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COVID-19 Variants Could Throw A Wrench Into California's Reopening Plans

 January 27, 2021 at 12:40 PM PST

Speaker 1: 00:01 Variants could throw a wrench into California's COVID plans. Speaker 2: 00:05 The question is not whether it will become the dominant strain. It will. Speaker 1: 00:09 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid-day edition. The Mesa police get roundly criticized in a report on the may protests. Speaker 3: 00:29 So while it doesn't out and outs, uh, say that, you know, the police was to blame that a lot of the things that they had done should have been done a different way. Speaker 1: 00:40 First female Marine recruits on the West coast arrived for bootcamp and students in Watts find inspiration in Amanda Gorman's inauguration poem. That's ahead on midday edition Speaker 1: 01:01 Justice, San Diego begins to enjoy a small relaxation of the COVID lockdown. A group of local researchers has issued a stark warning, a presentation at the County board of supervisors on Tuesday outlined how increased transmissions even with a robust vaccination program could cause COVID cases to skyrocket and hospitals become overwhelmed. The concern is that because the more infectious Corona virus variant first discovered in the UK is likely to become the dominant strain here very soon. This is not a good time to increase social contact at restaurants or other venues. Joining me is the researcher who made yesterday's presentation to the supervisors, Natasha Martin and infectious disease modeler she's associate professor in the division of infectious diseases and global public health at UC San Diego. And Natasha, thank you so much for speaking with us. Speaker 2: 01:58 Thanks for having me. Why Speaker 1: 02:00 Is the UK variant expected to become the dominant strain here? There are still fewer than 100 cases identified. Isn't that right? Speaker 2: 02:08 That's right. Uh, what we can see across places where the [inaudible] variant has emerged, um, such as in the UK and, um, in other places in Europe, once that strain was identified, it quickly became the dominant strain because it is estimated to be 50 to 70% more transmissible than previous strains that emergence and domination of that strain meant that in places with that, which have seen the strain become dominant, have experienced surges of infections. Although the prevalence of the [inaudible] variant is estimated to be relatively low currently in San Diego at 5%. Again, because of this increased transmissibility, we anticipate that it will become the dominant strain within a matter of weeks. The question is not whether it will become the strain, it will, but how long it will take and whether we're we have the capacity to reduce transmission and prevent it becoming a situation that overwhelms our hospital resources. Speaker 1: 03:09 When you say more transmissible, does that mean masks are not as effective? Speaker 2: 03:15 Yes. The evidence that we have is that individuals who are infected with the [inaudible] strain have a higher level of viral load than other strains, which means that they are more infectious and more likely to transmit the virus to others. And that means that we want to be particularly adherent to wearing masks properly. And at, at all times, if possible, when I'm in the company of other individuals to prevent this more infectious and more transmissible strain from spreading to others. Speaker 1: 03:46 And that means, uh, social gatherings should be avoided. Speaker 2: 03:51 Yes, I think in this period where we, although we've seen a decline recently and transmissions after the new year's and Christmas surge, which is good, the concern is that as this variant becomes more dominant and more prevalent in our community, just because of the increased transmissibility, we will very likely see an increase in cases due to that, even if behavior does not change. So what we want to do is anticipate that this might happen and take all the measures possible in terms of masking social distancing, to reduce transmission, reduce the circulation of this more transmissible, variant, and bias time to vaccinate individuals and increase coverage of vaccination to achieve herd immunity. Speaker 1: 04:32 You also say there are indications that the strain is more lethal. What can you tell us about that as evidence Speaker 2: 04:39 There's some preliminary data which emerged from the scientific body, which advises the UK government to indicate that in the UK, this strain may be potentially 30% more lethal than other strains. I think we still need more evidence, but it's an added consideration when we're thinking about the potential surge that could occur due to the, the strains increased transmissibility. We then also need to consider that those who become infected with his strain may be more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to need intensive care and more likely to die. So, you know, this is a particular concern in terms of the expansion of this, this variant, Speaker 1: 05:18 The modeling that's been done by state public health officials that led to the end of the stay at home order is based on a trending decline in cases and hospitalizations. Doesn't that indicate that the variant is not taking hold the way you project. Speaker 2: 05:33 So that modeling just takes into account the estimated transmission rate or effective reproduction number at, at a given moment in time. So it incorporates our understanding of on average, how many people are being infected by an infected individual today. It does not take into account the fact that there are changing variants, that there may be variance in some places such as the [inaudible] strain, which will quickly dominate and are more infectious. And so those projections will need to be revised. As we see emergence of variants and potentially increased transmission as a result of them, Speaker 1: 06:12 Where does an increased vaccination program figure into this modeling? Speaker 2: 06:16 So vaccination will remove individuals from the susceptible pool and prevent and reduce the likelihood of them becoming infected. Therefore, reducing transmission overall, a vaccination program will both prevent infections as well as mortality. And that's good. And it also reduces the amount of circulating virus in the community, which will both reduce the, um, expansion of the [inaudible] variant and will also reduce the likelihood that there will be other variants that emerge that may be, uh, more infectious, more lethal, and the vaccines may be potentially less effective against them. So vaccination is a key strategy to reduce the amount of circulating virus and prevent the emergence of [inaudible] and other variants Speaker 1: 07:00 Could increase vaccinations, change the picture so much that we would not see a surge in any variant, and it wouldn't increase the number of cases. Speaker 2: 07:10 So our modeling has projected that a vaccination program can help flatten the curve, prevent infections and mitigate some of the expected surge that we anticipate due to the emergence of the [inaudible] variant and its increased transmissibility. It is likely that we will need more than just the vaccination program in order to continue this downward trend that we're recently seeing, observing in terms of case counts. The modeling indicates that even with a comprehensive vaccination program, we will still likely see cases at least returning to where they are now or potentially higher than we're currently seeing them. And so we need a combination of a robust vaccination program as well as strict adherence to masking and social distancing orders in order to reduce transmission and flatten that curve. Speaker 1: 08:03 Based on your research on the threats, variants pose, do you think the state lifting lockdown orders was premature? Speaker 2: 08:12 I think that we just need to be extremely cautious in the coming weeks and months to come and continually monitor the amount of viral transmission and be ready to act. If we see an increase in case counts and an increase in hospitalizations, one of the things that we can anticipate with the expansion of this B one, one seven variant is that we could see in a relatively short period of time on the order of weeks, an quickly accelerating number of cases because of the expansion of the variants. I think we just need to be particularly, um, observant, cautious about reopening and able to monitor the situation and, uh, reverse policies. If we see concerning trends, I've been speaking with Natasha Martin, she is an associate professor in the division of infectious diseases and global public health at UC San Diego. Thank you very much for speaking with us. Thanks for having me. [inaudible] Speaker 4: 09:19 The killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer and the false arrest of Omari Johnson by a Lamesa officer led to social justice protest in Lamesa. At the end of may, the Mesa police responded with tear gas, flash bangs and bean bags. What was a peaceful protest, turned violent, leaving businesses, burned to the ground and people injured. The city has been taking a close look at what went wrong. Now a consulting group commissioned to find out is reporting. The department was ill prepared according to their findings officers, lacked training, communication, leadership, and policies that would have likely deescalated the situation. This report comes as the search continues for a new police chief and the city of Lamesa works to create a police oversight board. Karen Perlman, who covers East San Diego County for the San Diego union Tribune joins us with a closer look, Karen. Welcome. Speaker 5: 10:13 Thank you. Nice to be here. Speaker 4: 10:15 So what does the report say about how a lack of communication affected the police response during the protests? Well, Speaker 5: 10:22 Evidently there should be an incident command post, and while when Mesa had one, it wasn't properly staffed. I think for some of the time, the report has found that the way that it was set up was not proper, properly ready for what was, what was coming. Um, they had a Lieutenant who was in charge of it, and I think maybe wasn't quite ready for all the things that were happening and the change over from protest to a more violent uprising of a mob, kind of a mob scene took place. I don't think that the incident command post set up was, was properly, um, was vetted. And they've actually said that they're going to start looking into making change just to that, um, to be bad prepared for any other kind of disaster that, that comes forward here. Speaker 4: 11:10 And they also said there wasn't a good plan in place before the protest as well. Speaker 5: 11:14 Yes, there was also a protest the night before on the 29th, the night before the 30th events and the plan, they think they use the same one on the 30th that they did on the 29th. And it's obviously the 30th turned into a lot more than the 29th was a very low key thing with maybe 80 people. The event that happened the next night was obviously many, many times more people than that. So they weren't quite ready for what they needed to have with a comprehensive operations plan. And they were told by the Hillard Heinz group that did the, uh, investigation, that, that information is really important for everybody involved, understand and follow certain protocols and they didn't have that information. Speaker 4: 11:58 And what did the report mean when they said there were no deescalation policies in place? Speaker 5: 12:03 Well, I think the city still is working on that. Um, I think some of the things that they've had in the past, uh, not best practices today. So the ways that they were approaching people was probably not the best way, but that was the only way they knew how and their belief going through more training now to be able to properly, uh, deal with things like that. Speaker 4: 12:26 The report found that Lamesa police lack the training to respond to a big protest. Speaker 5: 12:32 Yes. Um, and they, you know, Lamesa is already taken steps to, to learn how to deal better with that. Um, ongoing training is going to be part of, you know, the moves going forward here, Speaker 4: 12:42 Hillard Heinz analyze the department's existing policies as part of this report and said, the department did not have a robust community engagement policy. Here's Chad McGinty of Hillard Heinz take a listen. Speaker 6: 12:56 But some of the things we learned related to that community policing is that the general public seeks to create a more open, proactive and transparent communication between the PD and the community. Uh, they would look for the PD to embrace the creation of the oversight task force. They would look to have the improvement of the departments, community policing, and they're out there, our community outreach and relationship building, they would seek to have research and implement alternative responses to mental health crisis calls for service. They would look for increased diversity within the department ranks, uh, emphasis emphasize, uh, deescalation as a philosophy and a tactic, uh, deliver training to LMPD that, that focuses on cultural diversity. And lastly, they would like to see documented data from field and traffic stops. So clearly the community voice, their opinions. We found that, that the written policies and strategies weren't directly aligned to those requests Speaker 4: 13:57 Overall, this evaluation by Hillard Heintze is very critical of Lamesa police from preparation for the protest to its use of force policies. Does it go so far as to blame the police for the injuries and destruction during the protest? Speaker 5: 14:12 It does not, but it does take a very critical look at all the events and how things could have been done better. So while it doesn't out and out, uh, say that, you know, the police was to blame, uh, the police force is to blame that a lot of the things that they had done should have been done a different way, and maybe they could learn from the things that they did, um, without proper background, maybe training that they should have had. Speaker 4: 14:39 What are some of the recommendations for the Lamesa police department in this report? Speaker 5: 14:44 They're kind of neat to look at the use of force policy. Uh, so it's going with current best practices right now. Um, I think they're a little out of date and they are actually implementing that right now, according to the, uh, acting chief while you know, they're looking for another police chief right now, the two captains are, have been switching off duties as the role of police chief right now. Um, but to get a use of force policy that's, uh, with best practices and more, more community engagement, I think is, is, uh, something that they were talking about more than just their coffee with a cop, uh, which they have on occasion, at least before COVID events, where the community is involved with them. I think the oversight task force and everything will help that a little bit too, but they, you know, they need to get more crowd control training. Um, I think they're working on that to crowd control policies, um, obviously communication between the police department and the city and the community. That's something that really needs to be concentrated on. I know they spoke about that the city council members were speaking about that last night. Some of the things that they've heard from the people that they want to see, um, a lot more interaction with the community, listened to what we have to say and, and be much more clear, uh, communicating with us. Speaker 4: 16:02 Hmm. You know, following the presentation of the report during the city council meeting last night, community members had a chance to weigh in what were some of their comments? Speaker 5: 16:11 You know, people did not. The only two people commented at the meeting last night, which I was very surprised about. Um, I, I I've talked to a couple of city council members since then about why there aren't so many people talking about it. I think everyone's kind of talked out about it and now the report is out there. Um, I was expecting a lot more people to comments about their findings in the report, but nobody was really, uh, was really out there. Somebody said the, uh, incident that led to the social justice March and the protesting and the violent aftermath was what happened at the trolley station, but that wasn't really discussed in the report. And somebody, you know, made a public comment last night about that very thing, like why this is really what happened and why it happens in Lamesa. And it was sort of like glossed over in the report. And I believe it's probably because there's, uh, you know, outstanding litigation about it. Speaker 4: 17:04 Hmm. And the acting police chief briefly responded to the report. What did he have to say? Speaker 5: 17:10 You know, he said, no, they're taking stock of everything that they're doing, and they're trying to update their policies, um, and coordinate with other agencies. I think that they, uh, had other people come in from parts of the County and the Sheriff's departments. And I don't think that the communication was, is up to par. So I think they're going to do a lot of that, uh, extra training with that and extra, um, just to look into how they can improve on those kinds of things, biasness that they might have within the department. Um, just collaborating with other groups to, to learn best practices as they move forward. Speaker 4: 17:46 And, and so what's next in terms of this report and possible at the Lamesa Speaker 5: 17:50 Police department. So I think that there's going to be a lot of changes with, uh, the way that the community, uh, deals with the police and how the police deals with the community. I think this task force that they named the people last night, also later in the meeting, uh, they actually will have a task force that will be able to provide some oversight and give the community a chance to weigh in on things as, as they move forward. Hmm. Speaker 1: 18:13 All right. I've been speaking with Karen Perlman who covers East San Diego County for the San Diego union Tribune. Karen, Speaker 5: 18:20 Thank you. Thank you so much. Speaker 1: 18:32 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Heinemann today, contractors and government workers building the border wall along America's Southwest border must stop all work. The halt ordered by president Biden, KPBS reporter max Rivlin nether gives us a look on where things now stand in San Diego County, Speaker 7: 18:54 Over 25 miles of 30 foot high border wall replacements were built by the Trump administration along the border in San Diego County. During the past two years, as of last week, work in several areas, including the old time mountain wilderness was ongoing on his first day in office. President Biden ended a declared national emergency on the border and gave construction workers along the border one week to wrap up their work and leave it in a safe condition. While as the administration reviews, the entire border wall project workers had just begun preparing to tear down fencing at friendship park, right near the Pacific ocean for another 30 foot high replacement project. Something advocates for the park had been rallying against for months. Many advocates didn't expect the Biden administration to takes it to media action along the border. John Fannin still is with the friends of friendship park. Speaker 5: 19:45 Yeah, president Biden had said that not another foot of wall would be built on his watch. So that led us to hope that there would be this immediate halt, but we were pleasantly surprised that it actually happened Speaker 7: 19:56 Or on the border in San Diego members of the QBI nation continued their protest against wall construction. They filed a lawsuit over the summer saying the government skipped necessary reviews into whether construction would destroy their cultural heritage sites. As it continued to build the wall near Campo. Stan Rodriguez is a member of the Kumiai nation who protested against the wall this weekend, too. Speaker 5: 20:18 It seemed like an edifice that was created for white hedge alimony and also xenophobia and marginalizing native people. Speaker 7: 20:27 Order stops all construction, regardless of whether the money was appropriated specifically for wall construction, or if it was redirected by the Trump administration to the border wall. From the budget of the department of defense, multiple judges have ruled that Trump's move was illegal, but border wall construction proceeded. Anyway, as of this, Tuesday had halted at projects across San Diego County that gives groups like the friends of friendship park, a last minute reprieve to try to stop a project that would replace border fencing. That's only a decade old Robert Vivar who was deported from the us and works with friends of friendship park from the Mexico side, thinks this is a great opportunity to reassess the border wall project and the future of shared spaces Speaker 8: 21:10 On the border perhaps would be an opportunity for a dialogue to start, uh, regarding, uh, similar by national parks, all along the border, uh, to really look at creating security on the border, uh, through friendship of both countries, Speaker 7: 21:26 A 60 day review of the border wall project will determine what's to be done with the money appropriated to the border wall and whether to resume or terminate projects. The administration hasn't made clear whether it's pledged not to construct more border wall includes replacement projects. Like most of the construction done in San Diego County under the Trump administration. Pedra Rios is a steering committee member of the Southern border communities. Coalition. Speaker 8: 21:50 Our objective is to make sure that the Biden administration understands that even a replacement wall is still, still has not only deadly consequences, but has the potential of transforming the local ecological habitat, defaming, uh, cultural sites. And that's an important conversation that can only be, could only take place when the impacted community it's consulted about how to restore the lands and how to mitigate the damage that has been done. Speaker 7: 22:20 And administration did not respond to her request for comment from KPBS, for groups opposing the border wall, like the CUNY I, the path for the Biden administration is clear. So Stan Rodriguez Speaker 8: 22:31 Prior administration broke many of their own laws in order to put this edifice up. No wall stops people. There's other solutions to this and a great person like a great country, keeps their word, keep her word, stop it, make things right. Joining me is KPBS reporter max Revlin Nadler, and max, welcome. Good to be here. Tell us more about this section of fencing that was going to be replaced at friendship park. Is this the area where the border church congregation meets? Speaker 7: 23:05 Yeah, so right now there's two fences in the area where the Pacific ocean meets the border fence. It actually goes in at the border fence actually goes into the Pacific ocean. There was kind of the bollard style one, the metal fence that reaches into the ocean and then a secondary fence, which was made of wire mesh. Uh, the secondary fence was installed during the Obama administration. So it's only a decade old. The both of these fences were going to be replaced with the new style of border wall fence that the Trump administration had been building, which are these 30 foot high bollards. Uh, so it would radically change the, uh, landscape surrounding the park, which already has extremely limited access. And would it interaction Speaker 1: 23:46 Virtually impossible? Speaker 7: 23:48 That's pretty much it right now. The whole state park has been closed because of COVID restrictions and flooding from last year when it reopens already access to the park is severely limited. It's only a few hours every weekend under strict border patrol, uh, permission and surveillance, even just the, the image of these two 30 foot high fences on either side of what's supposed to be a park where people are supposed to meet and congregate, uh, made advocates for the park, consider it a totally outside of the spirit of, of international collaboration and friendship. Speaker 1: 24:22 So construction is stopped there. It stopped in no Mesa has all the work done in San Diego, been replacement walls. Speaker 7: 24:30 Most of it, the vast majority have been replacement walls, but in places, uh, further East, uh, in East County, there have been some new sections of border wall where there wasn't before. Again, I kind of want to raise the idea that basically when they say they're doing replacement wall, you're taking this very small barrier, which are, you know, the, the landing mats for Vietnam era landing maps that have demarcated the border for so many years. And you're replacing it with really serious high walls that are 30 foot high in that involve serious work being done around to support them. So it's a real transformation. It's not just a, uh, you know, replaced an old thing with a new thing that looks just like it. Speaker 1: 25:10 Now you said president Biden's stopped a declared national emergency at the border. Remind us was declaring a national emergency the way former president Trump got the border wall project going in the first place. Speaker 7: 25:23 One of the ways it allowed him to bypass several reviews that would need to be taken and to reallocate funds from the department of defense to go towards border wall construction. So that reallocation was done under the guise that this was an emergency happening, be it either drug smuggling, human trafficking and just cartel violence that necessitated a wall to be built at that place. And at that time and allowed the government to skip all of these required reviews and planning and consultation with local groups. Of course, several, um, courts eventually struck that reasoning down, but they went ahead with the project. Anyway, Speaker 1: 26:03 Does president Biden's executive order Mark a permanent halt to the border wall project? Speaker 7: 26:09 It doesn't. So what it does is it initiates a 60 day review where the Biden administration says it's entirely possible that many of these projects go forward. They're going to look at whether the payment for these projects went ahead properly, whether the contractors are under obligation to finish the work, whether they could get out of the contract and whether these, you know, replacement projects should go ahead because of deficiencies in the wall design right now by it in, um, has said, I will not build another foot more of border wall, but he never really specified whether that includes replacement projects. Something that both, uh, when he was vice president was quite common along the border. They, they built several miles of border fence under the Obama administration. Speaker 1: 26:52 Now more border news happened yesterday in federal court in Texas, a judge halted president Biden's plan to stop deportations for the next 100 days. Why did Biden one, the deportations halted? Speaker 7: 27:06 Yeah, much like the border wall project. He did the hundred day pause instead of a 60 day pause for the border wall a hundred days for deportations to investigate and take a look at what priorities have been done. Uh, under deportations who's being deported. Are they asylum seekers? And on top of that, what we have is a very large asylum seeker backlog along the Southwest border. Um, so look ahead in the next couple of days for actual action here, along the Southwest border for the, uh, immigration agents who could be redirected from deportations to begin to process asylum claims here, Speaker 1: 27:41 Why did the judge block the deportation moratorium though? Speaker 7: 27:44 The judge who is a recent Trump administration, appointee said that the harm to Texas in this case, uh, would be because it has to pay the medical bills and emergency services. And for school, for undocumented people who are subject to being removed, uh, who have received final removal orders. So Texas is being harmed by the fact that no one is being deported Speaker 1: 28:08 Well, the Biden administration appeal that ruling. Speaker 7: 28:10 Yes, absolutely. Uh, and it's important to note that not all of it was blocked because part of the proclamation of the deportation moratorium was changing ICE's, uh, interior enforcement priorities that has not been struck down. What has been struck down is this pause, the byte administration is going to appeal, but because this was filed in Texas, it's going to the fifth circuit court of appeals. That's a really tough circuit for a more liberal administration. There's a lot of conservative appointees there. This might end up going all the way to the Supreme court and who knows what's going to happen. Legal scholars have looked at this case as a really bizarre interpretation of the law by this judge in Texas, and basically saying, you know, this nullifies, the supremacy clause, which allows the federal government to direct basically deportation and, and other executive actions that it would like to do it. It put, makes Texas have a veto power on executive power, which, um, a lot of legal scholars are shaking their head at. Speaker 1: 29:07 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Revlin Nadler and max. Thank you. Thank you. Speaker 4: 29:19 Governor Gavin Newsome has made bold promises to solve homelessness and thousands of people have been sheltered under his watch, but cap radios. Chris Nichols explains as part of our series on the governor's progress this week. Advocates wonder if the early success will laugh Speaker 1: 29:36 Past California governors largely ignored the state's homelessness crisis. Newsome has tried Speaker 9: 29:42 To tackle the problem head on. Speaker 10: 29:44 I don't think homelessness can be solved. I know that homelessness can be solved. Speaker 9: 29:50 Newsome devoted nearly all of last year. State of the state address to this ongoing human emergency. Speaker 10: 29:57 It's just our cause it's our calling. Let's all rise to the challenge and make California stand up as an exemplar of what true courage and compassion can achieve. Let's all get to work. Thank you guys. Thank y'all. In some ways Speaker 9: 30:14 It has delivered. Newsome has worked with state lawmakers to invest billions of dollars in housing, rental assistance and health services for homeless people. Last year, his team searched the state for excess land and even vacant hospitals to use as shelters this spring, he won praise for moving more than 22,000 homeless people into motel rooms, all to prevent major outbreaks of COVID-19 the effort called project room key, largely worked Speaker 10: 30:43 Being inside. It means a lot to me. It does. I feel safe. I'm safe. I'm secure. Speaker 9: 30:49 That's 65 year old Curtis Freeman, who was on the streets of Sacramento for nearly a year. He lived in a tent under a freeway, often afraid for his life. Then in March, he got a motel room through RoomKey standing outside his motel near interstate five, wearing a black and white beanie. Freeman says he's no longer afraid. Speaker 10: 31:09 I ain't got to worry about nobody. You know, somebody that I can lay down and relax. Speaker 9: 31:14 But despite Newsome's efforts, the crisis remains homeless camps, line sidewalks, riverbanks, and freeways across the state. And estimated 150,000 Californians are without a home. According to the most recent federal survey this summer to build on the progress of RoomKey Newsome introduced project home key, the new effort awarded $800 million to cities and counties to buy motels for more permanent homeless housing. But some of Newsome's critics say without providing more services programs like room key and home key, just serve to score political Speaker 11: 31:50 Points that results in leaders, patting themselves on the back and checking another box Speaker 9: 31:55 Or state lawmaker. Mike Gatto, a Democrat from Los Angeles says Newsome's policies need to have a greater emphasis on mental health treatment so that people are more self-sufficient, Speaker 11: 32:06 But reality, that people are not given the support that they need, or frankly, the tough love that they need. And then they wind up back on the streets. Speaker 9: 32:12 Newsome says mental health support is on its way as part of the nearly $2 billion. He wants to spend on homelessness in his January budget. Jennifer Friedenbach of the coalition on homelessness in San Francisco says Newsome deserves credit for his early actions as governor, but she and others who work with the unhoused say the state needs a permanent source of funding to fight the problem. Speaker 11: 32:36 I would give them good marks for focusing on homelessness, but Speaker 12: 32:40 He's really tinkering around the edges that needs to go much farther, you know, bring in additional revenue in order to address the situation at the scale that the crisis calls for Speaker 13: 32:52 Friedenbach who has known Newsome since his time in local government in San Francisco says he's always had bold ideas. She says, the question now is whether he can follow through and truly solve this growing crisis in Sacramento I'm Chris Nichols, Speaker 4: 33:13 Congress is requiring the Marines to fully integrate women into bootcamp. It is a historic moment and now San Diego is testing how it should be done. 60 women are now the first female Marine recruits to do basic training on the West coast. They arrived Monday night with 450 male recruits, KPBS, military reporter, Steve Walsh joins us with more. Steve welcome. Hi Jade. So when did Congress mandate an end to separate basic training for the sexes and was the, what was the rationale behind this? Speaker 13: 33:45 So this happened last year was part of one of the defense, um, bills and, uh, Paris Island, which is the bootcamp on the East coast that already has women. Uh, they have five years to integrate women fully into bootcamp. And then San Diego has eight years before they have to fully integrate women in. But the commandant of the Marine Corps has been indicating that he wants to go faster than that. So we have this test that started off Monday night here in San Diego. This is only this one class of 60 women Speaker 4: 34:18 Critics have charged that separate training leads to a sexist culture in the ranks. What's the dynamic there? Speaker 13: 34:24 Well, I mean the Marines have had several issues. There was a something called Marines United, which was a, uh, Facebook page where, um, photos of, of women Marines in various stages of undress were, were found active duty Marines were on that site. There has been in history of sexism, sexual harassment. And the thought is that this might start at the very beginning because women are not integrated at all levels of bootcamp. There was a thought that, um, they're seen as something separate from male Marines. So this is an attempt to try to, uh, close that gap. Speaker 4: 35:00 Is this mandate applicable to all services or just the Marines? And how did the Marine Corps react to this move? Speaker 13: 35:07 It only applies to the Marine Corps because the Marine Corps is the last of the services to have this separated bootcamp, which is why they're under this, this congressional mandate in the past, they've reacted by, by dragging their feet saying that there was a, there, there were many reasons why they should keep women separate at bootcamp. But as I said, uh, now that they know that this is a done deal and that Congress is ordering this to happen, there is some indication that they're not going to wait out full eight years to integrate women into San Diego. So slowly they're starting to, uh, to move on this. As I mentioned with this test, basically the Marine Corps has a lot of decisions to make in the next year. They're going to have to decide whether or not they're going to integrate women at San Diego and fully integrate them at Parris Island in, in South Carolina. Speaker 13: 36:00 There's also some discussion that maybe what they'll ultimately need is a, is a brand new boot camp, maybe a third location. They could start fresh with their, with their own bootcamp. Now the Navy only has one bootcamp itself, uh, it's right outside of Chicago. So this is historic because in the hundred year history of the Marines training at MCRD here in San Diego, they've never had women, but more importantly, there's some very large decisions coming for the Marine Corps. And they're going to have to decide whether or not they can do this in two locations or whether they might need a third and fresh location. Speaker 4: 36:36 And recruits go first to the Marine Corps, recruit Depot, right? Speaker 13: 36:39 The way this would work traditionally is they would get off their planes. They would get onto buses and they would travel right to MCRD. And they would start the process of, of recruit training that, that sort of iconic image of the drill instructors getting up in their faces, telling them to move, move, move, they call their parents and tell them, you know, that they love them. And that they've safely arrived in San Diego. But because of COVID, they've now had this sort of two step process here. So there are arriving right now at the airport, and then they go over to the USO. They go through some COVID testing there to so they can find out whether or not anybody is coming into bootcamp with COVID and then they go over to MCRD and get their equipment. But then they're quickly shuttled off for two weeks of quarantine at the hotel rooms. And then after two weeks, as long as they're safe, then they'll start that traditional bootcamp process. Speaker 4: 37:26 So COVID has changed things, but now what did the Marine Corps have to change in order to accommodate women? Right now, Speaker 13: 37:31 They say that they have not done all that much at San Diego. They had to add some new supplies to the commissary. I noticed when women were lining up at MCRD on Monday night, they had to each one of them had to have their, uh, their shoe size taken because they only had so many, uh, boots in the sizes for women Marines. But for the most part, it, they have not done all of that much. These 60 women will be in their own platoon. They will train with separate drill instructors, but they, uh, but as far as major accommodations, we, we're not really seeing a lot right now Speaker 4: 38:08 In the long-term are the Marines planning for major changes as the process moves forward, Speaker 13: 38:13 There has been talk that they would need an extra barracks at a MCRD in San Diego, but they're going to find out over the next 13 weeks exactly what it is. They do need to have women at, uh, at bootcamp here in San Diego. Speaker 4: 38:27 And, you know, are there any women drill instructors, even in San Diego, Speaker 13: 38:31 There were not up until just very, very recently there were in, at, uh, at MCRD in San Diego, but none of them were drill instructors, but three women volunteered to become drill instructors here in San Diego. They went through the drill instructor training course a few weeks back. They are now trained up and ready to go. They are joined by a group of female drill instructors who are coming over from Paris Island specifically to train this cohort Speaker 4: 38:59 Stand, you'll be following these women recruits through their training. What will you be looking for? Speaker 13: 39:04 We want to just tell the story and we want to find out what this process is like. This is incredibly historic. It's worth being documented just for the history value alone of having women here for the first time. And then we'll go through the process and we'll go through those 13 weeks with them. We'll try to tell their stories and we'll try to get a sense of just like, what is it going to take for the Marines to finally fully integrate women at the basic levels of basic training? Speaker 4: 39:30 I've been speaking with KPBS, military reporter, Steve Walsh. Thanks Steve. Speaker 13: 39:35 Thanks Jade. Speaker 4: 39:47 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. One of the highlights of the inauguration last week was hearing from national youth poet Laureate. Amanda Gorman, her poem, the Hillary climb evoked the deadly insurrection at the Capitol and appealed for bravery in the face of darkness. Using language to empower is something Gorman says she learned from her mother, a middle school teacher in LA and one local school. There has been looking at ways to empower students in the aftermath of the violence in Washington, KQ EDS education reporter, Vanessa Rancano says the school is making space for students to take on leadership roles and create the change they want to see Speaker 14: 40:35 The morning after a mob stormed, the Capitol lock college preparatory Academy, principal of academics, Blaine Watson was stressed. Speaker 15: 40:44 I was up all night thinking about the responsibility. Speaker 14: 40:47 I mean COVID and George Floyd's killing. He knew his mostly black and Latino students were already raw. Speaker 15: 40:54 A lot of us make the mistake of just saying, all right, kids, you know, this is what happened and let's hear your thoughts, but we have to really be responsible about the messaging around race and how important or unimportant people of color are facing our government. Speaker 14: 41:10 He wanted to listen, but not just that he knew students and teachers could best identify their own needs in the moment and find ways to meet them. He wanted to support them in doing that. So together they're planning a series of virtual community town halls. They held the first one on the day before the inauguration, Speaker 15: 41:33 Our very first series of panel discussions about the things that are going on in our nation, in our community, Speaker 14: 41:40 Student body, president, Mark [inaudible] greeted the 60 or so people in the zoom conference, a mix of students, parents, and staff. Speaker 15: 41:48 We want you to use your voices. Our school and our community is a community that we hear too often is under her underrepresented. And this will be that platform to now represent and make sure our voices are heard. Speaker 14: 42:02 It was a place for students to open up about how they'd been feeling since the insurrection. Speaker 16: 42:07 What happened at that capital is an insult that was hard, that struck all of us in a way that we never thought it was horrible. I was in shock. And as young kids, we have to grow up with this. Speaker 14: 42:23 Ten-year-old Angelica Barrera is student body vice president. Speaker 16: 42:26 So thank you for helping us lead young students like us to be activists. So fight racial injustice. Speaker 14: 42:36 This was also a chance for teachers to give students context history teacher Alette Kendrick described the insurrection as part of a pattern of white supremacist violence throughout American history. But Kendrick also emphasized this history, provides lessons about how to move forward after the violence Speaker 16: 42:54 We've seen in our country before. And we've survived it in our country before as well. Okay? And most importantly, these things happen as a backlash, as a negative response to a lot of positive change changes in progress. That's actually happening in our country. Speaker 14: 43:10 Kendrick and the students have talked about connecting this moment to Watts's own history of civil unrest and how it shaped the community. This very high school was built in response to the Watts riots students Marvi on and Angelica then called their classmates to action. Speaker 15: 43:27 So get out there and get involved. Don't be scared to speak your mind, speak up. Speaker 14: 43:31 Principal Blaine Watson closed by telling the student leaders how proud he was and thankful Speaker 15: 43:36 For you and all the other students who are, who are participants today. The call has been made. You, you just got to answer it. Alright. One lock one love. We love your lock high school and let's get ready for this inauguration. Tomorrow tomorrow's would be a day. You'll never forget. Speaker 14: 43:52 After the attack in DC, one of Watson's biggest fears was that for students who already had reason to distrust their government, seeing Confederate flags flying in the Capitol and police standing by and taking selfies would lead them to lose all faith in their country. The next day, as Marvin watched the newly sworn in president Joe Biden addressed the nation, he said he was holding his breath. Speaker 15: 44:17 I was like, please, please, please do not cut the strings and said there was an emergency. There was a shooting, Speaker 14: 44:25 But seeing Kamala Harris on stage, meet him, feel something else. A sense of possibility. When I saw Speaker 15: 44:32 Rockwell Obama and Michelle Obama come out as a power couple, we have the first black Senator who was there from Georgia. It was just so much hope and so much inspiration in that one frame. This is the real America, Speaker 14: 44:48 At least for now. This is the country he's choosing to believe in. I'm Vanessa [inaudible].

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A UC San Diego infectious disease modeler says the question is not whether the COVID-19 variant first reported in the UK will become the dominant strain here, it’s when. Plus, according to a report, La Mesa police officers lacked training, communication, leadership and policies that would have likely deescalated the protest-turned-riot in May 2020. Then, contractors and government workers building the border wall along America’s southwest border must stop all work, after President Biden ordered a halt. And advocates for the homeless say Gavin Newsom deserves credit for his early actions as governor, but he needs to do much more to address the scale of the problem. Then, making history, the first 60 women will go through boot camp in San Diego for the first time at MCRD, part of a Congressionally-mandated change. Finally, a school in Los Angeles is making space for students to take on leadership roles and create the change they want to see.