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San Diego County Looks To Increase Testing Capacity With The Rise Of Delta Variant

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY ALEXANDER NGUYEN

Above: A COVID-19 testing site at San Diego State University. Jan. 15, 2021.

San Diego County Looks To Increase Testing Capacity With Rise Of Delta Variant
Description: As demand for COVID-19 testing rises, local health officials and health providers take action. Plus, the San Diego City Council Monday passed an ordinance intended to crack down on firearms without serial numbers, otherwise known as "ghost guns.” Then, the Dark Horse Battalion, based at Camp Pendleton, examines its legacy in Afghanistan. Later, a San Diego sports psychologist weighs in on Simone Biles' mental gymnastics. And, former Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid told KPBS Midday Edition that he was disappointed with a recent Department of Defense report about UFOs.

Speaker 1: 00:01 COVID cases are rising. So our demands for testing being met,

Speaker 2: 00:05 And we had a large increase in demand for testing I'm

Speaker 1: 00:09 Jade Heintzman with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid-day edition. The efforts to control ghost guns in San Diego.

Speaker 3: 00:28 We will make sure that we treat these unfinished frames and receivers just like every other firearm requiring background checks, waiting periods so that we know who's purchasing them and we prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

Speaker 1: 00:41 The impact of war on the dark horse battalion plus the mental health of athletes and a lawmaker who says aliens are out there. That's ahead on midday edition, more people across the county are seeking COVID testing. As the Delta variant is causing an increase in people, sickened from and exposed to the virus. Now, both healthcare providers and local health officials are working on plans to rapidly increase testing capacity here to tell us more about those efforts in San Diego union Tribune, healthcare reporter, Paul Sisson. Paul, welcome. Thanks for having me. So can you give us an idea of how much of an increase in testing demand we've seen in San Diego county in the last few weeks?

Speaker 2: 01:31 Yeah, I was wondering this myself yesterday, so I asked the county and, uh, it looks like, um, uh, July 1st we had an average of about 7,200 tests going on. That's a seven day average. Uh, and as of Sunday, the seven day average was about 12,000. So it's increased it. Hasn't quite doubled if you're looking at it. It's seven day averages, which I think is a more kind of accurate way to understand some of these numbers, but it certainly has increased quite a bit. Uh, a few days ago it was, uh, getting over 15,000 per day on certain days, then maybe a few weeks, a few months ago. We, uh, we might've been down to, you know, maybe just a couple thousand, uh, on any given day. So we've certainly had a large increase in demand for testing exactly what it is. Uh, you know, these numbers are always changing. The most recent numbers are, are a little, uh, under reported just because it takes some labs longer to get their results back to the county health department to be reported to us in the public.

Speaker 1: 02:32 How long could someone expect to wait to be tested now as opposed to last month? And also, is there a delay in getting the results of those tests? Seems

Speaker 2: 02:42 Like some folks were waiting a, you know, an hour maybe close to two hours in certain locations. For some reason yesterday there, there seemed to be a large, uh, weight going on at many, uh, Kaiser facilities, uh, run by Kaiser Permanente across the county. As far as I know, uh, there haven't really been any major delays in them processing those samples that get collected and getting results back to people. Uh, I talked to a physician over at sharp yesterday, uh, sharp healthcare here in town that runs its own massive testing lab. And they said, yeah, you know, we're, we're able to run as many large batches of tests as we need to. And we're usually able to get results back to people in 24 to 48 hours. So it doesn't really seem like there's been a massive increase in the result time yet. Uh, I think it's safe to say that, uh, if you went in to get a sample collected at a, at a testing site, uh, a month ago or so you wouldn't have much weight at all. And now just depending on where you go, you might see, you know, you might end up waiting an hour. Uh, if you're in your car, uh, you know, in one of these sites that backs up public

Speaker 1: 03:46 Health officials worried that this could discourage people from getting tested. Uh, you know, they're

Speaker 2: 03:51 Not saying that they're worried, but I think if you, uh, judge things by, by what they're doing, I think they, they must be a little worried that we learned yesterday that, uh, San Diego county just put up a large, uh, new testing, uh, walk-in location, uh, Cal state San Marcos up in north county. Uh, that's going to be capable of starting today of, of, uh, processing, I think about 1000 people or more per day. Uh, and they are working on a similar addition, uh, at San Diego state down in the core of the city. Uh, that should be open this week. They don't have an exact day on that get, and it sounds like they're also increasing, uh, testing at some of their other smaller locations as well. So yeah, I think they are definitely concerned about it. Just judging them by their actions. They're not really coming out and saying that they're worried, uh, publicly,

Speaker 1: 04:40 You know, many employers in the region have recently started requiring vaccines or frequent testing. So how big of a factor are these new testing requirements and this increased demand? It's really

Speaker 2: 04:52 Hard to say. Uh, there, there really isn't any good data on exactly why patients are coming in, uh, for testing. A lot of it could be asymptomatic testing. Uh, the county just doesn't really break that down, uh, and, and tell us in the public, uh, what percentage, uh, of testing going on on any given day is for people who don't have any symptoms and are, and are doing this as a routine requirement of their employer, though. Uh, there, there is a fair amount of concern, uh, that this new mandate from the state that requires state employees, as well as all healthcare employees to get tested regularly. If they're not vaccinated starting this month is going to really cause demand for testing to even surge significantly beyond where it is today. Uh, so I think it's very much a concern that the, you know, do we have the capacity to so regularly test so many, uh, although as we see today as well, uh, there are increasing mandates from employers, uh, to get vaccinated with Kaiser Permanente, uh, indicating that all of their employees are going to be required to be vaccinated. So it's a little bit in flux at the moment, I guess I'd say. Yeah.

Speaker 1: 06:03 Do you expect to see the demand for testing and decrease actually anytime soon or, or do you think, um, this is our new normal when it comes to testing?

Speaker 2: 06:14 I mean, it's hard to say exactly how things are going to go with vaccination. Uh, there, there seems to be mounting social pressure from all fronts, for those who are unvaccinated, uh, to get vaccinated. Uh, and I guess that may cause a surge in vaccination here in the, in the coming weeks. Uh, and so that would seem to be the main break on the demand for testing, but, but I think until, uh, until this Delta variant, uh, has fully moved through the community, uh, and, or a lot more people start getting vaccinated, I think you're going to probably see quite a demand for testing. It's hard to put a kind of a horizon on that. It's just, I, I, my crystal ball, isn't, uh, perfectly crystal clear at the moment on how this is going to go, well, maybe your crystal

Speaker 1: 07:06 Ball can tell us this. I mean, with this recent rise in cases, what other aspects of the COVID response are you looking into? Um,

Speaker 2: 07:12 You know, I think we're, you know, always very interested in what businesses are going to do in San Diego county. Um, you just wonder, you know, you hear stories, uh, up in Los Angeles, uh, in San Francisco about businesses requiring their patrons to be vaccinated. If they want to come in and say, have a drink or have a meal. Uh, and so we're, you know, I'm very interested in whether that's going to happen here as well, you know, and we're always keeping an eye on what's going on in the hospitals, you know, as we've discussed before, uh, it's extremely essential that, that COVID not create such a surge in hospitalization, that it crowds out other patients at the moment, it doesn't look like that's happening. There has been an increase in hospitalization, but it, uh, it looks like it's at a level that our local hospitals are, are very able to handle. Uh, and so, you know, we're, I think everybody's watching very closely to see if, uh, if the spike and infections that we're seeing now turns into a really significant spike in hospitalization.

Speaker 1: 08:15 I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, healthcare reporter, Paul Sisson. You can find his latest story on the county's efforts to boost testing capacity on the San Diego union Tribune website. Paul, thanks so much for joining. Yes, thanks for having me

Speaker 4: 08:37 A new ordinance against so-called ghost guns past the San Diego city council Monday, the new law would forbid the sale and possession of gun frames that don't have an identifying serial number. San Diego police say they've seen a significant increase in the number of ghost guns, which be bought on the internet and assembled without background checks, advocates of the band say the untraceable guns are often used by criminals and others who can't obtain weapons. Legally here's Stephen Abrams of team enough youth gun violence prevention group speaking at yesterday city council meeting as a minor

Speaker 5: 09:15 At the time I purchased all the parts of a ghost gun kit, uh, that were shipped directly to my house and we've documented the whole process and the craziest part about it. It was all completely legal. Joining

Speaker 4: 09:28 Me is San Diego city council member of Marnie Von Wilpert who introduced the measure to band ghost guns. Marnie, welcome to the program.

Speaker 3: 09:36 Thank you so much for having me today. How

Speaker 4: 09:38 Big a problem do you believe ghost guns are in San Diego?

Speaker 3: 09:43 Well, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, a ghost gun is a term for a homemade personally manufactured firearm that lacks commercial serial numbers and can easily become untraceable. These unregulated ghost guns are made at home using unfinished frames and receivers, which are the lower parts of a gun and can be easily assembled into fully functional firearms in minutes. So the reason I brought this ordinance forward is the mass shooting that we saw downtown San Diego in the Gaslamp district on April 22nd of this year, this shooting was perpetrated by a man who was prohibited from legally buying a gun due to his violent criminal history. So he obtained an untraceable ghost gun to commit this crime. I then asked the San Diego police department to provide a report to the city council on ghost guns to see what was actually going on in our streets. And that's when we found out how much of a problem ghost guns have become the police reported. They have seen a 169% increase in the number of ghost guns confiscated by law enforcement. And

Speaker 4: 10:51 What specifically does this new city ordinance prohibit?

Speaker 3: 10:55 So this ordinance attempts to attack this problem at its source, by preventing people from selling, buying, transporting the parts needed to assemble an illegal ghost gun at home. These are the unfinished frames and unfinished receivers, which are the lower parts of the weapon. Normally those are the parts that would be serialized. If these were fully assembled firearms sold by a licensed firearm manufacturer or dealer. So this ordinance seeks to only allow pre serialized unfinished frames and unfinished receivers in the city of San Diego. That way we will make sure that we treat these unfinished frames and receivers just like every other firearm requiring background checks, waiting periods so that we know who's purchasing them. And we prevent them from falling into the wrong hands and watch the

Speaker 4: 11:47 Penalty for obtaining one of the ghost guns that does not have a serial number.

Speaker 3: 11:52 So under the city ordinance, the penalty can be charged at the discretion of the police and the prosecutors as anywhere from in an infraction all the way up into a misdemeanor, uh, it could be a penalty of a thousand dollars fine, or up to six months in prison. Now, correct?

Speaker 4: 12:09 X of this measure say since many peoples who obtain ghost guns want to use them for criminal acts. They're not going to care if possessing one is a misdemeanor, what's your response.

Speaker 3: 12:20 So this is why we're trying to attack the problem at its source. You know, trying to prevent these ghost gun parts from entering the city without serial numbers in the first place. So that's the point of this ordinance is to bring these unfinished frames and unfinished receivers, which people are using to assemble ghost guns and require them to be sold with a serial number ahead of time so that it makes it harder for these parts to get into the hands of people who I want to commit crimes with them. And the reason we did this is because it's a loophole in the law. We actually worked not only with San Diego police department on this ordinance. We also worked with attorneys from the California department of justice. We worked with a gentleman named Steve Lindley, who was previously the chief of the firearms bureau for the California department of justice.

Speaker 3: 13:13 He explained to us that we do need to close this loophole here in San Diego, because under California state law, currently a lawful responsible gun owner can purchase a non serialized unfinished frame or receiver, and then seek to get a serial number from the California department of justice. We know that criminals are not taking that step. So by requiring ahead of time, these serial numbers to be a fixed to the unfinished frames and receivers, not only does that mean that lawful purchasers will already have complied with California state law, but we're going to prevent a lot of these parts that are untraceable from the get-go from even entering San Diego in the first place.

Speaker 4: 13:55 It seems like it would take a national effort to get at the root of the issue and get the guns off the internet. Do you?

Speaker 3: 14:03 Yes, Maureen, I do agree that we need every level of government to act, to prevent gun violence that we're seeing rising nationally, not just here in San Diego. Luckily the state and the federal government are also taking action. And one of the things president Biden is doing is to do a rulemaking change to classify unfinished frames and receivers as firearms that will allow our national background checks, ATF, all the other regulations we have in place to kick in on a federal level, the state of California will have new regulations go into effect requiring only face to face transactions for purchasing unfinished trains or receivers in July of 2022. But since we've seen the rise in gun violence here in San Diego, including crimes perpetrated with people who have ghost guns, I knew that we couldn't wait and we had to act at the city level to start saving lives today while we have the national and the state levels working in conjunction with us. And when

Speaker 4: 15:05 Do you expect the new San Diego city ordinance on ghost guns to go into effect?

Speaker 3: 15:10 So under our S our city charter, we have to have two readings of every law, unless it's an emergency ordinance. And since we're going on legislative recess after today's council, the next available hearing is September 14th when we come back. So we will be hearing it again, September 14th, after it's passed on September 14th, the law will go into effect within 30 days. So we do have time to ramp up to do outreach work with gun manufacturers, work with community groups and our police department to let people know that this new ordinance is coming educate folks, and really work to make sure that this is done right, and people aren't caught off guard, but the, we can act quicker than the state or federal government to really stem the tide of all of these ghost gun parts, flooding San Diego and the resulting proliferation of ghost guns in our communities.

Speaker 4: 16:00 I've been speaking with San Diego city council member, Marnie Von Wilpert. And thank you so much for joining

Speaker 3: 16:06 Us. Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 4: 16:22 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade. Heinemann us involvement in the Afghanistan. War is coming to an end. After 20 years, the dark horse battalion suffered the highest percentage of casualties of any Marine unit KPBS. Military reporter. Steve Walsh says the camp Pendleton Marine unit is still trying to reconcile their legacy a decade after they returned home.

Speaker 6: 16:49 By the time the dark horse battalion left hell Mont province. In 2011, they had 184 wounded Marines, 34 of them amputees and 25 dead among them. The son of four-star Marine general, John Kelly in 2013, before he retired, Kelly spoke at a ceremony at camp Pendleton. He urged the Marines to honor those who had served their country and in many cases flat and died for it, and never forget your buddies that never made it home. A decade after the survivors came home, it's still difficult to place the legacy of the unit that suffered the highest number of casualties in the war.

Speaker 7: 17:30 Let's go, let's go. Logan

Speaker 6: 17:33 Star collected hours of footage shot by his fellow Marines as dark horse pushed back against the Taliban during heavy fighting.

Speaker 3: 17:40 And this was kind of in that little sweet zone before the Marine Corps served like highly regulating people filming stuff.

Speaker 6: 17:47 He came back that April and by August, he had left the Corps and enrolled as a student at Michigan state. During that whirlwind, he started making a documentary interviewing members of dark horse. Initially he thought he was the only one having panic attacks

Speaker 3: 18:01 And that, and that's what I think a lot of people just didn't. And me specifically, I didn't understand. It's like, it's okay to be gone through all this, like there's there's reasons behind all of it. And it just didn't seem like we were like really good at communicating that to our peers. The

Speaker 6: 18:16 Documentary called for the 25 is still on his YouTube channel. Even the veterans of the most celebrated units of the war have had a tough time describing the war in Afghanistan. Marcus just chilly lost his left leg to an IED two weeks after he arrived

Speaker 5: 18:33 Every day for that first year, when I was back back in the United States was like reliving that moment. And it was, it was a really big struggle to try to figure out, you know, what my life was going to be. Like after that

Speaker 6: 18:44 Two years in the hospital, he is now married with small children and walking on a prosthetic.

Speaker 5: 18:49 We were there to protect each other. We were there to bring each other home. We were there to fight yes for our country and to accomplish our mission. But every single day was about a, got you like you remember, I'm going to make sure you get home today.

Speaker 6: 19:03 Gretchen Katherine Woodson, Alec was killed in October, 2010.

Speaker 3: 19:08 It's not an every moment of every day kind of thing. I mean, it's, it's constantly in my brain and it's always there. There are some days that are horrible and there are some days that are okay.

Speaker 6: 19:21 He was in the audience when general Kelly spoke at the Memorial in 2013,

Speaker 3: 19:26 After the remembrance ceremony and seeing the looks and those guys' faces in their eyes. I said, there's gotta be something we can do.

Speaker 6: 19:32 She and her husband moved from Illinois to Tennessee, where they're building a quiet lake retreat for combat veterans to honor the dark horse battalion. You

Speaker 3: 19:40 Don't want to tell your wife or your mother or your sister or some of your friends from high school, what you experienced, what you had to do. Um, but they can talk to each other. And really nobody can help a combat veteran like a combat veteran.

Speaker 6: 19:53 Each bedroom is named after one of the 25 who died with plaques for six dark horse Marines who have since died by suicide. And

Speaker 3: 20:01 I believe that they are a casualty of war every single bit, as much as those who were killed in action are

Speaker 6: 20:07 It's their monument to an ongoing sacrifice in a war that cannot easily be explained.

Speaker 4: 20:15 Joining me is KPBS military reporter, Steve Walsh, and Steve

Speaker 6: 20:19 Welcome. Hi Maureen. What

Speaker 4: 20:22 Made the deployment of the dark horse battalion so dangerous? What was happening in Helmand province at the time?

Speaker 6: 20:28 So the British had been there prior to the U S Marine. So, and they had set up outposts all around the area, but they really didn't have the numbers to hold all of those positions. So they took a large number of casualties. Even before the Marines got there. Then the Marines come in, they decide they're going to be much more aggressive. They consolidate their positions and they start running regular patrols to seek out contact with the enemy. But the Taliban were well dug in. They understood the terrain and this was kind of a crossroad. So the Taliban could go in and out of other parts of the region. So this was very important for them to hold this area. So the fighting was already well underway by the time the Marines got there and the Taliban were well positioned and they had alliances in the area. So it was, it was incredibly deadly. We're the Marines

Speaker 4: 21:17 Of the three, five. Were they prepared for what they would encounter or was the Taliban resistance stronger than they expected?

Speaker 6: 21:24 They definitely knew that this was an area of strong resistance and they were warned by the British. Um, they wanted to retake this area from the Taliban and hold it, which they eventually did. And when the Marines finally left the area, they, it did eventually fall back into the hands of the Taliban, which kind of complicates their legacy. But over the time that the tactics had changed, you know, we, we talked to Marcus in the feature. He was wounded by an IED that was actually made out of wood. So would not be picked up by American mind detectors. These IDs were originally used in Iraq, but they eventually had moved over to Afghanistan as the two insurgencies began, swapping personnel and tactics to help fight the American troops in

Speaker 4: 22:03 A previous report. You said that the war in Afghanistan never really registered among the American public, the way the war in Iraq did is that one of the reasons securing the legacy of the dark horse battalion is so difficult.

Speaker 6: 22:17 Yeah, I think so. So from a pure fighting standpoint, it was a costly, but a tactical success at the time they did beat back the Taliban. So from the perspective of some people, the dark horse ranks right up there with the battles of the Pacific or, or of wood in world war one or the second battle of Fallujah in Iraq, some of the most story battles in Marine Corps history on the flip side, it's, it's kind of harder to put this into the con you know, context of the larger conflict. The Marines held their position, but they couldn't defeat the Taliban. It was quite costly with 184 casualties. And in 25 dead, you know, it's the eternal lesson from Vietnam. You can push the Germans out of Poland, but you really can't push the Vietnamese out of Vietnam. And that's really what was happening here in Afghanistan. Tell us

Speaker 4: 23:06 More, if you will, about the former doc horse battalion Marines, who died by a suicide, you say that there have been six that have died that way,

Speaker 6: 23:15 Right? Uh, Gretchen Katherine Wood who runs the dark horse launcher that building this in Tennessee is kind of a refuge for combat veterans. She lost her 19 year old son, Eric, and she's kind of kept a tally. She and her husband stay in pretty close contact with a number of the unit. And they kind of, sort of, sort of hear from word of mouth, like when somebody has died, you know, we have seen an elevated risk of suicide among active duty military. Since the war on terror began, it used to be the other way around military service actually used to make you less susceptible to, um, now it's a risk factor and it's, you know, it's not necessarily tied to combat exposure or deployment. I can tell you that, uh, gun ownership really plays a role in veterans' suicide. You can tell from other members of the dark horse that they suffered from, we'll call it stress. When they came back home, maybe undiagnosed PTSD, nightmares, and anxiety. These risk factors can lead to suicide. If, if left unchecked, you mentioned

Speaker 4: 24:12 That couple who are building a retreat for combat veterans. And it leads me to wonder what kind of resources are there for Marines from this unit or others who are still suffering the effects of fighting in Afghanistan?

Speaker 6: 24:25 Oh, there are a lot actually though, a Marines do not always make the easiest patients. In fact, several members of the dark horse. It just sounds like they may have gone to the VA here or there, but they really seem to benefit more from talking to one another. Uh, you know, the VA in San Diego created the first program for PTSD geared specifically to post nine 11 veterans who didn't like the group therapy. That was the hallmark of treating, uh, the earlier Vietnam vets. And some of the treatments really have, especially over the last 20 years, they've, they've evolved pretty dramatically.

Speaker 4: 25:00 You know, we've heard some disturbing stories coming out of Afghanistan lately. There are reports of Taliban advances, Taliban atrocities, the U S airstrikes are trying to keep the situation in check. You reported last month on the struggle to get Afghan interpreters who worked for the U S out of harm's way and out of the country, I'm wondering, how does this aftermath, this complicated aftermath increase the confusing legacy of this 20 year war.

Speaker 6: 25:29 So we know now that there are some plans to bring interpreters to the east coast, to finish their paperwork. You know, we have 18,000 interpreters have applied, but we know that many more people work with the Americans and either never applied or gave up somewhere in the process. We've heard the number of like 30,000 people are trying to flee that number could perhaps go way up as you know, the Americans. Finally, the last of them leave, you know, you hear echoes of the fall of Saigon. You know, at the end of the American war in Vietnam, we may see a similar humanitarian crisis unfolding and which may be a tremendous moral embarrassment to the United States. After 20 years of war, this is what we're going to be learning now over the next several months, just what that legacy is going to look like.

Speaker 4: 26:18 I've been speaking with KPBS, military reporter, Steve Walsh, Steve. Thank you. Thanks Marine

Speaker 1: 26:35 Simone Biles returned to compete in the balance beam final winning bronze is Jimmy mastics event. Finals wrapped up this morning in Tokyo. In many ways. Her 2021 Olympic journey has been symbolic of the mental health balance. One must have to compete last week. The champion withdrew from competition to focus on her mental health before returning a move, many athletes, including USA, surfing gold medalists, Carissa Moore found,

Speaker 5: 27:02 I think she's handled it beautifully. I applaud her for putting herself first and doing what's right for her. That's hard to do in a world where people expect so much of you and have this idea of what success looks like

Speaker 1: 27:14 Or Teskey is a sports psychologist and certified mental performance consultant who works with collegiate and Olympic athletes. She joins us now to talk about how Simone Biles is decision open dialogue surrounding mental health athletes and all of us. She wrote. Well,

Speaker 3: 27:31 Thank you so much for having me. Moon Biles

Speaker 1: 27:35 Won her seventh career Olympic metal today after previously withdrawing from competition for mental health reasons and something called twisties. First, how significant is her road back to competition and winning the bronze

Speaker 3: 27:48 Medal? I think this was such a monumental event today. You know, I think of Simone Biles is one of the greatest athletes of all times, and now she's tied for winning the most Olympic medals of any American gymnast. And I think her ability to be able to step away when she needed to, to focus on her health and her safety was so important and really presents, you know, provides a stage where it gives permission to other athletes to be able to do so as well. And then the fact that she was able to come back from it and win another metal was just so powerful. Can

Speaker 1: 28:29 You explain what the twisties is and the danger that issue can pose?

Speaker 3: 28:34 Yes, definitely. The twisties, um, are a type of mental block in which a gymnast is in midair and they lose their sense of orientation. Um, so they become disoriented when they're upside down and it can be caused by anxiety or pressure. We see it in different sports in different ways. So if, um, a gymnast is experiencing this and they miscalculate their landing, it can be quite dangerous because they may land on their feet wrong. They could land on their back or their neck. And so it's really important. Um, as I had mentioned that they're in kind of that clear mental state to be able to perform these high level skills.

Speaker 1: 29:14 And can you explain what's the difference between mental health and mental performance and how important is it that both of those things be in sync for competition?

Speaker 3: 29:23 When we think of our health and wellbeing, nor mental health exists, kind of on a continuum. So you have resiliency and thriving on one end and then impairment on the other. And you know, what the world of sports is seeing more and more is how important are mental wellness is and how it's an integral part of, you know, elite optimal health, as well as performance. I love Brian Heinlein from that. He's the chief medical officer from the NCAA. And he says, you know, in this day and age, we can no longer separate wellness and excellence. And so I think, you know, in basic terms, when we're feeling well, we perform at our best. And so I think that's the way that we can see those two components be integrated

Speaker 1: 30:12 And, you know, Simone Biles, wasn't the only athlete struggling with mental health issues. She, Carrie Richardson and Naomi Osaka both took measures to address their issues. Why do you think this year has been particularly challenging for athletes?

Speaker 3: 30:26 I think this, um, has been such an unprecedented year with, um, so much uncertainty and predictability with COVID. First of all, you know, athletes, they train and kind of a four year cycle and they're set to peak physically at a certain point. And so they were preparing, you know, for that to be last summer of 2020. And so with all the changes that have been taking place with the Olympics initially canceled, and then the uncertainty, and, you know, I think that's been extremely challenging as well as just, you know, some of the challenges and concerns that all of us have been experiencing this year concerned for our own health. Um, our families combined with, you know, some of the social justice issues that athletes have been experiencing and the pressures of competing in front of the world, given all the restrictions with COVID it's, I think it's been quite a challenging year because I

Speaker 1: 31:27 Was going to ask if you think that issues of sexism and racism are an added layer to that.

Speaker 3: 31:32 I, I do. I think, you know, there's a lot of components that have been occurring for a long time and, you know, some of them have been more invisible. And I think this year has, has really brought a lot of the things to the surface. You know, Novak

Speaker 1: 31:47 Djokovich was another athlete who had mental health issues, uh, days after criticizing Simone Biles, his decision to focus on her wellbeing. He had a violent meltdown and withdrew from competition. What do you think about how he responded and managed his mental health and that situation?

Speaker 3: 32:04 I think this really goes to show how important it is to address issues early on. If we don't, if we push things away or we ignore them, often they reach, um, they kind of build up and, um, can reach more of a crisis level and then come out in an unhealthy manner.

Speaker 1: 32:24 You know, what lessons can other athletes pull from Simone Biles is, and even Naomi Osaka his decision to prioritize their mental health.

Speaker 3: 32:33 I think this is a great point. I mean, these athletes, um, are kind of on a very public stage and, you know, when they come out and speak openly, um, as well as, you know, Michael Phelps, it gives younger athletes, um, permission to do the same. And so it opens up the dialogue around this area and it helps athletes know that it's okay to say no and have a limit when they need to, to make health and wellbeing a priority. Um, and so I think they've been very courageous in terms of coming out and speaking openly about this.

Speaker 1: 33:11 And do you think those lessons can be useful for all of us? I mean, even people in their own careers and day-to-day lives?

Speaker 3: 33:19 I think so. I think as, you know, as, as we bring this topic more to the forefront, it's always been there, but it's, um, been more invisible and as we just kind of are able to speak openly and express our vulnerabilities, um, I mean, I think part of what these athletes are showing is that you can kind of be the greatest at your craft and you can also, you know, be human and, and be vulnerable. And I think it takes a lot of courage to show those sides. Um, but as, as we do, it helps us to be able to talk about it. It helps us to be able to manage some of these stressors, some of these pressures that we experience in our life in, um, in a healthier way. I've

Speaker 1: 34:02 Been speaking with Shira [inaudible] sports, psychologist, and certified mental performance consultant. She wrote, thank you so much for your insight

Speaker 3: 34:10 Today. It's my pleasure. Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here.

Speaker 4: 34:21 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade. Heinemann, it's been about a month since the us defense department released a report on unidentified aerial phenomena, commonly referred to as a UFO's that report was dropped on a Friday evening in June with little fanfare and quite a few Americans may have missed the extraordinary nature of the document after decades of dismissing UFO sightings out of hand, the government admitted that of the 144 UFO's studied 143 remain on identified. The reports suggests the sightings may be the result of sensor errors or even advanced technology developed by other nations. But there is no mention of a possible extra terrestrial explanation. Former democratic Senate majority leader, Harry Reid was instrumental in the creation of a government program to officially collect UFO information back in 2007, he's written about his curiosity about UFO's the unfortunate stigma attached to the issue and his hope for scientific answers. Senator Harry Reid welcomed

Speaker 3: 35:34 My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me the

Speaker 4: 35:37 Report. Didn't quite stir up the excitement one might've expected. Why do you think that is?

Speaker 3: 35:42 Well, first of all, they did it on a night. That news goes nowhere Friday night, is it? I want to kill the story file a paper on Friday evening. What they did. They obviously in reading the report, it was so cursory so thin. So marginalized. I am very disappointed. I would hope that people in Congress understand that that is not the way to satisfy the American people. The one thing we need to do is be transparent and this shows no transparency. We need to get to the bottom of this, continue working on. It seems to me, the more we study it, the more we don't know. And I think that's important that people understand that this is not some conspiratorial theory. This is real facts we need to get to the bottom of

Speaker 4: 36:33 Even considering the small amount of information that was released. What did you find as the most intriguing data in the government's UFO report?

Speaker 3: 36:44 I found very little that's new cut, new ground, but I have said, and I to believe this, this can't be a one. And we're through with it. This has to be an ongoing program for the federal government is involved in studying these unidentified flying objects. They can no longer say they don't exist because they exist and we need to find out what they are. And the more we try to hide it, the more apparent becomes that we're trying to hide something from the American people. That's the wrong way to go. The only

Speaker 4: 37:17 Citing studied in this report occurred between the years, 2004 and 2021. And those that were reported largely by military personnel, yet you believe the government has decades of information on UFO's. Why wasn't that part of this report?

Speaker 3: 37:33 I do not know. I also believe that we all we do know at the Pentagon, the United States, military is now being really, I think, upfront, it used to be the criticizer pilots and sea captains for even talking about this. Now they're asking their pilots in their man at sea to report these findings identified. They should report it. I believe that's the case. I'm glad that kind of gone a step forward and are doing this. Yeah, no,

Speaker 4: 38:04 It was speaking of sightings by military personnel, the so-called tic TAC, UFO sighting by pilots from the USS Nimitz off the coast of San Diego is one of the videos that's been released to the public. And that's a sighting involving multiple sensors and multiple observers of objects flying in ways that would not be possible in any technology we know of. Now, as you say, it doesn't seem that it's enough for us just to say, we don't know what they were. So what should be the next step in this?

Speaker 3: 38:36 Well, I think the next step should be the step that should have been taken initially study now study in the future, kind of continue the study, find out what's going on here. We've been talking about these UFO's for 70 years and we have not gotten any place other than to understand that the more we learn, the more we need to learn. And so I am satisfied that the Pentagon is doing the right thing. You, you, you, the example of the yes. It's online. I think that's important. The situation we had. I'm sorry. I don't know. Did you mention the online? No, I didn't. I just mention the in Nimitz. Oh, with the OMA, this was a very interesting thing anymore. It's not just mirror people saying they saw it. They had this object shaped like football. It was probably almost as long as a football field and it flows around and around the ship for a while. And then just goes into the ocean is disappears. This is really, to me, it's intriguing something. We shouldn't forget about it. Move on to something else. This is something we need to study and study art

Speaker 4: 39:47 Is wrong for the defense department to release this document without including even the possibility of an extra terrestrial explanation for the UFO.

Speaker 3: 39:57 Well, I, I don't know why they decided to let us know a little bit more when I'm glad they did it. And I think that, uh, they they've made a decision that, that they don't know what it is. And I'm satisfied that the get a community kind of convinced me that it comes from someplace else. I'll accept that, but we can't just ignore it. According

Speaker 4: 40:21 To polling, a third of Americans, and this includes both Democrats and Republicans believe that UFO's are evidence of alien visitors. As more documentation comes out, verifying the existence of UFO's. Do you expect that number to go up?

Speaker 3: 40:37 It definitely will go up without any question. And I think that's the way it should be. This isn't something that's going to, we're not suddenly gonna have no UFO's to talk about or look at, but we need to stay on top of it, have an ongoing government program. That's why I was very disappointed. They released the press account of it on a Friday evening way to kill it. And they need to pick up where they left off and continue the program members of Congress be to go forward. Who's happy to see Senator Marco Rubio from Florida. Talk about the need to continue to work on that tonight. Help Marco proceeds further on that.

Speaker 4: 41:21 No, I know you don't a truck with conspiracy theories, but let me just mention that a common conspiracy theory about the government and UFO's is that officials are engaged in the slow release of information to of warm up the public for the eventual reveal that we have been visited by extra terrestrials and your time as Senate majority leader, did you get the sense that the government had a lot more intelligence about UFO's than they were telling you?

Speaker 3: 41:48 I think the government has not been forthcoming as they should now. I don't know what information I have, but I, I think all we've gotten from them so far is little tidbits, little bits of integration. I think they have a lot more of that. Give us if they want to do. And I hope they decide quickly that they want to give us more. Your friend,

Speaker 4: 42:08 Robert Bigelow of Bigelow aerospace is a big proponent of the fact that we've been visited by extra terrestrials. And I'm wondering if you, and he have discussed that in any way. And if any of his arguments have been compelling to you,

Speaker 3: 42:21 I have known Bob Bigelow for three or four decades. He's a man who puts his money where his mouth is. He spent millions of dollars studying UFO's and doing other things. So I think that people of Goodwill like Bob Bigelow should applaud the work being done by others. We know that I really admire Bob Bigelow for doing what he's done and he's as we speak, he's going for what more these get put up a different cash rewards for studies over some adolescent, I guess, learn more about the work he's been doing. You know, it's not

Speaker 4: 43:00 Only Americans. Who've seen unidentified aerial phenomena. It's happened all over the world. Do you think the investigation into UFO's should be international?

Speaker 3: 43:11 I would hope that we're sharing the information with France, China, Russia. They have ongoing programs to study your thoughts. And I think it's an area where we don't have all the answers, but we have some of the answers and the more we share better, or we for all the countries, this is something that's beyond nationalism. That should be something that we recognize the world needs to know more. Now, Senator

Speaker 4: 43:38 You've said that you're prepared to go where science leads you on this topic, but do you think of it in science leads us to the conclusion that we have been visited by people from other worlds is the American public ready for

Speaker 3: 43:53 That? I don't know if the American public suede work, but I am. If you can prove scientifically that these UFOs are coming from someplace else, I'll accept that this is a great world. We live in. We're just a little blip and there's nothing to suggest that we are the only intelligences anywhere in this world who talk about this universe. I really

Speaker 4: 44:14 Appreciate your spending some time with us. I've been speaking with former Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Senator Reed. Thank you so much for your insights call anytime.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.