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

Safe Reopening Compliance Team To Help Business Navigate COVID-19 Rules, County’s Coronavirus Deaths Reveals Huge Disparity, San Onofre Decommissioning Progress Report And New Self-Driving Car Tech

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY MATT HOFFMAN

Above: Coronavirus testing at the San Diego county lab, Feb. 28, 2020.

Some businesses in the county are openly flaunting public health orders while others are confused about compliance. To that end, the county has set up a compliance team to help businesses navigate the rules and crack down on those that defy those rules. Also, breaking down San Diego COVID-19 deaths by ZIP codes reveals huge disparity. Plus, as work to dismantle the San Onofre nuclear power plant continues, the debate about how to safely dispose of nuclear waste wages on. And, the Los Angeles VA is allowing homeless veterans to camp on the campus so they can access services such as health care and food but that’s drawing mixed reactions from homeless advocates. Finally, Qualcomm’s new version of the technology that allows cars to communicate with one another and to traffic signals looks to prove its effectiveness to make cars truly driverless.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The governor announced support for essential workers in the central Valley,

Speaker 2: 00:04 They were announcing $52 million investment new dollars that will be put into the central Valley.

Speaker 1: 00:13 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Mark sour. This is KTV S midday edition. San Diego County is launching a new effort to achieve COVID.

Speaker 2: 00:28 It is simply a fact that we have not seen wider spread enforcement of the general aspects of the public health workers,

Speaker 1: 00:35 An update on the decommissioning and dismantling of Santa no fray and Qualcomm tests, a communication network for smart cars. That's a head on mid day edition. Governor Gavin Newsome today expanded on the commitment he made last week to provide more support for essential workers in the battle against COVID-19. He announced that strike teams will be deployed to the central Valley of all the lines of the teams that helped when COVID-19 cases spiked in Imperial County.

Speaker 2: 01:20 I'll remind you those teams included members of the office of mercy services. So the members of OSHA, uh, team members, department of social services, uh, as well as partners that we developed the local level and Q including, uh, community based organizations,

Speaker 1: 01:39 Newsome says a federal grant has also provided $52 million to increase testing and quarantine housing for essential workers in the eight counties of the central Valley. The COVID positivity rates in each of those counties range from 10.7 to 17.7%. The state average is 7.5 in San Diego County health officials reported a total of more than 880 new COVID cases. Over the weekend, the County continues to exceed several state trigger points and San Diego remains on the state's COVID watchlist. Yet anyone who went out over the weekend was sure to have spotted individuals, groups, and even businesses not complying with COVID guidelines like wearing masks and observing social distancing. San Diego County officials say they are creating a safe reopening compliance team to offer guidance to businesses confused about COVID compliance and to crack down on businesses and organizations operating in defiance of those rules. Joining me is San Diego County supervisor Nathan Fletcher and supervisor Fletcher. Welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 02:48 Thank you very much for having me.

Speaker 1: 02:49 How long is it going to take to get this new compliance team?

Speaker 2: 02:53 Well, I think what we're talking about is increased compliance teams. We have some efforts that take place. Now our epidemiological branch goes out for outbreaks and looks at practices what's happening. Um, and as we've seen in, in, in multiple egregious examples, whether it was a restaurant in PB, uh, a church or a gym in San Diego, we have sent staff out, uh, worked with local jurisdictions. What we're talking about is how do we, how do we expand that? How do we formalize that, uh, how do we better engage with cities? Um, because the reality is until we have a vaccine or a combination of vaccine and therapeutic treatments, uh, we're going to be in this new normal for a while. And while the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of businesses are doing what we ask and we're grateful to them. Uh, we can't let a handful of folks, uh, who are willfully defined public health orders impact our region's ability to remain open.

Speaker 1: 03:44 Is this expanded team going to respond to complaints from the public, or is there some other way it will approach inspecting businesses?

Speaker 2: 03:53 Well, we're still putting in all of the details together, but I suspect it will be a mix of both. Uh, you definitely get complaints. Uh, many of them are documented, uh, accompanied by photographs and video of, of what's happening. Uh, and you get those, those come in through the, through the public. And those are certainly, we want to be in a better position, uh, of being able to act on those. And, and what we're talking about are that the really willful and blatant violations that are, that are putting people's health at risk. Uh, if somebody is walking their dog in their neighborhood, uh, with their face covering around their neck, I think that's unlikely to be something, uh, whatever rise to the level of enforcement. But when you see these, these truly, uh, flagrant violations, again, that threatens our ability as a region because that facilitates spread.

Speaker 2: 04:33 And so we want to be able to better do that. And we get a lot of referrals through our case investigators, our outbreak investigators, our contact tracers, and they will feed in concerns that they have as well. And then it'll be a matter of prioritizing them. And then really working with the local jurisdictions who have code compliance officers who know their businesses to go out and take the appropriate level of action. Sometimes it could be education or, Hey, we need to tighten this up in the instance of someone where it's very flagrant and willful that could be issuing in public health order, closing them

Speaker 1: 05:02 Kind of go all the way up to actually closing the business. What about fines for businesses that refuse to comply?

Speaker 2: 05:08 Well, that is a part, and that's currently in place now. And I think we're looking at all of the options about how can we do this best, you know, and again, trying to separate out those folks who are, who are making a good faith effort, who are doing the best they can, who are trying to comply with the orders, um, you know, versus the truly, uh, willful defiance of public health orders. Um, and again, the, the ability to get through this as a region enforcement has to be a tool. Um, but the reality is we need the public to understand, look, we are all in this together, and if we want to resume as much of our life or normal life as possible, then we have to come together and we have to slow the spread. And so that means avoiding large indoor gathering. That means utilization of base covers the things that are put in place are not out of a desire to be punitive or tell people what to do. It really is out of a desire to allow us to have as much open as possible. And so we have to do better on the enforcement part and we're working to figure out how we do that. Um, but we're also really hoping that that enforcement isn't the center piece of this, that, that everyone will buy in and understand why as a community we have to come together.

Speaker 1: 06:13 But just to be clear, you do see stepped up enforcement as part of the new compliance team. That is correct. Okay. So governor Newsome announced last week, a new effort to require businesses to report COVID outbreaks directly to public health officials. How will that help?

Speaker 2: 06:30 The ongoing cooperation is, is what's vital on the flow of information and data and a cornerstone of infectious disease response and pandemic response is that case investigation, outbreak tracing close contact. I got a call from a contact tracer who was telling me I had been a close contact of a positive case, and I needed a quarantine and I did quarantine, but the ability to have the cooperation and the data and to have it timed, uh, you know, this is an area where we're not doing very well right now. Our number of case investigations that are being completed in the first 24 hours is love. And so last week alone, we brought on 97 additional case investigators. We're in the process of hiring 212 more. We're going to more than double the number. Uh, and so we have to keep responding rapidly to the change in circumstances we face. And I think the ability to quickly identify through testing, we had a challenge of test not getting turned around fast enough. We took action to try and fix that. And so we're constantly striving to keep up or stay ahead of what's happening, but the ability to rapidly identify positives to link them together when, when the possible, uh, and then to take corrective action and notify people who are close contacts is a piece of what will help us hopefully slow the spread, moving forward,

Speaker 1: 07:44 Supervisor Fletcher, the state legislature reconvened today. What are the top COVID related issues you want to see them tackle?

Speaker 2: 07:53 Um, you know, I, I really think issues around the accessibility of unemployment insurance, uh, and the speed at which people can get into there. I know our folks in our, in our unemployment systems are working really hard and tirelessly to try and make that work. Um, but I think that that is a, is a vital component of what we need is helping provide that debt assistance and relief to folks who are struggling. You know, there, there was nothing worse than, you know, those of us who were on the much lower side of reopening. I was the lone, no vote against a series of four, one expedited reopening plans. What we feared was the danger of having to reimpose restrictions, which is economically more devastating than opening more slowly. Um, nonetheless, this is where we are today. And so I think the state can really focus on how they're helping provide economic relief and assistance, uh, along with continuing to support counties. I mean, we, we continue to have needs for health system support for PA for, uh, personal protective equipment. Uh, and so I just think remaining focused on the public health crisis and the economic crisis, uh, at the County level, we are very dependent upon that state state help and assistance.

Speaker 1: 08:58 There were gatherings over the weekend on the beach in Cardiff and elsewhere where social distancing and masks were basically ignored. People see that, and they ask why isn't law enforcement cracking down on gatherings like that. So I'm asking you why don't we see law enforcement cracking down on that kind of stuff.

Speaker 2: 09:17 Well, and I'm not trying to pass the buck here, but you really have to ask them, uh, in terms of law enforcement agencies, you know, I know they have a lot on their plate and I know that they, no one probably went to the police Academy to say, I want to enforce public health orders, but, you know, we, we, we could use, we could use additional help and assistance there, uh, in terms of stepping that up and, you know, there, there's no number of kind of public health code compliance folks we're going to get there. We're going to help provide that widespread, uh, enforcement to that level. You know, we, I think we can focus in on egregious violators, willful disdain for businesses that are open that shouldn't, um, but you know, some level of, of broader support, uh, and enforcement there would, would certainly be helpful, uh, to the overall effort and, you know, create the sense that, again, you know, these are things that we're all in this together and we're doing it. And I think folks who go through the extra step of being cautious and being careful and physical distancing and utilizing their face covering, uh, I understand that frustration when you see blatant examples of folks not doing it, and they're appearing to be no consequences for it.

Speaker 1: 10:20 Do you do anything to encourage enforcement to encourage that kind of core up cooperation with cities?

Speaker 2: 10:26 Well, we have been, and we continue to do that. Um, and we will continue to do everything that is within our power, uh, but you know, look law enforcement agencies that the sheriff sets his own policies and he gets to set his own posture as it relates to enforcement, uh, as does the individual police departments in each of the jurisdictions. Uh, you know, look, I know over the weekend I had several conversations with chief misled at San Diego PD, uh, around us serving an order and a letter. And he was very helpful. And I certainly appreciate that. Um, but it is, it is simply a fact that we have not seen a wider spread enforcement of the general aspects of the public health orders.

Speaker 1: 11:02 Now, as you say, we're still exceeding several of the state trigger points like cases per 100,000 residents, contact tracing percentages, and that's led to the reclosing of indoor restaurants and businesses and prevented the opening of in-person schools in San Diego. So my question is realistically, how soon do you think we could get off the state watch list?

Speaker 2: 11:25 Well, I've long avoided speculating on, on what may or may not happen in the future. It is a dangerous business to be in. Um, what I will tell you is that the one trigger that is tied to the state, we have 13 metrics. We monitor here in the County, that's a combination of federal state and our own. They give us insight into what's happening. The state only monitor six of those that put us on the monitoring list. And so what has this on the state monitoring list right now is the number of cases. And we are over that threshold by a amount. What we need to do is reduce our percentage of positive. Our daily percentage of positive was hovering out around two, between two and three. We then went to almost seven and a half percent. We've now kind of stabilized and are trending down just a bit around six.

Speaker 2: 12:08 Uh, we need that to continue to come down and I believe it is possible for us to get that case count off the state monitoring list. The challenge is, is getting it off and then staying off. And in order to do that, we've got to go back to what we really talked about in April. April was a month of adapting. We needed to adapt our behavior as we start reopening. And so the recognition that regardless of what the number is, if the number's low, we tend to lose our focus. If it's high, we tend to regain our focus and we don't want to Seesaw back and forth. We want to get in a place where we can go about our lives with as much of our economy, our schools, our childcare, our recreation open while maintaining that lower number. And that requires a great deal of vigilance that requires folks making the decision to not have 30 people at their house for a private party.

Speaker 2: 12:57 It requires us not going into bars or large studies of requires us to utilize face covering and wash our hands. And so my hope would be, you know, we had tremendous initial success. We lost our way and focus a little bit. Now we're tightening it up, that we can tighten it up, lower those numbers, and then stay in that posture and be daily aware and mindful of what we're doing a while we get through this, this will end, we are at some point going to get a therapeutic treatment or a vaccine, or probably a combination of a partially effective vaccine and a partially effective therapeutic treatment. But for the foreseeable future, we've got to really commit ourselves every day to adapting what we do every day. Uh, and we do that not only to protect life, we do that to protect our economy, to protect our children's education. Uh, and we do it for one another. I've been speaking with San Diego County supervisor

Speaker 3: 13:48 Fletcher. And thank you so much.

Speaker 2: 13:50 Thank you very much for having me. [inaudible] the big picture San Diego County last week marked a tragic statistic with our 500th death amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but that only tells part of the story joining me to examine the details of where these deaths are clustered as KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Tresor Claire, welcome to midday edition. Thank you. We'll start with how you went about determining where the deaths are occurring in San Diego County.

Speaker 3: 14:25 Right? So, so far, uh, the County has not released this, this data. Um, and so we, we just requested that they provide us with a breakdown, uh, by zip code of, of where the deaths are occurring and, and they sent it over. Um, it's not something that I think they're going to update regularly, but we'll keep, keep requesting the information so that we can, uh, provide updates as go.

Speaker 4: 14:52 And what stands out in this report as you look at these various statistics and, and match them up geographically.

Speaker 3: 15:00 Yeah, I mean, it's, um, it's pretty stark when you, we, we made a map which you can see@kpbs.org, and it's a searchable map by zip code. And if you just look at it, the, the zip codes with the highest deaths are in South Bay, in national city, Chula Vista, um, alcohol, and then Southeast San Diego. And as you move North throughout the County, um, there's just fewer and fewer deaths. Some, some places in Encinitas and Carlsbad, and so on a beach and ally gardens have had a zero deaths and a lot of them, uh, have had less than five. And then also, I mean, if you just look at the overall numbers, 60% of the cases and 45% of the people who have died or Hispanic or Latino, compare that to Latinos make up just 34% of the population in San Diego County. So it's clearly hitting, um, South Bay and people of, uh, Hispanic or Latino origin the most.

Speaker 4: 16:00 And we have talked on the program about some of the reasons behind that, but just generally remind us of why, uh, the folks who look at these statistics and study why this is happening, why they're seeing this hit this community so badly.

Speaker 3: 16:15 It's because people who live live in those areas are more likely to be lower income. So maybe they live with a bigger family, which means that the virus can spread more easily, more likely to be essential workers. Um, so, you know, they're not able to work from home and kind of avoid the risk of, of getting the virus. And then, um, I mean, if you just look at data from across the country, the New York times has now, uh, collected lots more data. And it shows that that people who are dying are just far more likely to be people of color, either black or Hispanic or Latino. We're seeing that here in the County as well, I guess I didn't expect it to be so stark. The thing that was the most shocking to me was just the, how few deaths there were in, um, in some parts of the County. And I think it, it kind of leads you to think that some people in, in parts of the County don't really feel impacted by this very much. Maybe they don't know anyone who has died or his who has even gotten sick. Um, and you can see that when you look at the map that parts of the County that may be true

Speaker 4: 17:26 Are several zip codes with no deaths at all, as we're saying, or fewer than five, uh, they're not all wealthy areas though, are they

Speaker 3: 17:33 Mostly, they, they are it's. So the County doesn't provide exact numbers if it's between one and five, because that's kind of too much of a, um, privacy violation, I think. And so a lot of the County is just, you know, LA Hoya, Tierra Santa Poway, um, Del Mar is one to five people and then parts of, um, Carlsbad Encinitas. So on a beach or zero interesting normal Heights is zero. Um, I'm not sure what that is. It may just be a smaller population in that zip code and then allied gardens, um, is also a zero, um, which is interesting, cause that's kind of a, an older population in some ways. So, um, but mostly, yes, it's, it's areas that are, that are more wealthy coastal North County that are, that are the least impacted.

Speaker 4: 18:26 Right. And you mentioned, uh, the, um, age of the population. It also reflected that, right? The, as we've been hearing all along, the, the folks over 80 are just the most vulnerable, certainly over 65, but, but the statistics show that nearly half over 80, uh, have, uh, been reflected in the deaths here. Right?

Speaker 3: 18:45 Right. Yeah. I mean, we've been doing analysis, um, over, over time and it's, it's consistently been, uh, been that way. And so now we see 47% of those who died were over 80. Um, 23% were between 70 and 79. So the next oldest, uh, segment of the population, and then less than 5% were under age 49, the vast majority, 95% of those who died had underlying health conditions. Hypertension is 52% diabetes, 35% cardiac disease, 32% and asthma, 14%.

Speaker 4: 19:23 And you talk with Nancy Maldonado, president of the Chicano Federation of San Diego County. What does she say about the data?

Speaker 3: 19:29 I mean, she is also, you know, not surprised. Um, she says that it's just impacting a lot of the populations that she works with as she had a pretty striking quote. She said, if, if we were seeing this in places like Del Mar or LA Hoya that perhaps, um, people's response to it would be different than that. It would be getting more attention. The Chicano Federation is just trying to work with the communities that they represent to, um, to make sure that people are staying as safe as they can and are as informed as they can. And, um, they're working with the County on that as well.

Speaker 4: 20:07 I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Traeger, sir, you can use our searchable zip code map@kpbs.org. Thanks Claire.

Speaker 3: 20:16 Thank you. When the coronavirus pandemic hit more than 150,000 immigrants in California were applying to become us citizens. Now, many of them may not be able to become citizens in time to vote. This November [inaudible] Ramiro reports has dreamed of becoming a U S for a long

Speaker 5: 20:48 Time.

Speaker 6: 20:49 I don't feel fully integrated into us politics and do as culture. You know, I don't have the power to vote.

Speaker 5: 20:55 She was seven when her mom brought her from Mexico to live in the Bay area, they were both undocumented, but her mom married a green card holder and all stepdad sponsored them to become lawful permanent residents.

Speaker 6: 21:08 I just couldn't wait to become a citizen.

Speaker 5: 21:11 Finally, last summer already, I applied to naturalize as a legal assistant at an immigration law office. She says she seen more clients rejected for asylum and other benefits under president Trump.

Speaker 6: 21:24 That's why I really wanted to become a citizen this year and vote against him.

Speaker 5: 21:30 It's one of more than 700,000 people who had pending applications back in March at the beginning of the pandemic. That's when us citizenship and immigration services closed offices to the public for nearly three months and canceled naturalization interviews. Earlier this year, it took the agency about eight months to decide petitions. Now it can take up to 20 months at the USDA office in San Francisco.

Speaker 6: 21:56 Haven't been scheduled for interview yet. I don't think that it might happen this year. I feel pretty angry. Disempowered.

Speaker 5: 22:03 As many as half a million immigrants nationwide could be shut out of voting in November because of the delays at USC. I S says, Louis, Desippio a professor of political science at UC Irvine that could impact the presidential election in battleground States like Florida. He says and close congressional races in places like California, central Valley,

Speaker 7: 22:25 Where you have smaller electorates and adding a few thousand people one way or another to a group of potential voters could really make a difference.

Speaker 5: 22:35 The station delays could get even worse. If USDA furloughs more than two thirds of its staff, as officials say they'll do at the end of August, unless Congress provides a $1.2 billion bailout. The Scipio says furloughs could mean immigrants will wait more than three years to be American citizens. And some who've played by the rules may never make it.

Speaker 7: 22:59 That's criminal really it's violating the compact that we have with immigrants in U S society.

Speaker 5: 23:05 A USC spokeswoman says since reopening in June, they focused on rescheduling oath ceremonies for more than a hundred thousand immigrants already approved, but Magdalena Vera is not there yet and says she won't feel secure until she becomes an American, especially under this administration in past elections, ovarian volunteered a polling places.

Speaker 6: 23:28 If I can't, Oh, I guess I could participate in other ways, which is by helping other people vote.

Speaker 5: 23:32 She says, that's her plan B this November, that was for Rita Jubala Romero from KQV D

Speaker 7: 23:45 [inaudible]

Speaker 8: 23:51 Work continues to dismantle the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which provided San Diego with 20% of its electricity until 2012. When it was shut down prematurely due to a radiation leak, the process of decommissioning the plant is more controversial than it's 44 years in operation. The question is can the nuclear waste, which remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years, be safely disposed of KPBS is Alison st. John spoke with San Diego union Tribune energy reporter, Rob Nicole Leschi, who has been following the progress of decommissioning and storing the radioactive waste.

Speaker 9: 24:30 So now you wrote recently about this Epic seven week journey of the reactor vessel of unit one to a disposal site, near salt Lake city, Utah. There's a huge chunk of nuclear waste. And you say a spokesman for the Nevada department of transportation said it was the heaviest load to ever traverse the silver States roadways. How did they get it there?

Speaker 8: 24:50 Uh, it was a complicated process. First of all, they took the 770 ton nuclear pressure reactor vessel, put it on a rail spur right next to the plant. And then they took that to Nevada and they're in North Las Vegas, Nevada. They had a bunch of cranes and other things, uh, to move that 770 ton chunk from a rail yard onto the Nevada highway. They bolstered the, uh, uh, the convoy. They would make sure that didn't damage the road and they slowly moved it all the way about 400 miles through Nevada and into Utah. And finally to a little town called Clive Utah. And there there's a company called energy solutions and they have a nuclear waste storage facility there. And that's where they took this class a waste.

Speaker 9: 25:50 The reactor vessel, I believe is classified as low level waste, right?

Speaker 8: 25:54 Yeah. It's the lowest level. According to the nuclear regulatory commission, there are millions of pounds of low level waste. That's going to be moved to Clyde, Utah. It will be broken down into smaller bits and then take into cloth.

Speaker 9: 26:09 There's a lot of money in this for the, for the private company, doing it, energy solutions, what's it all going to cost?

Speaker 8: 26:16 Yes, I believe it will be $4.4 billion.

Speaker 9: 26:18 And where does that money come from?

Speaker 8: 26:20 The money comes from rates that rate payers have paid into and people that have been able to get electricity during the time that the fan of know for a nuclear generating station was operational

Speaker 9: 26:32 So far. We're talking about wasters classified as low-level nuclear waste. Let's talk about the high level waste. The spent fuel rods, which are remaining on site for the foreseeable what's happening to them right now,

Speaker 8: 26:45 Southern California Edison has been transferring, uh, canisters of that spent fuel the waste from spent storage pools on site and moving them to a dry storage facility that was recently built. And 69 of these canvassers have been transferred. There's three more that still need to be moved. Now the natural question is why do they stay at Santa no fray? And the reason why is because Santa no fray is not unique. Nuclear power plants all across the country have this spent fuel, but they have no place to put it because the federal government was supposed to find a place to put all this stuff you've got about 80,000 metric tons all across the country were nuclear reactors across the country that are there, but there's no place to send them

Speaker 9: 27:36 Earlier. This month, the California coastal commission approved Edison's decommissioning plan. And there was some concern about their plan to remove the cooling pools. Why was that?

Speaker 8: 27:45 Well, because there are a number of people who, uh, expressed some concern saying that in case there's a damaged canister, or there's a case there's any sort of crack in the canisters that you should be able to put them back into the spent storage pools, but the nuclear regulatory commission says that you don't need to keep the spent storage pools behind and Southern California Edison. They didn't want to keep this sort spent Sorge pools there. And the California coastal commission basically agreed with Edison's take on that.

Speaker 9: 28:21 It was the California coastal commission vote unanimous. What was their attitude to the plan?

Speaker 8: 28:26 Well, it was unanimous, but they weren't happy about it because, uh, Dana Bochco, who's one of the commissioners from the coastal commission, I think summed it up pretty well saying this is something that the federal government should have taken care of 40 or 50 years ago, but they haven't. So what the coal coastal commission has done is they have okayed the permit to keep, uh, the spent fuel in say at Santa Onofre, cause there's nowhere else to put it, but they have put like a little asterisk on the permitting process there. So in 2035 and 15 years, this permit will go up for review. And if for whatever reason, canisters need to be moved to a different location that will come up in 2035. So there is an out, so to speak that in case there's erosion or, um, there's rising sea levels, something like that, that might jeopardize the integrity of the storage facility that they can be moved.

Speaker 9: 29:29 Now sending you a Congressman. Mike Levin is very concerned about the safety at the site, which is in his district and has millions of people living within 50 miles of it. And he convened a task force that met for a year and came out with a very recently saying that since the federal government has not done its job to find a longterm storage site, the state of California should take more responsibility for how the nuclear waste is disposed of. We've seen the coastal commission basically going ahead and approving the decommissioning plan. Is there any sign any other California officials might get involved?

Speaker 8: 30:03 I don't think so. Even within the task force, there are some people that are saying that if you get the States involved in regulating or overseeing spent nuclear fuel nuclear waste that you might end up with rather than having just one national standard, you might have a bunch of different standards by each state. And that could be counterproductive.

Speaker 9: 30:25 The thing that most of us know about sending AFRI is the distinctive twin domes that you see on I five as you're driving North, when will we see those come down?

Speaker 8: 30:34 They're scheduled to come down around 2025 to 2027. That's, that'll be part of the larger dismantling efforts that are expected to take about eight years to complete.

Speaker 9: 30:47 And once the, the domes have disappeared, what's to stop everyone from forgetting about the high level. You clear waste stored out of sight they're down by the shore.

Speaker 8: 30:56 Well, I would highly doubt that people will forget about it. And even Southern California, Edison says this. When they built that facility, it was not built to be a storage facility. It was built to be a nuclear power plant, especially the fact that it's right next to a very, very busy freeway. It's right next to the ocean. This in a seismically active area. I think that as long as that spent fuel that nuclear waste is there at the very least, there's always going to be a little bit of anxiety that was union Tribune, energy reporter, Rob nickel speaking with KPBS, Alison st. John

Speaker 9: 31:42 In Los Angeles, the department of veterans affairs is trying a new way to help homeless veterans. It's allowing them to live intense on the VA campus, where they can also receive food, healthcare and other services as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. It's a model that could expand outside the VA, Matt to NOCO reports for the American Homefront project,

Speaker 8: 32:07 By any metric. It's like the countless other homeless camps around Los Angeles, a collection of a few dozen tents propped up on a parking lot, most Stripe with the blue tarps, but there's also port-a-potties handwashing stations and onsite medical staff. The tents are spaced apart, maybe about 12 feet. Lisa Tompkins is one of the only women. There has been homeless for a long time. It's been a struggle for the last 19 years,

Speaker 9: 32:33 But I'm sober today and I'm happy today. And I'm walking in peace.

Speaker 8: 32:38 She spent there on the LA VA's

Speaker 10: 32:40 Verdant campus since April, when the VA of greater Los Angeles opened to the camp she showed up after she was asked to leave. One of Ella's largest homeless shelters at the onset of the pandemic, where she'd been for about a year

Speaker 3: 32:52 With some issues with social distancing and face mask squaring. And I found myself all of a sudden, without a place to go

Speaker 10: 33:01 As a former air force medic, she could turn to the VA for resources. And when she showed up, she was offered a space in the camp.

Speaker 3: 33:08 They have, you know, round the clock security case management onsite. They have nurse practitioners on site.

Speaker 10: 33:14 Officially the camp is the care treatment rehabilitation services program. The CTRs in federal acronym speak. It's one of few such sites in California, basically a stop gap to give vets who were showing up at the VA asking for help, like Tompkins somewhere to go during the pandemic, dr. Ingenue ready is clinical director for the LA VAs homeless program.

Speaker 3: 33:35 This really does seem like the right time to jump into action and provide the service.

Speaker 10: 33:40 Any hierarchy of basic needs. The CTRs takes care of some of the most fundamental three meals a day water on tap bathrooms, trash services, and the security of a federal campus. None of those things are ever easily accessible for people living outside.

Speaker 3: 33:55 You continue to move them towards stable housing. Um, but we recognize that that's limited right now, and it may be limited more in the future.

Speaker 10: 34:03 Southern California's homelessness crisis continues to worsen and has jumped another 13% since last year. It has some thinking. The sanction camp model piloted at the VA could become an option for Ellis population of non veteran homeless. That includes a federal judge. Who's overseeing a lawsuit, filed by advocates and property owners who say Ellie's government has handled mass homelessness with negligence. That judge has ordered the city to shelter thousands in just a few months, potentially in sanctioned. Campsites, Michelle Martinez is a special advisor to the court. In that case,

Speaker 3: 34:36 If this is a rebirth, this is a renew differently

Speaker 10: 34:40 At the same time. And despite some successful experiments, many in and out of government are reluctant to embrace safe campsites because, well, it seems like giving up the people in them are still homeless, still in tents, still outside and still without indoor plumbing. But for Elisa Tompkins, the camp at the West LA VA is better than a camp somewhere else.

Speaker 3: 34:59 It's not ideal. No, but I'm making it work. I've got my pink comforter in here and I got my unicorn squish, mellow for a pillow. Yeah,

Speaker 10: 35:08 It's a work in progress. No onsite showers mean coordinating a ride to the nearby YMCA. It took two weeks to figure out access to electrical outlets for charging cell phones. But for Tompkins, the camp is still a step.

Speaker 3: 35:20 You know, I'm grateful rather than focus on what they didn't do. I really liked focusing on what a benefit this is to me,

Speaker 10: 35:29 It's the simple thing. She appreciates the most like a small water bottle station and easy access to ice cubes for a chilled drink. I met in Los Angeles.

Speaker 1: 35:39 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 11: 35:54 If we're ever going to have self driving cars, they will need to be able to talk wirelessly to one another and a roadside monitoring infrastructure like traffic signals, such technology has been around, but has failed to take hold. Now, Qualcomm is out to prove the effectiveness of a new version of technology that connects cars, union Tribune, technology reporter. Mike Freeman joins me to discuss this pilot project. Mike, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. We'll start with what the goal is here. Why do we need cars to be able to communicate as they roll along the roadways? It's a safety issue, right? And it can enhance safety significantly. If cars can peer to peer speak to each other and know some information about, you know, nearby vehicles. And so you can imagine a scenario where, you know, you're going to turn right in an intersection.

Speaker 11: 36:43 You're looking back to your left. You can't really see what's going on over there. There's a tree in the way or a big truck. Um, so instead of, you know, just kind of edging out and going, you could get a notification that, Hey, there's a vehicle approaching and it's approaching a pretty fast speed. Boom. It's like show up on your dashboard. So that's the type of thing, you know, in the future that you could do with this sort of, of technology, it's mostly a safety feature and like a mirror everywhere. So you can see what's there. Or even if you can't see it, actually. Yeah. And, and, you know, marketing, see some of these futuristic dashboards, like I've gone to the consumer electronics show, you know, for several years and you go over to Qualcomm's headquarters and you know, there'll be a dashboard where the normal instruments that you would think on a dashboard or right in front of you, right over the wheels.

Speaker 11: 37:27 But on either side of that, there's a camera, right? So you can get like videos, small Canterbury video feeds of your blind spots, basically coming off of the sensors in the vehicle. And those cameras also could hook up to this kind of peer to peer sort of technology where, you know, you can get a video feed off of a traffic light camera that could help you see around say a blind corner. Okay. And that brings me to the specifics of Qualcomm's new cellular vehicle to everything technology, what will it specifically do? It's just that it, it connects cars to cars and they call it vehicle to everything because then it can also connect cars to infrastructure like traffic lights, or traffic monitoring devices. Um, other things you might be able to think of just yet. And it's, um, you know, it's direct it's peer to peer, so it goes, boom, boom. It dies and rely on the cellular network. Um, you know, it doesn't have to go back to the main tower and then back down to the car. So the idea is, you know, it improves latency, so it be fast and, and the transmissions can be fascinating to do any sort of autonomous driving again. They need that. Um, and then, you know, the, it it's reliability range, you know, performance, that's the type of thing that they're actually going to be testing out here in, in San Diego and elsewhere.

Speaker 4: 38:52 And it has the, a distinctively unsexy name of C V to X. If I'm saying that right,

Speaker 11: 39:00 It's such a technology thing, right. If they can make it hard,

Speaker 4: 39:05 Got to work on the branding there at some point now, where is this going to be tested specifically here in San Diego?

Speaker 11: 39:11 So it's, it's going to be on a, there's a three mile corridor off the eight Oh five, um, you know, between state, route 52 and the eight Oh five. And it's gonna, they're gonna put up some boxes there. Um, they almost look like wifi routers actually, you know, they're just little boxes within tennis that are alongside the roadway. And then I think Caltrans vehicles are gonna have a plugin to their telematics units, all cars today have these little telematics units where basically you can get software updates and they read the cars, you know, what's going on. And that's why you get notifications that say, Hey, you gotta go into, you know, for maintenance now and things like that. So, you know, they can plug that in and you have to have the technology and it's got to be in the infrastructure or the other car, and then in, in the, um, car vehicle itself and other vehicle. So then, uh, you know, they will run it. And I think this is, this is mostly a bare bones test. You know, we're testing range, we're testing reliability, we're testing latency and we're testing the data. We can get off of it to see if there's anything, you know, we can actually use for traffic management.

Speaker 4: 40:15 I see now, so we don't really know it's not going to be sophisticated enough. This test is, sounds like to talk about the safety benefits of the technology. In other words, you didn't hit that pedestrian because we warned you.

Speaker 11: 40:27 Yeah. I think, I think, you know, this is like a foundational test. I see. Um, but, but we can obviously talk about the safety benefits of technology. Cause that's kind of where, where the meat of this stuff is. And it's always fun to look ahead with technology. So, you know, the safety benefits again, are, are significant in terms of like notifications of, you know, cars approaching. You can get blindsided notifications, you can do things like, you know, it could come up to a construction zone and you could actually get it at some point and, and notification of like where the workers are. Right? So you're gradually, you're going through a construction zone. There's a lot, a lot happening, but then, you know, boom, you're in the area where there's actual work going on and there's actual people nearby. You could get like a notification of that, um, just on from these roadside pinks to the car. So that's, that's the type of thing you can do,

Speaker 4: 41:19 Bicyclists people that might be hazards in the road

Speaker 11: 41:22 And that's even farther in the future because at some point in time, they want to embed this technology in the phone and in like smartwatches. So if I'm, if I'm riding my bicycle and it has, you know, CV to X in my smartwatch that I'm wearing and the car has CV to X technology, you know, the car, you could get a morning in the car bicycle approaching 700 feet. That would be the type of safety technology get. And that's the type of thing that might flash on the dashboard. Right? Boom. You get like, like a little one of those little yellow diamond narrows that says bicycle. Perfect. So yeah, that's a type of futuristic things that they used for this technology

Speaker 4: 42:03 And Qualcomm hopes to establish CV to X as the standard wireless communication system for vehicles everywhere. I would imagine the sun's pretty lucrative that's

Speaker 11: 42:14 Possibly could be. Yes, but it's a standard. So there wouldn't be others also making this technology if it's adopted, but this is the standard that China has decided to go with. There is another standard DSRC dedicated, short range communication it's been around for a long time. Um, but it never really took off. And so, you know, this is the CBD X has kind of a better mouse trap for that. Um, and they're hoping they build enough volume and interest among, you know, infrastructure vendors, you know, like stoplight makers, traffic managers, and that sort of thing. And car manufacturers to actually get this, you know, deployed and adopted. It's going to be a little bit, um, but that's, that's kind of where they, they hope that this, uh, this goes

Speaker 4: 43:01 Well, that leads me to my next question. The wireless communication technology. It sounds rather basic as we describe it in the overall scheme to switch to autonomous vehicles, where are we with that? Is that much farther down the road. So to speak than many people realize

Speaker 11: 43:15 I know about that. I, you know, the autonomous vehicle technology is actually coming along pretty fast and Qualcomm has a full on advanced driver assist and autonomous vehicle program itself. And they occasionally you'll see them testing, um, you know, cars, I'll block off a lane of say, you know, state 94 or something like that and do a bunch of autonomous driving tests. So, I mean, I think that's still working and that's still in the works, but this would be kind of an it's an adjunct, but kind of an adjacent safety feature, additional safety feature that I think that'd be deployed probably a lot sooner if it caught on if auto makers decided to do it. And if infrastructure vendors decided to do it, it could catch on a lot quicker than, you know, you might see full on autonomous driving,

Speaker 4: 44:03 Speaking with reporter Mike Freeman who covers technology for the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks Mike.

Speaker 11: 44:08 Thanks Mark. I appreciate it.

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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.