Images of Highland Park during week one of the coronavirus emergency | Photos by T. A. Hendrickson

CORONAVIRUS: Northeast L.A. Confronts the Pandemic

2020 April Editions Featured Front Page

By T.A. Hendrickson

This article was updated on April 28 at 11:06 a.m. with latest Covid-19 numbers in L.A. County. An update on April 16 provides more information for workers on filing for unemployment benefits. An update on April 1 gives more  information below on protections for Renters.

As this April 28 update is being posted, Californians are in week six of the coronavirus shutdown. In Northeast L.A., as elsewhere, vacant streets, shuttered storefronts and closed schools attest to the effort to slow the spread of the virus, while public health and elected officials continue to warn of more cases and deaths to come. 

No one knows how it all will end, though for now, L.A. appears to have avoided the worst-case scenarios experienced in other cities and countries. 

Here’s what is known:

March 4: Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health declares a health emergency

As of Monday, April 27, L.A. County had identified 20,417 cases of the virus (Covid-19) across all areas of the county; in all, there have been 4,403 hospitalizations and 942 deaths. The number of confirmed cases in NELA is 80 in Eagle Rock, 87 in El Sereno, 18 in Elysian Valley, 100 in Glassell Park, 75 in Highland Park, 66 in Lincoln Heights and 34 in Mount Washington. 

There are two basic ways to look at the numbers: The tally understates the number of people carrying the coronavirus because testing, despite ramping up recently, is still limited. On the flip side, the share of cases that result in hospitalization or death would be smaller if everyone were tested.

Early and aggressive testing would have given health officials a better grip on the outbreak. That said, a full reckoning of the failure to test aggressively will have to wait until the pandemic subsides. For now, public health officials say that the best response is to stay home, keep your distance from others both at home and when you need to go out and wear non-medical face masks when you interact with others at the grocery store or in the course of performing other essential tasks. By slowing transmission of the virus, everyone works together to give hospitals a chance to handle their caseloads.

NELA pulls together

We also know that neighborhoods in NELA have pulled together with individuals acts of kindness and helpfulness often fueled by social media, such as walking the dog for elderly neighbors who must stay in and checking in frequently with one another. There have also been helpful acts of corporate social responsibility, notably, early grocery shopping hours for senior citizens. And local government officials have arranged to shelter some of the area’s homeless neighbors at 16 recreation centers in the city, including at Yosemite Recreation Center in Eagle Rock.

Local customers have also made efforts to support local businesses. Michele Wilton, co-owner of Penny Oven, Four Café and Piencone in Eagle Rock, says that customers have been “pouring on the love” with takeout orders and in some cases, leaving big tips. Leanna Lin, owner of Leanna Lin’s Wonderland in Eagle Rock, says that online orders for games and in-door activities have surged since the school closings.

Businesses are also counting on long-term customer relationships to see them through the hard times. At Patra’s Char Broiled Burgers in Glassell Park, owner Dino Perris, said business is off, but after 40 years in business, he is determined to stay open for customers who want takeout and who tell him they are glad he is there. Perris is also determined to keep his employees on the payroll. “We are playing it by ear,” said Perris. “We are all a little scared.”

Help on the way

March 27: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrating the passage of the $2 trillion relief package

“Love thy neighbor” will go a long way. At the same time, confronting the health and economic impacts of the corornavirus will require enormous resources, from hospital hotlines to the $2 trillion federal rescue bill signed into law on March 27.  

Here’s a summary of some of the help that is available and in the pipeline. We will update periodically with new information.

HEALTH

If you are mildly sick with cough, low-grade fever or other Covid-19 symptoms, the L.A. County Public Health Department says to isolate at home for at least seven days or for a full three days after being fever-free, whichever is longer. Call your doctor for advice about symptoms if you are elderly, pregnant or have an underlying medical condition or if you are concerned and/or your symptoms worsen.

For information and advice, you can also take advantage of these resources:

Dignity Health, the health system that includes Glendale Memorial, is offering free virtual care visits via phone or video chat to anyone experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms. Here are instructions on arranging a virtual visit. Or call 855-356-8053. Use the coupon code COVID19 to waive all fees.

Adventist Health, the health system that include Adventist Health Glendale and Adventist Health White Memorial in Boyle Heights has established a coronavirus advice line staffed by associates and clinicians to answer questions about coronavirus or concerns about visiting an Adventist Health facility./ 844-542-8840 / 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. / Monday through Friday.

Huntington Hospital in Pasadena has a COVID-19 phone line to call with questions at 626 397-3777

To protect your mental and emotional health, the L.A. County Department of Mental Health has advice, apps  and a range of support services. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you can call the department 24/7 at 800-854-7771 for support and referrals to further treatment. If you are struggling with substance abuse, you can call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (TTY 1-800-846-8517). Another supportive service is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) and 800-787-3224 (TDD). 

WORKERS

Benefits for California workers who lose their jobs or cannot work because of COVID-19 include unemployment benefits, disability insurance, paid family leave and paid sick leave. Workers compensation is available if you were exposed to and contracted COVID-19 at work. Click here for eligibility requirements and links to online applications.

Unemployment insurance will be the largest and most significant lifeline. From mid-March, when the state shut down due to the coronavirus, to mid-April, more than 2.7 million Californians filed for unemployment , acccording to Governor Newsom speaking at a press conference on April 15. The data is not yet broken out by metro area, but there can be no doubt that unemployment in L.A. has skyrocketed.

Photo by latimes.com

The amount and duration of your unemployment insurance will be determined by a mix of state and federal benefits. Under California state law, unemployment benefits range from $40 to $450 a week for up to 26 weeks; an extra $600 a week will be added to the state benefit for four months under the recent $2 trillion federal rescue law. The federal law will also add 13 weeks to the state-provided benefit for a total of up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits.

File online for California unemployment benefits.

The federal rescue package also lets people collect benefits who don’t ordinarily qualify for them, including gig workers, part-timers, freelancers, and other self-employed people. However, California faces a big challenge in bringing these nontraditional workers into their state-based unemployment systems while adhering to federal guidelines. So if you are self-employed, you will have to wait until April 28 to file for benefits, though your actual payout will be retroactive to February 2 or the date when you became unemployed due to the shutdown, whichever is later. For advice on how to apply and to keep updated on the state’s progress toward covering self-employed workers, visit the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website recently created by California’s Employment Development Department

RENTERS

Yosemite Gardens: A 50 unit rental property in Eagle Rock.

The strongest renter protections during the coronavirus emergency are those passed by the L.A. City Council on March 27.

Under the new rules, landlords are blocked from evicting tenants who suffer hardship due to the virus. Such tenants cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent during the coronavirus emergency or for allowing others family members to move in, thus exceeding the occupancy allowed in the lease, according to an analysis of the measure by the L.A. Times. The new policy gives tenants a year from the end of the state of emergency to repay back rent before facing an eviction and waives late fees for nonpayment.

While the new protections go further than what the governor or mayor had called for, they do not amount to the moratorium on all evictions during the emergency that tenant advocates had hoped for, said the L.A. Times.

To protect yourself from an eviction attempt, notify your landlord promptly if you must withhold rent and keep good records to document the hardship you are facing, such as a letter from your employer citing Covid-19 as the reason for layoffs or reduced hours, pay stubs or school closure notifications. The city’s housing agency has more information on renter protections and procedures here

NELA City Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Jose Huizar voted in favor of all of the proposed renter protections, including for a blanket moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. The proposal for a blanket moratorium failed in the City Council by one vote.

HOMEOWNERS

Mortgage relief for homeowners is available from several major banks and hundreds of smaller banks and credit unions. | Photo from Zillow

A relief package secured by Governor Newsom lets eligible homeowners defer mortgage payments for at least three months if needed to cope with hardship from the pandemic. Late payments will not be reported to credit agencies. The participating banks —  Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, US Bank, Wells Fargo and 200 state-chartered banks and credit unions — have also agreed to a moratorium on initiating foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days. Click here for information on applying for mortgage relief.

SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS

The $2 trillion federal rescue package includes nearly $400 billion in aid for small business owners. For fast cash, you can apply directly to the federal Small Business Administration for an  economic injury disaster grant of up to $10,000 that does not need to be repaid. The law calls for the grants to be issued within three days of valid application.

The rescue package also authorizes SBA lenders to make forgivable loans equal to 250% of an employer’s average monthly payroll, up to $10 million, according to Marketwatch. Under the loan terms, eight weeks’ worth of payroll obligations (including wages and benefits), plus rent or mortgage payments and utilities will be forgiven, and the forgiven amount would not be taxable to the small business owner.

For details on these and other small business provisions in the federal rescue package, visit sba.gov.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti has announced an $11 million emergency program of no or low-interest rate loans of $5,000 to $20,000 for small businesses.

The fund is expected to help 550 to 2,500 businesses, which must have at least one employee. Requirements and application instructions are online.

In the days and weeks ahead, take all necessary precautions and avail yourself of the help on offer. Stay responsive to your neighbors. Pull together. The coronavirus, too, will pass.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Californians filed 1 million initial claims for unemployment insurance in the week ending March 21. One million claims were filed in the two weeks ending March 28. 



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