Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

$5.5 Million Settlement Reached With Family Of Man Who Died In MTS Custody

Cover image for podcast episode

CREDIT: SAN DIEGO METROPOLITAN TRANSIT SYSTEM

Above: Angel Zapata Hernandez is pinned to the ground by a MTS code compliance officer and a private Transit System Security officer near the downtown Santa Fe Depot, Oct. 15, 2019.

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System announced Monday that a $5.5 million settlement has been reached with the family of man who died after being restrained with knees in his back and on his neck by Transit law enforcement. Plus, two San Diego researchers hope a new peer-reviewed article helps them convince federal officials to change their opinion of how COVID-19 spreads. And with consecutive years of record high temperatures and scarce rainfall, some climate researchers are hinting at the possibility California has actually been in a protracted “mega drought. Then, people often look to their faith leaders for guidance on big decisions. These days, parishioners are asking: Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine? Plus, as thousands of migrant families cross into the United States, many are being flown to San Diego and then removed to Mexico, without any of their belongings. Finally, San Diego Opera is staging two outdoor drive-in shows this month: the first is its annual One Amazing Night concert and the second is the comic opera "The Barber of Seville."

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego's MTS settles a case tragically similar to the George Floyd killing

Speaker 2: 00:05 One of the officers also put his knee to his neck and that lasted for roughly six minutes. Okay.

Speaker 1: 00:11 Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid-day edition. San Diego researchers say acknowledging aerosol COVID transmission is key,

Speaker 3: 00:30 But there are still quite a bit of resistance to wanting to refocus on this because it changes the way we approach the prevention efforts, both in hospitals and in the world.

Speaker 1: 00:41 Scientists describe an emerging mega drought in California, and a conversation with the conductor of a pop-up drive in opera at the sports arena. That's ahead on midday edition. As the nation waits for a verdict in the George Floyd killing a case with a disturbingly. Similar set of facts has just been resolved in San Diego in October 20, 1924 year old angel Sepata Hernandez died after being restrained with knees in his back and on his neck by transit law enforcement yesterday a $5.5 million settlement was announced in the case, as well as the reforms in the policing policies of San Diego's metropolitan transit system. Johnnie Mae is David Hernandez who covers law enforcement for the San Diego union Tribune. And David welcome.

Speaker 2: 01:37 Thanks for having me. Can

Speaker 1: 01:39 You remind us about the circumstances surrounding the death of on hell Hernandez? Where did it happen?

Speaker 2: 01:46 Yeah, so it happened, uh, as you mentioned in October, 2019, and it all unfolded, um, along the railroad tracks, just North of the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego. And what we know is that, uh, MTS officers saw him, uh, wandering back and forth along the tracks. And eventually one of the officers approached him and started talking to him. And, uh, that's when the encounter unfolded, he ultimately ran off for a bit until they caught up to him and I a struggle ensued. And eventually that struggle took them to the ground. And like you mentioned, officers ended up putting a, their knees to his back. And one of the officers also put his knee to his neck. And that lasted for roughly six minutes, according to a video, which was just released yesterday,

Speaker 1: 02:36 Hernandez has described as mentally ill. What problems was he suffering from?

Speaker 2: 02:41 So according to his family, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2017. And, um, he also had a history of drug abuse, although he was in recovery, he had gone to treatment and was going to some narcotics anonymous meetings, but, uh, he, he was still, you know, dealing with the schizophrenia and was taking medication for that. Um, it's worth noting that there were no illegal drugs in his system when, when he died according to toxicology reports.

Speaker 1: 03:08 So he was restrained by an MTS police officer and a security officer who had him on the ground. And as you mentioned with a knee on his neck for about six minutes, according to the video, what happened when San Diego police arrived at the scene?

Speaker 2: 03:24 Yeah. So once, uh, officers got there, they essentially, interestingly enough, they add it all unfolded pretty quickly once they arrive, but they initially told that the officers to keep them on the ground and then asked if he, if he meaning Hernandez had calmed down. And, uh, that's when one of the MTS officers starts talking to angel or rather tries to talk to him, he asks angel, are you alive, dude? And they quickly noticed that something is wrong. And the one of the San Diego police officers, um, asks if he has a pulse and reaches for Hernandez neck to check for a pulse, um, they flip them over and they realize that there's foam around his mouth. Um, and they call for medics. And eventually he's taken to a hospital where he is pronounced dead.

Speaker 1: 04:08 So this whole scenario is tragically. Like what we've been hearing happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis, were the officers involved in Hernandez, death, criminally charged.

Speaker 2: 04:19 They were not. So the way the process works, it worked rather in this case, is that San Diego police investigated the death and presented the case to the district attorney's office. Um, and the office ultimately decided not to seek charges against the officers, um, in a statement to, uh, our paper yesterday, they essentially said that they felt they couldn't prove any criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt. And, um, so, so it's really interesting because like you mentioned, there are some similarities with this case and that the George Ford case. Um, and so it's a little unclear, you know, what that process, or rather that decision-making process from the district attorney's office entailed. Um, and that's something we may try to look into a little bit more, but no criminal charges were brought forward in this case are

Speaker 1: 05:10 The two officers still with MTS,

Speaker 2: 05:12 Both officers have since resigned.

Speaker 1: 05:15 So this $5.5 million settlement with the Hernandez family was announced by County supervisor, Nathan Fletcher. What are some of the things he said about Angel's death and the response from MTS?

Speaker 2: 05:27 Yeah, so he called the Angel's death, a seminal moment for the agency. Um, one that caused them to take a deep look at their policies and practices. He said, he essentially said that it was a tragedy that should have been avoided. And he apologized to the family and said that MTS was committed to making changes and outlined several of the changes that they have made. And he also mentioned others that the agency's committed to still working on, uh, including,

Speaker 4: 05:58 For example, banning, uh, officers from putting people in a prone position.

Speaker 5: 06:04 Tell me a bit about the changes MTS has made in an effort to stop this from happening again.

Speaker 4: 06:10 Right? So again, going off of this death, which a supervisor fighters said should have been avoided, did they kind of took a look at all of their policies and practices, and it's worth noting that they had started doing that in 2017, but it really picked up momentum after this desk. And especially in light of George Floyd's death, they banned carotid restraints. They also pan some chokehold and prohibited officers for putting a knee on a person's head throat or neck.

Speaker 5: 06:39 And I've been speaking with David Hernandez. He covers law enforcement for the San Diego union Tribune. And David, thank you very much for speaking with us. Thanks for having me a new report in the medical journal. The Lancet says COVID 19 is spread primarily by small aerosol particles to San Diego. Researchers help make the case that the Corona virus has spread so efficiently because it is passed along by small aerosols that are released by breathing the researchers like in the aerosols to secondhand smoke. One of the report coauthors is Dr. Robert Schooley and infectious disease specialist and chief of the division of infectious diseases at UC San Diego health. He joins me now with more welcome, Dr. Schooley. So listen, one of the points you make in your paper is the difference between protecting yourself against a virus that spreads primarily through respiratory droplets and one that primarily spreads through aerosols. Will you explain those differences for me,

Speaker 4: 07:50 We've had for a long time in infectious diseases, this construct that, uh, there are two different ways viruses and other pathogens are spread. One is by smaller aerosols that can travel for long distances. And the other is by large problems, kind of things you see in the air when you sneeze. These are big particles that fall to the ground. And about six feet. One of the misconceptions has been that because people who are closer to other people are more likely to get infected. This must mean that the virus is being transmitted in big droplets because the big droplets don't spread any further than that. Well, the small aerosols also are more concentrated. The closer you are to the source, they just first, and as you got farther, while your likelihood of getting infected goes down, but that doesn't mean that you're not getting infected by these small particles when you're close up.

Speaker 4: 08:39 Now, why would this be important? Well, if there were only droplets and of droplets for the thing that were actually carrying this virus, we wouldn't worry about being enclosed rooms with people. We wouldn't worry about having, uh, somebody sitting across the table, six feet away eating a sandwich. If these were droplets, they'd fall to the ground, they wouldn't reach. But in fact, these are the viruses and smaller particles that walked up in the air and can spread further than that. And that's why we recommend people wearing masks whenever they're indoors and, uh, using distance between themselves, because that allows both particles and aerosols to disperse as one more layer to protect them from [inaudible] too.

Speaker 5: 09:20 And talk about the evidence, uh, that you and your colleagues have gathered that supports the primary spread of COVID-19 through aerosols rather, rather than droplets.

Speaker 4: 09:29 Well, there's some, there's some direct physical measurements looking at what particles the virus is most likely to be associated with. There's the smaller aerosols. There are several instances of, um, in which the virus has spread. For example, in choirs that can't be explained by direct droplets, uh, can only be explained by aerosol transmission. There are people who've gone into a room where someone has been, uh, and is no longer there, uh, who picked up the virus that can't be explained, uh, by, by droplet transmission. So, you know, our argument isn't that it's never spread about droplets, but that you also have to consider aerosols when you are planning your prevention program.

Speaker 5: 10:11 Hmm. Now you and your colleagues have been sounding the alarm about the way COVID-19 is spread through aerosols for months. So why published this letter in the Lancet? Now,

Speaker 4: 10:23 There's still quite a bit of resistance to wanting to refocus on this because it changes the way we approach the prevention efforts, both in hospitals and, and, uh, in the world, uh, we've seen, uh, outbreaks and places like the white house and other places where people say they were socially distanced and following the guidelines. But in fact, they weren't wearing masks and it's clear that those kinds of events, the ones we want to avoid, we still have the who that, uh, has, uh, been very slow to embrace the idea of, uh, aerosol transmission. One of the reasons they initially were, is they were concerned about alarming people. And, uh, they were also concerned that the, the logical conclusion of aerosol spread is people should be, should wear masks when they're around other people, there was a global mass shortage. And so the, to say that this was transmitted by aerosol, so people should wear a mask. They were concerned would lead to a shortage of masks in hospital settings from the public policy perspective. I think we're always better off saying, here's what we think the facts are from the public public policy perspective. Right now, we don't have a mass enough mass to have everyone in the world wear one, and they should be used preferentially in places of highest risk, but we shouldn't have the facts that are obvious tweaked to then make policy. Hmm.

Speaker 5: 11:44 So we know that this virus has spread via aerosols is the N 95 or cloth mask as effective as a P 100 mask. There are gradations

Speaker 4: 11:54 Of effectiveness and probably the least effective as a gainer. Uh, then you start getting in to bandanas, and then you start moving up into masks that are made of multilayers of cotton, and that are tightly woven. And then two and 95. And then one hundreds. Now the virus is transmitted not to everybody. Every time you're in with someone it's a, it's a, it's an issue of dose. And so each time you increase one of the things that prevents transmission, and it can be a better mask, more distance, not being endorsed, better ventilation of vaccine. Each one of those puts you at a better, uh, in a better position to avoid getting infected. So in situations in which, uh, ventilation is difficult, a better master will be more important than, uh, when you're in places where viral concentrations are likely to be lower. So it's just one of the many things that we try to optimize when we're trying to prevent spread of the virus while we hope that more and more people become immune from vaccination.

Speaker 5: 12:57 Okay. And you and, and other scientists have been calling on the CDC and the world health organization for months now to update their guidance on how people should protect themselves from COVID-19 infection. What harm is being caused by not changing their recommendations for protections against COVID-19?

Speaker 4: 13:14 Well, the major harm is, is it puts people in positions that, um, they may get infected. That that has several implications. First of all, true, many of the people are getting infected now are younger people who are less likely to get sick, but some of them do get sick. Uh, secondly, there are older people who may have underlying immunodeficiencies that may get vaccinated, trying to protect themselves, but the vaccine may not induce immunity because they're on an immunosuppressive drug. So people who are, uh, not taking into account their own aerosols, but those people at risk, uh, who are doing the best, they can not to get infected and get sick. And thirdly, uh, but not paying attention to aerosol transmission, allowing the virus to, uh, to spread, we're allowing the virus to develop more and more, um, difficult variants that are going to be harder and harder to control by vaccines and ultimately making it harder to control the epidemic. So focusing on aerosol transmission and ways to prevent that while we're working on getting vaccine immunity is a very important, short and long-term goal.

Speaker 5: 14:17 I've been speaking to Dr. Robert schooly and infectious disease specialist, and chief of the division of infectious diseases at UC San Diego health. Thank you very much for joining us.

Speaker 4: 14:27 Welcome. Have a good day.

Speaker 5: 14:39 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh this week on midday edition. We're bringing you stories related to earth day, which is commemorated on Thursday, April 20. Today, we're talking about drought and the many ways the current extended drought period as impacted communities across the state for many Californians concerned over drought conditions, haven't been a seasonal issue. They've been a way of life with consecutive years of record, high temperatures and scarce rainfall. Some climate researchers are hinting at the possibility. California has actually been in a protracted mega drought, which means the impact of climate change could be much more severe across the state here to talk about that is Daniel kn a researcher of climate atmospheric science and physical oceanography at the Scripps institution of oceanography at UC San Diego. Daniel, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. So as California enters another drought season, the question now is whether or not the last one ever ended in the first place, is it safe to say that the state is in a period of mega drought?

Speaker 6: 15:46 It certainly is the case that since 2000 we've been in and out of dryness and this last event really took hold in 2020 and has persisted through the current period. But I guess, arguably we've had five waves of dryness beginning in 2020, but we have had those dry spells punctuated with some wet years. Oh five Oh six, 2011 and 2017 was quite wet. So one thing that I think we have to remember about California is that our setting a Mediterranean area means that we're on the edge of a winter storm track. So we have a limited time window when we can receive precipitation, roughly between November and March. And in some cases, the storm track is farther North and we are dry. And the fact that we receive a very strong proportion of our precipitation from just a handful of storms each winter, and if those storms are absent such as this last year, we are, uh, often in the dry category.

Speaker 5: 17:07 You know, the previous year saw a devastating fire season fueled by a historically dry drought season. Have we seen the worst of it yet? Or can we expect conditions to continue to worsen?

Speaker 6: 17:19 There's a certain amount of crystal ball in that answer, but climate models certainly indicate that over decades conditions will become more extreme, warmer temperatures and extended summer dry season. All of that spells a larger concern with wildfire in the climate future

Speaker 5: 17:45 Sustained drought conditions have also severely impacted water across the state's agricultural sector, even prompting concerns over water rationing. How could this long-term drought period affect how we all manage water

Speaker 6: 17:59 Conservation comes into play, and it's not only the agricultural sector, which is affected, but also urban and industrial components of water demand are effected. Agriculture actually, traditionally in California has, has mitigated dryness by the use of groundwater. And we know that in the recent historical past drive ants have been, have been marked by the increase use of groundwater levels. That to some extent has become a little bit curtailed with stronger groundwater management. But when we look at the historical record, the really large swings in water use and water demand have really appeared in the urban sector. So, um, there's been a lot of conservation that's been instituted during these dry spells. And I think that we can imagine that we'll see urban as well as agricultural sectors sort of belt-tightening as far as their water use.

Speaker 5: 19:14 No, ultimately what we're talking about here are the growing ways climate change affects our communities and our environment. So what can be done to prepare our state for this new normal of extreme weather?

Speaker 6: 19:26 There's a number of, uh, aspects of that question, water conservation, and probably the partitioning of water between the various sectors in California. Again, a commitment that is made that water is going to be needed for years on end in a rather steady fashion. Those are the kinds of societal decisions that I think we're going to have to grapple with in the future. As climate becomes impacted more by by climate change, extremes become more intense. And so on another aspect that comes into play is our ability to forecast climate and actually weather at shorter timescales. The weather forecasting problem is really important because advanced notice of a big storm, for example, allows water managers to move water around, make more reservoir space available in certain places and insulate the public from floods, which is the other side of the coin in the volatile, a water picture in California.

Speaker 5: 20:32 I've been speaking with Daniel K and a climate scientist at the Scripps institution of oceanography at UC San Diego. Daniel, thank you so much.

Speaker 6: 20:41 Uh, it was a pleasure Jade. And thanks for covering this story.

Speaker 1: 20:53 People often look to their faith leaders for guidance on big decisions, who to marry, how many kids to have, whether to change jobs. These days parishioners are asking another big question. Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine KPBS, investigative reporter Clara triglyceride tells us the answer local faith leaders give could impact when we reach herd immunity and the severity of future outbreaks.

Speaker 7: 21:21 The future of humor of humanity and freedom lies in the hands of the believing Christians in February, a large crowd gathered at the awaken church in San Marcos to hear from Dr. Simone gold, a well-known anti-vaccine doctor. She spoke with the church's founders and made several claims regarding the safety of the vaccines that have been debunked by health authorities and mainstream scientists.

Speaker 1: 21:57 [inaudible]

Speaker 7: 21:58 Awaken has five locations in San Diego. It is the same church. That's been the source of significant outbreaks. And that County officials have called out for a flagrant disregard of COVID 19 health orders. Awakens anti-vaccine stance could have a broader impact on our region, says UC San Diego epidemiologist, Rebecca fielding Miller. When you have one set of people who specifically are not interested in getting vaccinated or who declined to get vaccinated, then you are more likely to see outbreaks in that group of people. The reason that that is important beyond that community is because we do, um, you know, spend time and space together. Folks who are part of a community that's not interested in vaccinating are also folks who, you know, go grocery shopping and go out to eat and whose kids go to school. But fielding Miller says faith-based communities can also be key drivers in the push to reach herd immunity.

Speaker 7: 22:58 People do mix randomly ish, but not really right. And if everybody who you work with, or everybody who you go to church with everybody who you socialize with has gotten vaccinated, or is talking about getting vaccinated, then it is the social norm. It is, um, Oh, this is just, this is what we do. We're doing everything we can to encourage people to obtain the vaccination as soon as it's available to them and to get it done so we can all resume and have a much more normal life. Kevin Eckery is a spokesperson for the Catholic diocese of San Diego, the Catholic church, and many other local faith based organizations are on the other end of the spectrum from awaken. They are actively encouraging followers to get vaccinated.

Speaker 8: 23:51 We have no one who got infected here.

Speaker 7: 23:53 And mom Taz son of the Islamic center, San Diego says his mosque held a virtual session on zoom last month with two doctors from UC San Diego to answer member's questions and address concerns. They are also planning a vaccination clinic at the mosque in a few weeks.

Speaker 8: 24:12 And we would like to keep doing the right thing. And the right thing now is to promote the vaccine

Speaker 7: 24:18 And rabbi Scott Meltzer of or Shalom synagogue in banker's Hill says he recently held a 90 minute lecture on why Jewish people are religiously obligated to take the COVID-19 vaccines,

Speaker 8: 24:32 Jewish, religious obligation to seek and protect health for our children, for ourselves. And for those around us, to make sure that the things are as safe as can be. Um, and health is an important measure for that. You know, life is life in this world is considered a gift and one that should be protected. And, uh, and therefore, you know, COVID vaccines are an important part of that for us.

Speaker 7: 24:58 Some local churches are taking vaccine advocacy a step further by actually helping put shots into parishioners arms. Last month, the Bayview Baptist church in Encanto held a clinic where 500 people got vaccines. Pastor Keith Brown says the event helped some who are skeptical of the vaccines, make the decision including

Speaker 8: 25:22 Well, uh, when they, of course had him come out saying that it was came out, uh, I was skeptical, but what made me change my mind once I heard the statistics

Speaker 7: 25:35 Nationwide survey data showed that white evangelical Protestants are less likely to get vaccinated than other racial and religious groups. While other evangelical megachurches in San Diego, don't appear to be taking the same anti-vaccine stance as awaken. They are not advocating for vaccines, either rock churches, assistant pastor Mickey Stonier says his church won't be making any recommendations,

Speaker 9: 26:04 Not medical doctors, uh, we're doctors for the heart. We encourage people to adhere to all the safety health eat exercise. Uh, keep yourself safe.

Speaker 7: 26:16 When asked why rock church isn't promoting the vaccines, the way other churches and religious organizations are Stoney says they don't stand in judgment of what other churches are doing. Joining me is KPBS

Speaker 9: 26:33 Porter, Claire tracker, sir. And Claire. Welcome.

Speaker 7: 26:36 Thank you so much, Maureen, tell them

Speaker 9: 26:38 It's more about awaken church. How many followers do they have? Well, I'm not

Speaker 7: 26:44 Sure exactly how many followers they have, but I do know they have five locations in San Diego. Um, and I look them up. They have more than 10,000 likes on Facebook

Speaker 1: 26:57 Are awakened church leaders specifically telling their church goers not to get vaccinated. Well, it

Speaker 7: 27:04 Seems to be that way I found on their website. I wasn't there, but their San Marcos location had a service, an in-person with a big crowd there. And they hosted this doctor, Dr. Simone gold. Who's a pretty prominent anti vaccine doctor and was just, uh, you know, slew of misinformation about the vaccines. I mean, she kept saying it's up to you, whether you want to take the experimental COVID vaccine, but her overall message was that it hadn't been tested, that it had contributed to a lot of deaths. Just a pretty anti-vaccine message.

Speaker 1: 27:44 And do we know if anti-vax messages are happening in many more churches in the County? Well, that's

Speaker 7: 27:51 Currently what I was trying to find out and I reached out to a lot of different churches locally. It seems like the other big evangelical mega churches in the County are not saying to not take the vaccine. They're not anti-vax, but they're also not saying you should take the vaccine. They're pretty adamantly, uh, noncommittal on that question.

Speaker 1: 28:16 And so those churches aren't giving any guidance to their congregation about the vaccine. So how do they explain this kind of silence on one of the biggest topics of our time? Yeah.

Speaker 7: 28:28 Interesting. Because, you know, I think that a lot of people turn to their churches for, uh, answers to questions about what they should do. And this is a big question right now, the churches that I spoke with all said, you know, it's a personal decision, it's a medical decision, and we just don't want to give an opinion on that. Um, another church locally, the, uh, the Grove said, people are confused about what to do, um, and are somewhere in the middle, but they said it's a personal medical decision that we are not qualified to advise on.

Speaker 1: 29:03 Then on the other side of the coin, one church in the South Bay that you reported on actually held a vaccine clinic, why did they make that decision? Right?

Speaker 7: 29:12 That's the Bayview Baptist church in, um, in Canto I believe. And they said that they are there to serve their members and serve the community they've been doing, uh, food drives for, for people who live around the church. And so they had this vaccine clinic as kind of another way to serve their area and serve their members.

Speaker 1: 29:32 And does that reflect a trend that's been seen nationally?

Speaker 7: 29:37 Yeah, the, uh, the Pew research center has done a nationwide survey and they did find specifically that white evangelical Protestants are least likely to get the vaccine. So 45% of white evangelicals said they will not get a vaccine versus, you know, maybe 33% of black Protestants and then, uh, 22% of Hispanic Catholics. So those other, uh, racial and religious groups were, were much smaller than the white evangelicals

Speaker 1: 30:11 Catholic church originally had concerns about the use of fetal cells and the development of the COVID vaccines. But it seems to have put those issues aside and is now urging parishioners to get vaccinated.

Speaker 7: 30:25 Yes, that's right. Um, from, from the Pope on down, um, and the, the Bishop of the Catholic diocese here in San Diego wrote a letter to be read at all of the local parishes saying, please go get your vaccine. Um, it's, you know, part of our duty at as Catholics. Um, and also, you know, I spoke with, uh, Jewish rabbis and, um, Muslim moms, and they also said the same thing that they are advising their followers, that it's, um, not only a good idea for them personally, but kind of a religious obligation to protect the health of others, to go get their vaccines.

Speaker 1: 31:05 Now, people don't always do what faith leaders tell them to do. So what difference do health experts say it makes when churches come out for or against vaccines?

Speaker 7: 31:17 That's, that's very true. And that's a good point. I think one thing that, um, at least, uh, uh, epidemiologists from UC San Diego said is that, um, studies are finding, it's not just, you know, what your faith leader tells you to do, but kind of that peer pressure, if you know someone who's gotten a vaccine, you're more likely to get a vaccine because you see that that person was okay or, you know, whatever it is, or it's just kind of becomes more of a collective. Oh, okay. Everyone for my church is doing this. I guess that's just what we're doing. So I will do it too. So I think, you know, if the faith leaders have an impact on some people in the congregation that can kind of carry through, um, the, the rest of the congregation for people who might not listen to the faith leader, but still do what those around them or are doing.

Speaker 1: 32:08 Okay. I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Tresor Claire. Thank

Speaker 7: 32:13 You. Thank you so much.

Speaker 1: 32:20 As thousands of migrant families cross into the United States, many are being flown to San Diego, then removed to Mexico without any of their belongings, KPBS reporter max Rivlin nether found this type of treatment is likely contributing to the rise of unaccompanied children. Crossing the

Speaker 10: 32:42 There's a rack of shoes drying in the sun, outside of embargoes [inaudible] shelter in Tijuana, the tongues of the shoes are just hanging out because customs and border protection took the laces from them, even from the tiniest of shoes, including those belonging to Claudia Vasquez does Sid and her six-year-old daughter Kamie. They fled rampant crime, domestic abuse, and joblessness in a hurricane wrecked Honduras. They crossed the Rio Grande in Texas earlier this month,

Speaker 11: 33:12 Nothing on my [inaudible].

Speaker 10: 33:17 It tells me customs and border protection through way her clothes, their shoelaces, their money. Now she has nothing to feed her daughter.

Speaker 11: 33:29 [inaudible]

Speaker 10: 33:29 They're throwing us away. She says they send us to be thrown out. Vasquez Del Sid is one of over 3000 asylum seekers flown from the Texas border to the San Diego Tiquana border. That's because Mexican States near the Texas border are not accepting returns of central American migrant families with young children, but Baja, California does 78% of families encountered by San Diego border patrol between November and March were expelled to Baja. Each day around 100 people are flown to San Diego from Texas. Some families are allowed to remain in the United States. Others are driven to the border handed over to Mexican authorities and driven to the [inaudible] shelter, where they're greeted by pastor Gustavo. Bhanda us service who has operated the shelter for five years. Each day. Over the past month, 100 migrants have arrived at the shelter. The children are mostly between the ages of two and

Speaker 11: 34:29 Eight [inaudible].

Speaker 10: 34:37 They arrived in very bad shape. Pastor Gustabo tells me some of them faint in their seats on the way to the shelter. All of them come with coughs with vomiting, with stomach illnesses. After crossing the border, the families are held in dangerously, crowded and freezing holding cells called [inaudible] where COVID-19 and other illnesses spread quickly. Before January, 2019 families were allowed into the U S to pursue their asylum claims since then, however, a combination of restrictive policies under the Biden and Trump administrations have kept them mostly out. Even as conditions worsen in central America with the Biden administration, no longer removing unaccompanied children, many parents at the border are deciding to send their children ahead alone. In the hands of smugglers. Pastor Gustavo said, this decision has contributed to the record-breaking rise in the amount of unaccompanied children crossing the border.

Speaker 11: 35:37 [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 35:41 Female.

Speaker 10: 35:42 You said it's difficult to understand, but to make sure their kids don't die from gang violence, they have to decide to send them ahead alone. Even if it might mean they never see their children again, either way, they won't see them again, but in America there'll be safe. One morning. Last week, some families lined up for a bus to take them back to central America. Others headed back to Reynosa to cross the border again in Texas in the hopes they'll be led into the country. Gloria Vazquez Del said holding the hand of her young daughter doesn't know what she'll do. She just says she can't go back to Honduras.

Speaker 5: 36:18 [inaudible] gamble would be fine

Speaker 10: 36:26 In Tijuana, max, Brooklyn, Adler KPBS news.

Speaker 5: 36:36 You are listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. This weekend, San Diego opera will hold it's one amazing night concert and barber of Seville at a pop-up drive in a Pachanga sports arena, parking lot KPBS arts reporter, Beth duck Amando speaks with Bruce [inaudible] about what his role of conductor is and the challenges he faces working outdoors.

Speaker 12: 37:01 Bruce, you are going to be conducting two events for San Diego opera. And first of all, let me ask you to explain what that role is in case people don't fully understand.

Speaker 13: 37:13 Well, the conductor component is the person who is responsible for the direction of the music guides, the arc of the production for the singers and the production of Butterworth Seville in particular. And then also, uh, is the conductor for the orchestra. So I'm sort of marshaling all of the musical forces on stage and in the pit or in this case, a separate orchestra platform at Pachanga.

Speaker 12: 37:36 Yeah. So you mentioned an orchestra pit, and this is what you would normally have inside a theater. So what are the challenges of doing events outdoors

Speaker 13: 37:48 There? Immense challenges when we first started to think about doing a drive in production, a lot of our protocols were dictated by the spaces available to us. And in particular, the orchestra area, uh, became denoted by a platform that was going to be installed. That was 42 feet wide by 60 feet long. So once you have that defined area, then because of the pandemic, we had to look at the protocols in place. And so we are looking at spacing, the instrumentalists, according to whether they are masked players, violinists, percussion players, keyboard players, or unmasked, brass players and woodwind players. So the mass players, who would they perform with their masks on? They have to have six feet of separation between each of the instruments, the woodwind and brass players, that's 12 feet. So then you have to take out your measuring tape and put together quite a highly engineered series of spatial references to make sure that everybody's got their 12 feet or everybody's got their six feet. And then from there, well, how many, how many players can you actually fit on a 42 by 60 foot orchestra platform? It's an enormous challenge. And the answer is 24

Speaker 12: 39:09 And these two events are different in the sense one is an opera and the other is an evening of song. What is the difference for you if there is any in terms of conducting

Speaker 13: 39:19 It's huge. So the opera typically in a, in a rehearsal period for the opera, you have anywhere between two weeks and three weeks, depending on the size of the production to do a musical rehearsal, to work with the stage director and really create the arc of the evening to get the staging and the timing, right in particular with comedy, because comedy is always much more, more challenging in terms of really finessing the timing of all of the elements. Then you have a rehearsal period with the orchestra, and then you have the first meeting with the singers and the orchestra called the zits POBA before you go through at least two different orchestra dress rehearsals. So the amount of time that you're actually living with the production and working with the various artists is hardly luxurious, but it is enough time to really get it all into place with the concert, because it is a one night event. The vast majority of the planning and rehearsals is done remotely. Um, the bottom line is we get one orchestra rehearsal by itself. Then we have the afternoon on Saturday before the concert to bring everybody onto stage. And our script writer slash stage director slash co-creator has got very specific things to achieve while I'm conducting the orchestra and that they sing along, uh, to do that dress rehearsal. And then we go that night. So it is all systems go all the time with the concert.

Speaker 12: 40:51 Well, with a concert, is there a narrative or a story going on, even within just a concert setting,

Speaker 13: 40:58 This particular concert, it has been conceived with a special guests. Narrator, James newcomers is one of our special guests artists, and he's actually has a bespoke script or written by the San Diego opera resident stage director, Alan Hicks. And he's created a script to really explore this idea of notorious pandemics from the black plague up to the AIDS crisis. And what we're trying to do is we're trying to use the script and, you know, forgive me for, for, for sounding like stealing from somebody, but I can burns type of documentary describing the why's and wherefores as to how this music evolved in reaction to the various notorious pandemics of our times.

Speaker 12: 41:43 And in contrast, you have the barber of Seville and it talk a little bit about the music in this and the possibility that for a lot of us of a certain age, our introduction to opera, might've been bugs bunny, and this

Speaker 3: 42:00 Welcome to my shop. Let me get your mom. Let me see the grab. Hey, what's up? Yes. You're next

Speaker 13: 42:17 Iconic reference, uh, to the about of Yeti, the severely of course, it's bugs bunny and [inaudible] great comedy and it truly is from the bell concert period. It sort of defines what comic Italian opera is in the early to middle 19th century. And I mean, first of all, everybody knows the tunes from the get-go, the overture, the Symphonia is iconic. It's been heard and deployed in movies soundtracks. And this is a, a comic opera full of great beloved tuned, full hits. So everybody has a chance to show off as a vocalist. It th the, the virtuosity of Rossini's writing at this point in his career is, uh, bar none, not only for the singers, but also for the instrumental. So everybody's got to be in top shape to, to, to really make this music sing.

Speaker 12: 43:12 You talked a little bit about comic timing and opera. So how does that play out in terms of it's a live performance? So you're not sure exactly how things are going to work out, but how do you as a conductor have a role in that comic timing?

Speaker 13: 43:30 Um, I think it really has a lot to do with keeping yourself in the moment constantly so that as you say, uh, it's, it's, it's, it's a live performance. So there are always going to be meeting mitigating factors, whether it's wind or in an outdoor venue, if a fire engine suddenly screams by how is that going to interface with the characters on stage? Are they going to make an allowance for that for a moment? Um, are they not, are they going to press forward? So it's, it really has a lot to do with knowing the production well enough to forecast a sort of a realm of possibilities. It could go this way. It could go that way, whichever way it does go. I have to be poised and ready to adapt instantaneously. And that's exciting actually, that's, that's the fun part of, of live music making, because you never know what's going to happen. And hopefully Friday night's performance is not going to be the same as Tuesday, nights, performance and all for good reason. All right.

Speaker 5: 44:32 I want to thank you very much for talking about opera. Truly my pleasure to be here One amazing night is this Friday and the barber of Seville begins. It's four performances on Saturday, both take place at Pachanga sports arena, parking lot.

Speaker 3: 45:37 [inaudible] [inaudible], [inaudible].

KPBS Midday Edition podcast branding

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.