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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | Election 2020

California Virus Cases May Be Underreported, Colorado Finalizing Wastewater Testing Program To Battle Coronavirus, Diversity And Inclusion In Theatre Are Focus Of New KPBS TV Show

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PHOTO BY RICH PEDRONCELLI / AP

Above: In this April 1, 2020, file photo Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services, gestures to a chart showing the impact of the mandatory stay-at-home orders, during a news conference in Rancho Cordova, Calif.

Figures showing California has slowed the rate of coronavirus infections may be in doubt because a technical problem has delayed reporting of test results. Plus, Colorado public health officials are finalizing the details of a wastewater testing program to help track the coronavirus pandemic. Also, diversity and inclusion in theatre are the focus of new KPBS TV show “Theater Corner.”

Speaker 1: 00:01 State officials try to fix a flawed COVID tracking system. If this glitch it exists, what other glitches do we not know about? How do we have faith in data? I'm worrying Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition. Some Western States are testing the sewers to track Corona virus. You know, you can detect a lot of stuff in wastewater. If you look at a new series about diversity and inclusion in the theater world, debuts on KPBS TV tonight, stay with us for midday edition coming up next.

Speaker 1: 01:00 Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced some good news, a significant drop in people, testing positive for COVID-19. The very next day we learned of a data snafu that puts those numbers and COVID test numbers across the state into question the problem stems from an unexplained breakdown in an electronic system that transfers test results into a statewide disease registry. The unreliable data has left public health officials unable to gauge how the disease is progressing. San Diego County supervisor Nathan Fletcher says positive test numbers from the County and local lab testing are accurate, but commercial labs communicate directly to the state.

Speaker 2: 01:42 There's been a breakdown in that reporting system at the state they're working to rectify it. Our team has been in contact with the state and are determining how many tests were missing and over what timeframe

Speaker 1: 01:53 Joining me to discuss what we know about the problem with the state's data system is Anita [inaudible] state politics and policy reporter for the Los Angeles times. Anita, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me on Maureen. How does this data reporting system usually work? And how long has it been broken? The way it usually works is that commercial labs just automatically send their test results in. So this is really just a tabulation it's account every day at a certain point, every lab that has test results, just shoots those over to the state department of public health and they add them all together. We don't know exactly what is wrong. The state either doesn't know itself or is deciding not to give us that information. We're not quite sure yet, but what we do know is that for at least about a week, perhaps longer, we don't know how long at least some of those labs, their results have not been added into the overall count.

Speaker 1: 02:51 We don't know how many, or if it's a certain part of the state or statewide, we're really a little bit in the dark about exactly what this glitch means overall. How does state and public health officials rely on this data to make decisions about COVID response? It's one data point. So we do have other reliable data sets such as our hospitalization and ICU rates. Those things are not effective. Those come from a different source, but where the positivity numbers of tests come in a one, it lets us know how prevalent it is and in our state and in various locations and two it's an earlier marker of what we can expect in our hospitals. So where that number plays in is one what's open and what's not right. If there's a ton of positives, it keeps those restrictions in place. But if there's a ton of positives, it also tells us that we can two to three weeks from now expect our hospitals to be hit.

Speaker 1: 03:49 And if we're not prepping for our hospitals to be hit in two or three weeks, because we don't know that can really impact whether we can handle it in our hospitals, whether we have the ICU beds, whether we have the medications, whether we have the staffing. So it is used to determine which counties are and remain on the state watch list as well. Now counties have said, this will also impact contact tracing. How does that work? If you don't know who's positive, you can't trace their contacts. So right now the County is not getting the information about who is positive with these missing test results. And so they're not being traced. So we have no idea, you know, do you have 10 people out there that are infected and we're not tracing? Or do you have a hundred or do you have a thousand? We just don't know how many people are involved in this glitch.

Speaker 1: 04:39 And so really contact tracing is stopped for all of them. It just doesn't exist. If you don't have the test results. Now you said that this data glitch doesn't affect what we know about hospitalizations or deaths in the state. What are those numbers telling us about the virus now? So our numbers of hospitalizations and deaths have actually stabilized a little bit, which is good news. We're not sure if it's a plateau or a decline. The experts I've spoken to said, they believe that overall in the state that that plateau will hold, but there's parts of the state such as the central Valley, where we're just seeing steep, steep rises in these cases. And so those hotspots are going to continue to be of real concern, public health officials, telling laboratories maybe to not report to the registry, but to, to report directly to the County.

Speaker 1: 05:37 Some County health officials are trying to gather those results on their own are asking labs to report directly to them and, and trying to find those types of workarounds. But that's a real, uh, burden of labor that they weren't expecting. And it's kind of an ad hoc on the fly system to try to get a handle on this. Really. We need Cal ready, fixed before we'll have a clear picture of what's happening again, calorie, which is the state disease registry that all that information is supposed to go into. So now you've reported that one of the main concerns is the impact. This data glitch may have on public trust, about what officials say about the virus. Absolutely. I mean, I think all of us are far more interested in, in case counts than we ever thought we would be. Right. We, we all want to know what's happening in the state to get an insight into our own lives and to when our kids might return to school into when our businesses might reopen.

Speaker 1: 06:34 And when you have a data glitch like this, I think it really throws people psychologically. All of a sudden, none of us know where we're really at. And I think that's very difficult. And so when I spoke to experts yesterday, that was one of their concerns. Well, if this glitch it exists, what other glitches do we not know about? How do we have faith in data when we're finding out that that data is flawed? And so I think that that's something that the state really has to consider is how do they instill that faith in people that what they're telling them is accurate. Any estimate as to when this state registry data will be fixed? No, my, my understanding is, is that as of now, there isn't a hard date, although they are working on it. I've been speaking with Anita [inaudible] state politics and policy reporter for the Los Angeles times. And Anita, thank you so much. Thanks for having me on Marine right now. There's no good way to predict where the next potential Corona virus outbreak will be. So far. Testing is reliant on nasal swabs and in some cases, a long wait for the results, but many States in the West are looking to get a handle on the disease by diving into the sewer, Luke Runyon from K U N C in Colorado, has more

Speaker 3: 07:57 Aside the wastewater treatment plant in Fort Collins, Colorado, Jason Graham opens the door to a little plastic cabinet or it's taking a sample right now. Graham is in charge of this facility, even with our masks on where we're standing, the air is a little right, but nothing overwhelming. This is the city's biggest wastewater plant, able to treat up to 23 million gallons a day. This is the end of the sewer. Yeah, this is the end of the sewer. And throughout the day, a five gallon plastic jug in that cabinet slowly fills up with raw sewage or the three PS. If you want to get technical. So poop paper and pee around the world. Wastewater plants have become unlikely tools in the fight against COVID-19 waste for more than 100,000 people flows into this plant every day. And by sampling it a couple times a week, scientists able to get a sense of whether it's spreading we're on the retreat.

Speaker 4: 08:59 You can detect a lot of stuff in wastewater. If you look, and a lot of times you put on look, but if you look, you know, there's a lot there,

Speaker 3: 09:08 Studies show people infected with the virus, shed it in their stool. Often days before they start showing symptoms, if they feel sick at all,

Speaker 4: 09:16 You also pick up asymptomatic folks, you know, that are home. Don't even know they have it, but they're shutting it in, in they're in their stool

Speaker 3: 09:22 Facility is one of more than a dozen in the state that will soon be regularly testing sewage for the Corona virus. It's part of an emerging partnership among wastewater districts, the state research universities and private biotech companies, similar programs are already online at plants in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California.

Speaker 4: 09:42 We can get an idea of the level of infection within a community without having to swab every one in there.

Speaker 3: 09:48 Community Rose Nash is a researcher at GT molecular, which is one of the private companies working with Colorado. She says the most promising thing about this kind of testing is how it can become an early warning system

Speaker 4: 10:00 That, you know, the hospitals can prepare for that change in their ICU,

Speaker 3: 10:04 The capacity, but there are limits to what wastewater can tell us. Susan DeLong is a civil engineering professor at Colorado state university. She's part of a team that will be testing wastewater samples from across the state.

Speaker 4: 10:17 The best interpretation is going to come from trends because there is to date. We don't have, um, an absolute correlation between the concentration and wastewater and the number of people,

Speaker 3: 10:29 Meaning at least for now, this testing will be almost like taking a whole city's temperature at once from week to week. Is it going up or down? Is it getting better or worse?

Speaker 4: 10:41 We will be able to look at this data and say, okay, I feel good that my kids are going to go to school today. Or, you know what? There's a reason that we will need to stay home again. You know? So there is a sense of power with,

Speaker 3: 10:55 As the program evolves, DeLong says it's possible to detect more contained outbreaks. Like you could move the sampling machine upstream of a wastewater plant and fill that plastic jug from the sewage coming from a single hospital, a college dormitory or a neighborhood, anything we can do to get a kind of early warning and a leg up on the problem is incredibly valuable from a public health perspective. John Putnam is a director at the Colorado department of public health and environment, especially given that the investment is relatively limited compared to individually testing tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. But with all things COVID-19 Putnam says his department won't be jumping to conclusions early on. It's a new virus. We're barely, you know, we'll over six months in, we'll know, more in six months than we do now. Once the state's program is officially up and running tests for all the participating wastewater utilities will take place twice a week

Speaker 1: 11:54 Over the next year. I'm Luke Runyon in Fort Collins, Colorado. This story is part of ongoing coverage of water in the Western U S produced by public radio station, K U N C in Colorado and supported by a Walton family foundation grant

Speaker 5: 12:19 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 12:22 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. Over the years, audiences at the old globe LA Jolla Playhouse, the San Diego opera North coast rep and other local theaters have appreciated how directors have embraced diversity and inclusion among playwrights directors and actors. Now a new interview series called theater corner that focuses on diversity and inclusion in the national theater scene debuts tonight on KPBS television, the host of this new series, Michael Taylor, along with actress, Wendy Raquel Robinson spoke with KPBS host, Mark Sauer. Here's that interview? Well, Michael and Wendy, welcome to midday.

Speaker 6: 13:06 We're very happy to be here, Mark Michael,

Speaker 1: 13:08 Tell us about theater corner. What's the concept behind your show?

Speaker 6: 13:12 The concept has perhaps everything to do with a why and how it started. And so, uh, when I, when I joined the board there at the old globe, uh, uh, I had already, uh, attended plays there, uh, prior to that. And one thing I noticed, uh, each time that I would attend a play, uh, there's perhaps maybe a handful of people that actually look like me in the audience. And so when I became directly involved with the globe, I took the initiative to sort of address that in my own little way. And so, uh, uh, Barry Edelstein, the artistic director, he actually had, uh, black actors performing on the stage there, uh, and the Shakespearian plays as well. But I, I, I didn't think the black community may have been aware of that. And so I decided to start interviewing these black actors and in back then theater corner was a print interview series. And we were published in the voice and viewpoint, uh, newspaper, which is the oldest black newspaper in San Diego. And so the, the, the objective was to perhaps normalize the idea of attending theater, just like, uh, the idea of attending a sports event or a concert it's a normalized consideration. And so this, this was my, uh, this was the approach. This was a purpose. And, and then it just sort of naturally evolved into filming the interviews.

Speaker 1: 14:48 The first several episodes are done, the ready air starting this

Speaker 6: 14:52 Weekend, Friday night and Saturday afternoon on KPBS television. And Michael, tell us about this first episode you interviewed the actors performing as Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis jr. In a musical that would be a duly Hill and Daniel J. Watts, Daniel J I want to hear a little bit from them and I'm going to set up a little soundbite here. Daniel J. Watts, um, who plays Sammy Davis jr. Is also a cast member of Hamilton. The theatrical phenomenon created by Lin Manuel Miranda, which won 11 Tony awards and the Pulitzer prize. And let's hear a clip of you asking him about what drives him to move back from television to the stage.

Speaker 7: 15:27 The thing about stage is that there's this, this immediate automatic partnership that you have with the audience, there's an agreement. There's an agreement that we have to this moment, to this time. And you also understand this is live liveliness. Something might go wrong here. You know, we don't have the option to say, you know what, cut it again. And like splice it together and put together this perfect Polish thing. There's this element of like, Oh, wow, this is happening before my very eyes.

Speaker 6: 15:58 And Michael, what were you going for there? What insight about acting were you after from Daniel J. Watts, this distinction between performing in film and television as a, as opposed to performing on stage, you know, to try to squeeze out those, those differences because not all television actors actually performed in theater. And so this is, this is what I try to get in. So when young actors are watching this interview, perhaps these are, are very useful insights or perhaps even motivation to, to experience acting on the stage. And Wendy is a woman of color in theater and on TV. How does your experience compare with that of male actors like duly Hill and Daniel Juul?

Speaker 7: 16:44 You know, I've seen men get so many more opportunities in terms of even longevity and age. I use the Morgan Freeman, uh, analogy, and there's not many women, um, that are able to have, you know, a career as long and as sustainable, uh, on Canberra as you know, your Morgan Freeman's. And it just seems like there's so many more opportunities for, um, men in general. And then if you were to break it down to African American males and females, there's so many more roles for the African American male, but I, I am optimistic and I'm seeing, um, so many women get behind the camera behind the lens, you know, creating stories, directing like myself. I'm honored to be, uh, producing now. And, um, you know, moving up that ladder and creating power positions for not only myself, but other women of color,

Speaker 6: 17:41 Wendy, are you still working? You're still managing to, uh, to act at this point,

Speaker 7: 17:46 I've done two shows. Uh, one was the own network and the other was for, uh, Bravo television, but they bring out, I call it a TV and a kit. They brought out a, a suitcase, one of those big plastic Pelican cases. And they were filled with, uh, three I-phones, one laptop and a ring light microphones. And we set it up. They hooked it to our router in the house and turned it on and everything was via zoom. And we shot two different episodes of two different, completely different shows from my house. And I saw at least 20 jobs just go out the door. That's the new norm. And even the producers that were calling the show were at home. So it's, it's been interesting. It's been innovative. It's been out of the box thinking, um, even with my conservatory, we haven't missed a beat. We've been fortunate enough to continue on an instruction. We've been doing it via zoom.

Speaker 6: 18:51 Well, the show must go on one way or another. I guess I've been speaking with an actor, producer and instructor, Wendy Raquel Robinson and Michael Taylor host of theater corner premiering tonight, Friday, August 7th on KPBS to television and airs on KPBS TV on Saturday afternoons@fourthirtycanalsobestreamedonkpbs.org. Thanks very much to you both.

Speaker 7: 19:14 Thank you and make sure you tune into theater corner. Thank you, Mark. I really appreciate the allowance to come here.

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KPBS Midday Edition

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.