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Happy 4th of July

Dear Friends,

Happy 4th of July! We all know that this year’s July 4th is not like prior years. We are still living with the public health threat of COVID-19. LA County Beaches are closed this weekend, and fireworks displays are prohibited to prevent the spread. Please wear a cloth face covering and remain six feet apart from people not in your household. Protect yourself and others by avoiding gatherings this weekend. We will get through this together. LA County is here for you.

First Of Its Kind Virtual Town Hall Addresses COVID-19 Racial Disparities

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be one of the most devastating public health crises in modern history. As the virus began to spread in the United States, California declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2020. During that time, areas with the largest number of cases in Los Angeles County were historically wealthier communities, both suburban and urban.

Recognizing the lack of COVID-19 testing sites in unincorporated communities of South Los Angeles, Second District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas mobilized resources and a partnership to provide testing and supplemental patient follow-up for the Watts/Willowbrook community.

“It has long been my mission to bring medical resources to chronically underserved communities,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “That’s why this partnership between Charles R. Drew University, the Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center, the L.A. County Department of Health Services and the L.A. County Fire Department has been so essential. At a time when all of the data show communities of color are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, we came together to bring testing to an area where it is critically needed.”

The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center (MLK OPC), and Los Angeles County Fire Department (LAC FD) partnered to operate a COVID-19 viral infection detection testing site located on the CDU campus (CDU/MLK OPC/LAC FD Testing Site). The site has tested a large number of people from racial and ethnic minority groups that are at higher risk for poor outcomes and complications from COVID-19.

A recently released report from Charles R. Drew University COVID-19 testing site demonstrates that changes in outreach and test procedures can result in a dramatic increase in the number of individuals tested in under-resourced communities. The report, with detailed demographic data, findings and recommendations, is available here.

“Our site demonstrates the impact that locally tailored approaches to engage high-risk populations, often from racial and ethnic minority groups and under-resourced communities, can have on access and use of testing and health education to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Roberto Vargas, Assistant Dean, Health Policy, CDU College of Medicine, Director of the Health Policy Pillar, CDU Urban Health Institute and lead researcher for the report. “This includes allowing on-site registration and walk-through testing, marketing at local venues, and the use of culturally and linguistically familiar media outlets. These approaches are essential, as we have identified high rates of infection within the Latinx community and have successfully engaged African Americans who are among those at highest risk for poor outcomes associated with the disease. Moreover, our findings of over 30% of those positive for infection not having a medical home highlights the need for additional social needs assessments and support.”

“The earlier reports, in March and April, seemed to show that COVID-19 was more prevalent in more affluent areas of the county, but we knew South Los Angeles was deeply affected,” said CDU President and CEO Dr. David M. Carlisle. “It was a matter of greater access to testing in those areas, and far less access to convenient testing here. With some minor enhancements to the testing process, among them conducting direct community outreach by CDU and other student volunteers and staying open on weekends and holidays, our site has demonstrated that we can provide the same critically important access to tests to under-resourced communities. We are now one of the highest-volume testing sites in the county, consistently testing over 700 people per day.”

To discuss the findings of the report and answer questions from the surrounding communities, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas convened a first-of-its-kind virtual town hall reaching over 20,000 people and generating over 200 comments from concerned residents. The town hall featured answers from Charles R. Drew University President Dr. David Carlisle, LA County Dept of Health Services Language Access and Inclusion Director Dr. Erika Uribe, Charles R. Drew University Lead Researcher Dr. Roberto Vargas,  and Charles Drew University School of Medicine Testing Site Director Dr. Sheila Young.

“As this pandemic continues, it is crucial that demographic data on how COVID-19 is affecting people by race and by gender and by age and that it not only be collected but used to better target and inform our community-wide efforts,” the Supervisor said.

Watch the full town hall here:

Barbershops and Beauty Salons: Everything You Need to Know About Reopening

 

As the county of Los Angeles moves into the next phase of reopening – many individuals are eager to jump into the chairs of their favorite barber shops and hair salons. Recently, the Office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas visited three local hair/barber salons around the city including: Stakely’s Barber Shop in Ladera Heights, JQ’s Barbershop in Florence-Firestone, and Hair By Julianne Cho in Koreatown to demonstrate proper safety guidelines and social distancing practices.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and we all should do our part to help them stay open safely. But we are absolutely not out of the woods yet, so we must continue to protect our health and those of everyone around us,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Following public health directives is critical as we go back to work, dine-in at our favorite restaurants, and make that long-awaited trip to the barber shop or beauty salon.”

For many, local barber shops and beauty salons are considered a safe space that provides comfort for community conversations and an essential place for social interaction. Stakely’s Barber Shop was that and more for its clientele. “It’s very important that we continue to support our clients and other small businesses, to try to see them through this tough time. To me, small businesses are the backbone to the community and small businesses matter,” said shop owner, Tyrone Stakley.

Local salon owner, Julianne Cho had to make significant alterations to her store before her grand re-opening including removing chairs so that there was at least 6ft between each station. “I believe the most important thing is the safety of my staff and customers. When opening the business, I was happy that I was able to go back to work at first. However, as time passed, customers were still worried and I was a bit concerned because there was no vaccine. There were many things that I had to do before opening the store. Therefore, I had to spend a lot of time preparing for the reopening. All customers must wear a mask upon entering the building, as well as use hand sanitizer.”

Juan Quezada of JQ’s Barber shop is also doing everything he can to make his clients feel secure during their visit. As a part of his reopening process, it mandatory that ever customer gets their temperature checked before entering. “My hope is that my business goes back to what it used to be, and that my business prospers. If we lose small businesses, we lose everything.”

Although the reopening of hair salons and barber shops is a major step forward, the threat of COVID-19 is far from over. Residents must continue to practice physical distancing, wear cloth face coverings and follow public health guidelines in place.

For more information on the Do’s and Don’t’s and key, specific guidelines for customers at hair salons, barbershops please visit: https://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/VARIANCE-FAQs-2-ckskrrBF-edits.pdf

 

More Careers for a Cause

After seeing the success of its first graduates, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is bringing back the Careers for a Cause program which trains people in South Los Angeles for essential jobs in the homeless services industry. The inspiring stories of those first graduates, many of whom have experienced homelessness themselves, became the subject of a special report by reporter Thomas Curwen in the Los Angeles Times.

Recruitment is now underway for the second cohort of students to begin the eight-week non-certificate program in September 2020. Interested applicants must register here by July 9th to virtually attend an information session.

As a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic, Careers for a Cause is launching an online curriculum and providing students with Chromebooks, in addition to career exploration and assessment, job shadowing, skills training, on-the-job coaching, and job retention support. Students will also receive a weekly stipend and wraparound support services.

“I urge you to join us in the fight against homelessness by partnering with Careers for a Cause,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas urged both prospective students and their prospective employers in the homeless services industry. “With the pandemic further exacerbating homelessness, unemployment and economic inequity, we need your expertise, experience and exceptional insight more than ever.”

Algenia Harding, one of Careers for a Cause’s first graduates who later become one of its first employees, said, “It not only helped me professionally but personally. To me, it opened the door to understanding how the system actually works. But what I liked most was that it helped our class to understand how to maximize our lived experience, our passions, and what we would have called failures and struggles —  and make them marketable.”

Va Lecia Adams Kellum, Ph. D., Executive Director of the nonprofit homeless services agency St. Joseph Center, said,   “We believe that staffing our teams with people with lived experience is critically important. Staff members who have been homeless, or maybe faced generations of poverty, bring a perspective to the work that is profound. We also know how impactful it is for people who are rebuilding their lives to have employment that matches their expertise and gives them a chance to reshape their future. By hiring people with lived experience, we give them that opportunity. ”

Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum- President & CEO, St. Joseph Center

“The Careers for a Cause educational program provides South L.A. residents with the opportunity to capitalize on their personal experience and the challenges that they have overcome,” said Effie Turnbull Sanders, Executive Director of the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z), which is leading the recruitment effort. “Over the course of eight weeks, students will develop their personal agency skills to affect change within their community, and learn to use these skills to build fulfilling careers.”

50 homeless service agencies and organizations from across Los Angeles County attended a recent webinar hosted by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas to encourge participation in Careers for a Cause. The list included Chrysalis, SCHARP, Wellnest, Goodwill Southern California, PATH, HOPICS, SRO Housing Corporation, Midnight Mission and countless others. Almost all have signed up to partner with Careers for a Cause as guest speakers and mock interviewers, and to provide internship and employment opportunities. Many also indicated they would like to get involved by providing employment opportunities to C4C graduates.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas invested $100,000 of his discretionary fund to develop the first cohort of Careers for a Cause in October 2019. The classes were held at Los Angeles Southwest College in partnership with the Los Angeles County’s Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services Department (WDACS),  tSt. Joseph Center and SLATE-Z. Several of the first graduates have already been hired as case managers and other workers in the homeless services industry.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has approved an additional $650,000 in funding to support five additional cohorts over the next two years. Enhanced program components include a full-time case manager, job developer and weekly training stipends.

Serving Koretown’s Most Vulnerable During COVID-19 Pandemic

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas partnered with Kheir Clinic to help distribute more than 800 free meals to low-income Koreatown residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During this pandemic, low-income families have faced unprecedented amounts of financial distress, so we must do all that we can to help those who need it the most,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “I am proud to partner with Kheir Clinic, to serve the Koreatown community. Hunger is an issue that affects so many, and we want to make sure that no individual goes home empty-handed.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas passes out food to low-income residents in Koreatown during Kheir Clinic’s meal distribution.

Patients of the Kheir Clinic, residents of St. James Episcopal Church shelter, and families from Bresee Youth Center were provided with hot meals from Mr. Seung Hoon Lee’s Oyabun and Bon Shabu Restaurant.

Kheir Clinic is a nonprofit Federally Qualified Health Center that provides free and low-cost healthcare and human services for multicultural populations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on our community,” said Erin Pak, CEO of Kheir Clinic. “Many have lost jobs and benefits, and Kheir’s clinicians report that patients are struggling with hunger and food insecurity. We’ve been collaborating with local partners on food distribution initiatives like today’s event, making fresh and nutritious meals more accessible for our patients and neighbors.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas toured the clinic, visited several patients and provided them with hand sanitizer. Patients also received information on Kheir’s wide range of integrated healthcare services, including the clinic’s expansion of free COVID-19 testing.

For more information on nutrition programs, food banks, free meals, and other community resources for fighting food insecurity in Los Angeles County visit: covid19.lacounty.gov/food.