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California pivots on COVID-19 response as cases wane

 February 18, 2022 at 5:36 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

A first in the nation switch, California moves from pandemic to pandemic.

Speaker 2: (00:06)

We're taking the lessons learned and we're leaning into the future.

Speaker 1: (00:10)

I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is K PBS midday edition, Military personnel, health, health workers, battle. COVID in Arizona

Speaker 3: (00:29)

As with nursing, you know, we do get, you know, burnt out and we feel that, you know, we're, it's COVID is trying. It's very, it's a different beast on their own

Speaker 1: (00:38)

Art with fossil fuels and more on our weekend preview that's ahead on midday edition, California has embarked on an effort to live with COVID 19 governor Gavin Newsom has announced a shift in the state's response to the virus, moving from pandemic to pandemic.

Speaker 2: (01:12)

We move into a phase which should allow you confidence that we are not walking away, that we're taking the lessons learned and we're leaning into the future.

Speaker 1: (01:24)

That shift anticipates that the virus will continue to exist in the community, but vigilant public health measures can keep it under control. California is the first state in the nation to declare an endemic policy toward the virus. Joining me as K P S health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Well,

Speaker 4: (01:43)

Hey Maureen,

Speaker 1: (01:44)

In a practical sense, what does this change to endemic mean for people in their daily lives? Like will all mask mandates be lifted, have testing or vaccination requirements changed?

Speaker 4: (01:56)

Well, in terms of will all mask mandates be lifted, the state's mask mandate for, or for people who are vaccinated is go on now, local jurisdictions can do what they want. So we know up in LA county, they are continuing to have a, a mask mandate, but that's sort of what the governor was talking about in terms of like communities, uh, assessing the situation on the ground and taking appropriate steps. Now we did hear from the governor too, that they want to be in lockstep with communities. Um, but in terms of a, a change to their daily lives, you know, we've sort of been in this situation the last few months where, you know, aside from the, the mask requirement, there, weren't a, a lot of heavy restrictions, you know, on, on, on, on the business side of things. Um, so generally, you know, when the governor says, we're moving away from this crisis mindset, um, you know, moving from a more reactive approach to a more set approach. So it's not gonna be like, you're gonna notice a huge change from yesterday to today.

Speaker 1: (02:48)

The governor used the letters of the word smarter to outline the new policy. Can you take us through what they mean?

Speaker 4: (02:55)

Bear with me here for a minute, cuz there's a lot of letters here. So smarter, the S is stands for shots. So, you know, the state says, we know that vaccinations are the most powerful weapon, uh, in terms of fighting this virus. The is for masks, uh, talking about how we know that masks can stop the spread of the virus and in terms of what people can expect in their daily lives, that might be something where they said, Hey, if there is a variant that comes out, uh, we may have to re introduce some mitigation measures like universal masking, uh, a is awareness, um, in terms of, you know, making sure that they know what's coming, um, and how COVID 19 is spreading are as readiness. That's the understanding that when we talk about endemic, you know, COVID, isn't going away. Uh, and the states recognizing that they wanna be more proactive and ready to react. Um, and that includes monitoring things like wastewater, all that kind, uh, the T and smarter stands for testing. And the state basically says, we're gonna continue to provide this testing. E is education. They want schools to stay open for in-person instruction and they think that they can do that safely. And finally, the RN smarter stands for RX. We're talking about treatments. So like antivirals on Lon antibodies, continuing to use tho those as another, you know, tool in the tool belt to fight this virus.

Speaker 1: (04:06)

I wanna expand on something that you mentioned when it comes to an example of increased monitoring that goes along with this endemic policy, Newsom said, analysis of wastewater will be improved to search for signs of the virus. What happens if a surge or a new variant is detected?

Speaker 4: (04:24)

Well, it's gonna kind of de depend on what that surge or, or, or what that variant is. And if it's staying in one spot or if it's spreading statewide, uh, we heard the governor's team talk about that. They don't want to be too prescriptive in terms of like, even when you look at their response to Delta, in terms of, of the response Toron, you know, OCN a lot more contagious, less deadly Delta, more deadly. Uh, so they want to be ready, uh, to prepare, uh, for different variants in different ways. Um, but if they were to detect something in wastewater, like we have here in San Diego, they test wastewater regularly. Um, and it can give up to a, a few weak, uh, notice in terms of what's coming. Uh, if they saw increases, then, you know, we heard Dr. Galley said they would flood that area area with testing, uh, to see if they can get a, a track on the virus. They wanna work closely with cities and counties, Maureen.

Speaker 1: (05:11)

So does the new endemic policy take into consideration the special needs of underserved communities? Y you know, those communities who've seen the highest rates of disease and death?

Speaker 4: (05:22)

Yeah. So something the governor has said throughout the pandemic and he reiterated yesterday is that, uh, E is that equity will guide, uh, this plan and this framework. So that's something that we're definitely hearing. Um, even when he talks about, uh, you know, the S and smarter shots, uh, that we need to get, uh, boosters out there for people, you know, there's kind of been a low uptick for boosters. Uh, we are, are seeing generally, you know, some of that older population, the more vulnerable are the ones that are going out there and getting that, uh, but making sure that even the booster distribution is equitable. So something that's definitely top of mind for the administration,

Speaker 1: (05:53)

What's been the reaction of San Diego officials to the governor's endemic policy.

Speaker 4: (05:58)

We had a chance to talk with county supervisor and board chair, Nathan Fletcher. He also chairs the county's COVID 19 subcommittee, kind of in, you know, one of the front men in terms of the county. He says, he thinks that we're at a point now where we can safely and responsibly be aware, um, and, you know, recognize that COVID is gonna stay here with us, but that, that state of co you know, that we don't need to be there anymore. Um, he also touched on restrictions for businesses, which the state hinted at likely won't be super, super restrictive. Like we saw early on,

Speaker 5: (06:27)

You know, the probabilities, the, any restrictions moving forward is, is, is highly unlikely because again, and we now have the tools they're readily available. Folks can access a vaccine, a boost to our hospitals have better treatments. You know, we have some of the natural immunity that's been built up via infection. And the combination of all of that, you know, just puts us in a very different position and situation than we've been in, uh, for the last few years.

Speaker 1: (06:49)

So this endemic plan doesn't seem to actually change that much on a practical level. Did the governor explain why he's chosen to make this enough? Now,

Speaker 4: (06:59)

The governor says that California is more prepared than ever, uh, to tackle the pandemic. He talked about going back even a couple years ago, how we didn't know hardly anything about how the virus spread, uh, you know, how deadly it was, uh, what was likelihood people, uh, could go to hospitals or overwhelm the hospital system, um, and says that combined with, you know, recently cases have been, have been going down, um, uh, the, the vaccination wall that we have, and not just the vaccination wall, you know, people that have had COVID, um, and have some of that immunity, but he says that we're sort of here to meet this moment and, and, and we are prepared for the future. And he does say, you know, the approach isn't to let the virus just ravage us, but to be ready to act, instead of, you know, being in a more reactive framework, a more proactive, uh, response to this pandemic,

Speaker 1: (07:46)

K P S health reporter, Matt Hoffman. Thank you so much.

Speaker 4: (07:50)

Thanks, Maureen.

Speaker 1: (07:56)

The Pentagon has deployed about a thousand duty service members to civilian hospitals around the country to help with the latest COVID surge reporter, Lucy cop of the American home front project visited a Yuma Arizona hospital where active duty air force troops are working

Speaker 6: (08:14)

Since the beginning of the year. Captain fair and Adams and 14 other military personnel have called Yuma, Arizona, their home away from home.

Speaker 7: (08:23)

We didn't know each other when we first showed up, but we've got to know each other and you become family really quick.

Speaker 6: (08:29)

Adams, a clinical nurse is part of a team of 15 who arrived in the small desert town from Eggland air force base in Florida. They got here just 48 hours after they were to cast with an unusual deployment for active duty military troops, a COVID relief mission. Since then, they've been working side by side with the hospital staff

Speaker 8: (08:50)

From decir. Have you given room decir

Speaker 6: (08:53)

Tech Sergeant Franklin Cordone was also called for the mission.

Speaker 9: (08:56)

I think we had a few days turn around, uh, to get our stuff like any other deployment comes down from the, the chain my boss gets told by his boss and so on, and then eventually gets to us

Speaker 6: (09:06)

While Cordone and Adams didn't expect their next deployments to send them to the American Southwest. They both said the opportunity to serve is why they signed up. And this mission isn't a far stretch from how they spend their days on base.

Speaker 9: (09:19)

Interestingly enough, for me specifically, I, I work in a, a ward as well, taking care of COVID patients and myself and captain Adams with us. Uh, we, we work in the same section at work in Eggland and we take care of the same type of patients, honestly. So it's not too different for us. Honestly,

Speaker 6: (09:35)

Nearly 600 active duty military personnel have deployed to hospitals across the country since August back in October, Deb, AERs the chief nursing officer at Yuma regional medical center predicted a winter surge and began applying for federal aid.

Speaker 10: (09:51)

The community has such a high percentage of positive COVID right now we know within seven to 10 days of that high number, we, we get admissions

Speaker 6: (10:01)

To apply. Aiders had to prove that the medical center had exhausted all other efforts like using travel agency, nurses, delaying elective surgeries, and maxing out the number of patients she could transfer to other hospitals.

Speaker 10: (10:14)

So all I've done really when I do it is I follow the process that we have to follow. You have to go through your local health department, which goes through your state department and basically tell the need in our story.

Speaker 6: (10:24)

Part of Yuma's unique story aider says is its geographic location and huge influx of seasonal visitors.

Speaker 10: (10:31)

What we have is the winter visitors, visitors who come from Canada or the Northern part of the United States, because it's, it's nice and warm here. We have the migrants. Now this last time coming across the border, there was a lot of overwhelming migrants coming across the border. We are quite across from California. So as California clamped down on what people can do, they came over to Arizona.

Speaker 6: (10:51)

Not only is the hospital seeing more COVID patients, but it's also had a lot of employees call and say a says, it's not unusual to have 90 hospital staff out on a single day. That's creating a huge strain on nurses. Jessica Munez has been a relief nurse in UMAS COVID unit, since the start of the pandemic,

Speaker 3: (11:11)

As with nursing, you know, we do get, you know, burnt out and we feel that, you know, we're, it's COVID is trying, it's very different beast on their own.

Speaker 6: (11:19)

So she was happy to hear that military personnel were being flown in to help her team,

Speaker 3: (11:23)

You know, and we just tell 'em what we need done. And so it's good relief that we're feeling from that. Um, from the military support,

Speaker 6: (11:32)

Eight says she applied for an extension for federal aid and got it. So for Adams and Cordell, Yuma will be home away from home for a bit longer. I'm Lucy cop in Yuma, Arizona.

Speaker 1: (11:44)

This story was produced by the American home front project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting. This is K PBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh in our weekend preview art that looks at line and the border art that plays with fossil fuels, a new place set in a Japanese internment camp and some live streamed indie music. Joining me with all the details as KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans, and welcome Julia.

Speaker 11: (12:30)

Hi Maureen. Thanks for having me. Let's

Speaker 1: (12:32)

Start with oil painting and the, this is the fossil fuel kind. Tell us about the work of the Mexico city based conceptual artist, Minerva Cuevas.

Speaker 11: (12:42)

Yeah. This is a new exhibition at the Institute of contemporary art, San Diego's north campus. That's, uh, formerly Lux art Institute and Minerva Cuevas has three connected bodies of work that she's brought to this. And they're all kind of relating to this imagined future where fossil fuels have taken over the natural world. That alone isn't all that hard to imagine, but Cuevas takes it to the extreme and kind of fantastical. One of the works is this huge mural. It has deep oranges is in reds. And then the black is oil painted directly on the walls and in the mural, there's these oil Wells and those pump jacks in silhouette. And then also these hints at how animals in nature have been completely taken over. They have adapted to plastics and oil and in another series, she takes vintage cans or, or products that promise how clean oil is, and then plants plastic flowers directly in them. And my favorite is these landscape paintings. They're usually of the ocean and she partially dips them in thick tar and the tar dries as it's stripping off the painting kind of mid, and she'll have an opening reception and an artist talk tonight from five 30 to eight 30, and this is a residency. So Cuevas has a few set work days where she'll be working on new works in the series and the public is invited to come and watch. And there are two of those sessions this weekend, Saturday and Sunday from three to 5:00 PM.

Speaker 1: (14:18)

That's dark matter by Minerva Cuevas at ICA north in Encinitas on view tonight through May 1st now to the downtown library, there's a new exhibition opening in their ninth floor gallery space. Tell us about occupy third space two.

Speaker 11: (14:35)

Yeah, this is kind of a long follow up to an exhibition from 2014, that one was held at space for art. And this is a project from curator, Sarah Soleimani, and the show will be held in the downtown libraries gallery based on the idea of the Tijuana San Diego border, being a distinct space of its own in this exhibition, subtitled Placa eLab and focuses in on that relationship between language and visual art, particularly from the 1980s, until the present grounded in the ways language can be a tool of colonization. And some of the artists in the show there's Omar PTA, and we've recently seen his mixed media photography and poetry works. Those were on view at the former Lux art Institute space. Recently there's cognate collective Marco Ramirez era, Melissa Eros, and so many more. And the reception Saturday evening will be out on the dome terrace on the library's ninth floor. It's outdoors. There is a performance from, so Nadera Travis, who are this instrumental experimental Latin synth duo based in Tijuana.

Speaker 1: (15:45)

The occupy third space opening reception will be Saturday from six to 8:00 PM at the downtown library. And the exhibition will be on view through May 2nd. Let's move on to the theater. New village arts had to push back on the opening of their production of desert rock garden during the OCN surge, but they found a new significance in tomorrow's updated opening date, which is the 80th anniversary of executive order no 9 66, the 1942 directive to create the Japanese American internment camps during world war II. How is this connected

Speaker 11: (16:22)

This play desert rock garden it's set in 1943 in the Topaz war relocation center, which was one of the bigger incarceration camps in central Utah. And incarceration is actually the preferred term for these camps. Now for many people versus internment, which is increasingly seen as a kind of euphemism or a misleading term, but over the course of the war, Toba held more than 11,000 people. Um, one of, of the themes of this play desert rock garden is how this high desert environment was so harsh for the people sent there who were not used to those conditions. The majority of the residents had immigrated to San Francisco, for example, and the script follows two people, an elderly man and a younger girl who forged an unlikely friendship in the unlikeliest of conditions.

Speaker 1: (17:16)

That's desert rock garden produced by new village arts and performed at the Oceanside theater company stage with the official opening night, Saturday at 7:30 PM and a matinee on Sunday at 2:00 PM. There's also one more low cost preview performance tonight at eight. And finally some music tell us about rabbit light and their live stream set with radio Axiom.

Speaker 11: (17:40)

Yeah, rabbit light is a cross border duo and people who are familiar with the visual art scene in San Diego may know Francisco AME as the France gallery director. That's in San, and he's also an experimental instrumental musician. And along with Monica Camacho on vocals, rabbit light is an indie art pop band with really dreamy, electronics and vocals. And they've been releasing a string of singles lately, and another one is supposed to drop in just a few weeks and they're currently at work on a new album, and they also recently collaborated with visual artists, Avia rose Ram on the art and animation for their latest video it's for the track in flames. And we also have that video on our website. If you wanted to check it out,

Speaker 12: (18:31)

We were just in way,

Speaker 11: (18:34)

Rabbit light is playing a set with radio Axiom, which is a project of Javi Vasquez. And each session includes a few performances with a DJ between sets and in Saturday show, it'll be John jolly trio Castro, Nathan Hubbard and Curtis glad performing alongside rabbit light

Speaker 1: (18:53)

Radio. Axiom is Saturday at 8:00 PM. Live streamed on Twitch and on social media for details on these and more arts events or to sign up for Julia's weekly KPBS arts newsletter, go to, and be sure to check event organizers for changes or COVID protocols before heading out. I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans. Julia. Thank you.

Speaker 11: (19:21)

Thank you, Maureen. Have a good weekend.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a shift in the state’s response to the virus, moving from a pandemic to endemic. Plus, the Pentagon has deployed about a thousand active-duty service members to civilian hospitals around the country to help with the latest COVID surge. And, this weekend, art that looks at language and the border, art that plays with fossil fuels, a new play set in a Japanese internment camp and some live streamed indie music.