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Is it OK to go trick-or-treating this year?

 October 28, 2021 at 3:30 PM PDT

Speaker 1: (00:00)

The threat of COVID is still with us. This Halloween.

Speaker 2: (00:04)

It was all about Delta. That's the scariest monster as all the way to arrives. I think

Speaker 1: (00:10)

I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid-day edition, San Diego's community colleges, forgive millions in student debt.

Speaker 3: (00:28)

We realized that one of the obstacles that prevent students from re-enrolling in making progress towards their degree or certificate is the debt that they're burdened with

Speaker 1: (00:37)

San Diego county supervisors, agree to explore new alternative energy sources. And the San Diego Asian film festival is back in person and in theaters that's ahead on midday edition.

Speaker 1: (01:03)

The imminent approval of COVID vaccines for children and San Diego is healthy. Vaccination rates are good reasons for optimism as we head into the holiday season, but local doctors are warning that we are still not back to normal. This Halloween, the highly contagious Delta variant is still keeping new cases and hospitalizations from COVID at unacceptably high levels. So the experts say, even though this Halloween is not as scary as last year, precautions need to be in place to keep trick-or-treaters safe. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune, healthcare reporter, Paul Sisson, Paul, welcome traveling, despite all the hopeful news we've been hearing about vaccines lately, you say COVID case rates in San Diego are about the same as last year at this time. Why,

Speaker 2: (01:55)

Uh, you know, it's all about Delta, that's the scariest monster as following arrives. I think, um, you know, it has proven that it is more than twice as capable of infecting people as the previous versions that were circulating, uh, last Halloween. And so, uh, it's really interesting to see that this mutation of this virus has really made the case rate hang steady, even though we've seen so much more vaccination in the population than we had last year.

Speaker 1: (02:26)

How does the percentage of positive COVID tests compare now to a year ago?

Speaker 2: (02:31)

We're just slightly lower than we were last year. I think the latest report came in at 2.8% of tests coming back positive. And then the number on the same day, uh, last year was 3.1%. So we see a slightly lower percentage of all tests coming back positive, but a, a, a significantly or, or somewhat significantly higher case rate per

Speaker 1: (02:55)

Capita. And what about hospitalizations?

Speaker 2: (02:58)

Hospitalizations are a little higher this year. We're at almost 300 hospitalizations in the most recent report this week. And I think it was, uh, in, in the mid two hundreds last year, uh, though it's important to note that they changed the way that they count hospitalizations over the last year. So I think you'd probably call that a wash in terms of the number of people with COVID or in the hospital. It's about the same as it was last year.

Speaker 1: (03:25)

And they've also changed the number of COVID tests that they've been doing from last year haven't they

Speaker 2: (03:31)

That's right. You know, when kids are, kids are back in school now. And, uh, so if they have contact with somebody who tests positive for COVID, then they need to get tested. So it's just created a massive demand for testing this fall and late summer, as, as kids who've gone back to school and also as employers have required their un-vaccinated employees, uh, to get tested regularly, that's, especially in occasion healthcare, which is a huge employer in San Diego. If you're not vaccinated, you have to get tested twice a week. So that really, uh, that means that a lot more tests are being done and went a lot more tests are being done. You're going to going to find more cases that you might not have otherwise found.

Speaker 1: (04:10)

What does San Diego's overall vaccination rate right now?

Speaker 2: (04:14)

San Diego has, I think about two thirds of, of all residents, uh, fully vaccinated. It's about 80% of those who are eligible. Uh, remember that only those age 12 and older are currently approved to get vaccinated. Uh, the county tends to count it by, uh, you know, as a percentage of those who are qualified to get vaccinated. Uh, but I think it's important that we don't lose sight of the fact that kids younger than 12, uh, make up a significant part of this population. And none of them are vaccinated and all of them are perfectly capable of transmitting this virus to others.

Speaker 1: (04:49)

Well, that's the point though, the one group who can't be vaccinated, those young children up to 12 years old, they will be making up the bulk of the trick or treaters on Sunday. So does that have health officials concerned?

Speaker 2: (05:01)

Yeah, I mean, you know, they're, they're cautious about overstating their concern, uh, but they, they just don't. It does. It seems like as a matter of public health policy, they're just not quite ready to say, okay, everybody rip your, uh, and 95 mask off and go trick or treat and have a good time and go to all of those Halloween parties with no precautions in place. You know, they, the, the fact that Delta variant remains, you know, a spreading concern in San Diego county, uh, just causes them to, to kind of continue to cancel some caution. Although they do say that there's really not a lot of concern with something like trick or treating, if you're being careful. Uh, you know, as far as the science can tell, uh, there, isn't a huge amount of danger in terms of Halloween candy and that kind of thing, a surface transmission of this virus really has not turned out to be nearly as big a deal as we thought it was this time last year. Now

Speaker 1: (05:57)

This year, do they say it's enough to wear a costume mask or do kids need more than that?

Speaker 2: (06:02)

Uh, you know, if you, if you talk to the experts, if you talk to the public health folks or folks, uh, you know, over at UCLA, they're pretty much universally recommending a, a more, um, medical type mask. Uh, they're saying that that regular, uh, costume masks are, are not quite enough, uh, mostly, uh, given that Delta spreads more easily and people tend to carry a higher viral load, which means that you have a larger, uh, number of viruses in your body than you did with previous versions of the virus. So, so the, uh, the experts are all cautioning to use medical masks. If you've been to a grocery store or home Depot, or what have you recently, and looked around, you'll see that, uh, the populace in general has to a large degree moved away from masking. And so it's really anybody's guess whether anybody's going to listen to the public health, uh, desire for more masking on Halloween, uh, you know, uh, but that's definitely what they are advised.

Speaker 1: (07:03)

So trick-or-treating outdoors is pretty safe kids wearing the right masks and all, but what about Halloween parties? They're still not being encouraged, are they,

Speaker 2: (07:12)

Oh, that's right. Uh, we, we know that parties at least last year, uh, with a less transmissible virus, we're really where, uh, where our big spike in cases over the winter team from people gathering, uh, close to each other in, uh, in rooms and places, uh, with confined, uh, air supply, where, where you have a lot of people hanging out for hours and talking and having a good time, uh, that puts a lot of virus in the air. And, uh, and that is really the, one of the main transmission routes that drives this pandemic. So, so I think they're all quite worried that we're still going to see quite a lot of transmission, uh, just from parties, this holiday season, starting with Halloween and moving into Thanksgiving and Christmas. Uh, and so they are really, really urging, uh, you know, especially parties where you don't know that everyone is vaccinated. So the

Speaker 1: (08:03)

Advice on Halloween is pretty much the same as last

Speaker 2: (08:06)

Year. That's right. Uh, you know, I think we all thought that it might be a little different this year, given all the vaccination that was going on, you know, starting in the winter and through the spring. And, uh, you know, and when, when all of the restrictions came down and mid June, uh, but you know, there's Delta variant, just because it's so much more transmissible that just really has put Halloween right back in the spot that it was in a year ago.

Speaker 1: (08:32)

I'm been speaking with San Diego union Tribune health care reporter, Paul Sisson, Paul, thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 4: (08:38)


Speaker 1: (08:45)

A new tuition debt forgiveness program at San Diego community colleges as being called a lifeline for struggling students. The colleges will be forgiving $0.9 million in student debt, more than 11,000 students who were enrolled last spring through summer in city Mesa or Miramar community colleges will have their outstanding payments waived. The district is using federal pandemic relief funds to cover the debt. Officials say the program will make it possible for thousands of students to continue their college educations. Joining me is San Diego community college district chancellor, Carlos Turner Cortez, and welcome chancellor Cortez

Speaker 3: (09:27)

The morning. Thank you so much for having us, Maureen

Speaker 1: (09:30)

And also joining us as associated student government president at Miramar college, Edward Borek, Edward welcome I'm morning wearing. So chancellor, why did the district decide a program like this was needed?

Speaker 3: (09:44)

The COVID pandemic has unfortunately produced many negative outcomes for higher education institutions. We're seeing enrollments plummet. We're seeing students struggle to focus on their schoolwork when they have various external pressures that are preventing them from being successful. And we are very lucky to have received $140 million roughly in federal stimulus funding, 50 million of which is required to go directly to students in, in cash aid. Uh, we are using portion of the institutional funds to eliminate student debt because we realized that one of the obstacles that prevent students from re-enrolling in making progress towards their degree or certificate is the debt that they're burdened with. And part of that debt in the instance of 11,000 plus students is debt that they owed to the college for library fines or past duke tuition fees. And we thought if we have this unique opportunity to erase that debt, why not maximize that opportunity to support our students during these difficult times

Speaker 1: (10:45)

And chancellor, how will the debt forgiveness program work, who qualifies?

Speaker 3: (10:49)

These are 11,454 students who are enrolled in our college is 2021 will have their outstanding tuition and related enrollment fees. Forgiven holds for nonpayment will be removed and students will be eligible to enroll in the January intercession and spring 22 semester. So we're currently in the process of notifying students who may not have enrolled this past fall because they knew they owed the college money by releasing this debt. It removes any hold from their account and allows them to re-enroll and it gives them a fresh start, a clean start to re-engage in the community college and to refocus themselves on their educational, personal and career goals.

Speaker 1: (11:30)

Can you give us an idea of how much an average student who qualifies for this program might, oh,

Speaker 3: (11:36)

It ranges significantly. I mean, it could be as little as five to $10 for a library theme. It's a several hundred dollars, thousands of dollars based on each individual circumstance. But, you know, we, we are committed to supporting the whole student here in our college district. Unfortunately, we're required to charge these fees in order to ensure that we're making the best use of public dollars. But with this unique opportunity with stimulus funding, we're being allowed to use this funding to re-engage students who may have been disconnected from higher education during the COVID pandemic. And so we're using this unique opportunity with supplemental funding to ensure that our most vulnerable students can return to school.

Speaker 1: (12:15)

Now, in the announcement about the debt forgiveness program, you said community college students in particular would benefit from this help because many are from underserved communities. Can you tell us more about that?

Speaker 3: (12:28)

Yes. You know, community colleges serve a wide span of students, but, um, I think most people are aware that the most vulnerable students who pursue higher education often, uh, come through the community college student because we're, we're a full access institution. Anyone who walks through our doors, we will serve at our three credit colleges, San Diego city, college city, or Mesa college, San Diego Miramar college, along with our very large non-credit division of the college of continuing education. We serve over a hundred thousand students per year, about 11,000 of those students, unfortunately were not able to enroll in fall because they have pending debt. And we know many of these students are eager to return to school, but their personal financial circumstances, their, their need for childcare and transportation and housing in many cases are more important, um, to the immediate needs of our students. And so by eliminating this debt, we're helping students once again, to get a fresh start and to re-engage their journey to realize their personal goals.

Speaker 1: (13:29)

Now, Edward, your student government president at Miramar college, you get to hear a lot of students' stories. They talk to you. How important do you think this debt forgiveness program is?

Speaker 5: (13:40)

It's immensely important? Um, you're right. That I get to speak with my fellow students all the time. In fact, yesterday we had an on-campus event outside and several dozen students that I spoke with directly, you know, their stories of where they come from and where they want to go hinges on what they do at our local community colleges. And having as Dr. Cortez said even five or $10, keeping them from pursuing that education, this decision to forgive $3.9 million in student debt is something that is going to be so impactful for my student peers, um, because they will be able to go on and do the things that they want to do. And again, that barrier to access of five to $10 for a library book, or several hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars for tuition that can change someone's life.

Speaker 1: (14:28)

When you share with us, maybe someone's personal story about struggling to keep up with tuition during the pandemic.

Speaker 5: (14:36)

Yeah. You know, as you said with the pandemic, so many students have been victims of circumstance of the pandemic, and I wouldn't be able to just pick out one because there are so many, and that really is the tragedy here, but the STCC is taking steps to rectify that and to help students who either lost a job or their parents lost a job. Um, in fact, one member of our student government that was elected at the end of last year to serve this year, had to withdraw from all classes because both her parents lost their jobs. And she had to take, uh, a second job that didn't leave time to take classes. And that right there, you know, if her family had access or better access to financial assistance, then maybe that student would have been able to continue with her education, continue to advocate for her fellow students as I am doing. And her life would be a lot different.

Speaker 1: (15:28)

Let me ask you both a question, you know, there's a continuing push from some politicians to erase all student debt and make public colleges free chancellor. Do you think that should be the ultimate goal?

Speaker 3: (15:40)

Yes, yes. Yes. Um, you know, California community colleges used to be free. And even though the cost per student to enroll is relatively low and in roughly 70% of our students pay no enrollment fees whatsoever, there are other costs associated with education, um, that aren't taken into consideration, particularly for our community college systems. You know, here in the state of California, we invest significantly more resources in K-12 students in the Cal state and the UC system. But we don't recognize the, the real financial challenges that our community college students face when they enroll in our community colleges. They don't receive support again with housing, transportation, childcare, groceries, healthcare. And so by eliminating the cost of tuition, we certainly would provide an advantage to the most vulnerable students in our community to help them to transform their lives and the lives of their families for generations to come.

Speaker 3: (16:35)

So, yes, absolutely. Our district was one of the first districts in the country to launch a promise campaign. I'm proud to announce that this past fall, we raised $1 million to expand our free community college program beyond what the state is funding to encourage, uh, adult learners, uh, who, who may not have been college ready when they came out of high school to have a second chance to enroll in free community college. So, uh, we're doing our part here in San Diego, and we're thrilled to learn that there's increasing support around the country to expand free community college opportunities to students

Speaker 1: (17:10)

And Edward. What kind of difference do you think free community college would make

Speaker 5: (17:14)

All the difference in the world? Really? You know, nobody bats an eye at saying K through 12 schools should be free and open to all people who live in this country. And a higher education degree is no longer a luxury. It's a necessity for so many fields. Making community colleges free for all students, regardless of their socioeconomic status or citizenship is going to open up doors for our country as a whole to progress into the 21st century. And it is removing a very large barrier to access for so many.

Speaker 1: (17:45)

Well, I want to thank you both so much for speaking with me. I've been speaking with San Diego community college district, chancellor, Carlos Turner, Cortez and associated student government president at Miramar college. Edward Burrick. Thank you both. Thank

Speaker 6: (17:59)

You Maureen. Very much.

Speaker 4: (18:00)

Thank you for having us.

Speaker 7: (18:13)

You're listening to KPBS mid-day edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Cavenaugh. A recent proposal unanimously passed by the San Diego board of supervisors looks to examine the feasibility of a number of alternative energy sources in San Diego county. The vote is part of the counties regional decarbonisation framework that helps to ultimately eliminate carbon dioxide emissions and greatly reduce pollution. While officials have high hopes for the future of cleaner energy and the region much needs to be done before San Diego can shake its dependency on fossil fuels. Joining me with more as Rob Nicole Leschi and energy reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Rob, welcome back to the program.

Speaker 6: (18:55)

Always a pleasure talking to you, Jane, can

Speaker 7: (18:58)

You tell us some more about these different kinds of alternative energy that are being considered with this proposal?

Speaker 6: (19:05)

Well, yeah, there are basically three that they're looking at. One of them is wave energy and that's something that's not a whole lot of people are familiar with basically wave energy. If something is a, uh, process in which, uh, scientists and people in technology are trying to find ways to harness the power of tides, that you have an ocean and be able to use that and harness that as a source of energy problem with the wave energy is that it's basically still very much in its infancy. And there has been some difficulty trying to get that hardest thing that, um, the county is looking at in addition to solar and wind is also trying to develop some offshore wind projects. And that's mostly been seen in the east coast and in Europe hasn't really come out to the west coast yet. And then the third thing is a geothermal geothermal makes up about 6% of California's in-state electricity mostly is found in Northern California, outside about 60, 70 miles outside of San Francisco ethic geysers. So it hasn't really come down to Southern California, but those are some of the three things that the county board of supervisors

Speaker 7: (20:15)

And this proposal passed unanimously. Are we seeing a lot of bipartisan support for alternative energy,

Speaker 6: (20:21)

At least how many on the county level? Yes, there, there is some and Joel Anderson, who's a Republican joined with a nation based and Fletcher the chair of the county board of supervisors to introduce this. I talked to supervisor Anderson about this. He said, uh, any emphasize that they don't know for sure if wave energy geothermal Southern California off shore wind will be that viable, but he said, it's worth asking the about. And there are some questions about each of those, about the feasibility about, of each of those three sources,

Speaker 7: (20:54)

Supervisor Joel Anderson, as you just mentioned, made it, uh, made a point to say that options beyond wind and solar, uh, should be explored. Are these other options being used in other parts of the country to any success?

Speaker 6: (21:08)

Sure. Wind, as I mentioned was basically been something that you've seen in Europe, European countries have been able to develop that more quickly. There's been a lot of onshore wind development throughout the United States. The problem with offshore wind specifically to California has been that, and I've written about this in the past is that the military in California, they've got real concerns and they put blocked up essentially blocked off a whole portion, all of Southern California and a portion of central California, because they are afraid that if you put these really, really large wind turbines up, that it will interfere with military operations. So we use mostly seen discussion about offshore wind. There have not been any offshore wind, uh, facilities built in California yet, but most of that discussion has been in Northern California. But since I wrote this story last week, I saw something where there's been some discussion in Ventura county, which is certainly part of Southern California about putting something with an on the state waters of, uh, off, off shore Ventura county. So we'll see what happens down the road, but for the most part, it looks like offshore, wind is mostly going to be something that you'd see in Northern California.

Speaker 7: (22:25)

And what are some of the major hurdles in the way of San Diego's transition to cleaner energy?

Speaker 6: (22:31)

The biggest hurdle is the fact that we have a lot of solar. We have a decent amount of wind in Southern California, so to speak, but the problem with solar and wind is that they're not dispatchable. And that means, uh, by energy standards that they cannot be relied upon 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The problem with solar is that even though it's very abundant during the daylight hours, once the sun goes down, you're not able to get to generating more solar problem with when sort of parallel is that you can get a lot of wind when the wind's blowing up. When it's not you, don't now one of the possible solutions that the state governments and local governments have been looking at is energy storage, like battery storage. But one of the problems with battery storage would be, and that's something that you could dispatch during the night, during the times when the, uh, electric grid is under the most stress, but one of the problems with battery storage right now, we've said, it's hard to find something that can dispatch electricity more than four hours. So obviously we've got more than four hours of nighttime that we have to be able to tie it over. So those are some of the big hurdles that renewable energy faces right now.

Speaker 7: (23:41)

And it seems that one of the major obstacles to completing these projects is community opposition to building them in the first place. How are residents feeling about the prospects of these new energy sources being built in their backyard?

Speaker 6: (23:56)

That's a good question because, um, I think we stop people on the street, especially in California. If you asked them about clean energy, the almost unanimously people say yes, we want to have more clean energy and have less polluting sources. The big question becomes, do you, where do you, what happens if that FFL proposed new renewable energy facility is in your own backyard? And that there's an example of that is in, uh, in the town of Kumba. Um, the county board of supervisors, uh, approved, um, a project that would a big solar project, um, and also would have a little bit of battery storage right outside, literally right next to the city limits of the town of Kumba. And most of the residents there came out strongly against it, and there's a lawsuit trying to stop it. Their argument being that the facility would be so large that it would basically subsume the entire small town. It's a Kumba. So we'll see what happens as far as that lawsuit goes. But as for right now, that project has been approved and should be, uh, ground should be broken on that later at the end, either at the end of this year, beginning of next,

Speaker 7: (25:09)

I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune energy reporter, Rob Nicole Pesci, Rob, thanks so much for joining

Speaker 6: (25:15)

Us. It's always a pleasure.

Speaker 4: (25:18)


Speaker 1: (25:27)

The San Diego county health department reports that more than 365,000 people in our region have been infected with COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, that's created an up and down challenge for doctors and other medical professionals. But what about those students who were just entering a medical school like UC San Diego as the Corona virus, ravaged communities and crippled hospitals, KPBS education reporter mg Perez has their story.

Speaker 8: (25:59)

This is the sound of doctors, practicing medicine, at least a dozen of them working with support staff had experienced colleagues. Some of these doctors are second year students from the UC San Diego medical school. The classroom on this particular Wednesday evening is the free clinic housed in rooms and an auditorium at Pacific beach United Methodist church. Justine Penniann is the designated clinic general manager. She's a second year medical student who survived her first year program gripped in the chaos of COVID 19,

Speaker 9: (26:32)

Really inspiring seeing everybody really unite in order to address this pandemic. It really showed me that you didn't have to be directly on the front lines in order to fight the

Speaker 10: (26:43)

Pandemic. They didn't let it stop them from being incredible medical.

Speaker 8: (26:49)

Dr. Natalie Rodriguez is the UCS D associate clinical professor and mentor to the students. She was a young medical student herself when she started volunteering at the free clinic 20 years ago, 13 years ago, she became the attending physician who now beams with pride when talking about her students

Speaker 10: (27:09)

During their enthusiasm, their compassion, their passion, their innovation, especially this past year with COVID. The only time Justin was ever in the hospital was for his birth.

Speaker 8: (27:24)

Okay. Dr. Rodriguez and her students are back to in-person classes on the UCLA campus this fall, after a year of distance learning the critical first year of medical school.

Speaker 11: (27:35)

And it can help to dim the light in the room that might make the BB more likely to open their eyes.

Speaker 8: (27:42)

Morgan is happy to finally be in person and in community with her other classmates who also trudge through a year of zoom classes. Morgan preferred to give only her first name as she shared personal memories. And her experience like the first day of medical school at home

Speaker 12: (28:00)

Education was some people would say disrupted and not. We value all of the clinical work that we have just so much. It's like working at the free clinic, getting to see a patient, um, getting to do a physical. It does just make you appreciate the opportunities that you have. Um, when you understand that they could be taken away and not, they could have been

Speaker 8: (28:19)

Okay. Despite the challenge second year student Irvy, Guppta never gave up hope after spending the first critical year of medical school in distance learning. She also dealt with the devastation caused by COVID-19 in her family's home country of India. If anything, she says the experience will make her a better doctor,

Speaker 13: (28:39)

No matter what the media and what the platform, our first priority is always just making the patients feel comfortable and making sure that we're providing excellent care. And so I think this past year has shown us that no matter what, the situation that we're put in, we can do

Speaker 8: (28:51)

The COVID shutdown did not stop the Wednesday weekly free clinic in Pacific beach. And these then first year students also encountered a sudden lesson in social justice.

Speaker 9: (29:03)

We had just come off of the black lives matter protests, and it really just exploded this entire introspection and to racial injustice and just health equity.

Speaker 8: (29:15)

In fact, the racial divide triggered in 2020 inspired the creation of a new enhanced health equity curriculum at the UCS D medical school, engaging students in how to treat people of different beliefs and backgrounds. Dr. Rodriguez could not be more proud of their accomplishments.

Speaker 10: (29:34)

This gives me so much hope for the future of medicine, knowing that they're going to go out there and make such a difference in the world

Speaker 8: (29:42)

And in healthcare. That's some good medicine we can all use.

Speaker 1: (29:48)

Joining me is KPBS education reporter M J Perez mg. Welcome. Good morning. Now you're usually reporting on K through 12 education in San Diego. What got you interested in medical school students?

Speaker 8: (30:02)

One of the many hats that I wear in my life is I'm an actor and I actually had, uh, been working with the medical school as a standardized patient and what that job entails is playing a sick patient for medical students. And so that began my relationship several years ago. And so I thought what's going on with them in the time of COVID. And, uh, it was quite an interesting story. Um, as I talked to several, uh, students at the school,

Speaker 1: (30:33)

Did the med school students, you spoke with tell you they feel at a disadvantage now because their first year of training was online.

Speaker 8: (30:41)

It certainly was that because imagine if you will getting the call or the email in December, 2019, congratulations, you're in med school. And then two months later everything's shut down. Uh, so there was a question, what is medical school gonna look like? But, uh, having moved through that, uh, these are people who fought to get into medical schools. So they are definitely a strong in, um, in their conviction to become doctors. So while it was a setback, uh, they dealt with it and, uh, clearly, uh, are, are moving ahead, uh, in their pursuit of medicine,

Speaker 1: (31:18)

How did you CSD actually handle remote learning for medical students? I mean, medicine is so dependent on lab classes and hands-on learning

Speaker 8: (31:28)

Like everybody else. It was all about the zoom. And so that's where they started. And in the early months of medical school, I'm told, um, there's a lot of lectures and a lot of book learning, so to speak. So that part of it was not, um, was easy to fix with a, with a zoom call, but they did actually meet very, very, uh, infrequently, uh, for Annette anatomy classes. But that was all, you know, socially distanced and with masks. But for the most part, I'd say over 95% of what they did in that first year was, um, online and through zoom

Speaker 1: (32:05)

Are all UC San Diego medical school classes in person this year,

Speaker 8: (32:10)

We're back in person and we got to follow some of them in class. And, um, and they're adapting. Uh, several of the students I spoke with said it was odd to actually be in the same room with, uh, people that they had been working with for almost a year classmates and professors. Uh, and like most of us were, you know, getting back into what is it like to be social with people in-person

Speaker 1: (32:34)

Med school applications rose during COVID and some experts kind of likened the, to people signing up for military service after nine 11, did the pandemic increase the dedication of these students?

Speaker 8: (32:48)

I think it definitely gave them more purpose. Um, I asked that question, why med school? And, um, they said, as things started to unravel, they began to realize how significant their commitment was. Uh, one, one student that I talked to, um, her parents actually both got COVID. Um, and so she had, she did not. And so she had to quarantine from them, but this was while she was, you know, studying, uh, her, her medical, um, curriculum. So, uh, it definitely affected students directly. And, uh, at the same time, I think gave them even more conviction, uh, to get through this and to get out there and to help people.

Speaker 1: (33:31)

I remember some medical school students who were about to graduate and begin their residencies last year, they were actually put on the front lines because hospitals were so swamped with COVID patients that must have given all medical school students, a sharp reminder of the risks they could face.

Speaker 8: (33:50)

Absolutely. And as I said, you know, the medical students, uh, were a little disappointed, but in the end, basically, most of them said, Hey, we're happy to be here. And we know there's a risk in practicing medicine. Uh, and we believe that maybe this could be the greatest lesson of medical school, uh, of all, uh, given that it is a pandemic that none of us has experienced in our lifetime.

Speaker 1: (34:18)

Tell us more about what the UC San Diego medical school students actually do at the free clinic in Pacific beach.

Speaker 8: (34:25)

A free clinic at Pacific beach has been operating for well over 20 years and they volunteer there as medical students. And there are medical students first, second, third, and fourth year students. And it's, it's basic medical care for people who need it the most who don't have money, uh, to, to, uh, get, uh, health care that they, that they need. They have a dentistry students who come and there are students who are studying, uh, mental health and, uh, optometry. So it really is a community effort, um, to help those who don't have the finances, um, to get proper health care.

Speaker 1: (35:03)

Now there's social justice demonstrations of last year will apparently have a lasting impact on UC San Diego med school. So is the health equity curriculum, a brand new part of medical training at the school?

Speaker 8: (35:16)

When I was working with students as a standardized patient, uh, there was a little bit of that, uh, discussion about, uh, different backgrounds and religious beliefs and so forth. But given what happened in 2020, uh, the school committed to a curriculum that is new and that is more engaging and goes to a deeper level of just, uh, of not just, um, you know, basic concepts, but really what does it mean to have someone you are treating, who doesn't believe in science or questions like that, uh, that they will now have a deep conversation and more importantly learning and curriculum.

Speaker 1: (35:57)

I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter M G Perez, M G. Thank you.

Speaker 7: (36:02)

Thank you.

Speaker 4: (36:03)


Speaker 7: (36:10)

You're listening to KPBS. Mid-day edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen kavanah San Diego Asian film festival is back in person with 130 films from 20 countries screening at four venues. The festival kicks off tonight at the San Diego natural history museum, KPBS arts reporter, Beth Mondo previews, the festival with its artistic director. Brian who

Speaker 14: (36:35)

Brian, the San Diego Asian film festival has been on hiatus like so many events because of COVID you are returning to in-person events right now coming up. So what does that feel like?

Speaker 15: (36:48)

It's a little eerie which may be appropriate for Halloween. It's a little bit like, are these going to be empty theaters? Is it going to be creaking in places that we didn't realize are going to be cobwebs? I'm half joking we've been in there and it's magnificent, right? Like you just breathe in the theater air. I've been in the projection booth, we're getting everything geared up and we're just waiting for the audiences to pour in, but a little bit of apprehension not going to lie. Um, but that's, that's normal. Like festivals are, you never know what's going to happen. That's also makes it fun.

Speaker 14: (37:18)

Yeah. The lineup is great. And you have a wonderful mix of films, which is something that I always appreciate. So you have two documentaries, very different writing with fire and inside the red brick wall.

Speaker 15: (37:30)

These are two that really speak to the moment in powerful ways. Inside the red brick wall is about 2019 protests. And I'm such a powerful documentary in that. It is that the filmmakers are amongst the protestors while this is all happening. No one knows what's going to happen. People are talking about, we may not see each other again, because this may be like 10 square in Hong Kong, but also getting a sense of the courage of these filmmakers to persist because they see these protesters are two, so they need to be there to document it. All. This is historic

Speaker 15: (38:03)

And ready with fire is it's a little bit different in that it's more of a historical look, right? It's, you're following people across many months and years in their careers as journalists, but this one speaks to the contemporary moment of the importance of journalism that we need. People who can tell the stories that official media, um, that's often. Um, what, what would that that's often under the influence of the powerful of sometimes are unable to tackle, uh, like, like issues, especially issues regarding women and, um, about the poor. Um, so running with fire is about just these Intrepid woman who are become journalists because they pick up phones and they figured out a way to get their stories on YouTube and online. And they become kind of these local heroes, folk, heroes, even so inspiring to see them kind of persist through it all. But you also get a sense of the stakes of journalism and why it's so important.

Speaker 14: (38:58)

I appreciate the fact that you program films that are popular entertainment or films that are, you know, what you would call crowd pleasers in the sense that audiences will come to it because it's an enjoyable film, but you also like to program films, which I love, which are a little out of the mainstream or tweak expectations in interesting ways. And one that you had was wheel of fortune and fantasy, which really kind of presents itself one way and then evolves in ways that really surprise you.

Speaker 15: (39:30)

This is a collection of three short films directed by Rio sukkah. Hamaguchi who is one of my favorite directors these days. And he's also the director of driving my car, which is our closing film, but yeah, wheel of fortune and fantasy. I mean, I don't want to give away too much about it because the whole premise is that these are three short films about coincidences when people who don't expect to meet each other end up doing so the dance they do around each other and what it reveals about themselves and, and also like their ability to be sometimes not sometimes kind of cruel. Um, um, and it's, wow, it's such a joy to see a director, know how to squeeze every ounce of drama from unexpected directions. Um, not in any like melodramatic or scandalous way, but in a way that really cuts to the moral stakes or the kind of the possibilities of tension on screen.

Speaker 14: (40:26)

And this year you have some older titles, you've always had mystery Kung Fu theater, which is something I adore, which is where you don't tell us what you're showing, but it will be an old Kung Fu movie. But this year you also have some interesting older titles in execution in autumn, which is an older Taiwanese film, and then celebrating Wayne Wang with dim sum. Tell me a little bit about execution and autumn,

Speaker 15: (40:52)

But don't behold, this was recently restored it's in its glorify widescreen English subtitles, and it looks magnificent. It's also directed by this filmmaker named leashing, one of the legends of Taiwan cinema before the new wave of the 1980s. And he, and he passed away in August. Now we must, we really must show this movie in part, because I think talent cinema is associated with sort of these art films from the eighties, nineties, and two thousands. But let's talk about what happened before. And this is also kind of a juicy drama of ethics and family that really stretches our definitions of family. It's a wonderful treat to be able to see on the big screen.

Speaker 14: (41:30)

Are there any other titles that you'd like to highlight audiences?

Speaker 15: (41:34)

There are always, there's endless films that I liked once another really fun one called beyond the infinite two minutes. It's kind of a stunt movie, uh, in that it's like a single take, but it's a hilarious gag that they run for 70 minutes, which is like the perfect running time for these kinds of movies. It's about this guy, he's a Japanese cafe. He notices that the security camera has like a two minute delay to what he sees on his, on his computer. And he starts to play like, wait, what if I go over there then does that mean I'm two minutes in the past or now my two minutes in the future. Anyway. So he uses this as a premise to go into, to, to, to time travel. Basically, uh, films have often used single take as a kind of like technical stunt, but there's something about the single take in a single location now, especially we've, since we've been at home all this time, that I think has a special meaning. And like, I just love seeing people who, who make so much out of so little, right? Like you're, we're all, we've all been stuck in our homes. We've all had to like improvise new kinds of, of, of joy. And this is a film that puts that on display in full force. So I definitely would recommend that one.

Speaker 14: (42:38)

I'm talking about improvising some joy. You are also having the double feature of lumpia and lumpia with a vengeance, which is very much a kind of do it yourself. Filmmaking.

Speaker 15: (42:51)

Yeah. I mean, we've been talking about how, like the chunky is this like landmark Asian-American comfortable movie and it is, it totally is. But I always like to say, it's not the first one. And if this is, if this double feature is to be believed, it's not even the second one. I like Patricia [inaudible] like in the 1990s, he and his friends, they were in high school. They'd just made their own movies on digital video tapes. And it was just like, you know, like if you're in high school, you know, about bullies and you know, but you also have a certain culture, like they're all Filipino American kids. And they see like all these tensions, even within the Filipino community. And there's like just improvising their own sense of self-worth and heroism and cultural joy. And they turned it into this, you know, like a comic book movie called lumpia about a Limpia flinging superhero.

Speaker 15: (43:40)

Um, and it became like something of a cult hit amongst Filipino Americans because it spoke directly to their cultural uniqueness. And also, but from the perspective of not necessarily like historical trauma, but from like, let's, let's have fun with this. Um, but like, let's, let's go into theater and celebrate each other, um, through a superhero movie and it became such a cult hit that in 2020, they finally finished along the way to SQL called lumpia with a vengeance. Um, and for me, it's a vengeance, not just in like the comic book sense, but eventually it's also like, you know, we've been out of the scene for, for over a decade. We want to come back with a sort of explosiveness and, and also to remind everybody that all timers still got it.

Speaker 14: (44:26)

Well, I want to thank you very much for talking about the upcoming San Diego Asian film festival. And I will see you at mystery Kung Fu

Speaker 15: (44:33)

Theater. Can't wait to see you there.

Speaker 7: (44:35)

That was Beth Eka, Mondo speaking with Brian who have San Diego Asian film festival. The festival runs tonight through November 6th at multiple venues.

With trick-or-treating just around the corner, local doctors are warning that we are still not back to normal this Halloween. Plus, a new debt forgiveness program at San Diego community colleges is being called a lifeline for struggling students. And, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors direct staff to examine the feasibility of alternative energy sources, including wave, geothermal and offshore wind, in San Diego County. Also, a look at students who started med school during the pandemic. Then, the San Diego Asian Film Festival is back in person with 130 films from 20 countries screening at four venues.