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County schools hope more tests can help keep classrooms open

 January 5, 2022 at 4:21 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:00)

A lot of San Diego schools are back in session as COVID 19 cases rise. I think

Speaker 2: (00:05)

My primary concern is I I'm worried that schools may be forced into temporary closures due to staffing shortages.

Speaker 1: (00:13)

I'm kina Kim with Jade Heman. This is KPBS midday edition, Long testing lines, strained emergency rooms, and ever-changing guidelines are contributing to the current COVID 19 surge.

Speaker 2: (00:31)

If you put in all these factors, we are not in a great position.

Speaker 1: (00:35)

The minimum wage is officially $15 an hour in California. So what does that mean in the age? A great resignation. And we check in with our friends at KBB S's port of entry podcast. That's ahead on midday edition. San Diego county have started returning to the classroom from winter break this week, as COVID cases reach new highs in response day, the county is distributing thousands of coronavirus tests to local school districts and charter schools to help blunt the spread of the virus. I'm joined by San Diego county office of education, executive director, Bob Mueller, to talk more about house schools are handling the return to the classroom. Welcome

Speaker 2: (01:27)

Pleasure to

Speaker 1: (01:28)

Be with you. As I mentioned, your office is distributing COVID 19 testing kits today. Can you tell me more about these efforts and how they're going? We

Speaker 2: (01:36)

Received an initial allocation, uh, from the state of a, about two thirds of what we were expecting. We were expecting to receive around 300,000 test kits that initial allocation has already been provided to about 20 school districts and a number of charter schools, uh, that, that replied very early. We're working on waiting lists now, uh, so that we get the rest of the allocation and we can continue to distribute those tasks.

Speaker 1: (02:04)

Are you expect to get more tests and are there enough to go around?

Speaker 2: (02:08)

We are expecting to get more tests. I, unfortunately, I don't know how soon they'll arrive. There should be enough to go around. The allocation was based on the number of students in public schools. And there was an amount subtracted for school districts and charter schools that had received an earlier allocation. So some, some received an allocation very early, and then the governor came back with another 6 million and that's what we're working on now.

Speaker 1: (02:35)

And what's the protocol. Once these schools do receive the kits, who's keeping track of these tests and what happens if a student or a teacher does in fact test positive.

Speaker 2: (02:46)

So the test kits are intended for use at home that parents can screen their children to see if they have, have a positive result. If they are. We're hoping that the parent will notify the school of the positive result and, and hold their child home. So if a child tests positive or, or if a school employee tests positive, the states released new guidance on isolation that allows them to return to school or work as early as six days after their, their symptoms began. But to return, they will need to take another test on day five or later, that shows that they're no longer positive. Unfortunately at home tests can't be used for this purpose. It would need to be a test that's administered through a medical office, a clinic, a laboratory, or an approved school site testing program.

Speaker 1: (03:39)

Most local universities and community colleges have shifted to virtual learning to start their spring term, but local school districts so far appear to have no plans to follow suit. Why not?

Speaker 2: (03:50)

You know, the loss to, to children from in-person learning is just so significant college students are capable of independent learning and, and really don't require a great deal of assistance from their, from their instructors. Kids really need the interaction, the, the FaceTime with their teachers and the interaction with their peers to thrive. So it, it's just really important that we continue in person operations, as long as we're able to really, the only, only thing that would likely close a school at this point would be a, a staffing shortage. The inability to safely operate the school

Speaker 1: (04:28)

Beyond staffing shortages. Is there any specific benchmarks or data that you're tracking that might make schools change course from in-person learning at this point,

Speaker 2: (04:38)

The, the state legislature are passed a law earlier in this year that basically required schools to exhaust all options before, uh, a temporary closure is put in place. And really the, the circumstances are quite limited. Uh, a staffing shortage is really the only reason that a school leader could choose to do that short of that. It would need to be an order from the public health officer to close.

Speaker 1: (05:04)

What are you hearing from local parents and teachers as classes resume right now, as I mentioned, right? When cases are kind of on the uptick, what concerns are they raising?

Speaker 2: (05:13)

Yeah, one of the big ones is that the, the guidance on quarantine and isolation changed on December 30th and it's resulted in a fair amount of confusion on what the rules are related to isolation and quarantine. So we've been working very hard, collaborating closely with the county of San Diego public health services, on decision making tools and revising those tools. So the, the transition between the old guidance and the new guidance came at a difficult time during the middle of a surge, right, as we're returning to school. And, and it's, it's a significant shift.

Speaker 1: (05:51)

What is your biggest concern for your students right now as we navigate yet? Another wave? I think my

Speaker 2: (05:57)

Primary concern is I I'm worried that schools may be forced into temporary closures. Due to staffing shortages schools were having difficulty securing substitutes before the search began. They were being creative in the way they covered those shortages. But if school, uh, are required to isolate because they have symptoms or test positive, or because they're close contacts and school employees live in our communities, it's, it's likely that we'll see more employees out and school districts, charter schools, and private schools having greater difficulty covering those absences. So anything we can do as a community to protect each other to lower, the, the rate of infection will serve to keep schools open longer and minimize the chance that they might be forced to close for for a week or two. I've

Speaker 1: (06:50)

Been speaking with Bob Mueller, executive director of the San Diego county office of education. Thank you so much for your time today.

Speaker 2: (06:57)

Quite welcome

Speaker 3: (07:03)

As predicted the current surge is propelling COVID case numbers to historic highs. The United States opened the week reporting nearly a million new coronavirus infections, the single highest daily count of any country in the world. Since the pandemic started as the highly infectious Omicron variant shows no signs of slowing health officials are having to rethink guidance on everything from masking and testing to isolation protocols. Joining us with answers to some of our most pressing COVID questions is Dr. Eric Topel director of the script's research translational Institute in LA Jolla. Dr. Topel welcome back to the program.

Speaker 4: (07:40)

Thanks Jade. Going to be with you again,

Speaker 3: (07:43)

Dr. Topel. We mentioned just how many cases we're seeing nationally San Diego as well is seeing record highs. Are we currently seeing the peak of this surge?

Speaker 4: (07:53)

Uh, I don't think so. Uh, we have just recently hit in the 90% Countrywide for Aron new cases by sequencing. And that means that we are still growing. Amon is not evenly distributed throughout the country. So we have weeks to go to get through this Amon surge, which is, as you already noted unprecedented, when we first

Speaker 3: (08:17)

Heard about the Amon variant, we heard the, that most people in South Africa showed mild symptoms from infection and that's with much of the population not having access to the vaccines. How is the us faring with hospitalizations in light of these high case numbers? That's a

Speaker 4: (08:33)

Really important question because South Africa is so different with 25% vaccination, but we've seen in countries like the UK and Denmark, Norway, where there's a very high vaccination rate, notably in Denmark, almost 80% of the population, whereas here in the us, the country overall 62%. And we're a bit better than that here in San Diego. So vaccination is just one part of the story. It's also the age and demographics of the population. There's also prior. COVID how recent the prior COVID was. So if you put in all these factors, we are not in a great position.

Speaker 3: (09:12)

More children are being hospitalized with COVID the previously are those hospitalizations higher among any particular age group of children, such as those under five who still aren't eligible for the vaccine?

Speaker 4: (09:23)

Yes, there's the, uh, rate in hospitalizations and illness in children and it's alarming. It's the highest it's been in the pandemic. It's a mixture. There are some who are in the age, less than five, where there's no ability to have vaccination. It's not, they're not eligible. And then there's a very low use of vaccination from five all the way through age 17 in this country, relative to what it should be. And so it's mostly UN vaccinated children that are winding up in the hospital. And, you know, this is really unfortunate. We are seeing in San Diego, co-infections with the respiratory cial virus RSV. We're also noting that, you know, with the very small airways in infants, young children, there may be a higher liability because Amron tends to be very highly replicated in the upper airway. And whereas adults can handle that infants and young children. That's a much harder problem to deal with given

Speaker 3: (10:21)

That this is so difficult for children under five, particularly to deal with. Do you have any advice for, uh, parents on how to keep their children protected from the virus?

Speaker 4: (10:32)

Right? Well, fortunately, most children are gonna do very well all even, you know, for younger age, less than five without vaccination, the Amron is overall a milder form of the clinical severity, but to protect young children, the best thing we can possibly do is have a family fully vaccinated. And now I'm defining fully as with a booster and that's essential that booster is incredibly important, uh, against . And then the other things of course, are the gatherings, the distancing, the high quality mask. It's hard for young children to wear high quality mask, but there are can 90 fours. And if they can use them when they're mixing with other kids and people, that would be great.

Speaker 3: (11:17)

And speaking of masks, many health officials have said, cloth masks are far less effective against Delta. And now Omicron K N 95 masks are recommended. Uh, but how available are they, especially for children who can't get vaccinated, but have to be in school?

Speaker 4: (11:32)

Well, the K N 90 fives and 90 fours are pretty widely available and relatively inexpensive. The N 90 fives are the ones that are really expensive and there probably isn't worth the difference between something that costs less than a dollar versus four or $5 per mask. So the K N 94 is for children and 90 fives for adults. They they're, they can be, uh, bought, uh, certainly through the internet and, and other sources and highly recommended well over, uh, cloth mass that just aren't adequately protective.

Speaker 3: (12:03)

You know, one thing that's certainly been difficult to gain access to our test. Uh, you've been talking about the need for them since the beginning of this pandemic, how county doing with making them accessible, you think,

Speaker 4: (12:15)

Well, Jay, this is really disappointing. San Diego county had done pretty well in this pandemic relative to many other places and even, uh, in our state of California, but they've really let down recently. And it's much harder to get a test. The demand is overwhelming, the limited supply, and of course the country, our us government hasn't done what we had been begging for them to do, which is to get our free rapid tests to every household, like is occurring in Colorado in certain parts of the country. So those are expected perhaps by the end of the month, we'll start to see rapid tests being distributed Countrywide for free, but the apply again is not gonna be at all ample.

Speaker 3: (12:56)

We've seen some revision from the CDC on their guidance for isolation periods. What can you tell us about this? And do you agree with the changes

Speaker 4: (13:05)

Just recently, the CDC, after having said healthcare professionals should have seven days of isolation and then have a rapid test of some type of test before they get back to work, you know, that's negative. Then they came out six days later and said, well, the public, ah, five days don't bother with a test, just wear a mask. I mean, if you're feeling well or your symptoms are resolving, just go back to work with a mask. So this is just profoundly off based because it's not science based. It goes counter the practice in many other countries that have been using rapid tests. You know, it's not, if they just told the truth Jade and said, look, we just don't have enough tests in this country. We can't keep up with the test demand. So we're not recommending tests, but if you can do it, this is the right way to, to use them.

Speaker 4: (13:54)

And it's said, they said, if your test is, uh, positive, you just isolate for another five days. I mean, basically they didn't tell the truth. The message has been garbled and just horrible. And then they basically said, if it's positive, you know, stay isolated for another five days. Well, that's not the way it should work. You should have ample tests so that, you know, on day six, you test again, it's negative day, seven negative. Now you're fine to go the, the, the, the use of day five and then just going out circulating again without a test is really not good. It's likely promoting spread of the virus.

Speaker 3: (14:29)

Hmm. And with that, the possibility of further variance always remains a concern in this pandemic. What's emerging now. And what's known about then

Speaker 4: (14:38)

There has been one variant that was identified in France that gave, um, some composite for concern, but that's been looked at thoroughly and, you know, it's what I call a scary. And hopefully one silver lining of Amron is that we're gonna build up a lot more of an immunity wall, cuz so many people are getting infected and that should help us, uh, in the next, uh, stage of this pandemic.

Speaker 3: (15:01)

I've been speaking with Dr. Eric Topel director of the scripts research translational Institute, Dr. Topel. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank

Speaker 4: (15:08)


Speaker 1: (15:15)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Christina Kim, while the pandemic has ravaged much of the cross border economy, Tiana Mara industry has flourished KBS border reporter who stales tells us what's behind this resurgence.

Speaker 5: (15:40)

This is the sound of Tijuana's booming maquila Lura industry, the daily thunder from thousands of cargo trucks, shipping goods into the us through the OAI Mesa border crossing. Those trucks carry everything from Topo, Chico hard, two Toyota Tacomas assembled just outside TECA. Each one is a sign of what's shaping up to be a new roaring twenties for Tianas Maquis, which are manufacturing and warehouse facilities along the Southern border.

Speaker 6: (16:04)

Well, this is undoubtedly the most exciting and the most dynamic, uh, time period we've had in the maquila LA industry for deck.

Speaker 5: (16:14)

This is he Bravo. He works for Tema, a company that helps foreign businesses move to Mexico. And they've been doing it since the 1980s. So that makes Bravo a resident historian for the bustling border towns. Maquila Dora industry.

Speaker 6: (16:27)

The, the industry was born really in the seventies. It grew significantly in the eighties. Two thousands was a bit of a chat challenging period, uh, with China coming into the WTO, the world trade organization and enjoying certain benefits in terms of international trade. Um, a lot of manufacturers actually migrated to China,

Speaker 5: (16:46)

But over the last few years, the companies that left they're coming back,

Speaker 6: (16:50)

We have seen reverse migration. If you wanna say from Asia to Mexico, as companies realize that they need to be closer to their clients. Uh, and with the us being the number one market in the world for everything virtually, you want to be the, the closest place you can be.

Speaker 5: (17:09)

The pandemic made it abundantly clear that saving money by shifting manufacturing away from north America is a bad bet. Mauricio Totoro has the real estate division at the TP legal law firm in Tijuana. He witnessed firsthand what happened to businesses that expanded supply chains before the pandemic. One of his clients thought they could save money by opening a manufacturing facility in south America. But

Speaker 7: (17:31)

When the COVID situation started that product wasn't able to come or to arrive here in Mexico or in, in the us in time. So all the operation get get delayed and it was a big problem for the company.

Speaker 5: (17:45)

The fastest growing sector of Tequan as maquila auto industry is fulfillment centers. These are essentially repackaging and shipping warehouses that use a little known section of the us tariff code to avoid paying fees on certain imports. It's called section 3 21, and it allows companies to avoid fees as long as they ship items worth $800 or less directly to customers. So instead of shipping, I in bulk to the us companies set up fulfillment centers, just south of the border. That's why we're in the middle of a fulfillment center building boom in Tijuana, GUI works for Vesta. One of the biggest industrial developers in the region. She says compared to just a year ago, the growth has been

Speaker 8: (18:25)

10 times. Yeah, 10 times, at least 10 times. We know that probably is gonna grow more

Speaker 5: (18:32)

Experts who follow Tijuana maquila industry are bullish on the market. Demand is high and the underlying conditions behind the boom don't seem to be going away

Speaker 7: (18:41)

Unless there is a change or unless there is something that a traffic happens. I think that we will continue to see growth,

Speaker 5: (18:50)

But there's at least one big potential roadblock. And that's Tijuana's infrastructure, businesses need stable sources of water and power to run warehouses. They need roads to transport goods across the border, and they need a reliable transit system for their employees to get to work on time. Historically, Tijuana has not invested in the structure and that could come back to haunt the city. What,

Speaker 8: (19:13)

What needs to happen now is a lot of will from, uh, governments and business people to put on, uh, investment into the infrastructures of the city. Because if we keep on growing and there's no more roads and, and security and lightning and everything that the city needs in order for keep on the, it probably it's gonna

Speaker 5: (19:32)

Collapse, but for now expect the trucks to keep on rolling at O timing

Speaker 1: (19:39)

For more on this story and the resurgence of maces in Tijuana. We're joined now by KBB investigative border reporter Gustavo, Hey

Speaker 5: (19:46)

Gustavo, Hey Christina, how's it going?

Speaker 1: (19:48)

So before we dive into why Tijuana is seeing a surgeons and maquila, which as you say, are manufacturing and warehousing facilities along the border. Give us a little background. When did we last see maquilas last flourish and why? And when did they start to leave ma well, so

Speaker 5: (20:05)

Maquilas have been a cornerstone of, uh, Tijuana's economy for decades, right? They, they produce cars, electronics, even medical devices, actually a fair amount of the ventilators that kept people alive during the early days of the pandemic came from ma Tiana and the industry took a little bit of a hit in the two thousands around the time China came into the world trade organization and received a certain benefits in terms of international trade. At the time China had significantly lower labor cost in Mexico, but over the last couple of years, labor cost over there have more or less equals to those in Mexico. And companies are seeing that cost savings just aren't worth dealing with the, uh, supply chain issues.

Speaker 1: (20:50)

And I know you've noted that the pandemic also has put an additional strain on supply chain issues. And so we're seeing more companies actually return to Mexico. What do we know of what companies are actually coming back and how can this impact us consumers? Well,

Speaker 5: (21:04)

I can't really give you names of specific companies that have move they're, they're all really secretive about it. Uh, almost to the point of being paranoid, particularly American companies. They don't want the bad publicity for being in Mexico. Uh, but I can tell you a lot of the companies that are moving to Tijuana, aren't your typical household names. They're smaller companies that subcontract or do work for some of the Walmarts or targets of the world and from a supply chain standpoint, I mean, that that's Tiana's biggest advantage right now, the location, right? We like to complain about waiting a few hours to cross the border, but it's nothing compared to waiting weeks to cross the Pacific only to get stuck in a bottleneck at the port of Los Angeles.

Speaker 1: (21:43)

You say fulfillment centers are by far the fastest growing industry there. Can you say more about why that is and how companies are using section 3 21 of the us tariff code?

Speaker 5: (21:54)

Yeah. So just to explain section 3 21 is a, a part of a tariff code that companies can use to avoid paying fees on importing goods. The way it works is if you ship items worth $800 or less and mail them directly to individual customers in the us, you don't have to pay tariffs on it. Let's use laptops. As an example, companies, shipping crates of laptops to the us have to pay a tariff instead they can ship them in bulk to a fulfillment center in Tijuana. The laptops will be repackaged into smaller boxes, get with a shipping label that has your name and address on it. Then they'll be loaded into trucks and cross the border without having to pay any fees. Now, the most interesting thing I think about section 3 21 is that it's really, it's been around since the 1930s, but has just recently become popular. And that's because of the actions of former presidents, Barack Obama and, and Donald Trump, eh, Obama in around 2016, increased the limit on section 3 21 goods from $200 to $800. This was a way to help, uh, e-commerce companies and Trump of course raised tariffs on China. So both of those actions, right? Raising the cap and increasing the number of tariffs, have both incentivized kind companies to take advantage of section 3 21.

Speaker 1: (23:12)

How is the return of a booming Mata industry impacting Mexican workers? Are there enough workers to fill the need? And how do wages at these jobs compare to other available

Speaker 5: (23:22)

Work? Well, you mentioned the workforce. So that's actually a huge draw for companies. I mean Mexico's average age is 28 compared to about 39 in the us. And Mexico's workforce is projected to grow in the next decade. And now Mexico in terms of wages, right? Mexico has a weird minimum wage system. It's one wage at the border and another wage in the interior of the country, along the border, it is about 260 pesos a day or just over $12. And maquila tend to pay a lot more than that. Now, of course, $12 a day sounds awful to our American listeners, but it's an upgrade to what was at the border. And it's a lot more than what people are making at the Southern states of Mexico. If

Speaker 1: (24:05)

This rate of expansion continues, how could Tijuana and the border economy change over the next few years?

Speaker 5: (24:12)

The, well, one of the things I'm interested in reporting on and just keeping an eye on is the presence and the growth of the tech industry Tijuana, uh, the city has several vocational training schools and they produce way more software engineers in coders than San Diego does. Of course coding is his own language, right? So it doesn't matter if you learn it in the us or Mexico. It it's the same thing. And companies are starting to take notice. I've

Speaker 1: (24:34)

Been speaking with Gustavo KBS, investigative border reporter. Thank you so much.

Speaker 5: (24:39)

Well, thank you Christina.

Speaker 3: (24:50)

This week, the California legislature reconvenes and yesterday on the California report, a K Q E D reporter spoke to state assembly speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat about the legislative year ahead and his party's priorities today, the California report gets a Republican can view from the other house of the state legislature. It comes from Scott Wil, the leader of the Republican caucus and the state Senate K Q E D reporter Kevin Stark started by asking the Senator about Republican goals for this session. So

Speaker 9: (25:19)

Obviously we're, we're in the we're in the super minority. So it, it is difficult to, to have an impact. I, I believe we did last legislative session. Uh, we were able to press the governor with, with help from some of our democratic allies in the legislature to do some things that maybe he didn't want to do or did bigger than he wanted to do. Uh, this year, I really see our goals is, is twofold. One restoring the constitutional balance of power, making the in branch Cocal with the, with the governor's office. Uh, you know, when we granted him the emergency powers, uh, we did it reluctantly and we did it based upon the information that we were given at the time by Dr. Galley, who said that the coronavirus was highly infectious and we should expect 25 million Californians to come down with it. And those 25 million, 3 million we're gonna die.

Speaker 9: (26:10)

That's what we are armed with. And obviously you have to give the executive some flexibility in order to, to meet a crisis, but clearly that's not come to fruition. And it's really time to, to, to reign that power in and restore our right voice in the process. You know, every understand why my democratic colleagues didn't wanna do it last year. You know, we're in the midst of a recall, didn't want to embarrass him, but I, I really hope that we will stand up and, and, and do the right thing, cuz we all benefit from better balance in go government. So that's one, the number two, you know, protect the taxpayers. We had an unbelievable budget year, last year to the shock of all, uh, looks like it's gonna happen again this year. And we wanna make investments in, in things that matter. You know, we've got, we've got the G limit. And so under the G limit, uh, we can rebate money back to taxpayers. We can in, in public education, which I'm supportive of, although I'd like to see some reforms and we can do one time infrastructure L let's

Speaker 10: (27:10)

Talk about raw numbers and clout. There are 120 seats combined between the assembly and the Senate, uh, in the assembly 28 seats, uh, are held by Republicans in your house, the Senate 40 seats there, nine of you, there are nine Republicans. So given those numbers, what can you accomplish? And, and please don't take offense, but do Republicans matter?

Speaker 9: (27:33)

I w when I got up here, I was at at 14, then 11 and then nine. And, and, and clearly there's a big difference when we are at 14, we work with moderate Dems and we kill, we killed a lot of stuff when we were at 11 less. So, uh, and then last year at nine, really the only kind of the most egregious bills, I would like to see a center, right coalition, where we actually can pass stuff, uh, that does not exist today. So the first step to that, though, to be honest with you, was the redistricting process. As you know, we have an independent citizens commission that does it. Uh, they do it every 10 years. And if you look at the California target book and you look at other, uh, other entities that track this, they show that Senate Republicans going plus three, uh, under the present map, uh, our data shows us the ability to go plus four. And if we could get up 13, 14, boom, all all sudden , you know, we can, we can kill a lot more stuff. And then that get, that does give us a seat at the table. What would

Speaker 10: (28:31)

Be your advice then to Republicans running this year?

Speaker 9: (28:34)

First of all, talk to everybody. Uh, I mean, I think that's one of the things that we've not done well at, you know, need to connect with people and then talk to them about the issues they care about. I think too many time, too many of, of my compadres wanna re-litigate issues they've already lost instead of taking it to, uh, to our issues that, that we can, we can win. So, you know, transparency and accountability and government really becoming serious about addressing, you know, the homelessness, wildfires, water, storage, educational reform. I mean, there's all kinds of things that I think we prevail on that. I think more voters agree with us than not.

Speaker 3: (29:12)

That was state Senator Scott Wil leader of the Republican caucus and the state Senate With a new year comes new laws. And just this week, the minimum wage of all workers in San Diego jumped to $15 an hour while the change has been lauded by elected officials and workers rights advocates, many say that the wage hike is still not enough joining us now with more on what this increase means in the age of the great resignation is San Diego union Tribune, reporter Lori Weisberg. Lori, welcome back to the program.

Speaker 11: (29:53)

Thanks for having me. So this

Speaker 3: (29:55)

Increase is the culmination of a nearly decade old campaign. The fight for 15, what's been the local response now that the change has taken effect in 2022.

Speaker 11: (30:06)

I think it's almost kind of a different response than we've seen with previous, uh, wage increases where business owners were, you know, not happy about the continued increases in the minimum wage, especially for tipped workers who traditionally make minimum wage and then make a lot more with tips. And that's because as you mentioned, the great resignation, there's such a shortage of workers that, um, even before this kicked in businesses were offering wages well above minimum wage because they need to attract workers. So, as I pointed out in my story, it almost felt like a, so what milestone, even though it is quite a, because the reality is you as an employee right now, who's more like a service worker or, you know, a lower wage worker can command higher wages in this minimum because of the desperation of employers. You

Speaker 3: (30:54)

Write that unions workers, advocates, and local elected leaders have celebrated the wage hike. But how does that really differ from the, a average employee's perspective?

Speaker 11: (31:03)

Well, I think for a long time, um, the message at least in California is that minimum wage, whether it's 1250, an hour or $15 an hour, isn't enough to live on it in California, especially in Southern California, where the cost of living is so high, many of these minimum wage workers are having to work two jobs. And, and that will probably continued to be the case with this, uh, increase to 15.

Speaker 3: (31:26)

And even as the wage floor sees this increase, as you mentioned, uh, larger companies like McDonald's are offering even more competitive salaries to attract workers, what kind of an impact will this have on small businesses?

Speaker 11: (31:38)

Yeah. And that's the thing, I mean, you've got McDonald's Jack in the box, Amazons offering $18 an hour. They have the financial wherewithal because they're so large to, um, to make that adjustment. But it's the smaller businesses that do have a tough time. I talked to an owner of super casinos of fast casual restaurants in San Diego. And he said, in addition to having trouble finding workers right now that payroll has increased substantially every two weeks has gone from 17,000 to about 23,000. And he's concerned about that. And he understands and he supported it. He said the $15 an hour wage fight, but he's concerned about being able to continue to be able to pay those kind of wages plus, you know, deal with, um, inflationary cost for, for food, food products are going up too. The prices for those are going up too,

Speaker 3: (32:27)

Is $15 an hour enough to live and work in a place like San Diego.

Speaker 11: (32:32)

No, they keep reading the stories about how rent's going up. Forget buying a home that the cost of buying a home has gone up. Um, again, to give you another anecdote, I didn't include her in the story, but another fast food worker is having to survive on credit cards and payday loans because it's not enough. And, and also even if you've got two people in the household making minimum wage, it may be enough, but you, you still there's still potential to go into a debt, but we can't minimize the fact that, you know, 10 years ago there was this for right to bring it to 15. And it seemed revolutionary at the time. And now we're, we're there. And then in the city of San Diego started in 2016 with an ordinance to bring it up to 15. So we have made progress. And if you put that in the context of a federal minimum wage, which is still just a little above $7 an hour, you, you see it is still to occasion.

Speaker 3: (33:20)

It still, it sounds like it was already too little, but now it's definitely too little too late for some people.

Speaker 11: (33:26)

Yes. Good point. Yes. Yeah.

Speaker 3: (33:28)

How have employers reacted to this change?

Speaker 11: (33:30)

They're accepting it because they recognize that they need workers. So like I said, their position is so different from past minimum wage increases because of this desperation. Um, and you're seeing some businesses are having to close temporarily or close earlier, or not open seven days a week because they don't have enough workers. So like I said, this year's wage increase. The reaction is quite a bit different because they know the reality that whether there's a mandated wage increase or not, you it's defacto happening because they need workers so badly. Right?

Speaker 3: (34:04)

So the worker shortage really is playing into this, the fight for 15, I is over now, but already a new campaign is advocating for an $18 minimum wage. Uh, what can you tell us about that?

Speaker 11: (34:16)

So that is a statewide campaign, which I'm sure, um, San Diego advocate we'll join in and a wealthy Los Angeles investor has the filed papers for the state to, to start that. Now he's promised to finance the signature gathering effort, and we'll see if that makes it on the ballot. And if it does, it would gradually increase the statement wage to $18 an hour over the next few years. But I should point out that the existing law for minimum wage for this whole state and then the existing minimum wage law for just the city of San Diego, both have, uh, provisions that allow the minimum wage to increase based on the consumer price index or inflation. So, um, it's not like it won't keep rising locally and statewide, but again, tied to inflation. And I guess its inflation isn't high. Then the minimum wage increase won't be a lot, but at least minimum wage workers are guaranteed continued increases, but this would, this ballot measure would legisla it. So would be a gradual increase just as we saw with the existing state and city of San Diego minimum wage ordinances.

Speaker 3: (35:21)

I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter Lori Weisberg. Lori, thank you for joining us.

Speaker 11: (35:27)

And thank you.

Speaker 3: (35:35)

You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Henman with Christina Kim for nearly two years. The us Mexico border was partially closed in an effort to stop the spread of COVID 19. But in reality, people from the us and by national citizens have been crossing the border throughout the pandemic. It was mainly just Mexican citizens with tourist Fe, who weren't allowed to cross the closure, separated families for months, people lost jobs and our own Allen Lial co-host of K PBS's board podcast, port of entry was separated from his band to langua, a hiphop group with members who live on both sides of the border in a new episode of port of entry Allen who his co-host, Natalie Gonzalez and producer Kenzie Morlin take us on a cross border journey. They join Alan's band mate, Jimmy Mora, as he's finally able to cross the border again, after the restrictions were lifted late last year.

Speaker 12: (36:32)

Oh man, I can't even believe how like it to the degree, like how differently I related to myself before the pandemic. Yeah.

Speaker 13: (36:45)

So anyone who knows Allen knows that music is the center of his whole universe. Yes.

Speaker 12: (36:51)

Yeah. And when live music stopped because of the pandemic and my band couldn't get together cause of the closed border, it really shook me up. Why you making fun of me?

Speaker 13: (37:06)

I'm gonna clean your tears. Poor baby. Not just kidding man. Anyway, so you, you got real and vulnerable that they in the car, when we were crossing the border with Jimmy, you shared exactly how it shook you

Speaker 12: (37:22)

Up. I've had anxiety my whole life, but I think before the pandemic and having so much time to spend with myself, which was hard a lot of the time, cuz you, you have to really realize that like a lot of the things you blame other people for are like that you blame situations for is like something you carry inside. Um, so before like say I would get anxious and then that I pile like guilt on top of like, why are you feeling anxious? Like what do you have to complain about? Like, and then guilt would come on top of that. And it's like, it's this like never ending layers of, of like judgment and like really self hatred, like self, self criticism, self, self negativity, right? Like would keep piling up on top other. And while that still gets triggered in me so I can see like how I used to relate. Now I can way more easily be nice to myself and just be kind to myself. And that's the biggest change in everything because that changes how you relate to everything to everything. No. So yeah. I used a lot of that downtime in the pandemic to deal with all the mental health stuff.

Speaker 13: (38:30)

Yes. We should all deal with mental health stuff.

Speaker 12: (38:33)

Yes. And it actually helped me evolve my relationship to music. Talk

Speaker 13: (38:39)

To me a little bit more about how it changed.

Speaker 12: (38:42)

Well before COVID I was really using music to feel a void, get love from other people, avoid feeling lonely, cuz I was always felt like I good at music. So it felt like that was the way that I needed to get approval and love from other people. But when I started addressing my anxiety and my depression and I couldn't play music for other people, it made me realize I could give it to myself and find love for myself. That's beautiful. And it made music a lot more fun and freeing. So yeah, just like Jimmy for the first time in my life, during the pandemic, I ended up using my alone time to write and record solo music too.

Speaker 13: (39:31)

And this bang we are listening to right now is called soft plans. It's one of those songs Allen wrote during the time.

Speaker 14: (39:56)

No. What you feel when you touch my soul?

Speaker 12: (40:22)

So now the music that is being made and I, I know Jimmy feels the same way, um, because we had to learn this on our own. It's like, oh wow. Like I'm, I'm making music from a state of place of health and from a place of wholeness and it just makes it feel so much better cuz you're not relying on music like, like as a crutch or as a drug to, to feel, to feel like an empty void. Right. Good morning. My name is

Speaker 13: (40:59)

Hy . We are in Tijuana right now.

Speaker 12: (41:01)

We're about to cross the international border on a Monday. on a busy Monday. Yeah, because of COVID rules at the us Mexico border crossing my band mate, Jimmy wasn't allowed to cross into the us for almost

Speaker 13: (41:16)

Two years. And when the restrictions finally ended in November and Jimmy could finally cross the border again, we wanted to be there with him, a Mando and our producer Kinsey was recording you in the passenger seat E Jimmy and I were in the back seat

Speaker 15: (41:41)

Right now. We are in what's this, this Eric called LA. We are at LA, which is got some coffee. It's pretty good from Atua coffin community. And we're about to cross the border,

Speaker 16: (41:56)

Crossing the border. We're it's gonna be like two hours, my friend. You think so? See, Hey that's short compare. Yeah, it's fine. Last time close are fun people. So,

Speaker 12: (42:24)

So the second crossing attempt was shorter, but the borderline was still pretty long.

Speaker 13: (42:30)

I think there's still longer lines right now because of a bottom neck of all those people, like , who haven't been able to cross in almost two years.

Speaker 16: (42:40)


Speaker 12: (42:44)

Second, take of trying to cross the border with duo.

Speaker 16: (42:47)

Still super the challenges of having a binational band am

Speaker 12: (42:55)

Without centuries all the time you are going far

Speaker 16: (43:00)

For this back, back, back. That's fine.

Speaker 12: (43:09)

We did eventually make it through to the us. It took us about three hours. Yeah.

Speaker 13: (43:15)

And actually Quin and I who both have the century fast pass that allows you to cut long line, ended up ditching you and running through the border of traffic so we could go

Speaker 12: (43:26)

Pee. Yep. That happens to the best of us. Anyway, spending all that time in that borderline with Jimmy that day reminded me of pre pandemic times specifically a huge role, the actual borderline and waiting in it has played when it comes to our cross-border man. One of my favorite things I'm remembering now about du langua. Most of our bonding in the first like pre pandemic was in the borderline, like talking about most of the, like the ideas of a out to Glen qu and, and dreams and like plans for the future were like actually waiting in line at the border because when we were getting to know each other, I mean, we bonded very quickly. Like immediately, as soon as we met, it was like, there was a familiar energy between us, but you know, spending hours in the borderline together for, for a couple years, we would just that's when you really like get to know someone, cuz you just like, it's just, you just talk, you talk about family, you just. You just like, around. Cuz you gotta cuz you're bored. You know? And like, and dream about the future. And we would talk about, like listen to our demos and listen to our songs all the time in the car, being this cross border band and like, you know, our music and our, I mean our whole band formed because of the border and this desire to like have a band that's from both sides of the border.

Speaker 14: (45:10)

The, the, I.

Ways To Subscribe
First we’ll discuss how local schools are handling the return to the classroom after the holiday COVID-19 surge and the home testing kit shortage. After, we’ll talk to Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, about some of our most pressing COVID-19 questions amidst the omicron-fueled surge. Also, while the pandemic has ravaged much of the cross-border economy, Tijuana’s maquiladora industry has flourished. Later, as the California legislature reconvenes, the California Report speaks with Scott Wilk, the leader of the Republican caucus in the state senate. Then, we speak with San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Lori Weisberg on how the minimum wage increase affects San Diegans. Finally, an excerpt from the latest “Port of Entry” podcast tells the story of a band separated by the pandemic- related border closure.