Generally at this time of the year, I am pleased to wish everyone long-whirling dreidels, yuletide greetings, and happy holiday times spent with family and friends. This year I wish you the same but I ask you to do it all remotely. All of it.
The current post-Thanksgiving spike in COVID-19 infections rides atop an already-enormous pre-Thanksgiving surge which has resulted in a breathtaking number of hospitalizations, overfilled ICUs, and ever more exhausted medical professionals. News and social media reports and photos of large numbers of people at LAX and Costco, for just a couple of examples, have me extremely concerned about what comes next. Another spike on an already-vertical exponential growth curve of infections seems not only likely but imminent.
People who are alive and well right now, today, will be infected or dead by the end of January, if everyone fails to heed the warnings of our medical professionals. Better to postpone any celebrations until the actual, real end of the pandemic, which might not be for several months, than to miss someone who was exposed at unnecessary risk for the rest of your life.
I introduced, got approved, and immediately sent to the LA County Department of Public Health a motion calling for an emergency implementation plan to manage the possible shortage of hospital beds, medical professionals, and Personal Protective Equipment. The motion directed the Emergency Management Department to work with the Fire Department, Building and Safety Department, Department of Transportation, and Bureau of Street Services to streamline and facilitate every permitting issue that could bottleneck the creation of temporary emergency medical facilities to address the COVID surge, including street closures, erection of tents, and use of parking lots. I’m pleased to say that much of that streamlining work has already been accomplished.
Mental & Emotional Health Resources
I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the extraordinarily difficult year we have all experienced, some even much worse than others. Just getting through all the challenges thrown at us has been an achievement and I know I am not alone in hoping for a much milder and sane 2021 as we move into economic recovery mode. Given the added stress of a potentially solitary safer-at-home holiday season and any related strain of familial relations, I wanted to provide for your convenience some mental and emotional health resources available at your fingertips and encourage you to take advantage of them if you feel any need whatsoever. All of our mental and emotional wellbeingswellbeing has been under assault and some simple self-care is often all that is necessary to regain our equilibrium.
General mental health resources:
To put everything into a much wider perspective, I recommend stepping outside the next few evenings just after dark and looking up at the night sky above the Western horizon. This week the planets in our solar system have been putting on a once-in-a-lifetime display in what is being called “the great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. These are the same planets and neighboring constellations that our ancestors have looked upon for thousands of years, through each and every travail experienced by the human family since time immemorial. As their light shines down upon us, we can all remember those who came before us and know that once we get through the COVID crisis we will continue to move forward and face and conquer whatever next challenges arise as a human family. Together.
Councilmember Paul Koretz, Fifth District
A Negative Test is Not Clearance to Gather
The LA County Department of Health would like to remind everyone that the strategy of testing in order to gather is flawed. A person is negative only at the time they got tested - not the next day or the next day or the next day. By the time you receive the news of a negative test result, you may no longer be negative. If this is indeed the case, and even if you have no symptoms, you can still infect others. This virus spreads easily when folks are in close contact with others, not wearing face coverings, and not keeping their distance.
As we approach Christmas and New Year’s, we really can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of Thanksgiving. The extremely high numbers of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 we are experiencing – are the result of too many gatherings with non-household members, too many people traveling, and too many people letting down their guard over the Thanksgiving holiday.
If we don’t change how we celebrate the winter holidays, we will experience a surge on top of a surge on top of a surge. Our hospitals are already over capacity and the high-quality medical care we are accustomed to in LA County is beginning to be compromised as our frontline healthcare workers are beyond stretched to the limit.
COVID-19 Vaccine Approvals
The FDA already approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and has now approved Moderna’s vaccine. Pfizer expects some 20 million Americans to receive their first shots by the end of December. These initial shots are being primarily prioritized for frontline health-care workers and nursing home residents. To learn more about how the state is prioritizing vaccine distribution in the initial phases prior to mass distribution, click here.
|COMMUNITY UPDATES AND RESOURCES|
LADOT Al Fresco Dining Applications
The L.A. Al Fresco program has been a lifeline to Los Angeles restaurants during the pandemic, with more than 2,000 restaurants permitted to-date. While outdoor dining is temporarily suspended, LADOT continues to process and approve applications and implement curbside and street closure dining operations for use as soon as restrictions are lifted. With $2 Million in CARES Act funding to be fulfilled by year's end, LADOT is urging businesses to apply in time to be reimbursed. To apply, click here.
CA Main Street Small Business Tax Credit
Small business owners who hired new employees or rehired staff that had to be laid off may qualify for a state tax credit of $1,000 per employee. The credit can be applied to the business owner’s income tax or sales and use tax liability. Small businesses must meet the qualifications below:
Employed 100 or fewer employees as of December 31, 2019.
Had an increase in employees between July 2020 - November 2020, compared to the prior quarter (April 2020 - June 2020).
Suffered a 50 percent decrease or more in income tax gross receipts between second quarter 2020 - second quarter 2019.
Tax credits will be given on a first-come-first-served basis and the program is offering $100 million total in tax credits to business owners statewide. The application period ends on January 15, 2021. For more information and to apply, click here.
COVID-19 Safety Compliance Certificate Program
No-cost online training is available to help train businesses on the implementation of COVID-19 safety protocols. To learn more and to sign up, click here.
DMV Extends Temporary Halt to Behind-the-Wheel Driving Tests Until January 4; Offices Remain Open. Customers Encouraged to Go Online First
The California Department of Motor Vehicles will continue its temporary suspension of behind-the-wheel driving tests until at least January 4. The DMV previously announced a two-week suspension through at least December 28. The DMV is taking this step for the health and safety of customers and employees during the current statewide surge in COVID-19 cases.
Customers with scheduled appointments through January 4 will be notified their tests are canceled. The DMV will automatically reschedule the tests at a later date. DMV drive test examiners will be redirected to assist with other customer transactions.
In-vehicle testing is a requirement for first-time driver’s license holders and commercial license applicants. The temporary suspension includes commercial and noncommercial tests but does not apply to motorcycle drive tests, which can be conducted at a safe distance.
To protect customers and employees, the DMV requires everyone who enters the DMV to wear a face covering, physically distance, and have their temperature checked. To best serve customers and maintain appropriate distance, the number of people allowed in the office is limited, chairs are appropriately spaced, and plexiglass has been installed.
Safety measures in place for behind-the-wheel tests include required face coverings, temperature checks, cracked windows for increased air circulation, and seat covers.
While DMV offices remain open to serve the public, the DMV continues to encourage all customers to use its online services, expanded virtual services, and other service channels to complete transactions, including eligible driver’s license and vehicle registration renewals. Nearly all Californians can now renew their driver’s license online – even if the renewal notice states an office visit is required. Customers can also use the Service Advisor on the DMV website to learn their options to complete DMV tasks.
Here to Serve
My office, like all City of Los Angeles offices, is following recommended protocols such as social distancing and working remotely to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That said, my staff and I are always readily available to help with your questions, concerns, and needs during this difficult period. We can be reached by phone at 213-473-7005, 323-866-1828 (West LA), or 818-971-3088 (Bel Air/ Encino) and through email firstname.lastname@example.org. Since we are experiencing a higher-than-normal volume of calls, feel free to email the staff member you wish to contact directly. The accompanying link contains those e-mail addresses.