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Newsletter: The widening coronavirus gap

Gabriella Barrera helps load boxes of groceries for Buddy Southeast LA, a  group that helps families ill with COVID-19.
Gabriella Barrera, left, helps load boxes of groceries into the car of a volunteer driver. Barrera is a member of the group Buddy to Buddy Southeast LA, a mutual aid group that is increasingly helping families that have fallen ill with COVID-19.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Amid the pandemic, the divide between more and less affluent areas in California grows.

TOP STORIES

The Widening Coronavirus Gap

Time and again, the data show that the COVID-19 pandemic is one of widening disparities in California.

Southeast Los Angeles County has become the epicenter for the resurgence of the coronavirus, according to a Times analysis of county health data that found infections skyrocketing in its mostly working-class Latino communities.

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The sharp increase since the economy reopened around Memorial Day shows the virus is spreading rapidly through factories, stores and other workplaces and into communities with higher rates of poverty, more crowding and many essential workers who make the economy tick. Hit hard by job losses during the shutdown, they are increasingly suffering from the virus itself.

The region reported more than 27,000 new COVID-19 cases over the last two months, the most in the county. The area now accounts for 19% of new infections, although it comprises just 12% of the countywide population, the Times analysis shows. That vaulted its once-modest infection rate into one of the highest in the county, and just below the already hard-hit Eastside and South L.A. areas, according to the Times analysis through Aug. 2

The trend is part of a statewide spike in infections among Latinos, both in rural, farm-working communities and urban areas.

In a further sign of how the crisis is disproportionately affecting those with fewer means, public preschools have struggled to reopen — and when they do, it will probably be weeks or months after most private preschools do. For decades, experts have understood age 4 as an academic fault line, the year that cleaves wealthy and even middle-class children from their poor and working-class peers.

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“Before the pandemic, Black and Latino children already had a lack of access to preschool, particularly high-quality preschool,” said Elisha Smith-Arrillaga, executive director of the Education Trust–West and an expert on California’s educational landscape. “The pandemic is exacerbating that inequity. We could create a huge chasm.”

Meanwhile, a new poll shows nearly 7 in 10 Latino and Black voters in Los Angeles County said that the virus posed a “major threat” to their personal or family health. About 6 in 10 Asian American voters said the virus was a major threat. By comparison, fewer than half of white voters reported the same level of concern, according to the poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies. The numbers were similar across California.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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— A breakdown in the electronic collection of coronavirus test data is hampering California’s pandemic response, with some public health officials resorting to counting results by hand and a growing number of counties warning the public that statistics provided by the state on infection rates are unreliable.

— After reports of large house parties that violate health orders aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced that he will authorize the city to shut off water and power services to residents who hold such gatherings.

Facebook removed a post from President Trump’s page on its social network for violating the company’s policy on coronavirus misinformation. And Twitter briefly blocked Trump’s campaign account from posting on its social network for violating its policy with the post.

— Is Halloween canceled? Costumers, candy makers and theme parks are among those facing scary realities.

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For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

Breaking Their Silence

Los Angeles prosecutors charged Ron Jeremy in late June with sexually assaulting four women in West Hollywood. Within days, prosecutors said they had been contacted by 25 women across the country who made allegations “ranging from misdemeanor sexual battery to rape” against the man who for decades was one of the porn industry’s most visible celebrities, according to court records.

Following his arrest, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has also received 30 allegations of forcible rape and groping against Jeremy involving incidents that took place in L.A. County since 2000, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing case. None have been presented to prosecutors for charging yet.

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Six additional women have contacted the L.A. Times since Jeremy’s arrest, describing interactions with him including unwanted touching as well as violent rape. The allegations span two decades and both coasts.

Jeremy’s attorney said he was unaware of the allegations made by the women quoted by The Times, adding he was focused on defending his client against the charges he was facing in court. Jeremy remains jailed in lieu of $6.6-million bail and has pleaded not guilty.

In a Jam

Trader Joe’s has built a devoted following over the decades, but today’s increasingly polarized society has put the store in a tough spot.

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After an online petition criticizing the branding that Trader Joe’s uses on certain product lines, such as Trader Ming’s and Trader José's, as racist, the company released a statement saying it had actually decided several years ago to start phasing out the product labels. Days later, it issued a second statement, this time saying, “We disagree that any of these labels are racist,” adding that the petition did not influence its actions and that it had discontinued some names and products because not enough people bought them.

But the controversy isn’t expected to cause the chain lasting damage. When The Times invited readers this week to share their feelings about Trader Joe’s, responses poured in — most of them glowing in their praise.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 1911, in a suburb of Jamestown, N.Y., Lucille Ball was born. Her father was an electrician and her mother was a pianist. Almost from the start, Ball had set her sights on stardom.

By age 5, the brown-haired little girl was taking music lessons. The rest would be history.

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June 2, 1952: Lucille Ball at the new CBS Television City studios.
June 2, 1952: Lucille Ball, along with Walter Braunschweiger, left, and Charles Glett, turns on floodlights at the new CBS Television City studios, under construction in the background.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— More than half the members of the Legislature called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to immediately begin paying unemployment benefits to many of the more than 1 million jobless workers whose claims have been stalled in the system. Meanwhile, legislative leaders are asking the state’s Judicial Council for more time before renter evictions resume.

— A SWAT team was on hand as the FBI served a search warrant at the Calabasas mansion of YouTube influencer Jake Paul, sources confirmed to The Times. The FBI said the raid was tied to an incident in May in which Paul allegedly was involved in some kind of disturbance at an Arizona shopping mall.

— In a split decision, the U.S. Supreme Court freed Orange County jails from a federal judge’s order that required social distancing, regular testing and distribution hand sanitizer among people incarcerated there.

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— The splashy Hollywood & Highland shopping center will get a $100-million makeover. But can that lure locals to what’s long been a tourist attraction?

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NATION-WORLD

— What caused the Beirut blast seems clear; who, and why, is another question.

— At least nine people were killed as Tropical Storm Isaias battered the U.S. East Coast with rain and fierce winds after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina.

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— Trump said he’ll probably deliver his Republican convention acceptance speech from the White House. Such a move would mark an unprecedented use of public property for partisan political purposes, and congressional leaders in both parties publicly doubted Trump could go ahead with the plan.

— The Seattle City Council in a preliminary vote decided unanimously to reduce the police department by up to 100 officers through layoffs and attrition.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— How do you shoot a portrait in the age of contagion? One artist has found a way to embrace these limitations and make some intriguing photographs in the process.

— The late composer Pauline Oliveros, a pioneer in improvisation and in electronic music, taught us to listen with more than our ears, critic Mark Swed writes.

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— The rapper Takeoff, of the hip-hop trio Migos, has been sued by a woman who says he raped her at a party in Encino in June.

— The grotesque ‘90s Nickelodeon animated series “Ren & Stimpy” is getting a reboot.

BUSINESS

— California has sued Uber and Lyft for alleged wage theft, accusing them of willfully misclassifying drivers as independent contractors instead of employees and depriving them of basic worker protections and wages.

— Under a deal with the Writers Guild of America, Century City talent agency ICM Partners has agreed to end long-standing practices like negotiating packaging fees for pulling talent together for projects. Writers say such practices create conflicts of interest between agents’ financial interests and obligations to their clients.

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SPORTS

— With their letter of unity calling for safety protections, economic reform and racial justice, Pac-12 players are demanding what is owed to them, and what is past due, columnist LZ Granderson writes.

— Weeks into spring training, Dodgers prospect Connor Joe was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Now cancer-free, he’s eager to resume his career.

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OPINION

— The nuclear threat the U.S. unleashed on the world at Hiroshima 75 years ago today is still every bit as terrifying, columnist Nicholas Goldberg writes.

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— An accurate census is the basis of an equitable society. Census-takers need more time than the White House is allowing, and if the census deadline isn’t reset, the injustice will reverberate for at least a decade, Daniela Gerson writes in an op-ed.

— Editorial Page Editor Sewell Chan had hoped to live in L.A. without a car. But his fealty to mass transit was broken by COVID-19.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The photographers who captured the toll of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (New York Times)

— How dozens of languages help build gender stereotypes. (Scientific American)

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ONLY IN L.A.

“To succeed in anything, you just have to be fanatically devoted to it,” Hee-sook Lee once said. For her, that object of devotion was soondubu jjigae, the Korean staple dish that became the cornerstone of her first BCD Tofu House in Koreatown and ultimately of her transpacific restaurant empire. Lee, who considered herself a “diplomat of sorts” for Korean food, died last month of ovarian cancer at 61. But at the Wilshire Boulevard location this week, diners were still slurping on bubbling bowls of her trademark tofu stew. Said one: “People say the owner was a person who achieved the American dream.”

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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