Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

No More Procrastination, Tax Day Is Here, Faces Of COVID-19 Deaths, San Diego Deputy First To Be Charged Under New Use Of Force Law, And Quarantine Creativity

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY MARK LENNIHAN AP

Above: In this file 2017 photo, a blank federal income tax return.

Taxes are due today. Because of the pandemic, the IRS extended the deadline to July 15 but the agency won’t be extending again. Also, putting a name on the numbers. More than 400 people have died from COVID-19, we hear some of their stories. Plus, a former San Diego sheriff’s deputy is the first in the state to be prosecuted for use of force in a law enforcement-involved shooting. And, the USS Bonhomme Richard fire is spewing toxic chemicals in the air and advocates are concerned that not enough is being done to protect people. Finally, the pandemic quarantine is giving the team behind Apple TV’s “Mythic Quest” the creative challenge for a bonus episode.

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's tax day, three months late. What you need to know about today's filing deadline. If you file by paper, it's going to be really a more of a delay than normal. I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition. What San Diego families are learning about loved ones lost to COVID-19.

Speaker 2: 00:29 This could have been prevented. That's that's one of the big thing,

Speaker 1: 00:33 A rare indictment by the da here, following a fatal shooting by a Sheriff's deputy and the health impact of smoky air as a Navy ship continues to burn in San Diego Bay. That's ahead on mid day edition

Speaker 1: 01:00 It's tax day, a few months late as the COVID-19 pandemic. First surged in March Congress extended the tax deadline this year from April 15th to July 15th. Now it's here. Rafael Toledo media relations director for the IRS in San Diego, joins us to discuss the ins and outs of this year's tax day. Rafael, welcome to midday edition. Hey Mark. Thanks for having me always, always enjoy it. Well, start with the, what advice you have for someone who might be trying to file today in the Nick of time, right? If you haven't filed yet, the easiest and the best thing to do is always, as a matter of fact, is if we're talking like it's April 15th is to get to a computer and e-file and choose direct deposit and do a paperless tax return. But this year, especially because, you know, the pandemic ha happened toward the end of March there.

Speaker 1: 01:46 So we had this law that came along and had us issuing 160 million economic impact payments at the same time where we're trying to administer a tax filing season. And then on top of that, a lot of employees come out about all of us, really trying to follow all the guidelines for safety and all these things that guidelines and rules for COVID-19. So a lot of paper piling up if you will, because we pretty much shut down for several weeks. Phone lines are limited, all that. So the bottom line is going back to what I was saying is try to get to a computer and file and use technology, your advantage, because if you file by paper, it's going to be really a more of a delay than normal in terms of processing the return and getting your refund back. And so, uh, some wise words, at least here in 2020, which not necessarily a normal year and at the same time, we're trying to catch up.

Speaker 1: 02:36 I saw a report where some 50,000 IRS workers are working from home, tens of thousands have returned to the office. And unfortunately, uh, I noted that the 300 IRS workers tested positive for COVID-19 and 80 of died. It's really effected the IRS. How far behind did the IRS get in processing filings and refunds due to the shutdown this year? Right? You could see what you're saying, highlighting a balance in terms of, uh, trying to keep employees safe and providing a safe workplace, considering the climate we're in at the same time, on the other side of it, you're getting processing of returns and getting refunds and getting people's money back to them as quick as possible, especially in a year when a lot of people need it. So it's quite the balance there. The effect on us has been, uh, uh, you know, good and bad, uh, in terms of, uh, getting things together. It's, uh, you, you, you kind of do things differently at the same time. Uh, you know, you show your, um, your flexibility if you will, but at the same time, in terms of employees and slowly reopening and all that, we're I guess, continuing to ask for patients

Speaker 3: 03:36 Now, organizations that normally assist people where their taxes have also been limited by how much they can help due to the pandemic. Have you heard about impacts of that here locally?

Speaker 1: 03:45 Yeah. Volunteer income tax assistance sites, uh, big partners here in the County, uh, all have been affected in some way, shape or form. Some have opened and reopened virtually, uh, some have drive like a dry throat kind of thing. So there, there are ways to get those that get that assistance, but certainly it's the definitely the minority, if you would, in terms of the amount of that help it's available. So that's why we're seeing an increase in self preparation at home on your computer, which is up about 11% this year, which is a lot more than normal, but at the same time, uh, the pandemic has forced us all into changing some habits. So perhaps some good ones there, uh, depending on who you are and what your situation is,

Speaker 3: 04:27 Despite the extension, people still aren't able to get their taxes done by the end of today, what should they do?

Speaker 1: 04:32 Yeah. Take the extra time if you need it. It gives you through October 15th, but a couple of things worth mentioning the extension of time is to file and not necessarily to pay. So if you owe or you think you owe, then you do want to at least file a return. If you have a requirement to file and pay something, uh, whatever that might be, whatever you can put toward the balance you owe, if you have a balance owed that way, you minimize your penalties because the penalties that can accrue are much greater for a return with a required file. If you required to file with a return with a balance due and you don't pay, that's much greater that penalty than filing a not full paying. So do consider what you can, if you're in that position where you have a balanced student. Now that said the majority of tax returns continue to be refund returns about seven out of 10. And so the only way to get those is to file that return and the best way, and to be redundant is to use technology choosy file direct deposit.

Speaker 3: 05:26 And what do people have to do to get an extension? It is more confusing this year,

Speaker 1: 05:30 Uh, pretty easy use tax software, or use the, a form 48 68, take you just a minute to fill that form out and mail it in, or, uh, the software, uh, pretty easy as well.

Speaker 3: 05:40 And people struggling financially. They can't pay their tax bill right now. Uh, there is, uh, somewhat some wiggle room. There is there.

Speaker 1: 05:48 The IRS generally wants to be a help and not a hinder. So there's flexibility. There there's payment plans. You can make an installment agreement online@irs.gov pretty easily for a small and set that up. If it's under $50,000 a set it up over time, up to 60 to 72 months, I believe off the top five to six years. But then also consider that if you can't full pay something, let the agency know. And, uh, in some way, shape or form is other avenues, but we certainly want to help.

Speaker 3: 06:15 Now we've seen a lot of stories, uh, in recent years, the IRS being underfunded understaffed, does the IRS have the manpower and computing power to process and enforce tax laws this year?

Speaker 1: 06:25 Yeah, we're doing what we can, you know, certainly it's a little bit of a challenge considering resources in terms of people, you know, we're down Oh 75,000 IRS employees, but that was about 110,000, maybe 10, 15, 20 years ago. So there's a lot of attrition there. Uh, but still we, we still send out millions of letters if you will, in terms of a correspondence to have folks check and make sure they're paying what they're supposed to pay and doing all those things. But, uh, assistance is limited. If you want to call the IRS because of the pandemic, we're slowly reopening, but the phone service is extremely limited. Uh, nobody's gonna take task with the fact that if I say that it was limited before the pandemic due to resources, now it's really limited. So that's why it's irs.gov first. Uh, if you definitely, uh, Toronto, get the help you need there in terms of whatever you can. We have, uh, been, uh, moving things to virtual and doing things along those lines and all that. Information's on the website in terms of where you are and what you need in terms of, if you need to, uh, you have a case with the agency and that kind of thing, but certainly we're trying to use technology as best. We can. No question about it, especially now.

Speaker 3: 07:32 And it's also a good time to check on your paycheck. Withholdings briefly walk us through that one.

Speaker 1: 07:37 Uh, not a bad idea to take a look at your final Symantec finances for 2020 and make some adjustments. Now that way you have a chance to avoid some surprises when you file in 2021 for the 2020 tax year, right? And it's worth noting that we are filing here, but deadline for 2019 returns, but going forward, it's an excellent point that you make and not a bad idea to take a look at your financial picture with taxes, being part of it, going forward

Speaker 3: 08:04 Regarding the check on the withholding, if they had to pay, how should they look to change their withholding?

Speaker 1: 08:10 Yeah, lots of ways to do that. But from IRS point of view, we have a withholding estimator on irs.gov. And that was a expanded tool with a different algorithm put in there last year that really made it useful for a lot of folks. For example, who are in the gig economy, working jobs, for example, that don't require you to have a withholding through a salary, perhaps like somebody who is a salaried employee, where you make quarterly estimated payments, or you should throughout the whole year, because taxes generally are, are pay as you go. So that estimator in irs.gov is pretty good. You might take a look at some of the numbers and run them in software, just to see where you are meet with your financial professional.

Speaker 3: 08:51 I've been speaking with Rafael Talena of the IRS in San Diego. Thanks very much. Thanks Mark. Thanks,

Speaker 4: 08:56 Rounding and happy tax day Across San Diego County, more than 400 people have died of COVID-19 for some families they're sudden deaths leave behind questions about what went wrong. I knew source investigative reporter. Mary plumber has this story on how one family in national city is coping. It's Joseph Bond doc's birthday, but this is not the celebration. The Bundock family hope for

Speaker 2: 09:32 [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 09:35 Friends and family are gathered at Miramar national cemetery wearing masks. COVID-19 took Joseph's life back in may. His body was flown home to San Diego from Boston. He was there working as a civil service Mariner. When an outbreak of COVID hit the dry dock Navy ship undergoing maintenance that he was working on

Speaker 2: 09:56 Was doing well. Uh, obviously before he reported. And then he, he obviously caught it there

Speaker 4: 10:04 That's Joseph's friend, Archie drew Scion. They serve together in the Navy years ago. He says Joseph was committed to his work, a guy who wouldn't say no, do sign questions. What went wrong and why Joseph was sent to Boston in the midst of the pandemic,

Speaker 2: 10:19 Common sense should have prevailed. And, um, this could have been prevented. That's that's one of the big things

Speaker 4: 10:27 Before leaving the cemetery, Joseph's family gathers around his grave to flower bouquets, sit in front of the temporary headstone. They say a prayer. Then they sing

Speaker 2: 10:41 [inaudible].

Speaker 4: 10:43 This day would have been his 55th birthday.

Speaker 2: 10:52 [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 10:53 Joseph left his wife and three children for Boston in good health. Aside from high blood pressure and cholesterol he'd been managing his wife would shoulda says he told her masks were not required or provided until the second week. And at first, no social distancing was in place about a month in. He started feeling sick and got a fever. He found testing and it confirmed Joseph was positive for COVID-19. It was the news. His wife had feared the news that made it hard for her to eat or sleep can't. Even either the slave lets the app.

Speaker 2: 11:31 Yeah, hoping every day for a good day.

Speaker 4: 11:34 It was the good news. Didn't come. He returned to his hotel to isolate, but left a few days later by ambulance, which held a hand, wrote notes in her calendar on his condition May 1st ICU May 2nd lungs week, May 3rd weaker, which held us as the pain of losing him was so bad that the days go black Joseph was placed on a ventilator and was unable to talk to his family for the last two and a half weeks of his life. He died in the hospital without them on May 21st, which held a says during their last conversation, he encouraged her.

Speaker 2: 12:09 Our last conversation was like, don't cry. I'm not gonna die. I'm not golfing Andy. Where

Speaker 4: 12:19 Now, which holder remembers her husband, Joseph by flipping through photo books and keepsakes, there are carefully preserved pictures from their wedding day in the Philippines photos of the family, smiling at Disneyland tickets from SeaWorld, Brad and Joseph jr. The couple's two youngest kids remember him this way.

Speaker 2: 12:39 Like he was a, like a loving and caring dad. It was so sad that money done that was every night, almost cried about him being this. And right now

Speaker 4: 12:53 The military Sealift command, which maintains the Navy ship where Joseph got sick declined an interview request, a spokesperson said orders were in place when Joseph arrived for social distancing and use of personal protective gear in a statement, as spokesperson said, the tactics to fight the virus evolved as they learn more. But repair work had to continue. Joining me is I knew source investigative reporter, Mary Plummer, Mary. Welcome. Thank you. The military Sealift command, which maintains the Navy ship where mr. Bond doc got sick, told you the opposite of what he said about a lack of precautions. When he went to Boston in may, in addition to mr. Boondocks illness, did the virus impact others? So Joseph Bond doc was among 24 of 47 crew members who tested positive. And he was the first and only one who had died from the coronavirus. As you mentioned, the military Sealift command did say that orders were in place for precautions on docs.

Speaker 4: 13:58 Family, uh, has a very different experience of this from what they learned directly from Joseph Bond doc. And you know, the problem really goes beyond just this ship, the outbreak on the ship, uh, which was called the U S N S Libra Grumman. Uh, it was among several, the military struggled to contain as the pandemic took hold this spring. Uh, over two dozen of the Navy's battle for ships have reported at least one positive COVID-19 case. Now, Mary, this is the first report of several that you've done for broadcast. And on the web profiling people in San Diego who've died from COVID-19. What did you want to tell these stories? Uh, we really wanted to, um, you know, put a personal side to some of his statistics that, um, all of us living in San Diego have heard we've gotten very familiar with the numbers, but as we kind of took a look at of the reporting that was out there already, there was a nameless quality to some of these deaths. We wanted to look not just at the lives of those. Who've been lost to COVID-19, but at the systematic problems that contributed to their deaths. And, uh, along with my colleagues, Waco co reported this with what we learned is that COVID-19 policies, um, you know, aren't necessarily being followed in some cases. And that safety precautions sometimes come too late or are mishandled.

Speaker 5: 15:21 And many of the cases that you report, we, we read about delays and mistakes that may have contributed to the deaths of these San Diego. Ans tell us more about that.

Speaker 4: 15:30 Yes. Um, so for this story, um, one, one person that we focused on was a veteran who didn't receive a potentially lifesaving plasma therapy on time because the supply was tainted. Uh, in another case of women likely caught the virus from home health care workers who tended to her sick husband. Uh, we also talked to one family who had numerous family members who struggled to get timely testing. Two of them ended up dying of COVID-19. So in many of these cases, um, there were things that happened with the care of the loved ones that certainly could have been improved. And many of these families are really left, um, questioning and wondering about, you know, what happened in the final days of their loved ones.

Speaker 5: 16:17 There are now more than 400 official COVID-19 deaths reported in the County. Are there more that you believe have never been tested or counted?

Speaker 4: 16:27 Uh, the numbers represent deaths that the County is aware of, but our reporting found not all deaths were included. Uh, we just heard the story of Joseph Bond, doc's family. Uh, he for example, is a San Diego County resident. His family has owned their home in national city for seven years, but his death did not appear in the data. Um, because he was out of state, uh, uh, County spokesperson suggested that it may have been that there was a wag and reporting from that state. Um, but what's clear is that, you know, the numbers that we know of are the known deaths, but certainly the loss, uh, expands out greater than that.

Speaker 5: 17:05 And mr. Bond doc's case, and many of the others, your report on the families are left devastated, and some actually feel guilty. Why is that?

Speaker 4: 17:15 In one case, we interviewed a family who had recently placed their father into a memory care facility in January. Uh, this was of course shortly before the pandemic hit the area. They were soon, you know, walked out of being able to see him and he ended up dying of COVID-19. So I think for, for a lot of these families, you know, they're questioning the decisions. There was an agony for that family in not being able to be with him in the final weeks of his life and not understanding that he was early in enough.

Speaker 5: 17:50 And a lot of people that we talked to, um, have a lot of questions about, you know, how the final day is, uh, or handled for their loved ones. The second part of this series runs tomorrow. Mary, give us a preview of what we'll hear. Tomorrow's story goes inside of the family that I just described. Uh, they live in Bay park and we'll hear exactly what happened from their point of view and from the facility's point of view and where can people find all the profiles you've done? Uh, I knew source.org is our website. They of course are also up@kpbs.org and there are photos and videos as well. So you can hear from the families directly. I've been speaking with, I knew source investigative reporter and Mary Plummer, Mary, thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 5: 18:47 Former San Diego County, Sheriff's deputy Aaron Russell pleaded not guilty Tuesday to second degree murder Russell is charged with the shooting death of Nicholas bills as he was trying to escape from custody. The district attorney's office says it's the first time a San Diego law enforcement officer has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a suspect. It's also the first time a law enforcement officer has been charged under the state's new use of force standard, which went into effect in January Russell's defense claims. He was acting within the scope of his employment as a law enforcement officer. Joining me is former San Diego County district attorney, and now criminal defense lawyer. Paul thinks, and Paul, welcome to the program. Thank you. Now the new law in question is California's new use of force statute written by San Diego assembly member, Shirley Weber. Do you think that is a significant shift when it comes to police prosecutions?

Speaker 6: 19:42 Well, most people think of deadly force as being a shooting, basically shooting a, but deadly force is defined as, as a force that may produce death or great bodily injury. So it doesn't have to result in death to be deadly forest. And I think that's probably where the most problems are gonna going to come in, because please we're trained in the, in the statute only to use only to shoot when they fear the eminent use of deadly physical force upon them or the third person. So that won't change a whole a whole lot. But what happens when someone tries to catch a burglary suspect and tackles him to the ground or something like that, is that going to cause great bodily injury? So that's where the rubber is going to be. I think felt most in the courtroom, this case involves of course, a shooting and a death. And the statute requires that it be done under circumstances that a reasonable officer would perceive at the time, rather than a reasonable person would perceive at the time, which was the old law.

Speaker 5: 20:44 So as I understand it under the old standard, the of force was judged by the standard of reasonable. But this new statute is judged under the standard of whether it's necessary. Isn't that the change that we're talking about,

Speaker 6: 20:59 Of course it is necessary according to the perspective of a reasonable officer at the time, based upon what he or she perceives at the time. So there is still an interpretation requirement in the statute to say, was it necessary given the circumstances that the time, which of course comes back to whether it was reasonable, even though the word is not used

Speaker 5: 21:30 When you got a police use of force case on your desk as da, how did you make a call whether to prosecute or not?

Speaker 6: 21:36 Well, most of them were easy. Uh, every once in a while you got to one that was hard, the easy ones are obviously somebody points a gun at an officer and the officer returns fire. That's, that's a no brainer, but what happens when the officer is mistaken and believes that someone had a weapon, but they didn't have a weapon and their perceptions at the time. And those are the difficult cases. And those will continue to be difficult cases because then you will look at objectively whether there was a perception that the officer was about to be the victim of deadly force, in which case, then the officer's allowed to use deadly force. So it doesn't really change the shooting cases as much as I think people would expect, because this is the way that officers have been trained in the Academy and have been using use of force deadly physical force. But for a long time,

Speaker 5: 22:29 Both of the men involved in this incident were white. And this law was really inspired by the killing of unarmed black men by police. Do you think the race of the alleged shooter or the victim makes a difference?

Speaker 6: 22:42 That is the multibillion dollar question, isn't it? Because not every shooting of course is racial. Even if the races are the same or of different races, but some appear to be influenced by race. How does one separate the ones that may have been influenced by race from the ones that are really have nothing to do with race? And that's something that juries have to wrestle with, but as you know, statistically, more white people are killed by police officers. Unarmed white people are killed by police officers than unarmed black people are killed by police officers. But the, of course the, the proportions are higher for African Americans than they are for Caucasians.

Speaker 5: 23:24 And when you're talking about actual numbers as opposed to percentages, right?

Speaker 6: 23:28 Correct. And the percentages are a higher percentage of, uh, of the police officer shootings and killings of unarmed people are African-American in respect to their percentage in the population.

Speaker 5: 23:41 Now, Aaron Russell was relatively new to the Sheriff's department. He's 20 years old. How much of the blame for this shooting, if there is blame for this shooting, do you think can be put on his training and the judgment of the people who gave him,

Speaker 6: 23:55 You know, that is a really fascinating question. I feel sorry, because this case involves a very, very junior police officer who's working in the jail and probably has not spent a decent amount of time out on the streets. So as young as he is, I believe he's about 23 years old. And as, uh, he's new to the department about a year and a half. So he is certainly not a veteran officer and how that is going to play into this under the statute that currently exists. The fact that he is junior and inexperienced does not really matter because there's an objective standard that's being used that applies to all police officers without consideration to their relative length of tenure on the department. So he is one of those people who this statute may affect more strongly than someone who's more, a veteran has spent more time in situations involving use of force. His history of use of force would be very limited simply because he is so junior in the department.

Speaker 5: 24:59 And this incident also seems to give some credence to the movement, to take funding away from police and put it into social services. Now, the victim in Nicholas bills, his family says he was schizophrenic. So shouldn't his case have been handled by a psychiatric team instead of park Rangers and deputies.

Speaker 6: 25:19 Well, of course he was going to jail. And, uh, when he escaped the officers who are outside the deputy Sheriff's outside, had no idea what his mental status was or whether he was mentally ill or not. So it was not an opportunity under these circumstances for them to seek professional help because the County does have what we call per teams to bring psycho psychiatric professionals to scenes when there's time to do that. But this, this case did not give the officer's time to seek out psychological professionals. I won't even approach the issue about how psychiatric professional people will deal with someone who is violent without a police officer being there. That's something that we've been trying to work out for 20 or 30 years.

Speaker 5: 26:05 Think about the effort to re redirect funds from police to community services.

Speaker 6: 26:11 We will always need police and we will need, and the more police we have and the better train they are, the safer we will be. That's been proven time and time again, I think rather than going through defunding and taking money away from police and redirecting that money. If, if we believe that there's an advantage to having non-police professionals involved in this, and we should up that budget, but not reduce the police budget in communities of color around the County. I represented the County as an elected official for a year as the entire County. Uh, when we go into communities of color, I was constantly asked why don't we have more police, not fewer police. Why don't we have more police? Because that is where the higher concentration of crime has been. And when you have a higher concentration of crime, the people in that community expect more police presence. Not less. Some people would disagree with that, but in my experience, the people in high crime areas want more, not fewer, please.

Speaker 5: 27:10 There is also an effort to sort of reimagine what the police are and what the community can be. And with that might come a change of heart of how many police we actually need.

Speaker 6: 27:21 Well, we'll wait and see about that because, um, I think a lot of people would hope that there aren't as many bad people in our communities as they are, who require force domestic violence cases. A classic example, when one goes to a domestic violence case, one could say, well, why don't we bring a psychological professional marriage and family, counselor person to deal with this? Except those are the most dangerous types of cases for police to respond to where police are afraid of getting shot at the door, which happened just a few days ago in another state. So trying to say, when can we use alternative to police in a situation where there's a nine one, one call is a very challenging thing. And I think most sheriffs, if they had an opportunity to not deal with psychiatric patients, let somebody else deal with them would be extraordinarily happy to give up that responsibility because it's such a difficult thing. The highest, the most significant mental health care provider in the County, unfortunately, is the Sheriff's department because of the mentally ill people who are in jail,

Speaker 5: 28:32 San Diego city voters will decide in November whether to create a new police review board, which would have more power to investigate police shootings. Would that kind of board actually help the da in making calls about which cases to prosecute?

Speaker 6: 28:48 No, the da is charged with the ultimate responsibility and it would, it may do is actually impair the ability to prosecute officers by if there is subpoena power and having people testify, it can complicate the investigatory process. This has been discussed repeatedly in San Diego County for as long as I've been here doing this in the criminal justice system, which has over 30 years now. And from time to time, this idea has been posed. And from time to time after careful examination has been decided that adding another investigative layer into the examination of police officer shooting can have counterproductive effects. Let me give you an example. If there is an independent investigation coming to an officer's shooting, most of the investigation has to be done immediately upon the shooting. When the witnesses are there

Speaker 3: 29:42 And available. If the assigned officers who respond to the scene do not conduct the investigation, then the witnesses may be lost forever. And by the time the other investigators come in, they may not be able to do as, as, as, um, comprehensive investigation as is required. So in every police officer involved shooting case and immediate investigation, rounding up witnesses and getting the evidence right away is critically important to understand the dynamic of what happened. It's not a situation where the officers have a chance to wait. I have been speaking with

Speaker 7: 30:16 Former San Diego County district attorney now, criminal defense lawyer. Paul. Thanks, Paul. Thank you very much.

Speaker 3: 30:23 It's my pleasure. Thank you. As the fire that erupted aboard the USS bonum Rashard Sunday at Naval base, San Diego continues to burn. Community groups are worried about air quality and the impacts to neighboring communities. These are historically underserved communities of color that already struggle with high levels of air pollution. Joining me are Diane tech Borean of the environmental health coalition and national city resident, Sandy neuron, whole of the climate advocacy group mothers out front. Thanks for being here. Thank you. Thank you, Sandy. Uh, start with you. Can you describe what the last couple of days have been like for you and the fire and the smoke near your home?

Speaker 7: 31:05 Yes, it has been a nightmare. So on Sunday, when the fire started in the afternoon, it felt like the fire was inside our house. We can smell the toxins in our home, even though our home, uh, we had our windows shut our doors shut. It smelled like burning plastic inside immediately. Uh, we got headaches. We didn't feel well. I have asthma. I was diagnosed with severe asthma when I was three years old because I live next to a freeway. So my asthma got triggered and, uh, we immediately made a decision to evacuate

Speaker 3: 31:43 And Sandy has the smoke and smell dissipated through the week.

Speaker 7: 31:46 It has dissipated, it's still burning. So we still have our windows closed and our doors shut. We did make a decision to come back home on Monday evening. Um, but we are still taking our precautions. Um, I am a mother of two children. I do have a four year old and a two year old. And as we do know, uh, children are not small adults. That means their bodies are more vulnerable to, uh, to the toxic pollution. And the fact is we don't even know what's in the air. We still don't know all. We know that there's a fire burning and we're still waiting.

Speaker 3: 32:21 And Diane, after downplaying concerns about the smokes toxicity at first, the Navy has acknowledged that plastics and other metals burned in the fire. What kind of impact did that have on air quality and people's health?

Speaker 7: 32:32 You were very concerned about the fact that the Navy said that there was no hazards from the smoke. We knew for a fact that there were hazards from the smoke from reports that we got from Sandy and other neighbors in national city and in Barrio Logan. And we know that any form of combustion is hazardous. So we know that whenever anything is burning, people should not be breathing in the smoke. We know for a fact that there were, um, toxic materials at our aboard the ship, any built environment has synthetic materials and toxic materials that when they burn are hazardous to your house,

Speaker 3: 33:11 We spoke with bill brick of the San Diego air pollution control district. Here's what he had to say

Speaker 8: 33:17 Right now. We're not seeing a big threat, but our advice to people is still the same. And that is that if you're smelling a strong, if you're nearby and you're smelling a strong sense of smell of smoke is really to stay in doors, um, and keep the windows and doors closed. And then also just to reduce physical activity, because that reduces your respiration rate and reduces the amount of anything in the air that you'd be breathing in.

Speaker 3: 33:43 He also said they brought in mobile monitors to check the air quality around the ship, but the results won't be available from those air samples till later today, Diana you're satisfied with the response from local officials.

Speaker 7: 33:55 We're very dissatisfied with the response. There was no response from any County agency all day Sunday. The only response was from the city of, uh, national city that advised its residents to stay in doors and limit, uh, activity. The advice from the County didn't come and tell later on Sunday night, and then the danger was really downplayed. So we were very concerned about that. And it's clear to us that there is no emergency response plan for this type of a disaster. We've built this major military industrial compound complex, right on top of a community of color, a low income community, where folks are already sick because the pollution every day is bad and people are already impacted by that air pollution. And then to put this assault on top of it with no response was completely unacceptable. The response has gotten better over the last couple of days, but it was really not good when people needed it the most, the first and second day.

Speaker 3: 34:58 And we should mention a County spokesman sent us a statement saying that public advisory started going out in English and Spanish on Sunday. And the port is announced yesterday, it's allocating $200,000 to help with relocation and air quality assistance to residents impacted by the fire. And Diane is this enough?

Speaker 7: 35:16 I think these are very good responses. And unfortunately they came too late for some people like Sandy, who had to make the decision herself to move her family. We should have had those resources in place on Sunday, and we should have deployed them immediately. That said, I think we're taking a big lesson from this event and we need a disaster plan for the future because we know it'll happen again. Some other kind of disaster will probably happen again and we'll need a good disaster relief plan.

Speaker 3: 35:50 So that's what you'd suggest too about what else should be done to keep residents safe, learn from this one.

Speaker 7: 35:56 Yes. I think it's really important that we have a disaster plan in place that residents receive the kind of information that they need in order to evacuate or shelter in place. And also that we do air monitoring immediately. We understand that, um, the air pollution control district has deployed some monitors, but to my knowledge, there were no monitors on Sunday. Um, and we believe those could have been there could have been deployed. So we would have had that information, that information is lost forever to us. Now,

Speaker 3: 36:29 Is there anything being done to monitor air quality in these neighborhoods longterm?

Speaker 7: 36:34 Yes. There are, um, air monitors in Chula Vista and in Sherman Heights, there has been some mobile monitoring and some smaller monitors Sandy's involved in a campaign to get more monitoring. And she can talk more about that with a special program through the California air resources board and the air pollution control district. So we're excited about that, but we really need emergency response.

Speaker 3: 37:01 Now tell us about that program, Sandy.

Speaker 7: 37:03 Yeah, so fortunately for our neighborhoods, we were selected through the AB six one seven, um, to be funded, to eliminate toxic emission. Our communities rank in the five to 10%, most polluted neighborhoods in California. So that's what got us the funding from the state. So this program is looking into developing a blueprint of how we're going to reduce it. So that's how we had monitoring going on. We've had mobile monitoring from Aqua to show us the data and what is going on. So that can tell us where we can put the resources in, but just like Diane said, our agencies are not equipped to do emergency preparedness. And that is a problem because we've known for years that these are dangerous, that these let the Navy and NASSCO and all these other, um, businesses that operate next to neighborhoods, neighborhoods, uh, pose a danger to our health. So that's why we've had these discussions. Uh, we were able to qualify for this funding, but most importantly, how do we make sure that we are prepared for an incident that none of us predicted what happened on a Sunday?

Speaker 3: 38:19 I've been speaking with Diane tech Valorian of the environmental health coalition and national city resident, Sandy neurono of the climate advocacy group, mothers up front. Thanks to you both for joining us.

Speaker 7: 38:31 Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 4: 38:39 Or to cope with working from home, the creative team behind Apple TVs, mythic quest, Ravens banquet, decided to tap their creativity to challenge the limits of lockdown, KPBS arts reporter Beth haka. Mondo speaks with two of the writers about doing a quarantine episode of mythic quest, put restrictions on artists. And sometimes that's when they become the most creative, such as the case with Apple TVs, mythic quest Raven's banquet and its quarantine episode. Please be showered please. Oh my God. Are you serious? David Hornsby plays David brittles be the beleaguered executive producer who tries to keep the dysfunctional staff of a gaming company on task and professional. Even in quarantine. No, no, we're not doing this. I'm going to call him now. Okay. Okay. Well, I'm going to go and put a Brown's engineered these meetings to be all fancy or whatever. It's not fancy to wear undergarments to a business meeting. You know what? Just go put on the brawl. The Apple TV show was created by alums from it's always sunny in Philadelphia. It stars Rob McElhaney as iron grim. The narcissistic creator of the mythic quest game

Speaker 9: 39:49 Has something that no one else will me.

Speaker 4: 39:53 You think quest ended its first season with a bonus quarantine episode that not only displayed amazing ingenuity, but also delivered a funny sweet poignant and ultimately uplifting story without ever feeling cloying or calculated. Hornsby was one of the writers for that episode, we saw an opportunity to kind of tell a story where we could touch on both the mental toll. It takes the physical toll, the adaption that you have to make, even with having to zoom and, and learn that whole new reality. No, no, no. This is an audio FaceTime. Now I just Facebooked you F Murray Abraham plays an older writer who needs to learn zoom for the work meetings. What are you doing? And the other side, hold on, let me try something else. Just stop. No, just stop pressing buttons.

Speaker 4: 40:45 The amazing irony of those scenes is that in order for us to capture them on film FMR, Abraham had to deal with an impressive amount of technology that's right. Or Megan Ganz to set up his own camera, adjust all the features, the stuff that he had to do to get to the place where he could pretend to not understand technology is like a mindblowing. No, I mean, yeah, sure. But you're a Panda. Okay. What a Panda. You must've pressed the wrong button. Okay. Pressing buttons. GaN says it took just three weeks from conception to air and it was extremely challenging since everyone was sheltering at home. Ultimately wait, it was very invasive to the actor's homes because we were sending kits, essentially sanitized kids that had iPhones and camera stands and lighting and things to put on their walls so that it would feel more like their characters and, um, using their spouses or roommates in order to help us hold things in a certain place. I mean, it was just an all hands on deck. Hornsby says it had a very do it yourself feel that being said, we had a crew of hundreds on these calls watching and directing and helping. And there was something really fun about that. The episode concludes with a zoom meeting in which everyone plays a small part in creating an amazing Rube Goldberg device through a chain reaction of video screens.

Speaker 10: 42:12 Dana, here we go. This is what I want you to do on the count of three. I want you to poke the bottom left side of your screen. Got it. Okay. One, two, three.

Speaker 4: 42:21 It really bonded us in a way kind of relative to like what happens in the end of the episode, we have that moment in making the show. It felt like we all came together to have this cool triumphant moment. That was cool.

Speaker 10: 42:34 Can we do it again? If you want this to be really cool, we're going to need more

Speaker 4: 42:38 People. GaN says it's been the highlight of her quarantine Hornsby ads. They wanted the show to address the problems of quarantine. But to end on a high note, you know, even though we're going through all the separate where we all also going through it together and we can work together to make this as good a situation as possible. And that ultimately we're all connected, how they'll all connect to create a season. Two of mythic quest is still uncertain. In the meantime, I urge you to check out the quarantine episode and maybe you'll be inspired by their creativity. That's like a Mondo KPBS news.

KPBS Midday Edition podcast branding

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.