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Masking, social distancing and urgent pleas to get vaccinated are back this holiday season

 December 17, 2021 at 2:43 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

Ohn cases continue to increase in San Diego.

Speaker 2: (00:04)

If we want to continue not having any restrictions, we need to be smart and we need to be safe to have a, a good holiday season.

Speaker 1: (00:11)

I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is K PBS midday edition. A new Imperial valley chamber of commerce tries to help struggling border businesses. And

Speaker 3: (00:30)

I sit here all day to make one sale, you know, $10, $20 sale. You know, I used to do a thousand dollars at the, the worst day I used to do $500 and I complain about

Speaker 1: (00:40)

It. And virtual options are back with us for San Diego's holiday arts events. That's ahead on midday edition Mask, social distancing, and urgent plea to get vaccinated are with us. Once again, this holiday season San Diego county has reported only a handful of OCN cases, but health officials told the San Diego union Tribune that the current number vastly underestimates the amount of virus spreading in the community healthcare worker here and around the country are preparing for a holiday surge in cases just as one vaccine falls out of favor. Joining me with a COVID update is KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Welcome.

Speaker 2: (01:36)

Hey Maureen, great

Speaker 1: (01:37)

To be here. San Diego county has just six official cases. OFN in his weekly report, but health experts also say it will probably become the dominant strain here by the end of December. What are researchers discovering about this variant?

Speaker 2: (01:52)

Well, there's new information coming out literally every day about this variant, but what we know is that it's much more transmisible than the current dominant variant, which is the Delta strain. And we know that it can replicate a lot for faster. Now we have heard from health officials that, um, nationwide, you know, the dominant strain here is still Delta. Uh, on Wednesday we heard the CDC say about 96% or so of cases are still Delta, um, higher in some areas like New York city, but they expect it to become the dominant strain. This Omicron in the coming weeks, the CDC says, uh, uh, it's one thing to keep in mind to, um, to actually figure out which type of strain of viruses like after somebody gets it. It can take, uh, up to a few weeks to do that. So officials are dealing with a little bit of a lag time there. We also know that researchers have found while maybe more transmissible. Uh, it looks like the severity of the infection is lower.

Speaker 1: (02:40)

Now what's known about the amount of protection vaccines can provide against OCN

Speaker 2: (02:44)

In terms of preventing hospitalizations and or death, you know, we're hearing, um, that it's less effective. Um, but it's about 70% effective. Um, the, the, the current vaccines. Um, and, and we know that that booster shots offer much more protection against Omicron, which is really good. And we know that, you know, nationwide about 60% of seniors have already gotten their booster shots. Those people who are most at risk. Uh, so that's the messaging right now is get vaccinated or get a booster. Um, one thing to note two, Maureen, you know, we could still see infections in people who are vaccinated, you know, breakthrough infections, but keep mind the vaccines were designed to prevent hospitalizations and death. Not necessarily infections

Speaker 1: (03:23)

Is Omo crime. The reason that California has reimposed the mask mandate,

Speaker 2: (03:28)

You know, that was mentioned in part of the reasoning. Um, but basically the state's top doctor says that they've seen a more than 40% increase in California's case rates. And so that's why, uh, they're putting this indoor mask mandate, you know, indoor only. Um, and we know that that's because, you know, in indoor areas where officials expect a lot of people to have holiday gatherings, uh, that the virus can spread a lot more, especially when there's poor ventilation. Um, and if there's one person that has it, uh, it could just be, uh, whole disaster

Speaker 1: (03:56)

Have COVID cases or hospitalizations shown an uptick year in

Speaker 2: (04:00)

San Diego cases are fluctuating up and down. But generally I will say that there's been a slight increase since Thanksgiving and the same with hospitalizations. Um, and I will note too, that tho those hospitalization increases the case increases largely in the unvaccinated population. Um, interesting to note two Maureen Marines, still a lot of community outbreaks happening, um, in the county's most recent weekly report, you know, there were 30 in a seven day period. Uh, they happened at school settings, churches, restaurants, different workplace settings, um, and nationwide, we know that hospitalizations are up. Um, and, and unfortunately, you know, something that this pandemic has reminded us, you know, this week we passed 800,000 Americans who lost their lives due to this virus and the CDC as that, we're still averaging about 1200 deaths a day.

Speaker 1: (04:43)

Now the news this week is that the CDC decided to recommend the use of the Pfizer and Moderna shots over Johnson and Johnson. Tell us about that decision.

Speaker 2: (04:53)

So the CDC here says that they are following the signs, you know, that they're letting Americans know that they're watching these vaccines, watching the COVID pandemic. Uh, and you know, we, we heard about this before that there were some rare blood cloting, um, rare reports of that. Um, they started to see a few more and we're still talking about very rare reports of that. Uh, but just to be safe now they're asking people, um, you know, to get these mRNA vaccines, when we say mRNA, we're talking about Moderna and, and Pfizer, but they are saying, you know, if you already have the Johnson and Johnson won, they're asking you to get boosted with those other vaccines.

Speaker 1: (05:25)

And there's been some movement on treatments for people who come

Speaker 2: (05:28)

Down with COVID yeah. You know, monoclonal antibody treatment, something that's been coming up back in the news again, uh, something that we've had here, uh, for months in San Diego, uh, that the federal government really tried ticking up when we saw cases really expanding, uh, a a few months ago to during the last winter surge. Um, we, we know that these monoclonal antibodies, uh, you have to seek them early. So if you get infected, you start to have some symptoms, you can get these monoclonal antibodies, it's a little IV bag that they put into your arm. And they say, you know, within hours, or even within a couple days, uh, you can start, feel, start to feel better. And the point of those monoclonal antibodies is to prevent, you know, serious illness or death, you know, going to the hospital, um, after getting the infection.

Speaker 1: (06:06)

Now this week, a new mask mandate, of course, as we've said, has gone into effect here in San Diego. We've seen scheduled performances of the Nutcracker at the civic theater canceled because of a, a diagnosis. I, I think we all know of, of Christmas parties that have been canceled. Is there any new guidance on holiday get togethers or travel that people should be

Speaker 2: (06:26)

Aware of? You know, county health officials are asking people to be careful this holiday season. And they're saying, look, uh, we're in a much different position than we were a year ago. You know, about to head into winter. Uh, millions of people are vaccinated. We know much more about how this virus spreads, and we know that large holiday gatherings, some of the things you were talking about are prime candidates for spread. So they're asking people just to be smart, you know, uh, if we want to continue, um, you know, not having any, you know, restrictions, uh, we need to be smart and we need to be safe to have a, a, a good holiday season. I've

Speaker 1: (06:57)

Been speaking with KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, and Matt.

Speaker 2: (07:00)

Thank you. Thanks, Maureen.

Speaker 1: (07:10)

It's a familiar story for businesses along the us, Mexico border financial devastation due to the pandemic and border closures. But one chamber of commerce is trying to help struggling store owners. K PBS reporter Alexandra ran hell has more from Calexico.

Speaker 3: (07:27)

It is not even 50%. I can say it's 90% down.

Speaker 4: (07:32)

Downtown Calexico is a string of small retail stores, just north of the us Mexico, port of entry. These small businesses are owned and operated by local families. They rely heavily on customers coming from Mexico, but since sport crossing restrictions were put in place, business has been incredibly slow. That's how David DUL, the store owner of Casa imports describes this past year. He says the lifting of restrictions on November 8th, hasn't brought back many of his old customers,

Speaker 3: (08:04)

Same thing. I sit here all day to make one sale, you know, $10, $20 sale. You know, I used to do a thousand dollars at the, the worst day. I used to do $500 and I complain about it. Now, I, you know, I'm down to one sale.

Speaker 4: (08:16)

He isn't exaggerating the do keeps track of ever every single item he sells. And today

Speaker 3: (08:23)

I haven't make a sale. I open up at eight o'clock. I open up at eight o'clock Tuesday, November 23rd, 21, no

Speaker 4: (08:30)

Sin from the pandemic border closures, supply chain issues and an increasing gas prices. The dual has taken hit after hit.

Speaker 3: (08:40)

This is the worst I've ever seen. I've been here 10 years, 11 years.

Speaker 4: (08:45)

He says about 70 to 80% of his customers come from south of the border in Mexico. He believes long wait times and vaccine requirements. Haven't enticed many to cross the border and shop like they used to just a block down from the do is Francisco Beltran store Lulu. We were hoping for more sales and more people to come, but we still haven't received. The people we were waiting for. He says about 80% of his clients are also from Mexico and 20% are local shoppers, Regrettably locals don't shop here. The people who come here are people from Mexico. We make a living from the people in Mexico. Beltran says walking through the streets of downtown Calexico, UC store that have gone out of business during the pandemic.

Speaker 5: (09:38)

And you would see empty parking lots often. And it, and it's just heartbreaking that those are businesses. Those are people that own, those that are trying to be successful.

Speaker 4: (09:45)

Barry Smith bean is the vice president of the new Imperial valley, regional chamber of commerce in El Centro. The chamber opened in September, but has been in the works for nearly two years. The regional chamber combined, the El Centro, Imperial and Westmoreland chambers of commerce United, as one bean says, they'll be able to make a bigger impact in Imperial county. And they're hoping to reach neighboring cities like Calexico

Speaker 5: (10:11)

Now, more than ever. Um, the businesses just need our

Speaker 4: (10:14)

Support. Calexico chamber of commerce closed down during the pandemic, leaving Calexico businesses to fend for themselves and find outside

Speaker 5: (10:22)

Help. We wanna really launch, um, coming into this new year of 20, 22 with the chamber. We wanna launch some of those initiatives where we're able to work with the businesses and say, show us what you're currently doing. And let us help you, um, evolve. Let us help you find ways that you can reach more people.

Speaker 4: (10:39)

The regional chamber represents about 300 businesses in the county. Although some business owners like the dual and Beltran, haven't seen an uptick like they wanted bean says overall, there has been an increase of traffic flow coming into the county. And as some businesses have closed, others have thrived.

Speaker 5: (10:58)

There's been success stories as well through this pandemic. And I think the biggest thing that we can do is we have to support our local

Speaker 4: (11:06)

Businesses. According to the national retail Federation, sales are still down compared to pre pandemic levels, but stores saw an increase in foot traffic compared to last year during Thanksgiving week, Beltran didn't see many customers

Speaker 6: (11:22)


Speaker 4: (11:26)

But he says he remains hopeful that things will pick up during the holiday season. Alexandra K PBS news.

Speaker 1: (11:35)

This story was made possible with support from the economic hardship reporting project. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This weekend, you can break up your holiday shopping and baking with some arts and culture from holiday coral music to a chance to learn DIY art to an art exhibition made of Legos. Joining me with all the details as K P S arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans, and welcome Julia. Hi

Speaker 7: (12:15)

Maureen. Thanks for having me now,

Speaker 1: (12:17)

One thing that could be putting a damper on holiday arts events this weekend is a new concern about the spread of COVID and the OCN variant, including of course the new mask mandate, how are venues and events handling this?

Speaker 7: (12:31)

Right? And for example, we've just found out that the golden state ballet delayed its opening night for their production of the Nutcracker. This was due to a positive case among the performers, and they've been notifying ticket holders, but in general, it's a really good idea to check the social media accounts of the group or the venue before you head out. And that way you can make sure, you know, if they're are any changes or cancellations, and also if you know what their protocol is when you're required to put your mask on and yeah, organizations are likely seeing a need from their audiences for more options like virtual things or outdoor only things.

Speaker 1: (13:08)

Now, one of those organizations still embracing multiple options is CIG theater. I, and there are two productions of a Christmas Carol what's on your radar about

Speaker 7: (13:18)

This. Yeah, for sure. The fact that there are two options, they still have that virtual option. They're doing a full cast production on stage in person with original musical numbers, but the other is virtual and it's a re stream of last year's virtual product action. Um, as a reminder, that was this one person performance, Sean Murray, who is the artistic director at Cignet. He adapted the Charles Dickens story and he also performs every single character. And that sets up the story to already be really absurd and, and unexpected. But Murray was this you dynamic and, and engaging presence in this performance, it was kind of a whirlwind and you can rent it for $25. And it's just a great option to be able to stay indoors. The

Speaker 1: (14:06)

Virtual production of a Christmas Carol is available to stream from Cigna theater through December 25th. Now onto the visual arts city Heights based youth arts, nonprofit, the Aja project is celebrating 20 years and having a neighborhood open house this weekend, what can we expect?

Speaker 7: (14:25)

Yeah. And this is actually the first neighborhood open house that they have done. They're transforming their model a bit to bring more of the instruction and the art making opportunities into their headquarters, into the neighborhood versus in partner public schools, which they will still keep doing as well. And so what they're doing this weekend is they're opening up the space for the community to share art together. Uh, the event is called welcome home, and I'm particularly excited about an exhibition of the teaching artist artwork. Um, that includes work from Alejandro awe B Louisa Martinez, Andres Hernandez, and so many more. And that's all curated by hill street country club in a new partnership. They'll also be food from local vendors, a live DJ, and then a mixture of hands on workshops and art making opportunities. They're also doing virtual versions of some of these workshops. The sci type one is at 10:00 AM and Alen photography workshop is at 2:00 PM. They've made these take home kits. Everything is free and you just need to stop by the Aja office in city Heights, anytime before their workshop to pick up one of those kits.

Speaker 1: (15:35)

The Aja project's open house is tomorrow from 10 to five in city Heights, local coral ensemble soccer Pana has just released a new Christmas album today. And they're celebrating with a performance tonight. Tell us about longing for miss.

Speaker 7: (15:52)

So this group, they recorded the songs for this album almost two years ago in January, 2020, which was a very different time in the coral performance world. And it's this 12 song collection all under the direction of Juan Carlos ACOA, who is soccer, PFAS, artistic director. The album's called a longing for Christmas, and it's a mixture of contemporary arrangements of traditional works. And there's also new compositions, including a few commissions. Their concert tonight is at St. Mark's United Methodist church in Claremont, and it is free. You can buy the CD there and it should also be a to stream on all platforms soon, but for now you do actually have to go and pick up the hard copy. And the album is really lush and contemplative. It's very wintry in that it's bleak and sublime at the same time. And a really great example of that is this song it's called love came down at Christmas, which is a P piece that was written for them by local composer, Steven Stark,

Speaker 1: (17:13)

That's Sacra PERFA from their new album, longing for Christmas. They'll perform a free show tonight at seven and finally an art show made of Legos. Tell us about my neighborhood in Brooks.

Speaker 7: (17:28)

This all started with an Instagram account called north park Lego. They started hosting pictures of tiny models of some favorite north park businesses. The first one they posted was tribute pizza, which is in the old post office there in a really cool building. And this is all the work of artists and Lego fan Ben Smith, who started constructing these tiny models, mostly bars and restaurants. He did the soda bar. He did the CASBO. He also did pigment, but there's also inexplicably one church as well. And he's putting all of this on display at tribute pizza on Monday for an exhibition, and they're doing a silent, an auction fundraiser as well. So all of those modeled businesses donated gifts that you can bid on. And the big prize is that he will make your house or a business of your choice out of Legos. The proceeds go to the international rescue community's youth farm works program, make projects and feeding San Diego.

Speaker 1: (18:28)

The Lego art exhibition. My neighborhood in bricks is Monday at 6:00 PM. You can find details on these and more arts events or sign up for Julia's weekly, K PS arts slash arts. I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer, Julia Dixon, Evan, Julia. Thanks.

Speaker 7: (18:50)

Thank you, Maureen. Have a great weekend.

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Health care workers here and around the country are now preparing for a holiday surge in cases, as one vaccine falls out of favor. Plus, in Calexico it’s a familiar story for businesses along the U.S.-Mexico Border: financial devastation due to the pandemic and border closures; but the chamber of commerce in Imperial Valley is trying to help. Also, this weekend you can break up your holiday shopping and baking with some arts and culture including holiday choral music, a chance to learn DIY art and an art exhibition made of legos.