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

San Diego Reports 1,000-Plus COVID-19 Cases This Weekend, Parents Prepare For More Distance Learning, And Pandemic Hiking Etiquette

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY KPBS STAFF

Above: A sign requiring the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is pictured at a beach in Del Mar, June 29, 2020.

The rate of positive COVID-19 cases keeps on increasing in San Diego and California, raising the question whether the state reopened too soon. Plus, two parents weigh in on the decision to delay the reopening of schools and how they’re preparing for more distance learning as the start of the new school year looms. Also, day care operators say COVID-related restrictions are putting them out of business. And, female veterans are much less likely than their male counterparts to get their medical care through the VA and the agency has stepped up its efforts to encourage female veterans to give VA health care a chance. Finally, hiking is one of the safest things you can do to avoid going stir-crazy at home during the pandemic. One hiking expert shares hiking advice in the time of COVID-19.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Governor Newsome said today, the rate of hospitalizations is still growing.

Speaker 2: 00:04 We are seeing a reduction in the rate of growth, but a rate of growth. Nonetheless,

Speaker 1: 00:12 Mother-son st. John with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS midday edition. Parents are wrestling with how to react to another school year of distance learning.

Speaker 2: 00:30 I'm constantly at work thinking of the kids in a wondering, you know, are they, are they doing what they need to be to be doing

Speaker 1: 00:37 Daycare? Businesses are being decimated during this pandemic and taking a hike. Outdoors is one way to stay sane in these troubled times, even if it's in your own neighborhood, that's all I had on mid-air dish. We start this week with a sense of uncertainty as the number of coronavirus cases around the country, the state, and here in San Diego continues to increase governor Gavin Newsome said this morning that the rate of people testing positive in California is holding steady at 7.4%. Over the last 14 days, he said, hospitalizations are still rising at 16% though, the rate is slowing new. Some said the state has put out new guidelines for personal care businesses to do business outdoors. He said the future course of the pandemic is up to us.

Speaker 2: 01:33 We have to minimize the transmission of this disease. We have to minimize that by practicing physical distancing, wearing the face coverings, uh, and doing the kinds of things that, uh, I think are well described. And obviously now need to be, uh, more vigilantly followed if, or going to move past this, uh, more expeditiously

Speaker 1: 01:56 Here to help us put the latest news into perspective and talk about our prospects for getting a handle on the spread of COVID-19 is dr. Mark Sawyer and infectious disease specialist at radius children's hospital. He's also chair of the UC San Diego immunization project. Dr. Sawyer, thanks for being with us.

Speaker 2: 02:13 Great to join you.

Speaker 1: 02:15 So now in San Diego County, more than a thousand people tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, the rate of people tested, who tested positive over the last 14 days in San Diego is now 6%. And we just heard the governor say that the state's positivity rate is holding steady at 7.4%. What actually does this tell you?

Speaker 2: 02:37 Well, the percent of tests that are positive is a good way to get a measure of the burden of disease in our community is it's better than just counting total cases because total cases is impacted by how much testing you're doing. So this is a metric that the CDC and the state and the County are all using to decide how we're doing. And although we're 6%, which is not terrible, you know, we were at two or 3%, a few months ago. So we're definitely on the increase compared to that.

Speaker 1: 03:08 What is the statistic that you personally pay particularly close attention to when assessing how we're doing

Speaker 2: 03:15 Well? That's one, the other is the hospitalization rate because people recall the whole purpose of the initial social distancing was to quote flatten the curve that is not overwhelm our health system. So we're watching the number of people put in the hospital, which is both a measure of how active the disease is, but also a measure of our health capacity and our ability to take care of those people who get it.

Speaker 1: 03:40 So the governor said that, uh, the increase in hospitalization rates around the state is 16% it's increasing, but it's the increase is slowing. What's the situation for San Diego hospitals this week,

Speaker 2: 03:52 I think is quite similar. Uh, you know, we saw an upswing in cases two or three weeks ago, and the hospitalizations tend to lag behind that because it takes people one or two weeks to get sick enough to be put in the hospital. So the fact that their hospitalization rate is beginning to decrease as a good sign. It may be we're getting towards the end of this most recent peak that started in the middle of June.

Speaker 1: 04:17 And was that peak caused because do you think that we opened too soon?

Speaker 2: 04:22 Almost certainly. I'm not sure open too soon as the, is the key ingredient. The key ingredient is people gathering in enclosed spaces and not wearing masks. So, you know, I'm of the opinion that if we could just get people to wear masks, when they're within close contact, meaning six feet of other people that we could probably go about our business more or less as we have been up until now, but people seem reluctant or subsets of people seem reluctant to do that.

Speaker 1: 04:51 Yes. Now it's interesting because the other factor seems to be being outside. And the governor said the state's put new guidelines out for hairdressing salons to operate outside. And today San Diego Amera, Kevin Faulkner signed an executive order, allowing churches and businesses like hair sandals and gyms and nail salons to operate outside in private parking lots. Um, I saw a chair of service in a neighborhood park yesterday, and there were very few mosques though. People were sitting close together. What do you think about whether services can be done safely just by moving out doors?

Speaker 2: 05:26 Well, there's no doubt that the outdoor environment is much better for people, whether you have a mask on or not. We have learned in the last couple of months that closed spaces with the little air circulation are a bad setup for spread of the Corona virus. So that's been seen in houses has been seen in other environments. So I certainly endorsed the idea that, that if you're going to be around other people, if you can do that outdoors, you're better. I think it's still important to wear masks because outdoors is not a perfect solution. So if you combine wearing a mask and being outdoors, then your chance of getting infected is very low.

Speaker 1: 06:08 Oh, there's some businesses that you have more concerned about than others, even if they're outdoors, you know, for example, is it more risky to be working out than sitting, having your hair cut? Yeah.

Speaker 2: 06:19 Yeah. I, you know, I think a lot has been made about people singing and shouting and spewing out virus. I think that's a minor component. I think whenever you're within a few feet of another person, whether they're just sitting quietly or whether they're talking, you have the potential to get infected. So I think the emphasis should be on sped, a distancing, remember that six foot measure between other people and masks. If we just did those two things, we'd be in much better shape.

Speaker 1: 06:48 Do you have any concerns about the variety of face coverings that are passing as masks these days? I mean, what is the key factor that makes them effective

Speaker 2: 06:58 Any barrier in front of your face that prevents you from coughing out particles is good. You know, there is a spectrum all the way up to what's called the [inaudible] that are used in very high risk situations in the hospital, but I think people should focus less on what their mask is made of and focus more on it, putting their mask on when they're around somebody, the tendency is to take it off to talk or, or to smile at somebody. And then you forget to put it back on. And then the next thing you know, you've been in close contact.

Speaker 1: 07:30 Hmm. Let's talk about contact tracing the, the rate of COVID cases that were investigated by contact tracers fell to 7% of the weekend in San Diego. Um, and the big picture of all the ways that we seem to be falling short in managing the virus, how serious is the shortage of contact tracers?

Speaker 2: 07:48 Well, I think that is one of the longterm strategies that we're going to have to rely on. And we've learned that in part from other countries, who've been able to do it a little better than we have it. If you can just identify all of the active cases quickly, then you can notify them and notify the people around them that they're at extreme risk and they will need to really be careful. And if you do that, you interrupt the transmission. It's, it's the inadvertent transmission, because you don't know you're infected or you don't know you've been exposed. That leads to the widespread outbreaks that we've seen in the last month. So we need to know who's got the infection.

Speaker 1: 08:29 Do you have any words for people who are contacted by our contact tracer?

Speaker 2: 08:34 Oh, you should absolutely listen to them and respond to their questions because you're going to be a key ingredient in interrupting this, this pandemic. If, if we could just reach everybody and, and let them know they're infected and get instructions about how to respond after, you know, you're infected, then I think we're going to win the battle. Now,

Speaker 1: 08:56 One of the big issues of course right now is schools reopening in the fall or not reopening in the fall. What do recent studies tell us about the risks to children?

Speaker 2: 09:06 Well, first of all, I was talking about the risk of them when they get infected. The only good story in this whole SAR Scobey to pandemic is that children tend to not get very sick, which is great news. We've we've only had a few dozen children hospitalized at Rady children's hospital in San Diego, in contrast to all of the adult hospitals who have been bursting at the seams. So that's the good news. And I know there has been some, some coverage of the concept that children don't spread the infection as well as adults do. And although that may be true to some extent or in sub subsets of children, it's certainly not absolutely true. So we do know that children can transmit the infection. We do know that they can be infectious, even without symptoms. In fact, maybe they are more likely to not have symptoms when they're infected. And so they're among these groups of inadvertent transmitters who don't know they're infected and he had spread it to their family.

Speaker 1: 10:09 Do you think it's possible to reopen the school safely at this point?

Speaker 2: 10:14 I think it's possible, but there are a number of challenges we have to maintain the same social distancing that we're maintaining everywhere else. And that right off the bat is going to be difficult in schools. Ideally, we would have children who are old enough, wear a mask in schools. Uh, so you know, a number of strategies have been put forth staggering classes and staggering days of the week when certain children come to the actual school and doing some of the learning online, I think if we could implement all those strategies, there's a chance that we could reopen schools, but unless the school is prepared to do that, then I do think there's some risk and going right back to business. As usual in schools,

Speaker 1: 10:59 We just have a minute left. I wanted to ask you to your reaction, to the latest surveys that find a significant number of Americans are either unwilling to have a vaccine once one has developed or unsure if they will.

Speaker 2: 11:11 Yeah. I have a feeling they'll change their tune when it's a real yes or no answer. We certainly see people flocking for the H one N one influenza vaccine. When it came out in 2009, we have some early results, actually, some just released today of one of the new vaccine candidates, which are quite encouraging. So I am optimistic that we're going to have a vaccine in a matter of months rather than years. And I think when it becomes available, I'll be surprised if people don't want to go get it.

Speaker 1: 11:43 Good. Well, thank you so much for bringing us your expertise, dr. Sawyer. Thank you. That's dr. Mark Sawyer and infectious disease specialist at radius children's hospital, who is

Speaker 3: 11:54 Also chair of UC San Diego's immunization project

Speaker 3: 12:06 Teachers, students and parents across San Diego County are preparing for the start of this fall semester with schools offering only online classes. Last week, the governor rolled out new school guidelines, which mean all local public and private schools will be prohibited from reopening unless Maura's done to slow the spread of the Corona virus. Having kids taking classes at home again is a challenge for everyone involved, but perhaps most especially parents, whether they're trying to work from home or have to go to work themselves, parents will again be juggling, competing responsibilities. Journeymen are to San Diego parents facing that challenge, but the Vasquez is a father of two whose kids attend Sherman elementary school. He's an educator at UC San Diego and has been working from home and Virginia Davala joins us. Her children are in the Chula Vista school district. Virginia is an essential grocery store worker and cannot work at home. I think you'd probably be now first, I want to hear from both of you on this, do you support the governor's move to keep schools closed until the spread of the virus slows down? Let me go to you Virginia first.

Speaker 4: 13:18 Believe it or not. I do. I think at being the kid's safety, um, it needs to come first. So I think we need to be cautious and especially because we still don't have control and that's very scary.

Speaker 3: 13:30 And Alberto, how about you? Do you support the governor's move to keep schools closed?

Speaker 5: 13:34 Yeah. You know, in a nutshell I would say yes. And I think a to, to Virginia's point right now, I think safety is the number one concern. And I think as we recently saw, even though initially we didn't have high, high infection rates and, and uh, you know, things seem to be okay, uh, after a short time of, of, you know, reopening everything, you know, everything kind of searched pretty rapidly. So, so, you know, it's, it's a pretty good indicator of what can happen if, uh, if we start getting too relaxed too quick. So, so yes, I definitely be in agreement with that.

Speaker 3: 14:07 Tell us, how have you been handling working from home with your kids at home during their school day

Speaker 5: 14:13 To be completely honest with you? It's been kind of, kind of crazy, right. You know, one would think that it'd be a little easier not having to commute, uh, not, not having to do the, the, you know, the daily rituals of actually going up to campus for a moment there. I had to set up, uh, a makeshift, uh, office to do my zoom calls for work from my kids, uh, disheveled bedroom, right. Where I had to keep the camera off because there was bunk beds in the back, uh, that were, that were a mess. Um, luckily we were able to kind of reconfigure some space here at home. Uh, my wife and I decided to purchase a whiteboard to kind of keep all the different zoom for the kids and the hourly meetings and so on and so forth to try to be a little bit more organized, but, but it was, it was taking a level of work and it was impacting us, you know, mentally. So it really feels like I've added on an additional job that we don't necessarily get paid for. Right. And, and I gotta be quite honest. We're probably not as good as the teachers that my students typically have at school,

Speaker 3: 15:16 Virginia. Now, you, you don't have the privilege of working from home. You're a single mom and a grocery store worker. How have you been balancing work and home life right now with kids online schooling?

Speaker 5: 15:28 It's been a very difficult, I'm constantly at work thinking of the kids. And they're wondering, you know, are they, are they doing what they need to be doing? So it's been very difficult. I am thankful for my eldest daughter who has helped me to monitor the kids that make sure they're meeting their, their deadlines and setting up the zoom conferences. So, but, but besides that, it's, it's been hectic.

Speaker 3: 15:54 I also understand that one of your sons, Virginia has an individualized education plan and used to get speech therapy. Is that kind of thing continuing during distance learning?

Speaker 5: 16:05 Unfortunately it hasn't. I think it was the first week the speech therapist has sent me something for him to work on. It was just like a pamphlet. We worked on that and we had never heard we submitted it. Um, we emailed and had never heard anything back,

Speaker 3: 16:20 Virginia, have you seen changes in your children either positive or negative from being out of school and learning at home?

Speaker 5: 16:26 Oh, most definitely. Most definitely. I've noticed physically my kids, my oldest son he's he's acted out more. He was involved in football, involved in the gym and those things changed and he has way too much time on his hands. So he gets a little frustrated being home constantly by youngest with speech. I noticed that if I'm not constantly reminding him, he stopped reminding himself how to correctly say words. So I'm constantly saying, say it again, stop, try it again. And I told him, you know, you really got to practice because you know, you're falling back and it's really scary. As far as attitudes, it's been really, really challenging in the sense that they need to get, you know, they, they need to continue to continually be stimulated, uh, to, to get involved with things. And, and for some reason, if I tell them, Hey, you know, baking is a, you know, there's a lesson in that just because it's coming from that, it's not as impactful.

Speaker 5: 17:22 Right. But we've, we've had to get very creative and trying to incorporate learning in, in the things around us. So daily applications, um, in applying pressure, uh, kind of to, to Virginia's point and reminding them about their reading, about their enunciation, being able to, uh, to, to find out about virtual resources that are available and get them involved somehow. And so that can be pretty in itself because not all virtual resources are created equal right now. And so there's a lot of different things to consider, but for us, it's been, it's been pretty challenging, um, in, in not having them kind of let off their steam as they would in a typical setting in school. So,

Speaker 3: 18:07 So even though you both agree that it's best kids stay at home for now, what is your message to school districts about what they should consider as they plan for the upcoming school year on?

Speaker 5: 18:21 I really feel communication between the teacher and the parent is most important. It was sad to hear my son's sixth grade teachers say he only had 8% of his class joining in to the zoom, joining him to the activities and the work 8%. That's really sad and I'm not blaming parents because, you know, it's all new and this was all new for everybody. And a lot of people don't know technology. So we need to keep that in mind, but I really believe they need to come up with some type of community to keep the communication between the parent and the teacher and what they need to be on the same page to help the child. I've been blessed because I have amazing teachers who have reached out to me, understand their situation and have kept the communication. You know, I'm getting off at one in the morning and guess what?

Speaker 5: 19:13 I have a teacher I email and he right away. And he works with me and getting them the right equipment. It's really hard because we're a house of four and we have one computer. So that's another dilemma that shouldn't be happening. Yeah. I, I would, I would definitely piggyback off of the things that Virginia mentioned right now. You know, it seems like a lot of the burden is really laid on the teachers who are people too. And they, you know, some of these teachers are single parents as well. Uh, you know, their parents, obviously they're, they're working from home, they're learning how to work from home. They have to create their own space. Uh, and sometimes that can be overbearing for them. Right. So I think, uh, being able as a district to support teachers in a realistic manner in which we're not assuming that we're going to be able to continue to teach the same way that we traditionally have taught in the classroom for hours on end, but rather looking to how we can streamline a process in where we can come up with, uh, with metrics or outcomes that are realistic for this time.

Speaker 5: 20:20 Right. And I think this is a challenging thing for districts because you have to consider, uh, you know, the, the things that are required to be taught, but also be realistic to the times that we're in, in, in the attention that people can have on a screen in the ability, uh, to, to take into consideration, uh, cultural competency, uh, right. And that might mean that we're innovative in, uh, including, you know, perhaps that, that the child is doing at home. And how do we line that up to one of the lessons that kids are supposed to learn, right. And I think this is scary in itself because it's going to require your work. But I think right now, the way we're set up all of the work is falling on the teachers and the parents, uh, directly in. And frankly, that's not fair.

Speaker 6: 21:06 I've been speaking with two parents of school aged children in San Diego, Beto Vasquez and Virginia Davina. Thank you so much. Have a good day. Parents going back to work need childcare, especially with kids still unable to go back to school, but what's the status of San Diego's daycares and preschools. Some have stayed open throughout the pandemic. Others are opening now, but a childcare crisis could be looming providers throughout the County. Tell KPBS reporter Claire Tresor that COVID related. Restrictions are putting them out of business.

Speaker 5: 21:45 Wow.

Speaker 6: 21:47 Randy Lum and his wife Abigail have struggled since the beginning of the pandemic to work from home while caring for their two young children.

Speaker 5: 21:57 Hi.

Speaker 6: 21:58 So they were eagerly awaiting the opening of their son's preschool at the beginning of July,

Speaker 5: 22:04 You know, the closer it got, we were just like, okay, well, they said, they're going to reopen. And it's like a couple of days away and we didn't get anything.

Speaker 6: 22:11 Then the email arrived, the school wouldn't be able to open as expected. They were told to check back in September LEMS predicament could become reality. For many parents, KPBS surveyed 10 owners of preschools throughout the County, and all said their businesses have been decimated during the pandemic. Seven said they are in danger of going out of business permanently. There are a few reasons. First many parents are scared to send their kids back to preschools. Also, the county's social distancing requirements mean class sizes have been cut in half, and now I'm operating at

Speaker 5: 22:54 A third of the income.

Speaker 6: 22:56 Holly Weber is the owner of magic hours, preschool in near Mesa.

Speaker 5: 23:01 That's my operating expenses. Haven't changed the salaries

Speaker 6: 23:05 And the overhead are still the same. Sally Chenowith, the owner of discovery, preschools and Oceanside says the new reality means childcare centers are full without really being full.

Speaker 5: 23:16 We're bringing in about 60% of what we normally do, but our costs exceed that

Speaker 6: 23:24 The County had a significant shortage of daycare spots before the pandemic. And now many are worried that a full blown childcare crisis is unfolding. That could sink a local economy already depressed by the current virus.

Speaker 5: 23:40 Moments looks bad, but the longterm looks dire. Alicia Sasser modesty is an associate

Speaker 6: 23:46 Professor in economics at Northeastern university. She says because daycares and preschools operate under very slim margins. These restrictions along with the short term closures are difficult to recover from.

Speaker 7: 24:01 Parents were dealing with this paradox where if you are working from home, you're grateful to have a job. You're grateful to have that flexibility. And at the same time, you're just drowning and how hard this is to me.

Speaker 6: 24:14 We recently conducted a survey of 2,500 working parents about their childcare during the pandemic, and found that 13% reported losing a job or reducing hours as a direct result of a lack of childcare. Now, there may be some help on the way San Diego County is looking to spend an extra 25 million in federal funds on grants for existing preschools. Also the state and County have begun to loosen restrictions on how daycares operate Chenowith. The owner of discovery preschools says those changes would help, but still would not bring her business's balance book back into the black. And she doesn't think raising fees would help because there's only so much parents can afford to pay.

Speaker 7: 25:02 The only way we're going to make up what's happening right now is we all have to double our rates.

Speaker 6: 25:10 They keep painting Lum and his wife are still looking for a preschool for their son. They could stomach a small tuition increase

Speaker 7: 25:22 Dentists. If you go to dentist, they're going to charge you $20 PPE upcharge,

Speaker 6: 25:25 But there would be a limit

Speaker 7: 25:28 It's going to cost 50% more and be like, Oh, well, that's, that's a, that's a, that's a huge job.

Speaker 3: 25:35 Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter, Claire Traeger, Sarah and Claire. Welcome. Thank you. Has the recent shutdown of reopened indoor businesses in the County had an impact on daycare?

Speaker 6: 25:49 No, it hasn't. Um, daycares are governed by a separate the state childcare licensing. And then, um, early on in the, in the pandemic, the County was also issuing specific guidance to them. Um, but at this point, no, uh, they can continue to operate the way that they have been with these restrictions of, you know, smaller classes and, and all of the, all of the various things that they have to abide by

Speaker 3: 26:18 Now, initially during the pandemic daycare and preschools were only supposed to accept the kids of essential workers. If I remember correctly, is there a concern that we may be headed back in that direction?

Speaker 6: 26:31 I mean, it's, I suppose it's a possibility, uh, I think, you know, the, the providers are always, you know, looking out for, for what may be coming, but I think because they already have so many restrictions on them, um, you know, that weren't there before the pandemic. Uh, I, I don't think that the thought is that, that we will go back there, but of course, you know, we never know, as we've seen, we never know what, what might happen. So I think, you know, it's not off the table that, that, that could, could come back again.

Speaker 3: 27:07 Do the daycare providers have the option of expanding their enrollment guidelines from the state if they do it in a safe manner,

Speaker 6: 27:15 Right? Yes. So, um, you know, early on, like I said, there was, there was this confusion, conf conflicting information from the County and the state and in the latest public health order for the County, they just say, okay, you know, refer to the state, whatever the state says, uh, that's, that's what you need to do to kind of remove that confusion. Um, and the state has now said, uh, before they had these rules about, you know, your class sizes have to be this many kids and you can't have a teacher who goes between one class and another class. So it was mixing, um, you know, in, in different groups of kids. Now, the state has changed those two guidelines, not hard and fast rules. So they say, keep the classes as small as possible. Um, you know, try not to have mixing of teachers and different groups of kids. And so it's more, I think now about what the providers and the parents to send their kids to those providers feel comfortable with, um, as they, as they figure out how they're going to expand, if they're going to expand

Speaker 3: 28:24 Now, children usually graduate from daycare and preschool into elementary school, but now San Diego schools will not be opening classrooms for at least the first part of the school year. How does that affect daycare?

Speaker 6: 28:37 Yeah, seriously. I mean, I would not want to be the parent of a kid that's supposed to be entering kindergarten in the fall because there may be leaving a preschool that's open, but headed to home school. Basically, one thing that I've seen is that some of these preschools, including the magic hours, preschool, which I mentioned in, in this story, she is now offering a kindergarten class, which she hasn't done in a long time. Um, so that parents have the option, they would have to pay, obviously. Whereas if they're going to public school, uh, they wouldn't have to pay to send their kids to kindergarten. So they still, you know, have a physical place to go to. Um, the parents can go to work if they need to, and the kids will get that in person teaching. So I think it'll be interesting to see if we're going to have more of that, um, how parents are going to figure it out because obviously, you know, a five-year-old can't be left on his own to do education online. Um, especially if they're used to being in the classroom with preschool,

Speaker 7: 29:42 Tell us more about the grants that may be on their way for San Diego daycare and preschools. It seems like this money may mean life or death to some of these businesses, right? And that's what they're, they're trying to figure out right now. County staff have been given about a month to go and try and figure out how to do it. Basically it's a challenge because they want to be able to make the grants large enough that they will actually make a difference. You know, if it ends up being a couple thousand dollars or something like that, I don't think that that'll really be the help that these providers say that they need, but if they make them too big, then there isn't going to be enough money to go around to all the providers that need it. I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire triglyceride, Claire. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 7: 30:36 Last year, 20,000 women transitioned out of the military yet compared to men, they're much less likely to get their medical okay. Or through the department of veterans affairs. So the agency has stepped up its efforts to convince female veterans, to give VA healthcare a chance for Brooklyn reports for the American Homefront project, to understand who the VA was set up to serve. Look no further than the agency's motto to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan. When that model was adopted by the VA in 1959, women were capped at 2% of the enlisted force. Women veterans have historically even officially been an afterthought. So women like Tanisha, Tumblin a Marine stationed at camp Lajune have repaid the favor. When I think of the VA, I see wounded warriors and I see broken people and someone without a limb when ms.

Speaker 7: 31:29 Clinic never crossed my mind Tumblin is separating from the military this summer, after six years in the Corps, and like many other service women, she assumed VA healthcare would feel the same as the medical attention she received on active duty. That is to say, not exactly attuned to a woman's needs when it comes to medical treatment for women, they automatically assume, Oh, she's just saying she's hurting so that she can get out of this field off or this hike in. That's not the case at all. And another thing they assume that we're all pregnant. When she began her separation process, Tumblin never considered enrolling to get her healthcare through the VA. That's part of a longstanding trend. One, the VA is hoping to reverse with the women's health transition training program. Nancy Mara is the program senior manager. She says, female veterans wait longer than men do to enroll in VA healthcare.

Speaker 7: 32:26 And to just 25% are under enrolled in general. They think that the VA is only for men. They don't think that VA is a polity place to get care. And they're just very unaware of all the healthcare that the VA has for women. Marcy, is that under enrollment as a big problem for women whose health needs could fall through the cracks as they transition out of the military, the VA says women face greater health related challenges after military service compared to their male counterparts, including chronic pain, depression, and suicide. So to persuade women to enroll in VA healthcare, the program holds interactive seminars for troops who are about to leave the service. Welcome again to the women's health transition training. We're so happy to take a time out of your busy day to join us. Kelly Griffith is a trainer with the program addressing online participants from Lackland air force base.

Speaker 7: 33:14 We were in the military for a long time. We have our needs taken care of, but just know, as you transition out of the VA can be there for you. As you can see for a whole host of reasons. Griffin says the seminars are totally different from most military training. They're led by female veterans like her who use VA healthcare themselves. And Griffith says, just having a training geared toward women makes a difference. They're so happy when they leave, because there wasn't anything in the military that was ever women's specific. Maher says it's working. Women who have taken the training are more likely to enroll in VA healthcare and to do so more quickly at Fort hood, Texas, Larry roadshow is retiring from the army. She says the training made her see the VA differently. We sit back and we listened to, you know, the horror stories about receiving medical care at the VA.

Speaker 7: 34:01 And knowing that we have that option as women to see all of our healthcare from the VA, when it comes to women's health was a huge relief to me. Rocia says she plans on enrolling and Tumblin says the training gave her a change of heart, too. I definitely need to recognize that the VA is not at all like Marine Corps medical and that they really are out there to help. And there are programs geared towards women. So no, I don't have that mindset about the VA anymore. As her time in the Marine Corps comes to an end, she'll be signing up for healthcare at her local VA I'm Jennifer Brooklyn reporting.

Speaker 1: 34:43 This story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.

Speaker 1: 35:01 One thing we are learning about this virus is that you are safer outside. So if you feel like you're going stir crazy at home, heading out for a hike is one of the best and safest things you can do. Not necessarily a strenuous hike that requires boots and stamina. Even short hikes are a huge relief from the stress and tedium of being cooped up here to inspire us, to find new ways to get outside. Is it Scott Turner, who is co author of the fifth edition of a foot and a field in San Diego County? Arguably the definitive book on hiking in San Diego County. Thanks for being with us, Scott, thanks for having me. So know as well as writing this book, you are also a therapist. How does hiking help during this COVID-19 time?

Speaker 8: 35:43 There's, there's a lot of emerging evidence that's come out over the past decade that indicates that hiking can take your stress levels down pretty significantly. And I think that's something that everybody needs right now. And, um, we found a lot of people going out on the trails attempting to do just

Speaker 1: 35:59 How has hiking actually helped your a state of mind during this time?

Speaker 8: 36:03 It has been a nice outlet. As far as stress relief is concerned. I find that when I don't go hiking and I'm cooped up in the house, so I'm, I'm at home with a three and a half year old. And then I spent half of the day working, doing therapy. And when I'm cooped up, I find that I kind of get locked into a certain kind of mood. That's not always the best kind of mood. And so when I'm out and hiking, everything sort of loosens up and I find that I'm able to kind of shake that mood off. It gives me a lot of clarity. It gives me a lot of peace of mind. And when I come back, I'm a much nicer person.

Speaker 1: 36:35 How have your hiking habits changed during those time?

Speaker 8: 36:38 I stopped altogether once Gavin or once governor Newsome issued the stay at home order. So I stopped for about two months. During that time afterwards, I made a point of trying to stay as close to home as possible. During the time I was quarantined, we looked into how many hikes I could find within 20 minutes of my house so that I could avoid any long trips.

Speaker 1: 36:59 Yes, I did that too. And discovered an amazing number of hikes, close to home. How what's a good way of finding hikes near your own home.

Speaker 8: 37:07 One of the easiest ways is to go to your local city or regions, parks, and recreation website. Um, you may have to, may have to do a little bit of navigating, but once you get a hang of how their website works, it gives you a pretty complete listing of all the different, um, open space properties that they have. And so through that, I, I live sandwiched between Carlsbad and Encinitas. And through that, I was able to find about 25 different trails. I could hike

Speaker 1: 37:32 25. Yes. Would you say that most of the hikes are open now or are some of them still do sometimes show up and find they're still closed?

Speaker 8: 37:40 Most of the trails are still open right now. Only a few of them. A few significant ones are closed. Most notably would be Tory pine state, natural reserve. Their entire trail network is closed. Although the beach is open. What I'm finding is that it's not so much that the trails themselves are closed, but a lot of the facilities such as campgrounds, picnic areas, any place where people can congregate, those areas tend to be closed. Same with visitor centers. Some, a lot of the times the bathrooms are also closed. So you could get onto a trail. You just can't count on having all the services you might expect.

Speaker 1: 38:12 I know mission trails, some of them are open. Some of them are closed right now. How do you find that out?

Speaker 8: 38:18 You just would be to go to mission trails websites. Um, also most of these parks and recreation areas do a really good job of keeping up with their social media. So they've got Facebook pages, they have Instagram pages, and if you're able to follow them, they post pretty regular updates. So if something's going to, you can check out the mission trails, regional park, Facebook page, and they'll give you an indication saying, Oh, guess what? Cole's mountain just opened. They'll give you a lot of notifications on that.

Speaker 1: 38:44 You mentioned a North County. I know that San Marcus has a great trail network around double peak there. Um, there's Buena Vista park and Vista. The thing is that the beaches are often quite crowded, aren't they? So do you think that there's enough hiking trails inland so that those won't get crowded too, at this time, when everybody's looking for somewhere to walk,

Speaker 8: 39:05 That's the catch 22 with all of this is that not only have the beaches become very crowded, but you have to remember that the gyms and fitness centers are also closed. So, um, you know, San Diego County being a very active County, a lot of people are going out and trying to figure out how they're going to get their exercise in. So the trails have been very, very crowded ever since. Um, the, uh, stay at home orders were eased somewhat.

Speaker 1: 39:29 What do you do when you bump into somebody on a trail? I mean, it's, it's a, it, it seems kind of awkward to put up your mask, but, uh, what, what would you say is that the best protocol to follow and hiking?

Speaker 8: 39:41 One of the things is I, I do my best to start early. So if you start early and I'm talking early, like sunrise early, if you start early, there's a really good chance that they're going to be far fewer people on the trail. Um, if you can't do that, then I try to pick out the trails that have wider spaces, where you can step aside and let people pass. I have been wearing a mask. I tend to pull it down whenever there's nobody within 20 feet of me, but whenever I see somebody approaching, I'll pull it up over my face and that's worked out really, really well for me,

Speaker 1: 40:12 Give us some, some ideas of some of the places that you've found that you didn't even know existed before the pandemic began. Yeah.

Speaker 8: 40:19 So again, being a North County resident, I have lived within about a 10 mile drive from Encinitas ranch, which is it occupies two coastal Bluffs. There's a big golf course there it's up above the forum shops. If anybody's familiar with that on Leucadia Boulevard. And there's a trail network that covers about six to seven miles there, it winds through suburban areas. So it's not exactly a wilderness experience, but you know, when you're in the middle of a pandemic and you know that most of the state parks and the national forests are closed seven miles, 10 minutes from your house starts to sound really, really good. And so that was a revelation for me,

Speaker 1: 40:55 People who perhaps don't hike very much, seven to 10 miles, sounds a bit, a bit of a strenuous undertaking. Um, would you say that even shorter hikes are helpful for our general state of mind? Yeah.

Speaker 8: 41:07 I think some of the evidence that I've looked at says that within 20 minutes, you start to notice a significant decrease in your stress hormone levels. That's, there's research out there. I don't have the specific study to quote for you, but I do know that within 20 minutes, which is about a mile walk for someone moving at a fairly brisk pace, you can reduce your stress levels. So if you're able to take a three mile walk or even a two mile walk, and even if you were to stop for about 15, 20 minutes and, you know, spend a full hour on the trail, you're going to get some pretty good benefits from your outside experience

Speaker 7: 41:40 Advice for folks who perhaps don't normally hike on a regular basis,

Speaker 8: 41:45 But feel like this might be way to

Speaker 7: 41:47 Improve their quality of life at this time.

Speaker 8: 41:50 First and foremost, right now, we're in the middle of summer and it's going to be a very long, hot summer. So on top of all the pandemic stuff, we also have to be mindful that anything East of interstate five can become uncomfortably hot. So for people who are new to hiking, I would check the weather forecast before you go and make sure you're not trying to start your hike at one in the afternoon when it's 95 degrees. Um, additionally always bring enough water with you. Even if you aren't able to get up at seven o'clock or six o'clock in the morning. If you go out and you have two to three liters of water more than you think you'll need, that's a really important part of it. Also, most of our trails are very exposed. So you're going to want to bring some kind of sun protection that includes sunscreen. It includes a wide brimmed hat, um, try to avoid wearing dark colors because they tend to absorb heat. Um, I encourage everybody who does go out there to do a little bit of basic research in terms of what, what to bring what's safe, learn about the tennis essentials. Learn about leave no trace principles. And if you do that, even as a new hiker, you're still going to be able to have a great time. And you're going to have a safe experience. Scott, thanks so much. Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 7: 43:02 No. Who is co author of the fifth edition of a foot and a field in San Diego County? We're going to end today's show by remembering the late civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis in 2018, he visited the KPBS studios to talk about his graphic memoir March, which was chosen as that is one book, one San Diego selection.

Speaker 9: 43:30 It's a simple story. How poor child grew up in rural Alabama was I guess, inspired by the action of Rosa plots and dr. King. And I felt it was not just my story, but it was a story of hundreds and thousands of people all across America and maybe some people around the world that we dream dreams, and we want to make those dreams become real.

Speaker 7: 44:02 Louis died Friday after battling stage four, pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.

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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.