Coronavirus Lands in East Hollywood, Silver Lake

It’s official. According to the L.A. Times tracker, which began releasing known information about infected areas as recently as a day ago, and which at the time of this writing was last updated at 1:32 PM PST this March 29th, there are now five (5) recorded cases of patients who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in East Hollywood.

In the adjacent neighborhood of Silver Lake, there are fourteen (14) recorded cases of patients who’ve tested positive for the disease.

Nearby, Hollywood has thirty-eight (38) recorded cases of patients who’ve tested positive for the novel coronavirus, while West Hollywood next door has fifty (50) caseloads on its records. According to the L.A. County Department of Health–last updated at noon this previous March 28th–L.A. County now has a total of at least 1,809 known cases of the virus.

Even these numbers, however, should be considered an under-count. Despite two weeks of the stay-at-home-orders in Los Angeles, the fact is that widespread testing for COVID-19 is still out of the picture for the foreseeable future. According to L.A. County’s leader in charge of testing, Clayton Kazan, the major hindrance has been a simple but fundamental item that’s been missing:

The number one shortage item that the labs talk to me about is swabs. Number two is reagent and materials for running the tests. So, on the existing machines where they can do it, they’re lacking some of the different raw materials that they need. But number one is swabs: the simplest piece.”

Dr. Kazan also notes that the current process of sending swabs from testing for results out of state is grossly inefficient at this time:

We need a massive scaling locally. As long as we’re having to ship our labs out of state, and we’re having to compete with all the other states that are struggling with their own outbreaks, then we’re going to be struggling.”

An additional problem, of course, is simply whether you have adequate access to healthcare at your fingertips; of the people who have been tested, reports do not show which are insured. In East Hollywood, made up predominantly of Latino and Asian communities, but also Armenian, Black, White and others, the median household income is estimated by Census Tracker as in the range of $39,562 USD.

While I’m not aware of specific data showing how many of the neighborhood’s residents are insured or not, it’s safe to infer from other available data that the majority of them–surviving on (and below) the minimum wages typically paid to their demographics–do not have adequate coverage at their fingertips.

Here, the words of Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of L.A.’s public health department, resonate loudly:

“There are thousands of people in our communities who are positive but who have not been tested.”

Readers are advised to increase their level of precautions, and to reach out to loved ones–safely–on further steps to ensure and maintain their health and well-being in the upcoming with this public health threat.

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 10

I saw recently an advisory that the World Health Organization actually recommends checking on updates for the coronavirus only once or twice a day. I very much appreciated seeing that advisory; I heeded their advice and took a reprieve from my laptop and the usual applications for this Saturday–not to mention the rate of my ‘updatedness’–and am likely do so once again through Sunday. Over the last two weeks, I’ve steered the galactic ship that is JIMBO TIMES towards optimal attention to updates on COVID-19 in an effort to relay the information to as many others in the blog’s network as reachable as soon as possible.

It’s made for a transition that’s been nearly seamless for the blog; I’ve very much enjoyed publishing the new word of the day, as well as publishing bulletins or announcements for the people regarding the latest on COVID-19 from our elected officials–not to mention these blogs–but as with all events in the observable universe, they’ve not been without their costs–or trade-offs–in exchange.

It’s required marked discipline from me to write each night before my deadline. And it’s worn my eyes slightly more than I might have anticipated, among other things.

At the same time,J.T.’ has always been a “trade-off,” although the “t-word” isn’t the most accurate term to describe what the process has entailed.

Many years ago, during another great seismic shift of the norm in the good ole USA, a close friend and I had a very brief exchange about another ‘downtime’ or major change in America, which, short as it was, I’d never forget:

“You know,”
I said, “the Great Depression wasn’t bad for everyone.”

I didn’t fully know if this was the case or not, but somehow took a leap of faith wide enough that my observation was fairly accurate that it sounded confident enough to register with my friend once it left my trachea.

“That’s right,” my friend said. “There were some people that actually really got rich after that,” he exclaimed with conviction.

Maybe we were both on to something that was quite more true than either of us could have speculated to be at the time. In any case:

In 2020, after much consideration and observation, at this precise juncture of time and space, it’s an honor to note that the blog has never been more positioned for success than it is currently; business is better than it’s ever been.

But what exactly is business?

I have decided that business is not just my consistency with the people, but that it’s consistency with myself. Take a day off all of it, Los Angeles. You’re going to need it for the days still ahead.

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 9

At the time of this writing, the L.A. Times reports that the number of cases in California has grown to nearly 5,000, with 102 known deaths. Between yesterday and this Friday, the number of recorded cases more than doubled. If the trend continues, according to Mayor Garcetti:

A week or two from now, we will have images like we’re seeing in New York here in Los Angeles.”

Except that there is a discrepancy to point out; California has lagged far behind New York in testing–by about 65% according to the SF Chronicle–which means that the spike in cases shouldn’t be read as representing the rate of the spread of the virus, but only as representing the increased rate of California’s testing for it.

In other words, we can’t yet say for sure if we’ll be at New York city’s level of crisis without sampling or testing more of the population first.

But that’s where the trouble lies. Unlike New York, the state of California actually doesn’t have a federally approved test for COVID-19; instead, the state developed its own test for the virus. That’s where a bigger problem lies: the sluggish testing in California is also due to a shortness of staff and materials to administer the screening.

This underscores why the state’s leadership is panicked. It’s, of course, a serious failure on both the part of the 5th largest economy in the world and the federal government.

But what’s also true is that comparing Los Angeles to New York City as if they are basically twin cities on opposite coasts is simply misleading. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Los Angeles is a city of just under 4 million people, while it estimates that New York City is twice as large at just under 8.4 million.

But more important than the size is how differently these cities run. The density of New York City, where people are far more reliant on public transportation, far closer together at bars, restaurants and tourist locations, and where people are housed exponentially right on top of each other, shows why the risk of spread is greater there.

By contrast, California, the city of Carmageddon, is a city where millions of people already quarantine themselves on a daily basis en route to work each morning. There is density and clustering, but it’s far more sequestered. Think downtown L.A., Venice beach, or Hollywood. These are obviously hot-spots, where the risk of spread is just as great as anywhere else in the world, but the majority of the city is not as densely concentrated as downtown, Venice beach, or Hollywood. This is where the shutdown of L.A. was key.

It was the right step to close the schools and limit the amount of travel as soon as possible. And as Garcetti and Newsom have both noted, the vast majority of Californians have complied with the stay at home orders, which is a good sign.

Now the only problem is access to the tests, though. Once we can get more of our people screened, we can have a better projection of where to allocate our maximal resources, what areas to screen off, and where people can “get back to normal.”

Of course, “normal” is a stand-in for work. If not for nearly 40 million workers, how else could California rank as the 5th largest economy in the world, behind only Germany, Japan, China and the U.S. itself? The golden state’s wealth is formed daily not just by those millions of people in traffic authorized to work, but just as much by the millions of unauthorized workers whose hands also contribute to create its riches.

Con paciencia, mamá. Todo pasa por una razón.’

J.T.

The Path of Togetherness (An Eighth Grade Student’s Poem on Growth)

As I wait patiently and try
Desperately to gain enlightenment I recognize a path that
Represents something unique.

Independently I strive to connect with this path,
But there are battles inside me casting a blinding fog
Trying to distract me. 

The fog tries to cast away my connection to the path,
But when I look closer, it calls out to me.

The path communicates a message of bonding,
Of teamwork and togetherness

It communicates gracefully, pushing me forward.

I recognize the path as one creating new opportunities for my future.

The path begins to become a part of me,
My trust starts to build upon this path I chose.

I have new paths to make, where I can manifest ideas
To develop my own independence
And to help others grow and manifest theirs.

SS

This poem is dedicated to the Los Cuentos community.

A Strand of Humanity (An Eighth Grade Student’s Poem on this Covid19 Season)

I sit here alone between four dark walls
Longing for a connection I can’t help but recall

This deadly virus has taken more than spirit and soul.
It’s also broken a ritual between me and my friends.

I wish I could say “hi” to them,
Or shake their hands, or tap them on the shoulder.

Now we sit isolated in virtual reality,
Only a strand of humanity.

School and work are gone, off limits
But these places aren’t just somewhere to be,

They also bring light in to a dark room.

Calamity over the virus now makes for empty shelves,
People panicking ignorantly,
Angering themselves, shoving each other.

I hope to see some deliverance soon,
A respite from this gloom to light up my room.

JC

This poem is dedicated to the city of Los Angeles and all who read this poem.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 8

Today I awoke to the news that over 3.3 million people in the United States filed for unemployment benefits over the past week. When I mentioned this to mom, she gasped. She then pointed out to me that the number doesn’t even include the informal economy, comprised of nannies, tamaleras, small business owners like herself, and countless more.

At the same time, the number of cases of Coronavirus found in L.A. County topped 1,200 today, with the figure reaching over 4,000 for the golden state overall; I realize that the figure is just the tipping point if Californians don’t heed the warnings to stay home and minimize travel down to the essentials. As well as if the professionals don’t have the personal protective equipment they need to reduce the risk of becoming infected by their patients.

But most signs point to the fact that people have stayed home as ordered thus far. In my own community, I’m surrounded by humble, God-fearing citizens, who, as working class people, largely play by the rules set up for us daily anyway for fear of reprisal otherwise. I know that las familias have been home, led overwhelmingly by mama, that is, and that for many of them the shutdown has even been a reprieve, especially for the laborers among them who wear their backs daily with brittle bones undergirding them to bring the day’s bread home.

We are a people as humble as angels peering down from their portraits as if weighed down by their wings. And something tells me that if Jesus himself walked through Los Angeles today, he’d smile deeply on meeting our glances for our still looking up through yet another storm. Perhaps he does. We are the people of the awakening. Tomorrow it’s my turn to bring back some more bread.

J.T.

I Wanted School to Be Over

Many students (high school seniors, I’m talking to you!) constantly share one common wish: for school to be over. As seniors, we have put up with nearly 12 years of schooling, have gone through twice as many teachers, met 5 times as many annoying-ass kids, and just wanted our final year to be a breeze. Do we still want that?

When we said, “UGH! I want to get out of here already!” we meant that we wanted the school year to go by fast, unnoticed. However, fate and life (and some may even say God) enjoy toying with us, and like making a wish at a magic genie booth at the L.A. County fair, we actually got what we wanted, just in the most undesirable way possible.

COVID-19 has every school in the major Los Angeles area closed with a very high chance that they’ll remain closed until the upcoming fall. Suddenly, all of us students have been forced into online schooling, with every teacher trying to host a Zoom session at the same time, with many teachers assigning homework every single day, and with some teachers still having no idea how to use technology. This is not the end we wanted.

Suddenly, it seemed our introverted lifestyles were becoming a law and a survival guide: don’t go outside, don’t interact with anyone, avoid direct contact, only leave to get food. Finally, our binge-eating and binge-watching routines were no longer taboo, but being encouraged by the leaders of our state. In a nutshell, it can seem ideal. Living in it, though, has been a serious challenge.

Be careful what you wish for. You don’t know the value of what you have until it’s gone. These are sayings that are kicking everyone in the ass at the moment.

The vast majority of people always complain about the insipidity of their daily routine; we’re always asking for a change. It’s only now that we start to realize how dependent we are in our customs. Think about it: you’re sitting on your couch, watching something random on Netflix for background noise, eating your 5th Cup Noodles this week, and daydreaming about how life was perfectly normal a month ago (though you were probably complaining about it then too).

Many of our lonely souls just want this to be over because we miss our friends. We miss making plans we probably weren’t going to show up for. We miss rolling our eyes at the kids in the halls who take their sweet ass time walking to class. We also miss seeing that one teacher that remembered what being a high school student was like. Some of us are even questioning if we’ll still remember our social skills once this is over. Will we remember how to say “hi” properly, or how to hug our friends?

No matter what kind of person you may be, you probably miss the times that seem like forever ago too. Every day lasts 72 hours now, and there is apparently nothing to do. We all want this to be over, and soon. But what can we do? Be awesome and listen. That’s what. Also, remember to wash your hands and practice saying “hello” at home whenever possible.

(This blog was originally published on the new LA Voice Blog by José Ocampo)

JQ

José Ocampo is an 18 year old Senior high school student in Los Angeles who will be studying at the University of San Francisco as a Psychology major this upcoming Fall 2020. He loves writing about the world, and sharing his mind with as many people as he can. Please check out and subscribe to his new blog, the LA Voice, immediately during this quarantine season!

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 7

Today it dawned on me that what’s more likely about the proximity of the coronavirus to my community is not that it’s on its way, but that it’s already here, somewhere in the vicinity, albeit undetected.

When I think about that, I realize just how much I’ve got in common with millions of other Americans who’ve little to no access to basic healthcare services. In one of the last estimates, the Wall Street Journal notes that the “average” test or screening for coronavirus can run a patient up to $1,464.00 USD. According to the statistics, more than half of American households–which is to say somewhere around 165 million people–don’t even have an emergency savings account.

While Congress passed legislation to make screenings for coronavirus free of charge earlier this month, healthcare systems all across the U.S. are notorious for still billing people who can’t afford thousands of dollars in fees relating to pre-screenings or other costs that can accrue in a last-minute visit to the hospital.

In turn, even if the stock market surged earlier today in lieu of a stimulus package making its way through Congress promising $1,200 USD to Americans impacted by COVID-19, the fact of the matter is that the check is a one-time payment that’ll barely cover rent for many when it’s due next week. After that, where is our country to go?

Four years ago when the president launched his campaign, were millions of Americans who were out of work and on the verge of eviction, for which his administration would promise only a one-time payment to, as if to bid them good luck and farewell, was that his idea of making America great again?

In the meantime, at least Governor Cuomo in New York has put in place a statewide ban or eviction moratorium for New Yorkers unable to pay rent through the next 90 days due to a lack of income. Governor Newsom, on the other hand, has yet to announce any such plans for renters here in California, of which there are more than 17 million, or nearly 43 percent of the state’s total population.

In Los Angeles, the L.A. City Council canceled meetings for the rest of March a day before a scheduled vote on expansive orders halting evictions. If not for an executive order issued by Mayor Garcetti placing a temporary ban on evictions of people affected by COVID-19, L.A. tenants would have virtually no protections during this time.

I’ve thus got a feeling that more coordinated leadership from our elected officials would be much appreciated by those who’ve financially been hit the hardest by this pandemic. Those people who comprise the community this blog continues to be dedicated to.

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 6

Today was a windy day through the city of Los Angeles that felt like winter trying to sabotage Spring after the new season basked L.A. in fresh light following days of rain; grey clouds loomed overhead from morning into early evening, but the day belonged most of all to gusts that roamed like jackals through the recently emptied city. The new ghost-town of Los Angeles.

As sunlight swept over the horizon I got up to a light snack to calm my appetite for the morning’s interval: a delicious chocolate concha with almond milk to soak it in. After that, I quickly got ready and headed out to the town. The fact is, although the city is mostly shut down into an eerie solitude and autopsy of itself, there are still plenty of places for me to see and take a seat at to sift through the day’s tasks with; on reaching my oasis, there was much to do.

There were articles to finish reading. And there were announcements to make on the Instagram.

There was the word of the day to post up. And there were also more students’ poems to review, which are soon forthcoming.

There were also at least two phone calls to make and a few different texts to send out. Then, before I knew it, it was time to get back to home or headquarters for quesadillas.

All of it felt very occupying. The only difference was that where I used to complete these tasks while finding myself surrounded by the myriad of groups which the city seemed to produce out of the blue any given second, this time, it was just me and the winds. I have to admit: there was a special charm to the isolation, like marinating in a deep, whirling secret, or the way a child alone at the candy store might feel when they realize they can finally see everything without anyone over their shoulders. The truth is I’ve always enjoyed Los Angeles when it’s had its volume turned down.

On getting back home, las quesadillas set me upright like a tower, which reminded me: tomorrow I need to head out to the store early to grab some more tortillas. I’ll make another walk of it. From there, I’ll have just as much to complete with Los Angeles yet again. Ghost-town or not, the lists yours truly has to get through before sun sets on the day continue to sweep me away.

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 5

Is it still safe for my mother to go out to open her newsstand? Should I continue to walk alongside her when I’m able to make it to her right as she closes shop? If I do, what are the odds of our walking home safely at this point? Is our community more at risk because of Coronavirus, or because of gun violence on our streets? These are questions I ask myself in the wake of another shooting in the neighborhood which has unnecessarily taken yet another life from our community.

Does poverty meet the definition of a disease? It’s certainly been passed down by many generations and is spreading throughout our country. In Los Angeles, this has become ever clearer with the rising number of tents erected by young, old, Black, White, Asian and more people locked out of housing in an increasingly wealth-driven city. But unlike encampments, shootings in our neighborhood take place more covertly. While they cost families and neighborhoods far more than makeshift tent cities, their scene is registered quickly before vanishing into our memory banks. But we do not forget these terrors once we’ve seen them up close. Death sprawled on the street casts a shadow nearly as long as the night.

A quick search through the L.A. Times HOMICIDE REPORT will show that the overwhelming majority of fatalities in Los Angeles are of Black and Latino males.

It will also show that in the last twelve months, 510 people in L.A. lost their lives due to armed violence, which is a preventable crime. The majority of these deaths don’t make the daily paper anymore, but Fernie’s shooting was the third fatality in less than six months within a 1.5 mile radius for my neighborhood, and the the sixth fatality in twelve months for the East Hollywood area overall.

Are we able to call an intervention with our L.A. city councilmember and other leaders on this situation over Zoom, or does that remain impractical? On the list of priorities for the city in lieu of COVID-19, just where does gun violence inflicted on our young men rank for our city? I know I’m not the only one asking these questions, but if COVID-19 has shown anything, it’s that a community’s net health is determined by every single person who comprises that community. Here is to lifting up once again our call for a better way.

J.T.