Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 40

The mayor of Los Angeles announced earlier this evening that delivery drivers, as well as taxi and other transportation workers like Uber and Lyft drivers, can now be tested for coronavirus, whether they show symptoms or not, in a sign of increased testing capabilities for L.A. county.

On the other hand, earlier in the same day, LAUSD’s Superintendent Austin Beutner announced that reopening schools come fall for the district’s communities would be a gradual process, contingent most of all on one thing: access to testing for COVID-19, not only for the district’s employees, of which there are nearly 75,000, but also for the students they serve, whose numbers, combined with those of their families or households, can reach up to 1,000,000 in Los Angeles.

What kind of access schools will have to testing for the virus is an obviously major question that the superintendent is right to pose publicly; only a few days ago, more than a month after the shutdown orders went into effect in California, L.A. County announced that its testing rates have finally reached the capacity to test up to 11,000 people a day.

But while 11,000 tests a day is a key step forward for the county, it’s also just 1.1% of Beutner’s one million. Moreover, as the superintendent noted in his update, we need to know “who” will pay for over a million tests. Obviously, the answer should be that it’s the state who will pay for it, but thus far, there have been scant details from Governor Newsom as to how schools in the Golden State will resume the school-day come the months of August and September, during which LAUSD will not be the only school district in need; charter schools in California, which are not managed by traditional school districts such as LAUSD, and which oversee nearly 630,000 students in the state, will also need access to testing for the virus this fall.

In other words, it’s all quite a bit of homework that requires time, debate, and consensus building with educators, staff and families alike; if the process is circumvented for “quick fixes,” as such things have been before, then the temporary solutions will once again prove costly over the long term, as this pandemic is making clear of decades of disinvestment in the public infrastructure.

Even so, however the story goes, I believe we’re uncovering something critical, Los Angeles. That is, that we’re witnessing first-hand what our state is capable of–and what it still falls short of–when it puts its best minds to the task of addressing all of the citizenry at a truly basic level.

I believe that many people will continue being dissatisfied with the slow process and progress of their government, and that if the protests against Governor Newsom’s stay home orders show anything, it’s that many Californians aren’t at all interested in the general health of the state, but just in their own.

But beyond that, I also believe that all of this showing will allow many of us to consider and visualize what government can still look like in future days to come because it’s important for us to do just that. I believe that whatever failures are seen today, are what those of us leading for tomorrow can turn into successes.

As always, I believe in the next day, the next cuento, and that I’m not alone in this.

I believe Los Angeles will believe with me.


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