Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Much still unknown about omicron variant

 November 29, 2021 at 2:26 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

San Diego researchers test for the Omicron variant

Speaker 2: (00:05)

Perhaps has learned how to get around vaccine responses a little bit.

Speaker 1: (00:09)

I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS midday edition. The ninth circuit puts a hall to San Diego Unified's vaccine mandate.

Speaker 3: (00:29)

Leave that for the moment it is worth stopping while they investigate more. And while we wait for another decision from

Speaker 1: (00:37)

What college admission looks like now, without standardized tests, and more than just a femme fatale, we'll explore the women of film war that's ahead on midday edition, Health officials were already warning about a holiday uptick in COVID cases, and now comes a new variant first detected in South Africa. The Omicron variant is believed to have more mutations than previous COVID variants that could make it more contagious and possibly more resistant to vaccine immunity. But researchers say much remains to be learned about Omicron, including if it's already circulating in the United States, president Joe Biden, address the rising alarm over Omicron in remarks this morning,

Speaker 4: (01:34)

This variant is a cause for concern, not a cost for panic. We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we're learning more every single day. And we'll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion.

Speaker 1: (01:52)

Joining me is Dr. Davy Smith infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego, Dr. Smith. Welcome to the program. Thank you, Maureen. Now we've seen a lot of variants pop up that didn't end up posing much of a threat. Why is this one different?

Speaker 2: (02:08)

Yeah, there's two big reasons why the spirit has been now listed as a variant of concern by the who. And honestly I'm concerned variants pop up all the time when the virus evolves and this one has evolved quite a bit. Usually it's just one or two mutations specifically in a protein called the spike protein. That's the one that the virus uses to get inside cells. And it's the one that the vaccine is targeting, but this one has 30 mutations within the spike protein, which is quite a bit. And if it's immune to human immune responses, then that could be a problem. The other thing that worries me is that it seems to have caused quite a bit of new infections where it started in Sub-Saharan Africa. And that means it's probably more contagious than, uh, other variants that were already there. Like Delta.

Speaker 1: (02:54)

Why would more mutations make Omicron potentially more dangerous? The

Speaker 2: (02:59)

Learning how to live inside of us and that process of learning is evolution. So those mutations, if it's beneficial for the virus to be able to live within a human than it keeps that mutation. And for every one that it keeps, it means that there's some sort of selective advantage, some sort of living advantage of the virus within us. So more of these mutations over time just means that the virus has more chances to learn about how to live within this.

Speaker 1: (03:25)

Now researchers at UC San Diego and other labs are working to find out if the variant is in circulation here, how do you identify if a case is the result of a variant strain,

Speaker 2: (03:38)

Every case that pops up positive, the SARS Coby too. It goes back into the lab. We extract out the virus and we sequence the genetic material that virus looking for those mutations and we know which mutations we're looking for. So we sequence the virus, look and see if it has those mutations. And if it does, that's how we identify the various variants like Delta and now army

Speaker 1: (03:58)

As I'm a Cron, uh, likely already in the U S yes, we can see how the variant behaved in South Africa. Did it become the dominant strain there very quickly,

Speaker 2: (04:08)

The best that we can tell it became very quickly, but predominant strain, it's still becoming the predominant strain. There's really good scientists in South Africa, they were doing an amazing job, sequencing the virus as quickly as possible. And as soon as they identified it, they alerted the world, which I have to say kudos to them. And now we're doing very similar stuff in San Diego looking to see if this variant is here already.

Speaker 1: (04:30)

How does it stack up against Delta and transmissibility?

Speaker 2: (04:34)

We don't know yet, but what we can estimate basically is that Delta was already in South Africa and now this new variant has popped up and it looks like it is replacing Delta. So what that tells us is that it's likely more infectious or at least as infectious as Delta.

Speaker 1: (04:52)

So vaccinated people were already getting breakthrough COVID with the Delta. Variant is Omicron likely to evade vaccines, to

Speaker 2: (05:01)

There's two big things about the evasion of the vaccine response. Yes, people who had been vaccinated could still get Delta, but they weren't getting sick. That is super important. People should still get their vaccine. It's the best defense we have even for Delta and even for army Cron. So please everybody get their vaccine and get their boosters. However, even though they were backs, inated some people were still able to catch the infection. And then the virus was able to grow in them for a shorter period of time. But the really good news was that the vaccine was still keeping people from getting sick. So the vaccines still were in that it kept people from getting sick, but people could still catch the virus.

Speaker 1: (05:41)

Do we know if the Omicron variant causes more severe disease?

Speaker 2: (05:46)

We don't know. In fact, the early reports, and I'm a little skeptical show that people who have Omnicom actually have less symptoms. I hope that holds out to be true, but we don't know yet countries all

Speaker 1: (05:57)

Over the world, including the us have issued travel bans on nations, where Omicron has been identified, what can travel bans accomplish?

Speaker 2: (06:06)

Honestly, I don't think travel bands help that much. I'm pretty sure this virus is already here. And in many other places, the logic behind them is that it slows down the virus, the new variant to get where it's going to go. And maybe that is true. The big fallout for this is that we penalize countries who did a very good job by going out, sequencing the virus, doing their surveillance and say, Hey, we have a problem. And then alerting the world. And then all of a sudden, the world says, oh, you're bet. Now you're in your band. And that sends a wrong message because we want countries to come out and say, Hey, we have a problem. Come and help us

Speaker 1: (06:41)

Along those lines. You know, instead of travel ban, some researchers say we should be going all in on getting vaccine distributed all over the globe. Isn't that the only way to stop more COVID variance. Yes,

Speaker 2: (06:53)

Yes, exactly. I, I very frustrated the reason we have this variant that pops up and the next Greek letter that's going to pop up as well is because we've done a horrible job at protecting the most vulnerable communities all throughout the world. We've been, we have this vaccine here and we need to be getting it out across the world, that we were only as protected as the most vulnerable of us. And we've learned this in public health over and over and over. And yet we don't seem to translate that into action. If we want to have fewer variants than we need to have as much vaccinated people all across,

Speaker 1: (07:28)

Uh, what does Omicron mean for our behavior over the holidays? Should people go through with their travel plans? Should they cancel them? What should they do about get togethers?

Speaker 2: (07:39)

Common sense really needs to come into play here where people travel masks and socially distancing, things that we've talked about for the past 20 months still need to come into play. The big one though, is that people really do need to get vaccinated and people need to get boosters if they're eligible to get boosters. And the other thing that I think people don't, or should at least think about when they're traveling, is am I going to go visit somebody who might be immunosuppressed so that if they were to get infected, they might not really do well. And the cases that we see are people who are older, they go visit their grandma or their grandpa. The young person says, oh, I'm good. I'm healthy, happy, but they might bring something into the home over the holidays that might cause grandma and grandpa, he gets sick. And that, that's the part where I really worry. And people need to think about that before they make their travel plans. And if they do go visit trying to keep socially distancing, mass have as many things outdoors as possible, those do help a lot.

Speaker 1: (08:33)

Your opinion. What is the most concerning aspect of this new variant?

Speaker 2: (08:37)

This virus has evolved in humans who probably have some immune responses already. And that means the virus perhaps has learned how to get around vaccine responses a little bit, and may have also been able to get around some of the therapies that are currently out there, such as the monoclonal antibody therapy. So we're going to need new drugs perhaps to treat this variant.

Speaker 1: (08:58)

I've been speaking with Dr. Davis Smith infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego. Thank you very

Speaker 5: (09:05)

Much. Yeah. Thank

Speaker 2: (09:06)


Speaker 5: (09:13)

Just as a new variant emerges globally here, the ninth circuit court of appeals temporarily halt San Diego Unified's vaccine mandate today would have been the necessary deadline for students 16 and up to receive their first dose of the vaccine to be compliant for in-person learning during the spring semester. But one student said getting the vaccine would violate her Christian beliefs here to talk more about that is KPBS education reporter mg Perez, M G welcome. Hello, you've been covering this and following this case. So first fill us in on what exactly the district's mandate requires.

Speaker 3: (09:50)

The mandate required that all eligible students ages 16 and up would have to be fully vaccinated by the spring semester in order to attend in-person classes, because the only vaccine that's available to them requires two doses. They would have had to have had that first dose by today, the second dose, right before winter break on December 20th. In that, that way they would be fulfilling the mandate. And

Speaker 5: (10:18)

How did this lawsuit come about?

Speaker 3: (10:20)

Well, there is a student, uh, that decided she would not take the vaccine for religious reasons. Uh, she did not give a denomination, but she claims to be a Christian. She attends church in the local area. And again, according to her, it's against her religious beliefs to, um, to inject this vaccine. So her family got an attorney and they filed for an injunction, which would in effect stop the mandate from proceeding. And that's exactly what has happened temporarily for the moment.

Speaker 5: (10:53)

And why did the ninth circuit say it put the district's mandate on hold?

Speaker 3: (10:58)

Because there was enough evidence that this plaintiff could be harmed. Uh, had she taken the vaccine, uh, against her better judgment and also her religious beliefs. So they believed that for the moment it is worth stopping while they investigate more. And, uh, while we wait for another, uh, decision from them,

Speaker 5: (11:18)

Why does the district say it does not offer religious exemptions to students?

Speaker 3: (11:23)

Frankly, the district does not want that to be abused by families who would just simply say, you know, it goes against my religion. Uh, there is a process that, uh, somebody would have to go through a teacher or staff member, but again, that does not apply to students.

Speaker 5: (11:41)

And part of the problem is that they allow other types of exemptions.

Speaker 3: (11:45)

Yes, there are medical exemptions. There are exemptions for, uh, students who have been identified as homeless. They're also exemptions for students who qualify as being students with special needs. So the argument from the attorney side is why, why do you allow that? But you will not allow this for my client and

Speaker 5: (12:06)

Talk more about why this student feels the vaccine is in conflict with her religious beliefs.

Speaker 3: (12:14)

She does believe that this vaccine was put together with the use of fetus cells from aborted fetuses, back in the seventies and eighties. And that's the reason she says it goes against her Christian beliefs,

Speaker 5: (12:30)

But does the vaccine contain aborted fetal

Speaker 3: (12:33)

Cells? It does not. Um, there is some history of fetal cell, uh, use in the research, but it does not include them.

Speaker 5: (12:43)

And you spoke to the attorneys who represent the Scripps ranch, high school student. What did they say about the mandate being put on hold?

Speaker 3: (12:51)

The attorney I spoke to was very clear and he does believe that this is a case that is discriminatory, uh, to people who are of faith. And here's what he said,

Speaker 6: (13:02)

Government regulations are not neutral and generally applicable. And they therefore trigger strict scrutiny, which is the most demanding test and constitutional law when they treat any comparable, secular activity, better than religious exercise. And basically, um, it's, self-evident here that they're treating a whole host of secular exemptions better than religious exemptions,

Speaker 5: (13:25)

Right? So what has the district said about the mandate being put on hold?

Speaker 3: (13:30)

Usually the district has no comment when it has to do with pending legal action, but I did reach out to, uh, the president of the, uh, San Diego unified board of education, Richard Barrera. And he said, the mandate goes into effect when the second semester starts in late January students, 16 and older, who have not had two vaccines in time to build full immunity. That takes about two weeks and who have not received a medical exemption will not be allowed to attend school in person. And we expect the full ninth circuit to rule soon. So basically he is saying, uh, they're not budging. The mandate officially goes into effect, uh, in late January. But of course, in order to meet that mandate shots will have had to have been taken by this week and by December.

Speaker 5: (14:18)

Um, so obviously this isn't the end of the case. What's next?

Speaker 3: (14:23)

Hurry up and wait, Jane, I asked the attorney today. I said, when do you expect a full ruling from the appeals court? And he said, it could be this week. It could be sometime in December. It's really up to them to decide. So we wait.

Speaker 5: (14:38)

Um, I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter mg Perez mg. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.

Speaker 7: (14:46)


Speaker 1: (15:01)

This is KPBS day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann. I look at records for where police shootings have occurred in the city of San Diego reveals a vast disparity. Far more happened south of interstate eight in communities where more black and Latino people live KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Traeger. Sir, gives us a closer look at a warning. The story contains graphic descriptions. Okay.

Speaker 8: (15:28)

In February, 2014, San Diego police department, officer Christelle Miranda was serving a search warrant at Henry Louis Gonzales's home. She saw him pull out what she thought was a shiny object in his waistband. So she shot him three times. It turned out to be rings on his fingers.

Speaker 9: (15:48)

That's what I can tell him. The white shirt, black jacket for the driver

Speaker 8: (15:54)

In May, 2016, Tom [inaudible] was driving away from a house. Police said was used by the Oriental killer boys, gang, San Diego police officers chased him in their squad car and then shot and killed him that same month. Members of the department's gang unit were doing surveillance at a known gang house on skyline drive and ended up in a shootout with the suspects

Speaker 8: (16:24)

This time no one was killed. These were among seven police shootings over six years, that happened in the nine to 1, 1, 4 zip code in Encanto, the cluster of cases, and then Canto fits into a larger citywide trend. That's according to a KPBS analysis of almost 150 San Diego police department cases in which officers used force that led to significant injuries or death. Almost 70% of the use of force incidents occurred south of interstate eight and almost a quarter were in Southeast San Diego. In addition to Encanto the zip codes with the greatest number of shootings were Logan Heights downtown in city Heights

Speaker 10: (17:10)

At least tend to react differently than they do. Um, in communities that are north of the eight are into communities that have less black and brown residents color

Speaker 8: (17:19)

Alexander with pillars of the community. Isn't surprised by the numbers

Speaker 10: (17:23)

We're to treat people in LA Jolla, or if they were to treat people in Claremont or Coronado the same way, there would be immediate repercussions to their actions.

Speaker 8: (17:33)

Shootings almost never happen in San Diego counties, mostly white and wealthy enclaves. Consider that in a 15 year period, the combined total in LA Jolla, Poway and Rancho Santa Fe was just three that's, fewer than half. Many as there were in Encanto alone. According to the KPBS analysis officials from the San Diego police department declined an interview request for this story in the past chief David [inaudible] has said there are more rests in communities of color, but that doesn't mean it's discrimination.

Speaker 11: (18:08)

Berries are going to exist because everything is society doesn't happen along the demographic line. And until that happens, you're going to have the,

Speaker 8: (18:18)

But Alexander says higher crime statistics. It needs zip codes. Don't justify more use of force.

Speaker 10: (18:26)

The idea that there's more crime in Southeast San Diego than there is in LA Jolla or other communities is, is, is a myth what you have in, in, in Southeast San Diego. And those communities are a larger police presence looking for crime.

Speaker 8: (18:40)

The fear factor among police officers must also be taken into account. So it says Ann Rios, a defense attorney.

Speaker 12: (18:48)

How do police view people in these areas? Do they view them as dangerous? Do they already pre label them as gang members as violent? Are they

Speaker 8: (19:00)

In the past two years, San Diego county district attorney summer Stephan rolled out a deescalation training program that includes implicit bias training. She says it's vital

Speaker 13: (19:13)

Against a group is also coloring your ability to make intelligent decisions.

Speaker 8: (19:19)

But for activists like Rios, there has already been more damage to San Diego's. South of eight communities than one deescalation training program can fix.

Speaker 12: (19:30)

This is a public health crisis that is happening to people. And in areas that I love and living

Speaker 1: (19:38)

Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter, Claire Traeger, ser, and Claire. Welcome.

Speaker 8: (19:43)

Thank you.

Speaker 1: (19:45)

What's the SDPD criteria for firing a weapon? What do they have to see or suspect to justify the use of deadly force?

Speaker 8: (19:54)

Well, in these policies and procedures, you know, they, they write them pretty vaguely because you can never really predict, uh, every single incident and what the circumstances will be and what the outcomes will be. But generally the idea is that the officer needs to believe that the suspect is, um, you know, about to cause immediate harm to the officer or a fellow officer or, uh, another witness or victim nearby.

Speaker 1: (20:24)

What do advocates say are the fears and attitudes that may contribute to police being more likely to shoot suspects in San Diego's black and brown neighborhoods?

Speaker 8: (20:35)

Well, I mean, I think first starters there is they say that there's racism. Um, you know, they say that pretty, pretty strongly that, uh, there's maybe an innate fear of, um, black and brown people. And so when police confront someone who is a person of color, they're more on guard on edge, you know, believe that that person is more of a risk. And so then they're more likely to shoot. Um, beyond that, I think there's just the idea of over policing in, in neighborhoods when there's more police, there are going to be more interactions with people. And when there are more interactions with people, um, there's a higher likelihood that it will end with, with a shooting or a use of force causing severe injury. And then there's also the association with gangs. As I said in the story, a lot of the records will say, you know, we know this person is a gang member or is associated with gangs. And therefore the officer feels that person is, is more of a risk of being armed or just being dangerous. But we also know from lots of other stories that it's very easy to be a documented gang member. It doesn't actually mean that you're necessarily in a gang. You may just, you know, live in a neighborhood or have family members who are in a gang. Um, things like that, what

Speaker 1: (21:58)

Push back to a comment made in your story. It isn't really just a myth that there's more violent crime in some areas of the city than others. Don't crime statistics show that

Speaker 8: (22:10)

Yes they do. But the, the areas that, um, have the highest rates of violent crime are not really the areas that we see more police shootings. When you look it's east village, um, Kearny Mesa mission valley kind of have the highest rates of violent crime and in Canto or these other areas in Southeast San Diego that we're talking about don't even make, make the top 10. Um, and I think there's another point that is again, when there's more police, there's more likely to be more crime found just because police are there looking for crime, I believe, um, call it Alexander from pillars of the community said if police were stopping every teenager in LA Jolla and searching their car, they might, you know, find more drugs. And so then there might be more crime, but they don't do that because there's just fewer police in that area.

Speaker 1: (23:07)

Tell us more about the deescalation training that law enforcement in San Diego is now getting.

Speaker 8: (23:13)

Yeah. So I'm going to actually have a followup story in a few weeks. That goes way more into detail. Um, so stay tuned for that. But, uh, the district attorney, um, rolled out this deescalation training program and every, uh, local law enforcement agency has gone through it. Um, except the San Diego Sheriff's department, they're doing their own training, but they're using some of the DAS, uh, curriculum, but, um, a lot of their deputies have not actually gone through that training yet. Um, but I think that the point that will be made in that story is it's really too soon to know whether that training is having an impact. Um, officers are only, you know, recently going through it and our records go back through 2005 up through 2019. Um, but you'll hear a district attorney summer stuff and talk about what she will be looking for to, um, to see that this training is working. Um, as, as police have more encounters with, with people in the future.

Speaker 1: (24:15)

Now, the people you interviewed in your story don't seem to have much confidence in the new training offered to police. What would they like to see happen to change the situation between police and the community?

Speaker 8: (24:27)

Well, it varies. I mean, there are activists who, you know, want the entire police department dissolved, um, and an entirely new force set up, um, under, you know, a different system, a different people. There's also just more of a wish for acknowledgement that there is maybe racism, um, in the department, not just in the police department, but in lots of, uh, government systems. And so, um, you know, tackling that and then, and then going from there about how do we address that

Speaker 1: (25:00)

Part, two of your report is coming up tomorrow. Can you give us a preview?

Speaker 8: (25:04)

Yeah. So this will look specifically at, um, instances where police have shot at people in moving vehicles, uh, cars or trucks. It's just really not safe because it's hard to control what happens. The bullets can ricochet. And even if you hit the driver, uh, that driver can then crash the car. Um, so not the best idea, um, but it still happens pretty frequently.

Speaker 1: (25:29)

I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter Clare Traeger, sir. Claire, thank you very much.

Speaker 8: (25:34)

Thank you.

Speaker 7: (25:36)


Speaker 5: (25:46)

Tomorrow is a big deal for many high school seniors in the area because it is the application deadline for the university of California and Cal state colleges, but like so much else in our lives, applying to college today looks much different than it did before the Corona virus pandemic to cold now. And in the near future test free and test optional admission policies for undergrad. Students have been implemented in many universities, UC San Diego, San Diego state, and the university of San Diego among them here to talk more about the state of standardized testing in the admissions process today is Steven Paltz assistant vice president for enrollment at the university of San Diego. Welcome Stephen. Thank you. Nice to be here. So, as we mentioned, the university of California's and California state's application deadline is tomorrow. USDS is coming up here in mid December. What is the university of San Diego's current when it comes to standardized testing

Speaker 14: (26:45)

USD last year implemented a policy where we were not going to look at test scores at all, a policy typically called test free in, in the, uh, in the admissions world. And we've decided to, um, continue that process for this upcoming class, the group that will join us in the fall of 2022. And

Speaker 5: (27:02)

When was that change

Speaker 14: (27:03)

Made? Well, we've, we've been looking at the role of standardized tests for, for some time now. And in fact, back in March of 2020, just prior to when the, the pandemic shut things down USD through and after long faculty committee and research decided that we would join the growing movement of becoming test-optional, which would mean we would give the choice of four students if they wanted to include their scores or not shortly after that, though, as the pandemic took hold. And we realized the incredible unavailability of testing really globally, not just here in the United States, but test centers were closed and students who simply couldn't take the test. We made the decision that we would not look at test scores for the entering class in fall 2021. We didn't want students to either put themselves at risk. Certainly they just couldn't get the exam and take the test.

Speaker 14: (27:51)

So we decided to go test blind as we went through the process and we admitted this class that just joined us. We, we actually found to our, our delight. I think that the, the test really, you know, didn't certainly we knew they didn't really add all that much to the process. That was the result of our, our faculty research and our own research on that, on that. But we also then realized that it actually ended up producing for us. And then we enrolled probably one of the most talented classes we ever had in terms of their average grade point average. We grew our, our racial and ethnic diversity, um, which has been one of our goals for, for a long time there. So we made the decision that we would continue that process and continue our admissions, our holistic admissions process without the test for another year, as we continue to gather data about its effectiveness. So our decision really has gone back since 2020, but we have been reviewing it on an ongoing basis as we move forward.

Speaker 5: (28:43)

And you mentioned diversity increased, uh, talk to me more about that. How did the testing policy change this year's incoming freshmen class at USD?

Speaker 14: (28:51)

It seems in a number of ways for us. First of all, we attracted students from a much wider pool in terms of race and ethnicity. We saw big increases to the degree of about 20% increases in the number of applications we received from our, our Latin X students, as well as our African-American students. Um, in the admissions process, we admitted more students of color than we ever had before. In fact, we admitted more than more than half of our, our students that we admitted were, um, identified as students of color. And we ended up having the most racially and ethnically diverse class that we've ever had close to 44% of our incoming class. Uh, again, we're, um, we're we're minority students, about 23% were Hispanic, about four and a half percent were African-American some of our highest totals that we've ever had. We've known for a long time. There been used disparities by race and ethnicity, as well as by family income and other measures on the, on the test score. And I think not having the score allowed more students to feel like this could be a possibility for them. And so we encourage them to apply. And in our very holistic application process, it seemed certainly to, um, to, to provide more opportunity for students who might've been, uh, closed out of the process earlier.

Speaker 5: (30:08)

And you, you touched on it a lot, but talk a little bit more about how the sat and act can create barriers for some students. Um, and college admissions,

Speaker 14: (30:19)

I've been in admissions now for almost 40 years and I've seen it become so really the, almost the driving factor and kind of a centerpiece in a process that it, that it was really never intended to be. Um, test scores now have certainly become a proxy for many for academic quality. Um, they've been used as cutoffs for scholarships and, and, and, and used in a lot of ways that they were never really intended to be used. We know they place an enormous amount of pressure on, on high school students. There's just, it seems to be such a high stakes game that, you know, this one test that you take and, and clearly the data shows that, uh, again, it, it favors those from families that make more money. Uh, those are, there's a lot of data that, um, I think has come out that that has really shown the, kind of the, the inequities and the inequalities that, that the test is now becoming this process.

Speaker 14: (31:09)

And so, as a result, I think there's a lot of students who simply don't apply to selective schools because of their score. It's a, it's, it's a way for colleges and universities to really focus on, on measures that that don't necessarily predict success in, in, in college. And again, there's a lot of great data out there and research that has shown that by far, in a way, how a student does day in and day out in the classroom, the courses they select their grade point average are, are far more effective at predicting how a student's going to do then than test scores are. So I think that by, by not having test scores in the, in the process, it has really freed up not only the colleges to look at a wider variety of skills and talents and abilities, but it has also opened up more possibility for students to feel like they have an opportunity to get admitted to schools that they might not ever have applied to before.

Speaker 5: (31:57)

And like many universities, USD has not made a final determination as to the future of its testing policy. Explain to us what's being considered

Speaker 14: (32:05)

Well, we want to make this decision, um, based, based on data and based on student success, that's ultimately what, what the admissions process is, is to identify students who are going to be successful here and go on and graduate. And so to do that with this class that now started in September, we're going to look in and analyze how, how well they did this first semester looking at their, their grade point average in our, our first year core curriculum. We're going to look to see, um, how that compares to students who were admitted previously. We're going to look to see how the students who were awarded merit scholarships, how they're faring in this process. We're going to gather a lot of those data points, and we hope that in the start of the new year, probably by 20, uh, January or February, uh, as we get ready to start to recruit the next year's class will be in a position to make them a longer term decision about what our testing policy is, but grounded in data grounded in student success. And, um, and again, grounded in best practice that will help us achieve our goals as a university as well.

Speaker 5: (33:05)

Um, and what are you hearing from prospective students about the change?

Speaker 14: (33:09)

I think it's been, I think it's been really positive, certainly from, from USDS perspective, not only from students, but also from the high school counseling community as well. One of the things that, that, that has kind of pushed us a little bit more in the direction of being test blind, as opposed to test optional is one of the unintended consequences. I think of the test optional as many, many schools went down that road. Again, given the, given this, the scarcity of availability of testing is it's sort of created, even though it was intended to maybe make the process easier. It has, in some cases created even more anxiety, uh, for, for, for students in the sense that now they're not sure if they should submit or not. Is it an advantage? Uh, I know they say it's optional, but maybe it's really to my advantage to submit the scores.

Speaker 14: (33:53)

And again, I think that that just sort of helps perpetuate some of the disadvantage of the disparities that we've, that we've seen in this process. So as we move forward, we're really focusing more on just not requiring the test at all, taking out that, that consideration and, and not having a student try to decide which is going to be the better option. But I think by and large students have really found this to be a very, a very liberating, um, part of the process. It's really freed up the, the pressure that, that just, you know, has really driven, um, driven students and parents, and certainly high school counselors, I think, has really added the incredible stress that they're, that they're under. Uh, and I think it's been really well received.

Speaker 5: (34:33)

And when will USD make a final decision on its testing policy?

Speaker 14: (34:38)

Yeah, we hope to gather all those data points that I mentioned, um, probably in the start of the new year. And we want to do it in time for that next round of the next group of students who are going to be looking at school. So are we hope to be able to make a more longer term decision about our testing policy, probably in the February to March timeframe of 2022.

Speaker 5: (34:56)

Speaking with Steven Paltz assistant vice president for enrollment at university of San Diego. Steven, thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 14: (35:05)

Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: (35:12)

This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Heinemann cinema junkie continues to celebrate and war Vember by looking to new our Dames cinema junkie host Beth Huck Mondo speaks with Nora Fiori, also known as the nitrate diva about the women of the dark shadowy world of 1940s filmed war in this excerpt from the podcast Beth and Nora had just finished discussing the iconic femme fatale, but wanted to look past that familiar character type to explore the diversity of women in noir.

Speaker 7: (35:50)


Speaker 15: (35:55)

So these are kind of classic, fairly classic femme fatale. And these are the kinds of characters that I think people think of immediately when they think of the film noir woman. But you pointed out that you feel like there's a greater diversity that to this, and you've actually thought of some categories. So to kind of prove that diversity let's start with the character you call the self-reliant entertainer and who are the best examples of that?

Speaker 16: (36:25)

Well, one of the things, you know, people see a lot in war is, you know, there's so many movies about private eyes. There are so many movies about detectives, but I was trying to think of what is really the equivalent of the professional detective man, and more because most of the women who are detecting are more amateurs. And I feel like the professional woman that you see a lot in more is this entertainer type. You know, this, this nightclub singer or performer who is kind of a transient character, she knows how to take care of herself in a way that is not really threatening. You know, the femme fatale, his intelligence is often weaponized against somebody. This self-reliant entertainer. She's just trying to make a living. She's just trying to live her life. You know, she's tough, but she's tough in a very defensive self-protective way and not in a way that's like designed to, you know, put off or hurt anybody else. She's kind of a live and let live kind of character. Um, and I think one of the great examples of this is the character Ida Lupino plays in the man. I love and also in Roadhouse,

Speaker 17: (37:24)

Listen, when I want to leave, I'll let you know. I came out here with a contract. I needed the dope, and I'm going to collect every nasty little cent of it, maybe more. And that was before Ryan through, you might be running for the deep Paul. Don't shy to borrow two bits from me when you shovel now, look, baby, I'm not trying to rush you silly,

Speaker 16: (37:46)

Very similar character of this nightclub singer who really has a tremendous mastery of almost any situation she can be in. She helps other people where she can. She maybe is a little sassy. He might be a little jealous, might be a little cynical at times, but in the end we know she has a heart of gold, uh, you know, in the man. I love, I, I always think of Ida Lupino as being the female equivalent of what Raymond Chandler said about Humphrey Bogart, that he was tough without a gun. Yeah,

Speaker 17: (38:12)

We're getting good and title there's brush-off rational. What if I made you think you were in, I'm declaring myself in right now, not listen, shut up. No, not

Speaker 16: (38:27)

Good. That's Ida. Lupino, she's tough without a gun in the man. I love she slaps a gun right out of a guy's hand, you know, and Roadhouse, uh, she's, she's tough without a gun. She's also tough with a gun. I won't say more too much more about that, but, you know, she just has this incredible skillset. She can sing, she can protect herself. She can match any of these guys, but she also has this feminine skillset too. She knows she can improvise a bathing suit out of two scarves. You know, she can kind of be the, the therapist friend in the man. I love and help everybody understand their, their lives better. But, you know, she also has her secret wounds and troubles. So I, you know, I think this type of character of a woman who has a job, but a job that is outside the pale of like, middle-class respectability, she's not a secretary.

Speaker 16: (39:10)

She's, you know, she's not a nurse, you know, she's, she's an entertainer she's mixing and maybe some CD company sometimes, but she's a good guy. She's unmistakably a good guy. And as perceived by, you know, the, the characters in the felon, another great example of this, I think is Veronica lake in this gun for hire who is a magician nightclub performer, who has these fabulous routines where she's dressed as a fishermen or she's pulling doves out of the air. But you know, she's such a resourceful sympathetic character. And she has such a pure reputation, you know, in spite of being mixed up with the loose world of, of nightclub culture that she's even recruited as a spy to vamp the bad guys and get information on them in this complex plot,

Speaker 18: (39:51)

I read the papers, moving columns, gossip, columns, football. How about your history books? Remember Benedict Arnold to the first All-American heal. There's a handful of those helix in this country today. And they're powerful enough to sabotage our defense. We're trying to expose them to okay. By me, my committee thinks gates is one of them, him, the nightclub angel in the daytime. He's an executive at nitro chemical in between times he's been seen and that are suspected of being foreign agents and our investigators can't turn up anything definite. And that's where I come in. We'll give it a try. No, it isn't exactly like deciding to go to a beauty,

Speaker 16: (40:40)

But you know, even Alan lad, who's the killer ultimately can see in her, this decency that kind of redeems him in the end. Uh, you know, another example of this might be and Sheridan in nor apprentice where, uh, you know, the guy becomes fixated on her, but she's, she's just trying to make a living. She's just trying to live and let live as this nightclub singer, you know, she might be involved in some places that would seem a little seedy or disrespectful to, you know, uh, snotty, you know, or, or kind of conventional people. But she herself is, you know, unmistakably decent on mistake where she's kind of navigating the world with her own moral compass. And so I just, it's nice to see these women who are outside of the traditional, uh, you know, respectable female middle-class roles, but are the films are really communicating that they have this strong moral compass that guides them as they're navigating these, uh, you know, difficult situations.

Speaker 15: (41:31)

Well, you mentioned that these are kind of like the counterpoint to the gumshoe and in that sense, too, they reflect these characters who convey a certain moral ambiguity because they work in professions that mainstream America probably looks at as kind of not, maybe not a hundred percent up and up. Like they're, they, they do consort with like seedy characters or entering a terrain. That's a little bit nebulous, but they both have this very strong kind of personal code. Like that code will not break. They will, you know, stick to that. And I think that's interesting that they share that across, uh, these gender roles.

Speaker 16: (42:10)

Absolutely. Yes. That they may mix with crime, that they may have to rub shoulders with gangsters, but they would never do anything wrong. You just kind of trust them morally, um, to be the center of their films, you know, a little bit outside of the nightclub singer. Another one like this for me is Susan Hayward and deadline Dawn. And she really is overlapping kind of with the sleuth characters. And she helps unravel the mystery where she's a taxi dancer.

Speaker 19: (42:34)

What did you want to do when you were 12 years old?

Speaker 17: (42:38)

Now, John Barrymore, Lyft, do we have to talk? If there was something,

Speaker 19: (42:44)

The conversation is very necessary. It seems to me, as my father says, why, what would life be without conversation?

Speaker 16: (42:53)

That's another, you know, female profession that's beyond the pale of, of normal respectability and, you know, but her street smarts and her understanding of the city make her able to, uh, you know, help a guy who's in need of help. You know, she's kinda cranky, she's tired, she's, Sinegal, she's jaded, but there's a goodness in her that you just can't miss. Um, and, and it's really very charmingly portrayed. So I love this character of the woman who's living on. It lived on her own. She can take care of herself. Um, but you know, as you say, you just kind of don't doubt that there is a personal code that's driving her behavior that makes her morally kind of the equal of the private eye. The good privatized there's plenty of crooked privatizing war too, but you know, kind of the, the Philip Marlowe, who's the there's sir Galahad and, you know, getting pushed into the alley kind of guy

Speaker 1: (43:44)

That was cinema junkie, host Beth Huck. Amando speaking with the nitrate diva, Nora Fiori. You can hear the full episode of noir Dames part one at junkie.

Speaker 7: (44:12)


First detected in South Africa, the omicron variant could be more contagious and resistant to the vaccine, but researchers say much remains to be learned about this latest coronavirus variant. Plus, an appeals court has temporarily halted San Diego Unified’s vaccine mandate. Also, records show there’s a vast disparity in where police shootings occur. They tend to happen more in communities where more Black and Latino people live. And, UC and CSU applications are due tomorrow, but as with many things during the pandemic, things look a bit different this year. For one, SATs and ACTs are no longer required. Finally, in this excerpt from the Cinema Junky podcast, host Beth Accomando and guest Nora Fiore look past the iconic femme fatale character type to explore the diversity of women in noir.