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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

San Diego Still Awaiting Guidance After Falling Off State Monitoring List

 August 20, 2020 at 10:33 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Now that San Diego was off the States COVID watch list. The focus turns to reopening the County has given the go ahead for 19, mostly private schools who were seeking waivers from the watch list to reopen as soon as the 1st of September, when and how businesses will be allowed to reopen for indoor activity has yet to be determined with the County saying consultations with the state will take place this weekend. As more places prepare to get back to business, the County is trying to address the critical issue of childcare with new grants being announced today and County officials are facing mounting pressure to release more information about where community outbreaks are occurring. Joining me is San Diego County supervisor Nathan Fletcher and supervisor Fletcher. Welcome to the pro. Speaker 2: 00:48 Thank you, Maureen. It's good to be here. Speaker 1: 00:49 First of all, tell us about the new grant opportunity announced today and how that will help parents get back to work as San Diego reopens. Speaker 2: 00:59 Well, as a parent, I know how vitally important childcare is and have really worked hard. My office has pushed a number of initiatives to try and help childcare. We did $10 million. We drew down for childcare vouchers a months ago, a million dollars to help our summer camps up and running. And now we're looking at $35 million in grants that will go directly to childcare providers. They have great challenges, limitations in the number of kids, uh, restrictions on how they operate limitations on parents' ability to pay. And so this $35 million will be directly, uh, use to try and get more childcare centers up and running to be able to safely care for more children. Speaker 1: 01:34 Looking at the wide range of businesses in the County County says it will be developing a strategy with the state to begin a phased reopening of indoor business activity. What would the basic structure of such a plan look like? Speaker 2: 01:49 We have to wait and see, this is a state determination. Uh, they gave the order to close the indoor operations of those, those sectors that were highest risk. Uh, and so we don't know exactly what it'll look like. Uh, my sense is it'll be something that, that really takes into account that the risk there, the, the risk to COBIT is not the same and all of the entities that were closed. And so I think it'll take into account that, and I think it'll take into account the reality that we just came off the state watch list, and our cases went down significantly because we took this action. And if we immediately or irresponsibly undid all of those actions, it's only logical that our cases would spike once more. And so figuring out how do we get it as much of our economy up and running as possible while ensuring that we slow the spread. Uh, so we, we don't want to end up in this Seesaw on the list off the list open-close type situation. So it really is trying to strike that balance Speaker 1: 02:41 In order to put together a new reopening plan. You're probably going to have to understand what went wrong with the old one. So what do we know about what caused the spikes that caused the second shutdown? Speaker 2: 02:52 Well, from my perspective, that's clear, we opened too many things too fast. Uh, I was very concerned and, and was matter of public record that I thought we were opening too many things too fast, uh, in particular high intensity, high exposure settings, like bars, uh, indoor dining of non-household members. Um, and, and I think it was just too much too fast. And, you know, in fairness, we're not the only place that, that, that, you know, did the similar type thing. Uh, but I think the lesson learned out of that is we just have to move much slower, uh, because not only in protecting life and our healthcare system, but in protecting our economy, it's more important. I believe that we have a smooth, steady reopening than a herky jerky start stop. And so my hope is we can really learn the lessons from before. Move a little bit slower, a little bit more cautiously, take a step, monitor the impact of the numbers. Take another step, monitor the impact of the numbers, and really try and try and get through this as smoothly as possible. Speaker 1: 03:47 If we are looking at a sort of phased reopening like that, how much time would you like the County to allot to see if a certain reopening caused a spike in cases? Speaker 2: 03:56 Well, let's see what the state comes out with. Let's see what the state and working with our public health officers determined as the proper number of days. Uh, and then, uh, and then I think when we have that guidance from the public health experts, I think, I think we can, we can go from there. Speaker 1: 04:09 Now. One thing the public health department and County officials are being asked to do is release more information about where community outbreaks occur. And that pressure is not just coming from reporters. Our listeners have been asking why when an outbreak is documented, can't the public be informed about where it is? Speaker 2: 04:28 Well, it's a fair question. I certainly understand it. We could, theoretically you could disclose the outbreak location, uh, in the entire state of California. There's only one jurisdiction that does that. And it's Los Angeles County. Now Los Angeles County makes no significant effort to do contact tracing and robust case investigations. They've kind of been overwhelmed and given up. And the reason the public health experts have given me as to why we don't release the specific outbreak location is because it undermines the cooperation we get with business. So if there is a threat to the public, meaning there's a danger to the public, then we would share that information and tell folks to avoid that, that scene. But if we're working with the entity and we don't think that there's a threat to the public, uh, they've determined, it's more important to maintain that cooperation. A common analogy is if police officers were required to publicly disclose, disclose every single witness who ever talked to them, you would very quickly run out of any witnesses. And so it's been a hallmark of public health that when you're doing case investigations, if entities are cooperating and giving you information, how you won't disclose the location, if there's no danger to the public, it would really create a, a shaming and would probably undermine our cooperation. Uh, but it's something we can always relook and revisit and we'll continue to try and be as transparent as we can, uh, while taking action that we think slows the spread and actually save lives. Speaker 1: 05:46 You use that word. Isn't this really becoming an issue of transparency between the County and the public when it comes to their safety? Speaker 2: 05:53 No, I think it's an issue of tactics. If we want to believe public health experts, and we want to trust doctors and scientists, when they tell us you can release this information, but you will undermine our ability to respond to a pandemic. I believe we have to listen to them. Now, if the public health experts and doctors come and say, you know what, we can release it. Then I would support that. But they, when they tell us that that, that if a situation is a danger to the public, we will make that available. If it's not, then we need to protect the confidentiality of getting good, reliable information. Then I trust that. And so we don't know where we are. I trust our public health experts. I trust our scientists. They tell me this is a hallmark of pandemic, disease, investigation, and response. Um, and so I have to give them the benefit of the doubt in this situation. Speaker 1: 06:36 It's possible that the County will revisit the policy and begin providing the public with that information. Speaker 2: 06:43 If the public health experts come in and have a fundamental change of what they think is in the public health interest, then we certainly could, or if there's some legal action that requires to do it, then certainly we would comply with that. Speaker 1: 06:54 How do childcare providers apply for the grant program that was announced today? Speaker 2: 07:00 The, we have a website it's in partnership being administered by the San Diego foundation. And so if they go to the San Diego foundation website, uh, they can apply for the grants. It's going to open on Monday on the 24th and then will be open for a 10 day period of time where we're we're entities can apply. And there's varying grants available, uh, based on the, uh, the type of childcare entity. Speaker 1: 07:22 How concerned are you about the number of childcare providers that may have to just fold up shop because of all they've been through for the last six months? Speaker 2: 07:32 Well, I'm very concerned. Uh, they, you know, I talked to childcare providers, I talked to the individuals who are doing it and they tell me we're not gonna fail our kids, but they need help. And that was why I thought it was so vitally important, uh, to bring forward and action, to have us make an additional $25 million investment, uh, in providing direct help and assistance to the providers, uh, so that they could get up and running. And, you know, in the early days of this, Maureen, we, we drew down $10 million to provide vouchers for parents, uh, so that they could, they could access it. Uh, but I think we have to come back on the back end here and provide actual help and support, uh, to the, the location so they can get up and running. And these are small businesses as well. I mean, they're not only vital to parents' ability to go back to work. Um, but they're also employers and we want to do everything we can to help them. Speaker 1: 08:21 I've been speaking with San Diego County supervisor, Nathan Fletcher. And thank you so much. Speaker 2: 08:25 Thank you, Maureen.

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San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he and other county officials were expecting to hear about the framework for reopening indoor businesses from the state by Monday.
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