On 1st Mother’s Day without matriarch, mom and daughter reflect on family legacy of helping others

When Toni Exley left the hospital for the last time, it wasn’t as a nurse – her one-time profession – but as a patient.

It was June. The coronavirus had barely begun its assault on the nation.

The retired hospice nurse had been in and out of Torrance Memorial Medical Center since May, recuperating from a compound fracture in her back.

And now, she was headed home.

But after a visit to the Lomita Care Center, for physical therapy, Exley tested positive for the virus.

She would not recover.

In a way, however, she was one of the lucky ones. When the final moments came, Exley wouldn’t be alone. She wouldn’t be trapped in a sterilized hospital room — like thousands of her fellow coronavirus patients — in a wing isolated from all others to prevent the disease from spreading.

She’d be at home. With her daughter. And granddaughters.

“She was at home, comfortable, we played Hawaiian music for her,” her daughter, Daneen Larecy, said. “It was the way she wanted to go.”

This was possible because Exley was not the only nurse in the family. Rather, she was the second of four generations of health care workers.

Her daughter and granddaughter Madisyn Larecy both work at Torrance Memorial. And last week, as they prepared to celebrate their first Mother’s Day without Exley, the pair reflected on the legacy they must continue: Four generations of women who have all dedicated their lives to helping others.

“We are so incredibly blessed that these women taught us to be caring and compassionate ladies, and make a difference in our world,” Daneen Larecy said. “I just wish I had a telephone to call my mom.

“You taught me everything,” she added, “except how to live without you.”

The family legacy, meanwhile, has crystallized over the past year. The coronavirus pandemic has left in its wake death and suffering and, in many cases, loneliness. And Daneen and Madisyn Larecy have been among those trying to help.

“I just kept thinking about my grandmother,” Madisyn Larecy said, “who comforted so many people in hospice.”

♦ ♦ ♦

Daneen Larecy, as a child, often accompanied her grandmother, Ruth Exley, to her shifts in the purchasing department at a Los Angeles area hospital. She was 7 at the time, but would answer phone calls while her grandmother ordered medical supplies.

The elder Exley founded her family’s legacy of helping those in need — even when not working in the hospital. The mother of four fostered 103 kids during her life, Daneen Larecy said.

This, the elder Larecy joked, led her mother to wonder if she and her siblings were fostered too.

Toni Exley — Ruth Exley’s daughter and Daneen Larecy’s mother — would also find her calling in health care. Eventually.

“My mom talked about how when she was in high school, she got in trouble a lot,” Daneen said. “Her parents made her work at a nursing home as punishment and she ended up loving it, caring for the little old ladies and men.”

But the trouble of her youth, it seems, extended into Toni Exley’s adulthood. She struggled with addiction. She worked odd jobs to support her family.

Eventually, she joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Over the next 41 years, she’d mentor countless others who struggled with addiction, some of whom, her daughter said, would become lifelong friends.

When Daneen Larecy was 12, her mother became a nurse at last.

The high school passion she had for helping her elders led Toni Exley into a long career as both an operating room and a hospice nurse.

“She loved what she did in hospice,” Daneen Larecy said. “It was an amazing gift to help families in their hardest times.”

  • Daneen Larecy holds family photos that include her mother and grandmother that inspired herself and her daughter to carry on their legacy of healthcare. For four generations the family has been caring for people in hospitals. Currently Madisyn is a registered nurse working at Torrance Memorial Medical Center alongside her mother Daneen, a licensed clinical social worker in Torrance on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • L-R Madisyn Larecy and her mother Daneen Larecy with a photo of their grandmother and mother respectively, Toni who passed away from COVID-19 last year. For four generations the family has been caring for people in hospitals and this will mark their first Mother’s Day holiday without Toni. Currently Madisyn is a registered nurse working at Torrance Memorial Medical Center alongside her mother Daneen, a licensed clinical social worker in Torrance on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • L-R Madisyn Larecy and her mother Daneen Larecy with a photo of their grandmother and mother respectively, Toni Exley who passed away from COVID-19 last year. For four generations the family has been caring for people in hospitals and this will mark their first Mother’s Day holiday without Toni. Currently Madisyn is a registered nurse working at Torrance Memorial Medical Center alongside her mother Daneen, a licensed clinical social worker in Torrance on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

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Soon enough, it was Daneen Larecy’s turn to choose a career.

She enrolled at Cal State Long Beach, initially unsure of what to pursue.

She sought her mother’s advice.

She became a clinical social worker — continuing the family legacy, albeit in a different field.

Still, Daneen Larecy would, at one point, work with her mother and grandmother at the same hospital.

“My mother, my grandmother and myself all worked at Providence of San Pedro at one point,” Daneen Larecy said. “All of us together.

“It was so inspiring,” she added, “to follow with them.”

Madisyn Larecy, meanwhile, knew early on what she wanted for her life:

She’d follow in the footsteps of the women who inspired her.

When she was a child, the younger Larecy recalled, her grandmother showed her how to use a stethoscope and take someone’s blood pressure.

“My grandmother didn’t want us waiting in line for flu shots,” Madisyn Larecy said. “So she would just administer it to the whole family at home.

“She was always caring for people.”

The younger Larecy volunteered at Torrance Memorial all four years she was in high school. The last two years she worked in the neonatal intensive care unit, which, she said, intensified her passion.

She left Southern California to attend Montana State University.

Madisyn Larecy graduated last year and returned home.

To live with her grandmother.

♦ ♦ ♦

Shortly after Madisyn Larecy moved in with Toni Exley, the latter contracted the coronavirus. She fell ill.

Toni Exley, in her early 70s, was at high risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19. And she did.

Of the more than 61,000 Californians who have died from coronavirus-related causes, 73.5% have been at least 65 years old, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.

Many of them, as both Daneen and Madisyn Larecy can confirm, have died in hospitals. In wards cordoned off from the rest. With the only companionship coming from nurses and doctors hidden behind personal protective equipment.


Daneen Larecy and her daughter Madisyn dressed in protective gear while caring for Daneene’s mother, Toni last year. For four generations the family has been caring for people in hospitals and this will mark their first Mother’s Day holiday without Toni. Currently Madisyn is a registered nurse working at Torrance Memorial Medical Center alongside her mother Daneen, a licensed clinical social worker in Torrance on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Courtesy of Daneen Larecy)

But Toni Exley stayed home.

Daneen Larecy and her two daughters, including Madisyn Larecy, cared for her.

“We reworked her entire house to make sure everything was safe and sanitary,” the elder Larecy said. “We set up zip walls in all the rooms, and we were covered head to toe in PPE any time we were there.”

Toni died in June, shortly after her 73rd birthday.

“We didn’t know if we were going to have more than one loss with the three of us caring for her,” Daneen Larecy said, acknowledging how quickly the virus can spread. “And that was really scary, but we wanted to be there for her.”

Throughout her career, Daneen Larecy has made beaded bracelets in honor of patients who have died. She gives those bracelets to those patients’ family members, so they can remember them always.

So after her mother died, the elder Larecy followed her personal tradition.

She slipped a bracelet onto her mother’s wrist, and passed out others to the rest of the family.

For Daneen and Madisyn Larecy, in particular, the bracelets are a daily reminder of their matriarch’s life.


Daneen Larecy shows a bracelet she wears in honor of her mother Toni who passed away from COVID-19 last year. Her mother and grandmother inspired herself and her daughter to follow in their footsteps of healthcare. Currently Madisyn is a registered nurse working at Torrance Memorial Medical Center alongside her mother Daneen, a licensed clinical social worker in Torrance on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

♦ ♦ ♦

Two weeks after her grandmother died, Madisyn Larecy passed her licensing test. She was a nurse. Like her grandmother.

It was, she said, a bittersweet milestone.

But the younger Larecy didn’t have time to rest. The coronavirus was still plaguing Los Angeles County and, though no one knew it at the time, would soon surge ahead of the winter holidays.

Exhausted hospital workers needed all the help they could get.

By August, Madisyn Larecy was working in Torrance Memorial’s COVID-19 unit.

“I was being trained by someone who was just as new to a pandemic as I was,” the younger Larecy said. “And then a few months later, I was training someone else.”

The deaths she witnessed took a toll, Madisyn Larecy said. As did the long hours and the uncertainty of when the pandemic would end.

But she was undeterred. Helping people is her family’s legacy. She thought about her predecessors: Her great-grandmother. Her grandmother. Her mother.

“It gave me the strength,” Madisyn Larecy said, “to keep helping the people who were terribly ill.”

California survived the winter surge. Three different vaccines came online. New cases and deaths have waned for months. And the economy has slowly reopened. On Friday, coronavirus hospitalizations in Los Angeles County dropped to its lowest point.

The pandemic isn’t over yet.

But Madisyn Larecy and her fellow hospital workers — including her social-worker mother — can now imagine an end.

While Torrance Memorial still has coronavirus patients inside its walls, Madisyn Larecy’s cohort does not. Her team’s last coronavirus patient left the hospital about two weeks ago — discharged by Madisyn Larecy.

But even when the pandemic ends, the younger Larecy knows, there will always be patients. Those who need help. Who are lonely. Or scared. And there will always be families of patients seeking comfort.

Here, too, Madisyn Larecy has continued what may now be part of the family legacy: Like her mother, she makes bracelets for her patients’ families.

The hope, Madisyn Larecy said, is to give them the same thing she, her mother and grandmother had at the end:

Solace.

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‘The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains’ coming to Los Angeles

“The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains,” featuring over 350 artifacts collected from the band’s more than 55-year career, is coming to the United States for the first time and taking up residency at the Vogue Multicultural Museum in Los Angeles Aug. 3-Nov. 28.

The traveling exhibition, which drew over 400,000 attendees to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2017, serves as a retrospective of the various chapters of Pink Floyd’s career. It includes high-tech audio and visuals, objects like handwritten lyrics, original art pieces, instruments and surreal landscapes that evolve throughout the multi sensory experience.

Tickets are $30-$46 and are on sale now at vmmla.com.

  • “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains” interactive experience will take over the Vogue Multicultural Museum in Los Angeles Aug. 3-Nov. 28. (Photo courtesy of The Pink Floyd Exhibition)

  • “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains” interactive experience will take over the Vogue Multicultural Museum in Los Angeles Aug. 3-Nov. 28. (Photo courtesy of The Pink Floyd Exhibition)

  • “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains” interactive experience will take over the Vogue Multicultural Museum in Los Angeles Aug. 3-Nov. 28. (Photo courtesy of The Pink Floyd Exhibition)

  • “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains” interactive experience will take over the Vogue Multicultural Museum in Los Angeles Aug. 3-Nov. 28. (Photo courtesy of The Pink Floyd Exhibition)

  • “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains” interactive experience will take over the Vogue Multicultural Museum in Los Angeles Aug. 3-Nov. 28. (Photo courtesy of The Pink Floyd Exhibition)

  • “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains” interactive experience will take over the Vogue Multicultural Museum in Los Angeles Aug. 3-Nov. 28. (Photo courtesy of The Pink Floyd Exhibition)

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Guests will be fully immersed in the world of Pink Floyd. Starting in 1967 on the underground scene in London, guests are taken on a chronological journey through the history of the band’s albums.

It’s a collaboration between members of Pink Floyd and curator and graphic designer Aubrey “Po” Powell, who along with Storm Thorgerson at Hipgnosis, designed the cover art for the band’s 1973 release, “The Dark Side of the Moon.” The experience was developed by bandmember and exhibition consultant Nick Mason, as well as designers Stufish, entertainment architects and the band’s own longtime stage designers.

Some of the items on display will be original oil paintings by original vocalist-guitarist Syd Barrett and a replica of his mirrored Fender guitar; the Azimuth Co-ordinator used by keys player Richard Wright to swirl the band’s sound around venues; drummer Mason’s Hokusai Wave drum kit from 1975; a selection of guitarist David Gilmour’s equipment; and bassist Roger Waters’ Ovation bass guitar used from 1974-1978.

There will also be displays of iconic imagery associated with the band using various props and mannequins, as well as works from other artists and graphic designers the band partnered with throughout the years including Gerald Scarfe and Mark Fisher.

The spaces will be narrated by past and present band members, sharing their experiences through an audio guide system. It will all end within a performance zone where visitors can enjoy classic Pink Floyd songs and the recreation of the very last performance of Gilmour, Waters, Wright and Mason doing “Comfortably Numb” at Live 8 in 2005.

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Kids and the Covid-19 vaccine: A pediatrician answers safety questions

By Sandee LaMotte | CNN

The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant emergency use authorization next week to Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for teens and children ages 12 to 15.

According to CNN estimates, that would make another 5% of the population — nearly 17 million teens — eligible to be vaccinated.

Some 52% of parents said they are likely to get their children vaccinated against Covid-19 when a vaccine becomes available for their age group, according to a poll conducted during the first week of April.

That still leaves many parents unsure of what to do, vulnerable to misinformation campaigns on vaccine safety that have spread on social media.

What are the facts? We asked Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, to answer questions parents may have.

Maldonado is also chief of Stanford University School of Medicine’s division of pediatric infectious diseases and is currently leading vaccine trials in children younger than 12.

The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

CNN: Some parents have had no issues getting vaccinated as adults but now find themselves fretting over giving the vaccine to their children. What message do you and the American Academy of Pediatrics have for these parents?

Yvonne Maldonado: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Food and Drug Administration and the vaccine companies have been very open and transparent with the American Academy of Pediatrics on all of the vaccine data because they know that we advocate for children and parents and families.

Not only are we pediatricians — we are vaccine experts, and we have reviewed the data ourselves on all the trials so far, and we will review the additional data.

We would not agree with recommendations — even if they came from the federal government — if we did not feel that they were safe and effective given our vast experience with vaccinating children to keep them healthy in this country.

CNN: Some parents are hearing on social media that the vaccine might have a long term impact on fertility. Since many kids reach puberty between the ages of 12 and 15, how can a parent be sure that the Covid-19 vaccine won’t affect their child’s development?

Maldonado: Oh my goodness, people have been saying this about every vaccine since I can remember! There’s a whole group of people who have been talking about what they call “primary ovarian insufficiency” and they’ve attributed that to other vaccines in the past. I’m not surprised if they are doing the same with the Covid-19 vaccine.

  • CNN note: Primary ovarian insufficiency occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs. It’s extremely rare — with one case in 1,000 women under age 30. A 2018 study of almost 200,000 adolescent girls and women found no connection between primary ovarian insufficiency and any of the vaccines recommended for teens, including HPV, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), meningococcal disease or inactivated flu vaccines.

Maldonado: There is no evidence at this point that this vaccine will affect development or fertility. It is a mRNA vaccine platform — it enters the cell and serves as a template for antibody development and almost immediately disintegrates into little pieces that are inert.

It’s made out of nucleic acids, which are basically the building blocks of all our cells, and these aren’t incorporated into anything. They just fall apart and are eliminated. Bottom line: I think that’s ridiculous.

CNN: What are expected side effects of the vaccine for children — will they be severe enough to cause a child to miss class and possibly endanger his or her grades?

Maldonado: Just like any other vaccine, children may feel a little tired, but I certainly don’t think it’s going to be a major reaction. More the type of things we are typically seeing — a sore arm, maybe some redness at the site of injection and maybe a low grade flu-like illness, if there is any reaction at all. These symptoms should be all gone within 48 hours, but I think it may be a good idea to at least be ready for that.

I have no reason to believe that a child’s schooling will be impacted. In fact, I think this will be a great opportunity for people who have events planned for the end of the school year. Getting their kids vaccinated as soon as possible means that they’re going to be protected that much faster.

CNN: What do we know about dosages for children — will they be less than what is given to adults? As one parent put it — some of these 12-year-olds weigh as little as 60 to 70 pounds — so will they give the same dosage that is given to a much larger adult?

Maldonado: Specifics on dosage levels will be available after the meetings next week. For now I can say that dosages were well studied in a few thousand children of all ages and weights between 12- and 15-years old. So they will have looked at dosage very, very carefully to make sure that it is safe and effective.

But obviously, what we need to think about is whether or not the dosage will be different in children under 12, and that’s what we’re studying right now. There may be differences in responses in the smaller children, primarily because little kids are more likely to mount a higher fever in general than adults and older kids.

It may be that we need a lower dosage for younger children because obviously their immune system responses are much more robust. But those studies are still going on right now for kids under 12 so we don’t know yet.

We know from Pfizer’s top line data on the 12- to 15-year olds that the immune responses were more robust than the adults. And that’s actually a good thing.

CNN: This stronger immune response that children have — could it impact a child in any serious way, such as setting them up for long-term reactions to the virus that don’t go away?

Maldonado: Again, the vaccine is not a live virus vaccine. It’s not derived from animals, humans or even other viruses. It is made from synthetic nucleic acids.

The immune response to the vaccine has been tracked exceedingly carefully to be sure it doesn’t trigger the inflammatory pathway that is similar to the one that we see with long-term effects, and we haven’t seen that happen in any of the tens of millions of doses that have been given to adults or teens.

Not only have we not seen that happen, but the laboratory basis for that inflammatory response has also not been documented to happen with the vaccine.

CNN: How will administration of the Covid-19 vaccine fit into the back-to-school vaccinations required for middle schoolers?

Maldonado: We are looking at this very carefully because we are facing a problem in that children haven’t caught up with their general vaccinations over the last year because of the pandemic shutdown.

There are national data suggesting the 11- to 12 year-old group is the one that is at the highest risk for being delayed in their other vaccinations. We are trying to figure out how to make it easier for pediatricians to give their general vaccines that they may be having to catch up with as well as the Covid vaccine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is working on coordinating with CDC on wording to address that issue and we hope to have that next week.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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California’s recall circus begins with challenger saying he’s the ‘beast’ to Newsom’s ‘beauty’ — alongside 1,000-pound live bear

By Maeve Reston | CNN

The Republican candidates challenging California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom have struggled to capture voters’ attention as the state gears up for an all-but-certain recall election this year. So businessman John Cox switched up the script Tuesday by introducing himself as “the beast” to Newsom’s “beauty” alongside a live Kodiak bear at a Sacramento campaign event.

The emergence of the 1,000-pound real-life bear, which sniffed the pavement and lumbered around behind Cox while he outlined his rationale for recalling Newsom at the start of a three-day bus tour, lent credence to the argument by the governor’s allies that the recall effort is quickly turning into a political circus that could ultimately draw more than a hundred potential candidates, just like the 2003 recall, when California voters ousted Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Gavin’s mismanagement of California is inexcusable,” Cox says in his new ad as the bear ambles alongside him. “We need big beastly changes in Sacramento. I’ll make ’em.”

Though the recall election has not been officially called and no date has been set, a colorful collection of characters is already lining up to get their names on the ballot, which will include one question asking voters if they want to recall Newsom and a second asking them to choose a replacement.

In addition to Cox, who lost to Newsom by more than 20 points in 2018, the Democratic governor is being challenged on the Republican side by former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former Olympian and reality TV personality Caitlyn Jenner, who released a three-minute campaign video Tuesday introducing herself as a “compassionate disrupter” who could help the state reclaim its “true identity, to bring back the gold to the Golden State.”

Others include former adult-film star Mary Carey, who ran in the 2003 recall election. LA billboard star Angelyne has topped her recall candidacy website with an image of herself lying on a golden key while wearing a fuchsia bikini, opera-length black gloves and a feather boa draped along her ankles.

Angelyne argues on her website that “by sheer virtue of Angelyne being governor, all citizens will rise to their higher self,” and her platform includes the creation of a “Bubble Bath Day,” the “Governor’s Annual Masquerade Ball” and an annual “UFO convention.”

State officials announced last month that recall proponents had gathered more than the 1.4 million valid signatures they needed to qualify the measure for the ballot, though the state is still carrying out a number of procedural steps that must take place before the lieutenant governor can officially call the special election.

In the next phase, state voters who signed the recall petitions have 30 business days to change their minds and withdraw their signatures by sending written notice to their county registrars of voters. In a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, 53% of likely voters said they approved of how Newsom is handling his job. Only 4 in 10 likely voters said they would vote to remove him in a recall, while 56% said they would vote no and 5% are unsure.

“I understand why people would sign something — the stress, and the fear, the anxiety we all faced in the last year,” Newsom said when asked what he would say to Democrats who signed the recall petition in the midst of the pandemic. “My job is to earn that trust back. I think you’re seeing that reflected in the data and the support that we see out there each and every day.”

Challenging Newsom

Jenner and Cox are framing themselves as outsiders willing to shake up Sacramento while casting Newsom as an elite career politician.

Jenner, who plans to do her first national televised interview Wednesday night on Fox, threaded her new campaign video with allusions to her Olympic gold medal win in the 1976 decathlon.

“I came here with a dream 48 years ago to be the greatest athlete in the world. Now I enter a different kind of race, arguably my most important one yet, to save California,” she says in the new video, which she narrates. “I want to carry the torch for the parents who had to balance work and their child’s education, for business owners who were forced to shut down, for pastors who were not able to be with their congregation, for the family who lost their home in a fire, for an entire generation of students who lost a year of education.”

“I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat, I’m running to be governor for all Californians,” she adds. “To reclaim our true identity, to bring back the gold to the Golden State.”

Cox, with the help of famed political ad maker Fred Davis — who devised the “demon sheep” ad that went viral for California US Senate candidate Carly Fiorina in her 2010 primary — is attempting to portray the Democratic governor as “a pretty boy” who has been out of his depth as he has managed the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

To punctuate that point, Cox’s second campaign stop on Tuesday was at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, the restaurant where Newsom attended the November birthday dinner of a lobbyist when he was urging the state’s residents to avoid gatherings and not to socialize with people outside their own households.

Cox has argued that Newsom’s visit to the French Laundry made him a hypocrite who chose lobbyist friends over regular small businesses and he called the California governor “the ultimate insider.”

“He and the other career politicians have led this wonderful state down to the point where it’s unaffordable and unlivable for a lot of people. The rich are doing fine; the people who can go to the French Laundry are doing fine, no problems for them,” Cox said Tuesday. “But everybody else is having a tough time affording life in this wonderful state. So we’ve got to do something to fix it, and Gavin Newsom and the insiders — a pretty boy — are not going to be the ones. We need a beast who is going to go after the corruption, the waste.”

Responding to Cox’s “pretty boy” comment during a Tuesday news conference, Newsom said the Republican-backed recall is being fueled by “anti-science” supporters of former President Donald Trump who would roll back California’s progressive values. The governor, who is up for reelection in 2022, also questioned why fiscal conservatives would want to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers to pay for a recall election at the same time the state is trying to rebuild from the pandemic and prepare for another potentially brutal wildfire season.

“Now is not the time to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on a recall effort that is nothing more than a partisan power grab,” Newsom said at the Tuesday event with members of the California Professional Firefighters union and the International Association of Fire Fighters, who are backing him.

“I’m very proud of the state’s progress, proud that the economy is recovering. I’m proud of the fact that California is enjoying record reserves, not just historic surpluses,” Newsom said, pivoting to job growth as well as gains in the private sector when a reporter asked him to respond to his rival’s notion that he represents “beauty over brains.”

“This state is recovering. This state is back on its feet,” he said. “Our kids are increasingly back (to) in-person instruction. We have the lowest positivity in case rates in America. We’re extinguishing not just wildfires, but this disease. We’re getting it behind us.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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Huntington Beach latest to create non-police team to handle mental health, homeless issues

Come summer, Huntington Beach is expected to launch a mobile crisis response team to handle a variety of mental health and behavior-related calls for service, rather than dispatching police when no crime, violence, or event involving a weapon is unfolding.

The two-person civilian team — an emergency medical technician and a clinically trained counselor — is touted as the first such city program of its kind in Orange County. The city’s HOPE (Helping People Out Everywhere) team will focus on mental health issues, reaching beyond the homeless population and serving all Huntington Beach residents.

“This could be someone living in a gated neighborhood, or a homeless individual who is suffering, and everything in between,” Huntington Beach Police Chief Julian Harvey said.

Huntington Beach is part of a growing trend of cities and others shifting non-criminal crisis intervention away from law enforcement.

In March, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced the formation of a Behavioral Health Bureau to provide deputies with additional training in behavioral and crisis intervention. Once trained, those deputies will work alongside county mental health clinicians and social workers. In January, Anaheim launched the unarmed Community Care Response Team of caseworkers to help homeless people living outdoors.

In Huntington Beach, the HOPE team will handle a variety of situations, including homelessness, drug and alcohol-related issues, non-violent disputes involving family members or neighbors, and calls about people in crisis as a result of mental illness.

The city will host a public town hall on 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5, via the Huntington Beach Facebook and YouTube accounts. During the town hall, residents can learn more about the HOPE project and Be Well OC, which is overseeing the one-year pilot under a $1.5 million contract.

The program represents a new partnership between the city and Be Well, the public-private entity that earlier this year began providing comprehensive on-site crisis intervention and longer-term residential treatment for people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders. With case management also built into the Huntington Beach program, people who interact with the HOPE team might end up at the Be Well campus in Orange.

Harvey stressed in a phone interview last week that the HOPE program does not represent any “de-funding” of the police department. Instead, it will supplement the efforts of homeless liaison officers and broaden help for citizens dealing with mental and behavioral health crises. For too long, Harvey said, police have been the default agency to handle such calls, and that the only available places to take many of those people were hospital emergency rooms.

“If it’s not a violent incident or involving weapons or clear criminality, there really is no reason for us to be there,” Harvey said.

The HOPE team could mean better outcomes for people in crisis. Harvey added the new team also would free up officers for traditional police work if they don’t have to spend hours taking someone to an emergency room and waiting for their disposition. It also might reduce tension that can arise between police and the people they are meant to serve, sometimes leading to deadly consequences.

“They see us in uniform, and it can be provocative,” he said, referencing what sometimes happens when police respond to social service-related calls.

“It changes the dynamic unnecessarily.”

New program, old model

City Manager Oliver Chi is credited with laying the groundwork for the program. In April, when the Huntington Beach City Council approved the program on a 7-0 vote, Chi told council members the HOPE team could put the city on the cutting edge of better serving its citizens.

“It’s not often that we get a chance to be part of a new effort that could radically change the context of how we respond to ongoing service demands in the community,” said Chi, who took over as top administrator in Huntington Beach nearly two years ago.

Slightly more than half of the program’s funding — $825,000 — comes from the American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed into law in March, and the rest comes the Police Department Development Impact Fee Fund and the city’s Restricted Restitution Fund.

The model for the HOPE team is a mobile crisis response program in Eugene, Ore., known by the acronym CAHOOTS, for Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets, that’s been credited with saving lives and money. For nearly 30 years, CAHOOTS has been staffed 24/7 by clinicians, not police, taking calls routed by 9-1-1 dispatch workers who’ve been trained to determine which calls should and shouldn’t go to police. The CAHOOTS intervention teams travel in specially equipped vans with their logo on the sides, a process that’s expected to be copied in Huntington Beach.

“It will be like the dispatcher saying, ‘We understand your situation and we’re sending HOPE out there,’” said Marshall Moncrief, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Mind OC who oversees the work of Be Well.

There’s no firm date yet for the start of the Huntington Beach pilot program.

Moncrief, who lives in Huntington Beach and once served as director of neuro-behavioral health at Hoag Presbyterian Hospital, became familiar with CAHOOTS because he frequently visited Eugene, Ore., where his daughter attended college. Be Well has hired two people to supervise the HOPE team, including an experienced EMT who previously was part of the CAHOOTS program. Their work will be hands on.

“They won’t be sitting in an office somewhere,” Moncrief said. “They’ll be on that van, out living this with their team.”

Beyond Surf City

Be Well’s plan is to start with limited hours and gradually ramp up. Decisions on how to develop the service will be based on data, and the program could expand beyond Huntington Beach into other communities in Orange County, Moncrief said.

The HOPE team also might assist police when they contact survivors about a loved one’s death. “They might go with them to provide emotional support to the family,” Moncrief said.

The team will provide basic first aid, and transport homeless people to get services at the Huntington Beach Navigation Center. They also will be ready to guide people seeking help with an addiction to appropriate resources.

Michael Wright, a former EMT who now runs the nonprofit Wound Walk OC, a five-year-old program in which Wright and other volunteers provide basic health care and information to homeless people staying in parks and other outdoor locations, believes the program might work. Wright, who lives in Santa Ana, brought his triage to Huntington Beach in March, and is glad to see the city embrace the idea of decriminalizing homelessness and switching to a crisis prevention model for mental health care.

“I am in LOVE with this idea,” Wright wrote in an email. “Wound Walk is grateful that the City of Huntington Beach is looking to bring the kind of trauma informed care we practice to more people, more consistently.”

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Senior Living: Aging deteriorates the nervous system; this is how to fight the consequences

By Omid Omidvar, M.D., 

Contributing writer

As you age, your body naturally changes. You may start to see more gray hairs and wrinkles that weren’t there 10 years ago. There are also changes that aren’t visible that happen within your nervous system.


Omid Omidvar, M.D., neurologist. (Courtesy of MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center)

Your brain is your body’s “command center.” The rest of the nervous system relays messages back and forth from the brain to different parts of the body. It does this through the spinal cord, which contains nerves that branch out to every organ and body part.

As you age, you lose cells in your brain and spinal cord. This breakdown results in nerve cells sending out messages a lot slower than before, affecting your senses and inhibiting your movements. As nerve cells break down, toxins build up in the brain tissue, causing them to malfunction, which can lead to neurological issues. Common age-related neurological issues include:

Stability and balance problems

Your balance relies on signals from your brain to different organs, specifically your eyes, ears and legs.

Many older adults experience problems with balance and stability because of medications or infections that affect the inner ear and brain. Issues with stability and balance can result in falls, which can cause serious injury, such as broken bones, neck injuries, head injuries, fractured hips and more. 

Cognitive decline

Cognitive skills decrease as adults age because of medications, hormone imbalances, vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, and head injuries.

As older adults’ cognitive skills decline, they can become more forgetful, and find it difficult to multitask and communicate.

Tremors

Tremors are the involuntary and rhythmic shaking of any part of the body caused by dysfunction within the parts of the brain that control movement.

These tremors can pose a problem for everyday activities, such as eating or writing.

Sleep disorders

When you sleep, your brain clears out toxins in the central nervous system that build up during the day. At the same time, the body repairs any damaged cells.

As people age, their sleep patterns are not as stable, which can affect the brain’s ability to repair cells. Some older adults also suffer from sleep apnea – a disorder where a person’s breathing repeatedly starts and stops through the night, causing low-quality sleep, and further limiting your brain’s ability to repair cells. 

Habits to keep your nervous system healthy 

If you experience a neurological issue, it can hinder your quality of life. Practicing these habits can keep your nervous system healthy and lessen your risk for neurological issues:

  • Maintain an active lifestyle: Exercise improves how your existing cells work, which improves your brain function. It may be hard to run three miles but don’t underestimate the value of movement. Some low-impact exercises include walking and simple stretches. Stay active for at least 45 minutes, five days a week. If you cannot handle that, do as much as you can.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: Cut down on fried foods, red meat and poultry, and add more fish, fruits and vegetables to your diet. Try to follow a Mediterranean diet.
  • Maintain a normal blood pressure: Older adults with high blood pressure are more likely to decline cognitively. Lower your blood pressure by cutting down on salt and increasing your intake of magnesium and potassium. Take any necessary medications.
  • Control your cholesterol: High cholesterol can contribute to neurological issues. Cutting down on animal fat and increasing your amount of plant-based fats, such as olive oil, can lower cholesterol levels.
  • Manage your medications: The simultaneous use of multiple medications can potentially create negative health issues. It’s important to review all prescribed and over-the-counter medications and supplements with your doctor to make sure you’re taking only what is needed.
  • Get adequate sleep: Make sure you create the right sleep environment. Your bedroom should be a dark, comfortable place free of noise and distractions. Avoid falling asleep with your television on because it can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. If you suffer from sleep apnea, get treatment as soon as possible to prevent any further sleep or neurological problems.
  • Maintain an active social life: An active social life can prevent cognitive decline. Try joining a social club or an older adult health center. If you can’t meet in-person, try phone/video calling friends and family.
  • Practice brain-stimulating activities: Mental exercises stimulate the brain’s metabolism. Puzzles, word searches and reading are all activities that keep the brain active.

Seeking Care for Yourself

MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center’s neurodiagnostic team can analyze and monitor a patient’s nervous system functions to diagnose and treat neurological diseases and conditions effectively. If you think you or a loved one suffers from any type of neurological issue, talk to your doctor for a referral to a neurologist. To find a primary care physician who can help, visit memorialcare.org/Providers.

Omid Omidvar, M.D., is a neurologist with MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center.

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Some similarities, but bigger differences in Davis, Newsom recall efforts

Almost all the usual rules of California elections are off today, as the state heads toward its second gubernatorial recall election of the last 18 years.

The list of candidates to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom will surely be interesting, but perhaps not as odd as what voters faced when they decided in 2003 who should replace then-Gov. Gray Davis. They plainly did not regret choosing movie muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger for his most interesting role ever, reelecting him easily three years later, in 2006.

Like this year’s will be, the timing of that election was a little weird: Oct. 7, a month earlier than normal fall elections. Then there was the post-election interaction between Schwarzenegger and Davis. Democrat Davis and the nominally Republican Schwarzenegger, whose liberal stances on items like climate change and voting rights made him unlikely ever to win his party’s nomination in a regular primary, often acted like good buddies during the month or so before power peacefully transferred.

We may never know if Newsom, target of much more vicious rhetoric this year than Davis ever heard, would be as gracious. But it’s almost certain he would not pull the kind of stunts ex-President Donald Trump did while he was transitioned out of power and into luxurious exile at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Then there’s the list of candidates. With transgender reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner already on board, the current recall drive just might match the eclectic mix attracted by the unprecedented 2003 vote.

That ballot featured the diminutive former child actor Gary Coleman, who freely admitted he was not qualified and planned to vote for Schwarzenegger, along with former baseball commissioner and Los Angeles Olympics chieftain Peter Ueberroth.

Thus far, no major Democrat has ventured onto this year’s ballot, many prominent figures fearing they would become permanent pariahs in their party if they run. But if a significant Democrat does break loose – and perennial candidates like Tom Steyer and ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa no longer qualify as very significant despite Steyer’s billions and Villaraigosa’s name recognition – that could give Democratic voters a kind of license to vote Newsom out.

For sure, it would change the current dynamic that sees Newsom virtually unchallenged when he labels the recall a power grab by Trump supporters.

In 2003, the sole major Democrat on the list was Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who has in fact been a party untouchable since his distant second-place finish behind Schwarzenegger.

There are no figures this year like either Ueberroth, who could claim to be a highly capable non-partisan technocrat, or former media mogul Adrianna Huffington.

But there are plenty of folks taking ultra-conservative stances even more extreme than those of then Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock, who talked a lot during campaign debates but didn’t win many votes. In the long run, that cost him nothing; McClintock has been a GOP congressman from the Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills east of Sacramento since 2009.

As in 2003, when the recall field included the last previous defeated Republican candidate for governor, financier Bill Simon, 2018 loser John Cox, a San Diego County businessman, is in the race. Other significant Republicans include ex-San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who often tries to seem like he’s Newsom’s sole rival, and Trump’s former acting chief of national intelligence, Richard Grenell.

So far, there are no single-issue candidates in the field, the way Los Angeles lawyer Bruce Margolin was last time, running solely to help legalize marijuana. That’s been done, so no need for such a candidate.

As large as the field will be this time, it may not match the 135 who ran 18 years ago. But one rule that governed then will also apply now: Newsom can get more no votes on the recall than the total for any candidate on the replacement list, but would still be replaced so long as the yes’s beat no’s on the entire recall concept.

All of which makes this vote very different from the norm, when Democrats might almost automatically dominate because of their sheer numerical superiority over Republicans.

And then there’s the fact another run for governor starts the day after recall results are in.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com.

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JPL to try again Friday for Mars helicopter’s fourth flight

PASADENA — After a one-day delay due to a technical issue that kept the craft grounded, Jet Propulsion Laboratory mission managers will try again Friday to launch the fourth flight of the Mars helicopter Ingenuity.

The flight from Wright Brothers Field — the name given to the helicopter’s base on Mars — was scheduled to occur at 7:12 a.m. California time Thursday. Data from the flight was not expected back at JPL until roughly three hours later, at 10:21 a.m.

Just before noon, however, JPL announced the flight had not occurred.

“Aim high, and fly, fly again,” the agency posted on Twitter. “The #MarsHelicopter’s ambitious fourth flight didn’t get off the ground, but the team is assessing the data and will aim to try again soon. We’ll keep you posted.”

JPL later said the helicopter is still “safe and healthy.”

“Data indicate the rotorcraft didn’t transition to flight mode, which had been a possible outcome,” according to the agency. “We’ll attempt the fourth flight again on April 30.”

JPL officials said “an issue identified earlier this month showed a 15% chance for each time the helicopter attempts to fly that it would encounter a watchdog timer expiration and not transition to flight mode. Today’s (Thursday’s) delay is in line with that expectation and dose not prevent future flights.”

The fourth flight will be attempted again at 7:46 a.m. Friday, California time. The first data from the helicopter is expected to be received at JPL at 10:39 a.m.

Emboldened by the helicopter’s first three successful flights, mission managers are planning to push the craft’s “performance envelope” during its fourth flight.

The fourth flight will see Ingenuity climb to a height of 16 feet, then fly south — “flying over rocks, sand ripples, and small impact craters” — for 276 feet. The helicopter’s downward-facing camera will then begin snapping photos every 4 feet, until it reaches a distance of 436 feet from its starting point. Ingenuity is then programmed to stop, hover and return to Wright Brothers Field.

“To achieve the distance necessary for this scouting flight, we’re going to break our own Mars records set during flight three,” Johnny Lam, Ingenuity’s backup pilot at JPL, said. “We’re upping the time airborne from 80 seconds to 117, increasing our max airspeed from 2 meters per second to 3.5, and more than doubling our total range.”

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Del Taco hopes to win over Mexican Pizza fans with its new Crunchtada tostadas

When Taco Bell dropped the Mexican Pizza from its menu last year, Del Taco saw an opportunity.

Del Taco is rebooting a line of tostadas called Crunchtadas to answer an uproar created by Mexican Pizza fans.

“We saw there was a void, and we said ‘Let’s make it pretty interesting’”  said Tim Hackbardt, chief marketing officer for Lake Forest-based Del Taco.

The chain launched its Crunchtada Tostadas in 2013 with beef and chicken versions, and for a while they were prominently featured on a value menu. But in recent years, only the bean and cheese version has been available.

The beef and chicken versions are coming back with new recipes that have toppings and sauces that give them more flavor, according to Hackbardt.

Crunchtadas will be a permanent menu addition, he said. They include the $2 Queso Beef Crunchtada, with queso blanco, grated cheddar cheese and diced tomatoes. The $3 Chicken Guacamole Crunchtada includes ranch sauce, lettuce, grated cheddar cheese, chopped fresh diced tomatoes and scoops of house-made guacamole.

The $1 Crunchtada Tostada, which Hackbardt called “the classic bean-cheese-lettuce build,” remains on the menu unchanged.

Del Taco began reviving Crunchtadas well before Taco Bell pulled Mexican Pizza, Hackbardt said.

“We’re building a really strong pipeline of products and concepts that we can go to. We don’t necessarily use them right away, but we’ve got them all built,” he said. “We probably built these last summer. They’ve just been sitting on the shelf. One of the things I’ll do is go back in time. What are the things that were successful at Del Taco?”

A product can be a hit if it’s not prominently displayed on a menu but has a sizable base of customers, he said.

Fast food fans have long memories, Hackbardt said, and they notice when their favorite foods drop out of sight, as when Irvine-based Taco Bell retired the Mexican Pizza in November, citing a commitment to reducing paper waste as the reason.

Del Taco has built a promotional campaign around that, using the word “ghosted,” as in being cut off from somebody. It has set up a hotline to call for “emotional support for those who have been ghosted by a certain competitor,” as well as Crunchtada coupons, according to a press release. The number is 1-877-3-Ghosted (1-877-344-6783).

Del Taco is also selling Crunchtada merchandise, including pool floaties, available on May 24.

The chain also has limited-time items on the menu, including burritos, tacos and fries with honey chipotle barbecue sauce and peach and blueberry bubble drinks. The latter are available as Lemonade Poppers or Mini-Milkshakes.

Although the nation currently experiencing a shortage of boba. The tapioca balls that go by other names, including bubbles and pearls, have to be shipped from Taiwan, and there have been supply chain issues for the fast food industry, including the blockage of the Suez Canal.

Hackbardt isn’t worried about Del Taco’s supply.

“We ordered our product well in advance,” he said. “We got ours ahead of the Suez Canal.”

 

 

 

 

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‘Ghost Gun’ plans can be posted online after U.S. appeals court ruling

By Joe Schneider | Bloomberg

Plans for so-called ghost guns can be posted online after a federal appeals court overturned an injunction blocking the move and reinstated a Trump administration order that opened the door to the practice.

The State Department in 2018 removed 3D-printed guns from the Munitions List, and they were placed on the Commerce Control List, which is regulated by the Department of Commerce. That change effectively allowed plans for their construction to be posted online.

The State Department has control over the Munitions List and the court of appeals in San Francisco said Tuesday that courts aren’t empowered to review department decisions to add or remove weapons from that list.

President Barack Obama’s administration had blocked efforts to publish files for 3D-printed guns for years, arguing it would violate an arms-export law. But the State Department in June 2018 gave Defense Distributed — a small gun-technology company — the green light by settling a lawsuit with the company in a Texas court and removing the guns from the Munitions List.

A group of U.S. states, including California, sued the Trump administration, saying the regulatory change would let anyone with a 3D printer, including criminals and terrorists, make firearms at home. A federal judge in Seattle issued an injunction barring the State Department rule from going into effect.

But the appeals court said that was a mistake.

“The panel held that Congress expressly precluded judicial review of the relevant agency actions here,” the appeals court said. “The panel held that because both the DOS and Commerce Final Rules were unreviewable, the plaintiffs had not demonstrated the requisite likelihood of success on the merits, and therefore, a preliminary injunction was not merited.”

Guns that are printed at home are often referred to as ghost guns because they lack a serial number that could be used to trace them.

Xavier Becerra, who was California’s attorney general when the lawsuit was filed, said at the time that the Trump administration change would put airports, government buildings and schools at risk because such weapons are generally made from materials that can escape normal methods of detection. Becerra is now the secretary for Health and Human Services.

In March, President Joe Biden announced that he was taking executive actions to tighten firearms restrictions, including on kits that contain the components and directions to put together a ghost gun in as little as 30 minutes

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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