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San Diego To Participate In COVID-19 Vaccine Trial, Responding To Mental Health Calls Without The Police, San Diego Weekend Arts And Culture Events Preview

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Above: The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is seen in yellow, emerging from cells (in blue and pink) cultured in the lab. This image is from a scanning electron microscope.

UC San Diego will be one of the sites for a national COVID-19 vaccine trial slated to begin Monday. Local sites are looking for more than 1,000 San Diegans to sign up. The trial is based on a vaccine prototype developed by Massachusetts-based Moderna Therapeutics. Plus, in San Diego, police officers are often the ones responding to mental health-related 911 calls. We’ll hear about a plan to change that. And, KPBS Arts Calendar Editor Julia Dixon Evans has a preview of this weekend’s top events, beyond Comic-Con@Home.

Speaker 1: 00:01 Governor Newsome puts a new focus on protecting essential workers,

Speaker 2: 00:05 People that are feeling sick. People that may be sick. We don't want them going to work infecting other people.

Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition. San Diego is part of a large scale nationwide COVID vaccine trial.

Speaker 2: 00:30 This is a 30,000 person trial. San Diego could end up being a pretty sizable chunk of that data set that gets used to decide whether the vaccine works.

Speaker 1: 00:41 Switching police funding is explored in part two of our San Diego police budget report. Plus the weekend preview that's ahead on mid day edition In today's address on the spread of COVID in California, governor Gavin Newsome says not enough focus has been placed on essential workers. He presented a graph showing that most essential workers like grocery employees, cashiers, restaurant workers, et cetera in California are Latino, black and Asian.

Speaker 2: 01:20 This essential workforce remains the bedrock. The backbone of those that are providing foundational fundamental services to the state of California.

Speaker 1: 01:31 New some introduced expanded programs provide quarantine space for essential workers and crop workers who get sick. And he's introducing a new handbook for employers that streamlines guidance on how to provide a safe workplace for employees. Meanwhile, San Diego is, are getting a chance to join the fight against COVID-19. The first large scale COVID vaccine trial in the U S is looking for San Diego ones who want to participate 87 test sites across the U S hope to sign up 30,000 people to test the vaccine developed by the Moderna biotech company of the seven test sites in California, three are in San Diego County. Those locations are UC San Diego in the Hoya and three wake research in San Diego and East study site in Lamesa joining me with more on the modern a COVID vaccine trial is San Diego union Tribune, biotech reporter Jonathan Wilson, and Jonathan, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me, Maureen, what human trials has this vaccine already been through and what were the results?

Speaker 2: 02:35 So Madonna was actually the first company, first group of researchers to begin COVID-19 trials in humans. They started right around March 16, and that was trial of about roughly 45 healthy adults. Mainly looking to see if the vaccine was safe. Those results just got published last Tuesday, July 14th, the new England journal of medicine. And what they found was that of the three doses, the low, mid to high doses of the vaccine, they tested that generally mild side effects lead to expect with any vaccine. And what was interesting and a bit encouraging was they found that everyone who was vaccinated produced antibodies. So these are immune proteins that can stick to the surface of a virus and potentially prevent it from infecting yourselves. And so based on those early smaller trial results, they're now moving forward with this large upcoming vaccine trial.

Speaker 1: 03:28 Now, not only is this a vaccine for COVID a brand new disease, but it's also a brand new kind of vaccine. Tell us about it.

Speaker 2: 03:37 Yeah. So this is one of a couple approaches. Researchers have basically been testing every vaccine approach. You can imagine, including ones that we've been using for decades, as well as a, what Moderna is doing, which is an M M RNA or messenger RNA vaccine. So this is a vaccine that has molecular instructions for the body to make pieces of the surface of the Corona virus, not the whole virus, but these spike proteins that the Corona virus has. And so the idea is that by providing this messenger RNA, you're teaching that person to make and then respond from their immune cells to the, that spike protein that would allow for those antibodies to then block infection, as well as for other types of immune cells to clear infected cells too.

Speaker 1: 04:30 How many people do researchers hope will sign up to test the vaccine in San Diego?

Speaker 2: 04:35 So collectively it could be upwards of 1000. And when you think about the fact that this is a 30,000 person trial, San Diego could end up being a pretty sizable chunk of that data set that gets used to decide whether the vaccine works. UCS is hoping for about 500 people. And then each study site and three week research are looking for about 350 to 500 a piece.

Speaker 1: 05:01 And what kind of participants are researchers looking for?

Speaker 2: 05:05 In short, they're looking for folks who have not already been infected with the Corona virus, but based on where they live or where they work, who might be going forward. Uh, they're also looking for people who are in high risk groups for COVID-19 and finding the right people for these types of trials is tricky because you don't want people who have already been infected because the immune response that you see from them might be what they had from that past infection. Doesn't tell you anything about whether the vaccine is working, but then if you look for people who would never be exposed, because they're so isolated or so hold up at home, for example, then you can't, you also can't tell if the vaccine would have protected them. So you're looking for this sort of in between spot of people who haven't been infected yet, haven't been exposed yet, but just based on their day to day might be. So people who work in healthcare, people who work in grocery stores and public transportation would be good examples as well as folks who have preexisting conditions, whether that's high blood pressure or diabetes, for example.

Speaker 3: 06:10 Now, if the trial is successful, what's the earliest that this vaccine would be available,

Speaker 2: 06:16 But Dharna is one of a fairly small group of companies. That's part of the United States government's operation work speed. And that's a government bid to have potentially 300 million doses of a successful COVID-19 vaccine available by around January of 2021. So Madonna's president has, has said that they think they could potentially do that. You know, other people I've spoken to in, in the world of research and science have said, what's most likely by the end of the year, we would have a good indication of whether the vaccine works and then actually mass producing it, getting it to the people who need it quickly could potentially take a bit longer than that.

Speaker 3: 06:59 Jonathan, where can people find information on how to sign up for this trial?

Speaker 2: 07:02 So the quickest way to do that would be to go to Corona virus prevention,, Corona virus prevention,, which is a site that was launched by the national institutes of health. And that will direct you to ways to find out about any number of COVID-19 prevention trials that are happening in your community.

Speaker 3: 07:25 Speaking with San Diego union Tribune, biotech reporter, Jonathan Wilson and Jonathan, thanks so much.

Speaker 2: 07:31 It was a pleasure. Thank you.

Speaker 3: 07:42 As a movement to defund police travels across the country. One potential target for budget cuts is removing police from mental health calls, many activists, health officials, and some elected leaders say police are the wrong people to be responding to these calls. KPBS reporter. Claire Tresor says the details on how that would work are being explored in San Diego County on a Tuesday in September, 2016, Alfred Alango grieving. The loss of a childhood friend was in the midst of a mental breakdown. A Longo sister fearing for his safety did the only thing she felt she could do at the time. Call nine one one. When officers would the alcohol and police department arrived at the scene, a Longo pointed a vape pen at them, mistaking it for a gun. One of the officers shot him dead.

Speaker 2: 08:44 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 08:45 Spark days of protest and renewed calls to reform how authorities respond to mental health calls. Yet nearly four years after a long goes death. If a comes in regarding someone in a mental health crisis in San Diego County, they will most likely be visited by a police officer. However, it's not like this everywhere in Eugene, Oregon, Ebony Morgan is more likely to show up for a mental health call. Then an officer with a badge and a gun. Morgan is a crisis worker for Kahoot's a nonprofit program that partners with Eugene's police department. When she gets a call, she goes to the scene with an EMT partner and first assesses the situation to ensure it's safe.

Speaker 4: 09:29 And from there, we just start asking, you know, my first question as a crisis worker is going to be, how can I support you? What is, what are we doing? What are we trying to do? And what do you need?

Speaker 3: 09:40 For example, if she responds to a person who's having a psychotic episode and is wandering in the middle of the street, she'll say, yes,

Speaker 4: 09:48 We're in the middle of the street right now. We can't stay here. This is not safe. Are you willing to walk with us over to the sidewalk and then tell us what's going on?

Speaker 3: 09:55 The cahoots program has a team of 50 and costs about two point $1 million a year, or about 3% of the Eugene police department's annual budget. San Diego police's budget for fiscal 2021 is more than 566 million. If 3% were diverted to a similar program, it would cost $17 million, which is about half of what the department spent on officer overtime. In the last fiscal year.

Speaker 5: 10:23 We can't even imagine a world where mental health professionals are the ones who deal with mental health issues.

Speaker 3: 10:29 Call it. Alexander is the founder of the San Diego criminal justice reform advocacy organization, pillars of the community.

Speaker 5: 10:36 Can't imagine a world where more money goes to schools and to education then goes to arming police officers and buying them. Um, you know, military, military grade weapons.

Speaker 3: 10:47 He says programs like hoots. Shouldn't be seen as major police reform, but just good common sense. County leaders are starting to come around to Alexander's point of view in the wake of massive protests that have erupted here and throughout the country, in the wake of George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police officer.

Speaker 5: 11:07 If you have an individual swimming in the fountain or really having a huge problem, if they are swinging an ax or have hit someone with an ax, then you need to call nine one one, and you need to send law enforcement

Speaker 3: 11:19 Supervisor. Nathan Fletcher is working to create mental health crisis teams to respond to some calls.

Speaker 5: 11:25 The problem is if that individual is not a danger to themselves or anyone else, there is no other option for them. Other than to call nine one one,

Speaker 3: 11:35 Your estimates, the program would cost $10 million a year and would be used by all local police departments. He says it would save money by cutting the police cars and fire engines that are often sent to mental health calls.

Speaker 5: 11:49 The other problem is if that individual has ever been justice involved, uh, or if they're

Speaker 6: 11:54 Just in an agitated state of mind, the presence of law enforcement has the potential of escalating the situation. When what you need to do is deescalate the situation. You good, man, I've talked to you before.

Speaker 3: 12:06 Sergeant Rick Schnell led the San Diego police departments, homeless outreach team for 15 years and retired a few years ago. He and his officers had a lot of training on mental health issues.

Speaker 6: 12:18 It was clear that we needed to do mental health training with the officers. PERT was starting to really pick up

Speaker 3: 12:25 The county's psychiatric emergency response team. He says, even if San Diego establishes its own version of cahoots, it couldn't completely take the place of police on mental health calls.

Speaker 6: 12:37 And it's three o'clock in the morning. And you've got somebody with mental health issues going on. Who else are you going to call? The police are coming.

Speaker 3: 12:45 He advocates for more training for police officers and hiring officers who can maintain calm. When an officer shows up in his or her blue uniform with a gun and a badge that automatically escalates a situation. He says,

Speaker 6: 13:02 The officer understands how intense they can be. You know, I don't know if you've had somebody come to your house when you call the police and the police are in your living room, it's usually not a relaxing situation. And so it's kind of on us to calm the situation down. If you're an angry person inside, you probably don't want to be a police officer. This is not the job for you.

Speaker 3: 13:26 Clarity. I guess sir, KPBS news.

Speaker 6: 13:39 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 13:41 Lots of people will probably be busy this weekend with Comicon at home. But if Comecon isn't your thing, here are some arts events and virtual offerings to fill your weekend. For instance, an outdoor front lawn socially distance dance performance plays by local black women and an annual juried exhibition that thanks to the pandemics online revolution is now able to feature digital video works, KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon Evans is here with all the details and welcome Julia. Hi Maureen. Now there's a group putting on very intimate outdoor dance performances. Tell us about live in public. Yeah, it's a project of Anna Brown Massey and Victor Della Wente. They're both local artists and dancers and they've choreographed a 20 minute dance. That's site-specific to a front lawn. It's kind of a way to gather a small audience together in a way that's safer than being inside of theater. So just a few households wearing masks and seated at a safe distance from each other and that performers and this performance features a recitation of Octavio pauses poem, Trowbridge street in English and Spanish plus them of their own original spoken word and a pretty diverse soundtrack, some experimental instrumental stuff, but also bill Withers. They left flag this track in particular by six organs of admittance, who is a guitar based composer. It's called the acceptance of absolute negation. It's from his 2003 release

Speaker 7: 15:36 [inaudible] you can catch live in public's performance.

Speaker 1: 15:40 It's tonight and Saturday at either five, six or 7:00 PM at a private residence front lawn in city Heights, tickets and address up next, some dinner theater. What does Moxie theater have in store for us this weekend?

Speaker 3: 15:58 Yeah, Moxies paired up with common ground theater, which is a black run local theater. That's been around since 1964 for what they're calling dinner and a zoom they're bringing for new plays written by and directed by black women. And they're all centered around the reality of the pandemic. And for dinner, they've put together a list of local black owned restaurants that offer takeout. So you can have dinner during the show, which is of course on zoom. And the four plays are divided into two nights. Each show with two plays. They all sound amazing and really different. So try to catch both shows if you can. There's one, that's about a zoom wedding. There is a mother and a daughter struggling with their relationship while one of them is in the hospital. There's a group of friends kind thing with a salon closure by watching hair tutorials on zoom. And then there's one about the issues that pregnant black women is facing with her white police officer has been

Speaker 1: 16:58 Dinner and a zoom runs Thursday through Sunday, online via zoom in the visual art world. The Athenaeum hosts, a juried exhibition of new local works each year. And like so many things, this year's exhibition looks a little different. Tell us a little about the show.

Speaker 3: 17:17 Yeah. So this is the Athan AM's 29th installment of their juried exhibition. And everything happened digitally, even the submissions and the judging and in a silver lining sort of way as resulted in a larger than usual entrant pool. And it also allowed for films and short video and other experimental video based works. The full exhibition is now available online. It has named me to new works by 46 different local artists. So all of the work had to be made in the last five years. And you had to live or work in the San Diego area to qualify. One of my favorite pieces so far is a digital video by artists, Stephanie Bird, it's called shoe love. She calls it a tone poem and it features the really hypnotic video of the American bald Eagle meeting ritual. It's the spiraling free fall. And if it's unsuccessful, it results in debt. And it's set to this reprocessed audio of radio head song to love wings.

Speaker 7: 18:37 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 18:37 Stephanie bird's video. True love is part of the afternoon's annual juried exhibition available for online viewing. Now through September 12th for more arts events or to sign up for the KPBS arts newsletter, go to I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon Evans, Julia. Thank you. Thank you so much, Maureen.

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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.