San Diego Sheriff’s Shelter-In-Place Enforcement, Help For Small Businesses During COVID-19 Shutdown And VA’s Response To Coronavirus
KPBS Midday Edition / April 6, 2020
After plenty of warnings, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is stepping up enforcement of the county’s shelter-in-place public health order. Plus, one military wife’s experience fighting the COVID-19 virus. And many small businesses are hurting because of shutdowns but there are state, federal, and local programs that could help. Also, the VA is sending mixed signals to nurses on how to combat the novel coronavirus. How the VA is trying to get the message out to its own staff. Finally, the San Diego Rep is taking its new production of “House of Joy,” online.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Governor Newsome talks about procurement of resources for Corona virus patients and sheriff bill Gore gives us an update on enforcement of public health orders. I'm wearing Kevin office KPBS mid day edition. It's Monday, April 6th. Governor Gavin Newsome focused his coronavirus update on procurement. Today the state's goal is to secure a 50,000 hospital beds for an expected surge of patients. And the state is lending 500 ventilators to hard hit areas of the country. The governor, speaking from an arena where the Sacramento Kings basketball team normally plays the site is now being turned into a 400 bed alternative care site.
Speaker 2: 00:51 We currently have locked in 4,613 specific beds sites. Now throughout the state of California. We have sites like this arena, uh, in every, uh, major, uh, region in the state of California.
Speaker 1: 01:10 The governor's call for healthcare, retirees and students to sign up for staffing. As members of a new California health Corps has resulted in more than 80,000 applications in San Diego, the Sheriff's department has started issuing tickets to people for violating the state stay at home order. Last Friday, 22 people near beaches and Encinitas were cited for violating stay at home orders and the County says enforcement of public health orders will continue, including the mandate that essential workers wear face masks when dealing with the public journey. May is San Diego County sheriff bill Gore and sheriff Gore. Welcome to the program.
Speaker 2: 01:48 Thanks Marine. Good to be here.
Speaker 1: 01:49 Why has the County decided to start cracking down on people who violate the public health orders? Is it because a lot of people are not complying?
Speaker 2: 01:58 Well, not Maureen for in fact, the vast majority of people in San Diego County are compliant and doing a great job. Uh, we went for two weeks trying to educate and get voluntary compliance with the both the governor's executive order and the County public health where last Thursday in a press conference. I said, really the time for education is over. We're getting into a critical time. And so for those few people in the County that have not got it yet, we're going to start issuing citations. So that's what we've done.
Speaker 1: 02:28 And what is the penalty? How much is the ticket?
Speaker 2: 02:31 Well, the maximum penalty would be a thousand dollar fine and the maximum handle, they might be up to six months in jail. That is not going to be the case on a first time offender. Uh, like the citations we issued, uh, last weekend.
Speaker 1: 02:45 Now the County has also asked the public's help in enforcing these orders. You're asking people to contact two one, one if they see violations. Isn't that right?
Speaker 2: 02:55 That's correct.
Speaker 1: 02:56 Do you have any sense of how many calls you may have received? Far?
Speaker 2: 02:59 No. I don't have an exact number for you, but we have people that are, let's face it, everybody in this County is sacrificing. Nobody likes to be cooped up in their house. It's stressful. It's caused a lot of anxiety. And I think, like I say, most citizens of this County that are, that are compliant with these orders, they think everybody should be compliant, which is the case. They all should be compliant. That's how we're going to shorten this time during this crisis from maybe for, instead of months. We can do this in weeks. Uh, as I pointed out, uh, numerous occasions, these, it's an executive order. It's a public health order. It's not a recommendation to be followed when it's convenient. What we're trying to do, in addition to not overloading our hospitals and our medical providers, ultimately what we're trying to do is save lives and everybody should be involved in that. Everybody should buy into it. And those few that aren't, we're going to start issuing citations
Speaker 1: 03:57 now. We heard that for Sheriff's department employees, including a nurse, have tested positive for covert 19 is the department doing widespread testing?
Speaker 2: 04:08 Uh, what we're doing is testing, uh, those that, uh, appear to be symptomatic, uh, or have been exposed to somebody that has symptomatic. Uh, we're not testing all of our employees. There just aren't enough tests in the County yet to, to accomplish that. Uh, what we're doing is that we have, we've also had one inmate, uh, test positive for COBIT 19. What we're trying to do is really, and we started this over a month ago, really tighten our screening process into our jails to try to identify them at intake into our facilities in our booking. Uh, facilities. Uh, now it starts when the police officer or deputy Sheriff's car pulls into the Sally port. In our, in our facility there are met by medical providers at the car. The inmate and the officer are tested and if they, if the inmate appears to be symptomatic, he's placed in isolation. First of all, he's given a mass to where then he's placed in isolation given a test. And that's how we identified the one inmate that we have that's come back positive.
Speaker 1: 05:14 Our deputies now wearing face masks on duty
Speaker 2: 05:17 in our jails. It depends on exactly what you're doing in that jail. All of our, uh, our deputies and healthcare providers and their jails that have contact with inmates are wearing it. Uh, depending on the level of contact, it might be a respirator, a mask again and gloves, uh, all the way back to maybe just a respirator in the field and our deputies in the field, we try to screen all the calls that we, uh, that come into our dispatch to determine if there is any illness, possible infection, uh, in the house that we're responding to. And the deputy. Where's the, uh, respirator and, and protective gear according to the report we get? Uh, I think that that's probably changing. Uh, I think our deputies will be wearing their, at least their respirator on almost all interactions with the public. I think that's, that's safe for the public and safe for our deputies.
Speaker 1: 06:15 Back to the risks, uh, that uh, County inmates might have in County jails. Is there any way that they can practice physical distancing and do inmates have enough supplies to keep washing their hands and things of that nature?
Speaker 2: 06:31 It will, as you know, jails were not built to socially distance people. Uh, that's why in the last starting amount a month ago, we've worked so hard on keeping the infection out of our jails at the same time, downsizing our population so that we can accomplish, uh, the social distancing, which makes it safer for our inmates and safer for our staff. We're doing this through, uh, several ways, um, by limiting the number of people that are booked in changing our booking criteria. And then looking at sentenced inmates in our facility that I have the ability with the judge's permission to release if they're in their last 30 or 60 days of their, of their sentence, I'm allowed to release them. Uh, early. We've tried to downsize our population doing that, specifically addressing the at risk population in our facilities. Uh, since we started, we've taken our jail population down by about 18, 19% from roughly 5,500 inmates on a given day to about 45 or just under 4,500 inmates. Uh, again, this is so we can create isolation cells socially distance to the best we can in our facilities, which makes it safer for the inmates and the staff. And we're going to continue to look at, uh, all of our procedures at our facilities.
Speaker 1: 07:54 And do you expect to keep releasing inmates from the County jail?
Speaker 2: 07:58 I think we're in a number that's manageable now, but we will continue to evaluate on a case by case basis who I can release early looking at our [inaudible]. Again, our at risk population and a lot of it will depend on if we have more positive Covance tests in our, in our facilities right now I have a about 40 inmates in isolation, 39 of them have tested negative for the coven virus and I, as I pointed out, one is tested positive, which is good news for our jails, but I realize that could change. Looks like it's changing out in our community.
Speaker 1: 08:35 You're taking a lot of precautions. Just see that this virus does not spread through the jails in San Diego County. How concerned are you of that lingering possibility?
Speaker 2: 08:49 Well, it's, it's a big concern. We take very seriously the, the health and welfare of the inmates that under in our custody we have increased the literature that they all receive on how to stay healthy, how to wash their hands out and not to touch their face. Uh, we do a video that plays at least once or twice. I think a day in all the modules to continue to educate our population while at the same time we're educating our staff and working on the whole social distancing, uh, aspect of this, this terrible virus. And then also, uh, making sure we have enough quarantine team cells, uh, for those inmates that could be positive, that are symptomatic that we need to separate from the general population.
Speaker 1: 09:33 All right. I've been speaking with San Diego County sheriff bill Gore. Thank you sheriff Gore.
Speaker 2: 09:38 Thank you Maureen. Thanks for helping me get the word out.
Speaker 3: 09:43 Uh,
Speaker 1: 09:44 Lindsay Hartman is among the hundreds of people in San Diego County who tested positive for covert 19. She's been isolated at home in Linda Vista with her Marine husband, her mother and her two toddlers. All of the adults have experienced symptoms. I knew source reporter Mary Plummer brings us this audio postcard.
Speaker 4: 10:04 I'm a 38 year old and I'm having chest pains and I'm thinking I have this thing.
Speaker 4: 10:11 Uh, my name is Lindsay Hartman. I started having chest pain and that was really alarming because I'm young and cocky and that seemed like a really odd thing to have unless I had coronavirus, which obviously had been top of mind. And so the very next morning, um, I called my primary care physician. I was convinced I had it and went and got swapped and then I came home and as I'm waiting for my results, I started to convince myself, no, I don't have it. It's just a call. I'll be fine. There's this psychological, you know, path that you're on that I was on that was like, no, no, I'm fine. I don't have it. So then when she called and said it was a nurse, she said, do you have a minute? I got your test results back. And I knew right away that she was going to tell me they were positive because she was like, I really, I have some information to share with you and some precautions. And then I was really upset. I was like, Oh my gosh, I do have it. This is terrible. So weird. This gamut that you are on.
Speaker 4: 11:22 I was really, I was worried for my family. I was worried for my mom and I knew as soon as I got that positive result, we were going to have to quarantine and we were going to have to isolate. There are five people in my house and my children, um, the two of them are fine. They have not exhibited any symptoms, thank goodness. But the three adults in the house are still having fevers, coughing, um, nausea, loss of appetite, lots of body aches, any little task just absolutely wears you out. We've had some dizziness, lightheadedness, lots of headaches. I still have my job. I have been out sick now for a week. Um, but I know I'm going to have a job to go back to. And then, you know, I feel like my husband is actually in a profession that's not going to be highly effected by this.
Speaker 4: 12:18 Um, as far as you know, there's, there's no fear of him losing his job. Thank goodness. And we live in military housing. So for us, even if I lost my job, we are a lot more immune, um, to the job loss effect because our housing is covered by the military. So that is a huge blessing for us. But I know lots of people who've already been laid off. Um, I'm fearful that parts of the country still aren't taking it seriously enough. Um, I don't think that there are enough shelter and place orders. I think that we're gonna continue to see the numbers rise. I feel awful. You know, I have had a fever for nine days and I'm a healthy young person. I just think that this is going to be, we're all going to know someone who dies from this. I is, where is where I'm at right now.
Speaker 1: 13:19 An update to this story. Lindsay Hartman has since been laid off. On a positive note, she and her mom are out of isolation. Our husband remains ill. for more on this story, go to I new source.org I knew sources, an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh. Nurses at the San Diego VA say they're getting mixed messages from supervisors on how to respond to the Corona virus. KPBS military veterans reporter Steve Walsh says, VA leaders admit to inconsistencies
Speaker 5: 13:57 around the country. Nurses have been protesting the lack of staff and a shortage of supplies this week. Nurses who worked for the veterans health administration are protesting in Brooklyn, in San Diego. Brian [inaudible] works as a primary care nurse for the VA's Oceanside clinic, a representative of the California nurses association, national nurses United, a bird says VA nurses in San Diego has some of the same concerns just prior to the governor asking everyone to cover their faces in public. A VA supervisor told two nurses to remove face mask they brought from home. I talked to Abraham via Skype and they're specifically telling you that, that you can't wear a mass in inside one of the clinics unless you're in a certain situation,
Speaker 6: 14:41 depending on where you're working. It's, it's kind of a different message given by different managers. Our managers lenient and says that you can wear it if you have access to it. Uh, however,
Speaker 5: 14:52 it seems like some of the managers at the main hospital have been following a different protocol or different policy apron says nurses are worried about the lack of consistency. He describes how the VA has set up stations outside most locations to check patients for the virus following CDC guidelines, but that's not how it works at the clinic in Oceanside. How, what are they doing when it comes to keeping Covin 19 patients separate from the rest of the hospital
Speaker 6: 15:19 outside the building. They have a station set up for checking and patients and isolating them at that point. But that's not being instituted. They aren't checking inside the building and not outside the building where it'd be better for all, all included the staff and the patients. Because if someone a through the questions is, is found positive, uh, they moved to a secondary place and they should already be outside and they're not,
Speaker 5: 15:44 so they're not checking outside the building. They're checking inside the building. That's correct. A recent report from the VA inspector general also criticized two other clinics at the San Diego VA for not properly screening patients before they actually entered the clinic. The director of the San Diego VA medical system, Dr. Robert Smith acknowledges that there have been issues with screening.
Speaker 7: 16:05 So I'd say we do screen outside where we can, but if the weather conditions don't permit, we might scream right inside the door. But people in the secondary screening, if they have any suggestion of symptoms or fever,
Speaker 5: 16:15 he says he has reemphasized screening everyone before they can mix with the rest of the staff or patients as far as whether nurses were told to take off their own personal protective masks, which they brought from home.
Speaker 7: 16:27 So I can't speak to what an individual supervisor might've said, but that was not policy. And uh, we do need to be clear though, that that personally own gear, whether it's a mask or a bandana or whatever, is not a substitute for formal PPE.
Speaker 5: 16:43 On the question of hospital grade personal protective equipment or PPE. Smiths says officials at the San Diego VA do not want staff to reuse hospital-grade mask. Another concern raised by nurses on staff. Ms says, staff has been told to keep the mass that had been fitted for them
Speaker 7: 17:00 under those circumstances. That's not a reuse for instance, that's simply a mass that's available to use. And I know some of our staff were confused that we were suggesting that they could reuse that mass when in fact all that we were doing was saying keep the mask
Speaker 5: 17:14 and is Smith able to get out a consistent message as this situation rapidly evolves?
Speaker 7: 17:19 I think messaging and communication is probably the single hardest thing to get right for health organizations right now. Um, we have staff that are very concerned. Um, the message that they get nationally is concerning and trying to stay ahead of that has been challenging.
Speaker 5: 17:34 The San Diego VA has a, had 19 confirmed cases of coven 19 among patients. Only one is hospitalized at the moment though, the system is still expecting a surge. Steve Walsh. KPBS news. Joining me is KPBS reporter
Speaker 1: 17:50 Steve Walsh and Steve welcome. So some VA nurses were being told not to wear masks they brought from home. What would be the reason for a policy like that?
Speaker 8: 18:02 Well, none as far as I can tell, no one could really tell me why they would want to do that. Now these homemade masks shouldn't be used to protect against covert 19 the mass are basically just to stop either party from spreading the virus to one another, including people who may not be showing symptoms at the time. You know, there was a concern that if they were using hospital grade protective gear or PPE, you don't want those end at 95 respirators and surgical mass in situations where they're not required. But as far as the mass that we're all starting to wear the Gators and things like that, no one could tell me why they would stop a nurse from doing that.
Speaker 1: 18:39 So since governor Newsome announced that wearing face masks in public is recommended for everyone, has the VA changed its stance on these homemade masks?
Speaker 8: 18:48 Well, again, so Dr. Smith, the head of the VA in San Diego says that there was no policy that they couldn't wear them. So officially there never was a policy though. You're already starting to see more doctors and nurses following the governor's recommendation and now the CDC recommendation that we all take this extra precaution and where mass whenever we're out in public.
Speaker 1: 19:10 Now that policy that you outlined in the report we just heard about reuse of hospital grade masks. That policy sounded to me rather confusing. Right now our VA nurses reusing those masks.
Speaker 8: 19:25 Good question. And the answer that Dr. Smith tells me, the head of the VA is no, they are not telling hospital staff to reuse mass at this time though the VA saying that that may not stay that way. They're watching the CDC guidance where health officials are talking about using PPE, reusing it in certain situations if supplies are starting to run low. So right now the VA in San Diego says that they have a 15 to 30 day supply of PPE.
Speaker 1: 19:53 And as you mentioned, the number of covert 19 patients at San Diego VA hospitals is still quite low. When do hospital officials think a surge of patients might start?
Speaker 8: 20:04 So we don't know if it's low or it's high, but it is kind of surprising given that the, the veteran population is older and more susceptible. The assumption is the numbers could start going up at any time. They have been clearing bed space at a, at the VA. So at the moment the VA is actually, well under capacity. There's only one that covert 19 patient that's hospitalized right now at this time they did have several cases where patients were being tested. After coming in close contact, they been able to actually process those tests more quickly. Now the VA has sped up, it's testing. The VA's in Southern California are coordinating with the VA long beach, uh, which is uh, supposedly drastically cut the reporting time. So they've been able to at least clear out some of the people who suspected to have having COBIT 19 but ultimately were were testing negative.
Speaker 1: 20:52 Were you able to find out why there's a discrepancy among local VA hospitals about whether a potential Kovac 19 patients get their initial screening inside or outside of the hospital?
Speaker 8: 21:03 Well, it all really came down to weather related. I asked that question and uh, Dr. Smith talked a little bit about certain hospitals have different designs. It's easier to isolate people in an atrium in one clinic than it is in another clinic. Uh, but ultimately the CDC guidance is really clear on this. You're supposed to screen people before they go inside your facility. That way if someone is suspected of having the virus, they can be taken to a secondary screening without going inside that facility at all and potentially coming into contact with other patients or staff.
Speaker 1: 21:38 Now, last week we on midday edition we spoke with will Rodriguez Kennedy who heads the San Diego County democratic party and who is also a veteran who has recently hospitalized with a bad case of coven 19. He had very high praise for the nurses at the VA medical center in LA Hoya. From your reporting, did you get the impression that overall VA nurses and staff in San Diego feel they are ready for an increasing number of serious coronavirus patients?
Speaker 8: 22:07 I always bring this up every time we do a story about problems at the VA and in all the different um, intricacies of trying to get care at the VA. and that is whenever somebody gets into the VA facility and is actually being treated by the VA staff, they typically give the VA pretty high marks that they really like the treatment that they get once they're in the side. The VA, it seems like most of these problems STEM from a lack of communication. The nurses also say that they haven't had enough communication, uh, with hospital management early on and that that's led to some of these problems as this goes forward. It's a moving target for us in the community as we're trying to decide what precautions we need to take. The same conversations are going on with healthcare providers. It's just very difficult right now to understand what the latest guidance is given that it keeps being updated on a daily and in some cases, hourly basis.
Speaker 1: 23:04 I've been speaking with KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh. Steve, thanks again.
Speaker 8: 23:09 Thanks Maureen.
Speaker 1: 23:14 Businesses deemed essential like gas stations and restaurant takeout are doing their best to stay afloat during the Corona virus shutdown, but most of San Diego small businesses are completely closed with employees out of work and owners struggling to figure out if their businesses will be able to make it through this crisis. Federal state and local programs are now in place to help small businesses recover. But will it be enough? Joining me is Stephanie Benvenuto. She's vice president of public affairs at the San Diego chamber of commerce. Stephanie, welcome to the program.
Speaker 9: 23:46 Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.
Speaker 1: 23:49 What are the biggest concerns you're hearing from small business owners?
Speaker 9: 23:53 Uh, overwhelmingly the question from business owners is access to capital and the process by which they access that capital. So a lot of what's happened, um, as employers are shutting down, they're shutting down as a result of government directive, not as a result of imprudent decision making on their part. So, you know, you could have done everything by the book and followed all the rules and really been a model, a small business, and still be blindsided by the reality of today. So many of them are learning on the fly about disaster preparedness for their business and, and what sort of programs and products exist out there or a business who no longer has an income, again, by no fault of your own. So we have seen a variety of programs come online, which you mentioned earlier. It's a matter of education for, for a great many of them and getting them, getting them the application and the tools and all of the documentation that they need to make themselves eligible to participate in those programs.
Speaker 1: 24:55 Now, most small businesses operate on a pretty tight cashflow in the best of times, isn't that right?
Speaker 9: 25:01 Yes, that's very true. We always say that any regulation, any change you pass will impact businesses, but anything that impacts business will impact small business much harder than the medium and large.
Speaker 1: 25:12 So how much reserves would you say they do have just on their own?
Speaker 9: 25:17 The San Diego landscape for small business is not one that I think lends itself well to a typical business. And I had an idea, an idea of what they have in their reserves, but I can tell you that some immediately knew that furlough was in their future when they saw the government shutdown regs coming out. And then there was others that had you know, a week or two weeks or the most common story I heard, and I don't want to say it's typical, but I'll say it was the most common, was that businesses had, you know, one round of payroll in them before they ran through their reserves.
Speaker 1: 25:54 Now there are a number of lifelines being thrown to small businesses in the form of government loans and grants. Can you outline the program or programs you think will be most helpful?
Speaker 9: 26:06 The cares program, which was the most recent federal stimulus bill brought with it, a member of loan products, some of which are actually forgivable too for the small business administration that many businesses have have shown a lot of interest in. Um, mainly the paycheck protection program. And then the E IDLs, uh, are also going to be really, really critical for folks who are trying to find their way through. We also saw a tax credit program who a lot for folks who are able to keep their employees on their payroll and the time being, so then you could get 50% of salary back as a tax credit once again, once we reopened. And the number of these programs also that are coming for the small business administration. Uh, and you know, typical small business administration, the lenders, so banks that many organizations already have a relationship with, which is great.
Speaker 9: 27:00 One of the things that's changed in how we've rolled out these programs is some of the regulations and requirements that used to be kind of tacked onto them, have them loosened or otherwise taken off the table. So the need for extensive collateral and other ability to get credit, um, we're making it easier for folks to access those funds. Granted, I have heard that some are easier than others to get to. We are still learning quite a bit. The paycheck protection program applications just went live I believe late last week, I think on Friday. And we're still learning about the right way, the best way, most effective and productive way to get those applications approved. So, um, I would really recommend folks take a look at the carers act program. The U S chamber of commerce, small business administration and the S small business development centers all are incredible resources with lots of good guidelines because no small businesses the same and all of these programs are different and that all required their own sort of approach and application.
Speaker 1: 28:00 Now you mentioned E I D ELLs, what are they?
Speaker 9: 28:03 It's an economic injury disaster loan, which existed before Corona virus. So it was a caveat program for businesses who were going into it. Things that you typically can't foresee, but it did give folks access to a small business loan program that was different from the typical sort of startup or need for capital. It's really no extenuating circumstances and things along those lines. So when we first started to see the Corona virus impact our local economic landscape, that was one of the products that we, we were just pushing people toward as quickly as possible.
Speaker 1: 28:40 What about the city of San Diego small business relief fund? Where does that fit into the relief effort?
Speaker 9: 28:46 The city's program? City specific, narrower scope but still really important because some of the programs we talked about before that were affiliated with the cares act at the federal level require an existing relationship with a bank. So we know that not every business in San Diego has that. Um, some folks aren't affiliated with an institution, which makes it very hard to access those funds. It could prolong the timeline. These city programs provide some variants in accessibility that make it possible for those businesses that otherwise, you know, maybe you're a startup brand new, maybe a refugee owned business in and you don't have those traditional relationships. Having things like what the city has done. So correctively is really important to making sure that everybody has a, has a shot at that capital.
Speaker 1: 29:31 Now all of these programs that small businesses are applying for that we've been discussing, they take time to get approved, especially since the application volume is, as you say, so high right now. What advice do you have to those businesses who have applied and are waiting to hear back?
Speaker 9: 29:47 Oh gosh. Um, I want folks to know that people really are sympathetic with the fact that that is one of the biggest deterrents that we understand that the business community needs help now. And I think that's, that we've all been keeping, um, at the front of our minds, one of the programs within the cares act does actually allow for a $10,000 advance, I believe, to be deposited within, you know, 72 hours or something incredibly expeditious. So there are ways to access some funds quicker. Again, if you meet those requirements and you have that existing relationship, um, and you're working with a bank and you've been really proactive. I also think that if you're a business in a position where you may be on the cusp of survival still and you have not reached out to your lender or your existing banking institution, you should really be doing that. Proactive discussions with them is really important because as different products come online or as your situation changes, it does take some time to get those conversations moving. So if you are already in the queue, if you've expressed interest, that will help to minimize some of the time in that turnaround. Unfortunately, there's no, no secret door, no, you know, quick access pass. But the faster and more uh, communicative you've been to respond to the possible need, even if that need is not urgent quite yet, we'll probably situate you better in the long run.
Speaker 1: 31:16 Couple of last questions. Uh, Stephanie, are there any types of small businesses in San Diego that you are particularly concerned about? And is it inevitable that a number of businesses will not be able to reopen?
Speaker 9: 31:29 I think, uh, our survey that we recently completed told us that our members that are within the food, beverage and tourism is probably frontline folks who are feeling like this, this situation disproportionately. Um, and that it's a very sobering bit of information to look for the survey responses there. Uh, 80% of the employers that we're printing on reducing staff were represented by or were representative of those industries. So I think any programs that we are looking at as far as recovery have to think about those and their interconnectedness with the larger economic landscape in San Diego. Uh, with regard to reopening, I think it is quite possible that following the Corona virus, um, situation and when we start to see our, our economy come back to life, it will look different. And what exactly that will be specifically. I don't, I don't think that we're prepared to speak to, I think the timeline is going to be very critical and uh, watching what the state decides to do, um, continue do, will definitely matter. So fingers crossed that everybody can continue to hang on and that we can continue to see a larger strategy so that businesses can plan to the best of their ability that I, I, I don't know that we're at a place at a position yet where we can make those predictions.
Speaker 1: 32:54 I've been speaking with Stephanie Benvenuto, she's vice president of public affairs for the San Diego chamber of commerce. Stephanie, thank you very much. This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh. As with many theaters, the San Diego rep has had to close its doors because of health concerns about the Corona virus pandemic KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando explains how the theater company is going online with its production of house of joy.
Speaker 10: 33:24 Sam. So the Corona virus pandemic has forced a lot of theaters to come up with some creative and innovative ways of dealing with the fact that the physical theater space has to be closed. So what has the San Diego rep been able to do with this production of house of joy?
Speaker 11: 33:43 Well, first and foremost, we were fortunate that led by some regional theaters, actor's equity association. The actor's union has granted a limited opportunity for people to see video of productions that had to close because of the virus. As I'm sure you know, we opened on March 11th and closed on March 12th so our opening night was our closing night performance. So we had one hell of an opening and closing night party on the same time even though we didn't know it til the next day. So we had fortunately recorded a a B roll of promotional content video a week before the invited dress rehearsal. And so we, we had our videographer Mark Holmes cut that together and have released for a limited times for April 12th a video of the entire dress rehearsal shot with four or five cameras that people can see. If you already bought a ticket, you should see a complimentary. If you hadn't bought a ticket, you make a donation, you can see the video.
Speaker 10: 34:41 In this case, you were lucky enough to have had a video recording of the show you were about to produce moving forward. What other kinds of things can you do to give people access to San Diego rep content or just to provide something to kind of stay connected with the community?
Speaker 11: 34:58 You know, it puts an interesting, um, transition for us because we, like many theaters in America, our business is gathering people together into a room to be close together as someone said, to join hands in the dark and to experience something together to share a story. Well, the very core of our traditional businesses currently not possible, you cannot do that. So we had become a media company like many other theaters where we are distributing content, uh, via the web video and text interviews, stories, musical selections, Sam salon for the first time in 12 years, I'm going online with it instead of live in the theater. So we're publishing a weekly e-magazine on Thursdays called represents, which we are trying to fill with provocative and interesting content for curious viewer.
Speaker 10: 35:53 And again, you mentioned the fact that you know, theater is about this community and about people being in the same space together. What are you trying to do to create any sense of a dialogue in terms of people being able to interact with you or share comments about a play they've just seen? Is there anything in regards to that at this point?
Speaker 11: 36:12 Well yesterday at an editorial meetings he, we sound like a publishing company. Uh, we talked about how we could create interactive experiences for people and that we might hold some kind of a round table or content poetry, theater driven material that would then be followed by a conversation and meet the artists conversation and talk back if you will, an interactive conversation hosted. Oh that would be sort of the next step in our media published empire that was born two weeks ago.
Speaker 10: 36:44 A bit about house of joy cause people are going to have an opportunity to watch this for a limited amount of time. So tell us a little bit about this production and what it's about.
Speaker 11: 36:53 House of joy is pretty much unlike anything you've ever seen. It's set in 1666 in Delhi, India in a the emperor's palace inside the Royal harem, inside the palace where the men who are enter must cover their eyes with masks and blindfolds because they're not allowed to see the women in the empire. So everyone inside the condom is a woman or a unit.
Speaker 12: 37:21 Thousands of women work inside these walls every day to keep this treasure, to keep it pure. The most talented women up the empire and beyond accountants, seamstress gardeners, ships working at the pleasure of his magazine and they are supervised by the special ones. Those who are not met and who are not lists. There are so many beats between the inside and outside worlds. Nothing escaped there. No cause I do see and direction. Shushan will be a spectacle. The likes of which this King has not shooting. Are you ready to,
Speaker 11: 38:20 and this story is set in this harm in which the son of the emperor is threatening to start a revolution and overthrow the kingdom and the female guards of the Hiram. That's how you said our challenge to the women in the higher becomes a story of women saving and helping other women, including battle warfare, fight, combat, intrigue, suspense. There's a rescue of the chief queen and she's carried through the, uh, sewers out to freedom. And then there's the invasion of the Hiram by all of these men that you never see from the outside.
Speaker 10: 39:01 This production was particularly beautiful to look at. I mean in terms of the costumes, the colors, but also it had a really creative use of your space. There were, I've never seen quite so much of that um, facility put into use.
Speaker 11: 39:15 Yeah, we had a good time. You know, the, the piece was set in the Hiram as I said, but part of the story happens outside of the arm. So we stayed in the round, so essentially a flat floor painted very exotically and beautifully, but a flat floor designed by union Bay. And then to escape the home, we built a ladder where the actors climbed up the ladder and ran into the catwalk where the lagging technicians usually hang out to escape the higher and be out in the city. And so it was in the round. So it was happening from all corners of the room. Yeah. Unusual theater technology and use of space and, and extraordinary visuals from the costume designer Jennifer Martin get it. And the scenic designer you embed in the lighting designer David Cuthbert.
Speaker 10: 40:03 You know, for me it's interesting that the things that I love so much, which is going to film, going to theater have always been this community experience where you go together and in times of crisis or stress, being able to join with that community and share an experience like going to a play if so important. How do you feel as an arts organization about kind of having that means kind of taken away and um, you know, how does it feel coping with that?
Speaker 11: 40:35 How does it feel? Well, um, I would say two things. One is, yeah, it's quite scary. It's quite deeply threatening to our stability. And viability as a, as a, as an institution, as a business. Because we cannot conduct our core business and we're not really a media company. We're just acting like one right now. And so [inaudible] poses a direct threat to the very core of our business. Now the other side of that answer is the theater is the place that all optimists flock to and people who come to the theater believe in the power of people coming together to make something out of nothing. And that's what we do whenever we start a play. There's nothing there. There's words on a page and we make a piece of deer. So that energy still exists and is right now driven into planning and sharing that planning and sharing what we're working on for the future. So we're optimistic, we're cautious and we want to try to be as safe as we can.
Speaker 10: 41:40 And is there anything else that you want to tell people about the play in terms of, can you suggest a way to watch it? Maybe in the sense of encouraging people to maybe watch it and then partake in a zoom meeting or share it while they're on Skype or FaceTime or something. Or are you trying to come up with any kind of like viewing suggestions in that respect?
Speaker 11: 42:02 It's interesting to see a play recorded live on video that is not staged for the camera. This is a recording of a place staged for the stage, so you're going to experience camera angles and shots that you don't ever see on television or in the films and one one level. This is a unique experience in that you're looking at a, at a recording of something stage for a whole different purpose and meaning. The second is I would encourage people to send us their thoughts to our website, to our Facebook page, send it to me, be curious to hear what people think about the video as is again, this experience of a piece of theater in the round, no less and I guess I should point that out that if you're staging a plan around every single person has a different point of view on the play visually.
Speaker 11: 42:55 So there is no one universal. This is the way you should look at this piece. It's the most egalitarian and democratic, I guess, populist way of, of putting a play on stages. Everybody's got their own point of view. In fact, some people don't want to stage in the round because they can't control what the audience sees and you can't, you can't ultimately control it. So you know, some of that's deep in the weeds, but it's interesting being somebody who watches a lot of video television film. I'm struck when I watched the video of house of joy, how visually different it is from what you usually see.
Speaker 10: 43:35 Thank you very much.
Speaker 11: 43:36 All right, bet. Thank you.
Speaker 10: 43:38 That was Beth haka. Mando speaking with San Diego rep, artistic director. Sam Woodhouse. House of joy will be available online through April 12th.