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Sweeping Stay-At-Home Order Possible Across State Amid Virus Surge

 December 1, 2020 at 10:29 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego hospitals are filling up as we near a possible second COVID shutdown. Speaker 2: 00:05 If these trends continue, we're going to have to take much more dramatic. Arguably drastic action. Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Mark Sauer. This is KPBS midday edition. Restoring San Diego's wetlands may help mitigate climate change. The salt Marsh and sea grass here that we have San Diego County are these Speaker 3: 00:31 Blue carbon ecosystems, basic question and store more atmospheric carbon than any other ecosystem on the planet Speaker 1: 00:37 And on our excerpt from the KPBS podcast, rad scientist learn how our UCS D professor is paving the way for a more diverse, scientific community. That's ahead on midday edition. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Mark Sauer. San Diego County is seeing its rate of newly diagnosed coronavirus cases hovering at around 1000 per day. And even more concerning is that hospitals are filling up with COVID patients. At last count is 692 San Diego hospital beds were taken by COVID patients. That's three times the number from early November, the same situation or worse is happening in most counties across California. Here's governor Gavin Newsome. Speaker 2: 01:33 If these trends continue, we're going to have to take much more dramatic, arguably drastic action, the potential for a stay at home order for those regions in purple Speaker 1: 01:45 Stay at home order would be similar to the one California had in place. Last spring. The question is, did a lockdown really help last time and wooded this time joining me is Rebecca fielding Miller, a UCLA epidemiologist and assistant professor at UC San Diego school of medicine's division of infectious diseases and global public health. And Rebecca, welcome to the program. Hi, thanks for having me. Healthcare workers are already bracing for the surge coming after Thanksgiving. Now, if current conditions continue, how long before San Diego hospitals are in serious risk of being overcrowded, it's hard to give an exact timeframe. There are some things that are different now than were happening in the spring and summer. Um, for example, it tends to be younger people. We're seeing more infections and folks in their twenties and thirties right now, whereas very early in the epidemic, it was folks who were a lot older, but certainly we're on a trend to see some pretty overwhelming numbers in our healthcare system. Speaker 1: 02:47 And there's really no reason to think that if things continue, we won't start looking the way New York or Phoenix or El Paso has been looking. There's been so many openings closings since the pandemic first began. Can you remind us what that lockdown last spring was like? I think one of the things that was pretty unique about the lockdown in the spring was it was the first time it happened as opposed to the fact that we've been doing this now on and off, like you said, since March. And I think that first locked down that first day at home order was nobody was to leave their house except for essential business. So grocery shopping trips to the pharmacy, things like that, the schools closed retail closed indoor dining restaurants closed. And what we saw is that it worked, we saw case levels level off and then drop pretty quickly and stay that way actually until this summer, when they started to go up again and we had to put in another closing of businesses and indoor restaurants and dining, should we have kept that original stay at home order in place longer? Speaker 1: 03:51 Everything we've learned about COVID-19 we've learned since January. And I think one thing that is becoming really clear that we didn't know in March and April is really how this is transmitted and that it is predominantly spread through aerosols through a lot of super spreading events, which tend to be indoors when you have a lot of people who are unmasked, who are talking, singing, things like that. And so it has become a little bit easier to calibrate what those stay-at-home orders should look like. For example, gyms, indoor dining, indoor businesses, anything where people are spending a significant amount of time and talking or doing anything else that would emit breath. Those things should probably be closed. And, and for awhile, until we have community spread under control of other businesses or things that can be done outdoors are certainly higher risk. But I think we know now that they are not the predominant sources of spread, basically you're saying a second stay at home order could be tailored to what we've learned about the virus. Speaker 1: 04:55 In fact, I think the first stay at home order closed some beaches, playgrounds parks. Would it be a good idea to close them again? Let me see. Say yes. And I think that now numbers are staggeringly high. This is the highest that we've seen in San Diego County ever to date. We have, like you said, over a thousand cases a day right now, and with numbers that high even low risk events become risky, right? Because if you assume that there's a, I don't know, one in a thousand chance of getting infected by somebody at the grocery store, if somebody is infected, but all of a sudden there are more people infected at the grocery store than there were before then your chances of getting infected at the grocery store go up. If that makes sense, when absolute numbers go up, rare events happen more often. Speaker 1: 05:43 And so I think when numbers are this high, really all bets are off. And this is when we need pretty drastic measures that said the drastic closures, people simply can't sustain for that long. And I think we just need to mindful of the fact that people are people. So while I do think there should be something fairly drastic for the next few weeks, I think coming out of that, a more tailored approach is important. And we know people are people we know perfection is hard. And so I think it's important that there be opportunities for people to engage in lower risk behavior. So for example, if you cannot completely isolate, then at least socialize outside. And so keeping outdoor venues open kind of provides the opportunity for some harm reduction. So to speak, considering that many people disregarded warnings not to travel or gather for Thanksgiving, do you think it might already be too late to stop our hospitals from being overwhelmed in the final weeks of this year? Speaker 1: 06:49 I'm an eternal optimist. I don't think it's too late, but I think that the other thing to think about with the stay at home order and with the closing of indoor businesses is a lot of our risk in the next few weeks is not going to come from bars and gyms and restaurants like it has been through the fall. It's going to come from people gathering with loved ones in their own homes. And that's not something that the state can really limit. And so I think it's really very much up to individuals to decide whether or not this is something that we can get under control. And so it's important to remember that this is finite. The first set of vaccines are being licensed. As we speak with emergency use authorizations, people are going to start getting vaccinated in December and January. And while this holiday may be lonely, this is not how we want to spend the Hanukkah and Christmas and Thanksgiving. Speaker 1: 07:45 It is finite. And I think by the spring and the summer, these gatherings will be so much safer. So at this point, because closing businesses, it's not going to do it. It's about holidays. It's really in the hands of individuals to say, I love you so much. And because I love you, we're not going to get together for that holiday party, but I cannot wait for the 4th of July. If we do see a surge at local hospitals, how long after Thanksgiving would you expect to see it? I think we would start to see it probably within a week or two. You can kind of think of it coming in waves. So there are going to be the folks who became sick over the Thanksgiving weekend, but then also there's going to be the folks who were part of that transmission chain, who maybe they didn't get together with somebody over the holidays because they're higher risk. Speaker 1: 08:32 But somebody who went to a family gathering then spent time with somebody else who then spent time with somebody who is elderly and vulnerable. So we'll probably start to see the beginning of it in a week or two. And then it'll probably keep climbing as just again, the sheer absolute number of cases means that people who are more vulnerable get exposed. And I've been speaking with Rebecca fielding Miller, she's a UCS state epidemiologist, and also assistant professor at UC San Diego school of medicine's division of infectious diseases and global public health. And Rebecca, thank you very much for speaking with us. Yeah. Thank you so much. [inaudible] Speaker 4: 09:22 I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Cavenaugh and you're listening to midday edition on KPBS San Diego, researchers and environmentalists are taking a close look at a pocket habitat that may become an important tool as the climate changes, KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson says the regions salt marshes could be more than just a squishy terrain in out of the way places. Speaker 5: 09:45 Do you want to take one of these handles like Matthew Costa steps, gingerly into a little pocket wetland near the Denmark. Eric writes. I don't think it's very likely, but watch out for bird nests. That's I don't think that they're nesting endangered Ridgeway rails like hiding and the pickle weed that covers the soft moist ground between the train tracks and Camino Del Mar habitat. Costa is a postdoctoral researcher at the Scripps institution of oceanography. I think this is a good spot. It's 15 meters. Last week, we did five meters. He's here to help unlock information about this salty Marsh information that can't be seen by the thousands of people who pass by each day. We've got all these plants here underneath. There's a sort of a really muddy layer of sediment has gotten it's home to a lot of organisms to there's, lots of snails and other creatures living on the mud Costa uncrated his tools and pulls out a long silver tube with a wide fin. Speaker 5: 10:41 On one side, it looks a bit like a stubby soar, places it upright and leans in pushing it into the ground. Seems like we're in a soft spot. And then he uses a slide hammer to help him sink that to even deeper once its completely seated in the soft wet dirt, Costa gently pulls the tube back out of the ground. A quick twist reveals the core sample, roughly seven centimeters across and 48 centimeters law. We're looking down in the sediment. We're kind of looking back in time. So this sediment accumulated maybe hundreds of years ago and built up over time to where we have the plants living today. Costa pull samples, labels them and in a lab he hopes to find out how much carbon is stored. There it's an effort to try and catalog the amount of blue carbon that's currently stored in our San Diego, coastal wetlands and ecosystems. Corey Puccini is the California conservation manager at wild coast. He says the plants and the salt Marsh grow fast, sucking in a lot of carbon dioxide. Some of that carbon gets trapped as the plants die and new ones grow over them. Unfortunately bikini says 90% of the region's coastal wetlands have been swallowed up by urbanization or dredged for recreation, but pockets persist. Speaker 6: 12:03 Yeah. So as you see behind me, there's a lot of these opportunity parcels that you'd like to call them. These orphaned wetlands that are in and around a lot of the currently existing wetlands in San Diego County that have the potential to be restored, to enhance their capabilities, to draw that carbon out of the atmosphere Speaker 5: 12:22 Cost us research will give conservationists a better idea of how efficient the saltmarsh terrain is at storing carbon Speaker 6: 12:30 And seeing if we can ecologically enhance them to create this ecological uplift so that we can sequester more carbon using these natural solutions to draw carbon out of the atmosphere Speaker 5: 12:41 That could help slow the pace of global warming because carbon in the atmosphere is responsible for a warmer Speaker 6: 12:48 We're looking at areas like batter ketose lagoon up in Carlsbad, uh, that Kendall frost, Marsh and mission Bay here at San Dieguito lagoon for Moses SLU and a number of our other coastal wetlands here throughout the region. Wow, Speaker 5: 13:00 Coasts Zack Clopper says this research will help them understand more about the ecosystems and habitats that are in the near shore areas. Speaker 6: 13:09 Make San Diego County a leader on natural climate solutions. Speaker 5: 13:12 Popper says blue carbon refers to habitats near the ocean that are particularly good at capturing and storing carbon. Speaker 6: 13:19 The salt Marsh and sea grass here that we have San Diego County are these blue carbon ecosystems. They sequester and store more atmospheric carbon than any other ecosystem on the planet, Speaker 5: 13:28 Which makes them both a hedge against global warming and a buffer against rising sea levels. That's why script's researcher. Matthew Costa is interested in measuring the impact the habitat has already had. He helps mapping out the terrain's past will help gauge the salt marshes ecological value in the future. Eric Anderson KPBS news. Speaker 7: 13:52 In addition to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and switching to green technologies, what would it take to remove enough greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere to make a critical difference? That includes of course, boosting blue carbon habitats near the ocean professor Joseph Noel is lead researcher for coastal plant restoration with the SOC institutes harnessing plants initiative. And dr. Noel joins me now welcome to midday edition, very happy to be here. This is a topic of great importance to me and hopefully to lots of people we'll start with the larger view. Why are plants so important in our battle mitigate the effects of climate change? So plants have evolved this wonderful ability to do a thing called photo synthesis. And what that means is that they use sunlight a little bit of water and they use carbon dioxide that they suck in through pores, in their leaves and other tissues. Speaker 7: 14:44 And they convert that carbon dioxide into sugars and all the carbon based molecules that we, um, plants depend on. Um, and so it's a, in some ways it's a free way of drawing CO2 out of the atmosphere and converting it into a myriad of molecules that are really important to the plant lifestyle. Um, and then of course, humans and other animals, have you relied on plants as the basis of our food chain for quite some time and in the process? The other thing that they do is they end up releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. So they take one thing out that unfortunately has been rising over the last several decades due to the industrial revolution, which is carbon dioxide leading to warming of the atmosphere. Plants are very able to take that out of the atmosphere, converted into other molecules and in the process release oxygen. Speaker 7: 15:40 So they effectively are the natural base solution to carbon draw down for, uh, to mitigate climate change and plants in coastal wetlands are even more important, right? Absolutely. So this is something near and dear to my heart. Um, it turns out that when plants take that carbon out of the atmosphere, um, when they die their roots and their leaves and other tissues, when they begin to decompose through the action of bacteria and fungi and other organisms in our soils, um, a significant portion of that carbon gets returned to the atmosphere. Some of it stays behind and that's what gives rise to very carbon rich soils, um, in agricultural lands. Well, it turns out that in, um, ecosystems that are wet, that is plants that are growing with wet feet, um, either, um, partially or even completely submerged in freshwater brackish water. And even in Marine systems, they actually make more molecules in their roots and then their leaves and stems to protect themselves against these harsh environments. Speaker 7: 16:48 So it turns out wetlands in particular, coastal wetlands are very harsh and plants deal with that by making molecules out of carbon that help them to survive. And it also turns out that those molecules resist decomposition by the same bacteria and fungi and other organisms that in terrestrial soils leads to rapid decomposition. So we've learned over the last several decades that wetlands in particular, um, uh, brackish and Marine wetlands can store up to a hundred times more carbon in their sediments than an equivalent area of dry land. So they are an important, um, and critical ecosystem on the planet for combating climate change. Um, the other thing that unfortunately, they also are some of the most threatened ecosystems on the globe. And so as part of the harnessing plants initiative at salt, um, we have a component, it focused on wetlands and taking our ability to understand the genetic programs in plants and help to facilitate more rapid and more effective restoration of these really threatened wetland system. Speaker 4: 18:03 Do you see hope for expanding or restoring wetlands on a significant enough scale going forward after all coastal areas are highly desirable for housing and recreation and it puts great pressure on using these areas. Speaker 7: 18:16 I actually see, um, a groundswell of support across the, you know, the, the political and, um, spectrum in terms of, of a desire to not only protect current wetlands, but begin to expand them, um, because they provide a lot of services and it depends on one's viewpoint, but they clean our waters. They obviously store quite a bit of carbon. There, there are a major carbon deposits on earth. And in fact, the Tundra areas of our, of our, uh, North across the globe are actually ancient wetlands. And so those are tremendous stores of carbon, but they also obviously provide a lot of economic benefit for communities that surround them in terms of fishery development and, and, um, sustainability, et cetera. So I, I actually am very optimistic that there is, um, a trend now towards preserving and even expanding these, these areas. Speaker 4: 19:17 Finally, how optimistic should we be that research on improving plants capabilities and scaling them on farms and wetlands worldwide can make a real difference in staving off the worst effects of climate change. Speaker 7: 19:30 I am personally very optimistic and I, and I say that coming from, I would say a decade ago, being pessimistic, um, that's because one, there is bipartisan support for these kinds of initiatives because they not only focus on the climate, which some people, you know, it, it is a topic that unfortunately is debated, although it is real science, but even those that do not necessarily completely buy into the two climate chains are human based, um, uh, climate change. They see the economic benefits for these other aspects of the program. And so they buy in. So I've gone from a very pessimistic to a very optimistic attitude because the, these kinds of projects sock, I think we are the seed to use a pun we've planted the seed with other plant scientists, worldwide that to think about climate and to think about how plants draw down CO2. Um, so I think we together with other scientists worldwide can really make an impact because we're talking about, um, ecosystems and, um, PharmD systems that cover a major portion of the, the land on land and coastal areas of the globe. Speaker 8: 20:48 Well, it's very encouraging to hear that optimism. I've been speaking with professor Joseph Noel of the salt Institute in LA Jolla. Thanks very much. Thank you very much. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Mark sour on the latest episode of rad scientist, host Margot wall introduces us to dr. Gentry Patrick. He's a UCS neurobiology professor and a champion of diversity in the sciences. Dr. Patrick is using lessons from his own journey from Compton to professor, as a means to help other underserved students reach their potential Speaker 9: 21:34 Fear. [inaudible] ego imposter. Speaker 8: 21:41 That's dr. Gentry Patrick speaking at UC San Diego's, 2019 convocation laying out the emotions that the newcomers might feel and that he felt throughout his education and journey to becoming a professor of neurobiology at UCS Speaker 9: 21:58 Struggle, failure, disbelief, hope, strength, truth, empathy, love, joy, creativity, innovation. Speaker 8: 22:17 So Gentry was the assistant director of my neuroscience doctorate program. Um, while I was there and I just, I mostly knew him because he used to DJ at our retreat parties, um, which I thought was pretty cool. Um, but I never really knew his story until now. Speaker 9: 22:34 So as I pondered what I might say to you all today, it occurred to me that I might simply speak to myself as a freshman in 1988, who had recently left home to attend college and embark on a lifelong journey, a journey of the unknown full of fear and hope a journey that would be my story, a story worth telling, and a power within Speaker 8: 22:59 Giving the convocation speech, becoming a tenured professor and the director of mentorship and diversity for the biological sciences. These were successes that he couldn't have imagined for himself as a kid Speaker 9: 23:12 To give you some context. Let me first tell you a bit about who Gentry was back then. And the serendipitous journey that brought me to the stage today. Gentry was born in 1970 in South central Los Angeles to a single mother of eight, 16, and was the first to attend college in his family where I grew up. It was, um, and was first album cover at colon P Kelly Park. And, uh, and I lived around the corner. Speaker 8: 23:42 If you don't know NWA, you may know some of its early members, dr. Dre, Eze or ice cube. And that part of Compton was home to gangs. Like the Kelly Park Compton crypt Speaker 9: 23:53 Know it was a lot of drugs and gangs where I grew up and I have several family members who've been murdered. Cousins are in jail. The system just caught up, Speaker 8: 24:03 But his neighborhood was also filled with families that looked out for each other. Speaker 9: 24:07 My family members and friends in the neighborhood, they were very, very protective of me. I don't know. Not sure why. When I think about it, there's no reason a priority for them to say, Hey, Gentry, you might go do something with your life. They had no idea what I would do. Speaker 8: 24:23 Maybe it was his smarts. He always did well in school. I was kind of a nerd. I was a nerd. He went to a magnet school in Watts that specialized in medicine and science. And he had hopes of one day helping people in his community by being a doctor and serving those without quality health care. When it came time to think about college, Gentry had his eyes set on one school in particular. Speaker 9: 24:46 I applied to school and I realized, Oh, I don't have enough money to apply to one school. Oh, I want to go to Berkeley. He only Speaker 8: 24:51 Applied to one school. Speaker 9: 24:53 Luckily I, they took me or else, you know, we wouldn't be here today. Speaker 8: 24:58 He packed up his stuff and moved North found friends with similar interests. People that liked music as much as he did Speaker 9: 25:06 DJ collective, we were called BZ and we danced. And we like, we were like a little crew of wrapper dancers. Speaker 8: 25:16 And he got a job to support himself. Working at a government agency called the EDD, the employment development department. Speaker 9: 25:23 So I had a job there giving out summer jobs to other people. Speaker 8: 25:27 So he's divvying out jobs, but then a job came across his desk. It wasn't glamorous, but it paid pretty well better than his current position. Speaker 9: 25:36 A job came through for washing dishes at a laboratory. And I set myself on that interview. Speaker 8: 25:49 He got the job and he was like, see ya, EDD. I'm going to go rinse these flasks for the big bucks. This job would be more than a summer position. He'd stay there throughout college, often working full time on top of school. And he wouldn't only wash dishes. He'd get to help with experiments. And he learned from the other lab members about the world of research, Speaker 9: 26:10 As far as academia, education and science. I didn't understand any of that. Back then, Speaker 8: 26:15 Gentry still applied to medical school come senior year. And although he interviewed at a few schools, he wasn't accepted Speaker 9: 26:23 And I'm like, well, I like molecules. I like proteins Speaker 8: 26:29 Gentry thought. Maybe I want to do research anyways and learn more about proteins. And he remembered hearing about this program, got the research training program at the university of California, San Francisco, the funded two students to do research and get their master's in biochemistry and biophysics. So he applied, but there was a small problem. Gentry had a low GPA, Speaker 9: 26:54 2.1 or 2.2, but I had good impacts Speaker 8: 26:59 Even though he had done really well on the MCAT, a notoriously difficult standardized test. It was hard for the program to look past his grades. Speaker 9: 27:07 I assumed that admissions committees just said, this guy smart, but he's doesn't know what he wants to do. Right. He's just lazy. Speaker 8: 27:13 Yeah. If Lacey were working basically a full-time job while completing pre-med courses. Sure. But Gentry also felt like he was missing a network to lean on for academic support. Speaker 9: 27:25 I just didn't have the stability to understand where I needed to go. I didn't have the right mentors. Speaker 8: 27:36 Gentry got word that the program wasn't going to take him. So he made a phone call to the head of the program, dr. John Watson, Speaker 9: 27:47 To give me a chance. I promise you, if you give me a chance, I will not disappoint you. Please give me a chance. Speaker 8: 28:07 It worked ultimately dr. Watson decided to accept your entry into the program. Speaker 9: 28:12 To this day we laugh. He's like, what if I had said no, Speaker 8: 28:16 Because this experience launched his scientific career. After the program he got into Harvard neuroscience doctorate program then went on to post-doc at Caltech and at each stage from masters to PhD to postdoctoral fellowship, he had mentors that built them up. They were all women. Speaker 9: 28:34 Those three women, scientists played a major role. They showed me what real grit look like. They show me how to not take no for an answer. And, uh, they also promoted me. They were advocates. I took a job at UCLA. Not only because it's a great community here of neuroscientists, but because they gave me a job, let's be honest. I didn't know how to like, wheel and deal and figure out the best package for me. I was just like, are you kidding me? I'm this kid from the inner city. And now I have a job as a professor. Speaker 1: 29:13 That was an excerpt from the latest rad scientist podcast. If you want to learn more about dr. Patrick science and a scholarship, he started that has now funded by the Chan Zuckerberg foundation listened to the full episode. All you have to do is search for rad scientist in your favorite podcast app, or go to scientist.

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With coronavirus cases surging statewide and hospital beds expected to fill rapidly, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday a more sweeping stay-at-home order could soon be imposed. Plus, San Diego researchers and environmentalists are taking a close look at a pocket habitat that may become an important tool as the climate changes. And in this episode of Rad Scientist, we hear the story of UC San Diego professor Gentry Patrick, who cleared the path from the inner city to academia.