A city plan to clean a section of downtown Los Angeles designated the “Typhus Zone” that was supposed to begin earlier this week has been delayed as more clusters of the disease are expected to appear throughout the region.
“They haven’t even started sanitizing and removing the trash and rats from this enlarged area,” NBC 4 investigative reporter Joel Grover revealed on Wednesday. “They don’t even have a schedule together yet.”
Grover shared the information on KFI-AM 640’s Bill Handel Show where he described City Hall’s response to the growing number of typhus infections as “so slow and so bureaucratic.”
“They don’t have their act together,” he claimed.
Two weeks ago, health officials warned of a typhus outbreak downtown and Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to devise a plan for containment. Typhus is transmitted by infected fleas which are often carried by rodents and feral cats. While it cannot be passed person to person, typhus usually reaches humans by flea bites or infected flea feces.
In an investigation broadcast last Wednesday, Grover reported that the city had ignored “mountains of trash crawling with rats” that could have caused the disease to spread.
“The problem is there’s so much garbage and stuff piling up around downtown that we have a huge rat population,” Grover said to Handel. “Those fleas get on people’s dogs. I see all of these people walking their dogs through downtown and think, ‘that person is potentially at risk.’”
According to the Los Angeles Times, cleaning efforts targeting the typhus zone were supposed to have started on Monday. Garcetti had pledged $300,000 to pick up trash and sanitize that area, which includes parts of the Skid Row neighborhood, known for its high concentration of homeless people.
Grover told Handel that he met with city sanitation officials last week who outlined a plan to remove rats, stray animals, and rotting garbage from the designated zone.
Partial transcript as follows:
GROVER: In my years of reporting, I see this a lot. There’s an outbreak, an epidemic, public officials are on the hot seat, so they think ‘We’ve got a plan. Here it is.’ But then the plan is not implemented. They aren’t even power-washing or sanitizing this extended area where cases are being found.
BILL HANDEL: I have a question about sanitizing and power-washing. You’ve got people that live on the streets; the cardboard boxes, the tents. What do they do? Do they lift the tents up and power-wash underneath them?
GROVER: Good question. The cops come, they shut down the streets … and they make everyone leave with their tents, with their belongings. … I was (downtown) last week on one street where they were doing this. The second they took the barricades down, some of the people who live on the streets came back, and I talked to them. One guy goes, “Look, they say they cleaned the streets, but there’s a pile of poop over there, and there’s a dead rat over there.”
HANDEL: Ah, lovely.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a motion on Tuesday to develop a typhus prevention and response plan. The board will review a report on the project within 45 days.
Meanwhile, at least 92 individuals have already been infected countywide since this summer, according to NBC News.
“If government was a little more functional, I think they would have had plans in place,” Grover said. “There’s piles of garbage around downtown, streets that are filthy, they’ve known about it for a long, long time.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.