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

California Allowing Seniors 65 And Older To Get COVID-19 Vaccine

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY NOAH BERGER / AP

Above: Jim Clark, 86, receives a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from UC Davis Health on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Sacramento, Calif.

California officials expanding COVID-19 vaccines to those 65 and up because they are at the greatest risk of being hospitalized and dying. Plus, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa was the sole member of the San Diego congressional delegation to vote "no" on impeaching President Trump. And drivers thought they were getting a raise after a hectic year, but instead were told their positions are being eliminated. Then, "Falling" explores the delicate balances made by a family with an autistic son and what happens when those balances are upended. Finally, catch the drive-in premiere of a new atmospheric, gritty crime drama about an underground band, fame and an unhinged fan by Ben Johnson — all set against a backdrop of San Diego's beloved live music venues.

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego struggles with new COVID vaccine guidelines.

Speaker 2: 00:04 You'll see a lot of confusion about why you can technically get a shot, but in reality, you may not be able to get one

Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm wearing Kavanaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS midday edition Blah-blah-blah Senate trial of Donald Trump mean to the start of the Biden presidency,

Speaker 3: 00:29 All of that going quickly and to maintain, you know, to decide how to direct the attention of the public and the press, you know, that it can make it difficult to do all of those things. At once

Speaker 1: 00:41 San Diego supermarket delivery drivers lose their gigs to lower priced gig workers and a family faces the challenge of autism in a virtual production of the play falling. That's a head-on midday edition,

Speaker 1: 01:01 California 65 and over are now eligible to receive a vaccination against COVID-19. But healthcare providers in San Diego are saying not so fast yesterday. Governor Newsome gave the go ahead to expand vaccine eligibility to older residents in accord with the latest guidelines from the CDC, but local hospitals are advising seniors not to try to make an appointment for a vaccination just yet. The amount of vaccine needed is not available. And the organizational structure required to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of San Diego. NS is not yet in place. Joining me is Jonathan [inaudible], who covers biotech for the San Diego union Tribune. Jonathan, welcome back. Thanks for having me now. Some healthcare providers are concerned that this news about people 65 and older being able to get vaccinated will increase confusion and frustration about getting a shot. Now, why is that?

Speaker 2: 01:57 Well that's because we have more than 473,000 San Diego moms who were at least 65 and up and so far, the region has only received around 240,000 doses. So we're still at a point where supply is less than demand. The region has been focused on getting vaccine to people in nursing homes and people in healthcare. And we've had a pretty slow rollout in that regard about 80,000 San Diego gotten their shots. Now that first group of healthcare workers nursing home residents includes about 620,000 people. So basically we were struggling to vaccinate that initial group. And now this, uh, essentially means that about 1 million San Diego ones are at least on paper eligible to get vaccine. You can technically get a shot, but in reality, you may not be able to get one quite, just yet.

Speaker 1: 02:52 So the County and its health care partners are still engaged in vaccinating, the first population and that's healthcare workers and nursing home residents. Why is that process going so slowly?

Speaker 2: 03:04 So I've heard a lot of different reasons from different people, everything from, you know, vaccine hesitancy that, you know, the fact that not every healthcare worker who has been offered the vaccine has chosen to take it at this point. Uh, the fact that this whole effort started during the holiday season. So some people prefer not to get their vaccine immediately knowing that they would probably have to get their second dose at a time when they would be off from work. You know, we've heard, uh, complaints that the County and that the state aren't getting enough funding for this whole effort, uh, that there aren't enough people who are trained and available to administer vaccine. And I think frankly, just a lot of confusion, even among people in those first groups about exactly when and where and how they can get their, get their shots. So, you know, you could probably go on from there, but those are at least some of the issues we've been hearing.

Speaker 1: 03:57 San Diego is not the only County with inadequate supplies of vaccine. So why would governor Newsome make this announcement if counties weren't ready?

Speaker 2: 04:06 Well, it kind of goes back to the previous day. So on, on Tuesday, the CDC and the federal government, uh, basically announced that States that haven't already begun vaccinating people who are older and have preexisting medical conditions, uh, really need to start doing that as soon as possible. So the federal government on Tuesday urged States to open up vaccine eligibility, uh, immediately, you know, the state the next day came out with a statement saying that, uh, that they would be doing that. But you know, it is going to be up to the counties to implement that on a local level. So orange County has already started San Diego County run vaccination sites. Won't actually be immunizing people 65. And up until maybe the week of January 25th,

Speaker 1: 04:56 I know San Diego County is making some ambitious plans about vaccinations. What are their new goals?

Speaker 2: 05:03 So the big goal is to vaccinate about 1.9 million San Diego ones by July 1st, that represents 70% of people in the County who are age 16 and up. So the vaccines that are out there right now have been cleared for people who are 16 or older, depending on which of the two vaccines we're talking about. And so to get there, what we're going to have to do is nearly quadruple the rate of vaccination. Right now, we're at around 6,000 shots a day, and we're going to have to get up to around 23,000 shots a day and then do that each and every day between roughly the end of this month, beginning of next, that's going to require going from having one vaccine Supersite at Petco park to four for such sites around the County. We're going to have to have 12 of what the County is calling is points of distribution. These are smaller places where people who are otherwise unable to get a shot, but are eligible to get it, to get vaccinated can go. Um, and the County has said, they're willing to spend about a hundred million dollars to build up the infrastructure and pay for the staff it's going to take to do this.

Speaker 4: 06:14 What's the situation right now? Are healthcare workers still the priority for getting vaccination?

Speaker 2: 06:20 Yeah, the basic system for the time being at least for the next week or so is still nursing, nursing, home residents, people in healthcare. Uh, by the end of this month, we might see more widespread vaccination for older adults. And then by the beginning of February, we may see essential workers, police officers, uh, grocery store workers, teachers, uh, start to get their shots, at least from what Dr. Wellbutrin mentioned yesterday during the county's weekly briefing there,

Speaker 4: 06:51 I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter Jonathan Wilson and Jonathan, thanks so much.

Speaker 5: 07:08 President Donald Trump is the first us president in the country's history to have been impeached twice. Us representatives overwhelmingly voted in support of a resolution, finding Trump guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors for inciting violence in the us Capitol on January 6th, yesterday's vote in the house of representatives, followed hours of debate. Here's how speaker Nancy Pelosi. We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against a common country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love. House Democrats from California. Once again led the second impeachment charge against president Trump, but they aren't the only key players from the golden state. Most of the States, Republican members of Congress are still among Trump's staunchest defenders. Here's K Q E D politics reporter Merissa Lagos'

Speaker 4: 08:05 Congressman Tom McClintock of Roseville did not support attempts to undermine the election last week voting instead of whole Joe Biden's electoral college victory after a violent mob storm, the Capitol, but on Wednesday, he was among the first to speak out against impeachment.

Speaker 5: 08:20 Think of a more petty vindictive and gratuitous up then to impeach an already defeated president a week before he has to leave office

Speaker 4: 08:31 McClintock spoke through a face covering that red. This mask is as useless as our governor. He said he didn't like the remarks Trump gave to rioters before they marched on the Capitol, but called it simply a fiery speech to partisans San Diego, Republican Congressman Darrel Eissa agrees like many Republicans Eissa equated last week's armed attack on Congress with black lives matter protest. Last summer I used to says with just days left in the presidency, the question is, is he a clear and present danger? And he clearly isn't. The president has acted substantially the same for four years of California's 10 GOP members of Congress, only the central Valley's David validate voted for impeachment, but fellow Republican, Kevin McCarthy, the house minority leader whose district borders, validators, and who has been a loyal ally of the president. Again, stuck with Trump for a closer look at McCarthy's career. Here's my colleague KQD politics editor, Scott Schaffer.

Speaker 6: 09:27 When Kevin McCarthy spoke on the house floor yesterday, the Bakersfield Republican said president Trump was partly to blame for inciting the insurrection, but he said, impeaching the president again would only divide the country further.

Speaker 4: 09:40 I understand for some this call for unity may ring hollow, but times like these are when we must remember who we are as Americans and as history shows, unity is not an option.

Speaker 7: 09:53 It's a necessity

Speaker 6: 09:55 Boys. Maintaining unity within his own ranks has been a hallmark of McCarthy's leader.

Speaker 7: 10:00 He's been able to keep moderates in the party, relatively content, uh, and he's been able to keep the more conservative, the more activist members of the parties relatively in line as well.

Speaker 6: 10:11 That's Republican operative, Sean Walsh. He says ever since McCarthy's days in the state assembly, he's used his people skills to rise above the competition.

Speaker 7: 10:20 He's not in your face, he's not threatening. He's not pulling his shoe off and banging it on the table. Um, and you feel pretty comfortable being around him

Speaker 6: 10:29 While attending CSU Bakersfield in the late 1980s, McCarthy worked as a staffer for local Congressman bill Thomas, a moderate Republican McCarthy was able to parlay the relationships and connections. Thomas had to win a state assembly seat in 2002 former Republican campaign strategist. Dan Schnur recalls that McCarthy soon established distance from his political mentor.

Speaker 7: 10:54 And he got to Sacramento as an elected official in his own, right? It was clear that he leaned more conservative than Congressman Thomas had

Speaker 6: 11:02 McCarthy soon became the assembly minority leader while Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor Duff. Sunheim was chair of the California Republican party. At the time he says, McCarthy always found common ground with the more moderate governor.

Speaker 7: 11:16 So I never heard a cross word between Kevin and Schwartzenegger because they would kind of work it out and what they agreed on they've kept their commitments.

Speaker 6: 11:26 When Trump got elected president McCarthy was the top Republican in the house, political strategist, Mike Madrid, who's known him for decades, says McCarthy always keeps his finger on the pulse of his party's base and acts.

Speaker 7: 11:40 And I think more than anything that really, I think explains his dramatic shift from being a very moderate reasoned force within the Republican caucus in Washington to kind of want to Trump's main allies, but now as

Speaker 6: 11:54 The president's approval rating sinks and some Republicans jumped ship McCarthy is facing a potential challenge to his leadership Madrid who recently left the Republican party and helped form the anti-Trump Lincoln project says McCarthy is faced with a crucial decision. Does he stay

Speaker 7: 12:10 And restore, uh, what exists of American democracy or will he continue down the path of playing the political game of politics and undermine the constitution and demonstrate fealty to a failed leader? Who's proven himself a traitor

Speaker 6: 12:24 Under McCarthy's leadership house. Republicans picked up 10 seats in November, including four in California. Now says Dan Schnur comes the hard part.

Speaker 7: 12:34 McCarthy's greatest challenge on the path to what he hopes will be the speakership two years from now is being able to convince those Republicans who are still loyal to Trump. That he's one of them while being able to reach out to a broader ideological slab of Republican candidates and office holders, who might have become much more uncomfortable with the president's actions over the last several days.

Speaker 6: 12:57 And that will test McCarthy's considerable political skills more than ever.

Speaker 5: 13:03 That was K Q E D politics editor, Scott Schafer Democrats, along with 10 Republicans voted to impeach president Trump Democrats, along with 10 Republicans voted to impeach president Trump Darrell. Eissa the only Republican representing San Diego in the house voted against impeachment, San Diego, his other four representatives, all Democrats voted for impeaching president Donald Trump. I'm joined now by USD political science professor, Casey Domingez, who studies the presidency. She joins us with a look at the impact. This vote will have Casey. Welcome. Hi, thank you so much. As we just heard, most of California's Republican representatives voted against impeachment, but there were still 10 Republicans who voted to impeach. The president did that.

Speaker 8: 13:48 Well, first of all, it's, it's worth noting that all the impeachments that have been brought against presidents have been highly partisan. Um, and so there's a little historical footnote here that this is maybe the most bipartisan set of impeachment articles that have been brought. No, of course there was never really a vote in the house to a Patriot Richard Nixon because he resigned, uh, knowing that he, that the vote total would be higher in the Republican party. So in that sense, there are more Republicans who supported this impeachment than, uh, that we've ever seen. Um, and on the other hand, it's still a very partisan process and is not really that surprising, uh, that members of the president's party support him. Although this particular incident is a little, perhaps a little bit surprising, right?

Speaker 5: 14:33 What's the significance of California lawmakers, both for and against impeachment in these proceedings?

Speaker 8: 14:39 Uh, well it says something about the fact that there are some places in California, um, that elect Republicans, where there are a lot of Republican voters and, uh, members of the Republican party are judging that their own voters and especially those that support them in primaries, um, are still supporting the president. Um, there's, there's something of a feedback loop there, right? So that there's an expectation that they might face political consequences for going against their party's president. And, uh, you know, there's no way to know whether that's true, but that seems to be the judgment that they're making. How do you see

Speaker 5: 15:13 The second impeachment and the reasons for it affecting president Trump's legacy?

Speaker 8: 15:17 Well, it would certainly be a part of his legacy. We can no longer claim to be going through a peaceful transition of power and to the degree that this impeachment lays the responsibility for that at the feet of the president, you know, that that's a stain on his legacy, for sure. Um, you know, there's, there's certainly the first impeachment as well. And, uh, you know, the, I'm sure the president would like for the economic performance during the first three years of his administration to be part of his legacy, but there's also the pandemic and the, the, the recession that resulted from that. And a lot of division in the country that will certainly go down as part of his, how he gets remembered by history. Hmm.

Speaker 5: 15:55 Will you remind us what this impeachment means in a practical sense

Speaker 8: 15:58 At the moment, it's a historical footnote that he is the only president to be impeached twice, but, you know, in a, in a more meaningful sense, it opens the door to the Senate trial, which will take place during the Biden administration. And that trial can bring with it, the possibility that he can be barred from running for office in 2024, which would have a big effect on the politics of the next four years

Speaker 5: 16:20 And Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell has rejected democratic calls to bring the Senate back immediately to convict president Donald Trump. Why have the Senate trial after Trump is out of office?

Speaker 8: 16:32 Uh, you know, I think, I think it goes to that, that other point about, um, barring him from holding office in the future, uh, and to the degree that McConnell and other Senate Republicans haven't unequivocally said that they're going to vote to acquit him a Senate trial in which he was convicted would really be, uh, a closing the door on his legacy that he, if he was the only president ever to be impeached and convicted. Right.

Speaker 5: 16:56 All right. And do you have any predictions in terms of the outcome of the Senate trial?

Speaker 8: 17:01 Well, I think it kind of depends on the kinds of information that are unearthed by the subsequent investigations. Um, you know, now that there is, there are all these investigations of, uh, what the events and the mechanisms by which people got to the Capitol and what they say that they were listening to, and whether they, you know, blame it on the president in the course of their own trials, whatever comes out may have an impact on how the Senate eventually decides to vote in this case, although you could definitely see Republicans rallying to the president's side. Um, and so if that's the case getting 17 or 18 Republicans to vote to remove him would be, it's certainly a high bar, no matter what

Speaker 5: 17:40 Do you think the decision to impeach the president just a week before he was set to leave office will impact the next administration's ability to achieve its goals, bipartisan

Speaker 1: 17:50 Support. Of course,

Speaker 8: 17:51 There's a question about history and, and, uh, the precedent that sat there. And then there's a question about the Biden administration's first hundred days, you know, the, the partisan margins in the Senate are razor thin. The Democrats have taken control on because of the Georgia Senate races. Um, but only with the vote of vice-president soon to be Kamala Harris, do they get to control the Senate? And so the Senate needs to still operate on a very bipartisan basis. Um, and there's a lot that the Biden administration wants to do, wants to deal with the pandemic, wants to, um, enact a whole bunch of other legislative agenda items about, uh, jobs and climate change and other things. And, uh, to get all of that going, um, quickly and to maintain, you know, to decide how to direct the attention of the public and the press, that it can make it difficult to do all of those things at once. But managing that will fall to Chuck Schumer in terms of making the Senate work on all those things at the same time to the degree that the Senate is capable of doing that. And it'll be up to Biden to direct the public's attention, uh, in ways that benefit his agenda. And also continue this process of, uh, finishing the impeachment, uh, in the Senate trial.

Speaker 1: 19:02 I've been speaking with USD political science professor, Casey Domingez. Casey,

Speaker 8: 19:06 Thanks for your insight. You're very welcome. Thanks for asking

Speaker 1: 19:17 [inaudible]. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann this week, Uber and Lyft drivers, along with labor unions filed a lawsuit in the California Supreme court challenging the constitutionality of proposition 22 KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler says delivery drivers here in San Diego are already feeling its impacts.

Speaker 8: 19:43 Last month, delivery drivers that have Vaughn's in San Diego were called in for a meeting with managers. These drivers have been working serious hours during the pandemic, delivering groceries and refrigerated trucks to older people and people with kids stuck at home. The drivers thought maybe they were getting a bonus or a raise after a difficult year. Instead, they were told their jobs were being eliminated and that they were going to be replaced by third-party gig workers. At the end of February, one of those workers is 27 year old Matthew, who did not want his full name or his voice used in the story because he's still employed by Vaughn's, which is owned by Albertsons. Matthew told us he struggled to tell his mom and disabled father for a few days that the person who had been supporting the household would be laid off in the middle of a pandemic. Orally LaBelle is a labor law professor at the university of San Diego. It's clearly a monetary incentive in the end. All of these corporations are acting out of bottom line costs having, and I think what's happening is that Albertsons has, uh, decided

Speaker 4: 20:48 That, uh, deal with, I believe grub hub will be more efficient in terms of their liabilities. Um, and in terms of their costs of delivery,

Speaker 9: 20:59 She said businesses like grocery stores are now in Bolden to use gig workers after the passage of proposition 22, which was passed by nearly 60% of California voters in November after gig economy, companies spent over $200 million supporting it. The proposition provided a carve out from several state court rulings and a new state law that made companies like Uber, Lyft or door dash hire. Many of the people that found full-time work through their apps. Instead, transportation based companies are now exempted from having to do that, saving them millions of dollars.

Speaker 4: 21:32 If they had to fully employ or deem their delivery, people, employees, it would increase costs in such a way that they would maybe fold and leave California. That was their claim.

Speaker 9: 21:45 But Albertsons contends prop 22 had nothing to do with the changes it had made to its business model. In a statement, it told KPBS that the decision would allow the company to compete in the growing home delivery market. More effectively, Lou bell thinks it's irrelevant, whether Albertson's trucks up the change to prop 22, because the whole industry is now embracing the model

Speaker 4: 22:07 With delivery. There is an efficiency argument where the same person who's working through this gig is then serving both restaurants and delivering from different grocery stores. And in this way they can divide their hours and their time and their human energy into many more tasks that they're they're filling throughout the day.

Speaker 9: 22:33 Advocates for prop 22 safer delivery and transportation services. It provides flexibility for workers who might not be looking for a full-time job or want to make their own schedules, but union leaders like the United food and commercial workers local one 35, chief Todd Walters thinks this will just lead to the eraser of good paying jobs.

Speaker 10: 22:53 Every employer in the state of California is looking at this and drooling over this because these app based drivers, the companies are not paying unemployment. They're not paying disability. They're not paying social security. They're not paying the taxes that the independent contractor pays for. That. You look at how much right now we rely on unemployment and state disability because of COVID imagine the more companies would go to independent contractors. Those, those social networks are going to get hit really hard

Speaker 9: 23:21 Are Matthew. The Vons driver was making $18 an hour. Over two years on the job. Vons did offer to reassign him to a fulfillment center in Irvine. He says he won't be taking them up on that and couldn't understand why the company was letting him go at a time when its profits have been shooting up. He says that with 13 deliveries a day, he hasn't had time to think about what he'll do when he becomes unemployed. When the country will still be in the midst of a financially punishing pandemic, max Lynn Adler, KPBS news [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 24:06 As COVID numbers, continue to rise and America hits dark milestones in this pandemic. I, new source is helping to connect you with financial medical and mental health resources in a panel discussion. The event is called facing the pandemic in 2021 lessons learned and tips for the year head I new sources, Jill Castellano is moderating the discussion and joins us now. Jill, welcome. Thanks for having me. So what prompted you all to do this panel? Well,

Speaker 11: 24:35 We at our new source are really pushing ourselves to find new ways to connect with and engage with the communities that we cover. We think it's really important, especially now when everyone's a little bit apprehensive and there's a lot to be worried about. And there's a lot that we don't really understand, especially when it comes to COVID-19. So we want this to be a really tangible opportunity for people to learn new tools and new resources that can help them navigate and get through this pretty unprecedented time, especially communities in South Bay, where we know the virus is spreading really rapidly, and there's a real high risk in that area. That's why we're hosting this event in both English and Spanish. We're really excited about the opportunity to do that.

Speaker 5: 25:22 That's great. And, and tell me who will be on the panel?

Speaker 11: 25:25 Yeah, this is really cool. This is my favorite part is just the panel that we've put together. The group of panelists is they each bring their own unique perspective to this conversation. We have Michael Weiss. Who's someone who we've written about before in our reporting. He's a COVID 19 survivor who spent 10 days on a ventilator at sharp Chula Vista hospital. His mother passed away while he was on a ventilator. His uncle also died from the virus. So he's intimately familiar with what this virus means and the human impact that it can have. We also have Nancy Maldonado. She's the CEO of the Chicano Federation. It's a nonprofit group that advocates for Latino communities in San Diego County that has played a really big role in pushing for more and better communication and resources for these communities. Mayor Mary solace will be joining us too. The mayor of Chula Vista, who's managed the city's response to COVID-19. And then we have Corrine McDaniel Stevenson. She's the director of the Institute for public health at San Diego state university. So she's there to provide that scientific perspective and answer questions like how bad are things really, and how soon are we to getting that vaccine. So each person really brings their own perspective and I'm excited to bring them together for this discussion.

Speaker 5: 26:44 And as we settle into this new year, what do you hope people are able to take away from this discussion?

Speaker 11: 26:50 I would really hope that everybody can walk away with at least one new tangible step or resource they didn't know about that can make things just a little bit easier for them this year. After the event, we'll be providing everyone who attended with a resource sheet that includes mental health resources, physical health, like if you're sick and you don't know where to go as well as economic and financial resources. So if you're having trouble paying your bills, paying your rent, if you need cheaper, free food, where do you go? We'll be providing that in both English and in Spanish. And we'll also be making that available on our website. So I really hope that makes people breathe a little bit easier.

Speaker 5: 27:29 And remind me again of when this panel discussion is taking place Thursday,

Speaker 11: 27:33 January 14th, at 5:30 PM, you can join us on zoom and register@inewsource.org. You can also watch live on Facebook and on YouTube.

Speaker 5: 27:43 You've done a lot of research on this pandemic and actually even have a report coming out later this week. What trends are you seeing in San Diego case numbers?

Speaker 11: 27:52 Well, Jade, the trends are not looking good. Cases are up 10% from just a week ago. Deaths are up 22%. That's according to data from the CDC from Monday the vaccine though, it seems like it's around the corner. It's really far off. We have a lot of work to do before then outbreaks are still on the rise. So we're not out of the woods yet.

Speaker 5: 28:12 I know all of this will be a big part of the conversation I've been speaking with. I news source reporter Jill Castellano, who is moderating and upcoming panel called facing the pandemic in 2021 lessons learned and tips for the year ahead. Jill, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks so much for having me on

Speaker 1: 28:39 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Hyman. How do you love someone who is difficult to love? That's one of the questions posed by the play falling, which will be performed in a virtual reading this week. It explores the delicate balance is made by a family with an autistic son. And what happens when those balances are up ended, the stream performance of falling by Deanna gent is not just about autism. It's also in support of a San Diego program for kids and teens on the autism spectrum. Johnny me is Gary Cramer, executive director of the San Diego, nonprofit unscripted learning and artistic director of national comedy theater. He's also a performer in the stage greeting of falling and Gary, welcome to the program. Thank you. Thanks for having me. What did you choose this play to present to the public about the realities of autism?

Speaker 5: 29:34 The opportunity of seeing the play performed live a couple of years ago and it just rang very true. It seems to up

Speaker 7: 29:42 Very well with what many of the parents of kids in our program have to deal with, uh, which is what happens when your kid suddenly gets older and how do we deal with them? And what does that do to the structure of the family? It just seemed like a real natural fit. We were looking to do something virtual public facing for the program, uh, as a fundraiser as also to bring awareness to the organization. And it just seemed to line up very well.

Speaker 1: 30:08 Can you give us an idea and outline of what the play is about?

Speaker 7: 30:13 Um, play centers around a family with a son who is 18 years old, he has grown as teenagers tend to do, and he's reached the point where based on how he presents, uh, he has become physically dangerous to the family and it comes to a head on one day when the grandmother comes to visits and she's not completely aware of what the situation is. And what does that do to the fabric of the family? How does each person in the family have a different point of view, uh, as to how to deal with this situation?

Speaker 1: 30:46 And you say some of the families of the kids and teens, you work with struggle with some of the same issues.

Speaker 7: 30:51 Yeah, I mean to some degree and most of the kids in our program, uh, don't have quite the physical issues, uh, as the individual in the play does, but it's certainly relatable. And certainly within the autism community, it's well known and you know, what do you do? It's not just, if you're a teen becomes potentially physically dangerous, but as the parents age, if the teen isn't, it has to live with the parents for their whole life, what do we do? How do we face that situation? And that's what the parents in this play are faced with. Do we send a teen to a group home and can a group home love and take care of their child the same way that they can.

Speaker 1: 31:29 Gary, tell us about your organization, unscripted learning and its approach to teaching kids on the autism spectrum.

Speaker 7: 31:36 Unscripted learning was founded about three and a half years ago by, uh, myself and Richie plush, who is also a cast member at the national comedy theater. He also happens to be a behavioral analyst and we realized that there was a synergy between improvised theater, which is what we do at the national comedy theater and the way that kids and teens are taught to, uh, enter life, uh, who are on the autism spectrum. I mean, things like making eye contact and reading emotions and expressing your emotions. Clearly, all those things are synergistic between improv training and autism training. They're very, very similar. And we thought, I wonder if there's a way that we can tap into that. And that's how it started. It started with just a brief conversation and the program has grown and now we're running classes. So we've been running classes since 2017 and we teach improvised theater, or we use improvise theater to teach social skills to kids and teens. And it's like a gateway into the learning. So it's not a recreational class, it's more therapeutic, but using the concept of fun and play to teach the social skills.

Speaker 1: 32:44 Now, how have you been dealing with the challenge of providing these classes on zoom?

Speaker 7: 32:49 Yeah, it was, you know, that's a challenge to everybody, right? And we switched to zoom right away. We almost, within a week of the lockdown happening, we were unsure if it was going to work or not. And the kids switched over more seamlessly than our teachers did. You know? Uh, they're very good at tech, uh, kids in general. So, you know, we made the classes a little bit shorter. There's certain things you can't do. Of course, on zoom. It's hard to make eye contact on zoom, uh, with a room full of, of individuals, but yet some of the kids actually found it better. There's a lot of social anxiety. And when you're by yourself on your computer, very often, it's a safer place or people feel safer than being in a classroom. So some of the kids actually dove into it, loved it, you know, one or two kids, it didn't work out as well, but for the most part, the transition to zoom has been very good. In fact, we're looking at once, this is all over maintaining some level of zoom workshops, which we could do nationwide, not just in San Diego,

Speaker 1: 33:48 Have the outcomes in remote learning, been just as good as they were when you had in-person classes. Sure.

Speaker 7: 33:55 We, we don't do, uh, results-oriented testing, you know, week to week to see, you know, what's happening now, what's happening now. But anecdotally hearing from the parents of the kids and teens in our program, what we have heard is that this has been the thing that they look forward to all week, despite the fact that they're on zoom throughout the week with remote learning with school in general. But this is sort of the time when they can actually have fun and socialize and be with their peers. Um, because so much of remote learning is very strict and rigid and it has to be our program a little bit looser and it's more socially oriented. So it has gone very, very well.

Speaker 1: 34:33 As you've been saying, the national comedy theater is a partner of unscripted learning. People might assume all these lessons are humorous. Is that the case?

Speaker 7: 34:43 No, you know, it, we, we joke that the, uh, comedy aspect of it is sort of the gateway into the actual learning part of it. So it's almost, it's not a trick, but it's using the fun nature that comes through improvise theater to actually get to the teaching rather than the other way around. So there's real science behind this. We just use the level of fun and humor to engage the kids quickly. So that being said, the kids are hysterically funny. We've done two actually performances with them over the last couple of years, obviously not this year where they were on stage and they were absolutely brilliant, you know, autism and sense of humor are unrelated. And so a lot of these kids focus on comedy all day, that's their thing. And they are surprisingly funny. They are unfiltered, which is amazing. You know, just someone telling you exactly what they're thinking at the moment. Uh, it's the most honest level of performance you can find. So, yeah, genuinely funny. Uh, but no, it's not a comedy class for people on the autism spectrum. It's a social skills class using improvise theater and comedy as a gateway to it. What about the

Speaker 1: 35:56 You're presenting falling? I know it's a drama, but does it have humorous moments?

Speaker 7: 36:02 There was a couple of light, humorous moments in it for the most part. It's, it's a pretty powerful, uh, production. So it's a departure from what the national comedy theater would do. Uh, w NCT is not really involved with it, um, with the exception of, you know, myself straddling those, those two worlds. But, uh, yeah, it's a pretty serious piece that the play runs about an hour. So it's not an overly long, uh, production, uh, but it's, it's kind of a scary time for this family and what are they facing and how do they deal with it and what does it do to a marriage and what does it do to a family? Um, w there's only five people in the production. So it's a, the mother, father, the son, the daughter, and the grandmother, and that's it. And, uh, so it's a pretty serious piece, to be honest, it's not for kids.

Speaker 1: 36:47 Well, and can you tell us exactly what the reading of a play is? Like? It's not just one person reading it,

Speaker 7: 36:54 Correct. Yeah. It's almost as if you would see play readings are done very often live in person, and they're usually done with new productions, um, where you'd have all the actors standing in front of a music stand, for example, facing the audience. So the actors still have their scripts. Um, you don't see it on zoom because the scripts are out of view of the, the camera, but it's a slightly informal version, uh, of what an acted out piece would be, if that makes any sense. So we're, we are on script still, but it's zoom was so we're all in separate windows. We're not, we're not in the same place at the same time because of the pandemic. Of course.

Speaker 1: 37:34 Now, what would you like the at-home audience to take away from this production?

Speaker 7: 37:39 I think what's important is that people recognize how real the situation is that the issue with autism and what it does to a family is a much bigger deal than a lot of people would think that that is represented on television. That's not just a cute, funny quirk that some people have that these are lifelong issues that families face and the challenges and decisions that they need to make in their lives. It affects their entire life, decades and decades of their life. So it's a serious thing. It's something that can be managed, but it's something that is very complex and delicate. And that's really what the place shows the complexities and different points of view on a pretty serious subject.

Speaker 1: 38:21 The virtual play reading of falling is available for streaming any time from today through Sunday, full price ticket, support the educational work of unscripted learning and are available through unscripted learning.org. I've been speaking with

Speaker 9: 38:36 Gary Cramer

Speaker 5: 38:36 Executive director of the San Diego, nonprofit unscripted learning. Gary, thank you very much. Thank

Speaker 12: 38:42 You so much for having me appreciate it.

Speaker 5: 38:48 Fan boy is a new film by San Diego musician writer and filmmaker Ben Johnson. It centers around a fictional band filmed in a variety of San Diego live music venues with local musicians and starring roles. It's also something of a love letter to San Diego's music scene. The film will premiere today with drive in screenings at South Bay, driving KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dickson. Evan spoke with the filmmaker, Ben Johnson about putting this project together

Speaker 13: 39:18 In this film were following a struggling band as they start a tour and contend with an overzealous fan. And we also felt a new detective who's trying to find her place. What kind of story were you wanting to tell here?

Speaker 12: 39:34 What I wanted to tell was what people would do for even the smallest slice of fame and how much you would rearrange your life and do these things. If that's something that you've been going for. So the band is kind of made of people that almost made it, and they put together by a guy who finances it and the financer is the drummer and they get out on the road and they play a show like their first show and they realize, Oh, this guy's just not going to cut it. And so it's about dreams and aspirations and how other people can derail them. If they're not serious about what they're doing, or if they bite off more than they can chew, because fan boy comes to the show and he's a good drummer, but he's a little bit on the hinge, but he just, you know, he sees, he has a niche that he could fill much better than the person who's currently filling the niche. It's about the extent that one would go to, to grasp fame, kind of their last grasp and it's to show and disseminate our world, which is the live music going to shows underground rock scene and disseminate that into mainstream culture via crime drop.

Speaker 13: 40:46 And here's a scene where fanboy played by Ben Johnson starts to cast some doubt with Gilberto, from the band who is played by John Kodak.

Speaker 9: 40:57 Hey, would you sign that for me? Oh, um, yeah, it was interesting. Yeah. First night or two, or what are you going to do? Hopefully leave, forget about it. That's the thing. I'm a pretty straight up guy. So I'm going to say something here. You guys need a better drummer. Is that guy like a close personal friend related to somebody? I mean, jobbing sticks missing snare hits. You guys could do way better. Um, that is straightforward. That's me.

Speaker 13: 41:31 So you have the subtext of aggression and violence, and there's a sort of commentary on toxic masculinity that gets kind of appended as the story unfolds, but not completely. Freddy is a violent person. Can you talk a little bit about why you wrote that character, the way that you did

Speaker 12: 41:51 Freddy thinks he's doing the right thing. There's definitely a trigger for each one and the trigger is his heart being in the right place, but the way it triggers him and what he does to deal with the situation is obviously way far beyond how anyone should really deal with those certain situations. If you see injustice, you don't go try to annihilate the person immediately. Who's doing the kind of these smaller, smaller injustices. So yeah, he is unhinged, but to him it makes perfect sense. And he he's, he doesn't see himself as toxically masculine. He sees the world as so out of joint that he needs to correct people, other people's behavior. And he also is driven by he's a guy that almost made it too, but he derailed himself through his violence and his aggression and his attitude. And he wants to get back in it, but he doesn't necessarily see his own violence and aggression as violence and aggression. He just sees them as, as necessary parts of making the world. Right. Which of course they aren't.

Speaker 13: 43:02 I want to talk a little bit more about casting and how you have musicians rather than actors in a lot of these roles, particularly the fictional band. What does it mean to have local musicians in, in these parts?

Speaker 12: 43:19 So the band I cast, um, with people that I had been in bands with before, and I already knew I play, I work and playing in a band with John Coda and then Arab Bella Harrison, who I played in bands with way back in the day, um, in the like late nineties and Alia jaywalk, uh, who I played in a bandwidth shortly, a couple of years ago, they are both music teachers. So I kind of have the lyrics and the kind of idea for the songs to put together. And then I asked them and they are both wonderful actresses and an amazing musician. So I knew that that would be really easy. And, um, and then Tommy, yeah, I worked with Tommy as well, Thomas kits us. So that's how I cast the band. Just kind of like, I know you can do this, so let's do this

Speaker 3: 44:31 [inaudible]

Speaker 13: 44:35 I think this film will really fit that missing space in a way of going out to see bands, um, may also be very bittersweet though, kind of a melancholy to see these places like the soda buyer in the first scene. Can you tell me what it has been like for you to be finishing off this movie and releasing it in the pandemic when we can't go to these venues and we can't see live music

Speaker 12: 45:00 Bittersweet? Definitely. I mean, not even really that sweet. I also work at the Casbah, so I haven't, you know, I've worked there 23 years and four nights a week, so they're generally three bands a night, so there's some big, big math there with the amount of bands I've actually seen. An and I mean, it's been, it's been weird, you know, I'm finishing this up and I'm seeing these shows that we play on this film and, and everything. And, you know, maybe it'll be a slice where people, you know, love it and feel great about that. And, Oh, wow. Look at that. And, and like you say, some of it might be kind of a, like a morning

Speaker 3: 45:37 That was KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon Evans speaking with Ben Johnson. Who's new movie fan boy will premiere at the South Bay drive in theater tonight.

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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.