A jaw-dropping report released Wednesday by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy found that nearly 1,500 people, the vast majority believed to be homeless, died on the streets of Los Angeles during the pandemic — 40% because of a drug or alcohol overdose. The staggering number is almost certainly an undercount, experts say.
Also Wednesday, the California Peace Coalition — a group of parents whose kids are addicted to or have died from fentanyl or other illicit drugs — held a die-in protest in the Tenderloin, calling on the state and San Francisco to shut down open-air drug markets, prosecute dealers, and place their kids in mandatory treatment. And they slammed San Francisco leaders for their response to a drug epidemic that killed 712 city residents in 2020 — nearly triple the amount of people who lost their lives to COVID-19.
The coalition: “Harm reduction initiatives like safe consumption sites and the widespread use of Narcan can’t solve the problem and haven’t been able to do so.”
Meanwhile, meth overdose deaths skyrocketed 48%. A recent CNN investigation found that more Fresno County residents died of meth overdoses in 2020 thanhomicides or suicides; one- or two-vehicle crashes; and fire, falls and drowning combined.
A heart-rending, stunning Thursday story from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Heather Knight put the human toll of California’s drug crisis — and the inadequate political response that appears to be fueling it — into painfully clear focus. In May, Laurie Steves — who had already lost one of her children to a fentanyl and ketamine overdose — moved to San Francisco to try to wrest her 34-year-old daughter, Jessica DiDia, from the grasp of fentanyl and the Tenderloin. She did not succeed.
Jessica: “The city is way too easy for people with nothing to get by. That’s why I’m still here nine years later. You get by with doing drugs and suffer no consequences. I like it here.”
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 4,815,277 confirmed cases(+0.1% from previous day) and 73,919 deaths(+0.1% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Speaking of crime, the city of Los Angeles — which is still reeling from Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas’s recent suspension following federal bribery charges — is facing a slew of new scandals. They include:
An ongoing federal investigation into a billing debacle at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the state’s largest public utility. On Monday, lawyer Paul Paradis — hired by City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office in 2014 to represent the city in lawsuits filed by ratepayers challenging their massively overinflated bills — pled guilty to accepting nearly $2.2 million in a kickback scheme that involved bribing high-ranking LADWP officials appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Now both Feuer — who’s running for mayor in 2022 — and Garcetti — awaiting confirmation as the next U.S. ambassador to India — are facing heightened scrutiny.
Garcetti’s alleged knowledgethat his former top aide, Rick Jacobs, was a serial sexual harasser, according to a new investigation from New York Magazine. The mayor, however, testified under oath that he wasn’t aware of any of the allegations against Jacobs.
An internal investigation into two members of Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore’s security detail, who detained someone in Marseille, France after a high-ranking commander’s wife wrongly alleged that a man who bumped into her in the street had stolen her cell phone. The officers, who were in France for a meeting on security preparations for the summer Olympics, detained the man despite lacking the power to make arrests in foreign countries.
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