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

Public Health Officers Threatened Over COVID-19 Restrictions, Mayoral Candidates On Criminal Justice Reform And Virus Changing Latina Teen’s Political Outlook

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY ZOË MEYERS / INEWSOURCE

Above: Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten speaks at a San Diego County news conference on the coronavirus, March 19, 2020.

Throughout the country, the restriction-weary public is directing its frustrations at public health officials, leading some to resign or retire. In San Diego, Dr. Wilma Wooten was verbally attacked at the county Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday and her home address was given out. Plus, criminal justice reform is now entering the San Diego mayor’s race. Candidates Todd Gloria and Barbara Bry are receiving mixed reviews from advocates. Also, the pandemic could affect the mental health of Latino teens and their political views for decades to come. In addition, Black health care workers are feeling the dual toll of the pandemic and disturbing acts of police brutality. And, it is unknown when the virus first made an appearance in San Diego, which leads some to speculate that they contracted coronavirus before it became widespread, but do they have the antibodies to prove it? Finally, Stephanie Danler’s new memoir about her parents’ struggle with addiction and her own struggle to overcome that legacy.

Speaker 1: 00:01 San Diego's top health officer faces pushback and how San Diego's mayoral candidates stand on police reforms. I'm wearing Kavanaugh with Alison st. John. This is KPBS mid day edition.

Speaker 1: 00:23 It's Wednesday, June 24th. Today, California, governor Gavin Newsom gave an update on how COVID-19 is spreading in the state. He acknowledged that more testing means more cases, but said what's significant is that the positivity rate crept up from 4.8% on Monday to 5.1% today that compares to a positivity rate in San Diego County of 3%. Newsome said the state has more than 52,000 surge beds, and only 8% of hospital beds are occupied. However, almost 30% of ICU capacity is now in use. As the pandemic continues, Newsome address their frustration that many people are feeling at the continued need to social distance. Many of us understandably developed a little cabin fever. Some I would argue, have developed a little amnesia. Uh, others have just frankly, taken down their guard. Newsome said, taking down your guard is spreading the virus, which is resulting in war people dying. He said, there's no an abundance of mosques available and there's no excuse not to wear them. Echoing the message from public health officials statewide. He urged everyone to think of others who may be more vulnerable than themselves and keep practicing social distancing hand-washing and wearing face coverings.

Speaker 1: 01:42 As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on frustration grows over the restrictions that health officials say are essential to defeating the virus around the country. A number of public health officials have resigned, retired, or been fired coming under pressure for their repeated warnings of the crucial importance of wearing masks, social distancing, and delayed reopening here in San Diego County, a speaker at the County supervisor's meeting yesterday, attacked public health officer dr. Wilmer Wooten and publicly gave out her home address. The County has declined to comment on the issue of harassment with us as a reporter who has written about how public health officials around the country are coming under assault for their input on how to respond to the pandemic. Anna Maria Barry gesture is senior correspondent for California health lane and Kaiser health news. Thanks for joining us, Anna Maria, thank you for having me. So now what's happening here in San Diego is a reflection of events and other counties and other States, uh, dr.

Speaker 1: 02:41 Wootton has not acknowledged any other threats on her personally. And she continues to focus on providing updates and advice, you know, about the pandemic, but your reporting suggests a number of other public health officials have left their posts since the pandemic began. Why? Yeah, unfortunately this is somewhat of a national trend. Um, you know, the long and short of it is that these are officials are under enormous pressure. So in many cases they're experiencing threats, personal attacks, those sorts of things, but they're also working incredibly long hours. I've talked to numerous health officials across the country who haven't taken a day off since February, you know, they're responsible for speaking to businesses, to the public, to elected officials, they're writing health orders. They're trying to keep up with the science, which is changing daily and the stress is extraordinary. And when you add on top of that, the physical and personal threats, I think it's, it's just very daunting for people who are working extremely hard, under pretty tough conditions.

Speaker 1: 03:37 Dr. Barbara Thoreau, the director of the Los Angeles County department of public health issued a statement on Monday of this week, condemning attacks on public health directors and disclosing that she faced repeated threats to her safety. So has your reporting shown that California has, has seen its share more or less of these attacks than other States? Yes, we, you know, we found this trend in, in many States started with 27 officials in 13 States and we wrote about it a week ago and it's only gone up since then, but California does seem to be experiencing a fairly large number of, of these instances and it is a large state, but it seems disproportionate even to the size. I think one thing that was very striking to me was in dr. First statement. She said, not only that she'd experienced these threats, but that one of the reasons that she does the briefings to the media and public herself is to shield her staff from the threats and harassment.

Speaker 1: 04:25 So she's taking them very seriously. So 27 officials in 13 States have what left their positions, why with it, did they resign where they fired? They retired, resigned or were asked to resign. And actually the number has grown since then national organizations who represent public health leaders say they're, they're deeply troubled and also are aware of multiple other people who may resign in future weeks. It's quite troubling. Talk about what's sparking these attacks. Where are they coming from? These are officials who are tasked with making best recommendations to keep the public healthy. Um, in the case of health officers in California, they actually have the legal right to write orders and times of outbreaks and epidemics and require the public to restrict their movements. Things like this. One of the things that's been very contentious lately is the question of face coverings. And there are people who don't like to be told what to do and feel that it's an overreach or unnecessary.

Speaker 1: 05:19 It's tricky. The science is that it's changing all the time and people are trying to make their best recommendations. You know, then there's elected officials who are tasked with thinking also about the economy and other things. And so sometimes those things collide. How prevalent do you think the feelings are that are spurring these attacks? You know, it can take a small group of people who are very vocal and in the case of California are showing up to board of supervisors, meetings, and things can seem much noisier than it is when you look at polling by and large Californians are very proud of the state's response and they are in agreement with, um, a slower opening restrictions on movement and things like face coverings, San Diego County spokesman, Michael Workman declined yesterday to discuss the issue of the harassment of dr. Wooten with reporters at the San Diego union Tribune.

Speaker 1: 06:08 But he did say, quote, continued focus on this irrational behavior has only exacerbated the problem. We will continue to focus on the public's health and the woman who attacked up to it. And at the meeting told reporters that she got a call from the Sheriff's department to check that she had no ill intent, have other areas responded to these threats in any way. Have they done anything to, to respond to possible causes? Yes. There are multiple officials who have security details, unfortunately, and I will say one thing that's interesting is, uh, officials say they expect criticism of their policies. That's quite normal. What concerns them is the very personal attacks on individuals and questioning their motivations expertise, patriotism, you know, uh, elected officials appoint these people. And so there is a democratic process by which to, you know, look at their jobs and how well they're doing.

Speaker 1: 06:59 Um, and, and they just are very concerned by the personal attacks. How are people expressing their frustrations? I mean, what, what sort of tactics are they using? Is this tactic of giving out, uh, UN officials home address in public? Is that a common tactic? So that happened in orange County. There have been multiple counties where large numbers of people have shown up to, um, County officials meetings to speak in mass against particular things like face coverings. There has been several instances when large crowds have shown up at the homes of health officials and protested outside. It ranges quite a bit, but the death threats are unfortunately somewhat common and people are, are concerned. No, dr. Anthony Fowchee is an example of a health official who is sticking to his guns, even though his message is not always endorsed by his boss. And in the case of San Diego County, dr.

Speaker 1: 07:51 Wooten has urged caution in reopening, and she has the support of the majority of the board of supervisors. But some members of the boards specifically our North County representatives would like to see more businesses open up faster, our public health officials being caught in the crossfire about how to handle the pandemic. Yes. You know, there's lots of competing interests here. People are of course, very concerned about the economy and want people to be able to get back to their jobs. Unfortunately, we're seeing a very large increase in cases in California, as things open up and some of that's to be expected, you know, people more movement, more, more cases. But in several counties, officials have told us in the last week that the cases are increasing at a much higher rate than they expected or had hoped for. And so, you know, health officials are tasked with making recommendations about how to keep the public healthy.

Speaker 1: 08:40 And in many cases that means slowing the opening, doing it in phases so that they can understand the impact of various decisions around opening and then also keeping distance and wearing face coverings. But some of those have not been particularly popular. What's the implication of many long time public health officials leaving their posts at this time. That's a great question and is of great concern, particularly at a national level, there is not a deep well of expertise in this area. You know, public health is a science. Um, it takes great training in California. Health officers are required to have a medical degree, but you also have additional training in public health, which is, is quite different from medicine. And there is not, not a huge number of people to draw from. And so there's a lot of concern that even in cases where it's people, people are retiring early, maybe they haven't been pushed out. Maybe it isn't due to threats, but we're losing that expertise. And there's not necessarily a, you know, a new class of people ready to step in and fill those shoes. And we are still in the middle of a pandemic. We've been speaking with Anna Maria Barry jester, who is senior correspondent for California health line and Kaiser health news. Thank you so much, Anna Maria, thank you for having me

Speaker 2: 09:57 A lot has changed since the March primary when housing and homelessness were their top issues shaping the San Diego mayor's race. Those are still of course, major challenges. The next mayor will have to face, but now issues of racial justice and police brutality have moved to the forefront. The current mayor and city council are moving forward with ideas to change policies on policing, but those changes will have to be implemented by the next administration. So where do the candidates Democrats, Barbara Bray and Todd Gloria stand on criminal justice reform. Andrew Keats joins me. He is assistant editor and senior investigative reporter for voice of San Diego. And Andrew, welcome to the program to be here up until now. Criminal justice has not been one of the main issues raised by Gloria or Bree in debates and candidate forums. Do either of them have much experience leading on this issue?

Speaker 3: 10:52 I would say that neither of them in their existing political career to date this have seen this as their defining issue. Todd, Gloria, certainly both on the council and in the assembly has been primarily seen as somebody focused on housing and homelessness and Barbara breeze since she's been on the council has mostly geared her, her efforts around community issues like Airbnb and, uh, scooters and the regulations around those. And then, you know, her mayoral campaign had really been framed around, uh, her career as a business woman and her ability to, to invigorate the San Diego economy. So, no, I would say that neither of them would be at the, the front of the list of people in town. Who've been leading on criminal justice reform up until now,

Speaker 2: 11:36 But now that criminal justice is front and center in the mayor's race, how are Brie and Gloria talking about it?

Speaker 3: 11:43 Yeah, I think, you know, they're both, they're both signaling the areas in which they agree with protesters, the areas in which they think there's room for reform. And in a lot of ways, they're, they're quite similar. I think they have both said for instance, that they do not support the so-called defund movement, um, or even a primary focus on spending less money on SDPD. Now they would soften that a little bit and say that we need to take another look at policing. And maybe reinvision what we ask SDPD to do. Maybe there's been some mission creep. And I think it's, it's possible that as you addressed those issues that may lead to a reduction in budget, but they both have opposed to the idea as reducing SDPD budget as a goal in and of itself.

Speaker 2: 12:29 Now candidate Barbara Bree is making an issue of the fact that she says that she supported, uh, assembly woman, Shirley Weber's police use of force bill before Todd Gloria did. And there's back and forth on that. W tell us about that. What is that controversy about?

Speaker 3: 12:45 Yeah, so this is a use of force bill that was approved last year by the legislature signed by, uh, by the governor that changed when officers were allowed to use lethal force from a, when it was deemed reasonable to now, when it is deemed necessary. This is a substantial reform that is sort of regarded as the most progressive lethal use of force, uh, law in the country now, uh, and assembly woman, Shirley Weber was, was roundly, uh, credited for having gotten that previously unimaginable reform through, um, Barbara Bree. Uh, Anne said when that happened, that she supported that measure before Todd Gloria, which was in some ways based on a technicality, the city council took a nonbinding vote on to support that measure a couple of weeks before the assembly voted on it for the first time. So her first opportunity to vote for it was before Todd, Gloria, his first opportunity to vote for it.

Speaker 3: 13:48 They both voted for it at that first opportunity. Uh, but she really zeroed in on the fact that there was a change to the legislation between when she voted on it and when he did. Uh, and that was a change that, that led the police union at the state level to go from opposing the measure to being neutral on it. And that change was seen as critical to getting the measure passed. Um, now I reached out to assembly woman Weber as this back and forth was going on and asked her if she could help settle it for me, it wasn't the case that Todd Gloria only supported it after the police union union signed off as Councilwoman Bree had alleged. Um, so she basically shot down, I would say the, the entire dispute and said that, that it was just wrong.

Speaker 2: 14:37 Yeah. This week, this is San Diego city council decided to take another step forward with a proposed November ballot measure to create an independent police commission to investigate officer misconduct, where do Brie and Gloria stand on the creation of independent

Speaker 3: 14:52 Commission? Yeah. So as we sit here today, both say that they support it, that they are glad it's going on the ballot and that, uh, that they will faithfully implemented as the next mayor, which now on this matter, it's sort of in some ways, the reverse of assembly woman, Shirley Weber's bill, the proponents of the measure, San Diego for justice, um, have attempted to get a measure like this through the city council on two previous occasions, once in 2016, once in 2018, they say, uh, that in 2018, when they brought it forward, they knew Barbara Bree was with them. From the very beginning, she has been a strong advocate. Uh, they counted her as one of their best advocates in city hall, and they juxtapose that against their experience in 2016 when they brought the measure forward. Uh, and Todd Gloria, instead of bringing the measure forward, brought forward a much, much scaled down version of it that instead simply changed the name of the commission and gave the city council a slight bit of, of, of increased power there.

Speaker 3: 15:52 Uh, and they, they, they consider that their first betrayal in trying to get this measure through city hall. Now I asked Todd Gloria about this, and he said, look, you, you, with this type of work, you get what you can get when you can get it. And then you move on and you try to get, you try to make it stronger. And he says, that's what he did. Uh, Barbara Brie meanwhile says that she has recognized this as a necessary reform from the moment it was first brought to her. And that's why she supports it. So strong. Meanwhile, the police union endorsed Todd Gloria for mayor. Could that be a liability for him now? Yeah, I think this is a good indication of just how much things have changed in the last month. Um, for instance, last week, the San Diego County democratic party said that they, uh, are going to discourage their endorsed candidates from seeking police union endorsements going forward.

Speaker 3: 16:42 Uh, they're going to encourage people. Who've already received the police unions endorsement to not promote it essentially, and that they would, uh, encourage people to take any donations they've received from union officials and give them to, uh, nonprofit groups that are doing racial justice work. So, you know, last year when Todd Gloria won the democratic party's endorsement, he also, you know, without hesitation, I presume sought the police unions endorsement suddenly that is now fraught. And Barbara Brie has said, look, this is a, obviously a conflict of interest. You don't have to look far here in San Diego. The police union has been, uh, a bulwark against criminal justice reform efforts. And around the country, they've been a bulwark against criminal justice reform efforts. Um, and so you, where, whereas Todd, Gloria says that his relationship with the union will actually be beneficial. And, um, just because he, he, uh, knows them and has a relationship with them does not mean he will listen to them all the time and that he's done it in the past and I'll do it again. But yeah, I think the politics of that endorsement,

Speaker 2: 17:50 Um, are quite a bit different than they were when you received it. I've been speaking with Andrew Keith's assistant editor and senior investigative reporter for voice of San Diego and Andrew. Thank you. Thank you. In the past month, San Diego teenager, Marlene Herrera has turned 18, graduated from high school and decided how she's going to vote in her first presidential election as part of a collaboration with the world's every 30 seconds, which looks at the young Latino electorate in the U S KPBS reporter. Max Rivlin nether tells us how the pandemic will leave a lasting Mark on a generation of new voters.

Speaker 4: 18:46 A group of 20 people surrounds Marlene Herrera out in the yard. They're mostly social distancing. The crowd is singing, urging her to not lose momentum. Marlene is wearing a cap and gown and she's swinging what looks like a bat. She's just happy to finally have everyone in one place. Again, it's spin

Speaker 2: 19:05 Over two months. So I was like, Oh my God, I get to see you again. I get to hug you. And I was like, are you okay with a geek?

Speaker 4: 19:10 There were two pinatas. And the shapes of the number one and a number eight Marlina celebrating both her 18th birthday and her high school graduation. Finally, the pin

Speaker 5: 19:21 Great

Speaker 4: 19:23 Marlene tells me she's had a lot of frustration to work through over the past few months. First, the pandemic hit and then she had to complete her senior year from home. During that time she's been living in a crowded house with five kids under the age of nine. Marlene says in this new reality, she and many of her friends feel powerless.

Speaker 2: 19:42 Oh, a lot of us, we kinda got to the point where we burst into tears.

Speaker 4: 19:47 Merlin has been thinking a lot about mental health and in college this fall, she plans to major in psychology. The mental health impact of the coronavirus pandemic, especially on young adults will be felt for years to come says Tina Casola, she's a San Diego based family therapist who specializes in trauma and the longterm impacts of stress.

Speaker 6: 20:05 We're going to be paying for this for a long time because the betrayals or the feelings of being behind those are going to last for people

Speaker 4: 20:14 Because Sola thinks that well Marlene's age group is far more supportive of one another than previous generations. It's going to be up to older people to model how to get through this.

Speaker 6: 20:23 We have to figure out ways of getting out into our communities and giving them support to work through this time. Even though none of us have the answer, we don't have a blueprint for this.

Speaker 4: 20:31 The pandemic and its mental toll are not the only thing on Marlene's mind. She's grown up, always worried about her family's finances. It was a huge relief when her mother received stimulus check, it's a big family here. We kind of needed that. Still Marlene wishes more had been done during the stay at home order to prepare for reopening businesses safely.

Speaker 7: 20:50 For us, it can't afford to not work. We still gotta pay rent. That's not going to stop. I don't want to come home and like be the one who infects my family. For some reason,

Speaker 4: 20:58 The government's response or lack of response has Marlene thinking about how politics directly impact her life. After her first choice for president Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race in April. She was undecided on who she'd support in the general election.

Speaker 7: 21:13 I could go in for some way, could count for something. And I'm hoping it counts for something like I'm gonna do it

Speaker 4: 21:18 More recently. She says the protests over the killing of George Floyd and other acts of police violence against black men and women have had an impact.

Speaker 7: 21:26 I think I'm leaning towards white. Um, not that I'm entirely happy with him, either

Speaker 4: 21:31 To her president, Donald Trump crossed a line when he sent in the national guard during the black lives matter protest,

Speaker 7: 21:37 You're just adding more fire. You're adding more fire and fire. And how is that? Okay. You know, I want a change.

Speaker 4: 21:44 And she says, former vice president, Joe Biden might be that change

Speaker 7: 21:48 As much as people want to say, Trump is good. I think it's time for someone new. You can still be living in that time where it's kind of like, what is he going to say? We've had so many scares with him.

Speaker 4: 22:02 Marlene says, she's ready for a government that doesn't scapegoat or target minority groups.

Speaker 7: 22:07 Not even just talking from a Mexican point of view as a person of color, point of view. You know, there's so much oppression of we've had, I just want a government that I died. I don't feel like it's working against me

Speaker 4: 22:17 Looking ahead to a long summer of helping take care of her cousins and trying to safely see friends when she can. I asked her what she would change about this year. If she had a magic wand,

Speaker 7: 22:27 I want to be selfish with this question just as my senior year, Marlene says this will forever Mark her generation. So always going to stay with me. It's always going to be on my mind. It's always like, even when I tell my kids, they don't, if they're going to ask like, Hey, like how was your prom? Well, I never had one. I'm sorry. Can't help you with that.

Speaker 2: 22:44 Johnny Mayez KPBS reporter, max Rivlin, Nadler, and max, welcome to the program. Hi. Now you've been following the story of Marlene for a while now, have you seen her change because of the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic?

Speaker 8: 23:00 Yeah, so it's really interesting because when I first met her back in February before, you know, everything and feels like a million years ago, she had this color coded planner that she really used to map out all of her college applications, um, everything that she had to get done before she graduated everything that would have to happen when she chose her college and moved up to the Bay area and it was kind of meticulously planned. And it was a, it was a huge activity for her that also her mom participated in. Um, but of course after the coronavirus pandemic, longterm planning became nearly impossible for her. And so I asked her, you know, what happened to this color coded planner that you, you still relied on? And she told me that essentially it's blink right now. She's been doing some designs in it. She's still, um, keeping it, but it has nothing in it right now. So basically her carefully planned future is really up in the air right now. So I think in terms of stress, that was her coping mechanism was to have this planner. And right now there's just nothing that she's able to plan.

Speaker 2: 24:03 Let's talk more about your conversation with the family therapist about the longterm impacts of this virus and its upheavals, because I don't think there's been a lot of discussion about that. What kind of trauma does this family therapist think the pandemic is going to leave behind? Yes,

Speaker 8: 24:22 We're really worried about, you know, basically the, this generation's trust and institutions and authority, because as we've seen time and again, during the coronavirus pandemic, and again, this isn't necessarily the fault of the authorities themselves, but their guidance keeps changing right? As we learn more about the pandemic and what's safe and what's not safe, the authorities and institutions and our political leaders don't really quite know exactly what to be telling people. So this could, so for decades to come a deep distrust in this generation, uh, of people, you know, in authority positions, um, not only that, but I think, you know, people are going to be, and this is what Casola the family therapist was saying. They're going to be much more independently minded. They're going to say, okay, every person for themselves. And she thinks that that is kind of a real shame because generationally speaking this current generation was much, much more interested in things like mutual aid, reaching out to each other collective action than previous more me-focused generations.

Speaker 2: 25:21 Did she elaborate on how older people, you know, parents and relatives might be able to help younger people process this very strange time that we're in? Yeah, like she said,

Speaker 8: 25:32 We don't have a blueprint for how to deal with this, but just in terms of being older and having dealt with more adversity and different experiences and ups and downs in our lives, you know, that's something that we could relate to kids with and, and teenagers, especially. Um, it's going to be up to the older generation to kind of model behavior that will let adolescents and young adults kind of pave the way forward. And I don't even think it necessarily has to be, um, you know, grandparents, for instance, it could be people like, you know, my generation who graduated and went to college during the great recession. So I think it's certainly an unprecedented moment, but there's not road markers that they can't look to, um, to, to help them out.

Speaker 2: 26:14 Now your original assignment max was about evaluating the mood of young, Latin X voters about the upcoming election. And then of course, as you mentioned, it got completely turned around when the virus hit, how have you seen the Corona virus change the political outlook of these young voters?

Speaker 8: 26:31 Right. And so it's interesting, right? Cause this group, this, these young voters were politically active. They were interested in things like immigration, gun violence, the environment, they had a real political platform and agenda.

Speaker 4: 26:44 And now you've added to the, to that mix a serious economic collapse that will impact them for decades to come overall. It's made them more skeptical of, I think, national politics and things coming from the federal level, but might actually filter down to their interest in much more local politics and how they interact with these institutions, um, on the ground and in their daily life.

Speaker 9: 27:05 Now, does there seem to be any coordinated outreach effort to young voters, especially young Latinex voters by any presidential campaign

Speaker 4: 27:15 Right now just given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. You're really not seeing it. There's not a lot of reaching out to young voters. It's, it's really both sides are rallying to their bases. Um, this kind of expansive effort that you saw in the prime of the democratic primary, where you had, uh, several different campaigns, willing Castro, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, kind of trying to activate young voters to give them that edge in the presidential election and specifically the prime, the primary, um, that's kind of gone away now. It's time to rally the base and young people. Once again are wondering, you know, what's in this for me, why should I vote? So I think, you know, even Mark Marlene was saying, she thinks there will be a huge turnout among young people. And you're seeing this still, even in the, um, elections last night in New York and Kentucky, which were done remotely, um, you know, for the most part and a lot of mail in ballots, you saw a huge turnout. Um, she thinks there'll be a big turnout, but I'm really interested in finding out at the presidential level and in the presidential election, whether you're really going to see this youth vote come out.

Speaker 9: 28:17 I have been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Revlon, Nadler, and max. Thank you.

Speaker 4: 28:22 Thank you.

Speaker 9: 28:28 Well, the COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for healthcare workers across the board. It's been especially hard on black doctors. They're working long hours away from their families while trying to process the disturbing images of police brutality in the news right now, KQBD Michelle Wiley has that story. Dr. Tiffany Chiama on a Berry. Can't remember where she was when she heard about George Floyd's killing at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. She might've been in her Bay area home or in the car somewhere between Stockton and Modesto. She works at two hospitals as an emergency medicine physician. But what she does remember is that she waited as long as she could before watching the video.

Speaker 6: 29:09 I refuse to like, I cannot see anything right now. And I'm normally the person that's like, girl, did you see this video? You know, and I remember watching it and just being like, okay, well I am now debilitatingly depressed cause I was already teetering on the edge. And um, that just was, it was over after that

Speaker 9: 29:28 For months, frontline healthcare workers across the world have been experiencing increased mental health issues as a result of the pandemic in China, where cases of the coronavirus were first reported. A study of healthcare found that a large number of them had symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, that research inspired Alameda County to create a crisis line for healthcare workers from all backgrounds, including those who don't work directly in medicine like janitorial and maintenance staff, Ben [inaudible] who heads up the crisis line says many of the people who call in are feeling compassion, fatigue, and burnout.

Speaker 1: 30:05 When you're in the helping profession, one way of self care is to have a distance between yourself and the person you're helping,

Speaker 9: 30:13 But getting distance from a global pandemic is hard. And so is getting distance from the reports and videos of police brutality.

Speaker 1: 30:21 Every day, they're holding trauma and they're holding these experiences and grief and COVID-19 has exacerbated that trauma has exacerbated that grief

Speaker 9: 30:31 After watching the video of Floyd, dr. Choma on a Berry says she laid in bed in the dark for days.

Speaker 6: 30:38 Nice deal. So overwhelmed and almost as if I can't pay attention. And I don't want to, you know, put patients at risk because I literally cannot Oak it. Uh, but then having to like, okay, I need to block this out.

Speaker 9: 30:53 But the video sat in the back of her mind and she decided she needed to speak out. So she wrote an article about incorporating health care practices into policing, which was recently published in scientific American. She's also been initiating conversations in our workplace about racism and police violence, but between a pandemic that disproportionately impacts black, Latino and indigenous people and ongoing police violence and death, it's a lot of weight to carry.

Speaker 6: 31:22 We're not getting any reprieve. We're not getting any sort of respite from the pandemic. And you're putting this on our communities as well. Like have some empathy, have some mercy

Speaker 9: 31:35 And while protesting and a pandemic may be dangerous. Dr. Chiama on a Berry says that for many, this issue is more important than their own personal health.

Speaker 1: 31:46 That was KQBD reporter Michelle Wiley. One thing we don't know now and might never know is exactly when the coronavirus first arrived in California. This reality has led to rampant speculation that the disease was spreading much earlier than the first confirmed case. At the end of January, KPBS reported Claire triggers. Her has the story of the rampant speculation inside her own family. We probably all know someone who thinks they had COVID-19 back in January for me. I know someone like that pretty well.

Speaker 10: 32:23 What's your title?

Speaker 1: 32:27 My title is Claire's husband. My husband sets was really sick in mid January. You have to force yourself to stop

Speaker 10: 32:36 Coughing

Speaker 11: 32:38 Because you've run out of air. And you're you gasp before for breath.

Speaker 12: 32:46 Then about a month later, the Corona virus showed up in the U S and we all started paying close attention to it.

Speaker 11: 32:54 You kind of wonder if those sudden and unusual illnesses that you had recently could be attributable to that.

Speaker 12: 33:06 So we decided to check it out. Hi Claire, I'm Gina. We went to the LA Jolla Institute for immunology, which right now is leading a global study, searching for antibodies from people who have survived Corona virus,

Speaker 11: 33:23 Probably this one,

Speaker 12: 33:25 A nurse there took blood samples from both of us, put them in a centrifuge and pass them off to dr. Jen Dan and infectious disease researcher. She began what's called an Elisa, a way of testing the blood samples to see whether they contained specific antibodies. She would compare our blood to other samples from people who had survived coronavirus and people who hadn't been infected. If we had the same antibodies as the survivors, that would strongly suggest we had also had COVID-19 the test would take 24 hours to complete. So we'd have to wait another day to know whether our suspicions were founded. There are a lot of unknowns. Dr. Erica omen Sapphire is the director of the global antibody consortium at LA Jolla Institute. For immunology.

Speaker 11: 34:16 What we most need to know is whether the antibody response is protective, whether having those antibodies in board mean that you're not going to get sick again, sapphires,

Speaker 12: 34:26 It says the evidence suggests people with antibodies likely have immunity, but they don't know how much or how long it lasts. The research she's leading is working to find the very best antibodies from COVID survivors, which will be used to treat COVID and hopefully prevent it in the first place.

Speaker 11: 34:46 Uh, sorry. I'm not even really thinking. Is there something I'm supposed to be nervous?

Speaker 12: 34:50 The next day we came back to the Institute and watched dr. Jen Dan finished the test during the last step, she added a colorless solution to reveal the presence of antibodies. If they were there, the mixture would turn

Speaker 11: 35:05 Blue. I wait about 10 minutes for it to develop, kept

Speaker 12: 35:09 Peering over the tiny plates of test tubes, hoping for two blues, dr. Dan had a great poker face and not just because she was wearing a mask, she didn't give any hint of what she thought and then took the samples away to analyze them on her computer. After what seemed like a really long time, she came back and went over them with dr. Shane Crotty and infectious disease expert at the Institute, I will

Speaker 13: 35:38 Pull it up,

Speaker 12: 35:41 Seem like a doctor who is very good at giving back.

Speaker 13: 35:44 Here's Claire who sent. And then here are the two positives,

Speaker 12: 35:48 Meaning we definitely had not had coronavirus.

Speaker 13: 35:51 This certainly fits with the timeline in California, that there weren't any confirmed cases in California.

Speaker 12: 35:59 What are the results of our trip to the lab mean to you? They mean that despite what your friend, your neighbor or your husband might be telling you, it's highly unlikely that anyone in San Diego had COVID-19 before February Claire Traeger, sir, KPBS news.

Speaker 2: 36:26 During the last few months, many of us have experienced what being home means in new ways is home made up of the four walls that enclose us, the family that surrounds us, or the idea of safety that often eludes us a new memoir, contemplates the concept of home and family at its tattered limits. Stephanie dabbler, who came to fame several years ago with her novel sweet bitter is out with a memoir about her parents, struggle with addiction and her own struggle to overcome that legacy. Her memoir is called stray and she joins me now, Stephanie, welcome to the program.

Speaker 14: 37:03 Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 2: 37:06 What's it like having a book come out during the coronavirus pandemic?

Speaker 14: 37:10 Oh, I think it's a mixed blessing of sorts. It's definitely not comparable to what happened with Sweetbitter where I was touring and able to connect with readers. Face-to-face every night at the same time, I do feel that there's this digital intimacy that has allowed me to connect with my readers when everyone is home reading and ready to be in a conversation.

Speaker 2: 37:38 Right. I'm thinking that home must be a multilayered concept for you growing up with your parents impaired by addiction. What's the stay at home order been like for you? Have you been doing a lot of thinking about creating a home for yourself?

Speaker 14: 37:54 Of course, um, I have an 18 month old son and I am 35 weeks pregnant with a girl that I will be having shortly. And I think about home constantly. I also think about how they are being raised in such different circumstances than I was their father is their primary caretaker. I'm still working full time. There is a consistency and calmness to our home, which is something I never experienced. I don't, I it's unrecognizable to me, but it's been really beautiful to create and watch my son live into it.

Speaker 2: 38:37 Have you thought about the kids who've been locked down at home with addicted parents?

Speaker 14: 38:43 I haven't. I've thought about partners who are locked down with addicted spouses and abusive spouses, verbal and physical. And it's scary. I don't know what the longterm consequences of this stay at home order will be. I think many of us are wondering how this will shape the children, whether they're skipping their senior year of high school or their high school graduation, or there are small kids who relied on other caretakers, which I did for most of my life. My grandparents had a huge part in raising me and I was in various daycares, but who depended on their caretakers and their teachers for an outlet from their family? Um, I don't, I, and I don't know what the answer is yet. I don't think anybody does, but it has been on my mind,

Speaker 2: 39:35 You know, Stephanie in your first book, sweet bitter, it was set in the restaurant world of New York city where you were working while you were writing it. And people who know you from the success of that novel and the stars TV show based on the book might be surprised that you followed it up with this memoir. Why did you choose to write stray?

Speaker 14: 39:55 You know, it didn't feel like a choice. I think excavating the darker areas of your past is so unpleasant that if you can avoid it, you will avoid it. I had moved back to California after 12 years in New York and found that I couldn't write about anything else, but my childhood and sites of trauma and the very flawed people who raised me and who they were now and how they had shaped me. I wanted to write a novel. I told people for years I was writing a novel. And then eventually the writer in me looked at what's the best writing coming out right now. And it was the autobiographical material. And so I continued pursuing it, but I definitely, I definitely won't be doing it again.

Speaker 2: 40:46 Oh, so what were some of the hardest things to reveal in your memoir?

Speaker 14: 40:51 I think there's a degree of personal shame. Uh, throughout the book, I'm having an, a fair with a married man that was very unhealthy and something that I would never let someone I really care about engage in. I also think that admitting the ways in which my family confuses, neglect and care was really hard. I don't think that my parents are bad people. Um, I don't think that those that have tried to care for them are bad people, but somehow it's all slipped through the cracks, any sort of healing and intimacy. We have never been able to gather and keep it. And so that was hard to write about too. And I was a new mother when I started the first draft of this book missing my mother very much. She had a brain aneurysm in 2005 and is mentally and physically disabled. And so I felt very alone in that journey as well.

Speaker 2: 41:52 What has helped you overcome some of those things that you write about in your memoir stray?

Speaker 14: 41:57 I've had a lifetime of therapy and group recovery, like Alanon I started going to Allah team when I was a teenager. I was very aware that my parents were alcoholics and that I needed resources beyond my own self destructive tendencies or tendencies towards self-medication. And so I feel really lucky that I've had a practice of talk therapy. I think the most important turn that I've made, came with making boundaries, which is partially what stray is about. Being able to separate myself from these very hurtful people, whom I love dearly being rigid in those boundaries, but also knowing that they're an ongoing work in progress. And I really think that once I started to say no is when I started to define myself, which is why I thought that the story might be worth telling

Speaker 2: 42:57 What kind of role has moving back to California played in your healing?

Speaker 14: 43:02 I mean, it was the impetus for the book. I had one idea of what California meant. I thought that it was a homogenous blue sky, one note, uh, intellectually bereft place. And I thought that Los Angeles was an empty city and I moved back to find so much depth and nuance and another big part of the book strays about falling back in love with California, even with all of its corruption and damage and instability and uncertainty. And I mean that at an emotional and a landscape level. And I don't think I'll live anywhere else. I mean, I see its flaws. I'm engaged in trying to make it a better place, but I still, I think California is the most beautiful place in the world.

Speaker 2: 43:56 I know that you've been conducting virtual book events. You have one coming up today. I'm wondering what kinds of questions and reactions you've been getting from your memoir?

Speaker 14: 44:05 I think that it is shocking how many people have grown up with alcoholic or even narcissistic parents who couldn't take care of them. I'm at the point in book promotion, where I think that if you had a whole and loving relationship with your parents, that you are in an extreme minority, because what I hear every day, whether it's through social media or through these events, is this is my story. And they don't mean that it's exactly their story. They mean that their parents weren't able to take care of them and they felt largely abandoned. Um, it's heartbreaking actually the sheer volume of adults who feel crippled by their childhoods and are looking for ways to break out of old patterns of looking for help. And then of course, there's also the, has your mom read it as your father edit? Has your ex married boyfriend read it the more real, what does your sister think about it? I think that memoir lends itself to real life questions, as well as more theoretical or general questions.

Speaker 2: 45:22 All of which I have not asked you. I wonder if you have any good answers to those questions about whether your close family and, and, uh, friends have read the book and what their reaction has been.

Speaker 14: 45:35 So the book is also about friendship. I talk a lot about my friend, family. That is my chosen family. And I talk a lot about how close my sister and I are. She and I were in constant contact throughout the writing of stray. And we disagreed constantly. We disagreed to the point where one of us would say it was a night in December and the other one would say it was a day in August. We had such wildly, wildly different memories of the same of events. But overall, we found a way towards what we're both comfortable calling the truth, which is the emotional truth of what it felt like to grow up in our home. She read it, my friends read it, my mother can't read. And so she has not read it. And it's not really based on her handicap from her aneurysm. She has no short term memory.

Speaker 14: 46:32 It's hard to engage in conversations with her or explain the full scope of a project, which would be something like this book is about forgiveness. Um, I don't think she would be able to metabolize that and I don't have contact with my father. So I don't know whether he has read it or not. I think by the end of the book, I've really let go of these people. And that's a boundary, right? It's letting go of my mother and my father and of this man who treated me terribly. And so in a way I was freed from what memoir writers often struggle with, which is I want to write about my parents, but I see them every Sunday. I did not have those constraints on me.

Speaker 2: 47:16 Well, I've been speaking with author, Stephanie downline, whose new book is called stray. And for more information about her virtual book event tonight, you can visit magic city books.com. Stephanie, thanks so much.

Speaker 14: 47:30 Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.

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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.