Reporter Roundup: Is the Coronavirus in LA Sewage?

Reporter Roundup: Is the Coronavirus in LA Sewage?


[Music] Hello, I’m Juan Devis, Chief Creative
Officer at KCET and PBS SoCal, and I’m joined by the newsroom of KPCC and LAist on a
daily Reporter Roundup. How is everyone today? -Well, thanks. -David, let’s start with you. You’ve been following the growing
economic impact of COVID. Where are we today? -That’s right. By now, about one in
four California workers has applied for unemployment. The state estimates that
unemployment rates are gonna average out to about eighteen percent this year. We
have not seen rates that high since the Great Depression,
and that’s why the budget is calling for a six hundred and fifty percent increase
in funding for those unemployment benefits, but, you know, things aren’t
necessarily easy right now for those who still do have a job. LA’s essential
workers, they’re out there taking risks when they’re on the job, and they may
actually be bringing that risk home to their family every day because they’re
more likely to live in overcrowded housing than non-essential workers. I talked with a McDonald’s worker who lives in a three-bedroom house with ten
other family members, and she says, you know, they’ve developed a routine by now.
When somebody is coming home from work, everybody else stays locked in their
rooms until that person has had a chance to decontaminate and take a shower.
LA’s housing crisis is not new. You know, we’ve known for a long time that
rents here are really high. We’ve known that LA does have the most severely
overcrowded housing of any large city in the country, but what’s new here is that
this overcrowding could be making it harder for us to slow the spread of
infection. -Restaurant owners, even those that are open right now, are really
struggling and Natalie put together a segment for our show, “Air Talk,” where she
heard from some of those restaurant owners. -Yeah, so, this week governor Newsom
issued guidelines for how restaurants might reopen. When and whether they do so
is still up to local authorities, but this does include protective gear for
employees and spacing out customers. So, we heard from a restaurant owner in
Torrance who said that with the new reduced seating capacity, he thought his
sit-down restaurant would not make it. Fast casual restaurants seem to be a
little more nimble, but all the restaurants we heard from said right now
they’re just trying to tread water. We talked to Sharky from
Silver Lake, who owns a restaurant called Jewel, and she said she’s pivoted towards
takeout, and selling pantry items, and, like a lot of business owners, she’s
relying on a PPP loan, so she’s hoping that restrictions will ease before that
money runs out. -Our newsroom has also been following the way this virus is
affecting different groups and demographics differently, but as Josie’s
reported this week, it’s a question that can be really hard to answer. -Right, so, at LAist, we’ve been doing a lot of reporting about which racial groups are
disproportionately affected, but Public Health Department’s don’t provide much
beyond the labels of Black, White, Latino. In the case of Asians, this can be an issue,
because Asians are very diverse, not just linguistically, but culturally; also, in
terms of health status and socioeconomic background, so that got me to look into
the Cambodian community in Long Beach. Long Beach has the largest concentration
of Cambodians outside of Cambodia, and many of the community leaders and
physicians there are concerned that Cambodians are faring worse than other
Asians. They tend to be in service jobs, live in large households, and also have a
high rate of chronic conditions, so they would like to see the COVID-19 cases,
the data for it, disaggregated, and I spoke with the head of Health and Human
Services in Long Beach Kelley Colopy, and she recognizes that this detail was
needed, and she hoped to start collecting ethnicity when the city started doing
contact tracing, so I’ll be following up to see what happens. -And finally today,
Sharron has been looking into coronavirus and sewage, because she’s our infrastructure
reporter. -Right, and it’s not every day you get to go on TV and talk about poop,
but, you know, when you flush your toilet, everything goes down a long pipe, and it
ends up at a wastewater treatment plant, and if you’re infected with coronavirus, some
of that virus is also going to show up in the sewage at the plant. Scientists
think if they test raw sewage samples they collected these treatment plants, it
could help them determine when the amount of coronavirus in the population
is finally declining from our current level. A scientist at USC, he just got
funding to do that, so he’ll be testing sewage at six
wastewater treatment plants around LA County, and that’ll be especially helpful
later on. It could help give us an early warning
of new outbreaks in coronavirus and COVID-19. -Well, thank all of you at the
KPCC and LAist newsroom, and thank you for tuning in. Keep healthy, take care of your
family, and we will see you on Monday. [Music]

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