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US Hits Record COVID-19 Hospitalizations Amid Virus Surge

 November 11, 2020 at 10:46 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Hospitals are relying on the purple tier to prevent a COVID spike in San Diego. Speaker 2: 00:05 So when we have exponential spread in the community, what we're really worried about is that we can be overwhelmed in the future. Speaker 1: 00:11 I am Alison st. John was Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS midday edition San Diego mayor elect Todd Gloria says he's ready to tackle tough problems ahead. Speaker 3: 00:29 I'm ready to dive right in and start doing the work that's necessary to get the virus under control. Get our economy back on track and address the long-term challenges. Speaker 1: 00:39 In honor of veteran's day, we'll hear from a 95 year old vet who fought racism at home long after returning from world war two, and the city of San Diego may postpone a decision on a new multi-year energy franchise until the new mayor and council is seated. That's ahead. On Monday edition Speaker 1: 01:01 News that San Diego County is falling back into the restrictive purple tier of COVID-19 precautions affects every household in the region. As we brace for another onslaught of the virus, how each one of us behaves in coming days will make a difference to whether we prevent another spike in cases here to help us understand what's happening, what's at stake. And what we can do about it is dr. Christian Ramos, the assistant medical director with family health centers and adjunct assistant professor at San Diego state university's school of public health. He specializes in infectious diseases, dr. Ramos, thanks for joining Speaker 2: 01:35 Us. Thank you for having me. So Speaker 1: 01:38 Another news that we're falling back into the purple tier is so discouraging, especially for businesses struggling to survive. Um, we know that the hospitals in San Diego are at about 71% capacity, according to the County, as a member of the healthcare community here, how concerned are you that hospitals could be overwhelmed or will be able to handle what happens this fall? Speaker 2: 02:00 Yeah, over the short term, I think our hospitals are okay, but that's really not what we're worried about right now. Our capacity is fine, but this is a disease that really, what we see happening is because of what we do today. And it manifests itself in two to three weeks. So when we have exponential spread in the community, what we're really worried about is that we can be overwhelmed in the future. And there are many States I just counted from my sources, 14 States in the country where the ICU capacity is at above 80% right now, and three States where it's above 90%. And we just really do not want to get there. And when we look at our curves, they're sort of headed in the wrong direction. Speaker 1: 02:39 Oh, you know, what is your understanding of why San Diego's COVID infection rates increased and pushed us back into the state's most restrictive too? Speaker 2: 02:47 Yeah. Yeah. Looking at all the numbers. I don't think that there's a single reason. I think we all expect that as the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors, then naturally there's going to be more transmission. I'd like to think. Maybe there's a little bit of complacency among people. Um, just doing the basic things that we know work like wearing masks as much as possible, limiting gatherings of a number of different people and maybe sort of loosening their bubbles that they've created to try to stay isolated. Um, so maybe that's happening a little bit, but I think a lot of it has to do with the weather. Speaker 1: 03:20 Do you think that San Diegans are taking this statistic seriously enough? I mean, if you don't know anyone who's contracted the virus, other numbers getting through to people, Speaker 2: 03:31 Look, it's, it's just mind numbing all of the information coming out and what are the numbers all really mean? But the way human beings make decisions have to do with our own experience. Um, so my answer to your question is that people that have not seen this up close, maybe still not be very afraid of it. And those like myself who have seen people suffer and die from it, uh, know that this is something very serious that nobody should want to get no matter what your age is, Speaker 1: 03:55 A new study published by the journal nature this week model, the highest risk areas for the coronavirus to spread and found that gyms, restaurants, and coffee shops are among the riskiest. Do you think that our public officials are doing a good enough job of designing restrictions specific enough to get a handle on the virus? Could there be more nuanced, nuanced policies perhaps, or do we need these kinds of sledgehammer approaches? Speaker 2: 04:21 Well, let me first review the study. You mentioned this is a, uh, study of 98 million people in 10 us cities using their cell phones to sort of track their locations. And the modeling that was done in this study really confirms other data that we already have, which is very, very clearly, restaurants are the highest risk location for transmitting the virus. And that's really not a big surprise because in order to eat or drink, you have to remove the mask from your face and especially restaurants or bars or coffee shops that are indoors are going to have a higher concentration of people. So, absolutely no surprise. In fact, it's right in line with a CDC study that was published in July, showing restaurants, bars, coffee shops, gyms, and religious gatherings were really the highest risk locations. And I think our County has done a really good job following the data and using the data to tell us where the most transmissions are occurring in our location. Speaker 2: 05:16 They've actually started to publish the contact tracing data. Uh, and we can see that a 10% of infections that are happening in our County are in bars and restaurants. Another 8% are happening in retail environments and 34% or so are happening in the workplace. So people are being infected at work. So I think, uh, you know, the sledgehammer, I'm glad you brought that word up. We do not want to have to use a sledgehammer. We want more nuanced decisions, uh, to allow some parts of our economy to continue to be open, uh, but really take the highest risk activities out and remove those. Speaker 1: 05:48 Now the news of an effective vaccine coming is encouraging, but, but right now what's your message to San Diego is about what we need to do to make it till the vaccine is actually available to us. Speaker 2: 06:00 Yeah, we're so used to seeing the news today and expecting things to happen tomorrow. But the good news that we saw about the vaccine, uh, results was very preliminary. Um, it's going to be really months, I'd say maybe six months before a vaccine is really available to the general population. We may see in the next month or two and emergency use authorization. Uh, but it's going to be just really a trickle out to the highest priority populations at first. And so it will be next year, uh, for certain before this is widely available. And so in the meantime, we can't become complacent. We still need to do the basic things that we know work very, very well. And the evidence just keeps piling up about these basic public health measures, such as masking and distancing and avoiding large, large crowds. Uh, one other thing I would add is that testing is really important. It's been deemphasized recently, but, uh, people should really find a way to get tested in their own communities. And we now have more ways than ever to be tested. That should be convenient. Speaker 1: 06:57 Finally, dr. Raymond's when talking about Thanksgiving, for example, everyone I know is struggling about how to deal with it. What's your family doing? Speaker 2: 07:05 Yeah, well, I just mentioned the, uh, the testing. I think it is a very good idea. If you're going to be bringing separate households together to ratchet up your quarantined activities for a couple of weeks before, and then to ensure that everyone has access to a test before they do it, I can tell you my own family. We've decided really not to bring households together from, from different parts of the country, uh, just for a safety reason. And one last thing I'll say I forgot to mention in response to your last question is what can people do? I think it's a good idea to support your local businesses that are really struggling to stay open. You know, I've been trying to go more and more to local restaurants that are doing a safe, um, COVID safe outside dining or, or take out. And then finally, if you are just thinking, well, what can I do? I'm not a healthcare worker. I'm not in public health. We really want to get to a point where vaccines are available and approved. Uh, and the one thing that we really need more of is more participation in local vaccine clinical trial efforts. And there's a website called COVID vaccine that will allow people to enroll in one of our two vaccine trials that are currently available in San Diego. Speaker 1: 08:14 We've been speaking with dr. Christian Ramers, who is with family health centers and who specializes in infectious diseases. Dr. Ramers thank you so much. Speaker 2: 08:24 Thank you for having me, Speaker 4: 08:28 Perhaps the kindest word to describe the situation. The city of San Diego faces in the next few months and years is challenging a still raging pandemic and economy disrupted by COVID the complex issues of police reform and racial justice. That of course, on top of the long-term issues of housing and homelessness, sustainable development and climate change, and those are the issues now facing San Diego's mayor elect Todd Gloria. If he likes a challenge, he found one joining me is mayor elect Todd, Gloria, and welcome. And congratulations. Thank you so much, Maureen, how do you view the multiple problems facing San Diego? It all seems pretty daunting. Speaker 5: 09:11 It does, uh, but I've never been afraid of hard work. In fact, I find that I thrive in those kinds of situations and I'm ready to dive right in and start doing the work that's necessary to get the virus under control, get our economy back on track and address the long-term challenges that you just mentioned specifically, the challenges of homelessness and housing affordability. Uh, you know, I'd prefer an easier set of, uh, things are too specific to do list, but this is the hand that we've been dealt. And I mean, just to get to work, to try and address all of them. Speaker 4: 09:39 Well, you mentioned the virus, the County is now listed in the purple tier. That's the most restrictive of the state's COVID tears. Do you think the city can do more to try to stop the spread of this virus? Speaker 5: 09:50 Well, I think we have no choice, but to do so. Um, you know, the longer we allow this to spread in our community, the more detrimental it's going to be, not just to the health of our community, the mortality in our community, but to the businesses that are struggling and really cannot endure it and whipsaw back and forth between open and closed. Uh, what I think we have to do is make sure that we're providing clear rules of the road that we're educating our public about the need to follow the public health order, uh, and that we're advocating in Sacramento and Washington DC for the relief that is necessary, not just for the city's finances, but for the finances of individuals, San Diego, families, and local neighborhood businesses that are struggling. So, uh, I don't think we have any other choice than to engage heavily in this concern and hope that we can get a collective response, uh, from every San Diego to do their part, to curtail the virus, get us back up to where we were prior to the pandemic. Speaker 4: 10:43 Some people have been urging more enforcement of people wearing masks and so forth. Do you see, and the city doing anything like that, Speaker 5: 10:52 I believe that people should be doing that on their own. Uh, but I, you know, I was a history major at the university of San Diego, Maureen, and I think you've probably seen some of the accounts from the 1918 pandemic, uh, where it did take enforcement in order to get the compliance that ultimately helped us to defeat that pandemic. Um, while I recognize that we're in a national environment where we're reconsidering, uh, the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement, I'd hope that we could find a way to make sure that San Diegans who by and large are compliant voluntarily, uh, that we can get more compliance, uh, in order to get to the end goal that I think everyone agrees with, which is defeating this virus and getting back to normal. The other thing I would, I guess I would say on with regard to, uh, enforcement, is recognizing that it's a very dangerous thing. If we selectively choose which laws we want to follow and which ones we do not, and it's always been my belief that if you don't like allow, you should change it, um, but not ignore it. And so I'm hopeful that we get the kind of, that is necessary if for no other reason that it's a central bedrock of our democracy. That even when we disagree with the laws, we choose to follow them because that's what we have is as a social contract amongst of Speaker 4: 12:04 During the summer mayor Faulkner and city leaders allowed fast-tracked approval of outdoor operations for many businesses. Is there anything else the city can do to help businesses that are now closed? Again? Speaker 5: 12:16 I believe we can. And I wanted to start by saying that I'm very supportive of outdoor dining to go cocktails, the kinds of things I've worked on as a state assembly member to make sure that, uh, the state was cutting as much red tape as possible. Uh, what I've heard in terms of feedback is that restaurants have found those sorts of accommodations as being determinative in terms of their ability to stay open and employee San Diego wins. I think to your question Marine, what the city must now do is make sure that our development services department is as customer service oriented as possible. Uh, development services is the department. Most businesses have to interface with, to get a permit or approval to do certain things with their business and, and the buildings they operate out of. Um, if that agency is not customer service or if it doesn't provide certainty of process, if it isn't quick in its timeliness of its processing, these are the things that could be the difference between a business staying in business and going out of business. And so I want to lead an effort that would change the, uh, the culture in that agency, recognizing that we can, by the, by our Swift work, uh, make sure that more people, uh, keep their doors open and employ more San Diego wins. Uh, and that's more of a long-term commitment, but it's one that we must prioritize in order to help more businesses survive this pandemic. Speaker 4: 13:32 What support are you expecting from Sacramento and the new administration in Washington to help San Diego get out of its COVID related budget crisis? Speaker 5: 13:41 So I believe as a state legislator, that there are things that our state government can do to be helpful, but their challenges are very similar to the cities and where both entities are experiencing or forecasting significant budget deficits. My eye is really on the Biden and Harris administration, who clearly would be, I think, much more interested in passing federal level stimulus and relief efforts akin to what happened at the beginning of this year with the federal cares act. I believe that that would provide funding, not just for the County, the city and our schools, uh, but also for unemployed San Diego for small businesses that are struggling. And that's why I'm really hopeful that this new administration will choose to prioritize a federal level relief. Recognizing that only the federal government can run the kinds of deficits that the city and the state are prohibited from running, but are necessary in this time of severe economic downturn, as well as a global pandemic. I think additional federal leaf is necessary and extremely hopeful. The new president and vice president will be able to do that. Speaker 4: 14:42 Okay, you supported measure a on this year's ballot, but it didn't get enough votes. That was the proposal for the city to buy bonds, to fund affordable housing, the homeless. So what are the city's options now? Speaker 5: 14:54 Well, we can continue with our strategy, which has built thousands of low-income units. It's just not enough for what we have, uh, in terms of need in our community. Uh, what I will foresee is that the city will continue on its path and passing regulatory relief at the local level, similar to what the council did just a few days ago with the passage of its complete communities ordinance, uh, that provides a new, uh, suite of tools, uh, for the community to use, to actually build more low, very low and moderate income housing in our community. Uh, when we take those kinds of, of policies and match them with state level resources, I'm thinking specifically of recently approved, uh, housing bonds at the state level, as well as funding that comes from things like our cap and trade program at the state level. I think that we can be in a better position to compete and hopefully successfully receive state level funding, and then naturally continue to hope for some relief at the federal level. Um, ultimately, you know, San Diego voters, uh, did overwhelmingly support measure a as you know, it requires a two thirds vote in which we fell short of. Um, but what I see in those election results is a hunger on behalf of San Diego for a true action, aggressive action when it comes to housing affordability. And I intend to be a mayor that delivers upon that, Speaker 4: 16:10 No, after the racial justice demonstrations in San Diego and across the nation last summer, there were calls for the city to shift some funds from San Diego police to more social services. Now that did not happen. What's going to be your stand on that. Speaker 5: 16:26 Well, Marina, I think the fact of the matter is what we're coming up against is a, a budget site is a cycle that is going to really put every department in a defensive position when it comes to funding. Uh, the size of the deficits that are being projected really means that no city agency is going to be left untouched. What my commitment is is to make sure that we minimize the neighborhood level impacts of, of any of those kinds of reductions and recognizing that neighborhoods are hurting, uh, and that we as a city have to support them with regard to the future of our police department. I'd like to set a goal of making San Diego, a national leader when it comes to policing in the 21st century, we were a leader, uh, not that long ago when it came to community oriented policing, and we've fallen away from that. Speaker 5: 17:10 What I'd like to get us back there again, recognizing that if we can prevent a Minneapolis or Louisville kind of situation here in San Diego, uh, that we will be far better for it. Um, I have committed to making sure that we fully and faithfully implement measured beat, which the voters of San Diego, uh, just approved, uh, to create an independent police review board, uh, that is not an insignificant commitment because that review board will cost additional dollars. But again, I believe those are dollars well spent if it helps us to prevent the kinds of trauma and crisis that we've seen in other American cities. And lastly, Marine, I think that as we work with our, uh, the city's new office of race equity, we will identify areas for improvement, not just in policing, but in housing, in economic development, in education, where we as a state San Diego can become more inclusive and more equitable. Uh, and I believe that some of those recommendations will include transitioning responsibilities that are currently given to law enforcement, that the community and law enforcement agree are not no longer appropriate and give those to train professionals, uh, that would be more appropriate. I'm thinking specifically of homeless outreach, mental health response, uh, calls, uh, as well as truancy sweeps, uh, with our children Speaker 1: 18:24 And Merillat Gloria. When you take office in December, what's your first project. Speaker 5: 18:30 Uh, my first priority is to set up the best team I possibly can set up to help get us through this difficult time and get us back to a position of prosperity and growth. Um, that is maybe not the sexiest answer, uh, that you or your listeners want to hear, but in a time like this, um, we have to have a team of pros, uh, that will help us protect our neighborhoods. Well-served the citizens of this city and get us back on track. Um, the, because of the number of departures from the current administration, there are a number of key vacancies that need to be filled. And I hope to be able to do that relatively swiftly in order to make sure this vision, uh, that San Diego voters have now endorsed through their votes is something that we can actually implement. And I recognize that this is at a time when San Diego is, are really counting on their city government to deliver on their behalf. And I hope to be able to deliver upon that as quickly as I possibly can. Speaker 1: 19:19 I've been speaking with San Diego mayor elect Todd, Gloria. Thank you so much. Thank you, Maureen. You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Alison st. John with Maureen Cavenaugh in honor of veteran's day. We'll now hear from a 95 year old former service member. He fought world war II in the Pacific theater and fought racism back at home from Los Angeles. Robert Corova did this profile of Luther Hendricks for the American Homefront project on December 7th, 1941, Japan like its infamous as partners first, then declared war afterwards. Speaker 6: 19:59 Luther Hendricks was just a teenager. When the attack on Pearl Harbor happened, he says he was determined to fight to save his country from the enemy was president Roosevelt declared war. I went down the next day to join up. I was told that they didn't take colors in the Marines, but as the war effort ramped up, the armed services began following an order from president Franklin D Roosevelt to open all branches of the us armed forces to African-Americans hundreds of black enlistees were accepted into the Marine Corps though. They were segregated from white troops. We weren't allowed to go and train with the white Marines, which was just across the caplet June. We weren't allowed to go over there unless we had a flight. All white enlistees were trained at camp Lazoon North Carolina, black men went through grueling training at nearby Monfred point. Their servicemen like Hendricks endured substandard conditions and racism where you would always talk though, is boy people. Speaker 6: 21:01 You people never man. Oh, a person, you know, but Hendricks says he and his fellow Marines were not deterred of workers. The only question I know, but I was proud of it. The segregation part was hard, but I paid it no mind because back in them days, everybody was gung ho to defeat the enemy and come back and get to your regular life between 1942 and 1949, 20,000 black Marines trained at Monfred point. The Monfred point Marines as they're known would go on to be celebrated in military history. Like the fame, Tuskegee airmen. They too were trailblazers after training Hendrix saw a long tour in the Pacific and Okinawa, but Hendrick says while he was happy to return home after the war, there was still work to be done. When he got back, we fought segregation fight over there and we fought segregation. When we got back home over here, Hendricks says he would have liked to continue his military career when he returned from war, but was met with closed doors. Yet again, Hendricks would go on to work as an electrician's assistant and has lived in Vallejo, California ever since coming back from war more than six decades later, Hendricks and his fellow Montfort point Marines were awarded the congressional gold medal. Here's California, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Speaking of the ceremony in 2012, Speaker 1: 22:21 The time of these Marines and the age of any quality breaking the color barrier in the Marine Corps, took nothing less than perseverance patriotism and courage of extraordinary purpose. Speaker 6: 22:33 That was a great day for his part. Hendrick says he was never expecting to be awarded. One of the nation's highest honors, especially since he and his fellow black Marines were treated unequally by the service. We've come a long ways. And I have people in service now, like when I went back to Washington and said, thank you for paving the way, because I wouldn't be where I am without you. And that, that makes you feel good. You feel like it was all worth it, but as a country, we're still got a ways to go. We see changes coming now, but it's slow. These days. Hendricks says he enjoys traveling as much as possible seeing States across the U S before the pandemic anyway, and he's proud of his grandkids, great grandkids and great, great grandkids. This veterans day Hendricks says he'd like Americans to remember the determination of the Monfred point, Marines and others. During world war II, they deserve to be honored. He says, I'm Robert Grover. Speaker 1: 23:33 This story was produced by the American Homefront project of public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting. Speaker 4: 23:46 When the pandemic first closed down San Diego County schools, it meant school buses were left idle for months, but as districts have gradually resumed in person instruction, transportation departments had to figure out how to keep their buses, virus free KPBS education reporter Joe Hong visited one district to learn how it's taken a cleanliness to a whole new level. Speaker 7: 24:10 I tell a unified school districts, transportation center, 152 school buses are parked in long rows before the pandemic arrived in March. These buses transported more than 4,000 students a day, but the district's bus routes came to a halt when campus is closed. Now, months later, they're finally rubbing up their engines. Since the district reopened its elementary schools in mid-October buses have been taking about 500 students to and from school. Kim Benson is a bus driver with the district. She said she had some concerns at first about how the kids would react to the new rules, Speaker 8: 24:44 Where they going to be able to keep a face mask on. Are they going to be able to social distance themselves? You know, um, how they were just going to react to a screening them inside the mornings and everything. So I drive special needs and it can be a little bit more trying for them than other kids. Speaker 7: 25:01 But so far Benson has felt completely saved during our routes. Students are pre-screened with temperature and symptom checks before boarding, and they're doing a good job of following the rules. She says it also helps that the department is being extra careful with hygiene. Speaker 8: 25:15 So what we do is after each best disembark, every child, disembarks the bus and we come up, we just go up and we have to make sure that every seat is just sprayed down. Okay? And this has to sit on here for five minutes. Speaker 7: 25:35 In addition to drivers, disinfecting surfaces, after each trip, buses get a deep cleaning every 24 hours with a device that looks like it came out of Ghostbusters. Tyler bouquet is the vehicle maintenance coordinator at Poway unified. Speaker 9: 25:48 This machine puts out a Falk. And so it's going to cover every knee corner under the seat, anywhere in the bus is going to be covered in disinfected places. You normally wouldn't be able to reach by hand, or you may miss in the process, Speaker 7: 26:00 He's wearing a backpack attached to something that looks like a hairdryer that shoots out in electrostatic fog. Speaker 9: 26:06 The back part, causes them to stick to every surface in the bus. So you don't have to eat. If you don't point that surface, it's still going to fog out and touch everything and stick to it and make sure every surface is a comm. Come in contact with disinfecting. Speaker 7: 26:20 These disinfecting measures have come at a cost for power unified. The transportation department has spent more than $45,000 on COVID related supplies. The district has also lost over a million dollars in revenue from the lack of bus pass sales. Tim Purvis is the transportation director at the district. Speaker 9: 26:37 We want our students back on our buses and, um, uh, we don't want the parent feeling that they have Speaker 10: 26:44 To drive their child and their automobile and getting clogged in that traffic at our school sites and everything. We want them to have that same confidence at them when they're ready to return their child to a PUSD school site. That includes the bus to go with it. Speaker 7: 26:58 They'll face an even greater challenge if and when the district opens middle and high schools, but purpose says they're ready. Speaker 10: 27:04 Our driver is key in this absolutely key. And the parent having that confidence of that driver's assuring the safety of their child. Speaker 7: 27:13 Districts are also grappling with how to figure out bus operations, Cahone Val union, a K through eight district in East County reopened all of its schools in September, but lost 80% of its bus riders at San Diego unified. A limited number of schools have opened for in-person instruction and a small number of students are riding the bus regularly for the most part. However, the district school buses have been used to deliver food and school supplies. Speaker 4: 27:37 Joining me is KPBS education reporter Jo Hong Joe. Welcome. Thanks for having me. Is there anyone besides the driver on Poway unified buses that monitors, if the kids are keeping their distance and wearing their masks, Speaker 7: 27:54 Besides the bus driver, a lot of these buses, um, all of all buses that have, uh, special education students on them have an aid, other buses with just general education students. Also a lot of them do have an aide as well, who sort of helped maintain social distance and, um, made sure students are keeping their masks on and things like that. And so far, the district has told me that they, they haven't really had any problems so far. Speaker 4: 28:22 Is this all a lot of extra responsibility for the bus drivers? Speaker 7: 28:26 You know, I, I visited the transportation center and I watched the bus drivers clean, uh, her bus and wipe down the surfaces and things like that. And I mean, to me, it does, it does look like considerable amount of extra effort that we're putting into, but you know, the bus drivers seem happy to do it as long as they're able to, you know, see the kids again and get them safely to school. Speaker 4: 28:48 Has the district has Poway unified set a limit on how many students can be on a school bus? Speaker 7: 28:55 So there's no hard limit and it's, it's hard. It's hard to set a hard limit because the bus routes are so different. And it depends on how many students are on that route. But I will say that the district told me that the buses tend to have no more than eight students on them at a time, which is, you know, if you've seen a school bus is it's a very small number and allows for that social distance, Speaker 4: 29:20 The district transportation manager that you spoke with Tim Purvis says he does a one parents to feel like they have to drive their kids to school, to keep them safe. He wants them to start using the buses, but is driving the kids to school to keep them safe, is that what's been happening. And in Poway, Speaker 7: 29:38 Ridership in the district is down considerably. And he told me that if you just drive by one of the elementary schools at the start of the school day, you'll just sort of see a line out into the street where parents are trying to drop off their kids and get their temperature checked and screened before they enter campus. So, yeah, I think the transportation departments sort of see school buses as a solution to, you know, mitigating traffic. Speaker 4: 30:05 Do we know if there are any other reopen schools working to handle their school bus issues? Speaker 7: 30:11 Yeah. So Cahone Valley union school district is another one I spoke to about this and they've completely reopened. And at first that this district sort of struggled with finding a, um, a disinfectant that was, that would one kill the virus, but also be safe to use with children and on surfaces that children sit on. So that was a challenge to sort of find one, to find a disinfected. And that was, I guess, just toxic enough as you'd say. And, but they were able to do that Cohn Valley also kind of struggled with repurposing their school bus drivers because they have so many, but luckily they were able to find other responsibilities for bus drivers. Speaker 4: 30:55 Okay. So I also want to ask a few questions about the impact on San Diego schools. Now that the County is in the purple COVID tier schools that haven't already opened for in-person classes. I understand now won't be able to, while we're in this purple tier, is it clear how that will affect power has plans to reopen middle schools and high schools? Speaker 7: 31:19 Right. So as of now it's power unified, doesn't have a timeline to reopen their middle or high schools. They, about three weeks ago, they committed to staying virtual in those grade levels. But you know, now that we're in the purple tier, the decision is sort of made for them. They can't move forward with a more comprehensive reopening at this point. So the district is sort of just in limbo at this point, Speaker 4: 31:44 When do these new restrictions start? Speaker 7: 31:47 The restrictions start on Monday. So schools have actually until Monday to reopen before the, uh, the new restrictions kick in and Oceanside unified up in the North County plans to start on Monday. Speaker 4: 32:01 All right. Here's the, I guess the big question, how was falling back into the purple tier expected to affect San Diego Unified's plans? Speaker 7: 32:09 Yeah, so that is, that is the big question. So San Diego unified already started a what it's calling it's phase one of reopening, where they've invited a small number of high needs, elementary age students back onto campuses for in-person instruction. So districts that have already started a limited in person instruction can sort of continue on with that. And district officials did tell me that they're able to expand phase one into middle and high school grades. So this means they can invite a small number of middle and high school students back to campuses or this type of one-on-one or small group instruction, even if we're in the purple phase. But what the district cannot do is invite all elementary school students back to campuses or invite all middle and high school students back to campuses at this point. Speaker 1: 33:05 So if we do stay in the purple tier San Diego unified may continue only online learning longer than they plan to. Is that right for Speaker 7: 33:17 Most students? Yes. If the district does expand phase one into middle and high school, a assert a select few students will be able to start in person or hybrid learning. But for the vast majority of San Diego unified students, it looks like they'll be online until the County can get out of this purple tier. Speaker 1: 33:39 Okay. I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter, Joe Hong and Joe. Thanks again. Thank you. San Diego city council may have an extra year to make a key decision about who will get the contract to distribute electricity to city residents for the next 20 years, STG has held the franchise for the last 50 years and would like to keep it. Council president Georgette Gomez has written a memo to mayor Faulkner calling for more time and maximum transparency in finalizing a contract that will be worth billions for whoever wins the bid KBB as science and technology reporter Shalina Chitlin is covering this and she joins us now Shalina welcome. Hey, glad to be here. Remind us why is this contract so significant? What's at stake here. Speaker 11: 34:29 So 50 years ago, the city of San Diego signed a agreement, a franchise agreement for San Diego gas and electric to basically have the right to tear up street property and put it put in their wires and poles to give the residents of San Diego gas and electricity in January, that contract expires. And so what's at stake. Here is a multi-decade, you know, two decades or more multi-billion dollar deal for another utility, potentially San Diego, gas and electric. Again, to enter in the same contract with the city of San Diego. Some people really want there to be another contract with a utility, specifically San Diego, gas and electric. So that's a lot of people who are, you know, within the union. For example, that's connected to SDG E who just want to keep their jobs. So a lot of labor interests, um, but they're also environmental advocates who say, this is a big opportunity for us to completely change our energy future. We could completely break away from having a private utility, have control over our gas and electricity service. And instead the city for the first time could form its own utility and provide public power to residents and potentially give lower electricity rates to resonance could really be a huge redefinition of San Diego's energy future. So now the city council Speaker 1: 35:53 So has bids in hand, but those bids are sealed. What does she say exactly about why she thinks the city council should postpone making a decision from next year? Speaker 11: 36:02 She is the one who can actually put a vote on the docket to move forward with opening. The bids and council then decides whether they actually want to go forward with that and, um, set up an agreement with a utility. So Gomez has decided, as she said in her memo that she thinks the city needs more time to figure out its best options. Given the amount of disagreement that was among city council members and how this, you know, franchise agreement, which will last for decades, um, will affect, um, residents of San Diego. And the mayor cannot go ahead without the city council, right? No, the mayor's office doesn't have any authority to docket a vote on the franchise agreement. So how was the mayor Speaker 1: 36:48 Other city council members reacted to Gomez a memo? Well, Speaker 11: 36:52 I received a statement from Amy faucet. She's the interim chief operating officer for the city. And she wrote that it is quote, irresponsible to San Diego runs for city council to disregard a potential agreement, um, that has received so much interest from the energy industry. And that's worth billions of dollars in potential revenue for Denado's climate and equity goals, Speaker 1: 37:14 G and E have they expressed any reaction? So as CGI Speaker 11: 37:18 In another statement said that they are quote surprised about this decision from council president Gomez, because they were basically under the impression that the bids would be opened and a winning utility would have a contract by the end of the year. Do we know how many companies have submitted bids? So the mayor's office says that they are not aware of how many utilities have submitted bids. Those are sealed, um, in envelopes at the city clerk's office, they haven't been opened yet. The only way that they can be open is if the opening of these bids is put on the docket by council, president Georgette Gomez. Speaker 1: 37:54 So if the deal is delayed, is it possible that the newly elected city council that's just been elected, could scrap the existing agreements and start Speaker 12: 38:02 All over. It's sort of like Speaker 11: 38:04 Clear at this point, I'm still waiting on some clarification from the mayor's office about this, but they could potentially reopen the auction. It's unclear that would probably have to go through the city attorney's office, but for now they are legally allowed to extend a contract with San Diego gas and electric Speaker 1: 38:26 Delay in finalizing an agreement would not jeopardize the reliability of San Diego's power supply. No Speaker 11: 38:32 Would not under a California public utility commission code. The utility cannot just cut off the power. Even if the contract expires, they have an obligation to serve. And so they have to continue serving residents of San Diego. So if Gomez, Speaker 4: 38:50 It gets her way, a lot more options will be before the city council. Speaker 11: 38:56 That's right. There are a lot of options, um, that are at stake right now. There's the option of the city potentially forming its own utility. Um, there's another option of, you know, engaging more with the community choice aggregation program. The city of San Diego voted up to have, that's a program where, um, you know, this entity can decide where to buy power and sell that to the city of San Diego as a public utility. Um, and then there's also the potential of, uh, the city of San Diego engaging in a contract with another utility, or perhaps there's the future of having a contract extension with San Diego gas and electric. Speaker 4: 39:37 We've been speaking with Shalina Chet Lonnie, who is KPBS science and technology reporter. Thanks so much for filling us initially, Lena, thanks for having me. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Alison st. John in an effort to escape racism in the U S a growing number of black Americans are now calling Mexico home in a new episode of the KPBS podcast, port of entry host, Alan Lillian Thall introduces us to people who've left the U S to find some refuge from racism South of the border in the segment. You're about to hear, he talks with Omar and Aquilla Dames Speaker 13: 40:27 Omar, and maquila, didn't completely escape the threat of racism it's everywhere, but they say just felt different. It is not anywhere near similar to what is here in the U S there's like there's racism here in the U S that's oftentimes violent or, uh, very suppressive, uh, to where it prohibits you from, uh, being able to have four and mobility. Uh, whereas in these other places, it's more of a bias. It's more of a prejudiced or, um, uh, typecasting, as opposed to wriggling to set up systems to suppress you. So, so it's not, it's not this it's not the same at all. Police in other countries can look super intimidating in some parts of the world, including parts they traveled to Speaker 14: 41:34 Police are armed with automatic weapons and look more like soldiers heading to war than police patrolling a city. Like, for example, one of the first things you see when you cross the border from San Diego to Tijuana are a few armed guards dressed in cammo Bulletproof vests and giant guns. And yet Omar, and Aquilla say everything was gravy. They just didn't feel threatened by police in other countries the way they do in the U S for ones, they didn't feel like they were the targets. Speaker 15: 42:02 It certainly wasn't the threat of violence or feeling like if I'm driving down the street, you know, I could get stopped in something, cook terribly go awry. Like I never experienced that in any place that we lived outside of the state. Speaker 13: 42:15 Yeah. Like, like even like, even in Panama, right? Th there cops like have like guns, like assault rifles, like they're all like standing outside the banks with assault rifles. And that was a bit staggering. Like, Whoa, okay, wait, hold up, pause. That guy is a big gun. And, you know, in other places such as Mexico, same thing, but I never felt threatened. I never felt like, um, something could happen to me right. From these police people. Yeah. So that was, that was a bit different. Even in Portugal, you know, the police were, they were actually kind of cool. They were just kind of down to earth people like, you know, and, um, it was a different type of consideration when it came to police these other, from these other places, Speaker 15: 43:03 Every once in a while, I have a police officer that will try to pull you over and maybe try to, you know, as they call it, quote, unquote green go, you, you know, and try to get like a little bribe out of you or something like that, you know? And you're just like, I don't, I don't know, you know, no in Dando, I don't understand, you know, I, you know, so Speaker 14: 43:29 When we talked to the Dame's family, they were in Florida hunkering down for the pandemic. But since then they picked up and moved to play the Garmin in Mexico, a town about an hour South of Cancun. They say the thing they keep coming back to the thing they're most thankful for when it comes to living overseas is the way it made their kids feel. Speaker 15: 43:49 It does give them a level of balance because they're sort of like, okay, maybe I don't have to experience this. You know, maybe this doesn't have to be a part of my path, Speaker 13: 44:01 You know, [inaudible], everybody's doing good. Speaker 14: 44:06 And now Omar, and Aquilla want more black people in the U S to have that same realization, Speaker 13: 44:11 Please like, and subscribe, I'll check this out here at, uh, Instagram black UGS, Speaker 14: 44:17 They created the black UGS brand on Instagram and started a Facebook group. They've also started doing videos, sharing their experiences and other black travelers stories about living abroad. Speaker 15: 44:27 You know, we don't necessarily feel I'm at peace in our own country. So we sort of felt like refugees a little bit, you know, and we felt like, you know, Hey, let's go ahead and see if there is another place on other places that will provide that sense of safety and charity that we feel all human beings are entitled to Speaker 13: 44:51 Listen. I love America and she may not love me back, but I love her, right. Like a funny relationship. Right. But, um, I love America. Um, my family, you know, fought in Wars for this country. Right. You know, um, we've suffered and helped to develop this place. I will never under any circumstance give up my citizenship rights to this country because I feel I contribute it to building it. And so did my ancestors, I think before the pandemic white America didn't really see or getting like, like in mass, right. I think with the pandemic, you know, everybody having to stay in a house, and this is just all you're seeing on the internet all the time, and it's just coming up over and over and over. And it's just outrageous after the George Floyd, uh, situation has just kind of erupted. Right. And so, but that pressure, that absolute exhaustion has been with some people for quite some time, even though, you know, the UN the UN has recognized black people as refugees, most people don't realize that they don't know that. Speaker 13: 46:31 And there are some countries that will recognize African-Americans and provide them with a refugee status, some countries won't. But the objective is to take people that are under this crucible, this pressure, this crushing burden, and let them know that there are options. And there is information available to provide you with another path if you choose, if that's what you choose. Um, I think that what that does is it lifts that that burden, it, it, it actually alleviates that depression. And, um, it provides a hope and it gives people something to move toward in a time where there is clearly a cultural crisis in America. Speaker 15: 47:23 And that was Omar. And Aquilla Dames talking with port of entry, host Alan Lillian Thall, to hear the full story, get port of entry, wherever you listen to podcasts.

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The news that San Diego County is back in the purple tier of COVID-19 precautions affects every household in the region. What we can do to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed here like is happening in other parts of the country. Plus, San Diego's Mayor-Elect Todd Gloria joined Midday Edition on Wednesday to discuss his plans for the city, he will be sworn in on December 10. And this Veterans Day, African-American veteran Luther Hendricks recalls fighting WWII in the Pacific — and racism at home. Then, the transportation department at Poway Unified has taken cleanliness to a new level as it promises students safe rides to and from school. Plus, a multi-billion dollar energy franchise deal for San Diego could be delayed another year. Finally, in a new episode of KPBS' cross-border podcast "Port of Entry," people who’ve left the U.S. to find some refuge from racism south of the border share their stories.