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TimesOC: Bilingual ‘promotoras’ go door-to-door to inform, assist with healthcare and other services

"Sign up for our TimesOC newsletter" and the L.A. Times logo over the Huntington Beach Pier at sunset.
TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Wednesday, May 12. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

Arguably the most pressing challenge of this past pandemic year has been for those who set healthcare policy, hand-in-hand with those who carry out programs associated with those policies, to fully inform the public of safe practices, vaccination offerings and resources that are available to them.

In Orange County, where the Latino population has been hit especially hard over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, outreach efforts have become critical.

My colleague Lilly Nguyen looked into a local program, a group of bilingual workers who are going door-to-door to connect lower-income families, many of them Latino, with services such as mental health or rental assistance, food resources and, more recently, to share information on COVID-19 and how to get the vaccines if they’re interested.

Nguyen sets the scene as the workers start their morning rounds in a Huntington Beach neighborhood: “Shoes hit the pavement and before they even start heading up the staircases of the nearby apartment buildings, before they make their way into the narrow corridors, the group of four approach passing residents to ask: Have they had the COVID-19 vaccine yet and, if not, do they know where to get it? Do they have any concerns?”

The workers are the “promotoras” of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, a three-year-old program funded by philanthropists Tod and Linda White. According to Arturo Diaz, the supervisor of the Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living, the Whites came along inquiring how they might help at a time when his team was studying a similar program offered through Latino Health Access in Santa Ana.

Diaz told Nguyen some might be surprised at “how many people just need that little bit of encouragement ... How long have they been waiting to have someone to talk to?”

Rocio Matlabalcazar hands out literature to Costa Mesa residents on the West side on Thursday, May 6.
Rocio Matlabalcazar hands out literature to Costa Mesa residents on the West side on Thursday, May 6.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

MORE NEWS

— According to data released Tuesday, Orange County’s rate of new coronavirus cases — adjusted based on the number of tests performed — dropped to 1.8 per day per 100,000, meaning it could move into the yellow tier, the most lenient category, as soon as next week, if trends hold. Last Friday, the county reported reaching the sad milestone of 5,000 deaths countywide attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

— Also on Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, faced with a crowd of people opposed to the idea the county might require “vaccine passports,” voted 4-1 to put on hold a plan to offer a digital vaccination record to residents who request it, according to a report by my colleague Ben Brazil. Supervisor Katrina Foley cast the only dissenting vote. “We have come to the point where the noise around this whole vaccine passport has reached a point where it’s becoming counterproductive,” said Board Chairman Andrew Do, in introducing his motion to “pause” the program.

Employees rallied outside Fountain Valley Regional Hospital & Medical Center on May 6 to demand better wages and benefits for essential workers who fed, cleaned up after and sat with COVID-19 patients during the pandemic but say they can barely afford their own healthcare.

— The controversial cleanup of toxic waste at the former Ascon landfill, a 38-acre site in southeast Huntington Beach is resuming after nearly two years.

— A beachgoer taking a stroll along Crystal Cove State Park’s shore on Friday discovered an 18-inch wide-mouthed Pacific footballfish, a species of anglerfish normally found more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. “They’re just so deep that not a lot of people get to see them or study them,” said Jessica Roame, the education coordinator at Davey’s Locker Sportfishing & Whale Watching.

Ben Estes found the anglerfish while taking a walk at Crystal Cove State Beach Friday.
(Ben Estes)

PUBLIC SAFETY

— Meghann Carrie Carlisle, 38, of Costa Mesa, has been listed as a fugitive by the district attorney’s office following an April 28 criminal complaint charging her with two felony counts of being an accessory to a crime after the fact and for her involvement in a hit-and-run collision that resulted in the death of a 74-year-old man.

An Irvine man was arrested on fraud charges last week after authorities say he used $5 million in pandemic relief loans to buy luxury sports cars, take lavish vacations and cover his personal expenses.

SPORTS

— In a sports commentary piece, L.A. Times staff writer Bill Shaikin muses on the Angels’ pitching staff, arguing it might be as good as that of the Dodgers. “With a competent pitching staff — not even a great one, mind you — the Angels might not have frittered away Mike Trout’s 20-something years,” Shaikin writes.

— The Angels’ release of first baseman Albert Pujols put manager Joe Maddon in the hot seat with players and fans who felt Pujols should have been treated better. Maddon on Tuesday said on the “Starkville” podcast, “It could have been done differently, had it happened in spring training, or even in the last offseason ... I don’t mean this to sound cold in any way. It’s just the way it is.”

— Anaheim Ducks goalie Ryan Miller played the final game of his 18-season career Saturday when his team lost 4-3 in overtime play against the Minnesota Wild.

Ducks goalie Ryan Miller waves to the crowd May 8, 2021, after it was announced this would be his last NHL game.
(Associated Press)

LIFE & LEISURE

— Sixteen Estancia High School seniors participated in their first 2021 Vital Link Energy Invitational Engineering Design Competition, transforming a go-kart into an electric car that can reach 30 mph. Working together as “Team Havoc,” they captured a first-place win over competitors from schools in Huntington Beach, Tustin, Long Beach and Hacienda Heights, known for well-established STEM programs and engineering academies.

An energy-efficient vehicle design by Team Havoc, an engineering class of seniors at Estancia High School.
The winning creation, an energy-efficient vehicle design, by Team Havoc, an engineering class of seniors at Estancia High School who were advised by engineering teacher, Gerald Rizza.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

— Bartender and contemporary abstract artist Leonardo Cruz Melo, with the support of cancer survivor Frank Di Bella and the late Donna Porter, is seeing his artwork displayed at City of Hope Newport Beach. Di Bella recalls how Porter, when she knew she was losing her battle against cancer, donated $100,000 to allow for the purchase of some of Cruz Melo’s works to be placed in the new facility.

— Art pieces created by La Mirada resident Jaana Baker are featured in a solo show titled “Poppies and Sampaguitas at City of Brea Art Gallery now through June 18 as part of the gallery’s “Made in California” juried exhibit. Through photography, painting, sculpting and textile design, the 37-year-old Baker captures the essence of what it means to be a Filipino American.

Installation view of Jaana Baker's holographic dress from the series "Poppies and Sampaguitas" at the Brea Art Gallery.
(Courtesy Brea Art Gallery)

OBITUARIES

— Paul Van Doren, co-founder of Vans, a shoe brand that became a multibillion-dollar action-sports empire
thanks to the SoCal skate community died last Thursday at 90. His death, confirmed Friday by Costa Mesa-based Vans, came just nine days after the publication of Van Doren’s book, “Authentic: A Memoir by the Founder of Vans.”

— Juliette Paskowitz, the matriarch who held “the first family of surfing” all together, often singing arias while listening to opera on a small transistor radio in the camper, died May 3 in a care facility in San
Clemente, the family said. She was 89.

—Tawny Kitaen, who first gained fame for performing in rock videos for the band Whitesnake and later appeared in films and TV shows as well as the reality series “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” died Friday morning at her home in Newport Beach, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. She was 59.