By Zand Hill and Christian Leonard Glendale News-Press
Glendale reached a dubious milestone this week as health officials sounded the alarm again on the apparently uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus that has left the nation reeling. The number of city residents who have tested positive for the disease since March rose to 5,068, one of the highest totals among suburban Los Angeles municipalities. As of Friday, at least 186 Glendale residents have succumbed to the disease. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials reported this week that since Oct. 3, the test positivity rate for COVID-19 has risen from 3.6% to 5.9% countywide. This week there were around 103 intensive care unit beds available countywide, as hospitalizations for the disease again are rising. This week there were 953 hospitalized patients — 28% of whom were in ICUs — after the county reached a low of 682 hospitalized patients on Oct. 3.
It all started with the recollection of a quote. When Dr. Armand Dorian, chief medical officer at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, saw news reports in September that war involving his ancestral home of Armenia had resumed, he was drawn back to a famous statement by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” Dorian said in an interview, reciting Mead’s words. His recall of the remark prompted him to get on the phone, and a few calls later, Dorian said, he knew what he had to do. Armenia’s ministry of health reported that chief among the nation’s needs was a CT scanner, largely for use in surgeries on people with shrapnel wounds as a result of the fighting between Armenian forces in the breakaway state Artsakh against Azerbaijani forces aiming to reassert control of the region. So he got to work.
Voters returned a number of local incumbents to their state and federal seats Tuesday at a comfortable margin, while Los Angeles County will see changeover at the district attorney’s office. Statewide, voters also defeated Proposition 15 — a measure supported by both the City Council and the Glendale Unified School District that would have increased property tax funding at a local level — while approving Proposition 17, which restores voting rights for convicted felons after their prison terms end. As of press deadline on Friday, Democratic nominee Joe Biden looked poised to unseat President Donald Trump after taking or maintaining vote leads in key electoral states Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Steve Zurn announced this week he will retire as general manager of Glendale Water and Power on Dec. 31, marking the second retirement of a prominent city administrator this fall. The departure of Zurn, who has been with the city for more than 34 years, follows longtime City Manager Yasmin Beers’ October exit. The city’s plan for possibly appointing an interim GWP leader and searching for Zurn’s successor was not immediately clear. The city named Zurn as the head of the utility in 2012, after he’d served as the interim general manager for around five months. At that time, he also was the city’s public works director, a job he started in 2003 and held through 2014. His prior roles with the Public Works Department included budget officer, project manager, special project liaison and assistant director/chief administrative officer.
Now, especially, is the time to make sure you get your flu shot, according to local experts. It’s not likely that you’ll find a doctor who won’t urge a patient to get an annual flu shot in a normal year, mind you. However, the world has even more reason to keep hospital beds open at the moment because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Any way that we can prevent any kind of respiratory illness is important,” said Patricia Sung, manager of infection prevention at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. “Even under normal circumstances, it’s pretty important to get the flu shot.” The flu, much like COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that can become incapacitating and fatal if not treated and when exacerbated by other conditions. Although some studies have indicated that individuals infected with both illnesses have twice the mortality rate, Sung said the actual data isn’t there yet.
The City Council approved an ordinance this week formally creating a sustainability commission for the city, without much hitch since it was introduced last week. The timetable of seating that commission is fairly aggressive, with David Jones, the city’s sustainability officer, aiming to advertise for applicants before the December holidays and have the council select members in January. Under that schedule, the commission would have its first meeting in February. The council directed the city to develop plans for this commission in August. Jones explained last week that he studied similar commissions in Pasadena, Long Beach, Chula Vista, Burbank and Palm Springs as part of his research.
Quick and precise work by firefighting crews from Glendale and surrounding partners helped to cap a brush blaze that erupted behind Brand Park on Tuesday, bringing relief to the city in the wake of the state’s struggles with wildfires this year. Forward progression of the fire was halted at 4:05 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Glendale Fire Department, not quite two hours after it was first reported at 2:15 p.m. The fire was fully contained by 7:15 p.m. In spite of its proximity to residential streets and the Brand Park and Library, miraculously no structures were damaged and there were no injuries.
The Glendale Unified School District unveiled a new dashboard this week to illustrate the level of coronavirus infection among students and staff members involved in the district’s learning pods and athletic conditioning programs. The dashboard, which is slated for regular updates and can be found online, will include current and cumulative confirmed cases as well as positivity and transmission rates at GUSD school sites. Names and other personal information will not be included, to protect privacy. “As we continue the careful and deliberate return of our highest-need students for on-campus child care and instruction, we are counting on our students, families, and employees to help us by taking responsible measures to protect our entire Glendale Unified community.” said Superintendent Vivian Ekchian in a prepared statement. For now, the cumulative and current cases are effectively the same in most situations, given the limited number of students and staff in given areas since the start of the school year.
The city joined other American municipalities this week in formally recognizing the Republic of Artsakh’s independence, a symbolic move meant to bolster awareness of the breakaway nation’s effort to separate from Azerbaijan, which has resulted in military hostilities. The move comes as federal officials — including Congressman Adam Schiff, who represents Glendale — have called for American recognition of Artsakh, a predominantly Armenian-populated region considered part of Azerbaijan by all other nations. In the years since Artsakh voted by referendum to declare independence in 1991, it has attained recognition only from other unrecognized nations and, more recently, 10 American states, including California.
Work will soon begin on the researching, outreach and design phase of the bike path and linear park envisioned to line the Verdugo Wash all the way to the Los Angeles River. The project is likely to come in phases, officials said, and would ideally be funded in large part by outside grants aimed at promoting the sustainability, active transportation and habitat restoration that the project would achieve. The City Council voted 4-0 to approve a $440,000 contract with New York City-based design firm !melk this week to take the reins. (Councilman Ara Najarian abstained because his wife owns property abutting the Verdugo Wash.) “I’m tremendously excited about this, and I want us to move forward,” Councilman Dan Brotman said Tuesday.