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Los Angeles protesters demand rent cancellation amid virus

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Demonstrators who gathered again Sunday outside the home of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called on the city to cancel rents for people finding it hard to make ends meet as the coronavirus pandemic ravages California’s economy.

Tenant rights activists statewide have for weeks urged leaders to take additional action to prevent Californians from losing their apartments and falling into homelessness as expanded unemployment benefits expire while virus cases continue to surge.

The state court system is considering lifting its emergency restrictions on processing eviction cases later this month, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Since March, the pandemic has caused millions of Californians to lose their jobs.

California has tallied more than a half-million confirmed virus cases, with more than 9,220 deaths.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Three people were arrested and two were cited during a protest Saturday outside Garcetti’s home west of downtown Los Angeles, the Times reported. The mayor’s office didn’t immediately comment.

Hundreds of demonstrators demanded the city impose a blanket ban on evictions, cancel rents and commandeer hotels for homeless people.

The Los Angeles city attorney’s office has warned against canceling rents, advising council members in a memo that it would violate the law and could cost the city more than a billion dollars in compensation to landlords, the newspaper said.

In other news about the outbreak in California:

— The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department denied that people shown on video partying at a packed Hollywood bar were department employees. The activist group KnockLA posted footage it claimed showed LASD employees arriving for a party Friday at Sassafras Saloon. “The persons identified in the video are not employees of the Sheriff’s Department and this event was not hosted by the LASD,” the department said in a statement. Bars have been closed since late June by order of Gov. Gavin Newsom. County health officials said Sunday they were investigating a private gathering at Sassafras Saloon.

— Officials in Clovis have ordered city employees to come back to work in city offices. According to an email sent by City Manager Luke Serpa, department heads have been instructed to tell employees to return to city offices effective Aug. 1, the Fresno Bee reported Sunday. Some workers have continued working at their offices since the pandemic. Serpa’s order will fill city offices back up, with masks and social distancing required, the newspaper reported. Clovis, a city of about 112,000 people in the Central Valley, employs 564 full-time workers. The Clovis order includes exceptions for employees who need medical accommodations or where it is not possible to “reconfigure workspaces for social distancing,” according to the memo from the city manager.

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