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Los Angeles County confirms case of COVID-19 omicron variant

 December 3, 2021 at 1:49 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:00)

As Omicron is detected in LA, we'll get a COVID update for San Diego.

Speaker 2: (00:05)

Was it, this was sort of predictable because if the virus is out there and infecting people, it will have a chance to meet

Speaker 1: (00:12)

I'm Maureen Cavenaugh. This is KPBS midday edition. We'll hear the real world effects of California's wildfire, air pollution.

Speaker 3: (00:30)

Personally, me, it affects me on my, you know, my chest and I get very like a horsey voice and then produces a lot of cops

Speaker 1: (00:40)

And art poetry and music for a chili cook-off top, our weekend preview that's ahead on mid day edition As anticipated, the Omicron variant is being detected in more cities. Los Angeles has discovered its first case of the new COVID variant in a fully vaccinated person who recently traveled to South Africa. Health officials say the person is recovering and quarantining at home. San Diego county health officials are maintaining existing safety protocols. Joining us with the latest on San Diego's response to the new variant is KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Welcome. Hey Maureen, what are local officials saying about Omicron?

Speaker 2: (01:37)

I think there's a lot about OMI that we just don't know yet. You know, while it's suggested that it's likely to be more contagious, such as like the Delta variant, uh, we don't really know exactly yet. You know, we don't know how sick it can make people, um, and how well, uh, the existing vaccines work or don't work against it. Um, and you know, county officials right now are saying, uh, you know, the best precaution is to steps that we already know to take against, you know, how COVID-19 spreads get vaccinated. And as the governor pointed out, let's not panic. And get ahead of the information here. You know, there's just a lot of information coming out of South Africa. You know, we've had a couple of cases here in the United States, a couple of cases here in California. Um, but we knew that this was sort of predictable, right? I mean, not only because like the world was interconnected, but because if the virus is out there and infecting people, it will have a chance to mutate. But the question is, is that going to be a more dangerous variant than the ones that we've seen before, like Delta or some of the other ones, how

Speaker 1: (02:33)

Is testing being done to see if the variant is

Speaker 2: (02:35)

Here? Yeah. So testing is always being done. You know, like if you get COVID and you go get sick, you go get tested at a county site, you go get tested at your health care provider. Some of those tests are sequenced. Uh that's where they look to see, you know, what exactly, uh, strain of COVID do you have here for a long time? It was the Delta variant. Um, and now they're looking to see if they can find a OMI Cron. And that testing happens at county sites happens at private labs that sequencing, I should say, um, happens at some of the healthcare providers here, you know, UC San Diego, uh, outlets like that are on the lookout for Omicron. And once they see it, they say the let us know.

Speaker 1: (03:09)

And UCLA is asking all students who traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday to take a COVID test. I'm wondering that, is there an increase in new COVID cases,

Speaker 2: (03:19)

Looking at the data, there is not a new increase in COVID cases, just in the last month or two, uh, you know, we're averaging about 350 400 cases per day. Um, uh, you know, a few deaths are, are there as well too. Um, but we're not seeing a general increase. Now keep in mind a lot of the data, as we know, has a lagging indicator in terms of when people get sick, when they might go to the hospital and then unfortunately if they may die. Um, so, you know, Thanksgiving just recently happened. Um, a lot of people are vaccinated, but we could still yet see an increase in cases from the,

Speaker 1: (03:52)

Yeah. I want to talk to you about that. President Biden made a new pitch for people getting vaccinated as we approach winter and the holidays, our local officials expressing concern about a possible new surge in COVID.

Speaker 2: (04:05)

Uh, I, I would say the answer to that is yes. I mean, the governor has said, you know, we know how this virus works. Uh, we know that last winter we saw a large surge, um, obviously a lot more people weren't vaccinated yet. You know, we're coming up on, uh, just about a year of, you know, people first having access to the vaccine, uh, before it came a lot more widespread. Uh, but we know how this virus acts, you know, we know that if people are vaccinated, if they are in, uh, indoor spaces with other unvaccinated people, if somebody has that virus and there's not good ventilation, we know that it's going to spread, uh, very easily and it may infect people. Um, so it sort of predictable is what they're saying that they expect to see some sort of an increase. The question is, is it gonna be enough to overwhelm the hospital system, right?

Speaker 1: (04:46)

Are our hospitals preparing for an increase? I think

Speaker 2: (04:49)

That they're always preparing for an increase. Um, but we haven't, there's still a lot in terms of Omicron that we don't know, you know, there's some data coming out of South Africa that suggests maybe a, it does not have an increased hospitalization rate attached to it. Um, but as some of those experts are saying too, those are lagging indicators. So we just don't know, but hospitals are always, always preparing. It's also worth noting too, that in terms of this vaccine, what we do know what we don't know, um, you know, companies like Pfizer and Medina say that they're already in some of the initial stages of creating a vaccine for this, should it be necessary? And obviously wouldn't be ready right away has to go through the authorization processes. But some of those companies are estimating that it could take them a hundred days to finish.

Speaker 1: (05:31)

What is the status of vaccinations here in San Diego? And while we're talking about it, what's the status of outbursts.

Speaker 2: (05:37)

Yeah. So in San Diego county, uh, we're seeing, uh, among the eligible population in terms of first doses, uh, 84% of residents have gotten their shots. And for, uh, completing the series, we have 75% of residents that have that now, not to throw too many numbers at you, but it's worth noting too. Uh, that governor do some said this week, that 92 of Californians 18 and over have gotten their first dose. So that is a very, very high number. We have that vaccination while there, you know, some people are sort of questioning the further we go. You know, we tried the incentives, you know, we had the prize money lottery wheel. Um, other states were doing different things. How much can we really tick up those numbers? Um, you know, we're seeing an increase, you know, in some parts of the country, some parts of the world with OMI Cron. Um, but it's unclear if we could really get to 100%,

Speaker 1: (06:25)

Uh, people talk about COVID fatigue, I guess we're all tired of wearing masks and distancing, but there seems to be a renewed emphasis on keeping those rules in place. Now tell us about that.

Speaker 2: (06:38)

There definitely is an emphasis on that and that's because sort of what I was talking about earlier is we know how this virus spreads, you know, and we know that the longer it's going to be out there, that there's a chance that more of these variants that could escape immunity, that could be more contagious, uh, are going to be popping up. You know, we saw it happening with Delta, um, and now it may be happening with the homie crown, but it's, you know, it's worth pointing out that we still don't know yet. You know, we have those two cases that one out of San Francisco, that person was traveling from South Africa, having mild symptoms. You know, there's some data that shows maybe people that have had COVID and have some immunity after that, um, are not as protected against this, but, uh, it's really going to be interesting. Maureen paying attention to the data, moving forward to see if this, if this variant of concern really will be a big concern

Speaker 1: (07:25)

And you'll be discussing more about the OMA Cron variant today on round table.

Speaker 2: (07:29)

Yeah. We'll be diving into it all today on brown table. And that's coming up right after the show.

Speaker 1: (07:34)

I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Thank you.

Speaker 2: (07:38)

Thanks Maureen.

Speaker 1: (07:50)

And now for part two of an investigation, the California report brought us yesterday. [inaudible] Ramiro has been investigating the state's failure to enforce regulations, meant to protect farm workers and others exposed to wildfire smoke. She found that earlier this year, lawmakers tried to boost enforcement, but governor Gavin Newsome's administration stepped in and blocked their efforts

Speaker 4: (08:17)

At a food bank in the town of Viola and Fresno county volunteers help unload groceries into cardboard boxes and carry them to her pickup truck. What does image Beltran is a farm worker this fall. She worked in the fields, harvesting grapes for raisins. She says, including shifts and thick wildfire smoke. Personally,

Speaker 3: (08:39)

To me, it affects me on my, you know, my chest and I get very like a horse he voice and then produces

Speaker 4: (08:48)

Tiny particles and wildfire smoke can trigger asthma attacks, strokes, and other serious health problems. Since 2019, California employers have been required to protect workers when smoke levels become unhealthy by offering them N 95 masks, for example, or moving them indoors. But farmworkers like Beltran told us they never heard about those regulations. He says she never got an N 95 nor the training employers are supposed to give workers about the health hazards of smoke. Far as my knowledge, you weren't told anything, an estimated 4 million Californians work outdoors, but data obtained by KQBD and the California newsroom show that over the more than two years, the smoke regulations have been in place. The state dispatched inspectors to only 26 employers that led to just 11 citations for violations of the wildfire smoke standard 11

Speaker 5: (09:47)

Violations, you know, obviously is a very low number,

Speaker 4: (09:50)

California assemblyman, Robert Rivas chairs, the assemblies agriculture committee. He introduced a bill that would have required the government to send strike teams of inspectors to the fields. Whenever smoke levels become dangerous.

Speaker 5: (10:04)

Having a mechanism of enforcement is incredibly important.

Speaker 4: (10:08)

Provision was deleted last summer after opposition from governor Gavin Newsome said administration that's according to internal documents, we viewed and interviews with people close to the negotiations.

Speaker 5: (10:21)

My effort here was not trying to penalize growers in any way and, you know, uh, or the agricultural industry, but it was to, you know, achieve a level of accountability.

Speaker 4: (10:32)

Newsome's press office did not respond to multiple requests for comment. And neither that has labor and workforce development agency, which documents show wanted the strike teams removed. Dan Lucido did talk to us as acting chief of CalOSHA she's in charge of enforcing the smoke rules. She also didn't want to comment on the changes to the bill, to the,

Speaker 6: (10:55)

The extent that any amendments were made. It would have been the author's decision to amend the bill. Not

Speaker 4: (11:02)

Ours. Lucido says her agency is a leader in providing worker protections, including against wildfire smoke. She says, Callow shop is not opposed to sending strike teams out on smoky days. She had knowledge. They've been short on outreach and blame the pandemic, but now she says the agency is trying to get the word out about the smoke regulations like through this video and English and Spanish posted on their website

Speaker 7: (11:28)

In California. [inaudible]

Speaker 4: (11:33)

But when you farm workers say they still don't know about the protections. So the rules not working says Niamey and Martinez. She directs the central California environmental justice network. I,

Speaker 8: (11:45)

I find it very ironic when the agencies brag about, oh, we have the most stringent rules in the nation. Well, you can have rules, but if you don't enforce them, then there's nothing good out of them.

Speaker 4: (11:59)

Martinez organization surveyed more than 300 farm workers in San Joaquin valley. Earlier this year, nearly 60% reported that their employers did not provide a 95 masks or that they did not know what N 90 fives were.

Speaker 1: (12:15)

That was for Rita Jubala Romero with the latest and the ongoing series, dangerous air. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm worrying Kavanaugh this weekend in the arts. There's an ephemeral art exhibition. Let next poetry are returned to the stage for voices of our city choir and outdoor rock and roll. Johnny May is KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans welcomed Julia.

Speaker 9: (12:55)

Hi Maureen. Thanks for having me now.

Speaker 1: (12:57)

First up is a group art exhibition opening at a new Carlsbad gallery. This one is called impermanence. Tell us about the show. Yes.

Speaker 9: (13:07)

So Fez gallery opened the summer and it's in this converted bungalow on state street in Carlsbad. And this new exhibition is about the fleeting nature of time and objects and even art and they'll show the work of four artists. Plus Tibetan monks from the Godan shard say monastery in Tibet. And the impermanence shows up in many forms. There is Andres Amador who is in Northern California landscape artist and photographer. And what he does is he finds an empty beach Cove in between tides and rakes or digs these intricate swirls and really complicated patterns into the sand and then takes an aerial picture before the surf washes it away. There's also Wendy Mariama, San Diego, who will install her tag project, which is a large large-scale installation that are these sets of hanging paper tags. Each one is inscribed with a story or biographical information about a Japanese American who was incarcerated during world war two. And from afar, these sculptures look like ghosts. It's really cool. Also on view our illustrator, Cathy McCord and sculptor, Michelle Curtis Cole. It opens on Sunday with an artist reception from two to four. And throughout the exhibition that Tibetan monks will be constructing a Sandman Dolla that takes place on Wednesday of next week.

Speaker 1: (14:32)

Impermanence opens at Fez gallery in Carlsbad on Sunday and runs through February flower song press as a publisher dedicated to the borderlands and the voices of Latin America and the U S tell us about their poetry reading,

Speaker 9: (14:47)

Right? These are all California authors that the press is tapped for event, and it's going to be held at the central cultural de LA Raza. Each of the writers has a poetry collection published or forthcoming from flower song press there's 10 poets in what is really an incredible lineup to name just a few. There is Sonia Gutierrez whose book dreaming with butterflies that came out just under a year ago. Brianna Munoz just published. Everything is returned to the soil and her writing's really informed by reclaiming her indigenous identity and culture. There's also Ventura based, Fernando Albert Salinas, who recently published toxic masculinity and also reading is Matt [inaudible] whose latest collection is mowing leaves of grass.

Speaker 1: (15:35)

Yes, the flower song press reading is Saturday at 7:00 PM at the Centro cultural de LA Raza foodies. No, to save the first Sunday in December for the annual Sono Fest and chili cook off. And after last year's virtual event, it's great to see this back in person in north park is so is it the food or the festivities? That's got your interest? Julia,

Speaker 9: (16:00)

It's probably the music. Um, the festival is actually free to get into so you can wander around with, or without your chili tasting ticket. And you can listen to performances by a dozen bands on two different stages. And there's even a children's stage two. It all starts at 11 and the first music kicks off at 1130 with grandpa Drew's Americana. There's also scary Pierre, low volts, um, and then chili Fest standards, the creepy creeps, and also Chloe Lou and the Liddells who we're listening to right now.

Speaker 10: (16:35)


Speaker 9: (16:54)

And if you want to grab one of the handmade bulls for your Chile, that bowl presale is tonight at 6:00 PM at the San Diego ceramic connection. And when they run out of bowls, they also have cute commemorative mugs that you can get your Chilean to

Speaker 1: (17:11)

The Sono Fest and the chili cook office Sunday from 11 to 5:00 PM at the intersection of thorn and 32nd street in north park. Finally, voices of our city choir is a local organization that offers choral music opportunities to people experiencing homelessness, and they're holding their holiday performance and fundraiser on Sunday at music box. Let's listen to a recording. The group made of deck the halls last year.

Speaker 11: (17:38)

All right, here we go. Y'all, y'all ready to take the hall, come the list,

Speaker 10: (17:49)


Speaker 12: (17:49)

House with [inaudible]

Speaker 9: (17:54)

And I should clean out that that's actually a really great video. You can find on voices of our CD choir's YouTube channel. They made it for a virtual holiday celebration last year, but this year they're back on stage with a live audience at music box. This group you'll remember they got the golden buzzer award on America's got talent recently, and they are such an important part of San Diego's music scene, as well as among homelessness advocates, because not only do they create opportunities to sing, but their big picture goal is to get their members into permanent housing. This fundraiser concert will support that work and also be a chance for the group to share their stories along with holiday tunes. And they will have a jazz funk band company, mint

Speaker 1: (18:40)

Voices of our city choirs. Hope for the holidays. Concert is Sunday at 5:30 PM at music box for details on these and plenty more arts and culture events, or to sign up for Julia's weekly arts newsletter go to I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans. And thank you, Julia.

Speaker 9: (19:02)

Thank you, Maureen. Have a great weekend.

Los Angeles has discovered its first case of the new omicron COVID-19 variant in a fully-vaccinated person who recently traveled to South Africa. Health officials say the person is recovering and quarantining at home. Plus, KQED investigates the state’s failure to enforce regulations meant to protect farm workers and others exposed to wildfire smoke. Then, this weekend in the arts features an ephemeral art exhibition, Latinx poetry, a return to the stage for Voices of our City Choir and outdoor rock and roll.