January 15, 2021 Presiding Judge, Eric C. Taylor: Your honor, I am a Court Interpreter at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center. I initially wrote this letter because I recently had to quarantine and isolate myselffrom my family for 14 days as a result of exposure to COVID-19 at work; an exposure that resulted from a gross failure on the part of Los Angeles Superior Court and the Language Access Services division to properly follow COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Since I first began drafting this letter, a colleague and dear friend of mine who was also exposed during the series of events I describe, and contracted the virus as a result, died of COVID-19 this past Tuesday, January 12th. This is what happened: • The week of November 30ththrough December 4th,the court reporter and the clerk from Department 32 tested positive for COVID-19. The interpreter assigned to that courtroom that week was not informed of the potential exposure. • By word of mouth, on Monday, December 7th, the interpreter who had been assigned to Department 32 the week of 11/30-12/04 found out that the Court reporter in that Departmenthad tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, December 5th, 2020. The interpreter requested to take time off from work to isolate and test, but management denied her request for paid leave. • Consequently, she did not quarantine, and she continued to report to work for four days from December7th to 10th, 2020. During those days, she worked alongside (and potentially exposed to infection)numerous co-workers – in all, eighteenother court interpreters, including myself. • On December 10th, 2020, the abovementioned court interpreter from Department 32 tested positive for COVID- 19. • Fifteen of the eighteencourt interpretersquarantined themselves due to thisexposure – in most cases, because their health care providers strongly advised that they quarantine. • Paid sick leave for the full quarantine period, as specified in the protocols at that time, was only granted to a few of the interpreters. Others received paid sick leave for only part of their quarantine. Still other interpreters in the exposed group have received no paid sick leave at all. • In my case, for example, Language Access Servicesinitially refused to provide any sick leave at all.Eventually, management granted me paid sick leave for most, but not all, of my time inquarantine. Language Access Services has refused – without explanation – to provide any paid sick leave for the first two days of work (December 14th and 15th) that I missed during my quarantine, even though I had a doctor's note confirming my need to quarantine for those two days. • Three interpreters did not take any time off work at all, either for lack ofavailable sick time accruals or for fear of reprisals for calling off sick. One of these interpreters, Sergio Cafaro, later tested positive for COVID-19.His first COVID test,on Friday, December 11th,came backnegative. This test, however,was taken just one day after his last exposure, and therefore was not probative of his true condition;CDC guidelines indicate testing should be done at least five days after last exposure to lower the likelihood of a false negative. Mr. Cafaro was not sent home to quarantine when exposed, although CDC guidelines require quarantine upon exposure. But because of the early negative test result, Mr. Cafarocontinuedworkingwhile unknowingly being COVID-positive. On Friday, December 18th, 10 days after his last known exposure to COVID-19, he started to feel sick and, after testing a second time on Monday, December 21st, received a positiveCOVID-19 diagnosis. Mr. Cafaro was subsequently hospitalized for several weeks as his condition progressively deteriorated before finally succumbing on January 12th, 2021. I speak for myself and my colleagues in urgently requesting the following: ▪ That Los Angeles Superior Courtand Language Access Services comply with COVID-19 protocols and include all interpreters in every notificationof a reported exposure, since, due to the itinerant nature of our work moving from courtroom to courtroom according to the needs of the Court, we might not otherwise be counted among the staff a specific courtroom where exposure occurred. ▪ That quarantines of the full, CDC-recommended length, be imposed whenever there has been an exposure,to protect the health of all employeesand court users consistent with CDC guidelines. ▪ That the Superior Court, and Language Access Services, timely grant fullpaid leave to those employees who have had to quarantine. Finally, we would like some assurance that interpreters will be given high priority to be vaccinated, as we come in close contact with the inmate population, which continues to exhibit a high rate of infection. Thank you for your attention to this matter of vital importance. Begonya De Salvo, Spanish Interpreter at CJC [Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center]
_._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._. December 23, 2021
Dear Mr. Taylor,
Yesterday, Los Angeles County was hit with 6,000 new cases of COVID, and today we hit the crazy number of almost 9,000.
As a courtroom interpreter, I am genuinely terrified of going back to work indoors in the courthouse with the pandemic hitting a new peak and with very relaxed mask-wearing and social distancing. I feel completely unprotected.
I ask that the Court provide its employees with proper and adequate PPE — N95 masks— so that we don’t contract COVID at work.
I also ask that you allow all at-risk interpreters — those persons who themselves or family members have certain health conditions — to telework. It should also be offered to persons with children who have no childcare options during the pandemic.
We are essential workers that deserve to be protected and work in a safe environment.
Last year, we lost Court employees — including two court interpreters in this building — because they worked in an environment with a highly infectious inmate population and there were insufficient precautions taken in the courthouse against the virus. Please do not let another Court employee die.
I am especially concerned because it appears that vaccinations are offering less protection against the new omicron variant. My husband, for example, recently contracted the omicron variant despite being fully vaccinated and boosted.
As a result, I had to call in sick all this week because the schools are closed for the holidays and my husband — who would otherwise provide childcare — is sick and in isolation.
Families like ours should have options at work that allow them to telework, instead of having to take off a whole week.
Thanks in advance for your time and attention on this matter.
Begonya De Salvo CJC Court Interpreter
._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._. January 3, 2022 Dear PresidingJudge Taylor:
I would like to thank you for urging the bench and bar last week to reduce in-person appearances, and to use remote appearance technology.
Unfortunately, interpreters are still not being given telework as an option on a general basis — and this is endangering public health.
Interpreters are being forced to work in person in courtrooms where the likelihood of someone being sick is very high. (Moreover, there is still an appalling lack of proper mask compliance among Sheriff’s Deputy bailiffs and the defendant inmate population they monitor; many fail to properly wear masks or inexplicably take them off, in violation of court policy.)
As a result of the court administration insistence that we work in person, many of us (myself included) are having to quarantine — and use our sick/personal time — either because we’ve gotten sick with COVID or because we’ve been exposed to a court employee who has tested positive.
We should be working remotely from home, to protect ourselves and others. Instead, we’re getting exposed at work — which then forces us home to quarantine, but unable to work.
Where is the sense in that? Why force court employees to take risks and have to quarantine, when the smarter and safer option would be to avoid exposure in the first place and have people work from home?
The court’s failure to protect interpreters by disallowing telework is not just a public health issue; it’s an economic one. The court is externalizing the cost of its bad policy to the interpreters.
I personally am quarantining at home today — using my sick/personal time — because I had two confirmed exposures late last week: one from the clerk at Department 30, and another one from a fellow interpreter. If I had been given the telework option last week, I’d be productively teleworking again today instead of quarantining at my personal expense.
I note that Public Defenders are resuming telework today, at least on a temporary basis. Why not provide telework to ALL persons who work in the courtrooms, so that we can minimize the public health risks for everybody?
I cannot fathom why the court administration so stubbornly refuses to offer telework, during the worst period of the pandemic so far, when it’s so clearly the most sensible thing to do.
I respectfully request that you use your position as PresidingJudge to urge the court administration — and the court interpreters division in particular — to do the right thing and make telework more widely available.