Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena) continued his string of town halls July 30 with Los Angeles Unified School District board member Jackie Goldberg and Dr. Robert Kim-Farley of UCLA as the trio updated his constituents on the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We now have lost almost 150,000 Americans from the virus. It didn’t need to be this way,” said Schiff. “Other nations have done a far superior job of traveling down the curve, while our cases have continued, tragically, to rise.”
The United States continues to lead the world in infections and deaths as 4.75 million Americans have contracted the virus and 157,000 have died. Los Angeles County continues to be the epicenter of the virus in California ranking No.1 in infections with nearly 200,000 cases—about 40% of total cases in the state.
“I kind of describe where we are now as a second plateau of the first wave here in California and Los Angeles,” said Kim-Farley, a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “We went up, instituted very strict stay at home, we’ve opened up a bit, cases rose and now we’ve had to dial back and cases are beginning to level off.”
Kim-Farley continued declaring that there are three protagonists in this situation: the government, businesses and individuals.
“All who need to play their part,” he said. “Governments and their public health departments are monitoring the situation closely, issuing the appropriate guidelines for the situations.
“Businesses and schools need to be following these guidelines… As individuals, we really need to be playing our role as well to make sure that we are wearing masks, that we are properly practicing physical distancing.”
As many in the country debate on the safety of reopening schools, Goldberg and her colleagues have already taken steps to move to an online curriculum for the upcoming school year.
“We want to open. We are working right now at schools,” said Goldberg. “Every school is being prepared as if we are going to open at some point. We do not want to wait until this virus has gone down heavily to now say ‘Now it’s time to get the schools ready’. We’re going to be ready the day it is safe to open.”
She also announced that parents who are concerned for their child’s health or grades may also opt-out and participate in an online curriculum.
Goldberg also said that the district will continue its food distribution program throughout the year.
“We decided very early on that food that kids get that’s 80 percent free and reduced lunch could not end when the classes closed on campuses,” she said. “We have been feeding at 63 sites [and] about 250,000 meals are distributed each day. At our peak, it was closer to half a million each day.”
This came to the delight of a constituent who was laid off and struggled to make ends meet. She pleaded for help from the congressman and board member for help.
“I don’t know how I am going to survive,” the woman, only identified with her first name of Nikki said as her voice cracked over the phone. “You know to pay my bills, pay my mortgage. What is going to happen to people like me? There are millions and millions of people like me. We don’t know what to do next week.”
Earlier in the town hall, Schiff made it clear that he and other politicians were hoping to extend the federal unemployment payments to help the 33 million other Americans who are unemployed.
“I wish that all my colleagues in the House and Senate could be on the call with us tonight to hear what you just said,” he said. “I don’t understand why some of the folks I work with do not get what people like you are going through.”
Goldberg added saying that the woman could go to any LAUSD food distribution site and grab food. She also extended the offer to anyone in need of food in this time, saying they do not check IDs to see if they are a student in the district.
“At least as food is concerned you are entitled to any one of the 63 grab-and-go centers of LA Unified to get up to five meals, each day, five days a week between 8 in the morning and 11 in the morning,” Goldberg responded emphatically. “Don’t go hungry. I can’t do anything about the rest of it and I feel so overwhelmed by what I just heard but at least you will not go hungry. As long as LA Unified exists you will not go hungry.”
As the town hall came to an end and after fielding questions from his constituents Schiff concluded the meeting with some words of comfort for those who listened in.
“To my constituents, I just want to say, we’re going to get through this. There are hard times ahead certainly — but we are going to get through this.”