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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.

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L.A. County Nears COVID-19 Criteria To Move Into ‘Red’ Tier Of Reopening

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Los Angeles County is getting closer to the COVID-19 criteria for the “red” tier of reopening as cases and hospitalizations continue to decline.

As of Tuesday, L.A. County remains in the most-restrictive “purple” tier in California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, according to the Department of Public Health. 

In order to move into the less restrictive red tier that allows for additional re-openings, L.A. County’s daily case rate must be at or below 7 new cases per 100,000 people and the County’s test positivity rate must be at or below 8%. 

Tuesday, the state released updated numbers; L.A. County’s adjusted case rate is 7.2 new cases per 100,000 people and the test positivity rate is 3.5%. 

If Los Angeles County’s adjusted case rate drops to 7 new cases per 100,000 people next week, the County must continue to show a case rate of 7 new cases per 100,000 people or less for two consecutive weeks before it can move to the red tier and be eligible for additional re-openings, including on-site learning for grades 7 through 12, according to Public Health.

“L.A. County is very close to meeting the metric thresholds for the less restrictive red tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safety Economy, which will provide our county with more opportunities to reopen for additional activities,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health in a statement. “Since there is still widespread transmission occurring in our county, we are hoping we do not see increases in the number of daily cases in the upcoming weeks that will pause our recovery journey and cause more hospitalizations.”

With an increase in the circulation of variants, Public Health asks residents, workers, and businesses to continue following the safety measures and implement Health Officer Order directives, including wearing a mask and physically distancing from others not in your household to prevent spread, Ferrer said. 

See Related: What Can Reopen in the Red Tier?

Public Health has confirmed 91 new deaths and 1,407 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

To date, the department has identified 1,194,242 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 21,554 deaths. 

There are 1,502 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 32% of these people are in the ICU. Testing results are available for more than 5,844,000 individuals with 19% of people testing positive. Tuesday’s daily test positivity rate is 2.6%. 

COVID-19 vaccine remains limited in L.A. County, according to public health officials. 

When Johnson & Johnson doses come into L.A. County, a vaccine that is 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalization and death, Public Health is hopeful this will improve vaccine supply. 

For information about vaccine appointments in L.A. County, visit here.

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COVID-19 Cases Among Healthcare Workers In L.A. County Lowest Since Beginning Of Pandemic

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COVID19 Coronavirus Los Angeles County (1)

New COVID-19 cases among healthcare workers in Los Angeles County are at the lowest levels since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, provided an update on COVID-19 cases on Monday, noting a decline in overall cases since the holiday surge which peaked in mid-January. 

“These declines are real, and we’re grateful for the choices made and the work done by everyone, individuals and businesses, that is making this possible,” she said. 

Ferrer provided an outline of COVID-19 cases among healthcare workers adding it is one of the “first visible signs of the power of the vaccine to decrease our cases.”

“Healthcare workers also experienced a surge in cases in late fall through the winter,” Ferrer said. “Now, as cases overall have declined, and as so many of our healthcare workers are fully vaccinated, cases have dropped to the lowest they have ever been since the beginning of the pandemic.”

The public health director noted on Monday, the county has not yet seen a surge from the recent Super Bowl and holiday weekend, and said if cases continue to decline, additional reopenings are possible.

On Monday, 987 new COVID-19 cases and 32 additional deaths were reported, according to Ferrer. 

To date, Public Health has identified a total of 21,467 deaths and 1,192,895 cumulative cases, according to the public health director. 

Ferrer noted cases and deaths reported on Monday are usually lower due to a lag in testing from over the weekend. 

As of Monday, the seven-day average is less than 1,000 cases, according to Public Health. 

The average testing positivity rate as of Monday is 3%, which is the lowest since the start of the pandemic, according to the department. 

Nearly 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of the latest update, with 600,000 people — about 6% of all L.A. County residents — are fully vaccinated, according to Ferrer.

The public health director noted the county has the capacity to administer nearly 500,000 doses per week but has received less than 270,000 doses.

Supervisor Hilda Solis and Ferrer celebrated the approval of the Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) vaccine which is expected to arrive in L.A. County as early as this week. 

Ferrer urged residents to take any of the vaccines available saying all three of the vaccines are “incredibly powerful” and prevent serious illness or death from COVID-19.

On Monday, additional essential workers, including teachers, first responders and those in the food and agriculture industry, became eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Los Angeles County

Public health officials estimate more than 547,000 people are working in the food and agriculture sector and are expected to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, 668,000 people in the childcare and education sector and 154,000 law enforcement and emergency responders in L.A. County.

Supply remains limited, however, is expected to increase in the coming weeks, according to Ferrer.

For more information on COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Los Angeles County, visit here

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Additional Essential Workers Now Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine In L.A. County

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COVID19 Vaccine 3

Additional essential workers, including teachers, first responders and those in the food and agriculture industry, are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Los Angeles County. 

Starting Monday, those three groups can start making appointments to get a COVID-19 vaccine, with most receiving a shot through their employer, said Dr. Paul Simon, the county chief science officer.

“Together these groups comprise well over a million adults in Los Angeles County. Therefore, it will take considerable time to vaccinate these groups,” Simon said.

All essential workers that fall into the new categories are also eligible to receive a dose at the Los Angeles County-run sites, according to Simon. 

Identification is required in order to verify that a person lives or works in L.A. County. In addition, a badge ID, pay stub, professional license, food handler card, work shift schedule or other forms of proof are needed to verify employment. 

A signed letter from a supervisor with letterhead from the company can also be used in some cases, Simon said. 

As supply remains low, L.A. County is expected to receive slightly more doses next week an estimated 269,000 doses next week compared to 211,00 this week, according to Simon.

Of the COVID-19 vaccine doses coming to Los Angeles County next week, about 103,000 are expected to be reserved for the first dose, with 35.8% expected for those over the age of 65.

The remaining doses include about 27.6% for food workers, 30.3% for educators and 6.2% for first responders. 

Simon said the allocation is proportional to the population size of each group.  

Public health officials estimate more than 547,000 people are working in the food and agriculture sector and are expected to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, 668,000 people in the childcare and education sector and 154,000 law enforcement and emergency responders in L.A. County.

There are nearly 400 sites across the county, including large-scale sites such as the one at Six Flags Magic Mountain. However, most of the residents in this new group are expected to be vaccinated through their employer.

For teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), a large-scale site at SoFi Stadium opened on Monday.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said the site is “the largest vaccination site in the country dedicated to school staff.”

Beutner added the district is aiming to vaccinate teachers working with younger students first, in efforts to reopen elementary schools by April 9. 

 “There are more than 86,000 people who work in traditional and charter schools in Los Angeles Unified and our initial focus will be to vaccinate school staff who are currently working at school sites and all who are involved in preschool and elementary school,” he said.

The district is expected to vaccinate 25,000 teachers and staff in order to get elementary schools open, Beutner said. 

Starting March 15, state public health officials are expected to increase the eligibility for a vaccine to those over the age of 16 with an underlying health condition that puts them at higher risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health, said last week there is still uncertainty if Los Angeles County will have enough doses of the vaccine to increase the eligibility to this group

For more information on COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Los Angeles County, visit here

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