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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Cruise Ship Passengers At MCAS Miramar For Quarantine, San Diego Colleges Moves To Online Learning Over Coronavirus Concerns And ‘Fly’ Theater Review

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Speaker 1: 00:00 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm wearing Cavenaugh Corona virus and the counties responses, the focus of a new subcommittee of the San Diego board of supervisors. Part of that response includes declaring a County state of emergency, creating more than 80 new handwashing stations across the County and providing a new website for information on the virus. Joining me is the co-chair of the new coven, 19 subcommittee County supervisor Nathan Fletcher. And welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:28 Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:29 The world health organization just declared the coven 19 coronavirus a pandemic. Does that change anything about our level of response?

Speaker 2: 00:38 Well, the, the declaration the world health organization does was expected and it refers more to the spread of the disease than the severity of the illness that causes, um, it doesn't change immediately what we're doing, but this is a very dynamic and fluid situation. Um, and so we're monitoring and tracking in real times the cases, the testing the situation on the ground, and we'll provide regular updates to the public on exactly what we in San Diego are asking them to do based on the conditions we see in San Diego. Um, but I will add that, that we do take this very seriously. Um, and we are doing everything within our power to try and mitigate or lessen the, uh, the spread and the impact of Corona virus.

Speaker 1: 01:16 In the briefing yesterday, did health officials say they had enough testing kits for the County? What's the status on that?

Speaker 2: 01:23 Well, I don't think anyone feels that, that, uh, there is enough testing kits. Um, I think that we have the testing kits that are available and, and we're doing everything that we can to get more. Uh, and we're working with our health partners to prioritize the testing kits that we have. Um, we really want to focus in on vulnerable populations. Um, folks who live in congregate care, care settings, um, folks that have underlying health conditions. Obviously folks that have traveled to affected areas. We're putting in place the best testing protocols and procedures, um, with CDC guidance that we have, uh, based on the availability, the kits and when we're certainly hoping that that availability, um, will significantly increase, um, hopefully very soon. But we are, we're doing all we can to get as many kids as possible. And then we are judiciously using the ones we have, um, in the highest priority to protect public health.

Speaker 1: 02:10 Does the creation of this subcommittee mean the County is taking the lead role in guiding all of San Diego's response to the virus?

Speaker 2: 02:18 Well, the County by by default is the public health agency and it has regional responsibilities. It was back in January. We held our first, uh, briefing for the public where we talked about what we were seeing with coronavirus along with what we were doing, uh, in a protective fashion to, to hopefully try and lessen its spread. Uh, then of course in February, we were one of the first local jurisdictions to declare a public health emergency and a local health emergency, uh, which gave us a number of tools, uh, to try and prevent it. And you know, at that time a lot of folks said, well, why are you doing this? We don't have any cases. Um, and the reality was it wasn't create alarm or panic. It was simply because we saw some unique features of this virus in it. It's, it's high rate of, of spread it's contagion, um, along with the fact that that individuals can be asymptomatic for, for a significant period of time showing no symptoms would be contagious.

Speaker 2: 03:09 And because of that, we always feared that the, the, the, the risk of spread, um, was fairly high. And so we have really been proactive to do everything we can. Uh, we've established eight different sectors that we have individual teams dedicated, whether it's tackling that, the challenge of the unsheltered, uh, working with the business community, with senior centers, with schools, uh, with, with our healthcare providers, uh, with the military. Um, and so we're in daily coordination with CDC, with state department of public health, um, and really doing everything we can. And again, I think it's important to note that this will get worse before it gets better. Um, and all of our actions that we're taking are just designed to try and mitigate and lessen the impact and the severity.

Speaker 3: 03:49 At what point would the County step into require the cancellation of large events?

Speaker 2: 03:54 Well that's a decision that will be made by our public health doctors. We have an incredible team of infectious disease experts of public health professionals and they're tracking in, in real time the situation on the ground, the number of cases, the probability, um, and when they determine we've triggered into that point, um, then we will immediately share that information with the public.

Speaker 3: 04:15 I've been speaking with the new co-chair of the coven 19 subcommittee, San Diego County supervisor, Nathan Fletcher. And thank you so much for your time.

Speaker 2: 04:24 Thank you.

Speaker 3: 04:30 From local school districts to universities. The spread of the Corona virus is also impacting the classroom. KPBS education reporter Joe Hong joins us with the latest guidance coming from schools and health officials. Joe, welcome. Both San Diego state university and university of California San Diego are taking measures to limit potential exposure to this virus. What are the changes being made?

Speaker 4: 04:55 Yeah, so both universities have made a decision to, to move all of their classes online starting after their spring break. So for San Diego state university, that's starting April 6th and for UC San Diego, that's starting a little earlier, March 25th. So how long will this last? Currently it's just through the spring for UCS deeds through their spring quarter, which ends around June and sometime in June. And for SDSU it's for the remainder of the spring semester. And does this mean campus is closed? So know that that doesn't mean campus is closed. Uh, so both of these universities will remain open. SDSU was very clear about that and their announcement that staff faculty should keep coming to campus, dining halls, things like that will remain open.

Speaker 3: 05:35 Okay. Cause I'm going to ask, you know, some students live and eat on campus, they depend on that. Is there anything in place for those students who don't have anywhere else to go or can't afford to go home?

Speaker 4: 05:46 Yeah. So, uh, both universities have confirmed that dorms and dining halls and, uh, food courts and things like that will remain open. Uh, it's really just the classrooms that have to the virtual space. Um, and for UC San Diego, they've canceled or they're strongly recommending that, uh, events with more than 100 people are canceled. Uh, athletic events will be a quote unquote fabulous. So sports games will still go on without the crowds

Speaker 3: 06:14 and even those students won't be getting the in classroom instruction. Are they still expected to pay full tuition?

Speaker 4: 06:20 So that's the big question. You know, I was at UC San Diego yesterday talking to students if they know, you know, they're there, they're at this premier university, uh, and they're paying for the, sort of, the one-on-one sort of interaction with the professors and they don't know if they're going to be painful tuition. And here's Kristen Jackson. She's a second year student at UC San Diego.

Speaker 5: 06:39 Yeah, I do have a roommate and she's from Minnesota and she wants to go home, which means that she's paying out of state tuition for an online experience. Um, so I think she's more frustrated even.

Speaker 4: 06:50 So, yeah, a lot of these students, Kristin included, uh, don't know what they're going to do about housing. If it's gonna be worth paying rent if they can just be at home.

Speaker 3: 07:00 Mmm. What about the San Diego unified school district? Yesterday they adopted a resolution granting emergency powers to the superintendent. What does that mean and what changes may we expect to see?

Speaker 4: 07:11 Yeah, so, uh, the school board passed this resolution yesterday night. Um, they are sort of following the lead of LA unified school district, which basically just gives the superintendent authority in the case of an emergency to relocate students, give out extra sick leave for, for teachers and staff, and to enter into contracts without board permission. So if a school needs to be cleaned or disinfected and they need to hire a company to do that, the superintendent can do that without board.

Speaker 3: 07:37 Has there been any guidance for local school districts from the state department of education on how to address coronavirus concerns, especially when it comes to K through 12 schools and possible closures? Like there's been in other parts of the state and even the nation?

Speaker 4: 07:51 Yeah. So earlier this week the state department of public health sent out a a a list of recommendations and a list of sort of hypothetical scenarios, but sort of the takeaway from that is that is local control. So school districts need to be in communication with County offices and the state sort of uses this loose language where like say you have a scenario where one student has, is has a confirmed case of the Corona virus, then the school in collaboration with local agencies can consider school closure. So the language from the state is pretty vague and pretty general.

Speaker 3: 08:25 All right. I've been speaking to KPBS education reporter Joe Hong Joe. Thank you very much. This is KPBS midday edition. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh. The department of veterans affairs recently hired its first artificial intelligence director. It has also launched a national Institute to help develop a technology that can improve veteran's health from Tampa. Stephanie Colon beanie reports for the American Homefront project

Speaker 6: 08:57 inside a laboratory at the Tampa veterans hospital. Machines are rapidly processing tubes of patient's body fluids and tissue samples. Pathologists examine those samples under microscopes to spot diseases like cancer, distinguishing certain features about a cancer cell, which can drastically affect treatment can be tricky. So dr Steven masteries and Andrew Borkowsky decided to get a computer involved. They uploaded hundreds of images of slides containing lung and colon tissues into artificial intelligence software. Some tissues were healthy and others cancerous or Koski says they then tested that software with more images the computer had never seen before

Speaker 7: 09:37 and the module was able to put it together and I was able to differentiate it. Is it their cancer or is it not a cancer? And not only that, but also was able to say what kind of cancer is it?

Speaker 6: 09:48 The doctors were harnessing the power of what's known as machine learning software pre-trained with millions of all kinds of images like dogs and trees can learn to distinguish new ones. Dr Stephen master Reedy says it only took minutes to teach the computer what cancerous tissue looked like.

Speaker 7: 10:04 Earliest studies showed accuracy over 95%

Speaker 6: 10:07 the doctors say this kind of technology could be a vital asset to rural veterans clinics where pathologists and other specialists aren't easily accessible or in crowded VA emergency rooms. [inaudible] says he sees AI as a tool to help doctors work better and faster. Not to put them out of a job.

Speaker 7: 10:25 It's one replaced the doctors, but the doctors who use AI will replace the doctors that don't.

Speaker 6: 10:32 The Tampa pathologists aren't the first to experiment with machine learning in this way of the thousands of AI tools out there at the U S food and drug administration has approved about 40 algorithms for medicine, including apps that predict blood sugar changes and to help detect strokes and CT scans. The VA already uses AI in several ways, such as scanning medical records for signs of suicide risks and the agency's new artificial intelligence director Gil Alto. [inaudible] is looking for other uses to help VA staff make better use of their time.

Speaker 8: 11:04 Being able to cut the workload down is one way to do that. Other ways are working on a processes, so reducing a patient wait time, analyzing other paperwork,

Speaker 6: 11:15 but throw if it's notes. There are challenges to implementing AI like privacy concerns and trying to understand how and why AI systems make decisions. Last year, Google's AI company deep mind used VA data to test a system that could predict deadly kidney disease in patients up to two days in advance. But for every correct prediction, there were two false positives. Mildred Cho, associate director of Stanford university center for biomedical ethics says best-case and untrustworthy AI system waste time worse. It could actually cause harm. It's important for AI systems to be tested real world environment

Speaker 9: 11:54 with real world patients and clinicians because there can be unintended consequences. VA doctors say they don't want to rush things when it comes to AI, but they say the work they're doing now will sift through the hype and lead to more practical use in the near future. I'm Stephanie Calambini in Tampa.

Speaker 1: 12:17 The roust abouts theater company just opened the world premier of will Cooper's dark comedy gun Topia, which takes aim at gun violence. KPBS arts reporter Beth OG Amando speaks with actor, producer Phil Johnson and director Rosina Reynolds about how this play is a conversation starter.

Speaker 9: 12:36 Phil, you are one of the founding members of the roust abouts. So explain what this group is.

Speaker 10: 12:41 The roundabouts theater company was started by three writers who were looking to put the material that we cared about most that we wanted to share. I'm from more of a comedy background and my other two partners, uh, had a dramatic background. So we tried to put a bunch of materials together that we thought was interesting and fresh and new and that would get the audience thinking. So that's what we started and we're also, then we try to put as many new writers as we can into our programming as possible. We have readings of new writers that are happening right now and so we're always looking to, to help people out in that way.

Speaker 9: 13:15 And Rosina, you are directing the current roster about production, which is gun Topia. So explain what this is about. A gun Topia is a satire. It takes place in, um, a utopian environment where everybody is armed. The idea being that you're safer if everybody is armed because everybody is somehow on a level playing field and equal. But some of the elements that come out of that is how disconnected we become from our emotional lives and what are the consequences of that. And the play continues on this path from a very satirical opening into a rather dark and unnerving ending. Talk about directing sat tire at this point in time. Cause it seems like we're at a tricky period where sometimes people are very sensitive to making fun of certain things and there's, I know I've talked to some comedians who say are they are afraid to tackle certain kinds of comedy because of the reaction that they might get to talk about directing satire and getting that tone and how difficult or challenging that is with this particular play?

Speaker 9: 14:33 I th th th the way it's written, the strokes have to be big. It's in big strokes, especially at the beginning of the play. There's no room for evasive elements within the play. There's no hidden agenda. There's no things that aren't being said. Things I said upright and forthright and right out there there's no, there's no attack on anybody. It's not a satire in the sense that it's taking a very heated subject and then attacking it from one side or one perspective. It's taken a much broader perspective where we take this idea of everybody being armed and put it into these utopic environment, sort of like the fifties in some way. Costumes are very fifties in his style so that it's a happy land that these people live in because everything has been resolved because everyone is armed. But what that sense of empathy is something that we're curious about in the play because it's the empathy that is sort of lost.

Speaker 9: 15:34 The emotional content is lost in this utopic world. So what happens when the cracks start to show in that empathetic way? What happens when just one person within that community starts to have feelings that aren't in line with how everybody else feels? The isolation for that person, the concern by everybody else that that person is not part of this society anymore because they're flawed in some way or crazy in some way. Because for this society to work, everybody has to be in lockstep and think the same way. And Phil, you are taking a slightly new turn with Ross to about in the sense that you are programming discussions and trying to use this play as kind of a conversation starter. So what kinds of things are you doing?

Speaker 10: 16:24 Well, we are having what uh, what's called with theater talk backs. We do a lot of talk backs. We have one every night. And uh, I've tried to do something where we have a bigger conversation and we get people thinking about what they just saw. All of the talk backs relate to the play in some way. But uh, not always in the way that you're thinking about. It's not, we have, uh, several, uh, experts who are coming in talking about second amendment. We're having Todd Gloria come in and talk about some, uh, political efforts. We'll be having some people who talk about getting involved in activists movements. And then there's also a, an evening where somebody telling us, talking about how do you talk to the other side, the national conflict resolution board. Somebody coming from that group. So we're really trying to put in all different sides of looking at an issue like this because you have so many feelings at the end of this evening, you will after you see this play. I think it's pretty effective in that way. And what do you do with that? You know, you could just go home and forget about it, but we're hoping that people take something home from this into their lives. Something for change, something for thoughts, something for growth.

Speaker 9: 17:41 And this is a world premiere. So talk a little bit about the play itself and the playwright. Well, a will Cooper wrote the play. I know he is very passionate about this whole gun control issue, but I think he his, I mean I don't want to speak for him, but it seems that his approach was this satirical approach because he certainly didn't want to beat anybody over the head with a message because then who is it? Who is it going to? I mean, we're preaching to the choir and so much of the time anyway, so what he wanted to do was create a scenario, a satirical perspective of this play. Take the idea that for example, um, open carry is becoming more and more common in more and more States. Um, and then the argument that if, if somebody in the church or somebody in the school or somebody in the library was armed, then the bad guy wouldn't get away with it because they'd be stopped by the good guy with the gun.

Speaker 9: 18:34 So he's taken those perspectives which have become more and more prevalent within the country and he's taken it to the extreme and said that not only is everybody armed, but the law now is that everybody must be armed, including the children. The children are taught at school, how to shoot. They take exams and tests and contests to see who is the best shot so that everybody in the play is now armed with the idea of the gun Topia with the idea that this utopian place therefore cannot go wrong. Right. But it's very, I think he's taking those themes and, and not beating you up with them as I said, but laying them out there in the broadest perspective and saying, is this really where we want to go?

Speaker 10: 19:23 And let me just add to that, um, something that Rosina is very good with shifting and styles. I think the good thing, the amazing thing about this play that we'll road is it's about a difficult subject, the setting of the fifties sitcom idea. The satire setting really lets you in to this idea and lets you get comfortable in this world until you deal with the, the real meat of the play, the real cracks in this world at the end. But I do think the comedy brings you in and lets you sit back and look at it for a second until you can take it in.

Speaker 9: 20:00 All right, well I want to thank you both very much for talking about gun Topia. Thanks Bev.

Speaker 10: 20:04 Thank you, Beth.

Speaker 3: 20:06 That was Beth AGA Mando speaking with Phil Johnson and Rosina rentals about gun Topia. The play runs through March 29th at Moxie theater on El Cajon Boulevard. You've been listening to KPBS mid day edition. This is KPBS mid day edition. The story of Peter pans adventures in Neverland with Wendy darling is that the inspiration for fly a musical at LA Jolla Playhouse KPBS arts calendar editor Julia Dixon. Evan says that piece features breathtaking aerial acrobatics and dynamic soundtrack and a thoughtful and funny take on friendship, gender, masculinity and adulting. Evan spoke with the shows director Jeffrey

Speaker 11: 20:48 seller. Seller is a four time Tony award winner and known for his work producing rent and Hamilton. Here's that interview.

Speaker 12: 20:56 So when you decided to create a musical of the Peter pan story, it also marked a long awaited return to directing for you. Can you tell us a little bit about how the idea came about?

Speaker 11: 21:07 I think I have been thinking about Peter pan and captain hook since I was about eight years old. When I was nine. I was in a play and then as soon as I was done being in that play, which was a Purim play by the way, uh, so that was about queen Esther. I decided to write a play and I wrote a play called adventure land in which my two best friends, Bruce and Jay and I fell through the woodshed in my backyard and landed in this far away and dangerous place called adventure land where we were immediately be set by many, many life threatening challenges. And in this play that I wrote our hero, the man who forgot the boy who finally saves us at the end from the clutches of captain hook was in fact Peter pan. So I think I've been figuring out how to dramatize Peter and captain hooks since I was nine years old.

Speaker 12: 22:05 So many of your characters are richly developed, almost put on a level moral playing field. It's almost like a full cast of leads. How do you write a story and produce a story where an audience somehow roots for everyone like that?

Speaker 11: 22:22 Oh, thank you. Um, and of course I'm going to immediately call out our extraordinary playwright, Rajiv Joseph [inaudible], who has been my partner on this project for almost 10 years. And when we got together, Rajiv said, well, as far as I'm concerned, Peter pan is the first superhero. And he always loved this notion that Peter was a a boy who always beat adults. And um, as we got into this, we were first led by the notion that the first character that Barry mentions is not Peter, it's Wendy. And um, and I, you know, I've always been so powerfully moved by and directed by and inspired by his opening paragraph in which he says, all children except one grow up. They soon know that they will grow up. And the way that Wendy knew was this, and then we know we're off to the races following how when Dee grows up. And I think that we've been led by trying to develop the how of how Wendy grows up through this evening.

Speaker 12: 23:41 Can you tell us a little bit about how modern attitudes towards gender and masculinity have shaped this retelling?

Speaker 11: 23:50 Wow, that's a great question. I want to point out that one. We've been working on this for almost 10 years. So our interest in Wendy as a hero in Wendy as the center of a moral compass in Wendy as a girl on the precipice of womanhood precedes the me too movement. And I give so much credit to our creators, to Rajiv and Kirsten Childs and extraordinary musical theater creator in her own right and our composer bill Sherman, who had been interested in those issues since day one. And then we've been interested in the issue of who is captain hook and who is Peter pan and what, you know, if you make a triangle of hook and Peter and Wendy, where do the three of these characters align and where do they not align? And I think we're coming to a unique place at the end of our evening that some people may not expect

Speaker 12: 25:01 [inaudible] now you mentioned bill Sherman and the music. It draws on quite a range of influences. What can you tell us about the soundscape of SLI?

Speaker 11: 25:11 Yeah. When I am developing a new musical producer director, either I'm always looking to have an oral landscape that will surprise me and that will help me go. I've never heard anything like that on a stage before. And one of the things that we were inspired by from inception was the notion of drumming. The drum is our heart, the drum that keeps the beat of our lives. We were more interested in the drum keeping the beat of our lives. Then the old fashioned clock that Barry used. So we got rid of the clock and we just focused on the drum and I have to say in the summer that I started getting the idea, Hey, let's go make Peter pan into a musical. I think that there's even more latitude for this story. I was inspired by a Monday night tradition at a beach near my house where all the people from the neighborhood would bring their drums and do a drum circle and we would participate in this drum circle every night. And I wanted to create that kind of party, that drumming party at our show.

Speaker 12: 26:23 So I have to ask about the flying. Tell me a little bit about how the aerial component works.

Speaker 11: 26:29 Absolutely. Because that's also part of the Jermaine ideas of this show, which is that an M a in 1998, a couple of years after I had done rent on Broadway and I was thinking, Oh my God, I'm never going to be able to do another show. How am I going to top rent? Like, you know, how do you deal with that? And then I discovered this extraordinary aerial theater troupe from Buenos IRAs and um, they had a show called de LA Guardia and the whole show took place in the air above our heads. And I saw it in London. And then I met with the folks, went down to Boyness RAs and then said, Hey, let's bring you to New York. And then we did day LaGuardia in New York and it ran for, I think about four years and I'm the creator of [inaudible] became a very close friend of mine. And from day one I said, I want the flying in fly to be reminiscent of the vocabulary and flying language that the Pete shone and his partner Dickie James created with de LA Guardia, which is the notion of it's muscular and it's fully in view and we're not going to try to hide anything.

Speaker 11: 27:42 So you see the carabiner, you see the equipment and you say, yeah, that's cool.

Speaker 12: 27:49 So LA Jolla Playhouse is becoming known as a springboard for Broadway is do you have that hope for a fly?

Speaker 11: 27:57 I don't think there is a musical creator alive who doesn't dream about Broadway, but our goal here is to make the best show we can and then let the world tell us what happens next.

Speaker 12: 28:15 Thank you so much for joining us. Jeffrey, what a pleasure. Thank you. That was fly director Jeffrey Sellers speaking with KPBS arts calendar editor Julia Dixon Evans fly is at the LA Jolla Playhouse through March 29th you've been listening to KPBS mid day edition.

Roughly 40 people from the Grand Princess cruise ship are now at MCAS Miramar to begin their two-week quarantine period. Two more planes carrying Grand Princess passengers are expected to arrive at the base later today. Plus, San Diego colleges and universities are moving to online learning in response to the coronavirus concerns. Also, the VA is exploring using artificial intelligence to make medical diagnoses to better care for vets. And, reviews of a world-premiere play about gun violence in America at Roustable Theatre and a new Peter Pan musical at La Jolla Playhouse.

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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.