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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Transfer Of Power | Racial Justice

'Vaccination Super Station' Opens Near Petco Park

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY MATTHEW BOWLER

Above: COVID-19 vaccines at the Vaccination Super Station near Petco Park. Jan. 10, 2021.

UC San Diego Health, San Diego County and the Padres are teaming up to vaccinate at least 5,000 healthcare workers per day against the novel coronavirus. Plus, COVID-19 cases are rising among the essential workers San Diego depends on to stock its food and medicine. And during his first month in office, Mayor Todd Gloria has taken stances on key issues that separate him from his predecessor. Then, sometimes called “long-haul” patients, some people feel sick for months after becoming infected with COVID-19, even when their tests are coming back negative. Plus, several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first cases among such primates in captivity. Finally, KPBS’ Port of Entry podcast looks at how dating apps like Tinder are breaking down the U.S.-Mexico border wall with love.

Speaker 1: 00:01 The CDC urges, wider vaccine distribution.

Speaker 2: 00:04 Well, we clearly have enough vaccine at this point to begin to expand.

Speaker 1: 00:08 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid-day edition. COVID count rises among essential workers in groceries and pharmacies.

Speaker 2: 00:29 This is widespread. It's not just South Bay, South Bay, North County, everywhere in the County. Right now they're getting these reports.

Speaker 1: 00:38 It's explore the mystery of how COVID jumps species to infect gorillas in the San Diego zoo. And our podcast port of entry brings us a cross-border Tinder love story. That's a head on mid day a day. The centers for disease control today issued recommendations that all States should start giving vaccines to people 65 and older. And those with pre-existing conditions, the original recommendation prioritized healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities. Here's CDC director, Robert Redfield.

Speaker 2: 01:20 Well, we clearly have enough vaccine at this point to begin to expand and get more and more of the vulnerable individuals in our country. Vaccinated.

Speaker 1: 01:30 The CDC also says the government will no longer hold back vaccines for second doses relying instead on a continuing supply chain of vaccines from manufacturers, it's not yet known how, or whether California will begin immediately opening up vaccinations to all older Californians. But one model for mass inoculation seems to be getting off to a good start. About 2,500 healthcare workers were vaccinated against COVID-19 on Monday opening day for the vaccination Superstation at Petco park. Officials are hoping to get that number up to 5,000 a day. By the end of the week, the Superstation is a team effort by UC San Diego health, San Diego County and the Padres. And joining me is Patty Mason, CEO of UC San Diego health. Patty, welcome to the program warning. Why was the Superstation needed?

Speaker 3: 02:24 There is a lot of healthcare workers and in San Diego, almost 500,000. And, uh, the vaccine had been distributed to health systems who have been in the process of vaccinating their workers, but there are a lot of independent groups, physician groups, dentists, that's home health workers, et cetera, that didn't have ready access to the vaccine. And so we came together with the County of San Diego to set up an operational infrastructure to start reaching that healthcare worker population.

Speaker 1: 02:55 And who specifically qualifies as a healthcare worker, is that a dental hygienist, a hospital staff member, a veterinarian who qualifies

Speaker 3: 03:06 It's all, all of the above. Every everyone that you just named, um, as physical therapists and occupational therapists and social workers and psychiatrists and mental health providers and dentists, and, uh, that's all, all of the above. So it's a, it's a big population of, um, providers, um, which is why I think we'll get to this point in the next week or two, as we make more progress on that group that we'll, we'll, we'll be given the green light to start, um, vaccinating our patients, at least that's our hope.

Speaker 1: 03:38 How does the Superstation work? And you just drive to Petco park and get a shot.

Speaker 3: 03:43 Well, before you drive there, go online and you go to www dot vaccination, super station S d.com as a healthcare worker, you can go ahead and register yourself and then get in. You'll actually have a specific scheduled time when you go to Petco park to the parking lot, we have peds set up and you come into the parking lot. You check in at the registration, they check your credentials, your healthcare worker credentials, make sure you're registered. And then you drive forward to the tent. A nurse comes and vaccinate you. We observe you there for 15 minutes, unless you have allergies. Uh, and then we move you to a tent where you would be observed for 30 minutes. And then the whole row of cars kind of gets done at the same time. And then you drive out the other side of the parking lot. So you never, you never actually leave your car,

Speaker 1: 04:34 Which vaccine are people getting Pfizer or Medina.

Speaker 3: 04:37 So we're using Madrona at this point. It's a little bit easier to store and to keep than the Pfizer. Um, I think we could probably adjust that down the road, but we, you know, we really just conceived of this idea last, uh, last week kind of tried to remove as many operational hurdles as we could to get it up and operational.

Speaker 1: 04:56 Now the goal is to get 5,000 people a day vaccinated. Do we have enough vaccine to handle that volume?

Speaker 3: 05:03 It's a really important question. And I think the hope and the belief of the County, as well as UC San Diego, is that as we continue to vaccinate that the state will continue to allocate vaccine to us. So I don't know exactly what's in the, in the County stores right now, the County is defining the vaccine. Um, but as we work through those stores, we believe they'll get replenished. So we can do both the second dose as well as continued to do more healthcare workers.

Speaker 1: 05:32 And where is the staff coming from to administer these vaccinations?

Speaker 3: 05:36 So right now the, the base staff is UC San Diego health staff, physicians, nurses, medical students. Um, we are releasing a link for volunteers. We do believe this is the first of several superstations to come. So we're trying to develop the, you know, the infrastructure to take in volunteers outside of UC San Diego health to potentially support the efforts across the region.

Speaker 1: 06:02 Now, as I mentioned, the CDC today recommended that States begin giving vaccines to people 65 and older and people under 65 with documented comorbidities. What's your reaction to that news?

Speaker 3: 06:16 What I can tell you is that as a healthcare provider and leader, we are so anxious to get to our, um, older patients and our, in our sicker more complex patients. Um, we are desperate to get vaccines in their arms. Um, but we recognize based on the state and the local public health order that we need to address this healthcare worker population first. So we talk almost daily with Dr. Wooten, uh, uh, County public health officer to, to work through this population so we can get to those patients quickly. We're hoping that it'll be sooner rather than later, that it'll be in the next couple of weeks, even though we may not have finished all of the, you know, what's what we call when a, the healthcare worker population that will begin to start being able to get to our patients sooner rather than later. But, you know, we have this job of getting these healthcare workers done first.

Speaker 1: 07:08 And if the state decides to move ahead with that recommendation, how do you envision it happening here with more super stations?

Speaker 3: 07:17 I think what's going to happen is that again, the health systems in general have an infrastructure to reach out and vaccinate their patients. So for instance, at UC San Diego health, um, we've already looked through our electronic medical record. We've already identified our patients over 75 or, or who are complex or have co-morbidities that we need to address. And we've, um, you know, we've, we're ready to go, ready to schedule them, ready to send out the invite to them to be scheduled. Um, we just need kind of the go ahead to do it. So I think a lot of, a lot of that will be done through health systems and through providers, health care providers to the patient population. The, the key obviously is we need, we need the backseat to, to me from a patient perspective. That's the rate limiting factor right now is that we need more allocation of vaccines so we can get it into the arms of our seniors.

Speaker 1: 08:07 I've been speaking with Patty Mason, CEO of UC San Diego health. Patty, thank you very much for your time. Thank you. While healthcare workers and people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are among the first to get the vaccine COVID cases have sharply increased in another group of people, grocery and pharmacy workers, people whose jobs are essential, but have not been given first priority for the vaccine KPBS reporter max Rivlin Madlar reports cases among this group have more than tripled since December. And they are setting records daily. Max, welcome to the show. Good to be here. So how bad

Speaker 4: 08:56 Are cases among grocery store and pharmacy workers?

Speaker 2: 08:59 So according to information I got from the union representing many grocery store pharmacy workers, and a few other locations across the County. Uh, the numbers have gone up a tremendous amount. So in November 82 workers had tested positive for COVID-19 by December. That number had exploded to 404. And now this is information as of yesterday. So that was 11 days into January, 152 cases have been reported. And these comes from, uh, 97 different union work sites.

Speaker 4: 09:30 What's driving the spike in these cases.

Speaker 2: 09:34 It seems as though this is just following the general trend among the County, just basically because the spread has gone so widespread people can be bringing it in from home. They could be getting it at work. But the thing that they're trying to fight against is of course, spreading it to customers. And among one another, at this point, just giving the general widespread nature of COVID-19 in San Diego County, it's really tough to nail down exactly where people are getting sick. Hmm.

Speaker 4: 10:00 So what are supermarkets and pharmacies doing then to protect employees?

Speaker 2: 10:05 During the early days of the pandemic, the unions came together with, uh, the grocery store chains and came out with a couple of rules. Uh, people might've seen these in action. These include, uh, barriers between some tellers and people checking out the ability for people working in checkout to wipe down, uh, their, their, uh, point of service. Um, people are able to walk off the job if they feel that safety precautions are not being taken. If a customer is not wearing a mask, if they haven't been given time to sanitize their space.

Speaker 4: 10:37 Okay. You know, I'm curious, uh, are the cases among grocery store and pharmacy workers higher in some places around San Diego versus others.

Speaker 2: 10:46 So we have seen a different amounts of COVID-19 positivity in different areas in the County, but the union says that they're getting these reports from everywhere in the County. And that's because people who live in different places in the County, obviously work elsewhere in the County. Um, so this is widespread. It's not just South Bay, South Bay, North County, everywhere in the County. Right now they're getting these reports.

Speaker 4: 11:09 And you mentioned these essential workers are represented by a union. Tell me about the union and how they're advocating for these employees.

Speaker 2: 11:17 So this is a United food and commercial workers local one 35. Um, they're the ones fielding reports from workers, uh, about things like unsafe conditions. So one thing that they, a union chief told me in an interview was that they were able to go to a supermarket where a counter, which was counting the people that entered the store had been disabled. They don't know how, but basically those counters are important because they want to fight back against density. In these grocery stores. Obviously we've become accustomed to the lines that snake out of these grocery stores, some are larger and have more capacity, so they don't have a line. Uh, that's where these counters come really in handy because it lets them know, uh, if they've gone over capacity without them knowing,

Speaker 4: 12:02 Did you get any sense of how optimistic they are about getting grocery and pharmacy workers bumped up on the vaccine priority list?

Speaker 2: 12:11 So right now grocery workers are in group one C uh, in San Diego County, which is this huge group. Um, that includes, uh, to behind educators. It includes a lot of people involved in, uh, retail. I spoke with the union chief Todd Walters, uh, who's the president of UFC w local one 35. And he talked about the negotiations that are currently taking place.

Speaker 5: 12:34 A problem with that is there's, there's about 10 million people that fall into that category. And so right now there's a big fight within the state of everybody's trying to push their, their group to the top of list.

Speaker 2: 12:46 So obviously as we're seeing vaccines become expedited and more generally available, we're going to see some more clarification from the state that exactly who's going to get these vaccines. And when they're going to get it, obviously every different group wants their workers to be first. Um, but there's a pretty persuasive argument by grocery workers, especially because with outdoor dining closed, a lot of people are relying on grocery chains to stay in business. And not only that pharmacies to be the ones that distribute the vaccine. So one thing that the governor has been saying is we need to vaccinate the vaccinators. Well, if people working at CVS is going to be where you're going to get that vaccine, obviously the first people that need to be vaccinated would be those CVS workers.

Speaker 4: 13:29 How much of a risk is it to the general public to have grocery workers who handle food and pharmacists to handle medicine, be infected at such a high rate?

Speaker 2: 13:39 Well, I mean, the first problem is that it's a problem for the workers for people. We're not really sure. We don't quite have the data. Um, we know that spur the COVID-19 is very widespread right now. People should spend as little time as possible in grocery stores. They should take precautions. They should be masked when possible outdoors, even that's coming from the governor. Um, and, and the big problem is that it shouldn't be this high of a rate that we have now. Um, if you want to guarantee safety in all aspects of public life, that's why the stay at home order is in effect. So really it's, it's a risk of the general public to have as much widespread, um, infections as we have right now. And it's really tough to nail down and drill down into what is this safe and unsafe environment. Basically, what you can do is make sure that workers are working in the safest possible spaces. Um, and ultimately that leads to getting a vaccine.

Speaker 4: 14:31 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter max Rivlin, Adler, max, thanks for joining us. Thank you.

Speaker 5: 14:48 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Kavanaugh with

Speaker 1: 14:52 Jade Heinemann after just one month in office San Diego mayor, Todd Gloria will be giving his first state of the city address. Wednesday night, KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen takes a look at three ways. Gloria has already changed the direction of city government.

Speaker 6: 15:08 One of Gloria's first big decisions as mayor was related to energy, the city charges, SDG, and E fees to keep its gas and power lines on the public right of way, those fees are written into a contract called a franchise agreement that was signed in 1970 for the past year, activists have been pushing city officials to strike a harder bargain with the utility while negotiating a new contract. And they felt mayor Kevin Faulkner would be too willing to accept an offer made by the utility, not Gloria

Speaker 5: 15:39 Rejecting the bid by SD genie was an easy decision

Speaker 6: 15:42 Gloria throughout SDG and E's offer just a week after he was inaugurated. He's now preparing to set new terms for the utility that go further than what his predecessor wanted. Things like more money for the city's general fund and stronger commitments to renewable energy.

Speaker 5: 15:57 I'm trying to bring a different attitude and different approach to city hall. And that's one where we understand that we are the eighth largest city in the country. Uh, this franchise is worth billions of dollars. Uh, and we are going to negotiate, uh, aggressively on behalf of the people of the city. Yeah.

Speaker 6: 16:10 As a Republican ex mayor Faulkner was unlikely to support a city government takeover of electricity and gas services. That's a process called municipalization. Gloria says it's not off the table.

Speaker 5: 16:22 Yeah. Citi has been, I think, served well by its utility partner over the last a hundred years or so. I believe we can come to an agreement that works well for everyone. But if we can't come to that, we'll have to make a different decision. Another area

Speaker 6: 16:35 Where Gloria is changing the city's tune is COVID-19 Faulkner, was reluctant to punish businesses for violating the public health order. He said, the state's ban on outdoor dining was unnecessary. Gloria. On the other hand, supports the restrictions

Speaker 5: 16:50 Going around the city and seeing most businesses compliant with the public health order, and then observing a handful of others who are not, uh, that doesn't seem fair. It doesn't seem right. And, uh, as someone who is tasked with protecting and serving the people of this city, um, I believe it was necessary, uh, to start stepping up enforcement focused on egregious violators of the public health order,

Speaker 6: 17:12 December 30th, Gloria signed an executive order, directing the police and city attorney's office to site and prosecute those scofflaw businesses.

Speaker 5: 17:20 I recognize the frustration that is out there. You know, all of us are impacted, uh, to different degrees. Uh, and there's no way around this. Uh, the only way through it is to, uh, do everything we can to stop the spread, uh, advanced vaccinations as quickly as possible. And let's hope that we get on the other side of this sooner, rather than later

Speaker 6: 17:40 Area where Gloria is distinguishing himself from his predecessor is in his relationship with city employee unions last week, a judge invalidated San Diego's 2012 ballot measure proposition B, which denied pensions to newly hired city workers Faulkner was among property's strongest supporters. And even when it became increasingly apparent, the measure would be thrown out in court, Faulkner's still fought to preserve it. Gloria says the judge made the right.

Speaker 5: 18:07 I think it brings us closer to closure on this issue that we have been dealing with for years. Uh, something that I have always opposed, um, even when it was unpopular. And I look forward to the opportunity of working with city leaders, uh, as well as our employees, uh, to figure out a path forward, uh, that will put this issue to rest allows to focus on the many other issues, uh, that are, uh, demand attention here at city hall,

Speaker 6: 18:32 State of the city address Wednesday will likely reveal more about his approach to the job of mayor and the ways in which he's different from or similar to his predecessor

Speaker 1: 18:44 KPBS. Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen joins me now to follow up on that thorny issue of prop B the pension reform issue that galvanized city leaders about a decade ago, proposition B took away defined payment, pensions from most new city workers and replace them with 401k style retirement plans. It was supposed to be about saving taxpayer dollars, but that's not exactly how it turned out. And Andrew welcome. Hi Maureen. Thank you. Property was such a major issue back in 2012, but now, you know, some people, even in our newsroom don't remember what it was. Can you remind us why this was such a big deal?

Speaker 6: 19:23 Yeah, I'm one of those people I wasn't around when it was really happening, but I've, I've been caught up in all the coverage I've done since then. So in some ways we really have to go back to the nineties and the early aughts, there were cities across California, San Diego among them that were offering increasingly generous pensions to their employees. Um, pensions of course are guaranteed income in retirement. And these increases in benefits were not paid for, with an increase in contributions to the pension system from employees. They were unfunded. So, uh, San Diego's finances basically started to collapse and the taxpayers were left footing the bill, uh, many years ago by city workers accepted pay freezes. They accepted lower retirement benefits, but around, uh, you know, leading up to 2012, uh, there were a group of people in San Diego that felt that that simply wasn't enough that the whole system whereby public employees get guaranteed retirement income in the form of a pension had to end. And that's when they wrote prop B.

Speaker 1: 20:26 So it seems that former mayor, Jerry Sanders was quite involved in the creation of this proposition and the California Supreme court apparently ruled that he crossed a line and therefore decided to rule the measure was illegal. Is that what sort of put the nail in the coffin for this property?

Speaker 6: 20:45 It's a big part of it. Yes. So D was officially a citizens initiative placed on the ballot by a signature gathering campaign. If it had been sponsored by the city of San Diego, the mayor would have had to negotiate with the unions that representing city employees before putting it to voters. That's because of a state labor law that basically says before cities can cut the pay or benefits of their employees. They have to, at the very least sit down with unions, talk with them and see if they can come to an agreement. As the city has done many, many, many times before mayor Sanders admitted at one point that the decision to make prop B a citizens initiative rather than going through this labor negotiation process was explicitly because he wanted to avoid having to talk to the unions and he wanted, you didn't want to, you know, kind of put the outcome in doubt. So another official, uh, interestingly enough, in, in a deposition that admitted that proposition B supporters chose the June, 2012 election for this measure because primary voters skew conservative and they thought that it had a better chance of passing, uh, compared to, uh, placing it on a general election. And ultimately the measure did pass with a very big majority of votes cast, but turnout in that election was only 37% across the County.

Speaker 1: 22:06 Now city employees, except police officers hired after property were not enrolled in the city pension plan. What did they get? Instead,

Speaker 6: 22:14 They got a 401k plan basically, which is where you pay into a fund that invests in the stock market grows over time. This is really the norm nowadays in the private sector, of course, but in the private sector, you also pay into the social security system and the city of San Diego workers do not. They haven't, uh, since the early eighties. Um, so public employees say that this guaranteed income in retirement through pensions is one of the main draws to the public, uh, to public service where salaries and other benefits are often not competitive with the private sector. So, you know, having that security in retirement is, is one of the few things that cities say they have to, um, attract workers and, uh, you know, get the best talent out there.

Speaker 1: 23:00 Well, now that it looks like property, isn't going to be there anymore. How does the city plan to make up for this, or is it going to move all of those employees back onto the city pension plan?

Speaker 6: 23:11 Well, the city has been ordered to make the employees whole, basically that means give them exactly what they would have gotten as if prop B had never passed. Some employees may opt to actually stick with their 401k plans and that, that will be allowed others who joined the pension system. Um, it's likely they'll be allowed to take their 401k money and then inject that into the pension funds so that they become vested, uh, the details and the mechanics of this remedy are all subject to negotiation. So we really don't know the details yet until that negotiation has happened is expected to be

Speaker 7: 23:46 Very costly for the city at a time when the city really can't afford any extra costs.

Speaker 6: 23:52 Yeah. That that's the potentially multimillion dollar question. We really just don't have a good estimate for how much this will cost the city right now. Um, the city believes that I think the estimate was last year, that there are more, more than 4,000 employees that fall into this category of people hired after prop B was enacted and they were denied, uh, pensions will their 401k money, uh, cover all of the costs of bringing them into the pension system, or will there be a gap that the city general fund has to fill? We don't know that, um, you know, pensions involve a lot of complex math. There's an actuarial analysis based on an employee's age on their life expectancy. So there are just too many variables, I think right now to have a good estimate for how much this will cost. Okay. Then thanks

Speaker 7: 24:42 You so much. I've been speaking with KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew.

Speaker 6: 24:46 Thanks, Andrew. My pleasure, Maureen,

Speaker 4: 24:57 People who test positive for COVID-19 typically have symptoms like coughing or headaches that can last for a few days or a few weeks, but for a small number of people, those symptoms can linger for months and cause debilitating illness. Even after they test negative CAPP radio. Sammy, Kayla has been reporting on scientists who are researching, why as they push to support those so-called long haul COVID patients.

Speaker 7: 25:25 Last June, Michelle Soji was diagnosed with COVID with a runny nose, a dry cough, and some difficulty breathing. It was a relatively mild case, but that wasn't the worst of the illness

Speaker 4: 25:37 Up until I got COVID. I was very healthy. I was running 10 Ks. I was climbing mountains that were 13,000 feet, high

Speaker 7: 25:45 Months after she tested negative for COVID 25 year old Soji is still having trouble breathing and is constantly fatigued. This is a recording. So she took of herself on a recent stroll.

Speaker 4: 25:55 It's like my lungs are in this cage. And every step that I take every, uh, every breath that I try to inhale, uh, it's pressing against that cage

Speaker 7: 26:13 This fall. So Jay started getting care at a new UC Davis clinic for long haul patients like her. It's one of a handful of centers launched in recent months by doctors looking to treat and study the chronic effects of COVID-19. Dr. Bradley Sandersville is a pulmonologist at the UC Davis clinic. He says treatment can include physical therapy or monitoring of lung.

Speaker 8: 26:33 The focus of our clinic is really just to get people, someone to listen and talk to, and try to work through their symptoms as best that we can they'll have all answers, but at least

Speaker 9: 26:44 We can

Speaker 7: 26:46 About 10% of COVID patients have symptoms lasting more than a month, and a smaller number remained sick for three or more months. That's according to a UK survey, San bell at UC Davis says long haul COVID patients. Don't keep testing positive for the virus. Most are negative. After about two weeks, the virus makes some kind of long-lasting change to the patient's body. That's according to Dr. Greg [inaudible] at the Mayo,

Speaker 9: 27:09 We're thinking about maybe this is related to a hyper immune state or hyper inflammatory state where the body is sort of stuck in this mode of trying to fight an infection.

Speaker 7: 27:20 Jordan says it's possible that the antibodies produced while fighting a COVID-19 infection are actually impeding the way the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

Speaker 9: 27:29 Now that there are many more people infected with COVID and surviving the acute illness. Um, I think we're going to be seeing a lot more patients, uh, report the long-term difficulties. And this is just going to be a significant medical concern that we're going to have to deal with as a country, as we go forward

Speaker 7: 27:47 A few months into the pandemic long haul patients like Soji started connecting an online forums and an attempt to solve the medical mystery. One Facebook group has nearly 33,000 members Soshi says online support groups have been a huge help.

Speaker 9: 28:02 I think that the main struggle that we face as long haulers is the feeling of isolation and the feeling of folks not believing us.

Speaker 7: 28:10 So G was being treated at the UC Davis clinic for a while, but so she had to stop recently because her insurance no longer covers it. She's still learning to live with her current limitations. Now she's working on building enough stamina to be able to ride a stationary bike. I'm Sammy, Kayla

Speaker 9: 28:31 [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 28:35 Congestion, and a cough are some of the mild symptoms of gorillas who have tested positive for COVID-19. The virus has infected two primates at the San Diego zoo, Safari park and zoo officials suspect a third gorilla may also be infected here's Safari park, executive director, Lisa Peterson

Speaker 9: 28:55 Allow them to tell us what's happening through behavior and through what we see. And then we will intervene if needed based on the symptoms that, that show themselves at this point. Fortunately, the symptoms that we're seeing or what we would consider,

Speaker 4: 29:11 This is the first known instance of natural transmission to great apes in the U S so what does this mean for the virus and its ability to jump species? Joining me is Janessa. Jellema head veterinarian at the Sacramento zoo and assistant professor of zoological medicine at UC Davis veterinary school. Janessa, thanks for joining us.

Speaker 9: 29:32 It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Speaker 4: 29:35 Hey, so when you heard about the positive cases among gorillas at the San Diego zoo, were you surprised to be honest? I

Speaker 9: 29:42 Was not, uh, entirely shocked. Um, so gorillas are one of the key BC that we were concerned might be susceptible to Corona virus, even since the beginning of the outbreaks. Most of the zoological health professionals have been concerned that we might end up seeing, um, you know, Corona virus in this species. So, um, while, you know, we've put in measures, uh, to, to kind of keep these species safe. Um, it doesn't shock me that we have after this long period of time of struggling with the virus, um, in the human population, it is not surprising to me that we have now seen a case that has come up in a, in a

Speaker 4: 30:23 Great, what do we know about how gorillas may be affected by coronavirus

Speaker 9: 30:28 Since this is the first time we're seeing Corona virus in our gorilla population, we do not know at this time how severe the infection might manifest. Um, and so I am sure that the, uh, team of veterinarians who are incredible over at San Diego zoo Safari park, um, are going to be monitoring that gorilla troop very closely, uh, for any development of more severe clinical signs. It sounds like right now, the gorillas are having very mild symptoms or signs, but, uh, certainly as we all know, complications can occur. And, uh, I know that they are going to be very vigilant as things move forward and hopefully we'll gain more clues, uh, as we watch this group, um, and how they end up dealing with this infection, you know, that will give us more clues as to what kinds of signs and symptoms maybe, uh, other great apes might be susceptible to

Speaker 4: 31:28 Or other gorillas, you know, and how will these cases inform what you do at your zoo up in Sacramento?

Speaker 9: 31:34 I would say that while this makes me a little bit more alert and concerned for our great apes that we house at the Sacramento zoo, while we don't have gorillas, we do have a ring attends and chimpanzees with her also, you know, kind of in that same group. And so we are concerned about their health with that being said, since the beginning of this pandemic, um, we've been very cautious and have implemented a variety of different, uh, protective and safety measures to try to prevent infection in this group of animals. So, um, and that has been ongoing since, you know, early last year, um, before we even started seeing the community spread, uh, in the United States. So, um, and most of that is adapted from what we know about communication of the disease in humans, um, and we've adapted that to our animals. So, um, you know, there's a delicate balance that we have to strike between, um, you know, maintaining the behaviors and managing those animals and providing them exceptional health care and exposing them to, uh, potential diseases. So, um, so we're trying to strike that perfect balance by, um, you know, keeping socially distance from them, um, while still monitoring them very closely for the development of signs. And then also trying to maintain appropriate, uh, safety for our keeper staff, so that we minimize the possibility and risks associated with transfer of disease from our keeper staff to our clinic.

Speaker 4: 33:14 And, and it's a very delicate balance. I mean, the gorillas at the San Diego zoo are believed to have gotten the virus from an asymptomatic staff member despite following precautions. So, you know, will you be, re-evaluating the precautions taken at your zoo, given the cases here in San Diego?

Speaker 9: 33:30 Yeah, so, um, you know, we are always re-evaluating whether we can do things better. Um, you know, I do think that our current recommendations and what we put in place to protect our animals has, um, so far been working relatively well. Um, but it's important to maintain vigilance. And I think sometimes when you're dealing with, uh, you know, something long lasting over the course of months, or, you know, we're, we're going into our second year here of, of dealing with this pandemic, you know, uh, reminding people that we need to be as vigilant as ever, even though we know that vaccines are right around the corner is really critically important to maintaining that safety and protection for our animal collection. Um, I would also express that the zoo community is very communicative. Um, we definitely partner together to try to help each other. Um, and so we do have recommendations from our species survival plan veterinarians to help with great ape, uh, safety protocols and establish some baseline measures that all zoos, um, should try to implement in order to protect their gorillas from infection.

Speaker 4: 34:49 And from where you sit, are there any larger implications, uh, about maybe how this virus spreads given that it's jumped a species here?

Speaker 9: 34:58 I think we don't have all the answers yet. Uh, so this was just recently diagnosed and I'm sure there's a lot more information we can glean. Um, once we evaluate the specific strain that is in these, this guerrilla group. Um, but I don't think we can jump to conclusions here about, you know, any changes to the virus or, you know, changes with, uh, or mutations in the virus that have made it, um, more likely to spread or, um, infect different species. Um, I think what is more likely is that with our increase in human, in the United States, that we have increased risk of exposure and unintended exposure to our collections that we're trying to keep safe. Uh, so I think that is a more likely explanation, but I think there's a lot more I'm thinking we need to do to, you know, the answer for sure. There

Speaker 4: 35:57 I've been speaking with Janessa jell, Tema head veterinarian at the Sacramento zoo. Janessa, thank you so much for joining us. Thank

Speaker 9: 36:05 You so much. Anytime

Speaker 4: 36:12 You're listening to KPBS midday edition, I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh for years, smartphone apps have been playing matchmaker for people on opposite sides of the U S Mexico border on a new episode of KPBS border podcast, port of entry hosts, Alan Lillian Thall talks to a cross border couple who met through the dating app Tinder. The episode kicks off a new series focused on cross border love stories. The couple shares how their binational connection has shaped their lives in unexpected ways.

Speaker 10: 36:44 So I don't personally use Tinder. I'm kind of old school and think dates should happen organically. And with some degree of serendipity, like meeting someone at a park or grocery store or something like that, the thought of swiping right or left on humans, I've never met before really makes me cringe. But a lot of single people love the convenience.

Speaker 11: 37:07 I was just sitting there burning some time on Tinder and I saw her profile and I saw that she was from Mexico and I had never dated anybody that lived outside the country.

Speaker 10: 37:18 This is Matthew Farrell. And back in 2018, he was living in San Diego. When a girl from Tijuana caught his eye on Tinder.

Speaker 11: 37:26 I liked her profile. You know, she was really cute in the pictures and everything. And I thought we had a few things in common from our profiles. You know, she liked coffee and books and Marvel movies. And so I figured it was worth the cup of coffee to swipe, right, and start talking and see where things went.

Speaker 10: 37:42 The girl, Matt swipe right on was an [inaudible]. And in case you don't know how Tinder works to get matched, the other person has to swipe right on YouTube.

Speaker 8: 37:52 It was a long weekend for us to here in Mexico was a holiday. So I really spend almost entire weekends right. Left, right left until I saw his face.

Speaker 10: 38:06 Neither Anna, nor Matt were bothered by the fact that they lived on opposite sides of the border fence, even though a border relationship was something totally new for Matt.

Speaker 11: 38:16 I had actually never been to Mexico up until I met him

Speaker 10: 38:22 For Matt and Bolinas first date and across the border to San Diego. And Matt took her out to a nice restaurant. Matt says he liked Anna right away.

Speaker 11: 38:31 She's got this great laugh and a great sense of humor. And we do have a lot of things in common and have very similar temperaments. And it was just kind of this, this nice change of pace from what I was used to, um, dealing with, you know, dating online and everything in, in San Diego. And there's a lot of people that are very superficial and Anna was not that,

Speaker 10: 38:53 But, uh, she didn't feel the same

Speaker 8: 38:57 To me. It was kinda different for all the things that he said. I'm sorry, that, that the first day he spent almost day talking about concrete buildings and drawings. The entire day was washing his, uh, his clock. And that for me was a no for a second day.

Speaker 10: 39:18 Ouch. Matt does work in the construction industry, but it's probably not a good idea to nerd out on concrete buildings on first dates. Anyway, it took some convincing, but eventually on a gave in and went out with Matt again. And this time she invited him to her side of the border and Matt, a guy who grew up just a short drive away from Mexico. He had never been interested in crossing before he was excited that he'd get to see Anna again, but also super nervous about going to Mexico.

Speaker 11: 39:54 Terrifying. It was terrifying. It was terrifying. Uh, yeah. So, you know, growing up in Southern California and kind of suburbia and seeing all the headlines about how Taiwan is the murder capital of the world, and if you go down there, you're going to get mugged or, you know, you're going to get thrown in prison or the cartels are going to come after you. And, uh, she wanted to take me down to Baya to go check out one of the wineries. And so, you know, I just kind of took a deep breath and jumped in my car and went across the border and it was terrifying. But at the end of the day, you find out that all of those things are untrue. And we had this amazing day down at the winery and it was a really cool experience to have,

Speaker 10: 40:40 And maybe it was all that delicious via food and wine, but this time, and I fell for Matt too. And it was a fairly quick romance from there two years after that second date, Matt and Ana moved in together South of the border. So yeah, that guy, the one who was totally terrified of crossing the border, he now lives with Anna in Tijuana. The couple's love has just completely changed his mind when it comes to Mexico, he loves it. And he's even learned to appreciate the differences.

Speaker 11: 41:20 You know, there's, there's no running water for days on end sometimes. And, um, the first, the first month or so that I was here that took some real getting used to, and now I know that if we have running water, I should not take it for granted. But as far as, you know, being in a different country, it's not that much different than where I was in San Diego. I grew up in Riverside and in Southern California. And so a lot of that Mexican culture kind of bled its way North and vice versa with it bleeding South. And so, um, I, I think we had more in common than we didn't being able to grow up in such close proximity to the border. You know, where we're both down here and just kind of trying to build a really strong foundation. She wants to go back to work. And the plan is to, for me to move down here and save up some money and get an okay place up in San Diego and kind of move back up once we're in a position to be able to do so, I'm really happy

Speaker 4: 42:18 The way that things are right now with our family.

Speaker 11: 42:22 She's waiting for a ring. She's waiting for a ring. I love you too, babe.

Speaker 10: 42:38 In a time when we've had a president whose main battle cry has been to ignore the commonalities of people along the border, and instead push to build a big wall to block off Mexico. It makes me think of Tinder, love connections like Matt nanas, as I don't know, maybe small and unintended, but powerful acts of political defiance. It's like Tinder is melting borders. One match at a time, the internet technology apps, all of it can be very heavy and unhealthy. There's Twitter, trolls and doom scrolling and YouTube powered radicalization. But especially now with the pandemic and people being told to stay at home and away from each other, it's also become an incredible tool for connection and these cross border connections that have grown from these digital paths crossing. I just really love it and hope to see more of it

Speaker 4: 43:43 That was port of entry, host Alan Lilienthal, talking with Matt Pharrell and Ana Garcia. The couple, by the way, just got engaged on new year's Eve. Congratulations to them and to hear about another cross-border couple who met through a smartphone app, listened to the full episode by going to port of entry, pod.org, or by searching for port of entry, wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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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.