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Experts: Boosters could stave of winter surge

 November 12, 2021 at 1:27 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

All adults in California can now get a boost.

Speaker 2: (00:04)

I am sure we're going to have an increase in cases and having more people better vaccinated with a booster should help.

Speaker 1: (00:11)

I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS day edition. The big picture on why there's a shortage at fire departments in San Diego and around the state.

Speaker 3: (00:30)

I think it's shameful and the state of California should be blamed in no uncertain terms for trying to get away on the cheap

Speaker 1: (00:39)

Plus a wide selection of events to check out on the art scene this weekend. We'll tell you all about it in the weekend. Preview that's ahead on midday edition,

Speaker 1: (01:01)

California public health officials are ramping up efforts to get booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine into as many eligible adults as possible. Earlier this week, the state's public health director urged regional health care providers not to turn down any eligible patients for an additional shot. The tone of the message, underlines, a slow demand for boosters as the winter months, approach a combination that some fear could lead to another surge in cases. Joining me now is Dr. Davy Smith, head of the head of the division of infectious diseases and global public health at UC San Diego, Dr. Smith, welcome. And TJ, how important is it that eligible adults receive booster doses ahead of the holiday season?

Speaker 2: (01:45)

I think it is important for people who are eligible to get a booster dose to go ahead and get them a winter is coming, as they say, I am sure we're going to have an increase in cases and having more people, uh, better vaccinated as, as one might expect with a booster should help now that's important, but I actually think we're still lagging behind, uh, people not getting their first series of vaccination. And I think that is actually going to be more important,

Speaker 1: (02:12)

You know, in brief, can you break down how a booster dose bolsters the immunity of a given individual from COVID-19?

Speaker 2: (02:20)

So, um, the first time somebody gets a vaccination, it's basically telling the immune system saying, Hey, look out for this virus. This is how you want to fight it. Then you get another dose if you took Pfizer or Madrona. And that's just reminding that, that immune system, those immune cells and say, Hey, this is how the virus looks, please, uh, make your antibodies now so that if you were to see the real thing could kill it. And then that memory, which we call it, immune immunologic memory wanes as all memories, what the does and what happens with a booster it's the exact same vaccine is that what's happened in the first two times. You just administered again, to sort of wake up the immune system and say, Hey, this is still a problem. Make some more antibodies so that if you were to see it, you can fight it off.

Speaker 1: (03:08)

How does that differ from the immunity they receive from having had the illness prior?

Speaker 2: (03:14)

It's very similar. So it's mimicking that exact same response that the body might have had at the beginning. So someone gets infected with a virus. If their immune system is good, it makes them the response. It makes antibodies, it makes cells that can recognize that virus and kill it. Um, and the same thing hacking happens with the vaccine. The vaccine, uh, doesn't have the live virus that's there, but it has pieces of the virus to get the immune system, uh, responding

Speaker 1: (03:42)

Colorado, which is facing one of the nation's worst searches, moved beyond federal guidance to allow booster doses for all adults. Do you think that's wise?

Speaker 2: (03:53)

I think it's wise in the setting of a, in the setting of a surge, um, that try to get as many people out there with as high antibody levels as possible. So as high immune responses as possible, so that perhaps not only do they not get sick, but it might decrease the chances of them spreading it. So these vaccines work to keep people out of the hospital, but people can still get infected. Um, hopefully the time that they're infected is less, hopefully it's less chance for them to spread it so that, uh, these boosters might decrease the amount of spread that happens in our community.

Speaker 1: (04:28)

We think that there's a lag then with federal guidelines,

Speaker 2: (04:33)

To be honest, I think the data are kind of thin. So we don't have a lot of really good data for these boosters over time. It's because we're still pretty new with all of this. And we don't have a lot of good data saying this is who needs to get the boosters at exactly what time, but we're, we're trying to get those data, but we're trying to get those data in the setting of a horrible pandemic. So when cases start to arise, it's logical to think, okay, we need more people out there with higher antibody, higher immune responses to stop the pandemic, but the feds are right. We don't have perfect data to say, this is the group that needs the booster at this time to stop the spread. Um, we're getting those data, but it's just gonna take time.

Speaker 1: (05:16)

Are you hearing a lot of questions from people asking whether or not they need their booster shots?

Speaker 2: (05:21)

I get that question a lot about whether or not people need their booster and we just walk through it and go through the data. And some people are thinking, okay, well I'm probably okay and I'm not going to get it. Or there's lots of people are like, oh, okay. I think it's this time. Winter is coming. And I want to be a good neighbor and go ahead and get my vaccine booster.

Speaker 1: (05:41)

And of course, as we mentioned, the state's public health director is urging regional healthcare providers to make that available to all eligible patients, the booster shots. Do you think healthcare providers are receptive to that?

Speaker 2: (05:55)

Everybody that I talked to don't know anybody who's refusing to give a booster to anybody who asks for it or who's eligible for it. And many of us are encouraging people to go ahead and get their boosters.

Speaker 1: (06:06)

And what's the best way for people to determine when they should receive their

Speaker 2: (06:11)

Talk to their primary care doc. That's, that's the best way. And if that doesn't work, they can go online and look for at the California department of health about the vaccine and who's eligible for the boosters. But really it's all about that, uh, connection with the primary care doc.

Speaker 1: (06:25)

And to clarify, does it matter which booster shot you receive?

Speaker 2: (06:29)

You know, honestly, it's still early to know which poster is, uh, best for which person at which time, but right now the best data points to, uh, to get the booster from the series that you started with. But it also looks just fine to get a mix and match. So if you've got Pfizer before, it's okay to get Madrona, if you had J and J it's okay to get Pfizer, um, basically they all work to tell the immune system to say, Hey, this is the virus that you need to make antibodies to. And, um, they all boost a response.

Speaker 1: (07:02)

I've been speaking with Dr. Davy Smith, head of the division of infectious diseases and global public health at UC San Diego. Dr. Smith. Thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2: (07:11)

Thank you.

Speaker 1: (07:19)

The San Diego fire rescue department has been struggling with staffing shortages, but it's not only because of COVID-19 or vaccine mandates, KPBS reporter kitty Alvarado tells us the issue is more complicated than that. And it's a problem. Almost every department is facing across California.

Speaker 4: (07:40)

It's a beautiful day in San Diego and the fire crew at station one is starting their day. While everything looks normal, we've got

Speaker 5: (07:48)

An exhausted workforce

Speaker 4: (07:49)

Back at San Diego fire and rescue headquarters. Chief Colin Stonewell says it's been a struggle to keep the department's 50 stations, fully staffed.

Speaker 5: (07:57)

We're seeing less and less people sign up and voluntarily want to take overtime shifts. And so sometimes those sit empty.

Speaker 4: (08:03)

He says the staffing shortage has already resulted in a brown out of a station this year. On that day, 95 people called out that's one third of the day's workforce,

Speaker 5: (08:14)

The absolute last resort for us as to have to shut down a first responder unit. And it really came down to, we just did not have enough bodies.

Speaker 4: (08:21)

Oh, well says COVID, isn't the only reason this is happening.

Speaker 5: (08:24)

Also sharing a combination of retirements and some folks leaving the department for either other departments or a change,

Speaker 4: (08:31)

But COVID sure hasn't helped. And the city's vaccine mandate deadline is looming. About 12% of his department is unvaccinated,

Speaker 5: (08:39)

Definitely a concern of mine. And it could be very

Speaker 4: (08:41)

Impactful, but he's also seeing a sharp decrease in applicants. They used to get about 4,000 a year. Now they get about 1300

Speaker 3: (08:49)

A shortage of candidates. As a CPF, we maintain an eligibility hiring list that has over 3000

Speaker 4: (08:55)

Candidates on it. Brian Rice is the president of the California professional firefighters or the state's firefighters union. He says this crisis has been years in the making

Speaker 3: (09:06)

And to blame no. Is the wildfire season to blame? No. Do they play a role in it? Yes, but to me, the blame falls squarely on cities, counties, and municipalities as employers for failing to hire the adequate number of firefighters.

Speaker 4: (09:24)

He says it started during the recession when overtime became the norm, instead of hiring,

Speaker 3: (09:29)

This is a choice that municipalities have made and they're betting that the disaster is not going to come to their community. And so far, I think it's proven

Speaker 4: (09:39)

Rice says, departments have to stop relying on overtime because it takes its toll

Speaker 3: (09:44)

Health of firefighters, men, and women. A good part of that depends on them. Being able to go home and decompress and rebuild their strength.

Speaker 4: (09:52)

It also says the state's fire department, Cal fire must do better. So they don't burn out their staff or have to rely so heavily on city departments during disasters,

Speaker 3: (10:03)

Seasonal employees, part-time employees for years, they have relied on the prison system to try to augment that staffing. And I think it shameful and the state of California should be blamed in no uncertain terms for trying to get away on the cheap.

Speaker 4: (10:19)

Brian Marshall is the state's office of emergency services, fire chief. There, they coordinate resources from all over the state during major wildfires and disasters. He says he seen a difference in the requests they've made for fire resources. In the last few years,

Speaker 6: (10:34)

We're seeing approximately 50% of what we've seen in prior years,

Speaker 4: (10:40)

Forcing those on the front lines of mega fires to work longer shifts.

Speaker 6: (10:44)

These firefighters are literally gone all summer alone

Speaker 4: (10:48)

And with COVID and year long fire season pushing departments to the breaking point. The question is, will we have enough manpower if the big one hits during a mega fire or another disaster?

Speaker 6: (10:59)

It is a fear, I think by all emergency managers, that there will be simultaneous disasters across the state. And are we going to have enough resources when somebody calls 9 1 1 for help,

Speaker 4: (11:16)

Stonewall says, there's no doubt. There's a staffing crisis, plugging departments across the state, including his, but he's optimistic with their proactive recruitment. They will meet their staffing goals by 2023. And despite the challenges, Stonewall hopes more young people consider a career in the fire service because there's a lot of opportunity and the work is fulfilling

Speaker 5: (11:39)

When you're heading home. And, you know, you made a difference in somebody's life and you don't get that kind of satisfaction from a lot of careers.

Speaker 4: (11:44)

Kitty Alvarado, KPBS news,

Speaker 1: (12:04)

You're listening to KPBS mid-day edition. I'm Jade Hindman this weekend. There is a new playwright from San Diego repertory theater. The old globe we'll be wrapping up at Shakespeare call and response tour, plus a wide range of visual art, including bike helmet, art KPBS, arts editor, and producer Julia Dixon Evans is off today and has asked Angie Chandler to join us with details on the events. She is the cultural arts strategist behind culture mapping San Diego, and also the audience and engagement specialist with Balboa art conservation center. Angie, welcome.

Speaker 7: (12:40)

Thank you, Jade. Excited to be here with the KPBS folks again.

Speaker 1: (12:44)

So glad to have you first up is the San Diego repertory theaters here, us now, new play festival. What can you tell us about this festival and what people can expect from it?

Speaker 7: (12:54)

So for the past year or so, San Diego rep has been having conversations online called Lee are listening, and this was an effort to respond to the calls for equity in the theater world. And so now J D play festival is actually a response to that conversation. Um, the goal is to bring a variety of playwrights from different backgrounds. Um, they've commissioned these new plays and the goal is to provoke conversations around identity. I'm most looking forward to indigenous playwrights, Jason Grosse piece, um, the normal floors. It seems like it's got intrigued science characters that we rarely see on the mainstream stage. So I'm really looking forward to that.

Speaker 1: (13:33)

The hear us now, new play festival runs online tonight through Sunday, and tickets are pay what you can. The old globe will wrap up their Shakespeare call and response tour for their glow for all program. And I hear you've seen this performance. How was the experience? Ah,

Speaker 7: (13:51)

Have I got a sneak peek of it? And what's exciting is they actually develop this show in New York and then through the pandemic through virtual and in-person conversations adapted it for San Diego. So when people see the show, which has been traveling around the county, it looks like a little bit of Chicano park. Like there are some little parts that are very specifically San Diego. This is an updated Shakespeare, um, interactive experience, vibrant soundtrack by San Diego's own Mickey Vale, who is both DJ and cast member. Um, and it's really exciting. So I love that they're ending it back at by ballparks so you can catch it a few different places. It was quick, it was fast, it was fun. It really brought Shakespeare alive for me. And can you

Speaker 1: (14:33)

Tell me why Shakespeare is still important?

Speaker 7: (14:36)

These stories are so relevant and what I loved with the updates, they did the languages all the same. It's, it's very Shakespearian, but the conversation of love, right? Of loss of comedy that we find in these tricky situations, these things are timeless so many, many years later, after still loved doing the work and the audience that I sat with couldn't get enough. And the

Speaker 1: (14:58)

Final performance of the Shakespeare call and response to her will take place at 1:00 PM at the Balboa park fountain, the city of Carlsbad's art gallery, the William D. Cannon gallery opens their 2021 invitational exhibition this weekend with a reception. Can you tell us about some of the artists in this show?

Speaker 7: (15:18)

So S the art prize winner from 2020, Melissa Walter is one of the featured artists. This is the ninth time that they're having the invitational. And Melissa has reworked some pieces that we may have seen before, but the snippets that I've seen online have me really excited to see how she's re-imagined this work. And like, I don't need an excuse to get up to Carlsbad, to enjoy the water and the views. And so going up to also see the art sounds like a really fun day trip. The show will be up for a while, but I'm really looking forward to Melissa's work. And some other artists that I haven't seen too much, but they're from all around the county

Speaker 1: (15:53)

And the 2021 Canon invitational exhibition opens with a reception Saturday from five to 7:00 PM, and is on view through February 5th at mixed grounds and new coffee shop in Logan Heights. There's a special all day festival called the nutcase art show on Saturday. Uh, correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like artists are using bike helmets as a canvas.

Speaker 7: (16:18)

They are. So I love mixed Browns in general is a coffee shop, art gallery. It's a space for conversation and music. And what we're seeing in the San Diego art scene right now are these kinds of hybrid experiences. So it really is bike helmets. The goal is to kind of increase safety awareness, but make it cool. So in the morning or in the afternoon, folks can come and kids can decorate bells, which are great for safety as they're riding on the roads. And then later on, there'll be over 20 different artists displaying art that they've created on nutcase helmets. Um, so it sounds like it's going to be food trucks. It's going to be music, um, bike safety, which we know is super important. Getting the kids and the family involved right there, um, at mixed grounds, which is such a fun and vibrant space.

Speaker 1: (17:04)

Wow. Sounds very interesting that nutcase art show is Saturday, beginning at noon at mixed grounds and Logan Heights on Saturday, it live a Lula books and company they're celebrating the release of a photography scene called around the way girls, what do you know about this book and this pretty new bookstore in Barrio Logan?

Speaker 7: (17:24)

So Liberty Lula and bio Logan is this moment where we're finding independent bookstores pop up. [inaudible] in a few other parts of the city. And with this one specifically, one of my favorite photographers, um, Delana Delgado is doing film photography and the scene. So I'm, you know, we see a lot of digital photography around, um, but she is using film. She's exploring these textures. And so in the they'll have some for sale. They're also going to do a talk about this word. And so the Xen features girls just like, it sounds around the way from neighborhoods. We've got tattoos, we've got heart, we've got texture. It is like really gorgeous from what I've seen online. And then they're going to be talking in this really intimate space. Um, you can get the book side, you can hear about the process of film photography and why that's important

Speaker 1: (18:13)

Event for around the way girls is that Libby Lula books on Saturday at 2:00 PM. And you can find more details on these events and more at I've been speaking with Andrew Chandler, the culture arts strategists behind culture mapping, San Diego, and also the audience and engagement specialist with Balboa art conservation center. Angie, thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 7: (18:38)

It's been a pleasure excited for all these things going on in our beautiful city.

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California public health officials are encouraging eligible adults to get their booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible to stave off a possible winter surge. Plus, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department has been struggling with staffing shortages, but it’s not only because of the pandemic or the vaccine mandate — the issue is more complicated than that. And, this weekend there's brand new playwriting from San Diego Repertory Theatre, the Old Globe will be wrapping up its Shakespeare Call and Response tour, plus a wide range of visual art.