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Press Play with Madeleine Brand


Host Madeleine Brand looks at news, culture and emerging trends through the lens of Los Angeles.

Host Madeleine Brand looks at news, culture and emerging trends through the lens of Los Angeles.


Santa Monica, CA




Host Madeleine Brand looks at news, culture and emerging trends through the lens of Los Angeles.




Is California reopening too fast?

Seven counties across California, including San Francisco, moved into a less restrictive tier this week in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan. Indoor dining can resume at 25% capacity, stores can welcome more customers, and movie theaters and gyms can reopen. More counties, including LA, could leave the purple (most restrictive) tier in the coming weeks. But public health officials warn that reopening too quickly could undo the progress we’ve made.


With COVID numbers down, what’s next for LA?

The FDA issued emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine over the weekend, and the Biden administration says it could start arriving today. There’s a sense of optimism in LA County, which is now looking at pre-winter surge numbers. The seven-day positivity rate is about 3%, which is the lowest since the early days of the pandemic.


Ethics of COVID vaccine shopping

Johnson & Johnson says it will ship out nearly 4 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this week — after the FDA authorized it for emergency use on Saturday. It’s a single shot and doesn’t need to be stored in special freezers. However, it’s slightly less effective at preventing severe COVID-19 symptoms than the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. That small difference in efficacy is opening big ethical questions. Will some people opt to wait for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine? Will state...


Pandemic perk? Less influenza this season

The CDC says across the entire country, flu activity is minimal. In California, only a tiny percentage of tests have come back positive. Dr. Tara Vijayan of UCLA says the last time a patient of hers had the flu was February 2020. “Many of us suspect that the mitigation efforts that are underway to prevent coronavirus are actually helping substantially with influenza.”


Science behind ‘Zoom fatigue’

“Zoom fatigue” is a generic term for feeling drained after sitting in front of any kind of video conference for much of the day. That’s according to Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. He says using Zoom is like being inside an elevator with people who are all staring at you for the whole ride. He shares tips for making these calls more comfortable, such as hiding “self view” and minimizing the window so it doesn’t take up your entire...


Why rapid at-home COVID tests are still pending FDA approval

Innova Medical Group, based in Pasadena, has developed a test people can buy over the counter and use at home. It costs $5 and produces results in about 30 minutes. It’s complete with a nasal swab, chemical solution, and paper-like strip. Innova Medical Group has been waiting for FDA approval since August.


What’s in California’s new $7 billion COVID relief package

Governor Gavin Newsom today signed a $7.6 billion stimulus package for California. Millions of residents will receive $600 checks. There’s money for small businesses, and relief for child care providers and college students. The package passed with broad bipartisan support in both chambers, and comes at a time when Newsom is sparring with the legislature over school reopenings.


When might Southern California reach COVID herd immunity?

Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have all been declining in LA County. Dr. George Rutherford, professor of epidemiology at UC San Francisco, says cases in Southern California are dropping quickly because of naturally acquired immunity from so many infections, and people are wearing masks and social distancing. “The rollout of vaccines has sort of tipped the balance. And I think we're going to continue to see this as long as things don't go wrong,” he adds. Rutherford also...


Why museums are still closed while other businesses have reopened in California

Indoor museums are still closed — while malls, tattoo shops, hair and nail salons have been open since Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted parts of the state’s stay-at-home order last month. There’s now an odd scenario: The gift shop is open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), but the museum itself is not. KCRW talks about the pandemic’s impact on museums with the executive directors of the Museum of African American Art in Baldwin Hills and the Wende Museum in Culver City, plus a New...


Reopening California schools: Public officials v. teachers unions

The Biden administration and the CDC say it’s safe for teachers to return to classrooms before they’re vaccinated. California Governor Gavin Newsom agrees. In LA County, teachers will be eligible for the vaccine starting March 1. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Buetner says elementary schools might be able to reopen if 25,000 teachers and staff get their shots. Meanwhile, United Teachers Los Angeles says it can’t support reopening until in-person staff members are vaccinated and LA County is...


What climate change means for America’s aging power grids

The central and southern U.S. is still reeling from a winter storm that brought snow, ice, and the coldest temperatures in decades. Millions of Texans woke up this morning still without power. Texas, which operates its own power grid, has not been able to keep up with the demand for heat. California also has had blackouts from wildfires and heatwaves. They’re all examples of how the country’s aging power grids can’t keep up with the growing number of weather disasters related to climate...


Blue Shield takes over vaccine distribution

Governor Gavin Newsom is partnering with Blue Shield and Kaiser to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. The contract with Blue Shield is now public, and the goal is to administer 3 million doses a week starting next month. “It centralizes a system that is very fragmented. So you will see a lot of pulling together there and having one entity deciding where the need is, versus it being distributed to counties, and then counties deciding where the need is,” says Melody Gutierrez, state government and...


Recapping Trump’s second impeachment trial

Maryland Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, gave closing remarks on Thursday in the second Senate trial of former President Donald Trump, this time on the charge of inciting an insurrection. “How can we assure that our commander in chief will protect, preserve and defend us and our Constitution if we don’t hold a president accountable in circumstances like this? What is impeachable conduct if not this?” Raskin said. Over the past four days, House...


Why COVID is spreading in some LA courts

Hundreds of employees and several judges have tested positive for coronavirus — and courts are still open for in-person trials. Americans are dealing with more political division than ever before, says a new survey from American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. New film “Little Fish” tells the story of a couple struggling to remember their love story during a pandemic that wipes away memory. And Dana Point, renowned sea-life destination, has been named America’s first Whale...


What’s fueling attacks on elderly Asian Americans in NorCal?

Elderly Asian Americans in the Bay Area have been targets of violence in the past few weeks. In one video, a suspect runs up to an 84-year-old San Francisco resident — who was originally from Thailand — and violently shoves him to the ground. That man died of his injuries. In Oakland’s Chinatown, a 91-year-old man was approached from behind and sent flying to the pavement.


Judge blocks many of George Gascón’s criminal justice reforms

On Monday, a judge blocked LA District Attorney George Gascón from enforcing one of his major promises: ending the use of prison sentencing enhancements in thousands of criminal cases. The judge’s order stemmed from a lawsuit brought late last year by the union that represents hundreds of LA County prosecutors. The union argued that Gascón’s reforms required them to break state law.


COVID variants vs. vaccines

The U.K. variant of COVID-19 is doubling every 10 days in the U.S., according to a report out Sunday. Dr. Anthony Fauci says this variant could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by the end of March. The U.S. has also seen worrisome mutations from South Africa and Brazil. What does this mean for vaccine rollout?


Disability rights activists push to get COVID vaccines earlier in California

People ages 65 and up can get the coronavirus vaccine now in California. After all, they’re more likely to die of COVID-19 than any other group. But people with serious disabilities — who are younger than 65 — have the same risk too. They’re no longer prioritized. Earlier this week, a state vaccine advisory panel rejected a push from disability rights advocates to let them join people 65 and older in the vaccination line now. One meeting this afternoon could change that, however. KCRW...


The fight over reopening schools intensifies

Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday suggested that in-person instruction in public schools could resume if teachers are prioritized in coronavirus vaccinations. President Biden says he wants to reopen the country’s schools during his first 100 days in office. But California and its teachers’ unions could be one of the biggest hurdles to making that happen.


UC Davis and Long Beach ramp up COVID protection for residents

The University of California, Davis offers free coronavirus testing and quarantine housing not just to students and university employees, but to the nearly 70,000 Davis residents too. The program, known as the The Healthy Davis Together project, has caught more than 800 asymptomatic cases so far. In Long Beach, the city is already vaccinating teachers and grocery store workers. That’s on top of health care workers, long-term care residents and staff, and people 65 and older. Long Beach has...