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San Diego Business Landscape Post COVID-19, Distance Learning Curve, More Coronavirus Testing In Imperial County And Red-Legged Frog Back In San Diego

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San Diego businesses are making plans to reopen as governor says some sectors could resume within weeks. Plus, San Diego Unified is navigating the steep learning curve of distance learning. Also, Imperial County is one of the rural areas getting additional state-funded testing for coronavirus. And, the songs of the red-legged frog will soon be heard around San Diego County for the first time in 20 years but it was almost silenced because of the pandemic. Finally, La Jolla Playhouse’s WOW Festival moves to cyberspace.

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego businesses plan changes to reopen and more suffering for the homeless in Imperial County. I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS day edition. It's Tuesday, April 28th

Speaker 2: 00:26 in his daily Corona virus update today. Governor Gavin Newsome spoke about the status of the six Corona virus indicators and says state officials now believe we are weeks not months away from meaningful modifications to California stay at home order. He said the state is now considering starting next school semester much earlier in July or August as schools prepare for physical changes and environmental changes to keep students safe. And he outlined four phases to the reopening of the state. Right now he says we are in phase one planning for the new normal phase two with businesses reopening. That's not essential. Manufacturing and retail as well as childcare operations. Newsome says those reopenings may begin in the next couple of weeks. Phase three personal care gyms, nail salons, hair salons, and then finally phase four the highest risk, larger public venues, conventions and concerts. The governor gave no precise timeline, but he did say that different regions have the opportunity to reopen at different times based on strict state monitored criteria. He cautioned California will move forward in a way that's safe for residents because if we do this wrong, the virus can be back in a snap. Here's the governor.

Speaker 1: 01:47 If we pull back and we modify our state of home order too early and we start to see an increase in surgeon cases, hospitalizations and spread, then we have to have the ability to toggle back. We have to have the ability to adjust. We have to have the ability to fix it.

Speaker 2: 02:04 Earlier today I spoke about reopening business in San Diego, Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego regional chamber of commerce. Jerry Sanders, welcome to the program.

Speaker 3: 02:14 Thank you very much, Maureen. I'm happy to be here.

Speaker 2: 02:17 Give us an idea of the types of preparation San Diego businesses are making to reopen.

Speaker 3: 02:22 Well, there's a couple of task forces that are working on that. Uh, we've got the mayor, Faulkner and Greg Cox, uh, taskforce where, uh, there's several, probably about 30 different business organizations that are part of that. But we also hear from a lot of individual businesses about what they're going to need to open, what kind of assurances they're going to need and what type of, uh, uh, lead time they're going to need to get back into business.

Speaker 2: 02:47 Do you think some businesses will have to reinvent themselves to operate in this new environment?

Speaker 3: 02:54 You know, I imagine probably most businesses are gonna have to reinvent themselves in one way. Another, uh, is certainly going to be a different customer experience and it's going to be a different experience for the people that work in those businesses. And that's because of the social distancing and a lot of the guidelines that will probably go with opening business.

Speaker 2: 03:13 And do you expect some kinds of businesses will have to make actual physical alterations to their spaces?

Speaker 3: 03:19 Well, you know, we've already seen that, uh, in supermarkets and in, uh, liquor stores and all that where they have the plexiglass shields. Now, uh, I've talked to some restaurant tours who are talking about, uh, doing increased capacity by putting Plexiglas around, uh, different tables and different ways. You know, I also think that we're gonna find that a lot of businesses, uh, are going to be segmented in certain ways that will allow people into some areas and not others until they need to go in there. So I think there's going to be a lot of talk about that. Uh, one of the more interesting conversations I had the other day on something I hadn't thought of at all and obviously I should have, but uh, in talking with building operators and owners of high rises, uh, how many people do you let on the elevator at one time?

Speaker 3: 04:07 Uh, how do you have lines that cue into that, that are socially distanced? And do you need to stagger, start times for different companies on different floors so that you don't have too many people crowding the lobby waiting to get into an elevator? So it's going to require a lot of thought by business. And I think a lot of the associations have already done this. I know the restaurant association has been planning on opening and working with, uh, members and the building owners. And, uh, even SeaWorld has a tremendous plan put forward, uh, that they'll be able to implement when they're allowed to open. Also.

Speaker 2: 04:40 Now the governor is talking about a phased reopening of business. How would you like to see that happen?

Speaker 3: 04:46 I'm not sure how you do the phased part. Uh, when we surveyed about 700 members, uh, they said to be back in business and to make it so that it's profitable to be in business. They needed a lot of businesses open. Uh, so they, they rely on foot traffic and things like that. Um, I think the phased part of it will come in with a, you know, we're already seeing the beaches being opened for a water. Uh, then we'll see other things being opened in different ways, but it's going to be a difficult thing to, to phase in unless you, uh, kind of unleash it a little bit. And I think that most business owners want to be safe. They want their patrons to feel safe. Uh, but it's going to be a difficult thing to phase in.

Speaker 2: 05:27 So you'd rather see it if it's going to be phased in by area rather than by industry.

Speaker 3: 05:33 You know, I think that's probably one way to do it. Uh, industry, uh, we know that they have plans, they'd like guidelines, but they'd also like to be able to work within those guidelines to do things that make sense. And probably that's phasing also so that maybe not everybody comes back in, uh, to an office building at first. Maybe a, they come in on different days. I think it's going to look entirely different when we come back. And I know just from our staff's experience, many of them feel more productive at home because they save the commute. They can get right into the calls they have to make and do the things they do. And I see other businesses that are probably gonna want to have everybody in and that's gonna require a certain phasing to. So you don't crowd the workplace.

Speaker 2: 06:15 Now, some members of the County board of soups along with some North County mayors, they are urging a May 1st reopening what's the chambers stands on that,

Speaker 3: 06:25 you know, we're, we haven't taken a position on window reopen. We certainly think everybody would like to get back to work. Um, certainly the economy needs and there are a lot of people who are really hurting right now, but we've left that up to the public health experts to set that date. So, you know, I don't consider myself qualified to do that. All I can say is that a lot of our businesses are just chomping at the bit to get back into business.

Speaker 2: 06:49 Is that ultimately who decides when and which businesses can reopen? Public health officials think it's,

Speaker 3: 06:56 we have combination a, it's going to be the County board of supervisors is going to be the mayors, uh, in consultation with the public health department. Um, because I, I mean, you've got two different interests there and I think that a lot of things are going to have to be weighed, uh, before a mayor or a County board of supervisors going to feel comfortable in opening and they're probably going to take the lead. But at some point, uh, those are decisions that have to be made by the people who are elected.

Speaker 2: 07:23 What have you heard, Jerry, about how the federal, state and local relief packages are helping local businesses stay afloat?

Speaker 3: 07:32 You know, I know a lot of them have gotten the relief. I know a lot of unemployment's going out to the employees who, uh, were laid off. I also know that, uh, it's been very difficult for the banks to process the SBA loans or the PPP loans, uh, because they're just being slammed by so many people who need them and they're spending hundreds of hours and working around the clock to get those into the system. And it seems like the second they get them in, then they run out of money. So, you know, I think that the assistance is coming. Uh, and you know, I don't, we were probably a little unrealistic and thinking it could turn on the spicket that quickly when you think it's the federal government involved and banks and everything else is pretty complicated, a lot of those rules. So I think it's working fairly well now and I think it'll continue to get better

Speaker 2: 08:17 on the local relief packages more helpful at this point?

Speaker 3: 08:21 Well, the local relief packages are great, except they were out of money almost the day they opened. For instance, the city of San Diego, I think by the, uh, by the close of business after they opened that day, they'd already had enough, uh, applications if they couldn't fund all of them. So I, you know, there's just tremendous need out there when you think about the number of people who are unemployed or the number of businesses are just closed down. So I think whatever we do, it's going to be difficult, uh, to get that relief. But I think that that Relief's on its way. And, uh, that's one of the things that opening up businesses again, will help out in is that people start rehired.

Speaker 2: 08:55 How much longer do you think some small businesses can hold on before reopening?

Speaker 3: 09:00 Well, I'm sure that's going to be individual on all of them. Uh, you know, most small business, uh, is literally, um, you know, their businesses on a credit card almost because they've put their life savings into these businesses. And, uh, there's slim margins and most of them, uh, I talked to a lot of businesses. Our, uh, staff goes, has calls with different groups. Uh, and I, I admire the spirit. A lot of them are transforming the way they do business. Uh, they're changing their business models, they're doing different things with the business. And I think that's what's going to get people through is the innovativeness of the, of the small business.

Speaker 2: 09:35 Now, many San Diegans have jobs in the gig economy. How is that sector of the business community doing?

Speaker 3: 09:42 Well, I think that's tough. Um, you know, I don't see nearly as many lifts or Uber's or, uh, that type of thing. Uh, you know, if you're a shopper for the grocery stores, you're probably doing okay. But I don't know that anybody feels real good about it right now. And I don't know a lot of people who really want to get into somebody else's vehicle right now. So, um, that's just, you know, a lot of people are, are, are trying to figure out how to adapt better. Uh, but that's a difficult thing. Getting people to feel good enough about, uh, the, you know, catching the virus and, and being in public.

Speaker 2: 10:16 What about our business partners in Tijuana? What's the situation across the border?

Speaker 3: 10:20 You know, I think the situation is almost exactly the same as here. I mean, if you look at the two border cities and, uh, you know, our region, they really mirror what we, uh, look like here in terms of business and opportunities and all of that. We know that they've led a lot of the manufacturing, uh, began again, uh, because it was vital to the cross border region. A lot of the businesses in San Diego depend on that cross border traffic, uh, in terms of supply chain. And it's the same way into one or they really need to have the manufacturing goods that they're working on each good that's um, produced between the two regions or between the two cities goes back and forth about four times. So, uh, having them working and having us working on that is really critical. So we keep the supply chain going.

Speaker 2: 11:07 Now the number of covert 19 patients is still on the rise in San Diego County. We've had more than a thousand new cases in just the last two weeks. Six Bay area counties are extending the lockdown through may. So my question is, is it wise for us to begin opening up?

Speaker 3: 11:24 You know, once again, I, um, I, I'm only working on the business side, the public health side. I think that's a difficult issue. I think the, uh, uh, the politicians are having to do some soul searching on what's right and I think the fact that they're so deliberative, uh, and they're trying to get information from both public health and business. I think it means, uh, really thinking through this before they make a decision to switch the economy back home.

Speaker 2: 11:48 Okay. Then I've, I've been speaking with Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego chamber of commerce.

Speaker 4: 11:54 Jerry, thank you very much. You're welcome. Thank you, Marie.

Speaker 5: 11:58 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Mark Sauer along with Maureen Kavanaugh. They are the most vulnerable people in one of America's most vulnerable counties. The Corona virus pandemic has made life far more precarious for the homeless in Imperial County. A glimmer of good news. The state will start testing about 130 people there daily after rural Imperial County was declared a testing desert. Amid the pandemic, joining me to discuss the homeless situation and Imperial County is Jennifer Bowman, an investigative reporter with KPBS news partner I news source. Jennifer, welcome to midday edition. Thanks for having me. Now. In contrast to San Diego County, our neighbor to the East as long struggled financially, even before the U S economy plunged, Piero County has been known recently for having one of the worst unemployment rates anywhere, right?

Speaker 4: 12:48 That's right. The County reported a 20.5% unemployment rate last month, which has compared to about 16% a year prior. That's far higher than what you see, a niche nationwide and statewide in California, that rate is less than 6%. So double digit unemployment is the norm for Imperial County.

Speaker 5: 13:09 And what are some of the reasons for that?

Speaker 4: 13:11 Well, it's, it's largely rural and its largest economy is agriculture. So you see a lot of seasonal jobs driven by the agriculture industry. Um, but, but there's also, um, uh, other issues that affect the County, one being just a, a lack of well paying jobs. Um, and, and it also has a low educational achievement, um, less than 15% of its residents have received a bachelor's degree. So that's part of what drives some of their socioeconomic issues.

Speaker 5: 13:40 And what are the numbers show regarding the surge among Imperial counties? Homeless population?

Speaker 4: 13:46 Yeah, that number, I saw a huge spike in recent years. And in 2017, they reported about 1100 homeless residents, and that's compared to the year prior being less, fewer than 400. Um, and that number has remained pretty high ever since. Uh, last year the number was about 1400. I spoke with a nonprofit leader, uh, this month. Um, and when he expects that number not to go down when they see the latest numbers released.

Speaker 5: 14:13 Now explain some of the challenges facing those. Trying to help the homeless in Imperial County.

Speaker 4: 14:17 One of those issues is just lack of shelters. There's two women's shelters in the County and one men's shelter. Um, and among the homeless population, almost all of them are unsheltered, only about 200 are sheltered, meaning they're in emergency or transitional housing. So, um, that's one issue that existed even before the pandemic. What nonprofit leaders tell me those, that, that they have encountered homeless residents who were unaware of the pandemic and they're juggling that with, um, other issues like lack of personal protective equipment, trying to, um, help with hygiene for homeless residents. All while the nonprofits have seen their own donations shrink. I spoke with spread the love charity, uh, which operates out of Brawley, but serves the homeless residents county-wide. She said that they're only seeing about 9% of the donations. They usually receive an April. Combine that with them seeing fewer volunteers. Many of these small nonprofits, they don't have a paid staff. They rely on people to volunteer their time with, with the concerns of the pandemic. Um, fewer people are showing up to volunteer, um, and to help in person.

Speaker 5: 15:25 And what are the numbers show regarding the spread of Corona virus in Imperial County? Overall

Speaker 4: 15:30 it's, it's a much smaller County, so naturally they're, they're smaller numbers than what we're seeing here in San Diego. Um, there are about 180,000 residents in Imperial County. Um, and, and just late last week, the County has reported, um, w fewer than 300 cases and eight deaths and about 1500 residents who have been tested.

Speaker 5: 15:51 Now is the state providing funds to help the Imperial County?

Speaker 4: 15:54 They are, the, the County has seen, um, about, uh, $528,000 awarded, although they have not yet received it, but that's part of a a hundred million dollar package. The state, um, doled out to all 58 counties. Um, the biggest cities along with these continuum of care councils that work with the counties. Um, the County plans and Imperial County, they plan to use their money mostly on motel vouchers. Um, their, their priority after hearing from nonprofit leaders is the biggest priority is, is getting shelter for these folks and all, but almost 400,000 is going to be used toward that. Um, but we do see big numbers in San Diego County for example, we've seen $7 million awarded in that emergency Homeland, that homelessness funding that the state gave out.

Speaker 5: 16:44 And you interviewed several advocates who work with the homeless and Imperial County. Tell us what they're seeing, explain their views on how dire the situation is on the ground there near the Mexico border.

Speaker 4: 16:54 Yeah, I spread the love again, gave me a pretty striking, uh, statistic. Um, in the first week of April, their outreach team went out and in one day, uh, communicated with 72 homeless individuals. Um, 41 of those individuals told the outreach team they had never heard of the pandemic. And this is the first month of April. So three weeks after the pandemic has been declared as dozens of cases in Imperial County are being reported. And in fact, the first Corona virus related death in Imperial County was reported that week. And so that they say just adds on to all these challenges already a big demand for services as they deal with high unemployment, high poverty and Imperial County

Speaker 5: 17:37 and the homeless themselves. What did they tell you in some interviews?

Speaker 4: 17:40 Well, our, our photographer Zoe Meyers went to Calexico to a daily dinner in, collects at the, uh, border park in Calexico. The bag coalition has done a dinner there for five years every night and she says that these were some of the most vulnerable residents you see in Imperial County. Um, one of them spoke with her and said, thank God the Brown bag coalition does these dinners. Um, he had been homeless for just four months. Um, so it's an interesting time to coincide with the pandemic.

Speaker 5: 18:10 Well, it's such a tough situation out there. I've been speaking with, I knew source reporter Jennifer Bowman. Thanks very much Jennifer.

Speaker 4: 18:17 Thank you

Speaker 5: 18:22 kids and teachers cannot go to school due to Cove at 19 so school is coming to them this week. Marks the launch of distance learning in the San Diego unified school district, California second largest with 121,000 students. What started as a one room school house in 1854 now becomes many thousands of one room school houses with kids taught via computer screens. Joining me to discuss how it works is San Diego school superintendent Cindy Martin and Zachary Patterson, sophomore at university city high and an elected member of the district school board. Welcome to you both. Thank you for having me. We'll send a tell us what distance learning in San Diego unified will look like for the rest of the school year.

Speaker 6: 19:05 San Diego unified started our soft launch of distance learning that ended this past Friday and this week we're into our formal distance learning and I'm happy to report actually today as of day two, a formal distance learning. 95.6% of our students at the traditional calendar schools have logged in and have started their learning, which means they're connecting with their teachers was so important to us is that the academic year counts. Learning matters, school matters for our kids for a whole host of reasons. And we needed to very quickly figure out how to keep school going even though we couldn't unlock our Gates and open our doors to learning, we can open our doors virtually to learning through this model.

Speaker 5: 19:49 And so as you mentioned, you had a, a soft launch, you worked out some kinks, I imagine, um, you prepared teachers and students for this new way of learning.

Speaker 6: 19:58 Yeah. If you think about what, what it took to get us ready, we, during the soft launch, we distributed over 50,000 Chromebook computers that we had at eight distribution sites where families could go to pick up a Chromebook computer. And these are computers our students are familiar with because they use them every day in their classrooms. But we needed to take them out of the classrooms, clean them up, get them ready, and log them out to a student who would need them and we needed to make sure our students had not only the Chromebook device, but they also had the internet capability to connect, whether it was through a wifi hotspot or through the Cox connect to compete program. We wanted to make sure our kids had that connectivity. Now more than ever,

Speaker 5: 20:42 well Zack, what do you think of this plan? How does it compare with learning in the classroom? From your perspective? We, it's not going to be

Speaker 7: 20:47 exactly the same as classroom learning and that's important to recognize, but with that, I really do think that our district is really leading the way in terms of districts across the state of California in ensuring that all students have the resources necessary to succeed. I know from my own personal experiences in the past few weeks, I've seen a lot of success in it. My math teacher, for example, provides individual tutoring for every student that needs it. So she's telling me she's spending multiple hours per day working with students, making sure they're prepared. And that's just one of many examples of teachers that are willing to go out of the way to ensure that this learning continues and students are keeping up with their grade level.

Speaker 5: 21:27 And Cindy, you said 95% of students are connected. What do you think is keeping the other 5% from logging on to distance learning?

Speaker 6: 21:34 Well, those will be individual cases, student by students. So the teachers give us feedback if their principal and our team the feedback on, on a daily basis. Okay, what did the student need? Sometimes it was just the ones that didn't log on. They may have actually had a family commitment that they just on any given day you might have a student who calls in sick to school if they were even coming to school because I had a doctor's appointment or they had a family commitment. So I think that it's definitely something that we're going to look at student by student. I want. Um, and, and if there's something, a roadblock or something that's in the way of them connecting that we can remove, we will remove it.

Speaker 5: 22:12 I wanted to, I wanted to ask a nuts and bolts question here. Um, I understand teachers set their own daily schedules and how does that work? A master schedule for any school can be difficult and normal times

Speaker 6: 22:22 master schedule is a technical term around how you make sure students are enrolled in the courses that they need in order to graduate with the skills and abilities that are part of our graduation. UCA through G requirements. So the students are already scheduled into the master schedule that makes sure they have the courses on their transcript this year that they need to complete the graduation requirements that we've set forth. So that's the technical part of a master schedule. The daily schedule and the weekly schedule, the monthly schedule of learning teachers plan out a year long curriculum. There's a scope and sequence. There's core critical standards that need to be covered in every course and every year by the end of the year. And that's what teachers have to look at in terms of designing the learning now between now and the end of this school year to ensure that the critical standards have been taught and the students have had access to those and that they've been learning those standards. So as teachers develop what the schedule looks like, if there's some compacting that has to happen to ensure that the critical standards have been met and reached and learned. That's what teachers are designing right now and ensuring that kids have access to that they're doing ongoing formative assessments to um, understand students' knowledge of what the content was that they're supposed to learn during the course of a given school year or course that they're enrolled in.

Speaker 5: 23:41 All right and sack. I wanted to ask, do you think the fact you can't get a worse grade than you had when the schools closed? Could this be an invitation for some students to Slack off?

Speaker 7: 23:50 So we have, as I said, such a diversity of socioeconomic status and ability to actually participate in distance learning. And we recognize that we need to support every single student because no student can be left behind. And with that mentality in good faith, there's no way that we can ensure that every single student will. So we're going to set that baseline and make sure that we're not going to make students indiscriminately suffer for not being able to connect because they don't have the resources or access. Cause that's not something that we're about in San Diego unified. But to the students that can, I don't think that's going to be a large issue. And I've actually already seen that it's not being a large issue. The whole goal of distance learning is making sure students continue to persevere and learn. And as Cindy said, we're not going to be able to cover every single concept in the amount of detail that we would in an individual normal classroom. But we're going to do our best to cover everything that we can. And I know from a student perspective, as you were asking specifically that I'm continuing to participate and I do believe that the things students really find interesting, they will continue to participate. And we will continue to make sure they're learning and persevering through their education.

Speaker 5: 25:12 And uh, Zach, do you see a positive side to distance learning something you might not be able to learn or do in a classroom?

Speaker 7: 25:19 Yeah, totally. Actually I can pursue my passions. I mean I personally love history and I knew we were going to uh, talking about AP classes. Uh, AP world history is one of my favorite courses and I've been able to really go in depth, understand the curriculum, learn more about it, I'm more knowledgeable and even not just including that, I mean to all subjects to all things. I know of three students in my school, they founded their own organizations working to combat things in Kobe from serving food to seeing from delivering groceries to seniors to making cards for first responders. We're seeing San Diego unified students, my friends being innovative, smart being on the front lines of change, finding new activities to participate in, whether that's history, whether that's coding or whether that's some new course that's being offered for free because of the covert crisis. We have so many resources now and we have so many opportunities to educate ourselves, pursue our passions, and find more about what we love to do.

Speaker 5: 26:24 And Cindy, last question. How is the district preparing for the new school year, more distance learning or return to campuses?

Speaker 6: 26:31 You know, that's the question everybody in the country wants to know. Frankly, there's 188 countries that have closed their school systems Countrywide and the guidance around that needs to come from the health. It's the same kinds of questions that everybody's happening having around opening and what is opening look like opening up cities. So we have our district pediatrician, Dr. Howard, Tara's works with us and the local health authority at the state and national level so that we have some clear guidelines and guidance around how to open safely. And the big question is, when will that happen? I continue to focus on what we can control and what we do know, which is getting this distance learning right right now. And then while we have to begin to think about what will this look like and if we open in the fall, what would that possibly look like?

Speaker 6: 27:18 What would the changes be? And I don't think it's just a San Diego unified decision, people saying that unless you have appropriate tracing and testing, which is a national conversation right now, we have to think about what would the implications of that be in terms of getting our employees back to work and our students in a learning environment that's allowing the community health goals to be met but also continuing to move on with their education. So we're watching that very carefully and we know those are the questions that people are waiting to make sure we have a final answer on soon.

Speaker 5: 27:49 I'd been speaking with San Diego school superintendent Cindy Martin and Zachary Patterson, a student at university city high and a member of the school board. Thanks very much. Thank you. Thank you. How are you and your kids adapting to doing school from home? What does online learning look like? Leave us a voicemail at (619) 452-0228

Speaker 8: 28:14 when the us Mexico border shut down in March. Many plans including some conservation efforts were put on hold, but KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chad Lonnie says at the last minute, San Diego researchers were able to bring the red legged frog from Mexico back to Southern California. There has been one around here for almost two decades. Herpetologists Bradford Hollingsworth at the San Diego natural history museum is very familiar with the California red legged frog.

Speaker 4: 28:43 We can all mimic frogs. Sounds so, um, it gets kind of, can you do that?

Speaker 9: 28:54 Hmm.

Speaker 8: 28:55 The frog, which used to be an important part of the food web in Southern California started declining in the region in the 1970s because of habitat destruction and invasive species.

Speaker 4: 29:05 The whole idea of having them back here in Southern California, um, was a dream of many of us.

Speaker 8: 29:12 In 2006 the museum and federal biologists began studying ways to bring the frog back and soon they partnered with the nature group in Baja, California, Mexico, where the frog population was thriving. In March, the team could finally transport frog eggs across the border for the first time until

Speaker 4: 29:28 in the middle of the project. The covert 19 pandemic was beginning to shut down the border

Speaker 8: 29:35 where it says two days before the border shut down. The team was scrambling to come up with a game plan because federal biologists could no longer travel across the border with some shuffling and travel plans. They were ultimately able to transport the eggs, but if they had missed that small window of opportunity,

Speaker 10: 29:51 we would have had to wait a whole nother year.

Speaker 8: 29:53 The frog made it back to Southern California, but some cross border environmental work has become more difficult. In a statement, the us fish and wildlife services wrote that some field research and wildlife management activities have been temporarily halted or restricted for the safety of the public and service staff. For the red legged frog. American biologists had partnered with the Mexican nonprofit group concert vests, you on the phone or they'll stay any Peralta Garcia is a cofounder and she says she's heard some concerns from other people in the field in Mexico.

Speaker 4: 30:25 Do a meeting all of these field work and all this information that just like, Oh, you know, I ha maybe they've been working for 10 years just collecting data and now they wouldn't be able to do

Speaker 8: 30:36 Peralta Garcia says they were lucky to get the first frog egg masses across the border.

Speaker 4: 30:40 Like me. Like I cannot go to the U S anymore. You know, even if I want to take some egg masses, I can, somebody from the U S will have to come.

Speaker 8: 30:48 But us geological services biologist Robert Fisher says they succeeded because they were also prepared.

Speaker 10: 30:54 We got really lucky and a lot of it was, um, we were really prepared because we had been, we had done work previously in Mexico, um, prepare for this with the Mexican team. We did experimental translocations.

Speaker 8: 31:10 Fisher says they want to try to move more frogs again next year to build up the population.

Speaker 10: 31:14 I think this really built enough momentum that, um, we'll be able to kind of show we can do it and we'll get more partners on board,

Speaker 8: 31:23 but even if they can't,

Speaker 10: 31:25 we'll use this, um, these two ponds as source populations for other sites in the URS. Hopefully over time

Speaker 8: 31:32 and as red legged tadpoles grow into adult frogs, Fisher says he's excited to start hearing them singing throughout San Diego. Shalena Celani KPBS news.

Speaker 2: 31:43 This story is part of covering climate now. It's an effort by news organizations worldwide to bring about a greater understanding of the realtime impacts of climate change. For more head to kpbs.org/climate change, this is KPBS mid day edition. I'm worrying Cavenaugh LA Jolla Playhouse is wow. Or without walls. Festival highlights site-specific work. Now that everyone is sheltering at home, the festival has gone online. KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando speaks with the playhouses artistic director, Christopher Ashley about wow. And the theaters. Other online offerings.

Speaker 11: 32:23 Christopher, like many of the other theaters here in San Diego, the LA Jolla Playhouse has gone through some major adjustments due to this Corona virus pandemic. So what was this initial process like when you were told that the theater had to actually physically close?

Speaker 12: 32:41 I was in New York in previews for Diana on Broadway. And uh, the day that Broadway shutdown was the same day that all the telephone calls with everyone at loyal Playhouse, we made the decision to shut down both fly, which had just opened and also our pop tour, which tours to, um, area schools. So between Diana two shows at the Playhouse, all five productions have come from away around the world. And a Margaret rigger tour. I actually shut down nine shows in one day, which was a first for me.

Speaker 11: 33:14 So one thing now that you're moving forward that is actually looking to creating new programming online is your wow, but without walls festival is finding life online. And what is this going to be like? So much of this,

Speaker 12: 33:31 it's actually been led by our staff in an extraordinary way. Um, they're all working virtually. And everyone at Loyola Playhouse, their whole brain space is trying to wrap around how do we stay in contact, how do we keep our audiences and our artists talking to each other. Everyone at the Playhouse has been so proud of the without walls programming over the course of the last decade, I guess we started at eight years ago and we're four festivals in now and we've been doing this work not inside a theater but out in the communities, either site-specific work or immersive work. We did two festivals at the Playhouse, one downtown and one at Liberty station. So it seemed like such a natural thing to take this work that's been out in the world, not inside a theater that's been inspired by stories inspired by a place and that it's reinvisioning the relationship between artist audience and story.

Speaker 12: 34:25 It seemed like such a natural thing to say, well, let's move that online. So we just announced our first four pieces of programming in a while online and we've got a couple more in the pipeline. So, uh, while there can be no in person, public gatherings, um, this seems like an amazing thing. And amazing and the artists we've talked to are all incredibly juiced and excited about making a new piece of art in this moment that helps people connect. So, uh, here we go. We're starting to do well online while we can't do it producing our theaters

Speaker 11: 35:00 well that does seem a program that perfectly lends itself to almost any situation. So what is this going to be like for the audience? Are playwrights and actors going to be recording stuff at home individually? What's the kind of end product going to be like for the audience?

Speaker 12: 35:17 Everything you just mentioned is part of what we're doing. It's really being fair. They, different artists are bringing different ideas to the table. One of the pieces that we're working on is from a San Diego based group called blind spot collective. And you may remember them, they did a piece in our 2019 festival called hall. So they're creating an audio piece entitled walks of life that imagines what life is like inside the houses you pass on your walk around the neighborhoods. You know, so many people get out of their house once a day to walk their dog or you know, to get a little fresh air. And it's a piece you can listen to imagining if you had to sort of x-ray vision what's happening inside of those houses. We're also, um, artists we've worked with before called uh, Brian Labell is adapting a piece that he has been working on for a couple of years called binge, which imagines finding solutions to life's problems through your favorite binge worthy TV show.

Speaker 12: 36:15 He basically does a little questionnaire with, with each audience member, one actor, one audience member at a time, very intimate. So he gets finds out about you through a questionnaire and then your session with him. Is he diagnosis, what episode of your favorite binge worthy show is a solution to your problems? So different actors will have different shows that they love his, his sex in the city. So he will diagnose an episode of sex in the city for you and then watch it with you and talk about why a is an extraordinary answer to the what to what you're going through. That piece makes me, makes me laugh a lot and I can't wait to be one of the first Guinea pigs to give it a try as he's figuring out how it works online. Another local set of artists, Mike Sears and Lisa Berger who you may remember from our 2019 while festival, how I the moon are offering a video installation that explores the relationship between the everyday routine and the ancient and it will have a music aspect and there's something sort of meditative about that piece that I think may suit the moment very beautifully.

Speaker 12: 37:24 Also, David Reynoso, who who's our artist in residence this year has a company called optica Moderna and he's developing a piece called Proyecto Portola. It's a, that takes audiences on an imaginative journey with all the same lushness that all of his pieces have theatrical surprise. And this piece has all kind of one on one connection with the actors that you also experienced it in his last piece. Uh, let's continue. So, um, different artists are approaching how do you connect online in very, very different ways. But I think that's part of what's exciting about this moment, uh, in the wild programming is it's as different as the imaginative theatrical mind can make it. And at this moment audiences have time to spare. So looking forward to how this brings audiences and artists together to explore a story and explore the world right now. And I also, it's been interesting how many of the artists are really interested in making a piece that has a lot of optimism and hope in it. Like everybody is interested in adding a little bit more sun to the world right now. These pieces are in general, very helpful and very optimistic about how we're going to get through this together.

Speaker 11: 38:42 It's really been impressive to see how artists have been inspired by all. That's going on to come up with creative ways of dealing with the pandemic.

Speaker 12: 38:52 I think that's right that I almost, every artist I know has called, texted, emailed. I haven't got a lot of snail mail, but reached out to me and said, what can we do right now? What can we make? Can I sing a cut song from one of my shows? Can I, uh, is there some kind of a, a new story I can tell they're all interested in helping the Playhouse get through this. But also there's all of this artistic energy, uh, and storytelling, energy and desire to explore the world, to get other and not feel too cut off at home that I think defines this moment.

Speaker 11: 39:27 So the wow programming is looking forward to creating new content. You're also kind of looking back at LA Jolla Playhouse events through your LJP vault. So what can people expect from this? We have this wealth

Speaker 12: 39:43 of pictures and video clips from shows that we've done, so artists and staff members and volunteers, we're asking them to pick one moment from one play that they have a particularly vivid memory of. And we're releasing on them every week. So you're, you're getting to hear about a Playhouse moment from a Playhouse show, from the point of view of someone who made that moment or someone for home that was a real turning point in their life. So Deb hatch made a video piece about making the robots from Yoshimi a piece I love. I talked a little bit about our first wow festival and making a piece at the beach. And so it look for them, the playoffs vaults should be every week.

Speaker 11: 40:25 And as with many theater companies, you have a lot of artists that you've worked with over time and you are turning to some of these people to create content online for what you're calling artist alley.

Speaker 12: 40:37 So many of the artists we work with have reached out and said, what can I do? What can I make? How can I stay in contact with, with our audiences? So several of the composers who have made a a Playhouse show are recording a cut song from um, one of the playoffs shows. We have all kinds of masterclasses. One of the audience favorite so far has been Kelly divine. The choreographer of come from away made a masterclass of teaching the song from the screech in and then did a whole Q and a about it. She happened to be when everything went down, she was vacationing in the Poconos with three other choreographers. So there was a kind of choreographer house, which someday is going to make a fantastic reality series. But in the meantime she made a masterclass about a comfortable way dance and I looked for it. Soon as a piece of Sergio Trujillo, the choreographer of Jersey boys is making a masterclass of teaching. One of the sequences from Jersey boys,

Speaker 11: 41:36 Lauria playoffs is also continuing this education mission to through create and learn. So what kind of programs can people get or access through LA Jolla Playhouse in that respect?

Speaker 12: 41:47 So there's actually a really broad spectrum of work coming out of our education department for educators, for students, and for a broad audiences. Two of the pieces that I'm the most excited about are just going online today. We have classes in improvisation and 10 minute playwriting. If you're a have a little time on your hands and want to write a new short play or learn a little bit about, um, amp improv technique, come check out our website

Speaker 11: 42:13 and having to physically close your theater, which is putting on live performances, how you create income for the theater. How are you feeling about the financial stability of the Playhouse at this time? And kind of looking forward to not knowing how long this may last.

Speaker 12: 42:29 Yeah, it's, I, I feel like as a manager at this moment, what everybody wants is some certainty, right? Everybody is like, how long is this going to go on? And the kind of wellbeing of our staff and our audiences is, has to be front of mind. So, you know, how do you keep everybody paid even when we're not going to be producing work live? Um, how do you make best use of the government, uh, programs cares and, and, um, the kind of beefed up unemployment and how do you balance our incredible desire to keep telling new stories with when the world's gonna open up again and when people are going to feel comfortable in public assembly again. And it's really hard to know how that will play out in time. You know, I've been so struck by every time you try to make a plan, the whole paradigm shifts every week, right? So you're, you're sort of replanning and we end up kind of making out, okay, here's the optimistic plan and then here's the Goldilocks plan and then here's the most pessimistic. But right now we are really trying to hold on to a six place season, which would start later and happen in a shorter period of time. But the possibilities of that are very much up to how the virus kind of plays out in time and decisions the government makes as well.

Speaker 2: 43:49 That was LA Jolla Playhouse as artistic director, Christopher Ashley speaking with Beth haka. Mondo the playhouses. Wow. Festival goes online in may. We'll have interviews with some of the artists next week about site-specific work from quarantine.

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.