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L.A. Business Council Calls For Significant Expansion of Project Room Key

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Project Roomkey Los Angeles County
Photo Courtesy of Los Angeles County

The Los Angeles Business Council (LABC), which represents 500 L.A. businesses and civic leaders, has called on Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council to pursue obtaining 15,000 hotel rooms as part of Project Room Key to house unsheltered people during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

LABC, which is hosting its annual Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit Thursday, said the city should take advantage of the federal government’s commitment to reimburse 100% of the costs of hotel and motel rooms to house homeless people through September.

 “Opportunities like this don’t come along often. We must take full advantage of it,” the LABC said in a letter to Garcetti. “Thus, we urge you to act fast to explore options for renting vastly more hotel and motel rooms and bringing our unhoused Angelenos safely indoors.” 

City Attorney Mike Feuer expressed his support for LABC’s call for 15,000 hotel rooms for unsheltered people, as well as expanding other city services.

“I’m a strong supporter of the LABC’s proposal today that there be 15,000 new beds under Project Roomkey … and as we do these things, we also need to be reimagining our engagement on the street. And how does that look, it looks like reinventing the structure of (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority). Its goals and its mission have to align with the city’s. It means rethinking how we deal with mental illness on the street, which means speeding up experiments … and it means expanding our multidisciplinary teams on the street,” he said. 

Mayor Eric Garcetti authorized up-front funding to extend Los Angeles’ leases for Project Roomkey hotels through Sept. 30, but the city only leases three hotels with a total of about 1,200 rooms. 

Project Roomkey was started in March 2020 as state and county officials sought to find short-term shelters for homeless residents over 65 or with serious health conditions — hoping to keep them safe from the spread of the coronavirus. 

The Los Angeles Business Council said in a statement that its leaders support Councilman Mike Bonin and Councilwoman Nithya Raman’s calls to increase the program by thousands of rooms. 

Over 40,000 Angelenos are living on the city’s streets, and their deaths are up 74% in 2021 compared to the same time the previous year, according to the LABC. Meanwhile, the city’s 100,000 hotel and motel rooms are at about 50% capacity amid the pandemic, LABC noted. 

“And if we can’t hit the 15,000-room goal, let’s know that our mayor and other city leaders did everything in their power to reach it,” said LABC President Mary Leslie. “Five years from now, we can either look back and say we missed a golden opportunity, or be grateful that Los Angeles answered the magnitude of the moment and housed a majority of its homeless population.” 

The city is under mounting pressure from Federal Judge David O. Carter to shelter 6,500 people who live under freeway passes by April 1.

“We know other cities . . . are making moves to act quickly. We do not want to be left behind,” LABC leaders said. 

LABC represents businesses across all industries. According to their website, they focus on issues related to housing, transportation, renewable energy, economic development, international investment and homelessness.

Coronavirus

California Keeps Mask Mandate Until June 15 Despite CDC Guidelines

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CDC Mask Guidelines

California public health officials announced Monday the state is keeping the current mask mandate until June 15 despite updated federal guidance for those fully vaccinated.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Health and Human Services secretary, said California is expected to modify the mask mandate in June when the Blueprint for a Safer Economy is no longer in effect.

On Thursday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said those who are fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physically distancing.

Ghaly added the state wants to give local governments and businesses more time to implement the relaxed mask rules. 

“This is in no way saying that the science or direction of the CDC’s guidelines is wrong. It’s just giving us some extra time to have this implemented with a high degree of integrity,” Ghaly said.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent a letter Friday asking the state to align with federal guidelines on face coverings.

“The State of California now boasts the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation. Yet, the state still maintains some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the Country,” Barger wrote.

Los Angeles County cannot loosen its existing mandates until the state regulations are updated, according to the supervisor. 

Major retailers, including Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Starbucks and Costco, have dropped their mask requirement for fully vaccinated customers.

In order to be considered fully vaccinated, residents must wait two weeks after their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the first dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.

Anyone 12 years and older living or working in Los Angeles County can now get vaccinated. For more information, visit here.

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City Of Los Angeles Expands COVID-19 Vaccination Site Hours To Increase Access

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COVID19 Vaccine Los Angeles County 2 (1)

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a series of steps to expand COVID-19 vaccine access among Angelenos at Los Angeles-City run sites on Monday.

 Efforts include extending hours to 8 p.m. at nine fixed City-run sites; administering all three approved vaccines at mass vaccination centers; and offering doses appointment-free across Los Angeles. These increases in operations come on the heels of the announcement by public health professionals that 12 to 15-year-olds are eligible to get vaccinated.

“We can end this pandemic, restore public health, and rebuild our economy, but only if we can put vaccines within reach of every Angeleno, regardless of income, zip code, or neighborhood,” said Garcetti in a statement. “With expanded hours and growing eligibility, we are doing everything we can to reach residents who have yet to get vaccinated — and make it as easy and safe as possible to deliver doses across our communities.”  

To get the vaccines into more arms across Los Angeles, the City eliminated the appointment requirement and piloted evening hours earlier this month. After seeing a 200% increase in demand for evening vaccinations over the last two weeks, the City will extend hours until 8 p.m. at all of its permanent locations, except for Dodger Stadium, which will remain open until 4 p.m. 

All fixed sites will operate from Monday to Saturday, with the exception of Dodger Stadium, which will permanently close on Thursday, May 20. 

Most mobile locations will operate between Tuesday and Saturday from the hours of 9 am to 3 p.m., except for two-night clinics at South L.A. Wetlands Park and Sylmar Recreation Center, which will run until 9 p.m. 

Angelenos who visit any fixed site with extended hours will be able to choose from any of the three vaccines currently available: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

This week, City vaccination sites will have the capacity to administer roughly 250,000 doses to Angelenos across 10 permanent sites and each of the Mobile Outreach for Vaccine Equity (MOVE) clinics.

Equity remains a key focus of the City’s vaccination program. The MOVE initiative delivers doses directly to neighborhoods most impacted by the pandemic, administering 111,719 so far. This week, the City will deploy 10 mobile teams, serving residents in South L.A., East L.A. and parts of the Valley, including South Park, Chesterfield Square/Harvard Park, Vermont Vista, Watts, Boyle Heights, Wilmington, Van Nuys, Sylmar and others. 

Pre-registration is not required, but Angelenos who wish to plan ahead can visit here to sign up or find the nearest location. 

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Supervisor Barger Urges State To Align With CDC Mask Guidelines

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Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent a letter Friday asking the state to align with federal guidelines on face coverings for those who are fully vaccinated. 

Barger urged Governor Gavin Newsom to modify California’s mask mandate to follow the protocols announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday.

“As you know, the Centers for Disease Control has announced that it is now safe for fully vaccinated Americans to not wear masks or practice physical distancing in most situations,” Barger wrote. “Additionally, the State of California now boasts the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation. Yet, the State still maintains some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the Country.”

Los Angeles County cannot loosen its existing mandates until the state regulations are updated, according to the supervisor. 

Barger said it is appropriate for the California Department of Public Health and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health to change the existing distancing and masking requirements in alignment with the new guidelines. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing on Thursday anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physically distancing.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Walensky said. “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

In order to be considered fully vaccinated, residents must wait two weeks after their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the first dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.

“Los Angeles County is committed to implementing safe, sensible directives that still protect our recovery and prevent regression to high positive case rates,” Barger wrote. “We especially want to ensure protections for workers, particularly those who work indoors, including on public transportation and in schools, large venues, and congregate housing such as jails, shelters and skilled nursing facilities.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health continues to offer vaccinations without appointments at County-run vaccination sites while supply lasts. 

Anyone 12 years and older living or working in Los Angeles County can now get vaccinated. For more information, visit here.

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