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LA County: Businesses are obeying guidelines-Of the 1,874 visited by inspectors, only a hanful were cited for violations, primarily gyms
From the Pasadena Star-News: Businesses checked by Los Angeles County health inspectors largely continue to be in compliance with COVID-19 health requirements, although a handful of locations — primarily gyms — were cited for violations, health officials said Tuesday.
According to the county Department of Public Health, inspectors visited 1,874 businesses during the week that ended Friday, and the “majority” of them were in compliance with restrictions. Businesses in violation of rules are generally provided with information aimed at helping them achieve compliance, but “five citations were issued to gyms and an office site for noncompliance” with health orders, according to the county.
“We are glad the majority of businesses are following the health officer order on masking and other commonsense, best practice recommendations,” county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a statement. “Getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible is essential, particularly in places where people are at the highest risk.
“Unfortunately, over the past 18 months of the pandemic, COVID-19 has been the leading cause of death, surpassing coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and all other leading causes of death. We must continue to work on having multiple layers of protection across the entire county as we start to move into influenza season. By increasing COVID-19 vaccinations and wearing masks in indoor settings, at worksites, and in crowded spaces, we can slow the spread of the virus.”
The county Tuesday reported another 39 deaths due to COVID-19, raising the cumulative death toll from the virus to 25,114. Another 2,600 cases also were confirmed, giving the county an overall total since the pandemic began of 1,388,143.
After seeing an overall drop in hospitalizations over the past five days, the number of COVID-19 hospital patients rose Tuesday to 1,747, up from 1,724 on Monday, according to state figures. The number of patients being treated in intensive care units rose to 463, up from 454 on Monday.
“Unfortunately, over the past 18 months of the pandemic, COVID-19 has been the leading cause of death, surpassing coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and all other leading causes of death.”
— Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis
The rolling average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 2.8% as of Tuesday, the same rate as Monday but down from 3.4% a week ago.
Over the weekend, county health officials released statistics aimed at encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID- 19. According to the county, as of Aug. 7, unvaccinated adults between 18 and 49 years old were 25 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than vaccinated adults of the same age. Meanwhile, unvaccinated adults over age 50 were nearly a dozen times more likely to be hospitalized than their vaccinated counterparts and 17 times more likely to die, according to the county.
Monday, the Food and Drug Administration gave full authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It was the first of the three U.S. vaccines to receive such approval. All three versions of the vaccine have been in circulation under an “emergency use” authorization from the FDA.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and remains the most powerful tool we have to both lower our risk of infection and protect against serious illness and death from COVID-19 if infected,” county Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Monday. “The other tools to help reduce and prevent transmission are wearing a mask, keeping your distance, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing your hands frequently. We are grateful to the many scientists and researchers who have worked tirelessly to develop and evaluate the vaccines during the most challenging public health crisis of our lifetime.”
Figures show that 73% of county residents age 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 63% are fully vaccinated.
Federal Reserve to Begin Curtailing Pandemic Aid Programs
The Federal Reserve will start dialing back its ultra-low-rate policies this year as long as hiring continues to improve, Chair Jerome Powell said Friday, signaling the beginning of the end of the Fed’s extraordinary response to the pandemic recession.
In a speech given virtually to an annual gathering of central bankers and academics, Powell said the economy had improved significantly this year, with average hiring in the past three months reaching the highest level on record for any similar period before the pandemic. Fed officials are monitoring the rapid rise in infections from the delta variant, he said, but they expect healthy job gains to continue.
The Fed has been buying $120 billion a month in mortgage and Treasury bonds to try to hold down longer-term loan rates to spur borrowing and spending. Powell’s comments indicate the Fed will likely announce a reduction — or “tapering” — of those purchases sometime in the final three months of this year. Most economists expect the announcement in November, with tapering actually beginning in December.
Powell stressed that the Fed’s tapering of its bond purchases does not signal that it plans anytime soon to start raising its benchmark short-term rate, which it’s kept near zero since the pandemic tore through the economy in March 2020. Rate hikes won’t likely begin until the Fed has finished winding down its bond purchases, which might not occur until mid-2022. Powell said the Fed would need to see much further economic improvement before it would begin raising its key rate, which influences many consumer and business loans.
Inflation is much higher than 2% now, Powell acknowledged, but he underscored his view that the current price spike is temporary. He warned that history shows that raising rates too soon, in response to temporary price increases, can weaken hiring and hurt the unemployed.
Such comments bolstered the notion that the Fed is still a long way off from raising its benchmark short-term rate.
Over time, the end of the Fed’s bond-buying could put upward pressure on borrowing costs for mortgages, credit cards, and business loans. As Powell spoke Friday, though, the yield on the 10year Treasury note, which closely influences the 30-year mortgage rate, declined to 1.32% from 1.34% Thursday.
Stock investors, too, appeared to welcome Powell’s message of a gradual withdrawal of the Fed’s economic support and his view that surging inflation pressures will likely prove temporary. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose a sharp 230 points, or nearly 0.7%, several hours after the Fed chair spoke.
“Markets appreciate that there is a different test for raising rates than there is for tapering, and any communications on tapering don’t have any direct effect on raising rates,” said Steve Friedman, an economist at asset manager MacKay Shields and a former staffer at the New York Fed.
That marks a sharp contrast with 2013, when Ben Bernanke, then the Fed chair, triggered what came to be known as the “taper tantrum” by unexpectedly suggesting the Fed would soon reduce an earlier round of bond buys — a remark that sent longer- term rates spiking. The jump in rates occurred partly because investors thought the beginning of a taper meant that rate hikes were close behind, which turned out not to be true.
On Friday, Powell said inflation has risen enough to meet the test of “substantial further progress” toward the Fed’s goal of 2% annual inflation over time, which was necessary to begin tapering. There has also been “clear progress,” he said, toward the Fed’s goal of maximum employment. He spoke to the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium, which is being held virtually for a second year because of COVID-19.
But Powell suggested that while inflation has surged, causing difficulties for millions of Americans, the price acceleration should ease once the economy further normalizes from the pandemic and supply shortages abate.
If the Fed were to reduce its stimulus “in response to factors that turn out to be temporary,” the Fed chair cautioned, “the illtimed policy move unnecessarily slows hiring and other economic activity and pushes inflation lower than desired.”
Powell also noted that while average wages have risen, they haven’t increased enough to raise fears of a “wage-price spiral,” as occurred during the ultra-highinflation 1970s. “Today,” he said, “we see little evidence of wage increases that might threaten excessive inflation.”
Covid-19 Update for August 23, 2021-possible new grading system for restaurants, infections, vaccinations and more
Cases: Another 3,891 new coronavirus cases were reported Saturday in Los Angeles County, along with 32 more fatalities as unvaccinated Angelenos continue to suffer from the disease. Vaccinated residents, however, have received “broad protection” against negative health outcomes, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
As of Aug. 7, unvaccinated adults between 18 and 49 years old were 25 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than vaccinated adults of the same age. It’s not as simple to measure the number of times more likely this unvaccinated demographic is to die from the disease because there have been “virtually no deaths in vaccinated members of this age group,” according to Public Health officials.
Meanwhile, unvaccinated adults ages 50 and older were nearly a dozen times more likely to be hospitalized than their vaccinated counterparts, and 17 times more likely to die.
The latest figures show that 73% of county residents age 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine. Among the overall 10.3 million county residents — including those too young to be eligible for the shots — 63% have received at least one dose and 55% are fully vaccinated.
With almost 3 million L.A. County residents 12 and older still not vaccinated, our recovery journey can become compromised. L.A. County’s cumulative death toll increased to 25,061 on Saturday.
There were 1,775 people with COVID-19 hospitalized countywide, 24% of them in intensive care units.
As of Tuesday, the city of Pasadena was reporting: 12,407 total lab-confirmed coronavirus cases. 36 new coronavirus cases reported. 354 deaths associated with COVID-19.
With the highly contagious delta variant spreading across the U.S., children are filling hospital intensive care beds instead of classrooms in record numbers, more even than at the height of the pandemic. Many are too young to get the vaccine, which is available only to those 12 and over. The surging virus is spreading anxiety and causing turmoil and infighting among parents, administrators and politicians around the U.S., especially in states like Florida and Texas, where Republican governors have barred schools from making youngsters wear masks.
With millions of children returning to classrooms this month, experts say the stakes are unquestionably high. Very high infection rates in the community “are really causing our children’s hospitals to feel the squeeze,” said Dr. Buddy Creech, a Vanderbilt University infectious disease specialist who is a helping lead research on Moderna’s vaccine for children under 12. Creech said those shots probably won’t be available for several months.
While pediatric COVID- 19 hospitalization rates are lower than those for adults, they have surged in recent weeks, reaching 0.41 per 100,000 children ages 0 to 17, compared with 0.31 per 100,000, the previous high set in mid-January, according to an Aug. 13 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, calls the spike in cases among children “very worrisome.” He noted that over 400 U.S. children have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. “And right now we have almost 2,000 kids in the hospital, many of them in ICU, some of them under the age of 4,” Collins told Fox News on Sunday.
Health experts believe adults who have not gotten their shots are contributing to the surge among grownups and children alike.
Reopenings: The Pasadena Unified School District released data on COVID-19 infections at local schools in recent weeks, reporting 25 confirmed infections among students and 10 among staff members this month. Hundreds of other students and staff members who had potentially been exposed to the virus were placed on quarantine, including 245 from Marshall Fundamental School and 36 at Longfellow Elementary School, records show.
At Marshall Fundamental School, all unvaccinated students in the 7th Grade class and a group of 10th-grade students were placed on quarantine Wednesday, Pasadena Unified sources said. Four infections have been detected among students and two among staff since Aug. 1, according to district records.
Infections have also been detected at Altadena Artos Magnet School, Don Benito Elementary School, Field Elementary School, Norma Combs Elementary School, Jackson STEM Dual Language Magnet Academy, Longfellow Elementary School, McKinley Elementary School, Webster Elementary School, Willard Elementary School, Blair High School, Focus Point Academy, John Muir High School, Pasadena High School, Rose City High School and Sierra Madre Middle School, according to PUSD data.
The PUSD released figures reflecting significantly lower numbers of infections and quarantines on Friday afternoon, then updated the statistics on Friday night.
The latest report on COVID-19 infections detected within the PUSD can be accessed online at https://www.pusd.us/covid19-dashboard. The District said the database was scheduled to be updated twice a week moving forward.
Vaccines: The Biden administration has decided that most Americans should get a coronavirus booster shot, our colleague Sharon LaFraniere reported last night. Officials are planning to announce the decision as early as this week, with doses beginning as early as mid-September for the most vulnerable.
Why is this happening? Based on data through the end of June, the C.D.C. and public health experts repeatedly assured the public that breakthrough infections were extremely rare, and that vaccinated people were highly unlikely to become severely ill.
Then came Delta: The highly contagious variant began to sweep through the country in July, overwhelming the immune systems of unvaccinated people and also breaching the defenses of some who had received the vaccine.
The vaccines are still powerfully protective. In raw numbers, so-called breakthrough infections in fully immunized people are not common, and most people who become severely sick and die of Covid-19 are unvaccinated. Still, breakthrough infections have made up a rising percentage of diagnosed cases in recent weeks, and higher percentages of total hospitalizations and deaths than expected.
Breakthroughs accounted for 12 percent to 24 percent of Covid-related hospitalizations. The number of deaths caused by breakthroughs was small, so the proportion of vaccinated people is too variable to be useful. But it does appear to be higher than the C.D.C. estimate of 0.5 percent. The figures lend support to the view, widely held by officials in the Biden administration, that some Americans may benefit from booster shots in the coming months.
Most crucially, the newly emerging picture does not mean that the vaccines are ineffective.
The Food and Drug Administration is pushing to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, further expediting an earlier timeline for licensing the shot, according to people familiar with the agency’s planning. Regulators were working to finish the process by Friday but were still working through a substantial amount of paperwork and negotiation with the company. The people familiar with the planning, who were not authorized to speak publicly about it, cautioned that the approval might slide beyond Monday if some components of the review need more time.
Mask mandates: Pasadena is planning an ordinance that would mirror Los Angeles County’s face-covering rules, which affect members of the public attending such large outdoor events as concerts, sporting events and music festivals, regardless of coronavirus vaccination status, according to city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian. The order is expected to become effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday, meaning fans attending
UCLA’s first game of the year against Hawaii will be required to cover up.
Los Angeles County has issued a new mask requirement for megaevents, including at concerts and major sports events, in the wake of a reported 2,907 coronavirus cases and 30 deaths on Tuesday. Under the new masking requirement, issued in a revised Public Health Order on Tuesday that will launch at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, masks are “required to be worn by everyone at all times except when actively eating or drinking” at big outdoor with crowds greater than 10,000.
Put another way, the county said: Mask up at Dodger Stadium, at Rams or Chargers games at SoFi Stadium, at LAFC games at Banc of California Stadium and at Galaxy games at Dignity Health Sports Park. Concertgo-ers at the Hollywood Bowl: Same deal. Fueling the revised order has been the trajectory of the delta variant of the virus, which now makes up most of the cases in the county and the nation. It has proven particularly contagious among people who have not been immunized. Ferrer and other public officials note that while people who are not fully immunized are more at risk of spreading and catching the virus, another driving factor is that people who are immunized also can spread and catch it, though at much lower volumes.
Meanwhile, officials said infections continued their daily post-July 4 climb. The newly confirmed deaths and cases brought those totals to 24,935 and 1,355,698, respectively. Hospitalizations continued to rise as well — to 1,754, with 397 patients in intensive care.
Inspectors are finding relatively good compliance with local health orders, but county officials remained concerned about some hot spots. Between Aug. 7 and Friday, the most common violation found among malls, gyms, hotels, bars, restaurants, retail stores, garment manufacturers and food plants were:
• Employers failing to provide their employees with masks.
• People not wearing masks in indoor public sites.
• Businesses not posting signage instructing customers to wear a face mask.
Los Angeles County expressed concern over a recent tripling of weekly coronavirus cases among pregnant women, while also reporting more than 2,400 new infections on Monday, a day when new cases are typically lower due to weekend reporting lags. The county last Monday also warned of a recent tripling of weekly cases among pregnant women, reporting that 27 cases were reported during the week that ended June 27, while 81 were reported during the week ending July 25.
“Unfortunately, pregnant women are at high risk for serious health problems if they become infected with COVID-19,” county Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to reduce the risks of COVID- 19 infection and complications for both you and your baby. If you are pregnant or a new mom, we encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as you can and you can get vaccinated at any time during pregnancy. Studies continue to show the vaccines are safe for expecting and new moms and are very effective against COVID-19 and the delta variant.”
According to the county, there have been 11,264 confirmed coronavirus cases among pregnant women as of Aug. 10, the vast majority of them Latina. Twelve women who tested positive have died.
County figures show that the vast majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated. In July, vaccinated residents represented just 13% of people hospitalized with the virus.
Amid a steady climb in the number of positive coronavirus tests, the city of Pasadena could soon craft a new grading system to highlight restaurants that are implementing the best practices to combat the spread of the virus. “Since July 1, the seven-day average number of daily new cases in Pasadena has increased by over 638% (and is) now at 31 new cases per day,” Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, Pasadena’s chief medical officer, told the City Council on Monday. Mayor Victor Gordo suggested the idea of promoting responsible restaurants during a discussion with Goh, and it received a favorable response from his peers on the Pasadena City Council.Such a concept would allow the city to encourage and incentivize businesses to vaccinate and test their employees.
People dining indoors at New York City’s restaurants, browsing its museums or sweating in its gyms had to show proof Tuesday that they were at least partially inoculated against COVID-19 as the city began the nation’s largest effort yet to exclude the unvaccinated from public places.
Signs on the front door and windows of The Stop Inn, a Queens diner, warned patrons arriving for breakfast that they had to show proof of at least one vaccine shot to be allowed to dine inside.
The vaccination mandate, announced two weeks ago by Mayor Bill de Blasio, aims to persuade more people to get vaccinated or else miss out on city amenities like restaurants and bars, movie theaters, bowling alleys, concert halls, indoor sports arenas, and other entertainment venues.
Stimulus: A new round of stimulus cash is heading to California residents by the end of August, according to the state’s Franchise Tax Board.
On July 12, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 129, which includes $12 billion in cash relief for middle-class families “hit hardest by the pandemic.”
The Golden State Stimulus payments are being drawn from federal pandemic recovery funds and the state’s $75.7 billion budget surplus.
Newsom’s office estimates nearly twothirds of Californians will be eligible for a stimulus check of $600. Qualifying families with children will receive an additional $500.
Similar to the federal stimulus payments, the money will be sent either by direct deposit to bank accounts used for annual tax refunds or by paper checks.
A representative of the state’s Franchise Tax Board said Monday, Aug. 23 that payments will start going out by the end of August and continue in batches every two weeks.
To qualify, residents must: —File 2020 taxes by Oct. 15, 2021; — Have adjusted gross income of $0 to $75,000 for the 2020 tax year; —Be a state resident for more than half of the 2020 tax year; —Be a state resident the date payment is issued; —Cannot be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer; —A dependent is a qualifying child or qualifying relative.
Excluded from the payments are those whose income is solely derived from benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and State Supplementary Payment (SSP) and the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI), Social Security, CalWorks, unemployment, state disability insurance (SDI) and VA disability.
The Economy: U.S. factory production in July posted the strongest gain in four months, reflecting a surge in production at auto plants that are still wrestling with major supply chain problems. Manufacturing output increased 1.4% last month following a decline of 0.3% in June, the Federal Reserve reported Tuesday. It was the best showing since a 3.4% gain in March. Overall, industrial production, which includes manufacturing, utilities and mining, posted a 0.9% increase, the best performance since a 2.8% surge in March.The mining sector, which includes oil and gas production, rose 1.2% as producers continued to ramp up production in response to rising prices for crude oil. Output in the utility sector fell 2.1% in July, as near record-high temperatures in the West were offset by cooler temperatures in other parts of the country. About half of the 1.4% gain in manufacturing output came from a 11.2% rise in the productions of motor vehicles and parts, reflecting the fact that many auto plants trimmed or canceled their typical shutdowns in July for retooling.
The Fed reported that auto production continues to be constrained by a persistent shortage of computer chips.
Federal Reserve officials last month discussed the idea of beginning to dial back their extraordinary support for the U.S. economy later this year, though they stopped short of a firm decision on a timetable. The minutes of the Fed’s July 27-28 meeting, released Wednesday, indicated that the economic recovery from the pandemic recession was moving closer to achieving the central bank’s goals on inflation and employment. As a result, the Fed is edging toward an announcement that it will begin paring the pace of its Treasury and mortgage bond buying, which now amounts to $120 billion a month. These purchases have been intended to lower longer-term interest rates and encourage borrowing and spending.
Initial unemployment claims in California jumped last week, remaining above typical levels and raising uncertainty about the statewide recovery from coronaviruslinked maladies. California workers filed about 68,100 jobless claims last week, up 2,600 from the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday. Unemployment claims statewide have now increased four consecutive weeks and are at their highest levels in three months.
In contrast to California jobless claims, unemployment filings in the United States fell and are at their lowest levels since the onset of government- ordered business lockdowns to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. U.S. workers filed 348,000 initial unemployment claims for the week ending on Aug. 14, a decrease of 29,000 from the week before.
Los Angeles County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 10.4% in July, down from a revised 10.6% in June, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.
The 10.4% rate was below the 17.5% rate in July 2020, in the midst of COVID-19 shut-down orders.
In Orange County, where seasonally adjusted numbers were not available, the July jobless rate was 6.4%, down slightly from 6.4% in June.
Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.6% in July, the same rate as June but below the July 2020 rate of 13.2%. The comparable estimates for the nation were 5.4% in July, 5.9% in June and 10.2% in July 2020.
According to the EDD, total nonfarm employment in Los Angeles County decreased by 11,100 jobs between June and July to reach about 4.2 million. The government sector shed the most jobs, losing 38,500 positions.
Southern California lost 29,200 jobs in July — the first dip in six months — primarily due to teachers falling out of the official employment count during summer’s recess.
Local bosses counted 7.29 million employees last month in the four counties covered by the Southern California News Group. This staffing level, derived from a survey of employers, was down 0.4% in a month. In June, the region added 49,700 jobs and has had an average 41,700 monthly hiring pace in the past year’s recovery from pandemic-related lockdowns.
California, on the whole, averaged more than 111,000 new jobs a month since February, recovering about 58% of the 2.7 million jobs lost in March and April of 2020 after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus. That includes 114,400 jobs added in July, according to the Employment Development Department.
Total employment in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties is still 92% of February 2020 levels. Getting back to normal staffing looks increasingly difficult as coronavirus variants once again upend the economy. As for the region’s government workers, employment in July was at 86% of pre-virus staffing. Its 890,300 workforce is down 141,500 from February 2020 after dropping by 65,700 last month as schools closed for the summer.
Another indicator of a less than complete rebound is Southern California’s jobless rate. For July, it was 8.95%, down from a revised 9.07% the previous month but nowhere near 4.17% in February 2020, according to my trusty spreadsheet. The pandemic era’s peak was 17.1% in May 2020.
The region has seen a very split job recovery with whitecollar and logistics jobs faring well while hospitality suffered.
The cutoff of federal unemployment benefits in much of the United States was meant to bring a flood of workers back to the job market. So far, that flood looks more like a trickle.
A total of 26 states, all but one with Republican governors, have moved to end some or all of the expanded unemployment benefits that have been in place since the pandemic began. The governors, along with many business owners, have argued the benefits discourage returning to work when many employers are struggling to hire.
Several recent studies, however, have concluded that the extra payments have played only a small role in this year’s labor shortages. And they found at most a modest increase in employment in states that abandoned the programs most of them in June even as millions of jobless workers have had to cut spending, potentially hurting local economies.
Data released Friday by the Labor Department provided the latest evidence. It showed the states that cut benefits have experienced job growth similar to and perhaps slightly slower than growth in states that retained the benefits. That was true even in the leisure and hospitality sector, where businesses have been particularly vocal in their complaints about the benefits.
Overall, the U.S. labor market has come a long way since last year, when more than 20 million people lost jobs in the span of two months and the unemployment rate jumped to nearly 15%. The economy has regained about three-quarters of the jobs lost in the pandemic, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.4%.
Still, at the end of July, nearly 9 million people were receiving payments through two federal programs that cover people who do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits or whose regular benefits have expired. Millions more were getting a $300-a-week supplement on top of their regular benefits.
All those programs are set to expire next month unless Congress extends them, which appears unlikely.
From the New York Times: Mental Health maintenance in the age of COVID-19
Our Changing Lives: Mental Health
The state of mental health in the U.S. has been worsening for many years now, among children and adults, and the pandemic essentially threw gasoline on that fire.
So what can we do to take better care of ourselves as the Delta variant throws a wrench in our hopes to return to normal? This week, for “Our Changing Lives,” I posed a few questions to my colleague Christina Caron, who covers mental health for The Times.
What are some of the coping mechanisms that people have resorted to during this pandemic?
Unfortunately, a lot of people have been coping in unhealthy ways. In June of last year, for example, 13 percent of those surveyed by the C.D.C. said they had either started or increased substance use to deal with stress or emotions related to the pandemic. And, as my colleague Anahad O’Connor reported earlier this year, a nationwide survey found that one in four adults reported drinking more this past year to manage their stress.
How can people recognize whether their mental health has suffered during the pandemic? What are the telltale signs?
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who said their mental health was not affected by the pandemic. But how do you know if you need additional support? One of the primary indicators is if the way you are feeling is starting to affect the way you live your life.
Try asking yourself the following:
Are you struggling to get through the day or feeling persistently sad, irritable or anxious?
Have you withdrawn from your loved ones or are you arguing more often?
Have you thought about harming yourself?
Have there been changes in your sleeping or eating patterns?
Are you using drugs or alcohol to cope?
Have you had difficulty concentrating or making decisions?
“Everyone has occasional bad days,” Brit Barkholtz, a licensed independent clinical social worker in St. Paul, Minn., told me earlier this year. “But if you’re having more days like that than not — and no matter how many friends you talk to, or sick days you take, or strategies you try, it still seems like you’re not feeling any better — it could be time to look into therapy.”
Your ideas: books, breaks and no guilt
Thank you all so much for taking the time to share your self-care routines with us!
Many people started a daily meditation or exercise practice, like yoga or walking. Some people found routines helpful; others loved the freedom of an unexpectedly unscheduled day. People found new hobbies, new ways to connect with friends and time to try out new recipes. (Also: lots of journaling.)
Here are a few pieces of wisdom from readers of this newsletter.
I have very successfully set up a trans-Atlantic book club with a similar-minded gentleman in Ireland and we read the same books for discussion twice a week. With some good luck, I should be visiting Dublin in a week or so to finally meet the other half of the trans-Atlantic book club! Very exciting! — George Xuereb, Vancouver, Canada
I had to really push to keep myself from feeling guilty about the 15 to 20 pounds I gained from indulging, relaxing at home and quarantining properly. My self-care ended up focusing on mentally allowing my body to exist without worrying about rolls or “extra” pounds. — Sophia Haney, 29, Washington, D.C.
Cut your own hair: Somehow it’s very liberating and empowering! — Susie Collins, 67, Annapolis, Md.
Being with my family, which includes two young children, caused me to start taking a “break night” once a week. I plug in twinkle lights and relax with a drink as I journal, listen to music or watch whatever I want. — Libby DePalma, 41, Canonsburg, Pa.
At the very beginning of the pandemic, I stopped sleeping with my phone in my room. And now, I set a timer when I first look at it in the morning so that I don’t get sucked in. — Heidi, 32, Akron, Ohio
I am not going to movie theaters or any group social gatherings. I do go occasionally go to a local IHOP with a close friend. We are both vaccinated and we go at an early enough evening hour (5 p.m.) that the restaurant is almost empty, and we do request and are seated with no other surrounding customers. — Dennis J. Crowley, 73, Morristown, N.J.
Remember that by caring for yourself, you are NOT being selfish. You are ensuring that you are the best you can be for yourself, your family and your job. — Mary Ellis, 58, Austin, Texas
After seeing that this pandemic may not be going away for some time, I decided I’m going to start with some fears I know I CAN conquer. So I joined a band. Through the encouragement of my bandmates and our friends in the local scene, I’m singing every day, writing lyrics and piano music. I’m breaking through the barriers I can, instead of complaining about the ones I can’t. Even if you don’t want to be in a band … who doesn’t love singing in the car?? It helps especially with all the traffic in L.A. coming back. — Harley, 30, Culver City, Calif.
Audit: Cities are flush with stimulus cash- from the Pasadena Star-News
When life as we knew it screeched to a halt last year, municipal bean counters trembled in their penny loafers.
The city of Los Angeles faced a $750 million deficit, elimination of nearly 2,000 jobs, or some combination of the two. Anaheim prepared to borrow $210 million — using city libraries, fire stations and City Hall itself as collateral. The city of Riverside shaved 10% off revenue estimates and sold bonds to pay heavy pension debts — a strategy many good-government experts frown upon.
But a funny thing happened on the way to municipal meltdown. Boozing, gambling and shopping boosted California’s tax coffers. Property values surged. And the federal government stepped in with a mighty $8.2 billion in stimulus funds to heal pandemic-inflicted wounds in California city budgets.
“Fiscal drought?” asks a new analysis from the state auditor. “Actually, city revenues are pouring in. … Our analysis shows that the vast majority of California cities will receive more stimulus money than they lost during the pandemic.”
Los Angeles got far more than it feared losing — nearly $1.3 billion in American Rescue Plan Act money, the auditor said. Anaheim got $106 million. Riverside, $73.5 million. And so on.
Of California’s nearly 500 cities, only 18 didn’t receive enough stimulus funds to cover COVID-19-related revenue losses, the auditor said. That includes Avalon, Beverly Hills, El Segundo, Indian Wells, Laguna Beach, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and little Yountville, in the heart of Napa Valley.
But all of them saw revenue surge from things like property, hotel and sales taxes, enough to cover COVID losses — all except little Yountville.
“Last year we found that the sudden consequences of COVID-19 were significantly impacting cities that rely on tourism and entertainment for revenue,” the auditor said. “The situation has significantly improved.”
‘Grossly misrepresents situation’
The League of California Cities — the organization representing them in Sacramento — has not had an opportunity to closely review the auditor’s methodology or data but said it’s clear the auditor’s analysis doesn’t include all the information necessary to draw these kinds of conclusions, spokeswoman Jill Oviatt said by email.
“Recovery from the pandemic is uneven and that is no way reflected here,” she said. “While recovery in some cities has been strong, other cities are still hurting and their local economies are still struggling. To say that all but one of California’s cities is rolling in dollars is inaccurate and grossly misrepresents the situation for the towns and cities that are still hurting.”
On the front lines, city officials agree.
“I know of many cities that received more stimulus money than what they lost,” said Indian Wells City Manager Chris Freeland by email. “For Indian Wells, we would disagree that our community saw significant revenues to cover our losses.”
The auditor’s figures include economic recovery projections that some city finance officers found hard to follow. Indian Wells, for example, was projected to be down $858,484 at the end of the three years examined, even with stimulus funding of $1.3 million (and pandemic-related losses of $5.2 million).
A winter oasis near Palm Springs, Indian Wells generally expects about $8 million a year from hotel taxes, said Finance Director Kevin McCarthy. But, in two COVID-19- bruised seasons, hotel taxes were nearly slashed in half, to some $4.5 million a year.
“I see us springing back up in 21-22 to sort of where we were before the pandemic — absent the delta variant — but we haven’t seen this strong recapture yet,” McCarthy said. “We’ve had a little summer bounce from people just wanting to travel, but the lion’s share comes between January and April-May. So we haven’t seen a tremendous amount of actual recovery from those types of things yet.”
“We have had two years of decreased revenues due to tourism, and I don’t expect to ever make that up,” he said.
Years of growth ‘erased’
While some revenues hit by COVID-19 are now exceeding pre-pandemic levels, the coastal city of Torrance continues to see its hotel occupancy and business license taxes lag behind. The city has “lost multiple years of growth” since the pandemic began, according to an email from City Manager Aram Chaparyan and Assistant Finance director Ian Dailey. Increases in property and franchise taxes have helped offset the losses, but the state auditor’s projections underestimate how severe of a hit the city took.
“The pandemic’s effect has been longer lasting than originally expected with multiple COVID-19 infection waves spanning years, therefore erasing years of growth across multiple revenue stream areas,” they wrote. “While the economy is and we expect it to continue recovering, because of the long lasting impacts over multiple years, we don’t anticipate the recovery erasing losses and increasing to a level that would match the compounding rate we would have experienced without a pandemic.”
Torrance will receive $24 million, spread between two fiscal years, through the American Rescue Plan, but Chaparyan and Dailey say the city will still need to pass a 3/4-cent sales tax increase — expected to generate $26.75 million — in June 2022 to avoid deep cuts, though even the tax increase won’t eliminate the need for reductions completely.
They estimate COVID-19 contributed to a loss of about $15 million in revenues overall. The city already cut 46 full-time equivalent positions in 2020-21 and issued a $349 million bond to pay off the majority of its unfunded liabilities. The City Council will receive a contingency budget in September detailing what will be necessary to balance the budget if the tax increase were to fail.
“Should the sales tax measure pass, these implemented reductions can be partially removed,” Chaparyan and Dailey wrote.
Other cities have fared better. El Monte predicted a $6.3 million deficit for the 2020-21 fiscal year, but stronger than expected revenues from sales and property taxes have reduced that deficit by roughly $4 million.
“Original sales tax projections for fiscal year 20202021 were conservative due to the pandemic, however, middle and upper income wage earners were less affected by the pandemic as opposed to low-to-moderate income wage earners; as a result, individuals with disposable income continued to make high-end purchases such as automobiles, which was not predicted at the onset of the pandemic, City Manager Alma Martinez said.
Roughly $6 million in stimulus funding will completely eliminate a projected deficit for the next fiscal year and leave the city with a surplus, according to Martinez. El Monte will receive about $42 million total through ARPA and must spend it by the end of 2026, she said. The city still is developing a plan for using the money, but some early recommendations include expanding rental assistance, establishing a guaranteed income program, repaying employees for reduced wages, and funding a variety of capital improvement projects, Martinez said.
Edward Enriquez, chief financial officer for the city of Riverside, said these are one-time funds that will be used for the community, and not necessarily to financially benefit the city. “With council direction, the vast majority of funds will be infused back into the local economy,” he said. Cities greatly appreciate the federal funding coming to them over the next several years, but they’re not out of the woods yet, said Oviatt of the League of California Cities, “and it would be irresponsible to paint the picture of recovery any other way. With our economies still fragile, an ongoing pandemic, and wildfires threatening our communities throughout the state, Cal Cities will continue to advocate for funding so that all of our cities are able to recover.”