LA Coalition Demands ‘Circuit Breaker’ to urgently suppress the spread of COVID-19 to save lives and support workers

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Circuit Breaker Letter to LA Board of Supervisors
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 LOS ANGELES — Yesterday, LA County reported 22,422 new COVID-19 cases, recording the highest daily COVID-19 infection count since the start of the pandemic.  That is why a coalition of labor, health experts and community organizations is demanding that the LA County Board of Supervisors urgently enact a ‘circuit breaker’ — a strict 4-week lockdown in January to bring the virus under control.

Bold action and leadership are needed right now, and a circuit breaker in LA County would lower cases to relieve the pressure on hospitals and healthcare workers, allow state and local health agencies to strengthen the testing and tracing system, and allow the system to work better to prevent future surges in viral transmission. A circuit-breaker is a limited-time measure that includes curfews and the closure of all nonessential businesses with safety nets in place for businesses to stay closed and workers to stay safe at home.

The LA coalition members include more than a dozen healthcare, labor and community organizations that represent tens of thousands of LA workers, including frontline healthcare workers, pre-K-12 and university educators, grocery store workers, hospitality workers, educational, housing and racial justice advocates.

The coalition sent a letter (attached) to the LA County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday and posted a public petition demanding the Board to urgently plan for the 4-week lockdown and to provide immediate safety nets for businesses, workers and families so they can safely stay home. 

"Healthcare workers throughout Los Angeles are reaching their breaking point. They are understaffed, overworked and inundated with patients fighting for their lives,” said Sal Rosselli, President of the National Union of Healthcare Workers. “COVID-19 cannot be allowed to spread following the December holidays the way it spread after Thanksgiving. We all have to work together to keep this from getting worse, and that starts with people having the financial security to stay home."

The victims of COVID are overwhelmingly essential workers, poor people, and people of color. Latinos in Los Angeles are dying of COVID at twice the rate of white people. One in three Black Americans personally know someone who has died of COVID.  Asians who become infected with COVID-19 are over four times as likely to die compared to other Angelenos. Residents of high poverty areas are dying at nearly twice the rate of wealthier residents. 

The coalition letter calls on LA County’s elected leaders need to take bold leadership, based on science and rooted in equity, to save lives. The signers of the letter include:  AF3IRM, conveners of Kanlungan.net; AFSCME Local 3299; Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE); California Nurses Association (CNA); LAANE - Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy; National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW); Reclaim Our Schools Los Angeles (ROSLA); Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA); Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)Students Deserve; UFCW Local 770UNITE HERE LOCAL 11; United Auto Workers Local 2865, representing Academic Student Employees at University of California and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). Individuals include Prof. Ninez Ponce, MPP, PhD, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health; Dr. Ryan Huerto, Family Medicine Physician, National Clinician Scholars Program at the University of Michigan and Dr. Sue Chang, Pathologist, Assistant Clinical Professor, City of Hope (individual institutional affiliations provided for identification purposes only).

"Healthcare workers throughout Los Angeles are reaching their breaking point. They are understaffed, overworked and inundated with patients fighting for their lives,” said Sal Rosselli, President of the National Union of Healthcare Workers. “COVID-19 cannot be allowed to spread following the December holidays the way it spread after Thanksgiving. We all have to work together to keep this from getting worse, and that starts with people having the financial security to stay home."

“We have reached a crossroads where only decisive measures can prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. A time-limited ‘circuit breaker’ can reverse the tide of the epidemic, bring the number of cases down by breaking the chain of infection, and reduce pressure on our healthcare system,” said public health expert Prof. Ninez Ponce, MPP, PhD, with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “This pandemic is disproportionately taking the lives of those in our Black, Latino, Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities – many of whom are essential workers in our hospitals.”

With LA County contributing over $710 billion GDP to the U.S. economy, the county has the financial power to provide the necessary safety nets to businesses, workers, and families directly impacted by closures. The coalition is also pushing the Board of Supervisors to demand urgent state and federal funds for safety nets to allow businesses to stay closed and workers to stay safe at home.

Los Angeles County is the largest governmental body in California — and is also leading the state in cases and deaths. The case rate in Los Angeles is nearly four times that of San Francisco’s. This shows clearly that this is not just a failure of leadership at the federal level, as our local leaders like to claim.

In order to make the circuit breaker successful, our elected leaders need to issue clear closure procedures for non-essential businesses and activities, and sufficient supports for businesses and people. This is the only way to enact a meaningful lockdown that truly suppresses the virus. 

Circuit breakers have been used effectively in other countries to suppress the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. Strong, time-limited measures can reverse the tide of the epidemic and bring the number of cases down by breaking the chain of infection.

 

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Quotes from LA Coalition Call for ‘Circuit Breaker’

"LA County has failed to adequately address the needs of Black and Brown Angelenos especially during this pandemic. We know that Black students and their families have been among the most impacted by this pandemic and we must ensure the safety of our people by implementing a circuit breaker that keeps in mind the safety, health, and well-being of those most vulnerable."  —Kahlila Williams, 12th grader at GALA, Students Deserve & ROSLA leader 

“As we’ve struggled together through crisis distance learning, we’ve watched as the reopening of cardrooms, bars, in-person dining, hair salons, and non-essential retail is prioritized over making it safe for schools to reopen. We must prioritize the educational and health needs of school-aged children, especially our highest needs students, by doing what is necessary to bring the virus under control so that safe in-person instruction can once again be a possibility — UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz.

"Healthcare workers throughout Los Angeles are reaching their breaking point. They are understaffed, overworked and inundated with patients fighting for their lives. COVID-19 cannot be allowed to spread following the December holidays the way it spread after Thanksgiving. We all have to work together to keep this from getting worse, and that starts with people having the financial security to stay home." – Sal Rosselli, President of the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

“As the lead team of Kanlungan.net, a digital memorial for healthcare workers of Philippine ancestry who continue to perish from the virus, we know full well the relentless loss and grief roiling through our families and communities. We are offended by the half-hearted “lockdowns” which, without adequate financial support, make staying at home a matter of privilege rather than a pandemic necessity. We call for a genuine lockdown now.” —Ninotchka Rosca, AF3IRM and Kanlungan.net.  
 

"COVID 19 has devastated the lives of hotel and food service workers. 90% remain unemployed. Having lost $600 a week unemployment benefit four months ago, they have fallen behind in rent and risk homelessness. As the virus rages through our membership whose 20% positivity testing is double that of LA County’s rate, we are having difficulty keeping track of who has perished. Bold leadership is necessary. Incremental safety orders merely rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Opening up outdoor dining again will neither make people safe nor put more than a handful of hotel workers back to work. Nothing short of massive direct economic relief — including the extending and increasing unemployment insurance and spending the state’s $26 billion surplus on relief — will save workers from illness and evictions." —Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11

"While billionaires are making record profits during a pandemic, essential workers and working families have kept our communities safe and our economy afloat. Our communities need critical resources to stay safe and recover now."  Rudy Gonzalves, Education Campaign Director, LAANE

“Hospitals across LA County are bringing in mobile morgues because they know what's coming unless we act decisively. As a physician, my priority is saving lives and keeping people healthy. I have done all that I can. I'm looking at the Board is Supervisors and asking if they have done all that they can, or if they plan to continue making the false choice between saving lives and saving jobs.” — Dr. Sue Chang, Pathologist, Assistant Clinical Professor, City of Hope*

“We have reached a crossroads where only decisive measures can prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. A time-limited ‘circuit breaker’ can reverse the tide of the epidemic, bring the number of cases down by breaking the chain of infection, and reduce pressure on our healthcare system. This pandemic is disproportionately taking the lives of those in our Black, Latino, Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities – many of whom are essential workers in our hospitals.” — Prof. Ninez Ponce, MPP, PhD, with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

"UAW 2865 members are making sure education at the University of California continues during the pandemic and many are on the frontlines doing research to address the pandemic and its effects. It must be a top priority for Academic Student Employees to come out of the pandemic healthy and ready to address the health and economic hardships that are undoubtedly to follow." —Rafael Jaime, Southern Vice President, UAW 2865

 

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