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Local Leaders Urge Immigrants To Access Public Health Resources Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

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Local elected officials on Thursday encouraged immigrants to access government health care and other community resources as COVID-19 continues to spread in San Diego.

Speaker 1: 00:00 A group of San Diego officials are telling non-citizens in the County that they should not be afraid of getting medical help or getting tested for Corona virus.

Speaker 2: 00:10 Arona virus, uh, does not know nor care your race, your gender, your religion, your sexual orientation, your country of order or your immigration status. Uh, it does not care about any of those factors. And here in San Diego County, neither do we.

Speaker 1: 00:28 That was County supervisor Nathan Fletcher this morning. Fears of deportation or losing a chance for a green card have kept some residents away from health centers even when they need to be there. And on Wednesday, County officials gave their daily update on Corona virus and San Diego public health officer, dr Wilma Wooten issued tighter restrictions on gatherings, ordered business closures, and issued guidance on daycare operations. And here with me as KPBS health reporter Taryn mento. Taryn, welcome. Thanks Maureen. So tell us about today's news conference. Why did these San Diego officials feel a need to speak out about this? Well, there's been some reports that there was concern. People would be afraid to go and get care because of the public charge rule that would potentially jeopardize their chances of getting a green card and citizenship. Um, because if maybe they're using certain benefits, but you know, people, the officials wanted remind people, you know, if you need care you have a right to access it.

Speaker 1: 01:26 And if people don't get care when they severely need it, it can be detrimental to their health and detrimental to their, the rest of the public's health. In this kind of outbreak. And generally speaking, has the number of coronavirus positives in the County jumped, right? Yes. It went from 62 to 20. Um, and that was up from 55 before and 39 before and 11 before. So it, it has increased over the last few, maybe nine 10 days since we confirmed our first local case. And this morning it's at 80. Correct. And are most people who've tested positive, are they from the cruise ship or are they from San Diego? 67 of the confirmed cases are from San Diego. So that's, you know, more than two thirds. Tell us about the clusters of patients. The County has identified. There was one in, um, related to people who took a screen ski, chipped to Colorado, uh, seven individuals.

Speaker 1: 02:19 They, uh, six of them are as far as I know as of last update are at home. Um, and one person is hospitalized but they, they went there. Then the Colorado, Colorado put out an advisory, you know, that there were some cases there. So they know, notice that they had symptoms and then presented and the County was able to put that cluster together. But then there was a second cluster of individuals, uh, four of them who kind of came and got care individually. Um, and then through interviews the County epidemiologists were able to identify that they, there was a social network there that they knew each other. And that case, uh, is being investigated with the military because it does involve, um, some active duty service members as well as civilians. And even with the increase in positive tests and the, and these clusters still, luckily no deaths in San Diego reported at this point.

Speaker 1: 03:06 Correct. How did Dr. Wooten clarify the gathering restrictions? In the County. Previously, people were prohibited from gathering in groups of 50 or more. Now that is reduced to 10 or more, which fits the CDC guidelines, but these are legally enforceable orders by the County public health officer, Wilma Wooten. Um, so now 10 or more prohibited in one place at one time. And that's a meeting space or a theater or an auditorium or a cafeteria. Um, some exceptions made a, she said, airports, public transportation and essential businesses where a social distancing of six fees is, can still happen. Now, many gyms and fitness centers around the County were closed already. But yesterday, Dr. Wooten made it official, right? Correct. Yes. Gyms and fitness centers are among the businesses including, you know, bars, adult entertainment, uh, any place that serves alcohol that has to close down. And, um, that was part of the earlier actions she took.

Speaker 1: 04:04 And then restaurants as well. They are now down to take out and delivery. Now, uh, now the schools are closed. Daycare is even more important to parents of young children. Watch a doctor wouldn't have to say about that. So they have not, um, they're, they're issuing guidance and that is to, um, that providers keep kids in groups of 10 or fewer and make sure that they're keeping them in the same group. And that way in the event that someone does come down with Corona virus, it would be very easy to trace back who that child's close contacts were. So it's keeping them in the same groups and not mixing them or interchanging the kids in different groups with the same daycare provider. Okay. So where is the County in terms of medical supplies? So this was a, a big point of conversation yesterday at the press conference.

Speaker 1: 04:58 Um, you know, the chief medical officer of the County, uh, dr Nick [inaudible] did say that right now they're doing okay, but there is a lot of concern moving forward and indicated no. That concern and I'm sure as everyone's aware, that concerns not just here in San Diego, that's, that's nationally. And when we're talking medical supplies, we're talking about protective gear for healthcare workers, those sorts of thing, masks and, and even things as a testing equipment. You know, we know we've heard a lot about how testing is limited testing is limited and that's, that's largely to do with, uh, issues like, um, reagents and actually even like the swabs that they would use inside a person's nose or mouth to get the specimen. Just there's such a demand and there was so, there's just so little to, to go to everybody. So that's also that as well. Was there anything said about how the County is addressing the possibility of the virus spreading to the homeless population? So supervisor Nathan Fletcher has really been taking the lead on this and they are really working to identify motel rooms. I think they're up to, um, hundreds now. They're, they're working very quickly that if someone does have, I think even just symptoms, they're taking them out of a shelter area and they're putting them into a motel room to, to monitor and test. And we expect another update this afternoon. Correct. Should be around two 30. I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter Taryn mento. Taryn. Thank you. Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.