HIV Virtual Lunch
In an effort to continue community engagement aimed at ending the HIV epidemic and connect individuals to services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission on HIV (COH) launched the Virtual Lunch and Learn series to hear from local HIV service providers how the public health crisis has affected services and programs they offer, and share challenges, successes and lessons learned during these unprecedented times.
In addition, the series provided a virtual space for participants to share insights and recommendations on how to sustain the HIV movement in Los Angeles County amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The first virtual event was held on May 13, 2020 and since then, the COH has featured a diverse group of speakers and agencies that seek to address the disproportionate impact of HIV/STDs among key populations: Black/African Americans, women of color, youth, transgender community, and justice involved individuals. Approximately over 360 individuals have participated in 9 Virtual Lunch and Learn events held since May 13. Because of the positive feedback from the community over the quality of presentations and rich discussions that have emerged from these events, the COH will continue this virtual community engagement platform in 2021.
Hotel Housing During The Pandemic
Since May, Lev Levon, Chief Board Services, has been working at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) leading efforts to house the homeless population in County and City contrachotels. His role involves components of the entire process, including budgeting, contract monitoring, coordinating, liaising, customer service, etc. Lev’s primary role has been a Hotel/Motel Relations Coordinator working with managers and owners of hotels to ensure smooth services and roll out of operations. However, one of the most rewarding components for him has been his involvement with the “welcome bags.”
He is part of a team that receives, creates, and personalizes functional and hygienic items in a “welcome bag” for new hotel housing participants. The items in these welcome kits, donated by nonprofits or generous individuals, include a wide spectrum of essentials like deodorant, soap, laundry detergent, protein bars, socks, activity books and more. Being part of the team at LAHSA that physically carries out this effort from A to Z has made him feel the direct positive impact that essential workers from county departments are having on vulnerable populations during the pandemic.
JIC Media Relations Branch
Amid the pandemic, the Joint Information Center (JIC) Media Relations Branch, organized daily COVID-19 press conferences while maintaining a minimum number of essential staff on-site. These briefings provided critical public information while keeping in mind the health and safety of Department Heads, staffers, media members and the public.
In-person press conferences were removed and reporters’ questions were taken through a dedicated phone line. Physical distancing protocols were implemented such as 6-feet floor markings for speakers and sanitation of the microphone after each speaker’s remarks. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters worked in real-time from distanced locations. Phone lines were created for the public to listen in to simultaneous interpretation in multiple languages including Mandarin, Korean, Spanish and English. Virtual media availabilities were hosted as needed through the Webex video conferencing platform. This was made possible with support from County staff from the Chief Executive Office (Countywide Communications & Emergency Management), Board of Supervisors (Executive Office), Consumer & Business Affairs, District Attorney, Mental Health, Parks & Recreation, Public Social Services, Public Health, Health Services & Internal Services.
Sheraton Pomona Sheltering Site
As the coronavirus pandemic worked its way through the United States and began to affect Los Angeles County’s population, the County reached out to its workforce to help with this emergency. It asked its employees to step up to the plate and help their fellow citizens as DSWs (Disaster Service Workers) and perform various pandemic related tasks. From mid-March through late June 2020, Don Garcia served first as a Site Manager and then as the Site Director for the County’s largest Medical Sheltering Site at the Sheraton-Pomona.
The Sheraton Fairplex Hotel in Pomona was converted from a hotel to a medical sheltering site serving people experiencing homelessness and anyone who could not safely isolate or quarantine in their own home testing positive for COVID. Don and his team of DSWs were responsible for all logistical aspects of converting the Sheraton to a fully functioning emergency housing site. From housekeeping, meal service, janitorial, building maintenance, supply ordering and seeing to it that Centers for Disease Control guidelines were put in place to make sure the site was properly sanitized to eliminate the spread of the virus within the property. It was a pleasure and a privilege for Don working with such dedicated DSWs working on the COVID-19 front lines.
Virtual Civil Service Commission Hearings
As a result of the restrictions put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) was confronted with the challenge of pivoting from in-person hearings and meetings to creating and implementing an all virtual format. Staff worked tirelessly over the course of a month to fast track this project with the help of Information Resource Management (IRM), stakeholders, Commissioners, and County Counsel to develop a virtual Commission meeting format that would allow the CSC to continue providing parties with the ability to have their cases adjudicated in a fair and consistent manner. These virtual commission meetings have been up and running since May 2020 and the CSC has received much praise from the parties appearing for this innovative solution to an unprecedented problem.
The CSC is currently working on the implementation of virtual hearings which will go live on October 1, 2020. While the Commission is positive there will be the inevitable growing pains the process is ramped up, it will serve as a valuable tool for the administration of hearings and providing parties with the ability to seek a resolution to their cases expeditiously.