Your Coronavirus Questions Answered, Chula Vista’s Steve Padilla Recovers From COVID-19 And Passover During A Pandemic
KPBS Midday Edition / April 8, 2020
Information about the new coronavirus changes almost daily and it can be confusing to keep up. We answer some of your questions here. Plus, Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Padilla spent nearly a month battling the virus including being hospitalized and put on a ventilator. He details his experience with the disease. Also, Inovio, a local company that discovered a possible vaccine for the disease in three hours began the first phase of human trials this week. In addition, settings such as prisons can be a hotbed for COVID-19 virus outbreaks. The San Diego-based California Innocence Project raises its concerns for inmates. And, the virus pandemic is upending the Jewish holiday of Passover which begins Wednesday night. Many are planning virtual celebrations this year.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Governor Newsome announces a big investment in securing personal protective equipment. And we'll have answers to some of the questions you have about covert 19.
Speaker 2: 00:08 I'm Mark Sauer in for Jade Heineman.
Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm wearing Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition. It's Wednesday, April 8th. Governor Gavin Newsome focused his daily Kovac 19 news conference today on an unprecedented state procurement initiative to secure personal protective equipment for the entirety of the need of healthcare workers in California. He says the state is making a significant investment of one point $4 billion in obtaining the supplies
Speaker 3: 00:48 we need to go boldly, uh, and we need to meet this moment without playing small ball any longer and we need to coordinate and organize, uh, our nation state status, uh, as we can only in California.
Speaker 1: 01:02 The state initiative of securing contracts with companies and nongovernmental organizations in Asia and beyond will provide 200 million hospital grade facemasks alone and San Diego was mentioned as one of the counties that will receive the purchased supplies. Meanwhile, a San Diego lab is now testing its Corona virus vaccine in humans and Novio pharmaceuticals injected its first patients this week at sites in Pennsylvania and Missouri in Novios lead researcher Kate Broderick spoke to KPBS health reporter Taran mento who starts by asking about the volunteer who received the first dose.
Speaker 2: 01:41 He was very, very excited, I think to be part of this trial and also to be the first ever person to, to, um, to be able to, um, test our vaccine. And, uh, and we just are so thankful for all of the volunteers who, um, who have really stepped up and want to be part of this trial.
Speaker 4: 02:01 This isn't the first time you've reached human trials with your DNA vaccines, but what is the significance of this to you with this particular vaccine?
Speaker 2: 02:11 Yes, absolutely. So we've tested R, D at different DNE medicines and over 2000 people so far. So we've really done a, a, a huge amount of clinical testing, but the significance of us getting this far subject treated for our covert 19 vaccine is just absolutely remarkable. And I can see without a shadow of a doubt that the whole team or Novio has been working 24, seven DNA to, to get to this moment in time. So for us as a team, that's a huge achievement. But I also like to think of it as a massive achievement for um, you know, the whole global community in general because this is another step forward towards a solution for the cut UN global covert 19 eight batik.
Speaker 4: 03:02 Now this individual and the others that come after him will be given a second dose after four weeks. But in between those four weeks, what are you looking for?
Speaker 2: 03:12 So a phase one clinical trial is really primarily to assess the safety of the vaccine. So you look for any adverse side effects. That's not something we've ever seen. And in our 2000 patients that have gone before and there's trial, so we feel pretty confident about that. But we also need to know how the vaccine reacts within the human body. So we'll be taking samples from each of our volunteers, so blood samples and we'll be testing their blood for the presence of the different antibodies and T-cells that we believe will be crucial to the body's ability to defend itself against this virus.
Speaker 4: 03:53 How often will you be taking blood samples and is that person coming in every time to do that?
Speaker 2: 03:57 Yeah, that's correct. Sorts of variety of different stages throughout the process. We'll be taking samples from each of the subjects and really at crucial times during there, the whole spread of the trial. Um, some early up front, some of the med time and also some longer term blood draws as well. And it gives us, gives us the ability to see K the ho the body responds immediately, how it responds after this, the booster dos and then how it responds. Maybe after a year or so of having had the vaccine.
Speaker 4: 04:28 You just mentioned collecting data a year after a person gets the actual vaccine. But I know that you've talked about having results from this human trial by the summer
Speaker 2: 04:40 be looking to get what we call interim data. So that'll be data sort of out there. The mid stage, I guess you could see of the trial and potentially using that data, if it looks positive to go back to the FDA and see, would you be, um, would you be comfortable with us pushing forward into our phase two? So that's a much larger clinical trial and using that data to support that decision.
Speaker 4: 05:04 I know that you have other trials that are going on later stage trials. Are those still going on and where do the vaccines for those other diseases stand?
Speaker 2: 05:16 At the moment we have two concurrent phase three trials for our therapeutic HPV vaccine ongoing. And that's the last stage of clinical testing before something moves forward to what we call licensure. So something that becomes an approved product. And those are huge trials as you can imagine. They're, they're very large. Um, and it's really to came to get a sense of how my vaccine, like this looks in a very large population. As you can imagine with the cuttin, you know, global situation at the moment where the people are really restricted in the movements. We're really assessing D to D the impact that this was going to have on our ongoing trials for our hitch PV vaccine. Also for our vaccine against GBM, which is a terrible brain cancer. We're hoping to minimize those impacts but I think we all have to be realistic that you know the situation today is very different than the situation was even a few months ago.
Speaker 4: 06:15 When will be the end of all of these social distancing, you know, gatherings, fewer than 10 people measures be lifted and we can go back to normal life
Speaker 2: 06:24 and I would love to be able to give you an everyone a definitive answer to that. But just to be perfectly honest, there isn't one at the moment and you know it's great to see that in some parts of China after multiple months of lockdown things are starting to return to normal and we should see that as a, as a true beacon of hope for what we can, what we can look forward to in the coming months. But certainly at the moment, the one thing we absolutely have to do is stick with the self isolate, tag, stick with the social distance saying stick with the sort of general health and feedback about washing our harms and sneezing and Tyrrell balls and such like, you know, these are the orderly tools that we have at the moment. Yes, absolutely. We're working as fast as we can on the vaccine and sore many others people are developing therapies and tests. Caps are unbelievable speeds, but at the moment the best thing we can do is sell Phi saline quoting team, stay at home, protect yourself and protect the healthcare workers. That's the best thing you can do today.
Speaker 4: 07:32 We talk a lot about the fact that we don't know when we'll get back to normal life and that's very concerning and alarming and stressful to a lot of people. I guess what comforts you? So
Speaker 2: 07:43 as a scientist there is, I have no doubt at all that we will have an effective vaccine and effective therapy for covert 19 and I don't know who's it will be and I can't give you a D as to when that will be ready. But I know that the science, the technology that M has developed globally is such an a possession that we will have tools to fight this fight us. The problem is we just don't have those right now. And so I have every hope that this is completely achievable and this Vitus is completely fightable, but we just need time. So that's my, that's what gives me hope as a scientist and as a mother or just as a member of society, we've had to deal with some terrible things and you know, in society, maybe not in our lifetime, but certainly few past generations with, you know, terrible situations with Wars and such like, and we've always managed to get through these.
Speaker 2: 08:46 And you know, I think it's, it's almost heartening to me to see how I think people have really started to think about, you know, looking after other people, you know, looking at it on their neighbors and you know, just giving a weave to kind of a stranger out for a walk that seems to almost have Caden reignited the sense of society and your that gives me hope that um, you know, if everybody gets together and pulls together on this one and we're going to be okay. We're going to, we are going to get through this
Speaker 5: 09:26 about 200 San Diego residents have recovered from COBIT 19 and our next guest is on his way there after nearly a month long battle with the virus on March 14th Chulavista council members steepen IA posted this video on his Twitter account.
Speaker 6: 09:42 Hi friends. After recently experiencing symptoms, I was diagnosed as being positive for the coven 19 virus, also known as coronavirus. I'm doing very well, I'm feeling well.
Speaker 5: 09:53 But days later his condition worsened. He was admitted to an intensive care unit, sedated, put on a ventilator. He's home now and from the hospital recovering. And Steve [inaudible]. Welcome. Thank you for having me. Well, first of all, how are you feeling today?
Speaker 6: 10:07 I'm feeling physically better every day. Uh, emotionally, of course it's been, it's been quite a journey.
Speaker 5: 10:15 I'm sorry. Walk us through what happened in the beginning. You were at home feeling well, and at one point we were working on scheduling an interview with you on the show. And next thing we know you're in the ICU. How did you go from being home in quarantine to feeling much, much worse?
Speaker 6: 10:30 That's the nature and insidiousness of this virus, right? It's indiscriminant moves very quickly on the young and the old. Uh, and in my case, uh, that's exactly what happened is I rapidly, uh, was moving towards basically respiratory distress. It's having more and more difficulty breathing, higher spiking fevers and shakes, ended up visiting the emergency room at UCFD and a couple of occasions. And before you know it, I'm being admitted to the hospital and having conversations with my physicians about being intubated so that they could intervene pretty quickly in my case. And I think they're doing so frankly saved my life.
Speaker 5: 11:14 So we've read that most people who come down with COBIT night team experienced mild symptoms is the range of symptoms. And then of course there's folks like you who need help breathing and need a ventilator. You surprised by this range of experiences after having contracted this disease?
Speaker 6: 11:30 No, I mean from what I've seen is, uh, there's a, there's a range of experiences. Yes. Most people who get it do recover. Yes. Uh, but many people do get very sick and uh, you can be young, you can be old, you can be from a variety of backgrounds. It's very indiscriminate. And when people get into distress because of this virus, it happens very quickly.
Speaker 5: 11:53 And as you say, you believe a, you share the sentiment of a lot of folks who, who were on ventilators and, and believe it really saved your life.
Speaker 6: 12:01 Absolutely. What they were telling me, uh, before we got to that point was that what they were seeing in coven 19 patients were that when they did get into distress, it happened very rapidly. And I didn't, I think they didn't want to wait, uh, to get to a point where, uh, I was that critical. Uh, and so they intervened in a pretty conservative, pretty early way when I was not oxygenating properly. Uh, they moved me to the ICU and talked about putting me on a ventilator pretty quickly so that, you know, my body could take all of its energy and fight a virus rather than trying to struggle to breathe. And, um, you know, I feel very lucky because I think the great care that I received, I think it saved my life. I think on a, on a personal and an emotional level, it's been quite a journey.
Speaker 6: 12:56 And that, um, I can remember being the night they were going to move me out of the intensive care unit. I was waiting to be moved. Then I was watching a national network and they were reporting the story of a surgeon in New York who died in the arms of his husband simply because he went to work to do his job and he got sick and he died. And I saw other stories about, you know, the assistant principal who married his high school sweetheart and coached soccer and who was 42 years old and who was fine, got sick, ended up on a ventilator and never came home. So for me, I've really spent a lot of time reflecting on the fact that I got to get wheeled out of that hospital last week and that around this country, and even here in San Diego County, there are people who are never coming out and it's indiscriminate and it's random and it's vicious. And which is why I think we need to continue to take this extremely seriously. And in my case, I really have done a lot of reflecting about what that really means and what it should mean, uh, for me and for our community.
Speaker 5: 14:09 Well, that's a message we should all take to heart, certainly. And now you're home. Uh, what's your recovery been like there?
Speaker 6: 14:15 You know, it's, some of it's the harder part, right? Um, what happens when you're intubated like that for a period of time? You don't use your muscles, so you have some wasting that happens. I lost about I think 27 pounds during the course of the 11 days I was on a ventilator. Uh, I've lost a lot of muscle mass in my legs, so it's almost like kind of learning to walk again in some ways. Uh, but I'm getting stronger every day. I'm up and about, um, I'm light years from where I were when I first, uh, came out of the ICU. But you know, my physicians told me, and I think it's true for any Kovac patient, particularly critically ill patients, is your body suffers a tremendous trauma and it really deals with inflammation. And the only thing that's going to really deal with that is time and you know, steady and slow progress. So I'm really grateful to be here. Um, a mindful of what it means that I'm here or it should mean. Um, and I'm focused on just getting stronger every day, uh, and putting one foot literally in front of the other
Speaker 5: 15:24 and have doctors said how long you need to remain in quarantine now that you're released from the hospital.
Speaker 6: 15:31 Um, you know, my symptoms started to present coming up on a month, so we're kind of blown away past the typical 14 days. You Batian period and probably even past the three day period without any real symptoms. So, uh, in my particular case, uh, probably got some good antibodies and probably not shedding virus anymore, but they're being conservative. Um, I'm staying with my daughter, my son in law for a period of time. We're being very conservative about it and kind of quarantining and wearing masks and all that. I certainly do that when I go out, uh, just to be mindful of others, so we're being pretty conservative with it. Um, but I, in my own personal case, I think I'm pretty far along down the road.
Speaker 5: 16:18 So does this point come where you're given a letter or a badge saying you're now immune and free to go about the community that's actually been considered someplaces
Speaker 6: 16:27 somebody I know, I haven't received anything from the County, obviously. The last thing I did was when I was first diagnosed, uh, and they sent me a letter, a very polite letter saying stay home. Um, but that was obviously before I went into the hospital. Uh, I will be having a follow up, uh, with my physician this week and I'll obviously have a lot of questions and follow up for them and they'll give me a lot more specific, uh, specific guidance. Then.
Speaker 5: 16:56 Now the San Diego blood bank is asking people who've recovered from Cova at 19 to donate blood plasma. Is that something you're involved with or considering?
Speaker 6: 17:05 I have, I am going to have that conversation with my primary care physician this week and I'll have a lot of questions around it. And obviously on a personal level I'm going to do anything I can personally do to try to be helpful both in terms of sort of using my voice, uh, from this experience. Um, and you know, contributing in a way that's helpful to other people.
Speaker 5: 17:28 And what would your message be to the public right now having experienced this terrible virus
Speaker 6: 17:33 care for one another, respect one another's health. Take it very seriously. You know, we're still not through this, this isn't just a public health crisis, it's an economic crisis. There's a lot of people who are hurting and scared. Um, this is something none of us I think I've ever lived through. Uh, I think the last pandemic was over a hundred years ago. So this is, this is new and it's scary and this is a moment when people need to really be respectful of one another and to be there for one another.
Speaker 5: 18:09 Well, I've been speaking with Steve Badea, Chula Vista city council member. Steve, thanks very much. And take care of yourself.
Speaker 6: 18:15 Thank you for having me.
Speaker 5: 18:27 One of the most unnerving aspects of the Corona virus pandemic is the uncertainty of it all. Early on we established a blog entitled what your fellow San Diego bins are asking KPBS. It's where our reporters endeavor to take your questions to experts in the community for answers. Joining me is KPBS arts reporter Beth Huck Amando with a few questions she's tracked down on the blog. Beth, welcome. Thank you. Well, what's the idea behind this Q and a blog?
Speaker 7: 18:55 Well, you know, during this time a lot of people are concerned about so many things and are not quite sure where to turn. And a lot of people have very specific questions that may not be answered in kind of the more general information that's being put out by the CDC and the who. So KPBS has offered an opportunity for people to ask questions and then reporters like myself take those questions on and research them or use people who've been on midday edition or interviewed somewhere else to answer those questions specifically and then put them on this blog and we identify what the question was and who asked it and then provide an answer.
Speaker 5: 19:36 And of course, San Diego with our rich scientific community and researchers here. It's a kind of an excellent place to do that on. Give us an overview of some of the questions we've received from our audience.
Speaker 7: 19:47 It's a really broad spectrum. I mean, there are some things that are very specific and don't seem that important. Like, can I go to my hairdresser too? You know, broader questions just about, you know, is there a vaccine, is there a treatment? Uh, so we get a really wide variety of questions and you know, we do our best to answer as many of those as possible.
Speaker 5: 20:12 Uh, one question you, uh, got answered had to do with whether or not the antibodies from someone who's recovered could be used to create a vaccine. What did you learn about how antibodies can be used?
Speaker 7: 20:22 Well, I was fortunate. I had done a podcast with Joel Warth Heim who was a UCLA assistant professor in division of infectious diseases and global public health and the department of medicine. And he's currently teaching a class on epidemiology and he uses the film contagion as kind of a conversation starter. So this is his world dealing with viruses, the potential dangers they have. So he was able to give me an answer about how the plasma and antibodies from someone who has recovered from Corona virus might be able to help in this.
Speaker 8: 21:01 We can use serum from people who've been infected with Covin 19 to develop a convalescent serum, which unlike a vaccine, which is your own antibodies attacking the virus, this would use the antibodies from someone who's recovered to attack your virus.
Speaker 5: 21:19 And in fact, yesterday the San Diego blood bank started asking people who've recovered from COBIT 19 to donate plasma. How does that fit in with what you found out about, uh, about antibodies?
Speaker 7: 21:31 Well, that is something that health workers and scientists and people are trying to do. The thing is it takes a lot of plasma and a lot of getting those antibodies out to make a serum that is useful for a single person. So the issues with that are, you know, do the blood types match, can they get enough antibodies? Are there enough recovered people who are willing to donate blood? So it's kind of a long process. And that convalescent serum is usually helpful to individual patients. It's not really a car according to worth time. It's not really going to be the kind of answer we're all looking for. He says that's going to be in the form of a vaccine or antiviral drug treatment.
Speaker 5: 22:17 I see. And that of course that's what we are all looking for these, this vaccine that can really hopefully put an end to this at some point. Now this week a tiger at the Bronx zoo in New York became the first animal testing positive for grownup virus in the U S one of the questions on our Q and a blog that you answered had to do with Corona virus and pets. Uh, tell us what you found out about hit, how it this could impact pets.
Speaker 7: 22:41 Sure. So a lot of concern came up about pets because a dog and Hong Kong had tested positive for Corona virus. And there was a little bit of misconception about that. The veterinary colleges looked into that very specifically and made it very clear that what had happened was the dog had tested positive for having a Corona virus in its nose and its owner had been diagnosed with the virus. And so the thought was that the dog had the virus on him just like a tabletop or you know, some other thing might have it if it's in a room with somebody who's what they say, shedding the virus. So at that point they felt that pets and dogs were not able to carry the disease and spread it. And the CDC, Kurt had said there was no evidence that companion animals, including pets can spread coven 19 or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.
Speaker 7: 23:40 But just recently we saw information that a tiger and its Cubs had come down with the Corona virus and had received it from the zoo worker, the zookeeper. So this is a whole new thing. Again, the reason why this is called a novel Corona virus is that we have never seen it before and scientists really don't know everything about it. And so there are a lot of things that keep developing and changing. At this point, the tiger is looking to recuperate and they're not sure exactly what this will signify, but at this point, no pets in the U S or animals livestock have been diagnosed with the Corona virus. Um, or they, and they don't think at this point in time that they are possible of spreading the disease from, from pets and livestock to humans.
Speaker 5: 24:33 Now, a survey done this week regarding COBIT 19 info put out over social media found an abundance of false or misleading statements with Twitter leading the way. Much of the false info came from leaders like president Trump, president at both scenario of Brazil. It seems social media platforms aren't doing enough to police bad information. Would you agree with that?
Speaker 7: 24:53 Yeah, I think that's true. And you know, a lot of the information is still not known. So there's a lot of things that are hard to, uh, some things are hard to disprove right off the bat and there's so many different things out there that it's hard to police everything. But I think everybody needs to just be really careful in evaluating the information that they see before sharing it or before, you know, putting it out there.
Speaker 5: 25:19 Yeah. It's a very good time to be skeptical. And in our blog had KPBS is an attempt to overcome some of the false information out there. Right?
Speaker 7: 25:26 Correct. And you know, we try to go to respected, um, sources and verify the information and, and try to use sources like the CDC and the world health organization and our local scientists and, you know, try to provide people with some very, you know, calm reason, factual information that they can turn to. And we usually, we also try to offer like a lot of links and things like that for, you know, here's the information we found. If you want to pursue more information, you can, you know, check out these additional stories and, um, you know, pursue some information on your own
Speaker 5: 26:02 and quickly remind us how people can submit questions and see other questions that we've answered.
Speaker 7: 26:07 Sure. So if you go to the KPBS website, there's a banner up at the top that you can click on. It's I think orange and that'll take you to all of our Corona virus coverage and then if you go to the, you know, KPBS answers your Corona virus questions and scroll down to the bottom. There is a form you can fill out with any question you might have.
Speaker 5: 26:26 I had been speaking with KPBS, arch reporter Beth Huck Amando and she's been answering your coronavirus questions. Thanks very much, Beth. You're welcome.
Speaker 7: 26:42 There's no lining to the covert
Speaker 1: 26:44 19 pandemic, but there are unexpected twists of fate. Governor Gavin Newson last week granted clemency to more than two dozen state prisoners. The governor said the cases had been under consideration for some time, but he indicated he took the virus at its potential to sweep through California's prisons into account. Four of the inmates released were among the so-called California 12 a dozen inmates whose cases were championed by the California innocence project. Journey me is Justin Brooks, director of the California innocence project at the California Western school of law in San Diego and Justin, welcome back to the program.
Speaker 9: 27:22 Thank you so much Maureen. It's a pleasure.
Speaker 1: 27:25 What exactly does a grant of clemency mean for these inmates? Are they being released from prison immediately?
Speaker 9: 27:32 Well, two of them are being released immediately. The other two are going in front of the parole board. Um, they were people who didn't have a chance to getting parole and we're hoping that that process will be expedited and they'll also be coming home soon.
Speaker 1: 27:47 Give us an idea of how long the four people who receive this clemency have been in prison for crimes you believe they did not commit.
Speaker 9: 27:55 Yeah, all four of them had been in prison for more than 20 years. Um, these are cases we've worked on for a long time. Uh, we had the March across California eight years ago, actually seven years ago this month. Uh, when we tried to bring attention to these cases and when we first filed the clemency petitions with governor Jerry Brown. And so we had been fighting these cases for years and years and years. And, um, you know, this covert 19 things seems to have expedited the process and we've seen that around the country. So there are people very deserving of their freedom. And I think just that the idea of the sickness going through the prisons and when you know these innocent people dying motivated the governor to act on them.
Speaker 1: 28:43 One of the prisoners was the subject of a recent book called burned that. What's Joanne Park's story?
Speaker 9: 28:50 So Joanne parks, uh, was living with her three children and there was a fire in her house and while she was asleep and the three children died in the fire, it's absolutely tragic. And as a result of just absolutely terrible testimony about arson science, uh, the court concluded that she had started this fire. And we have seen a lot of these cases over the past several years of bad arson science. A lot of these guys who testify as experts are really just glorified firemen and don't really have training in how fires start. They know how to put fires out. And in her case, and we've seen this in a number of cases, when they see multiple points of ignition, the assumption is it was intentionally started, but we now know that fire jumps within a house after it started. So fire can start in the living room. Go up to the ceiling and then drop in the kitchen.
Speaker 9: 29:49 And later on when they look at it, it looks like two points of ignition, but there was really just one. We also know that Joanne had a faulty TV set and that model had been linked to dozens of house fires. So we presented that evidence in front of the courts and no one has said at any juncture that she wasn't innocent. It's just we always up against the, do we have enough evidence to overcome the presumption that she's guilty and the courts have disagreed with us. But fortunately Gavin Newsome reviewed it and his staff felt it was sufficient that she should be granted clemency.
Speaker 1: 30:24 And there's a woman from San Diego who was also among those granted clemency, Suzanne Johnson.
Speaker 9: 30:30 Susan Johnson's absolutely tragic as well. Um, every time I visit her, I'm sitting with neon, an elderly woman who sits there knitting and all she really wants to do is spend time with her grandchildren. And she, uh, got convicted on a bad baby death case. And that's another thing we've seen all across the country. In fact, Suzanne's case was featured in a film called the syndrome that looked at all these bad shaken baby syndrome cases that had been diagnosed when when babies come to the hospital and they die, uh, when they see certain symptoms, doctors automatically think it's abuse and we now know those symptoms can be linked to a number of things from vitamin deficiencies to injuries during actual birth. And hers was a misdiagnosis of a baby death. Um, in her particular case, the reason that the jury concluded that she, it was abused and that she hadn't called nine one one in time was because she said the baby was lucid. And we now know from a number of cases that babies and adults can actually be dying from head injuries and appear lucid and then suddenly die. We also now know that children can die from short falls. And for decades, experts were testifying that an infant cannot die from a short fall. And it's just a ridiculous conclusion. We know most of the time that doesn't happen. And all of us who've had babies have seen them fall and survive. But every once in a while it can happen. And that's what happened in her case.
Speaker 1: 32:08 How is this clemency for your four clients and the other two dozen state prisoners? Different from the early release that governor Newsome just granted to thousands of inmates.
Speaker 9: 32:20 So what they're doing with thousands of inmates is looking at people with very short terms. Um, so people with 60 days left on their sentence, 30 days on their sentence, they've been emptying out the jails of people who are in pretrial detention. They haven't been locking up people who are charged with, so they've been doing kind of blanket policies to decrease the density in the jails and prisons the same way we're trying to decrease density outside correctional facilities. And that's been sort of blanket policies. Ours is very unique and as you said, the governor's only done, you know, 24 of these in that these are cases that are already in the pipeline to be reviewed for release. And we've been able to get those releases expedited. But the governor's certainly not going in and letting people convicted of murder out of prison. Uh, and I've actually had a lot of people contacting me this week saying, Hey, can you help me out with my case? You know, I've got a client in a bad situation. They're innocent and it's very difficult to do that at this stage. You know, we've been advocating for these cases for years. They've been fully vetted by the governor's staff, fully reviewed, and we really got the process expedited more than anything else.
Speaker 1: 33:37 Because of your work, you are frequently in California prisons. Justin, can you tell us how the covert 19 pandemic is effecting inmates?
Speaker 9: 33:47 Well, this is one of the few situations where you'd say now that it's much worse to be housed in a dorm and in general population in the prison, which is usually what you want. You know, when you're incarcerated, being locked down in a cell 24 hours a day, like the people on death row is absolutely horrible. Or being in solitary confinement is horrible. Um, but those are the people now that have some form of safety because they're alone. But the vast majority of people in prison, in California, in the biggest prison system in the United States, um, they are housed in dorms in very close proximity to each other. They move all around the facility, charring the day to, to eat, to go, to work, to be out on the yard. And it's basically impossible to have social distancing in a correctional facility. Add onto the fact that California's prisons have been overcrowded for a very long time.
Speaker 9: 34:44 So they weren't even designed to have the number of people they have in them. So that's why this is an absolute crisis. Um, on top of it, the prisons are in the middle of nowhere. Most of them are hundreds of miles from the city. They have very little medical facilities available to them. And you know, we're talking about how many ventilators, so are for the general public will imagine in terms of inmates, what kind of priority they'll get when they're severely sick. So it is the worst possible situation to be in during the pandemic to be in a prison because you're more likely to get it than anywhere else and you're less likely to get medical treatment than anywhere else.
Speaker 1: 35:26 And a lot of the California innocence projects work has been put on hold because of this fires, hasn't it?
Speaker 9: 35:32 Yeah. I actually stopped prison. I had a whole bunch of prison visits set up, um, a month ago and I stopped going into the prisons, stopped all my staff and students from going into the prisons because I was afraid we were going to bring it in. And really the risk is from people from the outside, but you can't cut the prisons off from people from the outside because obviously the guards come and go every day. There's staff and running the prisons. So it stopped our work in the sense, you know, we can't visit clients. It stopped our work in terms of going out and doing crime scene investigation, tracking down witnesses. Um, my lawyers are all working hard at home on their cases and writing briefs and doing petitions and on the phone and doing zoom meetings like everyone else. So we're working really hard, but it's certainly changed our day to day work and slowed down a lot of our other cases. The courts are basically closed and uh, the criminal justice system is, is pretty much completely closed except for the prisons.
Speaker 1: 36:32 Well, congratulations for the grant of clemency to four of the California innocence projects clients and Justin Berks, director of the California innocence project. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
Speaker 9: 36:43 Thank you. It's always a pleasure.
Speaker 10: 36:50 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 36:56 tonight is not only different from all other nights, it's also different from all other Passovers San Diego's Jewish community and Jews around the world will celebrate this first night of Passover with the traditional Seder dinner. But that dinner and the entire celebration will not be as traditional as usual stay at home orders and the prohibition against large gatherings will leave many without extended family and friends. This Passover joining me is rabbi Devorah Marcus, who leads the congregation at temple Emmanuel and is president of the San Diego rabbinic association. And she's here to tell us how the meaning and celebration of Passover is being affected by the covert 19 pandemic. And rabbi, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having me. Now there's a sharp irony to the image of families huddled inside their homes tonight and the original story of Passover and the plagues of Egypt. Can you remind us of that?
Speaker 11: 37:53 Sure. Yes. The original Passover story tells us that from the Torah tells us that the Israelites were huddled in their homes hoping to avoid the final plague, which was the slang of the firstborn, uh, sons. And um, so it was a night of great trepidation and fear and uncertainty
Speaker 1: 38:14 through the centuries, though. What has the celebration of Passover come to mean to the Jewish community?
Speaker 11: 38:21 Well, since that first passed overnight, Passover has become one of the most treasured holidays in the Jewish community. Most people from the Jewish community identify that Passover's their favorite holiday. And in part it's because it's done as a home holiday with our closest friends and family. We're commanded to invite people and guests to come to our homes. We sit together, we read from the Passover Haggadah, which is, um, the name of the story of Passover. And we follow the Seder, which means an ordered meal. So we have certain parts of the story that we tell in a certain order. We were called the Exodus from Egypt. We recall deliberation from slavery, um, and uh, we celebrate our freedom and in doing so, remind ourselves that it is our obligation to be advocating for the freedom and dignity of others as well. So it's a night that's filled with story, with memory, with wonderful, amazing food. We have certain foods that we only eat at Passover. Um, and most importantly, all of that is done in the context of being around the table with a large group of family and friends.
Speaker 1: 39:37 So, and that probably is not going to be able to happen this year. So what are you hearing from members of your congregation about this Passover?
Speaker 11: 39:46 Well as you said at the beginning, this is a Passover, like no other. So we have asked families to observe what we are calling sacred distancing. We don't like to say social distancing because we feel that that underscores the feeling of loneliness and isolation that people are going through right now. So instead we're calling it sacred distancing and reminding people that the best way to express their love and devotion to each other and humanity is to stay away from each other, um, through the sacred distancing. And so we've asked families as has the entire Jewish community to stay just within their family units in their homes, who they've already been sheltering in place with and um, to have their Passover Seders but then to invite their family members in through the magic of zoom. So, uh, tonight it's going to be really special because I believe that for most of us, that will be the first time that we've ever had electronic Seders. I've heard they've been called zaders when they're on zoom. Yes. There's all kinds of names that have been coming around including, uh, including zaders. Absolutely. Um, so yeah, people are really embracing it and it's helping alleviate the sense of strangeness around not sitting at the table together.
Speaker 1: 41:03 There've been some concerns that the zoom meetings for Passover might be hacked. Is there any precaution that can be taken against that?
Speaker 11: 41:11 Yes, we are reminding all families to read all of the latest news articles that have come out with really great information on protecting yourself from Xoom bobbing as it's called. Um, and to do that you need to only put the invitations directly to the people who are being invited and we're asking everyone to make sure it will. I think now it's required that every zoom meeting have a password and for the leader to review zoom practices and be aware that they can kick people out, that they can manage the participants, that they can, um, lock the room once the session has started. So there's a lot of important strategies, um, and we've been sending information out to our congregants as have other, um, Jewish communal organizations, uh, to make sure that people are safe and don't get interrupted by awful people. Rabbi, this is certainly a Passover that people will remember for years, perhaps all their lives.
Speaker 11: 42:09 What would you like them to take away from this special celebration? Well, you know, one of the remarkable things about being a part of a people that has a minimal 3,500 year old culture is that Judaism has always had to go through periods of reinvention, transition and adjustment. So the first time that they did the Seder, they were slaves and in [inaudible] and uh, in the place of narrowness in that ancient Egypt and every time Jews have had to leave a place where we were living cause we were expelled or we were kicked out or we just migrated because of our own free choices. We were always having to make adjustments. And the Seder has evolved over a number of years and solidified. And so this will be our next evolution. This will be the next um, way to, um, adapt to the reality in which we're living.
Speaker 11: 43:02 We're keeping our rituals, we're keeping everything that we can have, our ancient practice. And we are also incorporating new practice this year, which is just about as classically Jewish as you can get. I've been speaking with rabbi Devorah, Marcus of San Diego's temple Emmanuel and rabbi. Thank you very much. Happy Passover. Happy Passover to you and happy Easter and any other holidays that you celebrate. We hope that it's a time of health and wholeness for everyone, and we also hope that everyone will keep listening to the good medical advice that is coming out from dr Fowchee and others, and we'll do everything that they can to practice sacred distancing and keep themselves and our community safe.