PANDEMIC: The City Responds

Photos by Juan Guerra for Alive! and courtesy the City of Los Angeles

ALIVE! FEATURE CONTENTS

Click title to go that part of this month’s feature:

• PANDEMIC: The City Responds
• The Club Is Calling Every Retired Member
• Scenes From a Pandemic
• Your Fellow City Employees Need Help
• Caring for Club Members
• Share Your Story

City Employees and Club Members take swift, strong action to combat the unprecedented coronavirus emergency. Plus:  The Club reaches out to care for Club Members during the crisis.
And:  Tell us your story.

The enemy came like no other in Los Angeles history – a pandemic of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. As the virus spread around the globe, City Employees and Club Members opened the City’s emergency plans, got organized and mobilized in every corner and neighborhood, focusing on healthcare centers and public safety areas. All non-essential businesses closed.

First responders and front-line employees embedded themselves deep into the City, while other employees worked from home to avoid congregating amidst a contagious virus.

The Club kicked into gear, too, with all staff working from home to maintain high levels of service to Club Members and their families. New ways of serving were created on the spot.

Alive! rolled up its sleeves, too, gathering as much information as possible in a very fast-changing environment to report back on the many ways the City and the Club are responding. Details are developing and are subject change after press time.

This unidentified LAFD Firefighter was part of the City’s first day of drive-through COVID-19 testing at Hansen Dam March 24, 2020.

The Club wishes you safety and good health.

What is your coronavirus story?
Tell us, and we’ll collect them and publish later. Go to: Share Your Story

 

Can you help your fellow City Employees and their families in need?
We give you that chance here:  Your Fellow City Employees Need Help

 

City Employees Step Up

In early March, City Employees and Club Members stepped up to take swift action to combat the Coronavirus emergency. Here’s a partial listing according to departments that self-reported and/or that responded to Alive!

Details are subject to change at any time:
For current updates, sign up for text alerts from the City at: NotifyLA.org

 

Mayor’s Office

  • Mayor Eric Garcetti held news conferences six nights per week.

    On May 18, Mayor Eric Garcetti activated the Disaster Service Worker program, which places some City employees in temporary roles to assist during the crisis. “We have the finest workers in the world,” he said. “And in a moment of profound need, I am grateful to everyone who steps up to help and shows up to lead.”

  • The Mayor’s office initiated a wide variety of sweeping social distancing emergency orders around the “Safer at Home” theme, including the temporary closing of all bars, restaurants, nightclubs, movie theatres, entertainment venues, bowling alleys and arcades, gyms and fitness centers; and putting limits on gatherings in City facilities, those of which remained open were closed to non-City guests. City Hall was closed to all non-essential workers. Non-essential City Employees worked from home. The Mayor also took emergency measures to put a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions of tenants affected by COVID-19. There were several exceptions to the business closures, including grocery and convenience stores, healthcare facilities, pharmacies, take-out and food delivery restaurants (seating areas were closed), cannabis dispensaries with temporary approvals, and some others. Churches were not ordered closed, but most restricted access and went online to comply with the general orders.
  • In conjunction with the City Council, the Mayor shifted $20 million in budget reserve funds to target emergency relief efforts, including a plan to add 1,600 emergency shelter beds in 13 City recreation centers, and scale up dozens more locations.
  • The City began limited drive-through virus testing March 23 and created an online testing portal for testing scheduling for those deemed most vulnerable. At least 780 people were tested on the first day.
  • The Mayor began the Mayor’s Volunteer Corps.
  • The City created a Website to disseminate information on the crisis: coronavirus.lacity.org

Aging

  • Dept. on Aging, in conjunction with Public Works and L.A. County, created a map pinpointing centers where seniors could access food and meals.

    Dept. of Aging arranged free meal delivery and pickup services for seniors.

  • All Multipurpose Senior Centers and congregate dining sites were closed to the public. All programs and activities at all facilities will be canceled. Access to census stations will be permitted, but there shall be no more than 10 people at a time in the facility.
  • Older adult participants were contacted and provided information regarding meal distribution at the dining centers. Home-delivered meals continued to be delivered as usual.
  • Aging, in conjunction with Public Works and LA County, produced an online map in Google Maps where seniors could access daily meals.

Airports

Los Angeles World Airports worked with federal, state and local partners to take action to protect the health of all those who travel through and work at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). This includes partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LA County Health) to facilitate the implementation of the federally mandated screening of travelers with possible exposure, and keeping it away from public areas, as well as coordinating with public health agencies to ensure that best practices to keep its employees and guests safe are being employed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The department planned ahead internally to reduce expenses due to decreased air travel.

All of Airports’ part-time Community and Administrative Workers, Student Professional Workers and Admin Interns were paid their normal weekly work hours while assigned to be home.

Above and below: Quiet settled upon the normally hectic LAX as the coronavirus emergency put a sudden halt to global aviation.

  • Implemented deep cleaning protocols throughout LAX, focusing on “high touch” areas like handrails, escalators, elevator buttons and restroom doors;
  • Ensured that terminal restrooms and public areas were cleaned hourly;
  • Coordinated with contracting partners to ensure that their cleaning crews were following the same protocols;
  • Sanitized touchpads and kiosks in the customs area hourly;
  • Added 250 hand sanitizer stations throughout the airport, with 300 more arriving soon;
  • Ensured that all Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUPs) handlers carried hand sanitizer to share with guests;
  • Distributed individual and desk-sized hand san izer bottles to all Airports administrative offices;
  • Added signage to high traffic areas within terminals with information on COVID-19 symptoms and how to reduce the spread of illness;
  • Put up more than 250 signs, flyers and poster boards throughout the administrative offices with signage from the LA County Department of Public Health and CDC;
  • Provided gloves to cleaning crews;
  • Provided frequent updates to Airports employees, stakeholders and government partners on our COVID-19 response;
  • Launched external and internal websites to share updated information on Airports’ response to COVID-19 and action passengers could take to protect themselves; and
  • Disinfected and cleaned LAX Shuttle fleet that serves employees and the public at minimum three times per day.

Animal Services

  • Los Angeles’ six City-run animal shelters and the administrative office closed to the public.
  • The animals in its care were fed, cleaned and looked after medically.
  • Animal Care Officers responded to emergencies and calls to address animal cruelty.

Building and Safety

  • The department issued new guidelines for Inspectors, including: no more than 10 people, including LADBS inspectors, would be allowed in the area to be inspected and each person must maintain a six-foot distance from each of the others; no one onsite may be sick or believed to have come in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19; the site must be clean, and: LADBS inspectors do not have to remove debris or other obstacles to do the inspection.
  • Inspectors could not do an inspection if the COVID-19 guidelines were not followed on the jobsite.
  • LADBS issued new guidelines for continuity of services for Building and Safety’s plan check, permitting and inspection services, in coordination with other City departments.

Cannabis Regulation

  • Mayor Eric Garcetti deemed cannabis dispensaries exceptions to his safer-at-home order and would remain open.
  • Some of the department’s services were modified: Public service counters were closed, and Commission meetings were postponed.
  • Some licensing services were suspended.

City Attorney

  • Office of the City Attorney drafted a broad emergency ordinance to halt evictions and prevent tenants from falling into homelessness in the middle of this public health crisis; to give greater protections to workers being laid off as a result of emergency measures to halt the spread of the virus; and to give more health protections to the front-line service workers at LAX who risked exposure to COVID-19.

 

City Council

  • Councilman Mike Bonin sets up remotely during the historic emergency call-in City Council meeting Friday, March 27.

    City Council President Nury Martinez canceled Council meetings scheduled for March 24 and 31. Meetings over digital networks were tentatively scheduled for March 27.

  • The City Council approved emergency measures to mitigate the economic effects of the novel coronavirus – temporarily banning evictions and late fees, requiring landlords and residential mortgage-holders to work out payment plans with affected residents, reducing City business taxes and creating a Citywide rental assistance fund. The Council’s vote directed the City Attorney to draw up an emergency eviction plan.
  • Supporting the homeless during the crisis, the City Council approved a series of measures directing City agencies to immediately use City facilities and properties for housing, to push the state to move faster on housing people in hotels and motels, and in the meantime, to open more restrooms and showers for people who are still unsheltered, and to stop evicting people from tents and leaving them without protection from the elements.

Controller

General Manager Aram Sahakian during a live update from the City’s Emergency Operations Center.
  • The Controller reported March 2 that budgetary concerns were growing over the coronavirus crisis. “The Port of L.A. is projecting a 25 percent drop in cargo volume this month and 12 to 15 percent over the first quarter of the year. The stock market just had its worst week since the financial crisis, and air travel to the United States could also contract, affecting the City’s collection of sales tax, hotel tax and the local economy as a whole.”

Cultural Affairs

  • All of the City’s Cultural Affairs facilities were closed. This included all DCA art centers, theaters, galleries, and historic sites. Events were also canceled.
  • Made available emergency relief grants to performing artists and small ensembles in dance, music and theatre whose planned performances, shows or concerts in Los Angeles had to be canceled due to COVID-19.

DWP

  • The DWP continued essential operations without impact to customers took steps to protect financially vulnerable customers and assist those customers who may be financially impacted by Coronavirus/COVID-19.
  • The department updated its continuity of operations plan that addressed potential increased absenteeism in the workplace and keeping critical operations running with adequate staffing.
  • It took steps to protect employees’ health and safety by sharing ways to avoid the spread of illness and requesting they stay home when sick. The department also implemented additional infection control measures, including increasing the frequency of workplace cleaning; making hand sanitizers and wipes readily available to employees; and prohibiting non-essential business travel.
  • The department offered generous extended payment plans. The department also did not charge late payment fees.
  • The DWP temporarily suspended in-person services for all of its residential and commercial customer programs, including program outreach, enrollments, installations, inspections and workshops.

Economic and Workforce Development

  • EWDD offered a small business resilience toolkit, microloan assistance and commercial eviction moratorium. The microloan program provided $11 million in no-fee microloans of $5,000 to $20,000, which were to be used to cover working capital. The program offered relaxed underwriting with no credit score minimum, a generous allowance to meet debt service, and a 100 percent Loan to Value ratio.

The microloan program was paired with a Small Business Resilience Toolkit, distributed as a digital guidebook and including vital information covering Federal, State, County, and City emergency policies and programs impacting small businesses. It offered strategies for adjusting to the effects that COVID-19 had on businesses – including ways to keep employees safe, maintain operations at maximum possible capacity, and prepare business continuity plans.

Emergency Management

  • Emergency Management Dept. managed much of the City’s response to the COVID-19 health crisis detailed throughout these pages.

Finance

  • The City Hall public counter was closed to the public. Public counters in Van Nuys and West Los Angeles remained open.

Fire and Police Pensions

  • LAFPP monitored the pension fund during turbulent global markets.
  • Offices were closed.
  • Pension checks were paid as scheduled.
  • The LAFPP activated its business continuity plan – staff continued to work in staggered shifts or from remote locations to ensure that essential services continued without interruption.

Harbor

  • The Port of Los Angeles remained on heightened alert.
  • All terminals remained open at about 80 to 85 percent of normal traffic.
  • The Ports of LA and Long Beach sanitized terminal equipment between shifts; the second shift changed to 7 p.m. to 4 a.m.
  • The US Navy hospital ship Mercy docked to take care of local hospital patients without COVID-19, to clear room in LA hospitals for those with the virus.
  • Executive Director Gene Seroka took on additional duties as the Chief Logistics Officer for the City. While continuing his duties as head of the Harbor, Seroka led a team in assisting in getting critical healthcare and emergency supplies into the hands of those of those who need them most.

Housing and Community Investment

  • Housing closed its five public counters.
  • Housing continued to deploy inspectors in the event of life-safety code violations and fire-related tenant displacement issues. Other work was limited for safety.
  • Bans on evictions were implemented (see notes under Mayor and City Council.)
  • Housing canceled its March commission meetings and placing all future meetings on hold.
  • Housing canceled or postponed large-gathering events. The Pioneer Women Celebration, Transgender Day of Visibility, and the Interfaith Seder in partnership with the Jewish Federation have been postponed.

ITA

  • The 311 helpline service supported 4,000 calls a day; 60 percent of staff had been teleworking for a year. Staff was handling more than 600 additional calls per day on COVID-19 questions. The team was led by Donna Arrechea and Kilay Maronon.
  • With the Mayor’s Office of City Homelessness Initiatives and Rec and Parks, ITA staff, led by Octavio Saucedo, deployed free WiFi in 13 City homeless shelters in City parks in just 24 hours, working around the clock. The team was led by Anthony Moore.
  • ITA launched a page, Get Connected Los Angeles, to provide options for free and low-cost internet for many Angelenos, particularly in low-income communities and families with school-age kids. This team was led by Dawn Comer and William Imperial.
  • The City, led by ITA, set up a number of COVID-19-themed Websites and testing portals.

LACERS

  • Updated processes to adhere to Mayor Garcetti and Gov. Newsom’s Safer at Home order. Office visits were suspended.
  • Staff worked to maintain the continuity of service needed to address its most critical functions, including benefit payments, health plan coverage, and management of investments.
  • LACERS Well postponed events and encouraged Retirees to join its Facebook group to stay connected socially.
  • Payments continued to be made on time.
  • Retirement checks were mailed and/or deposited on normal payment dates.
  • Health Benefits continued to be available.

LAFD

  • LAFD personnel remained on a heightened state of alert.
  • LAFD Emergency Medical Technicians were assigned to each new Rec Center facility to screen clients upon intake, monitor the health of program participants and escalate health concerns using established protocols to move clients to higher level of care.
  • Front lines were reminded of new steps for safety, including safeguarding, and were given multiple bulletins and flowcharts for signs and symptoms of the disease. Personal protection equipment was distributed for coming in contact with patients in need.
  • 911 caller center operators were trained to listen for flu-like symptoms and to dispatch a Medical Captain for guidance to the incident.
  • Instructions were given to ambulance drivers: Before drivers enter the compartment, to dispose of PPE and the red bag, and maintain hand hygiene and vehicle ventilation to minimize the spread of germs. They were also instructed to decontaminate equipment after transporting infected or suspected-infected patient.
  • The department remained in contact with the federal CDC to take proper precautions, including patient destination.
  • Front line employees were deployed to screen patients when the City set up its drive-through virus checks.
LAFD Firefighters in protection gear administer to a service call during the coronavirus emergency.

An LAPD vehicle patrols a very quiet Vine Street in Hollywood.
The LAPD outside Rec and Parks’ Griffith Observatory, which closed during the emergency.

LAPD

  • To augment staffing levels, reassure the public and create a safe environment for employees, the LAPD modified some of its regular services.
  • The LAPD deployed 50 percent of its area Detective workforce to uniformed patrol assignments. This resulted in more than 300 additional Officers in the field. These dedicated resources performed high visibility patrols to critical locations throughout the department’s 21 geographic areas, ensuring the safety of the residents and any store operators that may be dealing with very large crowds.
  • Geographic areas closed their front desks and walk-up service to ensure social distancing. The department asked the public to use unique email addresses assigned to each of the 21 area front desks. Those emails will be monitored 24/7 and routed to the proper channels.
  • There were some exceptions to the closures of front desks for specific business that require an in-person meeting including, but not limited to: vehicle/property release; child custody exchanges; attorney visitation (with an individual in custody); and bail/bond releases.
  • The LAPD distributed personal safety kits of an N95 mask, work gloves and nitrile gloves, a protective mask and goggles to field Officers to protect them from exposure to the coronavirus.
  • Some in the LAPD worked 12-hour shifts and canceled vacations to combat the virus.
  • Officers assisted at the 60 LAUSD grab-n-go food locations.
LAPD Officers assist at an LAUSD grab-n-go meal distribution site.

 

Library

  • Librarians live-streamed story times and posted them on social media.
  • Department created and updated an online resource, “Read, Watch, and Learn for Free at Home” that’s a one-stop resource guide to keep everyone informed and entertained.
  • Librarians answered questions and provided information via email at Ask-a-Librarian.
  • The Library used social media channels to provide valuable City information regarding free lunches for school children and other services.
  • The Library provided daily reminders of resources, both homework and others, for children on social media to help families dealing with school closures.
  • The Library posted boredom-busting trivia quizzes on the Library’s Twitter and Instagram accounts.
  • Librarians offered Spring Into Reading, a ready made Beanstack challenge, online to encourage participants to read ten books and complete some fun-at-home activities.
  • The Library donated its backup medical supplies to area hospitals.
  • Dedicated staff worked hard to support its employees and keep the organizing running during this unprecedented time, including:
    • The library’s Training Office kept telecommuting staff up to date on access information as well as personal tips to make working at home a more productive (and pleasant) experience.
    • The Shipping Department staff and drivers traveled throughout out the system to update signs posted at the 73 locations.
    • The Public Relations and Marketing and Digital Content staff worked hard to keep staff, the public and the media up to date on this rapidly changing situation.
The LA Public Library took its story time readings online.

Neighborhood Empowerment

  • Committees dedicated to emergency preparedness were engaged.
  • All Neighborhood Council Meetings were suspended.

Personnel

  • General Manager Wendy Macy issued a memo to managers and supervisors about policies and procedures during the coronavirus health emergency.
  • Some services were limited or suspended.
  • Public counter service was suspended for some services.
  • In-person examining texts were postponed.
  • Medical Services for public safety and safety-sensitive classifications continued with limited appointments.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Division canceled all in-person safety and ergonomic assessements.

Planning

  • All City Planning staff interacted with customers and project applications online, through email and by phone. The office was closed.
  • A dropbox was implemented for all City departments that staff the Development Service Centers downtown, in Van Nuys and West Los Angeles.
  • City Planning reviewed practices to ensure that the department was conducting itself in the best possible way to minimize potential human exposure to COVID-19.

Public Works/Engineering

  • Development services and meetings weren’t conducted in person. To the maximum extent possible all transactions were conducted electronically, either using online applications or via email, phone or via web conferencing.

Public Works/Sanitation and Environment

  • All essential tasks continued – waste and recycling was picked up, wastewater was still being treated at the department’s water reclamation plants, and homeless encampments were still being served.
  • CARE teams deployed hand sanitizer units to each of the 13 Rec and Parks shelter facilities to make hand sanitizing more accessible.

Sanitation remained on duty as the City stayed at home.
Sanitation CARE teams helped sanitize Rec and Parks facilities so they could shelter at-risk citizens.

Public Works/Street Lighting

  • Street Lighting limited the time that public counters were open for the public. It was recommended that all activities that could be conducted online be done that way.
  • Field crews worked every day and were considered essential employees.
  • Field crews fixed streetlights that were out, repaired systems due to wire theft, and constructed new streetlight systems.
  • Many of the office employees telecommuted.
Sanitation CARE teams helped sanitize Rec and Parks facilities so they could shelter at-risk citizens.

 

Parking regulations were relaxed, but street sweeping continued.
The video conference to help manage the City’s street vendors.

Public Works/Street Services

  • Public counters closed. Customers were served by phone, email or dropbox.
  • Street sweeping and repaving continued. Parking regulations were relaxed to accommodate for so many people working from home.
  • Urban Forestry Division closed its public counter but continued taking service requests online.
  • Street Services held a video meeting with more than 50 participants March 26 to organize the City’s management of sidewalk vendors during the crisis.
Street Services’ public counters like this one were closed.

Many of the City’s Rec Centers were converted into shelters for the City’s vulnerable populations.
Playgrounds, group sports and more were canceled during the emergency.

Recreation and Parks

  • Recreation Centers were designated emergency shelters and transformed to shelter those in crisis. People designated by LA Homeless Services Agencwy as most vulnerable and at-risk (over 55 or suffering from ailments) were given top priority. City departments provided beds, personal hygiene kits and showers.
  • Rec Centers were also used to shelter the homeless and get them off the streets
  • Venice beach parking was closed.
  • Canyon hiking trails were closed.
  • City golf courses were closed.
  • City group sports programs were postponed.

 

Traffic Officers helped manage the crowds at LAUSD’s grab-n-go meal distribution centers.

Transportation

  • Transportation ran regularly but under increased awareness of conditions.
  • Admission to DASH buses went free. Riders were asked to board buses from the back to maintain social distancing between drivers and themselves. The front door remained available to people who used wheelchairs and needed to access the ramp.
  • Parking enforcement was relaxed for street sweeping: in residential areas to accommodate those working from home and near closed schools. Parking was enforced near metered spaces to encourage parking turnover for businesses and take-out restaurants.
  • There was a moratorium on ticketing and towing for abandoned vehicles and oversize vehicle overnight parking fines.
  • Parking fine increases were frozen.
  • Parking enforcement grace periods were extended for people dropping off or picking up groceries and goods.
  • Parking and traffic rules were maintained on operations that prioritized health, safety and emergency access, including colored curbs, street sweeping around encampments, peak-hour restrictions, and repaving and slurry operations.
  • LADOT provided transportation for at-risk citizens and the homeless to the Rec Center emergency shelters.
  • Traffic Officers were dispatched to different LAUSD grab-and-go food centers to help provide traffic control.
  • The City’s Blue LA car sharing service was suspended temporarily to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Transportation drivers teamed with LAPD Detectives to move the City’s vulnerable populations to converted Rec Centers.

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

  • The Zoo closed to the public through at least April 19.
  • The care and feeding of all Zoo creatures, and most behind-the-scenes activities, continued.
  • The Zoo enhanced its social and digital outreach to keep animal lovers up to date on Zoo animal news.
  • Social events including Spring Fling, Big Bunny Weekends, Wildlife Weekends with LEGO, Family Nature Club, the Sustainable Wine+Dinner Series and the PBS SoCal Kids Weekend were suspended or canceled.
This lion was well cared for, as were all the LA Zoo animals, during the coronavirus crisis when the Zoo was closed.

 

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