Possible Mask Enforcement to Return to Council Agenda

Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
Whether to have police issue citations to those who fail to observe face covering requirements — unlike the men pictured above — is scheduled for discussion at a City Council meeting on Sept. 15.

After hearing from some residents who voiced frustration that the topic hadn’t been discussed, the Burbank City Council will review the possibility of fining people who don’t adhere to face covering requirements.
Council members Emily Gabel-Luddy and Timothy Murphy led the push during the panel’s Tuesday meeting to return a report on the subject to the agenda. The matter is scheduled to be discussed when the council next meets on Sept. 15.
The report, drafted by the Burbank Police Department, had been placed on the agenda before the council’s Aug. 11 meeting after Councilman Jess Talamantes requested it. But when the meeting began, Talamantes abruptly pulled the item, later saying he “didn’t feel it was the right time to discuss it.”

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Here’s Who Is Running for Local Office

The names are in: Eight candidates will battle over two City Council seats in November, with four other people vying for one of three positions on the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education.
Additionally, three people are running for city treasurer, with the local election coinciding with state and national elections on Nov. 3.
One candidate listed as running for the BUSD board, Larry Applebaum, recently informed The Leader that he was withdrawing from the race.
Information regarding candidates’ campaign donations and other disclosures are available on the city’s website at burbankca.gov/departments/city-clerk-s-office/elections. Contact information for candidates is provided on that site and also is listed below.
Voters will also decide the fate of several state propositions, as well as a municipal rent regulation measure.
The Leader will publish statements from school board candidates on Sept. 5 and city council candidates in its Sept. 12 issue.
Here are the candidates looking to be elected as council members, city treasurer or school board members, presented in the order they are expected to appear on the ballot:

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Workshop Addresses Plan for More Housing East of Airport

Consultants for a project aimed at reimagining a district east of the Hollywood Burbank Airport held a workshop this week to share their ideas with residents, several of whom expressed support for more housing in the area.
Current plans for the area include converting industrial properties, which much of the district currently consists of, to residential use in “walkable” surroundings. At the same time, consultants and city staff members pressed during Wednesday’s workshop the importance of maintaining media, aerospace and motion picture jobs in the district.
The Golden State District is considered a major industrial center of Burbank and has been described as the city’s “front door” for visitors. Home to a somewhat eclectic mix of properties, the roughly 600-acre area features three of the city’s 10 largest businesses by number of employees — Entertainment Partners, Senior Aerospace SSP and Crane Aerospace & Electronics.
Currently, nearly 60% of the district is designated for commercial and industrial use, while less than 10% is assigned to residential use. In 2017, the area was home to about 15,000 jobs and 3,500 residents, city staff members said in a July report.

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Virus Stats Improve, but Quick Return to Campus Unlikely

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County have declined since last month, a trend that has made local school district officials optimistic about being able to offer in-class instruction at the elementary school level relatively soon, but any hopes for reopening campuses in the near future were dashed Wednesday by county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
“At this point, [the Department of] Public Health will not be opening up our waiver process for schools,” Ferrer said in a statement. “We will be closely reviewing the guidance from the state and will be reviewing all options with [county supervisors] to ensure that schools are able to open as safely as possible for all children and staff.
“We do need to continue taking all of the steps that we were taking these past few weeks so that our community transmission rates remain low enough for us to continue our recovery journey,” she added in the county’s update, “and a very important piece of that recovery journey is getting our children back to schools.”

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L.A. Zoo Visitors Can Marvel at Menagerie Again

Photo by Christian Leonard / Glendale News-Press
Visitors to the Los Angeles Zoo were able to see baby ape Angela and her mother, N’djia, once again as the facility reopened Wednesday. The coronavirus pandemic had prompted the zoo to close for more than five months.

For the first time in months, visitors to the Los Angeles Zoo are entering through its towering doors to coo over meerkat pups and baby gorillas, ending the zoo’s longest closure in its history.
But after being shuttered for 166 consecutive days while the COVID-19 pandemic raged, the zoo reopened with some major changes Wednesday. Perhaps most noticeably, far fewer guests are wandering the 133-acre zoo; the facility is accepting only 1,200 daily visitors, compared to its usual 4,000-13,000.
About 400 are expected to be at the zoo at any time. Guests, including members, must pre-purchase timed-entry tickets to enter. Those tickets are offered in two-week blocks, a policy that Denise Verret, the zoo’s director and CEO, said will allow administrators to adapt to the fluid nature of the pandemic.

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Businesses Hit by Pandemic Seek Landlord Concessions

Photo courtesy Rachele Rivera
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Rachele Rivera’s fitness studio Fitness is Art offered intense workout classes to clients. But after health orders required its closure, she found herself unable to make rent or strike a deal with her landlord.

A few months ago, Rachele Rivera was successfully running her business, a Burbank workout studio named Fitness is Art.
But then the pandemic hit, forcing gyms across the state to shutter. Now, Rivera is taking a cross-country road trip to Florida, where she plans to stay with family. As she drives through the United States with her two Pomeranians, the rent on her studio continues to pile up.
“The pandemic was stressful enough, obviously,” she said in a recent phone interview.
Rivera tried to persuade her landlord to decrease her rent when it appeared — briefly — that gyms could reopen in June. Many of her clients became unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she told him, and she wasn’t making enough money from online classes to pay him the full $3,800 a month she owed.

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Shutdown Worsened Dental Patients’ Problems, Clinic Finds

Even though it was closed for only a few months, the Kids’ Community Dental Clinic is facing an “onslaught” of children needing care, according to its executive director, Dale Gorman.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the Burbank nonprofit, which serves low-income children through age 18, to close in March. Two staff members fielded emergency calls from across Southern California and engaged dentists to provide remote care, with the possibility of referrals for in-person treatment, for patients who had nowhere else to go.
But by the time the clinic reopened in June, problems such as minor cavities that could not be addressed in March instead necessitated root canals and crowns.
“That’s how fast it travels,” Gorman said in a phone interview. Tooth decay “spreads pretty quickly.”
The dental clinic in its current iteration opened around 2001 — though it was originally founded by nuns at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in the 1960s — and normally serves more than 2,000 children a year for free or at low cost. Last year, it also held dental screenings for about 13,000 children at schools.
But that number may drop. Getting kids screened is much more difficult, as schools across Los Angeles County have closed their doors to slow the spread of the coronavirus and some patients who had appointments at the clinic hesitate to come in.
The World Health Organization even urged on Aug. 3 that “routine nonessential oral health care — which usually includes oral health check-ups, dental cleanings and preventive care — be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates from community transmission to cluster cases or according to official recommendations at the national, sub-national or local level.”
The American Dental Association disagreed with the recommendation, saying that the use of personal protective equipment should be enough to safeguard dentists and their patients. The policy follows that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have not advised that people delay receiving dental care.
The Kids’ Community Dental Clinic is well-stocked with N95 masks, gowns, face shields and more, Gorman said. Dental assistant Amber Gomez also explained that she often checks in with patients to make sure they’re comfortable coming to the clinic, explaining that the dentists are using additional oral vacuums for added protection from aerosols.

CLINIC GEARED TO LOW-INCOME FAMILIES

A 2005 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that children from low-income families are more likely to have “unmet dental needs” than children from higher-income families, pointing to a lack of health insurance as a potential reason for low-income children not visiting a dentist.
The clinic, which is based in Burbank but accepts patients from outside the city, provides services to children of low-income families who are uninsured or only have Medi-Cal, Gorman explained. Families with insurance don’t have to pay the clinic directly, while those without insurance pay $25 per visit.
Many families that have Medi-Cal sometimes find that there aren’t any dental providers they can turn to, she said, meaning the clinic has the opportunity to fill the service gap.
The clinic offers other services besides in-house care and school screenings, including allowing students interested in a career in dentistry to volunteer at the nonprofit. Gorman estimated that around 50 or 60 students who have worked with the clinic have gone on to attend dental school.
“Volunteering is so important during this time especially, but I think it’s a rewarding opportunity for many people,” she said.

FROM VOLUNTEER TO WORKER

Gomez is one such volunteer turned worker. After graduating from John Burroughs High School in 2013, the Burbank resident knew she was interested in the field. But it wasn’t until she started volunteering at the clinic that she knew the work was something she wanted to do.
She was there for about a year, even taking an X-ray class there. When she started taking dental hygiene classes at USC, she was well-prepared for the radiology course.
“I got to meet a lot of different dentists to see how they work with the kids,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s just been a great experience. I’m very thankful that I got to meet them.”
Gomez later returned to the clinic as a dental assistant, and is planning to apply to dental school and become a dentist. She likes building relationships with patients, she explained, and interacting with the children is her favorite part of her current job.
“A couple of weeks ago I was talking to [a girl] while the dentist was working with another patient,” she said. “I had sat her down, I was asking her about her school … and at the end of her [visit] she came to me and she said, ‘I just want to thank you for talking to me because it really made me feel more comfortable.’
“I didn’t even know I was doing anything — I was just talking to her,” she said with a laugh.

BUSD Opens With Distance Learning, Determination

School districts across the state entered largely uncharted territory this week, opening the 2020-21 academic year with distance learning due to state and county restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Matt Hill could not help but feel the exhilaration that typically comes with the first day of classes.
“[I want to] thank everyone for a very unusual, very challenging start of the school year, but at the same time still exciting,” he said during Thursday’s virtual board of education meeting. “It’s different, I will say. I’ve had my ups and downs this week.
“I miss seeing students with their backpacks and kindergartners having snack time for the first time and meeting their teachers,” Hill added, referring to the absence of students from BUSD campuses. “We miss that excitement, but what we gained, I think, is this doubling down and commitment to education.”
Virtual instruction commenced Monday with a few glitches that can be attributed to ongoing internet connectivity issues in Burbank. The district extended the hours of its help desk to assist any families with tech issues.

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Officials Vigilant on Health Guidelines for Student-Athletes

As professional leagues manage their seasons amid a pandemic, youth and high school sports teams have remained sidelined due to restrictions from the state and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
County health officials updated their Reopening Protocol for Youth Sports Leagues order last week, allowing players to train outside as long as there is 6 feet of separation among them, appropriate face coverings are worn by everyone and a screening is conducted prior to any activity.
However, no tournaments or any kind of competition are permitted, and contact drills also are prohibited.
Coaches and players are looking for any opportunity to get back on the field for
in-person training but local administrators still cannot give them the green light.
“L.A. County’s reopening protocols are at least a small gesture toward returning to competition for youth sports, by allowing small groups (10 or fewer) to train and practice sport-specific skills in outdoor areas,” Brian James, assistant principal of athletics and activities at Burbank High School, said in an email. “However, participation by public schools is still guided by the L.A. County Office of Education and the local district. To date, we have not received permission from either entity to resume school-level athletic practices.

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Overall Serious Crimes Fell, Police Stats Say

Last month, reports of crimes committed in Burbank dropped to the lowest levels since April, as some studies argue that the COVID-19 pandemic is driving down certain types of crimes throughout the nation.
Overall, reports of so-called Part 1 offenses — a range of violent and property-related crimes — in July dropped about 15.8% from June, from 241 to 203, according to data recently published on the Burbank Police Department website. Last month’s total was also the lowest since April, which had 165 reports of Part 1 crimes.
The short-term decrease in incidents, meanwhile, is echoed in a longer-term statistic. With a total of 1,545 reported crimes from January to July, this year is showing the lowest number of offenses since 2013, when 1,508 occurred within the same six-month period.
Thefts, by far the most common type of crime occurring in Burbank, also fell 9%, from 143 cases in June to 130 in July.

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