Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

UC San Diego Launching COVID-19 Antibody Testing Program, Daycare Supposed To Open For Essential Workers, But That’s Not The Case, And Journalism In Age Of Pandemic

 April 21, 2020 at 11:19 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 UC San Diego is about to launch COBIT antibody testing and San Diego eases restrictions at some public parks. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Alison st John. This is KPBS mid day edition. It's Tuesday, April 21st today, California governor Gavin use him, challenged all Californians to consider ways they can volunteer to help their communities survive a covert 19 virus. Speaker 2: 00:36 It's all about a state of mind from our zoomers to our boomers. Uh, w regardless of your age or stage in life, we want you to volunteer. We want you to participate. Speaker 1: 00:47 Governor Newsome asked all Californians to check into a new website, Californians for he said tomorrow he will talk about more detailed guidelines on how to start loosening the stay at home restrictions. He'll give an update on what he called the roadmap to recovery, giving an update on progress on the key areas that he laid out last week that'll be necessary before we can reopen the economy. He said, although the curve is flattening, the numbers need to come down and though testing is ramping up, it is still nowhere near where we need it to be. To lift all restrictions as the pressure to lift covert 19 restrictions mounts. A key stumbling block is the lack of reliable testing. Two kinds of tests are ramping up. One to see if someone has the virus. The other antibody testing shows of a person has been infected and recovered. Recent studies analyzing antibody testing, one in Los Angeles, the other incentive Clara County, so just hundreds of thousands more people could have already been infected than we knew. UCS D is about to launch its own antibody testing program and with us now is dr Ronald McGlone, director of UC San Diego center for advanced laboratory medicine. Dr. McMillan, thanks so much for joining us. Speaker 3: 02:01 Thank you for inviting me to join you today. Speaker 1: 02:03 So just start off by explaining to us the difference between the antibody test and the coronavirus diagnostic test. What exactly are you looking for with the antibody tests? Speaker 3: 02:13 So the antibody tests looks at proteins within the blood that are generated by the body's ho host immune system in response to the [inaudible] virus. So the, this is your body's response to a viral infection or current or past. Speaker 1: 02:31 So one test is whether you have the virus and the other one is whether your antibodies have launched to attack it as it were. Speaker 3: 02:38 That's correct. You start seeing antibodies appearing in the blood between five, seven days after you have been exposed. Speaker 1: 02:46 Does the presence of antibodies to the virus actually indicate that a, that a person is now immune? In other words, that they're safe to go about their business. Speaker 3: 02:53 That's not been proven yet for the cobot 19 virus, it's assumed because in many other infectious diseases, that is the case. But that has not been firmly established. Speaker 1: 03:07 So why, why then, if it doesn't protect us from re-infection, why have antibody tests become such a focal point in the response to the coronavirus pandemic? Speaker 3: 03:16 Remember a lot of people who have, um, an expose to the SARS Coby two or covert 19 virus are asymptomatic. So having the antibody test tells you if you've been recently exposed or if you were exposed sometime, you know, a month or two ago. That's particularly important. And as far as even looking at and monitoring our health healthcare workers, you know, in terms of being able to come back to work or you know, working with patients closely on a day to day basis. So we're, we're not only going out and looking at antibodies in the community, particularly one area that's very clearly, uh, a target that we're looking at in the counties looking at is uh, you know, going to skilled nursing facilities where uh, the prevalence of coven 19 virus is fairly high and seeing as far as the residents and the employees there to whether to what extent they've been exposed. Speaker 1: 04:14 So you're planning to start with healthcare workers in your testing program, is that right? Speaker 3: 04:19 We've been testing for about a week now. We are expanding to testing to our healthcare workers also to our patients. Speaker 1: 04:27 Let's talk for a minute about the results from the LA and Stanford studies. They've caused a bit of an uproar because in LA, for example, their study found that over 400,000 residents may have had the virus and then recovered. But at the same time, the, the County in LA had only reported 8,000 positive cases from coronavirus testing. So that's about 50 times more people infected than, than we thought. Does it suggest that the fatality rate, in other words, the number of people who die after they contract the virus could actually be much lower. Uh, but also that more people are walking around with the virus and could be infectious. Speaker 3: 05:03 Yeah. That, that's the whole point why as you start screening a larger portion of the population with either of the two common tests right now, whether it's, you're going to find that the, that, that denominator or the population that actually had it is much higher and probably that makes the, the numbers, the percentage of population, at least the percentage of population having fatalities much smaller. Speaker 1: 05:25 But I, I want to focus on this question about accuracy because we saw there was some testing that popped up in Carlsbad that the County shut down because it wasn't certified. Um, are you concerned that the rush to, to offer antibody testing could lead to bad data and actually do more harm than good? Speaker 3: 05:41 Oh, I definitely have concerns about the antibody tests that are available. Um, I looked yesterday, we're now up to 270 antibody tests being developed by commercial manufacturers worldwide. Probably introducing 40 to 50 new tests week. We carefully selected the test that we're doing, have done extensive validations on it to make sure it doesn't cross-react. There's always going to be some degree of false positives. It's frequently like on the IgM tests, those are notorious for infectious disease that they come up positive, whichever would probably rather have the false positives than the false negatives for those tests. But a lot of the tests that are out there, like the ones that you references for shutting them down, those facilities, they are, they're being mass produced. They've not been really tested or validated. There's only one that's actually gone through the F for the point of care type tests, a little cartridge based tests that went through the FDA emergency use authorization process. So unless these tests are fairly thoroughly validated and they're performance verified before they're put out in the community, uh, I would be very cautious. Like I said, we, we spent a lot of time working on the tests and the does the dye as I am test, uh, uh, we were fairly confident of its performance characteristics relative to these other tests that we've looked at as well. Uh, some of the other tests are just not good tests, Speaker 1: 07:14 but dr McClone, the, the food and drug administration has relaxed its policy in order to let private companies produce tests faster. Do you worry that this is the Fox guarding the chicken coop allowing the companies to certify their own tests? Speaker 3: 07:29 No, they still have to be, they still have to be reviewed, go through a process. They have to do a submission to the FDA before they can get their approval. So there's documentation that the companies have to provide, uh, to the FDA to get that EUA approval. So it's not just a slam dunk. Um, once, once they come back and put that good housekeeping seal of approval, the emergency youth authorization from the FDA, it's been fairly rigorously tested. That's why a lot of these kids, like I say, for the antibiotic tests, there's about 200. I looked yesterday, 270 I think in terms of the PCR tests worldwide, uh, there's probably about 150 of those on the market right now. So there's only a small proportion that actually get through this EUA process with the FDA. Speaker 1: 08:21 And what is your capacity for antibody testing at UC SD? Speaker 3: 08:25 Right now we have the ability to do up to 1200 a day. We have the ability to expand that if we need to. We're waiting to see how quickly the uptake is, both with our testing of our healthcare workers as well as in the community and the response from individuals in the community. And we've gotten a lot of inquiries in the last week since we started to offer this test. Speaker 1: 08:49 Do you think it's realistic to be aiming for a time when everyone or anyone can take an antibody test? [inaudible] Speaker 3: 08:55 I have my doubts. I know that's the goal. I mean everybody, I know the government and a lot of, um, health care experts are talking about testing the entire population, whether it's with the antibody test where even though the viral RNA test, the PCR tests, I just think that's a very daunting task you've seen in the last six to eight weeks. How difficult it is to be get testing to everybody. Uh, in opening up to everybody. There were a lot of great promises about obeying drive throughs and having, you know, the Walmarts and the CVS Walgreens do mass screening efforts. And I think it's been challenging to move that forward. And I think some of the challenges too for places like UC SD and over time, and I've heard the cross the country, uh, about the issues is just getting the supplies to do this testing, whether it's getting the kits. You know, initially we struggled getting even to do the PCR test, uh, sufficient allocations of the kids to do that. That's the reason we brought up six, six different PCR tests that you see as do to cover that. You know, some days we could get supplies from one vendor other times from another vendor. The other thing is collection supplies, the swabs, the viral transport media, exhausting personal protective equipment. That's the reason across the country. This has been challenging to get more testing out to the public. Speaker 1: 10:25 Do you have any words of warning for policymakers who are relying, who may rely on these test results to decide whether to reopen, uh, parts of the economy? Speaker 3: 10:35 Well, the only words of wisdom I have is that you have to recognize, and I think dr Deborah Berks made a statement about this over the weekend and one of the new shows that I was watching. There has to be a realization that with any type of testing, there is a certain degree of variability, false positives, false negatives there. They're not a hundred percent perfect. And that's what any diagnostic tests, you know, there's biological variability is analytical variability. So are you going to have a 100% solution? No. Can you rely upon many of these tests right now to provide some guidance? I do think the ones that are the mainstays that are being used in most laboratories are good and will help inform policymakers to make decisions about re opening the economy when I think you have to be cautious about all of these other kits that are being offered and you know, point of care, home testing kinds of kits. Those are the ones that I think you have to be a little bit more concerned about. Speaker 1: 11:38 So, so individuals taking the test need to be cautious about which tests they're using. I mean, do you see that the, how do you see these tests being most useful to, to let individuals know if they have contracted the virus and have strong antibodies or to help policymakers decide when it's safe to lift a quarantine? Speaker 3: 11:55 And, you know, I think the county's struggling to figure out how to deal with the, the, the, uh, antibody tests and capture that information. We've had some conversations there. I think we're still trying to figure out how policymakers and how government agencies are gonna use this information, uh, to reopen the economy. But I do think that the, these tests do provide information relative to individual patients who have that potentially been exposed, have had concerns. You know, three months ago I had this fever, vague symptoms and could I have had covet 19 or like I say with healthcare workers who have, who are in the trenches day in and day out, caregivers at skilled nursing facilities, uh, the residents who have been around other individuals who have been infected. I think these tests will, will provide good information as to how to manage those individuals and how to, how caregivers can interact safely and with the patients who have been exposed. I mean that's the approaches we're taking at SD as well. Trying to figure out how best to manage care and making sure that it's safe to go back and reopen and do elective surgeries and everybody has the appropriate protective equipment depending on, you know, what the status of that that patient is and if our employees have been exposed, at what point is it safe for them to come back to work? Speaker 4: 13:22 Well, document loan. Thanks so much for taking this time with us. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. I've been speaking with dr Ronald McGlone, director of UC San Diego center for advanced laboratory medicine Speaker 5: 13:39 [inaudible]. Speaker 4: 13:41 While antibody testing is being slowly expanded, officials are now saying that testing for the virus itself is being underused and San Diego CDC guidelines plus the initial scarcity of the tests made hospitals and doctors cautious about who could get the test for covert 19. Now the number of tests have increased along with testing analysis and San Diego health officials are reexamining. The criteria about who can get tested. Johnny me is KPBS health reporter Taran mento Taryn, welcome to the program. Thanks so much. Marine CDC guidelines really put a limit on who should get tested for covert 19. What are those guidelines? Speaker 6: 14:22 There are three tiers of priority. Number one is hospitalized patients with severe respiratory illness and healthcare facility workers with symptoms. And again, the symptoms of COBIT 19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath and that's the top tier. The second priority group, um, are people who had, are higher risk of complication, um, from a coven 19 infection. And those are people in longterm care facilities with symptoms. Patients who 65 years or older with symptoms, underlying conditions with symptoms and first responders with symptoms. And then at the bottom they know there's a health care facility, workers and first responders overall because they are at a higher risk, but also individuals with mild symptoms in communities that may have high numbers of coven 19 hospitalizations. So it's broken down into three different tiers of priority. Speaker 4: 15:13 But that's just a recommendation, right? It's just a guideline. Could it be expanded? Speaker 6: 15:18 Correct. It's a guideline to help hospitals and laboratories are physicians who are able to order these tests, kind of figure out how to best use early on very scarce testing abilities. And it does say in the guidance that still we defer to the expertise of clinicians and County health officials that really know their communities and their needs best. Speaker 4: 15:39 What are local hospitals saying about how tests and testing capacity are being used here in San Diego? Speaker 6: 15:45 So we found that some hospitals, you know, have the ability to test up to, you know, 915 maybe even 1600 tests a day, but we're really only using a couple of hundred like 300 and that's because, you know, early on they really needed to pay attention to the needs of the very sick people in their hospitals. And some hospitals only had the ability to run 96 tests early on. And so they were able to accelerate their testing at a much quicker rate than their inpatient needs grew. So now they're slowly starting to look at these other groups of patients that they can test that may not necessarily have symptoms. So sharp is looking at testing women who are coming in for laborers, people who are receiving cancer treatment and people who may be about to undergo a procedure or an operation. Speaker 4: 16:33 So the, some of the hospitals themselves are expanding the criteria of who gets tested. Can the County come up with its own testing guidelines? Speaker 6: 16:42 Right. So the County says that they do follow the CDC guidelines, but Wilma Wooten, dr Wilma wound, the County public health officer last week did acknowledge that you know, hospitals are not using all of the capacity. They have largely due to following guidelines for the very, very sick, which was intended to limit or to better utilize the very limited tests we ended beginning. So earlier today at as County board of supervisors meeting, BOMA Wooten said they have a task force that is looking at how to better utilize our regions testing capacity. And that would include expanding it to those who are infected with HIV testing, people who are in low income communities and also some people, members of certain racial groups including native native Americans. So they're, they're working on coming up with that plan to expand it to those more vulnerable populations. But we just don't know when that will be announced or implemented. So we're waiting on those details. Speaker 4: 17:37 Now. Last week, governor Newsome outlined to six indicators the state will look at in deciding whether or not to modify the statewide stay at home order, one of those concerns, testing capabilities. Do we know of San Diego County has adequate testing available to meet the governor's mandate. Speaker 6: 17:54 So during Wilma Wootens update to the kind of board of supervisors this morning, she said that this point they're in progress on, they're working on with the task force, how they can make sure that they meet the governor's criteria and the white house criteria to be able to have robust testing capabilities to test whoever needs it and whoever their close contacts are to make sure that we have a full picture of what's going on. So that is in progress and what the task force is working on. Speaker 4: 18:21 Now there have been areas where testing has been expanded to people without symptoms. Tell us what's happening at the convention center, Speaker 6: 18:28 right? So the convention center is housing hundreds of homeless individuals and bringing more as well in on the city of San Diego is bringing more in. And so the lucky duck foundation and family health centers of San Diego have teamed up to test all individuals at the convention center regardless of symptoms. And so far at last update yesterday, supervisor Nathan Fletcher said 116 tests of individuals in staff have been done, 113 of them came back, negative three were unclear of the results. And so those individuals are going to be retested. We'll expect another update this afternoon on that. Speaker 4: 19:03 And is testing also being expanded to first responders? Speaker 6: 19:06 So you CSD did say that because of their excess capacity they are working with other entities to take on their testing needs. And so one of those is testing first responders within the city of San Diego. Speaker 4: 19:21 Well one of the obvious questions is if we have more capacity to test and to analyze those tests than we've been using, why not expand testing to anyone who wants it in the County. Even though we do have access access Speaker 6: 19:34 capacity, you know, based on who we're testing right now it's still, you know, a couple hundred extra tests is still not enough to test anyone who wants it, you know, in a County our size. So it would really overwhelm the capability and even people who are saying we need to test more people, they are saying we need to be strategic about it because we're not just ready to test everyone. And another official or another source that I spoke to at sharp did say that, you know, because we do have a low prevalence of the virus, even though more than 2000 people have tested positive, it's still a low prevalence. And when you do widespread testing in an area where there is low prevalence, you run the risk of getting false positives or false results. And that's not something that we want to go telling people who are positive that they're negative or people who are negative that they're positive cause that could change their behaviors and cause them to maybe not take as many precautions to not contract the virus and that would further spread the illness. Speaker 4: 20:30 And there's also a financial consideration to some hospitals though. So the testing really does need to be expanded to some degree, doesn't it? Speaker 6: 20:38 Correct. I mean if you invest in rapidly expanding your testing capabilities, that's money that you're spending to be able to test more. But you're not utilizing those resources you invested in. That means you're not able to get back the money that you put into it. And so financially that's a big issue for hospitals and healthcare centers and anyone in the medical field right now because we do know that fewer people are going to the hospital because of stay at home orders, some positive signs there. Also Cubs have some current, some concerns. People might be a little too scared to go into a medical facility. Um, so that just creates more of a financial issue at a time when we're dealing with a widespread economic crisis. Speaker 1: 21:17 Is there any timeline as to when we might hear from this new County task force on testing? We get an [inaudible] Speaker 6: 21:23 daily update from the County. We'll have one again this afternoon. I suspect, I know I'll be asking questions about it. I suspect others will be as well as testing is a really big point of criteria that we need to look at in terms of reopening accounting. Speaker 1: 21:36 I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter Taren mento. We'll be looking forward to that answer. Thank you very much, Taryn. Thank you. Speaker 1: 21:49 One of the most controversial aspects of the quarantine has been the closure of beaches and parks. All the places that we go to unwind and exercise, but there's a Ray of sunshine in the news today is the city of San Diego reopened some neighborhood parks. KPBS reporter John Carroll has more on what's open and what's not. John, thanks for joining us. My pleasure, Alison. So now the County laid out the guidelines yesterday to re-open parks and the city of San Diego is taking the lead on this mayor. Faulkner says, quote, we have entered a new phase of this crisis. So tell us what exactly is open as of today. Speaker 7: 22:24 Well he said there's a lot of the end of the tunnel, so I guess the light is beginning to be turned on today. First of all, Alison, I want to tell you, I checked on the city's website and this was kind of astonishing. They list 588 different parks, parklets joint use, parks, NOLs, ghouls. I could go on. So you can check on that to see what exactly is open and what is not. But generally speaking, parks with more open vistas and wide, wide open spaces are open. Other things like a rec centers, uh, tennis courts, pools, those things are not open. Speaker 1: 23:06 What about Balboa park? Is it open? Speaker 7: 23:09 So Balboa park is the most interesting one of all. If you go onto that website and you look at the list, they, they sliced up Balboa park into 25 different areas. Generally speaking, most of the park is closed. They're just a handful of spaces that are open and that pretty much amounts to the East and West masons of the park, which are again the most open, you know, Vista type areas in the park. Uh, but of course parking lots, not only there, but at every park remain closed. So is encouraging people to not drive to a park but be able to walk to a park. However, I will tell you since I live near Balbo park, that on the Western boundary you have sixth Avenue and on the Eastern boundary you have park Boulevard. And on both of those streets, parking is allowed. So theoretically you could drive and park on the street Speaker 1: 24:05 and even the ones that are open, it's not just all back to normal, is it remind us of the guidelines. Speaker 7: 24:11 Right. So they're, what we've been hearing about that you must socially distance, they are strongly encouraging their words that everyone wear facial coverings. Um, they're saying by the way, that walking, jogging and bicycling are allowed. And by the way, they say that they will check, uh, you know, over the coming days to make sure that people are following this. And if they're not, they'll go back and close things again. Speaker 1: 24:37 So law enforcement is keeping an eye on us and we'll probably let us know if we overstep the bones. Uh, what about the, what about other cities? What about beaches, for example? Um, I understand that the mayor has spoken with the mayors of other coastal cities to coordinate that. What do we know about the timing on those? Speaker 7: 24:54 It's sort of a patchwork quilt. Um, you may be aware of the fact that the mayor, of course Denado, uh, called the county's orders, that abuse of power that threatened to erode the public's trust and compliance. Uh, that's one end of the spectrum. Uh, you have other mayors that are expressing interest in reopening their beaches and, uh, access to the water. Um, pretty much what it looks like it's going to come down to here is it's going to be under the Aegis of the County. So whatever the County finally says is what I think most of the mayors are saying, that they'll fill it here too. Speaker 1: 25:34 Well, this is certainly some good news, so thanks for filling us in there, John. Speaker 7: 25:38 You're welcome. Alison. Speaker 1: 25:40 That's gay PBS reporter John Carroll Speaker 5: 25:46 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 25:47 many doctors, nurses, police officers and other essential workers still need childcare. So San Diego County has allowed daycare providers to stay open only for those workers. But KPBS investigative reporter Claire triglyceride found the County isn't always enforcing these rules and some essential workers are on their own. Speaker 8: 26:11 Like many parents of young children, Julio Najera and Sean star are trying to figure out how to work from home while caring for their four year old son. He was in daycare, but he was kicked out because Sean star is a nurse. Speaker 9: 26:26 Well, once they found out that I'd be taking care of COBIT positive because the hospital has, most nurses are right now. Um, they asked us to keep our son home the entire month of April. Speaker 8: 26:41 This isn't how it's supposed work. San Diego County in its stay at home order allows for daycares to only stay open to care for children of essential workers. No one else in this case, the opposite happened. Star's son couldn't go, but the daycare was still open for non-essential workers according to the couple start, didn't want to provide the name of their daycare. Speaker 9: 27:05 The only reason they were allowed to stay up was to provide care for workers. And yet they were discriminating against probably one of the only essential workers that were still using their services, but standing up for all the other case. Oh, they were doing the exact opposite of what they were supposed to be doing. Speaker 8: 27:26 We're actually required to only accept our children from except the essential worker and families. Holly Webber owns and runs magic hours preschool in Mira Mesa and she is following the County rules. Children of nonessential workers are no longer allowed at her daycare though she says no one is checking up on her. They're not requiring that we regulate that or verify it in any way. We just happened to know our families and what they do for a living. Weber says it's very difficult to stay open right now, but it's important to her. That is what we do. We are a family that takes care of families and we take care of those children because their parents need us to help them with that. It would be much more difficult to close the doors and discontinue the only option that parents may have. The dilemma is obvious. Essential workers, like doctors, nurses, police officers and grocery store clerks need someone to care for their young kids. But that means the daycares that serve these families could be hotbeds for spreading the Corona virus. So says Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rady children's hospital. Speaker 10: 28:47 It's very hard to control young children and keep them from, keep them socially spaced apart. Uh, for sure. Uh, it's impractical for most very young children to be wearing masks the way the rest of us are. It's very hard to teach them and get them to wash their hands. All of the things that could be done to minimize infection are just extra challenging. Speaker 8: 29:10 He says the large majority of children aren't getting sick from coven 19, but they can still spread the disease. Speaker 10: 29:18 Some people have no symptoms at a time when they're contagious for this infection. And, and children may be do that even more than adults do. So you can have the best of intentions and not planning not to send your child to the daycare when they're sick, but by the time they're sick, it may be too late. They've already been contagious at the daycare one or two or three days before they got sick. And, and then of course all the other children at that daycare or have the potential to get sick and then they go home and then it's a cascade from family member to family member. Speaker 8: 29:53 Ideally Dr. Sawyer says each family of an essential worker would have individual child care at home, but he knows that's not an option. Speaker 9: 30:03 Our daycare, which is an in home daycare, um, is still open. Speaker 8: 30:06 One essential worker whose two year old daughter is still in daycare is San Diego city Councilman Chris Cate. Speaker 9: 30:13 My wife's watching our son while I do these calls or you know, like last week we had a, was it like an NY, Speaker 8: 30:22 he knows how important childcare is. So he's working to help essential workers find care for their kids and is asking San Diego County to provide free daycare for essential workers. Speaker 9: 30:33 We don't want them and their mindset to be not on fighting the pandemic and treating patients and worrying about childcare or who's a tick out for the kids. Or maybe they can't go because they have to take care of their kids. Speaker 8: 30:47 A recent survey found there are 12,000 hospital workers with young children and more than 1000 of them are single parents. Claire Trigere, sir KPBS news, Speaker 4: 31:00 a spokeswoman for San Diego County says police not County officials should be enforcing daycares. Speaker 11: 31:09 [inaudible] Speaker 4: 31:12 the coven 19 pandemic is undoubtedly one of the most important and most covered news stories of our time, but it also may be killing local journalism, although interest in news updates, press conferences and reporting on the viruses way up. Advertising revenue that fuels newspapers, magazines and broadcasting is way down. Businesses along with entertainment and sports. Events that are shutdown are not spending their precious resources on ads and the consequences are hurting big and small news organizations across the nation and here in San Diego. Johnny May, our Matt hall editorial and opinion director for the San Diego union Tribune and Matt, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me, Maureen. Also joining us is Randy DOE Tinga. He is free, a freelance contributor to the voice of San Diego and Randy, welcome. It's great to be here. Matt, it's not as if print journalism was having no problems before the pandemic, but where the major newspapers such as the UT coming up with strategies to change with changing times? Speaker 12: 32:17 Yeah, I mean I think we, we look, the tumbled in the industry is nothing new. It's been going on for a decade. There are far fewer journalists in there where I think the newsrooms in America had been cut in half since the great recession in 2008. But this clearly has changed, uh, everything. Basically we're, we're, we're flying a crashing airplane, uh, and, and, and trying to, the landed into a field here. Speaker 4: 32:39 How has the paper been affected by the covert 19 pandemic? Speaker 12: 32:42 The airplane hasn't crashed, so that's good. We're actually doing really well. I mean, there's no question that, uh, like many newspapers and like many news outlets are advertising, our print advertising is, is really falling, but our readership is higher than it's ever been. We've already hit our digital subscription goals for the calendar year. And that's when you talk about strategies that we've been adopting to, uh, kind of survive in this dangerous time of the last few years. Uh, that's the focus is digital subscriptions. We've realized that like many places, kind of like the KPBS model, like the voice of San Diego model, that members, supporters getting people to read newspapers because they want to feel like they're part of the community. That's really been the strategy going forward. And so those numbers are, are up. And I think that's reassuring. People want to know what's happening. They want to have a trusted news source at a difficult, dangerous time like this where they don't know. You know what it's like in the outdoor world. We're all supposed to be staying at home and most people are, except for essential workers and some protesters with a, with a bone to pick. Speaker 4: 33:44 Now we heard about buyouts and layoffs at the UT and add the LA times where they already planned. Speaker 12: 33:51 Yeah, though. So to be clear, we haven't had any layoffs. The buyouts were, uh, in the works before this. So the buyouts have nothing to do with, uh, the coronavirus crisis. What has happened at both the LA times and the San Diego union Tribune as a result of, uh, the downturn in the economy because of the state home orders is that there have been executives, senior executives who have taken pay cuts. There have been people on the business side who have taking furloughs and then all employees at the UT have lost their 401k match through the year. So those are the three steps, uh, affecting staff at this point that our institution has implemented. And, you know, we'll see what happens going forward. As you pointed out at the outset, you know, a lot of advertising revenue for newspapers has to do with events, with sports, with beer festivals, with San Diego is amazing theater. I mean, there's all of these things that we are used to, uh, and used to doing that aren't happening now. And so those organizations are struggling and we are kind of seeing the effect of that. Speaker 4: 34:57 Now, Randy, in your article in voice of San Diego about the hit that news outlets are taking you right about the smaller alternative weeklies in San Diego, like the reader and the San Diego city beat. How are they doing? Speaker 13: 35:10 There really have been hit the worst, uh, of all the local media outlets and that's because they rely so much on entertainment. Uh, advertising. The reader and city beat are full of, of ads for concerts and for arts events and we just aren't having any concerts or arts events at all. And uh, San Diego city beat, uh, has actually disappeared. It's not being at the moment there what we hear, we're waiting until this is all over. And then the reader has lost about half of its pages at least compared to just a few weeks ago before all of this. And the last time I checked with them, they had cut the pay of their staff in half and they were asking readers for donations. And the only reason that the reader is still around right now is because they have quite a lot of, uh, advertising from marijuana dispensaries. And if you read the weekly print edition of the breeder, you'll see that those ants are basically whether it's keeping it afloat. Speaker 4: 36:14 And your article on her, Andy also noted the decline in local magazines. So how has the decline in advertising affected San Diego magazine and San Diego home and garden, Speaker 13: 36:25 they, uh, have really been devastated. And also San Diego magazine, which has an upscale audience, their pages are full of ads for plastic surgery and spas and divorce lawyer is and things like that. And uh, and those, a lot of those businesses are not in business right now. So San Diego magazine has actually gone on hiatus. They planned that return. They have basically, uh, laid off their staff and aren't publishing. And there's another magazine called San Diego home and garden that's been around for decades. And they also serve an upscale audience and they have shut down entirely and it's not clear if they'll be able to come back at all. Speaker 4: 37:06 So it's not clear if city beat or San Diego magazine or San Diego home and garden are going to resume even after the state reopens and the city reopens, is that what you're saying? Speaker 13: 37:17 Well, I think that depends on each one. San Diego magazine seems definite to return a city beats seems a little inferior to me there they've been undergoing a lot of transition. They used to be a respected paper in terms of journalism and did a lot of investigative journalism just a few years ago. And now they've become basically an entertainment, a weekly paper. So I'm saying their survival is a, is a little more precarious. And then I, San Diego home and garden may never return. The owner has said that he's, he doesn't know how they'll return or if they'll return. So I think San Diego magazine will come back if the economy returns. Uh, and then the other two city beat and Senegal home and garden are quite a lot more iffy. And I think the reader will return once we get events and entertainment back online. Speaker 4: 38:09 Now, Matt, there are some cities that now have no newspapers at all. What's the impact of that kind of loss on a region? Speaker 12: 38:17 I mean, it's huge. It's devastating. Uh, news deserts are nothing new. There are big pockets of the country, uh, that don't have kind of a, a good, uh, newspaper serving them or a new site serving them. But I think that, uh, you're starting to see, I just saw some, uh, news alerts today that says, um, there are smaller, uh, web outlets that are going to open, that are going to focus, you know, if it's just five people, there's one in Colorado I saw that's going to start using some money from Google. Uh, and open would just five journalists trying to do local news. I mean, local news is that's how you find out what's happening in your community, whether it's during a pandemic or whether it's at a planning meeting. Uh, and so I think that there's a, uh, a need for that. But I think the New York times said just last week that 33,000 journalists have been either laid off furloughed or had their pay cut since the start of the pandemic. So that's just in what, five or six weeks. I mean, that's just devastating. Speaker 4: 39:16 Now, Randy, when it comes to broadcasting, you spoke with KPBS general manager, Tom Carlo, about the contradiction that many news outlets are seeing this increase in audience, but a decrease in revenue. Can tell us about that. Speaker 13: 39:31 Yeah. He said that a web traffic is up more than 300%. That means people who are going to the Cape PBS PBS website to read news coverage and KPBS now provides a local news coverage seven days a week. And at the same time they're seeing a reduction in underwriting and membership support. And so is NPR news came out from NPR this week. That being are also experiencing our shortfall and are reducing the pay of their executives. So Tom Carlo, the general manager can, can be as told me that they may be able to get some money from the federal pandemic bailout package, which has funds for public broadcasting. But there are challenges, you know, he's, he said, uh, uh, they have postponed I think at least two or three pledge drives because of the pandemic coverage and earlier because of the impeachment and the impeachment trial coverage. Speaker 4: 40:32 What about local, commercial TV news, Randy? Speaker 13: 40:35 They are also a struggling, uh, and TV news across the board is, uh, they're getting fewer commercials from local advertisers because a lot of local advertisers aren't in business right now. And, and I did hear that Kay USI has had the cut some positions and uh, so the, and also you look at somebody like, uh, NBC seven San Diego this summer, they would have had a huge bounty from the summer Olympics, which will be well, which was supposed to be aired by NBC and they won't be able to get that benefit to summer. Speaker 4: 41:11 Randy, how has voice of San Diego doing? Speaker 13: 41:14 Yeah, they seem to be doing pretty well. We, uh, we just had a pledge drive that was successful and we're like KPBS that we rely on on donors and it seems that that we are doing okay, but also we're a, you know, a fairly small operation compared to a lot of the media in town, so that, uh, that may may make it a little easier for us to survive this. Speaker 4: 41:38 So Matt, do you see that as the future donors and subscriptions for, uh, journalism instead of just selling newspapers? Speaker 12: 41:47 I think it's one future. I think that print isn't going to be around for very much longer, whether that's years or a decade. Who knows? I mean, um, you're starting to see some papers now. That's one of the cost cutting measures that they've undertaken. The Tampa Bay times, which is a really well known, well established newspaper, uh, cut back to two days a week. Um, my hometown paper, the Gloucester daily times and Massachusetts scaled back to five days a week. So they are no longer going to deliver, uh, on two days. Uh, that's happening now. That's a real way to save money. Obviously. Uh, our, our print readers love the paper. They love getting it in the morning. We've gotten a bunch of letters from people saying that in these topsy turvy upside down times that just going out to their driveway to pick up the paper every morning gives them a sense of normalcy. Speaker 12: 42:33 So that's not going to go away for us anytime soon. But I think as an industry, those are some real discussions they're going to take place and within a decade if not much sooner, it's, it's going to look totally different. The ease with which you can deliver news digitally, um, is something that is just a way forward for the industry. Now, whether the solution is just electronic, uh, advertising or subscriptions, that's a whole other story because so much of the revenue for the industry is tied up in print advertising as we all know. And so I think we have to figure out what the future looks like. But one future you can clearly envision that digital subscriptions, uh, is a way forward. Speaker 4: 43:13 Well, I really appreciate both of you talking to us about this. I've been speaking with Matt hall, with the San Diego union Tribune and Randy [inaudible] with the voice of San Diego. Thank you. Speaker 13: 43:23 Thank you. Thank you.

Ways To Subscribe
UC San Diego is launching an antibody testing program to find out who may have been infected, without experiencing any symptoms, and recovered from COVID-19. Also, testing abilities for the coronavirus in San Diego have grown more quickly than needs and some hospitals are relaxing their criteria to test more people. Plus, the city of San Diego is reopening some parks for passive use. We’ll break down what that means. And, daycare centers are supposed to be open for essential workers, such as doctors and nurses, but some of those workers say they are being denied services because of their potential exposure to the coronavirus. Finally, as more people are turning to their local news outlets for the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic, advertising revenues are plummeting, threatening the viability of local journalism.