workers having trouble paying their bills and roughly a third having found these top retailers have seen a 40% increase in profit averaging $16.7 billion in grocery and drug retail workers are among the heroes of this pandemic, putting their lives on the line – often for low wages and minimal benefits- in order to sustain our food system and maintain healthy communities,” the motion reads.

Those in the grocery industry fear measures like this might lead to increased costs to consumers as well as potentially reduced hours for workers. 

“This could increase grocery prices for families in an economic time where many people are struggling,” said Nate Rose, spokesperson for the California Grocers Association (CGA).

The industry association did an economic study on the impact of wage increase ordinances and found the grocery costs for a family of four could increase by hundreds of dollars a year, according to Rose. 

The spokesperson added a one-size-fits-all plan is not feasible and it should be up to each company to enact a hazard pay or bonus for their employees. 

The urgency ordinance is expected to be in effect for 120 days starting on Feb. 26, with an option to extend the order, according to the motion.

To find out if a grocery retail or drug retail store is in unincorporated Los Angeles County, visit the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk website. 

Coronavirus

Public Health Prepares For Increased Demand As Residents Over 16 Become Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine

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COVID19 Vaccine Los Angeles County 2 (1)

Public health officials are preparing for a surge in demand for a COVID-19 vaccine as all residents over the age of 16 become eligible on Thursday, as supply decreases due to the pause of Johnson & Johnson.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said Wednesday the newly eligible group includes nearly 5 million residents, with about 1.5 million already receiving at least one dose of a vaccine. 

All residents over 16 can make an appointment starting Wednesday on the state’s MyTurn website, following the expansion by the City of L.A. earlier this week. 

The county paused the use of the J&J vaccine on Tuesday out of an abundance of caution after the recommendation from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Ferrer said the blood clotting reaction is “one in a million,” but urged those who have experienced any unusual symptoms to contact Public Health. 

More than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the U.S. The CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. 

The pause is in effect until the FDA and CDC complete their review, which is expected to take several days, according to the department. 

“We are grateful to the researchers and scientists working to ensure that all medications or vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, meet the highest safety standards,” Ferrer said.

Public health officials are prioritizing new appointments for those who were scheduled to receive a J&J vaccine, according to Ferrer.  

The county received an allocation of about 323,470 doses of the vaccines this week, an estimated 80,000 doses less than the week prior. About 19,000 doses of the allocation are the J&J vaccine, according to Public Health. 

As of April 14, over 3.4 million doses have been administered in L.A. County, including over 1.9 million second doses, according to the public health director.

On Wednesday, 57 new deaths and 411 additional cases were reported in Los Angeles County. A total of 23,553 deaths and 1,226,964 cases have been confirmed across the county since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the department. 

For more information on vaccination efforts in L.A. County and to make an appointment, visit here

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Los Angeles County Remains In ‘Orange’ Tier As COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Decline

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Los Angeles County is remaining in the “orange” tier of reopening as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline. 

The L.A. County Department of Public Health confirmed 23 new deaths and 448 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. To date, 1,226,596 positive cases of COVID-19 and a total of 23,498 deaths have been confirmed across all areas of L.A. County.

There are 471 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 25% of these people are in the ICU. Testing results are available for more than 6,223,000 individuals with 18% of people testing positive.

L.A. County is in the orange tier of the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy that allows for permitted activities in several key sectors with safety measures in place. In order to move to the less restrictive yellow tier, the County’s case rate must be less than 2 new cases per 100,000 people and test positivity must be less than 2%.

Tuesday, the State released updated numbers; L.A. County’s adjusted case rate slightly increased from 3.1 new cases per 100,000 people to 3.2 new cases per 100,000. The test positivity rate remained at 1.5% and in areas with the fewest health affirming resources, L.A. County’s test positivity rate remained at 1.9%.

The State plans to fully reopen with safety measures on June 15 if there is enough vaccine supply for Californians 16 years and older to be vaccinated and hospitalization rates remain stable and low, especially among fully vaccinated Californians.

“We have moderate transmission in L.A. County, so it remains necessary to continue taking steps to prevent increases in cases to keep our recovery from stalling,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health in a statement. “One important tool for reducing transmission are vaccines. And while we all need to follow the FDA and CDC recommendation to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as they conduct their review, we encourage residents to keep their appointments to get vaccinated with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine. We are grateful to the researchers and scientists working to ensure that all medications or vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, meet the highest safety standards.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a joint recommendation on Tuesday to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports that six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed unusual types of blood clots 6 to 13 days after receiving the vaccine. 

Out of an abundance of caution, Los Angeles County is following the recommendation of the FDA and CDC to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until the FDA and CDC complete their review, which is expected to take several days, public health officials said.

Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare with nearly 7,000,000 people receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States to date. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority and we are working with healthcare providers across the county to ensure they are using screening tools and reporting adverse events, according to the department. 

People who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last three weeks should report severe headaches, abdominal or leg pain, and shortness of breath to their medical provider or seek medical care. People who don’t have a medical provider can call 2-1-1 to connect with a healthcare provider.

Public Health notes the pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should not have a major impact on this week’s vaccine appointments for the County. Out of the 323,470 total doses allocated to the County this week, only 19,600 were Johnson & Johnson doses. Vaccine providers in Los Angeles County will contact patients that were scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine about rescheduling or providing a new appointment for Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. 

Changes will be made to the MyTurn website starting tomorrow to allow residents 16 and older to begin to schedule vaccination appointments for Thursday and later. Youth 16 and 17 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine and need to sign up at a site that offers this vaccine, according to the department. 

For information about how to make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, visit here.

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L.A. County, City To Pause Johnson & Johnson Vaccine After Advisory

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Both the County and City of Los Angeles are pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after an advisory from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA released a joint statement reporting a “rare and severe type of blood clot” in six individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. 

The City of L.A. is set to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, until further notice, at all sites throughout the City, said Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell. 

Any previous appointments made Tuesday are expected to be honored with another vaccine, according to Gorell.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released a statement later Tuesday morning saying the county is also pausing the J&J vaccine.

 This pause will last until the FDA and CDC complete their review, which is expected to take several days. Vaccine providers in Los Angeles County will contact patients about rescheduling or providing a new appointment for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, according to Public Health.

As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen ) vaccine have been administered in the U.S. The CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. 

In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). 

All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination, according to the statement. 

“Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered,” the statement said. “Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.”

CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. 

Until that process is complete, the agencies are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. 

“This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot,” the statement said.

Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare, according to the agencies. 

“COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously,” the statement said. “People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.”

Note: This story has been updated with a statement from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

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