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LA homeless numbers up…

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LA homeless numbers up…

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The number of homeless residents counted in Los Angeles County increased again but at a much slower pace than in previous years, according to figures released Thursday that show that more people left the streets for shelters.

The federally required tally conducted in late February found 69,144 people were homeless on any given night in LA County, a 4.1% rise from 2020. About 42,000 were within the city of Los Angeles, where public frustration has grown as tents have proliferated on sidewalks and in parks and other locations.

By comparison, the county saw a 25.9% rise in the homeless population between 2018 and 2020, said Kristina Dixon, acting co-executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, or LAHSA.

“While it is too soon to know what this year’s count results will mean long term, the numbers are suggesting there was a flattening of the curve or the percent increase of people experiencing homelessness is shrinking,” Dixon said.

However, it also could also reflect the impact of a winter COVID-19 surge that made it harder to count homeless residents, especially young people and families, Dixon said.

LA County is the nation’s most populous, with about 10 million people. More than 1 in 5 of all homeless people in the U.S. live in the county, based on the latest federal tally that found 326,000 homeless people nationwide.

The crisis is most apparent in downtown Los Angeles, where thousands of people live in makeshift shanties that line entire blocks in the notorious neighborhood known as Skid Row. Tents regularly pop up on the pavement and parks outside City Hall and homelessness is a major issue in the mayor’s race. Encampments also increasingly are found in suburban areas and under freeway overpasses.

Volunteers with LAHSA fanned out across the county in February for the effort’s main component, the unsheltered street tally. The so-called point-in-time count took place over three days but results weren’t released until they were validated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

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Among other findings, nearly half of homeless people in the count identified as Latino, which is in line with the county’s overall Hispanic population, while 39.5% reported serious mental illness or substance abuse, which was lower than the national average, Dixon said.

Congress requires the tallies every two years and uses the information to distribute resources for homeless services. However, HUD granted an exemption for the count in 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak and kept federal funding in place.

California has an estimated 161,000 homeless residents, the most in the U.S. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, facing token opposition as he runs for reelection this year, has budgeted record sums to combat homelessness that pervades all of the state’s major cities and many smaller communities as well.

Newsom is expected to sign a bill that will establish a controversial California court program to steer homeless people with severe mental disorders into treatment. Lawmakers gave the measure final approval last month, despite objections from civil liberties advocates who fear it will be used to force unhoused residents into care they don’t want.

The county and city of Los Angeles have spent tens of millions of dollars under federal programs to provide shelters and permanent housing to the homeless population. Molly Rysman, LAHSA’s acting co-director, said that work has paid off, but acknowledged residents might not believe it when they see the sagging tents, rusting RVs and makeshift shelters that have become familiar sights from Hollywood to the San Fernando Valley.

“The streets still look pretty bad,” Rysman said. Part of the reason, she said, was that the homeless camps were allowed to remain during the pandemic so residents could shelter in place, and people living there also accumulated more items. But the count found there were fewer individuals living in each tent or RV than before the pandemic.

The result, Rysman said, is a “bit of a disconnect” between the number of people counted and the amount of encampments filling neighborhoods.

LAHSA officials said additional funding and efforts to shelter people were effective, with more than 86,000 rehoused in the past four years. Programs such as Project Homekey, which moved people from the streets into converted hotels, have increased the number of available shelter beds by 70% from 2019 to 2022, according to Dixon.

But the county is suffering from a drastic shortage of affordable housing that exacerbates the problem, she said.

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In addition, advocates say, government programs that offered tenant protections, financial assistance and investments for housing and services during the pandemic are ending or will end soon, which could drive more people onto the street.

David Smith, director of litigation at the nonprofit Inner City Law Center that focuses on housing issues, said if Los Angeles doesn’t make permanent the temporary rent forbearance rules and eviction protections, the city could see another “wave of homelessness,.”

“The protections against evictions will go away, but you’re still carrying this massive rent debt that you’ll be owing down the road,” Smith said. “Many, many people are all of a sudden going to be ripe for eviction.”

Rysman said LA city and county also need to expand supportive services and permanent housing for homeless people.

“The biggest factor driving homelessness is that housing is unaffordable for just about everyone,” Rysman said. “To fix this, we need to increase our housing supply across the county by adding more than 800,000 units over the next eight years.”

She said that figure was the target included in the Regional Housing Needs Assessment plan, a periodic housing growth program required under state law.

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Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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