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California will lift mask mandate as omicron cases fall

 February 9, 2022 at 4:41 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:00)

California eases its mask mandate. The CDC says it may be too soon. We

Speaker 2: (00:05)

Have and continue to recommend, um, masking in areas of high and substantial transmission.

Speaker 1: (00:11)

I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Henman. This is K PBS midday edition. Another round of paid COVID sick leave is approved for California workers. The

Speaker 3: (00:29)

Impact on workers who don't have the choice to work from home or have enough vacation or sick time to cushion. This has been pretty profound.

Speaker 1: (00:38)

We follow efforts to stop migrants drowning in the all American canal and a Mexican artist imagines new forms of masculinity at her show in San Diego. That's ahead on midday edition.

Speaker 1: (01:02)

By this time next week, vaccinated San Diegos will not have to wear masks inside. Most public places, county health officials say they will follow state guidelines to lift the mask requirement. After February 15th, a sharp decrease in coronavirus cases from the peak of the Omicron surge is the reason for easing the mask mandate. But one restriction that is not changing yet is the requirement for kids to wear masks in school, state and county officials say they are working on that. Joining me is KPV S health reporter, Matt Huffman. Hi Matt. Hey Maureen. Now how sharply have coronavirus cases dropped to cause health officials to lift the mask mandate?

Speaker 4: (01:43)

Well, what we're hearing, um, state officials, the state health department actually is that there's been a 65% decrease, uh, in cases since the peak of the Omicron surge. And that was just, we saw that a few weeks ago too. Also, Maureen, the state is saying that, you know, hospitalizations, we know that there is definitely a lag factor from when cases come to when those hospitalizations come and they say that those are starting to plateau a across the state

Speaker 1: (02:06)

On vaccinated. People will still be required to wear masks, though. That must be hard to enforce.

Speaker 4: (02:12)

That's gonna be, uh, very challenging for businesses to enforce, keep in mind. And we've been here before too, you know, this other one was implemented in December. This mask mandate the universal one. Uh, when we saw cases sharply increasing, we had it there before and yet we saw a lot of local businesses saying, Hey, I don't want to be the mask police. You know, uh, the state did put out some guidance saying for businesses saying, you know, that they can choose to ask people, they can do a vaccine, you know, verification system say, Hey, are you vaccinated? Uh, if not, you have to wear a mask. They can implement their own mask mandates. Um, but it's gonna be tough for businesses to sort of choose, you know, uh, where stand on this, what

Speaker 1: (02:47)

Are the exceptions? Where will vaccinated people still be required to wear masks pretty

Speaker 4: (02:53)

Much any public place that requires some sort of like transit. So we're talking about like airports, you know, every time you go on the airplane, you have to wear it. Not only when you're like getting your bag checking in when you're actually on the plane, public transit. So that includes things like if you're taking any kind of boating, public transit, or even like a trolley, something like that, or one of those sprinter trains, um, also includes things like hospitals, long-term care facilities and some of that's due to federal regulations as well, too. So, uh, there is still universal masking required in some places, but obviously, uh, masks can come off for vaccinated people in a lot of indoor places. Now,

Speaker 1: (03:26)

Now Los Angeles county is not lifting its mask mandate next week. Is that right?

Speaker 4: (03:30)

That is right. Yeah. Los Angeles county they've sort of had this position for a while that they say that they are not gonna be lifting their mask mandate. Um, and we know that the, that, you know, when you look at the triggers and stuff like that, we're still in the red, you know, San Diego county, even, uh, showing that there's still a high transmission, even though cases have gone down likely the same up there in Los Angeles county. Uh, but we have heard from our health department that they will be following the state guidance that they will not be getting ahead of it, so to speak, or they will not be continuing with the indoor mask mandate. I'm

Speaker 1: (03:59)

Curious us about what the mask requirements are for big events, like the super bowl this Sunday. Yeah.

Speaker 4: (04:04)

You know, there was a lot of attention paid to the last game that was there when the governor, uh, was photographed with that as mask a couple times, but SoFi stadium, uh, they have some of their own requirements. That's where that game's gonna be played, uh, up there in Los Angeles. They require, uh, either full proof of vaccination or a negative of a recent negative COVID 19 test. Uh, now in addition to that, uh, they say that masks are required at all times, uh, during the game. And they say obviously that that's because, uh, of a Los Angeles county public health order, um, and that's, unless you're actively eating or drinking, let's

Speaker 1: (04:35)

Talk about masks for kids in K through 12 schools. What are county officials saying about that?

Speaker 4: (04:42)

Yeah, so that mandate is still in place. You know, that still is there, along with the public transit hospitals, all that kids still have to wear masks in schools. And we know that schools have been a driver of infection, you know, not just for kids in general, but for kids taking it back home. And then we just heard here in San Diego county, uh, the chairman of the county supervisors, Nathan full lecture, uh, he introduced a motion to have county, uh, staff work with the state to try to, uh, change these mask rules to slowly phase them out. And he basically says, uh, you know, look, we've had a very high uptick in terms of at least first doses here in San Diego, more than 90% of residents that are ages five. And over now we know that some of that's been lagging for some of the younger kids, but he says, you know, now is the time that passed on a unanimous motion for the board. Um, and we have heard from the state that they say, you know, while they are implementing these changes in terms of the 15th that they recognize, and they are working on making changes inside of schools. So I would say within the next couple weeks, there could be some news in terms of masking inside of schools after

Speaker 1: (05:39)

California announced an end to the mask mandate, the CDC director in Washington says now is not the time to lift the mask mandate. Here's what CDC director, Dr. Rochelle, Wilinski had to say about it yesterday. Right now

Speaker 2: (05:53)

Our CDC guidance has not changed. Um, we have and continue to recommend, um, masking in areas of high and substantial transmission that is essentially everywhere in the country. In public indoor settings, we continue to recommend universal masking in our schools. Why

Speaker 1: (06:09)

Does the CDC director say states should wait?

Speaker 4: (06:12)

Well, Maureen, you know, she did an interview with rooters where she talked about hospital CAPA city, and she points to that as one of the most important metrics that we're watching here. And we know in San Diego county and California, some of those hospital rates have been, have been going down for COVID for sure. Uh, but she says, you know, nationwide that a majority of hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID cases right now, still. So she's pointing to that saying, look, you know, and, and majority of parts of the country, hospitals are being over Elm and we need to slow the surge. And we know that masks work, you know, there was that new CDC study that came out. So they're saying do everything you can still, while we're still at high levels of transmission, keep in mind while the mask mandate is going away here in San Diego, we're still hitting the red levels for transmission. So it's still high. So she's saying we need to do everything we can to slow that transmission. And she points that schools specifically saying that they're recommending that schools continue, uh, universal

Speaker 1: (07:01)

Masking to counter that what are California health officials pointing to about why this is a good time to lift the

Speaker 4: (07:07)

Mask mandate? They're saying that the situation has improved and sort of, uh, going in line with what they've been doing the whole entire time is they're following the science. Following the data case rates are dropping in certain it to the state and the majority of parts of the state that they say. Um, and they say now is the time. And it'll be interesting to see if there's any pushback or, or if there's any resistance in terms of changing the masking inside of schools. You know, we know we hear from a, you know, maybe a vocal minority of parents or maybe a vocal majority of parents, uh, that they want to have choice. Uh, but don't be surprised too. Uh, when you see these mask requirements way on the 15th, Maureen, that a lot of people are probably still gonna wanna wear their masks, or you'll probably still see a lot of people wearing their masks, especially with transmission, uh, still being in those red levels.

Speaker 1: (07:48)

I've been speaking with K PS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Thank you. Thanks

Speaker 4: (07:53)


Speaker 1: (08:00)

This morning, governor Gavin Newsom signed into law. Another round of paid COVID sick leave for California workers. The law provides workplace protections as well as two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave for COVID infections. Policymaker hope the added coverage for state workers will help suppress Omicron infections just as California prepares to do a way with its indoor mask mandate next week. Joining me now is Cal Matt report Al Sam. Welcome.

Speaker 3: (08:27)

Thank you. Thanks for having me. Can you

Speaker 1: (08:29)

Start off by telling us what was approved in this new deal by lawmakers? So

Speaker 3: (08:34)

The leave policy requires companies that have 26 or more employees to provide a up to 80 hours of paid leave for COVID related reasons. There are some differences from the policy that was in place last year, for example, to get the vaccine or to recover from side effects, a worker would get just 24 hours off. Also instead of getting the full 80 hours at once, uh, worker would be able to get 40 hours. And then for the second 40, they would need to show a positive test for themselves or for a family member that they need to stay home, to take care of.

Speaker 1: (09:08)

How have workers been faring since the state's previous sick leave mandate expired in September? Yeah, we

Speaker 3: (09:14)

Seen either people going into work sick because they need to pay their bills. And that has led you more of a spread of the virus. Um, in December, the state recorded 445 workplace outbreaks and the state public health department says even that's probably an under count. So in it, you know, prolongs the labor shortage and it, it adds to the spread. It causes more people to be out sick. Um, others have had to forego pay or leave their jobs. Those who have kids whose schools have had outbreaks, they have needed to stay home sometimes multiple times. So the impact on work workers who don't have the choice to work from home or have enough vacation or sick time to, you know, cushion, this has, has been pretty profound.

Speaker 1: (10:04)

You mentioned this applies to companies with 26 or more employees. Now this is obviously a big deal for those eligible for renewed coverage, but it seems like plenty of workers will be left out of these new protections. Is that the case?

Speaker 3: (10:18)

It is the case in California, about 90% of companies have, uh, under 26 employees. So that exemption does leave out about one in four workers in the state at the same time. You know, these small businesses are the ones that can't really afford to take on that cost. So, uh, that's kind of why this has been, um, a while in the works to come to some kind of compromise that provides leave to some workers and, um, tries not to put, you know, more small businesses, um, out of business. You

Speaker 1: (10:53)

Know, we actually had a question from a listener who was curious as to why the new round of coverage will only be retroactive back to the beginning of the year, since the last round of statewide, COVID leave actually expired last September. Um, that would leave out three months of coverage. Do we know anything about why that

Speaker 3: (11:12)

Is? Yeah, that's a great question. And the reason that the leave expired back in September was because it was funded by a federal tax credit that is no longer available. So it's taken some time for the state to come to a compromise with business groups, for example, about how to continue this leave, that businesses will be funding, but without, you know, hurting them further. So the package actually includes different for such as small business grants, um, research and development tax credits. And it also, um, opens up emergency relief funding for the governor to, to provide, uh, increased capacity for testing and vaccination efforts. So it's, it's kind of a package meant to address the needs of, of a few different groups and interests

Speaker 1: (11:59)

In the time since the previous sick leave coverage expired. Uh, we saw the Omicron surge peak across the country. How did that impact a workforce that was short on paid virus? Sick leave?

Speaker 3: (12:10)

I think we saw two, two things happening. One was that you had people trying to power through because their livelihoods or their workplaces depended on them. And they were, you know, continuing to work regardless of exposure. Um, and because for some people, the OCN variant systems were less severe. It sort of impacted people's behavior differently than in the past. And as a result that did create more danger for those who are still at high risk. Um, on the other hand, I think for a lot of people, especially those who don't have the ability to work remotely, um, the pandemic has been a real time of reflection about what work means, what are the risks, what are the benefits? And, you know, for those who have a choice, how do they want, want to spend their, their time and their skilled? So I think the impact on the labor shortage is that some people don't, you know, have the choice to, to drop out of the workforce, but some are really rethinking, uh, what they want to do and, um, how they want to do it.

Speaker 1: (13:10)

What new provisions have been made for employees under the new sick leap policy.

Speaker 3: (13:15)

So, as we talked about, the paid leave is retroactive to January 1st and the law doesn't require employers to collect documentation for the retroactive leave, but it does give them the option. And it's broken up a bit this time where you can get 40 hours up front, but for the second set of 40, uh, you do have to provide a positive test for yourself or from someone in your family.

Speaker 1: (13:39)

And this has been a key priority of labor organizations in the state. What's been the response from them now that this has passed.

Speaker 3: (13:46)

Yeah, labor groups have been satisfied that the legislature and the governor have heard the concerns that they've been expressing from months, you know, since bef or the prior leave expired in September. Um, in particular, some unions noted that a lot of frontline workers tend to be people of color. So it's this paid leave is one step to try and bridge that inequity between workers who have remote ability to work and a lot of paid sick time and vacation time, and those who don't

Speaker 1: (14:15)

And any sense of how long this new coverage will last

Speaker 3: (14:18)

Until the coverage lasts until September 30th of this year to accommodate not just the current surge, which we're start just starting to see subside, but in the event of future outbreaks as well,

Speaker 1: (14:29)

We mentioned earlier that governor Newsom signed this law into effect today. So what's next.

Speaker 3: (14:34)

It will take 10 days before the law goes into effect. And, um, not only will the paid sick leave bill go into effect, but it's part of a package of emergency relief for COVID that includes, you know, increased testing capacity money to the state department of public health, to the department of corrections, to amp up testing vaccine efforts, outreach, um, as well as the, uh, small business grants and, and tax credits and research and development for businesses. So I think the hope is really to meet the needs of, you know, various interests throughout the state.

Speaker 1: (15:09)

I've been speak with Cal matters, reporter Samia, Kamal Samya. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank

Speaker 3: (15:15)


Speaker 1: (15:24)

You're listening to K PBS midday edition. I'm Jade Henman with Maureen Kavanaugh. Now we've hit a gram milestone of more than 80,000 Californian's lives lost to the COVID 19 virus for the California report as part of a K Q E D series of remembrances of people who've died from COVID. We hear from the family of a farm worker who lived in Madera in the San Joaquin valley. His granddaughter ma Beunos is a reporter with K BPR, the local NPR station in Fresno. And she brings us this tribute.

Speaker 5: (16:02)

My grandpa's name was Thema Soto, but we all called him Bama. He died in December 20, 20 a week before his 69th birthday. And since his death, you know, I've had a lot of time to think about his legacy and what his decisions meant for me and my future. I just feel this extreme sense of gratitude. My grandpa taught me the value of hard work to have pride in my work and that nothing was out of my reach. My grandpa was born in Pueblo, Novo Durango, Mexico in 1951. And he started working at a very young age at about 12. He started going TOSA to work picking tomatoes. He did that every year for a while. And when he was 16 on a trip there, he met my grandma Ali. And she says he was very direct and very interested in her from the beginning, He went up to her and said, you are going to be my wife. She told him you're crazy. And that Saturday he send mariachi that played music from Northern Mexico. And that's my grandma singing, et Antonio, After that, they married and had five kids together. And then shortly after that, they moved to Mali, which is a small town on the border of California and Mexico. And there he sold tos and his daughter, my mom Mo gas says some of her favorite memories are helping him cut the cabbage and tomatoes.

Speaker 6: (17:58)

I just remember he used to make like the best tacos, the best flour to eat tacos with the best salsa sauce he make like really good spicy salsas. That was his

Speaker 5: (18:08)

Thing. My grandma says my grandpa always had this bigger dream to move to the United States. He never went to school as a kid. And she says that he didn't want that for his kids. So in 1985, Bama took his wife and his kids through the desert to cross the border.

Speaker 7: (18:25)


Speaker 5: (18:33)

He had the idea that his children had to grow up in the United States and that they were going to be the best there. She says he was always proud of their accomplishments. And when their two oldest children graduated from university, she says he cried so hard. My mom, Alicia of says, sometimes she felt like her kids love their dad more than her because she had to be the strict one. But my mom remembers her dad being even more strict than her mom, especially

Speaker 6: (19:00)

When he came from a long day from work and we would see the truck and we would see the truck and we would run home, make sure that house was clean and everyth go was nice and tidy. And, uh, cause puppy Thema was coming. He was

Speaker 5: (19:15)

Coming home from the fields where he picked garlic, olives, and oranges, and really all the crops in the central valley. And he did that for 40 years, but he wanted his kids to strive for more. Uh, he would

Speaker 6: (19:26)

Tell all of us, you better pay attention in school or this would be your few do well in school. And, uh, I, I took it literally. I wanted to get straight A's because I did not like working in the fields.

Speaker 5: (19:40)

My puppy, Thema kids remember him as this tough love kind of dad. But that really changed when he became a grandfather. My mom had me at 20 years old and she a single mother. So many people told her she was making the wrong decision by keeping me, including my grandpa. But she was determined to prove him and everyone else wrong. She was gonna be a successful single mom because her dad taught her to be hardworking and determined. So she started working at a bank and now she works as a lending consultant. My grandpa would always say, which means work hard because we were born good looking, but poor all in all. There were 15 of us grandchildren. My grandma says my grandpa would often count them.

Speaker 5: (20:35)

So we started counting them. She says every few years, he'd say, how many are there now? And he'd name us, but not by our actual names by the nicknames. He'd give us. One of my cousins was, which is Spanish for radish because he blushed easily. And another one was, which is swimmer in English because he was trying to swim in the tub at only six months old. And I was Monan Jr or his ma YPI when I was a kid he'd call. And he'd say the UPPI, do you want me to pick you up from school today in Spanish and after class I'd run out and I'd see him waiting for me in his pickup truck, wearing his jeans button up shirt, hat, and his signature mustache, which he died black regularly. Uh, while the rest of his hair turned gray. And uh, on one of those days, I remember we stopped at the gas station and he called out to a woman on the street. He had told her, be careful, immigration agents are driving around the neighborhood. He was always looking out for his undocumented community. And for us grandkids

Speaker 8: (21:45)

Morning released to

Speaker 5: (21:50)

My grandpa, had all of his grandchildren's birthdays memorized and he'd call us every year on our birthday. Here's the last voicemail. He left me on my birthday in 2020.

Speaker 8: (22:04)


Speaker 5: (22:14)

I could always count on my B the ma. He taught me what unconditional love is. He was the second father to all of us grandchildren. And he was even a father figure to his niece and nephew who didn't have a present father. When the pandemic started, my Bobby, the MOS took it very seriously. He did have to go to work in the fields though, but that's pretty much all he did. Uh, and then in late November, my mom, Alicia contracted COVID from working as a housekeeper at the hospital. My B the must took care of her then a week or so later, he contracted the virus. And so did my mom,

Speaker 6: (22:56)

My body was in a lot of pain and all I can think of, I'm like, I hope that my dad is not in the same pain that I am going through. And the next day, when we learned that he had had passed away, it was painful and it's still painful.

Speaker 5: (23:13)

He had been sick for a few days. And my mom, Alicia tried convincing him to go to the hospital, but he didn't wanna die alone. My mom, Alicia worked at the hospital, so she told him she would check on him, but he still said no. When he died, my mom, Alicia found him after working a night shift at the hospital, his kids, and most of his grandkids showed up at the house shortly after hearing the news. But we were right parked right there, outside the driveway. This is my cousin, Melanie. I remember

Speaker 3: (23:44)

The things so vividly. I remember, I remember my mom screaming really loud and she's like, oh, no, no, no. Like you're lying. Like in Spanish, she was like, you're lying. You're lying. No, he's fine. He's fine.

Speaker 5: (24:00)

My puppy, the last passed away on December 13th, 22, 20. He died in his sleep on his side with his hands classed together in front of him for everyone, including my mom. The grief is still very real.

Speaker 6: (24:16)

Doesn't feel like it's real. And it's, it's been a year. And in a month, you never wanna go through that pain that you, that your parents are gone, especially with someone that you care so much

Speaker 5: (24:37)

A year before my grandpa died, I graduated college and got an internship in DC. The day before I left, I went to visit him. And I told him how grateful I was for his sacrifices, for the values he instilled in my mom that she passed down to me, the values that allowed me to fly across the country to pursue my dream of becoming a reporter. We hugged and cried together. And later that day, my mom said he called her to tell her she did a good job. Raise me. I feel indebted to him and my mom for the sacrifices they made for me. I'm just happy. I was able to tell him that before he passed away,

Speaker 1: (25:17)

That was MAOS in Madera. 2021 was the deadliest year on record for migrants crossing the border. According to customs and border protection in Imperial county migrants continue to drown in the all American canal KPBS border report. Gustavo Salise explains why drownings are increasing and talks with people trying to do something about it.

Speaker 9: (25:54)

Everything John Hunter thought he knew about illegal immigration changed. When he went on a nighttime ride, along with border patrol agents in 2000, they used night vision goggles to spot a group of migrants on the us side of the border. Hunter still remembers their, when they moved in on the group, we

Speaker 10: (26:09)

Went down and busted him, turned out. There were six little ladies sitting there on the ground and they had their purses out. I'm going, I don't feel like such a stud. Here. I am busting someone who looks like my, my mother or my grandmother or my sister's cook. It's sort of, it's not like a manly thing to do. You know,

Speaker 9: (26:26)

Hunter is a staunch Republican, the brother and uncle former San Diego, Congressman Duncan, hunters, and junior, until that night, his image of people crossing illegally were bad, ombres and macho mu Chacho as he calls them. But that's not what he saw. He saw poor people trying to survive women and children fleeing violence. Soon after he began leaving water bottles along the borders, rugged mountains in Treacher desert. Then he focused his attention on the all American canal in Imperial county, where more than 550 migrants have drown to death while trying across the border. Since at least the 19 nines he looked into who was drowning and found the thing.

Speaker 10: (27:03)

These are just ordinary people that drown crossing. These are not the cartels. These are not the guys you read about with the, you know, the macho mu cha Chos. These are not, they're just ordinary people that can't make a living. They're trying to survive

Speaker 9: (27:15)

The all American canals in 82 mile waterway that runs along the us border. As it carries water from the Colorado river to Southern California, it's managed by the Imperial irrigation district. The canal is notoriously deadly for migrants, trying to cross the border illegally. It's 200 feet wide and about 20 feet deep in some areas, CBP agent John Mendoza explains why the canals deceptively dangerous. A

Speaker 11: (27:37)

Lot of the migrants don't know the threats that the water has, what may appear to be calm on the top may not be sold on the bar. There's a lot of strong currents and under toes that can take someone very easily underneath, um, the water

Speaker 9: (27:49)

In 2010, John and his wife, Laura led efforts to install 1000 safety buoys and ladders along the canal. It was an uphill battle. Some irrigation district board members and staff thought the safety measures would make it too easy for people to cross the border illegally, former irrigation district board member, Michael Abody supported Hunter's proposals, but he faced pushback from his own agency.

Speaker 12: (28:09)

There were some arrogance on some of this, uh, staff that said, what are, what are you gonna do? Just build a bridge so they can come across us and not that's gonna build a bridge, but it definitely wasn't meant to be the end of the road for a lot of people.

Speaker 9: (28:22)

But then 60 minutes came to town and did a, an expose on the canal depths. After that the irrigation district agreed to install 103 buoys along the canal, one, every half mile on the east side and one every mile on the west side. And the buoys made a difference. The number of drownings decreased border patrol agents say the buoys actually help them rescue migrants in the canal. If we have to apprehend

Speaker 11: (28:41)

A group or we have to rescue a group of individuals that may be struggling, the water, we can use the buoy lines, uh, as a reference,

Speaker 9: (28:47)

The irrigation district has not increased the number of safety buoys along the canal since 2010 and data shows that drowning deaths are increasing, particularly along the Western part of the canal that has fewer buoy lines, irrigation district officials declined a KPBS interview request. A spokesperson says the agency has installed 40 warning signs along the, a canal in recent years. This is in addition to more than 1300 signs that had already been installed. Still 47 migrants have drown in the canal since 20 15, 14 of them. Last year, hunter says it's time to add more buoys,

Speaker 10: (29:18)

Right? The data indicates that they're they're rounding close to Mexico are close to winter Haven where there aren't the buoys. And so now that is it's pretty common to, right. These are common sense things. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to make an estimate that

Speaker 9: (29:30)

It'll work a body agrees with hunter, but he does not think the current irrigation border will prioritize this issue.

Speaker 12: (29:36)

It's not acceptable. I mean, I think we can do better. I wish they'd do better. I mean, if they don't like the buoy system, I say, well, try something else, but try something. They're not trying anything. And that's what frustrating today.

Speaker 1: (29:48)

Gustav joining me as K P S border reporter, Gustavo Soli and Gustavo. Welcome.

Speaker 9: (29:54)

Hello, Maureen. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: (29:57)

People who wanna cross the border. They must know the American canal is dangerous to swim across. Why are so many still taking that route?

Speaker 9: (30:06)

Well, Maureen, they do know it's dangerous, uh, and they just choose to cross anyway, right? They cross because whatever violence they're fleeing from is worse than the canal or the lure of financial gain in the United States is worth the risk of crossing. And that's kind of something I went into in the, the written part of the story that the federal government's, uh, border enforcement policy is based on the turns, right? The theory is that if you make the border really, really dangerous across, no one will cross it. But experts, I spoke with say that policy kind of ignores the economic and violence related factors that drive people to migration in the first place.

Speaker 1: (30:41)

So, so we know the tragic death toll in trying to cross the canal, but apparently many people must still be successful in getting across. Is that right?

Speaker 9: (30:50)

Yeah. Yeah, that is right. There are far more, uh, successes than failures. Um, we have data from customs and border protection that shows, uh, more than 100 migrants have been rescued along the canal over the last four years, which has more than double the number of migrants who have drowned in the canal. Uh, now it's important to note that success is a relative term, right? The people who are rescued by CBP are mostly arrested and sent back to Mexico, uh, and experts say that they'll likely turn around cross again and run the risk of, of, of drowning, you know, maybe not through the canal, but if they cross, they can cross through the deserts or the mountains. And it goes back to this idea that the federal government is incentivizing people who cross illegally to take greater and greater risks.

Speaker 1: (31:34)

Can you explain to us how the buoys save lives?

Speaker 9: (31:39)

Yeah. They, I mean the buoys save lives, uh, by give people something to grab onto, right. Uh, if you think about the canal, it's, it's this big waterway as, as wide as 200 feet and as deep as 20 feet in some points and is constantly flowing westward along the way, there are several hydroelectric plants, uh, that use that flow to generate energy. So the canal is constantly swimmer towards those plants. Uh, the buoys give the swimmers something to grab onto while as they're being pulled away. And, uh, in addition to the buoys, there's also some ladders that people can use to, to get out of there as well.

Speaker 1: (32:18)

And then, so are migrants usually saved by the border patrol?

Speaker 9: (32:23)

It's hard to, to say like what usually happens, right. Whenever you're dealing with, with, uh, illegal crossings, the data's kind of, uh, uh, scares just because, you know, by the very nature they're trying to evade, uh, detection, but I, I think a lot of the rescues do use the buoys. You know, the border patrol agents say they use the buoys as references, uh, people grab onto them. They get more time. So a lot of the times, uh, the border patrol will see migrants crossing through, uh, cameras that they have. And a dispatcher will send somebody over there having something to hold onto, gives them the time that they need for, for help to arrive.

Speaker 1: (33:01)

So since the buoys seem to help the border of patrol, take some migrants into custody, has the C B P issued any opinion on increasing the number of buoys?

Speaker 9: (33:12)

Not that I'm aware of. Uh, I mean the border of patrol has invested a lot on cameras. Like I mentioned on motion sensors, uh, training for their board star team, which is the team that rescues lost in stranded migrants. But during my visit to the canal, uh, when I spoke to border patrol agents, they were asking me about the buoys, right? They didn't know when or why they were installed in the first place or one why one part of the canal has more buoys than the other. I, I left with the impression that there wasn't coordination on this issue between order patrol and the Imperial irrigation district, which is the agency that, uh, manages and operates the canal.

Speaker 1: (33:48)

Now installing the buoys and adding to them seems to be more of a political issue than a humanitarian one for many people. What is the argument against installing more buoys?

Speaker 9: (34:00)

I know that back in 2010, the argument was that any safety measure would incentivize the illegal border crossings by making it too easy. And critics of that argument, uh, say that like we still have laws, right? People who cross illegally should still be caught, arrested prosecuted. Uh, they just shouldn't die while they're trying to cross.

Speaker 1: (34:19)

Are there any other myth methods being considered that could warn people away from the all American canal?

Speaker 9: (34:25)

I know at one point, uh, in 2010, when they were looking at the buoy issue, they did consider chaining off the entire canal. And it would probably be the most efficient method of stopping people from trying to swim across. But obviously it's also the most expensive one and the buoys were seen as an effect and relatively affordable option. More recently, I know the irrigation district has installed about 40 warning signs. Uh, this is in addition to more than 1300, they've already installed.

Speaker 1: (34:53)

Now a former Imperial irrigation district board member told you, he's not optimistic about the current board taking any action to try to decrease he drowning deaths in the canal. Why is he pessimistic about that?

Speaker 9: (35:06)

Well, I think it comes down to lack of political will, right? That former board member is Michael Abadi. Uh, he says, no one is really talking about this issue, not just in the irrigation district, but in the county, right? It's just something that's become normal there. Like deaths are just something that happened in Imperial county. And if you look through the irrigation district's website, you'll find very little to almost no information about drowning deaths, migrant crossings, or buoys. It it's almost like it's hidden. Uh, so a body told me that the, the current board is more reactive, right? They're, they're unlikely to do something unless there's public outcry behind it.

Speaker 1: (35:43)

I've been speaking with K PBS border reporter, Gustavo soles, Gustavo. Thank you.

Speaker 9: (35:48)

Thank you, Maureen.

Speaker 1: (35:56)

You're listening. A PBS midday edition. I'm Jade Henman with Maureen Kavanaugh, Tiga, Mexico based artist Irma. Sophia PODER has had a much celebrated career. She won the San Diego art prize in 2016 and has shown her work around the world. New man, a woman's gaze is her solo exhibition opening this weekend at bread and saw. And the pieces range from embroidered suits installed on mannequins to classical looking tapestries. It's a study on gender and an imagining of a new form of masculinity. Roma. Sophia poet recently spoke with K PBS arts producer and editor, Julia Dixon Evans. Here's their conversation.

Speaker 5: (36:36)

So you began your career working in fashion design and you studied fashion in university. How has it served as a stepping stone to other artistic practices?

Speaker 13: (36:48)

Well, I studied a couple years of architecture first, and then after going to architecture, I took some classes and some courses in fashion, fashion merchandising and fashion design. And that really resonated with me the idea of creating clothing, because, uh, when I was very small, I used to hear, uh, stories of my grandmother and how she would make these beautiful dresses made out of this fabric that would find very inexpensive. And she would create these beautiful garments, you know, and everybody was marveled about it. So my mom used to tell me all these stories, and for me, fabric represented this, uh, material that you do magic. So, uh, when I started doing, uh, clothing that really resonated with what my creative inputs and what I wanted to take out. So I was painting at the time and then doing fashion both, but then I decided to work with fabric. I started incorporating fabric, not as fashion design, but incorporating fabric as a material. And that's how I started. That was in 1998 when I did my first textile piece, that wasn't clothing.

Speaker 5: (37:57)

So this exhibition it's called new new man, a woman's gaze. It takes on gender specifically men, which is something we've seen in your work for a while. And in your artist statement, you're defining this hopeful new man as someone who quote blurs the violent gender binary. Can you tell us a little more about this?

Speaker 13: (38:20)

A, a new man started with a pandemic and when the pandemic started, you know, I started questioning my role as an artist. You know, if I wasn't able to do art, then what would I be doing? You know? And I started questioning also the infrastructure in which we live, you know, and, and how everything is so male orienting. And that's why, you know, the earth is in such a bad place because there isn't this balance, you know, between the feminine and the masculine. And a lot of my work has to do with that. So I started thinking about this and that's where the idea of new men came.

Speaker 5: (38:54)

So, so I wanted to ask you a little bit about some of these works in new man, a woman's gaze, some of the imagery is a bit explicit there's Fallas and the such, but they're all obscured in sculpture or with sequin cloth. And I'd love to hear about a few of these works and the way that you chose those material else. Yeah.

Speaker 13: (39:16)

I chose a lot of sequence, a lot of beating, a lot of lace, a lot of soft colors, a lot of textures, because that is language of women. I think, you know, that really attracts us, you know, fabric is a femoral material. It's something that you can handle it with your hands. You know, it's a very easy to work with. So I wanted to use that material to express the feminine side in men. It's an iconic art. You see this all the time in all the pieces of new men, the fellas is in repost. And the idea behind all this is that I think we, as not only men, this society is a total is really geared into being like very, you know, doing things, you know, very gold already just do this, your gold, your ambition. You have to be very focused. And I think that just by being just by, you know, having no agendas at all, just being yourself, just enjoying the moment in the present, that is what I wanted to express with the fellas in this condition.

Speaker 5: (40:21)

And so much is said about the man's gaze and how it's dictated generations of not just beauty standards, but art, societal structures, even policy. And there's something a bit playful about you turning it around, be the woman's gaze, but also still incredibly serious. So could you talk a little bit about what a woman's gaze means to you?

Speaker 13: (40:46)

A woman's gaze is giving us the permission to look and to have that power of being able to look without shame without inhibition, just with joy, you know, and all these materials are just emphasized this joy because it's a joyful experience. Uh, it's not castrating, there's no boundaries. It's just very open and very sensual and, uh, very soft. So that's why I thought it was very important. Also, you know, putting that woman's case into the title of the show. First, it was only new men, but I said, you know, well, it doesn't have to do with sexual preferences. It doesn't have to do with sexual orientation or, or anything. That's why I wanted to kind of have that there. And what

Speaker 5: (41:30)

Role does art play in tackling gender constructs?

Speaker 13: (41:36)

I think it has a really, really big role because, you know, you could have all this political policy, you have all these, you know, projects that are up in the air, you know, of how things should be done or new ways of tackling, you know, situations. But with art, sometimes you get a little bit put off because maybe it's too technical. Maybe it's, you know, it's not on your radar, you can't understand it. But when you look at a piece of art that talks about something like a gender issue, you know, and it talks about it through beauty and it talks about it through art and through colors and through textures and through all this, you know, it permeates into you on a very, um, subliminal and very, uh, in another level that it's understood in a, in a different way. So I think art is very important in that sense. It gives it another layer and another input that you can understand, and over

Speaker 5: (42:30)

The course of your career, you have shown work around world, but the last few years have slowed everyone down. We've all been kept closer to home. What's it like emerging from this period to now show work at bread and salt in San Diego?

Speaker 13: (42:46)

This opportunity has been wonderful. I've shown mainly in Mexico and in, um, in Europe. And for one reason, another in know, very few times in United States, which I found it a little bit, you know, curious, but, you know, I'm the kind of person that, where my work takes me. That's where I go. And right now I'm very happy that I'm showing in San Diego at burden salt. I think it's an incredible venue and it's a bell and Jim or two great people and that I not only working with them, but you know, spending time with, well,

Speaker 5: (43:18)

Thank you so much. It has been wonderful talking to

Speaker 13: (43:21)

You. Well, thank you, Julia.

Speaker 1: (43:23)

That was Taka artist, Irma, Sophia poet speaking with K PBS arts producer and editor, Julia Dixon Evans, her exhibition and new man, a woman's gaze opens at bread and salt on Saturday with reception from five to 8:00 PM.

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By this time next week, vaccinated San Diegans will not have to wear masks inside most public places. County health officials say they will follow state guidelines to lift the mask requirement after February 15 with some restrictions. Next, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law another round of paid COVID sick leave for California workers. Later, California hits a milestone of more than 80,000 lives lost due to the COVID-19 virus. One of those was a farmworker who lived in Madera. We learn about him from his granddaughter. And, in Imperial County, migrants continue to drown in the All-American Canal. A look at what is being done to stop this from happening. Finally, artist Irma Sofia Poeter, who is based in Tecate, Mexico will hold a solo exhibit at Bread & Salt in San Diego this weekend.