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National Guard deployed to assist with COVID Testing

 January 10, 2022 at 4:24 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:00)

The national guard helps out at swamped COVID testing centers.

Speaker 2: (00:04)

It seems that the overall problem is just a lack of testing in general, and so many long lines at testing centers.

Speaker 1: (00:11)

I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Heman. This is KPBS midday edition. The COVID surge is also being felt at San Diego's homeless shelters. Omicron

Speaker 3: (00:29)

Is a real challenge, but it's even more of a challenge with a very vulnerable population staying in city shelters that also happens to be in a congregate setting,

Speaker 1: (00:40)

A unique attempt give support to veterans in California's prisons and the hopes surrounding the most anticipated new restaurants in San Diego. That's ahead on midday edition,

Speaker 1: (01:00)

Very long lines and hours of waiting at the 19 testing centers have prompted the state to bring in help from the California national guard and changed San Diego county's testing guidance county public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooton is now urging people to get tested only as necessary defined as only when you have symptoms. State testing sites from Chi two Oceanside are getting help from some national guard medical personnel. Meanwhile, doctors are concerned that symptomatic and asymptomatic people waiting together in long lines for COVID tests could actually be helping to spread the disease. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune, healthcare reporter, Paul Sissen and Paul welcome. Thanks

Speaker 2: (01:44)

For having me.

Speaker 1: (01:45)

How long have the COVID test lines been around the county in recent days? How long have people been on those lines?

Speaker 2: (01:52)

Oh gosh. You know, we don't have a perfect figure for every single site, but the ones that we visited and others have visited and people have been telling us about it, you know, it's not uncommon to wait for hours to get tested. Uh, you know, I've had some people say that they, they went to private sites, uh, last week where they waited in their cars for four straight hours before their samples were taken. So it's a long haul out there for

Speaker 1: (02:13)

Sure. And people on those lines are getting tested for a variety of different reasons, not just because they think they might be sick. Isn't that right?

Speaker 2: (02:21)

If you go through and you talk to people who are waiting in these lines, you just find a really range of different, uh, reasons why they're there. You know, obviously there are some who have symptoms and wanna find out what's causing those symptoms, but then you run into other people who say, you know, I, I don't have any symptoms and I'm not aware that I've been exposed, but my boss told me to get tested before I come back to work. So I'm out here, uh, just trying to, you know, get a negative test so I can do my job. Uh, you know, we ended some folks in San Marcos last week who were in that boat and they worked in retail. So it seems like, uh, you know, it's a, it's a wide range of different reasons.

Speaker 1: (02:53)

Now, the concern, as I understand it is that sick people online could pose a risk to people who are just there because they need a test for work. Is that it,

Speaker 2: (03:02)

This was brought up by, uh, Dr. Schooly at U C S D uh, when I chatted with him on Friday, I think he has a point there in terms of, you know, you don't really want to be in close proximity with people who are infected, even if everybody is wearing masks for, uh, for too long, standing next to somebody like that, or for four hours or two hours or three hours or one hour, that's probably not super ideal. On the other hand, a lot of these lines are outside and we know that there's much less risk when you are outside. On the other other hand, we know that this, uh, Amron variant is, uh, highly, highly transmissible, more so than others that came before it. So I guess what the, what the infectious disease folks are saying is, you know, why take a chance?

Speaker 1: (03:42)

What are San Diego county health officials saying now about who should get tested? They

Speaker 2: (03:47)

Seem to be narrowing it down a bit. The message as we were coming into this current surge was, you know, everybody should get tested whenever they want to, and whenever they need to. And, and that's, uh, that's a great thing to be able to do. It's great if buddy is going out to a social function of some kind, you know, and, and they think they might have been exposed, or they just wanna be careful before visiting a, a loved run. Who's, uh, very vulnerable to just take a, take a home test or, or go to a testing center and, and get a result and confirm that their social interaction is not going to bring coronavirus along with it. It just seems like that kind of testing seems like the county is straying away from that a little bit at this point. And focusing more in, on people either who have symptoms or who have pretty severe symptoms. And it, it seems to me though, they haven't really explained why they're doing this. Uh, it seems that the overall problem is just a lack of testing in general, available tests and, and so many long lines at testing centers so much demand.

Speaker 1: (04:41)

How is the national guard helping out at San Diego COVID testing centers?

Speaker 2: (04:45)

We were able to get ahold of, uh, gentleman with the, uh, national guard over the weekend. He indicated that it's generally helping around the edges. Yeah. As you know, the national guard is made up of a lot of folks, men and women who have a lot of different skills. And so they were saying, you know, it's tailored by so site. So in some cases they might have a medic there who's helping to do, uh, swabs and, and taking samples for testing. Uh, others might be helping to run traffic and parking lots and, and keep things from clogging up. As people are pulling in, in their vehicles, uh, others might be helping to manage long lines and make sure that people aren't getting frustrated and trying to cut the lines, or what have you, uh, in the, and others might be working kind of behind the scenes with some of the lab operations and, uh, logistics. Once they take these samples at a testing site, often they'll need to transport them elsewhere for the actual testing to be conducted. So there's a lot of logistics behind the scenes that people don't see that, that are important, uh, as well. And Paul

Speaker 1: (05:38)

Are the numbers still in the thousands for people testing positive for COVID every day in San Diego?

Speaker 2: (05:44)

Uh, yes, they absolutely are. Uh, the county doesn't give us, uh, new data updates over the weekend. So we should get a fresh set of numbers later today. But their last, uh, report Friday had 5,922 new cases from the previous day that they had been, uh, reported. And that is still higher than anything we saw last winter. And that's still over a thousand more than we saw last this time, last winter, when, when that was the record

Speaker 1: (06:08)

And in your article in the UT today, it seems that some doctors are urging people to consider going back into lockdown. Can you tell, tell us

Speaker 2: (06:16)

About that? Yeah, I mean, you know, they look at all of this, uh, social interaction that happened over the holidays. Uh, as we talked before, you know, it was just very different this year. A lot of locations were open that weren't open last year, bars and restaurants and indoor dining and lots of different performances and large gatherings, uh, football games, uh, you know, you name it, it was open. And so they see the spike in positive cases. That's come after all of that, uh, holiday revel and, and kind of wonder if we can continue that kind of, uh, level of activity if we want this thing to simmer down. You know, I don't think anybody's really suggesting that it's even possible to have the wide shutdowns that we had in 2020 and, and early 2021. I think, think a lot of people feel that that ship has really sailed, that people really wouldn't comply. So, so it feels like they're being a little more nuanced and saying, you know, we all in our own, uh, behaviors need to kind of ratchet back on some of this contact that we've been having over the holidays and let this thing simmer down, kind of as a, a collective effort. That's not really a formal government effort, but just individuals making, uh, you know, a tighter set of choices as, as we get into the new new year here and try to try to get this case right down. I've

Speaker 1: (07:25)

Been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, healthcare reporter, Paul Sissen, Paul, thank you very much. Thanks

Speaker 2: (07:31)

For having me

Speaker 4: (07:36)

As San Diego struggles with its latest coronavirus surge, local homeless shelters have also been hit with outbreaks led by the highly transmissible Omicron variant here to talk about how they've been handling these recent outbreaks and what steps they're taking to minimize them is Lisa Halat journalist with voice of San Diego. Lisa, welcome.

Speaker 3: (07:55)

Thanks for having me. So

Speaker 4: (07:57)

What are people experie right now inside of homeless shelters?

Speaker 3: (08:01)

Well, it's been a bit chaotic as it has been for all of us during this latest COVID surge in the last couple weeks, dozens of people staying in city shelters have tested positive, but unlike those of us who live in homes or apartments, where we can safely isolate, although, you know, that's fair could be very complicated for individual. It is even more complicated when you're someone staying in a packed city shelter, living with dozens of other people. Mm.

Speaker 4: (08:28)

Last week you wrote about the current outbreak among the local homeless population. Uh, what are the latest numbers and, and do the outbreak show any signs of bathing? So in

Speaker 3: (08:38)

The past couple weeks, about 100 P people staying in city funded shelters have tested positive. That's been about 50 cases each week, and that has really set off a rush to isolate those people, that test positive the city and the shelter providers really do hope that by isolating those people who test positive and stopping shelter intakes, they can stop those outbreaks. They're also doing weekly testing, which they had been doing to try to stay on top of the situation. But I think it's really important to note, you know, as many of us have seen headlines about outbreaks at schools or, you know, being, you know, learning that a bunch of people attended a party and then a bunch of people ended up with COVID even if you are vaccinated and careful Omicron is a real challenge, but it's even more of a challenge with a very vulnerable population staying in city shelters that also happens to be in a congregate setting and it is

Speaker 4: (09:33)

A vulnerable population. So how is this population impacted by contracting COVID? Are there more severe symptoms? Are there more hospitalizations? Do you know any, any have, have any sense of, of how it's impacting, uh, this population?

Speaker 3: (09:48)

Uh, well, what we've learned throughout the pandemic is that people that are without homes just tend to be more vulnerable. I will say also that, you know, the homeless population has been, at least some members of the homeless population have been more hesitant about getting vaccinated. I can't really speak to with these current outbreaks, if the cases have been more severe than they've been in the general population, but it's certainly more complicated. I think all of us, if, you know, we get at sick, we would like to isolate it in our homes or feel like if we needed to access healthcare, maybe we could do that like last week, although I did not have COVID, I was able to do, uh, virtual urgent care for something that's a little bit more complicated when you're without a home.

Speaker 4: (10:33)

So what do shelter providers currently do when one of its residents test positive, uh, what's their current policy.

Speaker 3: (10:40)

So they hurry to really separate that person from others, staying in the shelter as quickly as possible and move them to a temporary isolation space. Now, typically that is indeed a temporary isolation space and folks who test positive are transported to county funded hotel rooms, where they can safely isolate for at least 10 days. The issue has been that those hotel rooms have been a lot less available recently. And so homeless shelter providers have had to, in many cases, isolate people and make shift isolation, tents that they're struggling to keep heed during this cold weather that we've had. So many people who have test positive recently have stayed intense for their full 10 day isolation period.

Speaker 4: (11:25)

Earlier in the pandemic, hotels were a major tool in trying to minimize the spread of coronavirus cases in the homeless population. Is that policy still being

Speaker 3: (11:34)

Used? Yes, but the county has had fewer rooms available for this purpose, um, recently than it's had in the past. And these rooms have been a really key part of the isolation response for shelters. So shelters would temporarily isolate people on their own grounds until they could be moved to hotel rooms. Um, but those rooms were largely unavailable during the last week of December, when 50 people tested positive at alpha project and father Joe's shelters, the county says it has since added 40 new hotel rooms for this purpose and said late Friday, it hoped more people who tested positive last week would be able to move on to hotel rooms. But as of Friday, just 17, people had moved into hotel rooms, which is far short of the roughly 50, who had tested positive last week, other

Speaker 4: (12:25)

Than having available rooms. You also write about shelter providers struggles to have them fully staffed, have staffing shortages had any impact on shelter's ability to provide services at this point.

Speaker 3: (12:37)

So shelter providers have told me that their staff members have really stepped up to come to work during a time when most of us took off during the holidays. Meanwhile, as many employers, um, they have had, uh, some employees test positive. I would note too that one of the challenges that the county has shared when it comes to the hotel rooms is that they have had staffing issues for the hotel rooms as well. And the county has made the point that, you know, while it would like to make more rooms available and, and says, it has indeed in the last week, uh, you need to make sure the at that hotel room that's added has staff attached to it who can provide care to individuals staying in them. And so that's been a real challenge, um, that the county has voiced throughout its hotel program. And you

Speaker 4: (13:26)

Write that at least some have criticized the city and counties, lack of preparation as the holidays approach, uh, what could they have done better?

Speaker 3: (13:34)

Well, I think it's really important to note that in mid-December U C S D researchers sounded the alarm about an expected COVID surge during the holidays. And certainly there were many news stories about, you know, the likelihood of, of a holiday surge. And we also had known that shelters here and elsewhere in the country have seen large scale outbreaks before. Uh, some have argued that the county should have proactively increased its stock of hotel rooms for people who test positive. But instead there was a shortage of rooms. When that surge came. You also had a situation where, you know, both the providers and the city and the county also likely had less staff available just because of timing of this. And so some folks have said that might have made sense to, to try to create a more proactive plan for what might happen and what resources would be needed. If there was indeed a surgeon cases during the holidays,

Speaker 4: (14:30)

Do you think providers and local officials are better prepared to handle these type of outbreaks now?

Speaker 3: (14:35)

Well, now the, the holidays are behind us. Certainly both providers and local officials are likely more available to have proactive conversations about their responses. Um, I know that off a project which operates two city shelters now has two party tents available that it can use to temporarily isolate people. Um, and also has temporarily acquired a location where that tent or tent can be put up. But the key question really is whether the county can provide more hotel rooms when they're needed to lessen the chaos that we saw play out during the holidays.

Speaker 1: (15:09)

I've been speaking with voice of San Diego reporter, Lisa Halstadt,

Speaker 3: (15:13)

Lisa. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: (15:23)

This is K PBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Henman military personnel are once again on the front lines of the pandemic, military medical teams have been dispatched to hospitals across the country, overwhelmed by COVID. One of those teams is from San Diego, K PBS reporter kitty Alvarado tells us they were sent to a hospital on the brink of collapse.

Speaker 5: (15:47)

San Juan regional medical center in Farmington, New Mexico serves a vast area in the four corners, Dr. Brad Greenberg medical director of emergency preparedness at the hospital says they care for all people, no matter who they are or where they come from. We

Speaker 6: (16:03)

Serve a, um, mixture of, uh, urban, uh, rural and frontier areas, uh, and also our referral center for many of the, uh, facility. These that exist on a Navajo nation COVID

Speaker 5: (16:14)

Has not been kind to the region. They've had five COVID waves and the last 13 weeks have been especially

Speaker 6: (16:21)

Tough. We were on the verge of a, of a true clinical catastrophe. Uh, we did not have enough personnel, uh, to take care of the, of the really incredibly high number of critically

Speaker 5: (16:33)

Ill folks. The Navy came to their rescue 2 23 member Navy medical response teams from San Diego's Navy medical center commander, Dr. UNG, the senior medical officer says they're proud to carry out this mission. I can't imagine

Speaker 7: (16:49)

Being anywhere else except being on the front lines of

Speaker 8: (16:52)

Patient care. I was really, really shocked when I heard that they had so many people that were

Speaker 5: (16:56)

On the ventilators. Daniella Jenkins is an ICU nurse with a Navy team before the military. She worked at a civilian hospital.

Speaker 8: (17:04)

I know how hard it is to be short staffed. And it has been really amazing to hear these nurses say, hasn't been like this in like a month.

Speaker 5: (17:12)

Dr. Greenberg says the arrival did wonders for the hospital and morale. Boy,

Speaker 6: (17:18)

What a, uh, finally, a little bit of a tailwind, some inspiration and feeling like we're all in this together. He

Speaker 5: (17:25)

Says they save the hospital from collapse and many lives in the process.

Speaker 8: (17:30)

Any patient that makes it, it just, it almost like heals

Speaker 5: (17:33)

Our soul. Not a, every story ends this way, but Lieutenant commander, Charles Volk, a pulmonary critical care doctor says losing a patient doesn't mean failure. Part of our job

Speaker 7: (17:44)

Is to be there. If we can't cure someone, to make sure that the end of their life is as good as

Speaker 5: (17:52)

Possible. These heroes are human and these experiences leave their mark. There are times

Speaker 7: (17:58)

Where it's hard. Um, there's times

Speaker 5: (18:00)

Where I've cried and experiencing loss during the holidays somehow feels different walking into a

Speaker 8: (18:06)

Room and seeing a, a lifeless soul there it's it's hard, especially on Christmas day. That was, that was

Speaker 5: (18:12)

Tough, but those experiences have changed them for the better too. Dr. Bot says they learned from those. They cared for. We're

Speaker 7: (18:20)

Very close to Navajo nation, um, and hearing some of their stories and our practices and all those things have been very touching for us.

Speaker 5: (18:28)

Dr. Green says they too will live on in the hearts of the staff and community, our

Speaker 6: (18:34)

Sincerest appreciation for your sacrifices and for your willingness to come out here and help make a difference.

Speaker 5: (18:39)

And news of their good work traveled to mayor Todd, Gloria in San Diego. And I

Speaker 9: (18:44)

Thank them from the bottom of my heart. I thank them. They represent the best of this country, the

Speaker 5: (18:48)

Best of our city. This means a lot to those who served on this mission for over a month through the holidays and new year.

Speaker 8: (18:55)

Honestly, that's all that matters is thank you. It matters a lot. Those two words mean a lot

Speaker 5: (19:00)

To us, but as they were leaving, another COVID wave is hitting the rest of the country. That's not lost on Dr. Greenberg. We're sitting

Speaker 6: (19:08)

Right at the edge of our seats, waiting for the, the Amron to, uh, really make itself known within the state of New Mexico. As this

Speaker 5: (19:15)

Virus continues to mutate, there are many unknowns, but having heroes like these on the front lines, a thousand of them who will soon be deployed, brings hope to those communities that are facing or are about to face the worst. Kitty Alvarado, Cape PBS news

Speaker 4: (19:36)

Statewide. Some hospitals are buckling under the pressure of . As the highly contagious variant continues to sweep through the state. A growing number of hospital staffers are testing positive K PCCs, Jackie 48 reports that hospital in LA county are calling on the state to send the national guard and other help

Speaker 5: (19:56)

O's ability to cause mild infections among vaccinated hospital staff is causing a crisis in LA's

Speaker 10: (20:03)

Hospitals. As of today, I have 37 staff out with COVID

Speaker 5: (20:09)

That's Kevin Metcal, he's the CEO Memorial hospital of garden.

Speaker 10: (20:13)

I've got a couple hundred nurses, but that's a significant piece. And I mean, 11 in the last 24 hours have tested positive and they're getting it outside. It's coming from the community as

Speaker 5: (20:25)

LA county cases have surged to daily counts higher than any other time. During the pandemic cases among hot staff are also climbing Nancy Blake. The chief nursing officer at LA county, USC medical center says each nurse who tests positive will be out for at least a week creating a snowball effect. I think we had 127 of our staff

Speaker 11: (20:47)

Come back testing positive. So that's pretty significant. A large number of 'em were nurses, but we had respiratory therapists out. We had radiology staff out. So every area moves a little bit slower.

Speaker 5: (20:58)

The number of LA county health workers testing positive for COVID 19 began to surge in December

Speaker 11: (21:03)

Because of the holidays. A lot of people got together with friends and family more so than last year. And then someone came down with it and then someone came down with it and we know is highly transmissible in

Speaker 5: (21:15)

California. More than one in five COVID tests are positive to curb new infections, state health officials, extended California's indoor mask mandate. By another month, LA county health officials went further requiring employers to provide medical grade masks to employees by mid-January. But these efforts may come too late for LA hospitals, where Blake says she's having a hard time filling shifts.

Speaker 11: (21:41)

We're consolidating nursing staff and using overtime and administrative nurses to fill them.

Speaker 5: (21:48)

The sheer number of six staff prompted all four of the LA county run hospitals to ask the state for help. Blake is hoping for travel nurses or military medics from the national guard and army that she can assign to the emergency room to fill the staffing gaps.

Speaker 11: (22:05)

What would help us is somewhere around 40 to 50. You know, we're a 24 7 service and most of 'em work, 12 hour

Speaker 5: (22:12)

Shifts. The next step would be postponing elective surgeries like knee replacements. Blake says that could happen any day at LA county, USC medical center, smaller facilities like Memorial hospital of garden have already stopped, says CEO, Kevin Metcal. I

Speaker 10: (22:28)

A had to cancel elective surgeries so that I could access the national guard through the California department of public health. That's the only way that they'll allow us to do it is if we cancel elective cases and then move those staff into patient care settings,

Speaker 5: (22:42)

LA emergency rooms are also being inundated with frustrated, otherwise healthy people, looking for a rapid COVID test. Federal law requires everyone who comes into the ER to be triaged and screened, taking up time and valuable tests. Metcalf says the problem

Speaker 10: (22:59)

With that is it uses up quickly. All of our rapid tests that we need for our patients being admitted, California

Speaker 5: (23:07)

Health officials say they've brought in more than 800 out of state health workers and are trying to hire even more. As the Omicron surge is expected to peak at the end of January for hospitals in LA, the help can't come soon enough. That

Speaker 1: (23:22)

Was Jackie 40 a for the California report. Nearly 7,000 military veterans are in prison in California, spread out across 34 different institutions. Now the state is trying to better serve them by housing them together. It's opened. What state leaders say will be the nation's largest prison yard just for incarcerated veterans. Lucy cop with the American home front project has more

Speaker 12: (23:52)

In 2014, Ron's self, a decorated Marine Corps veteran was serving a life sentence at San Quentin state prison for attempted murder. When he attended a self-help class, I was in a program

Speaker 2: (24:04)

Called victim offender education.

Speaker 12: (24:05)

This program offered participants a chance to share their traumas as a way of healing their past. When it was self turn, an experience from combat came to mind. First, I shared

Speaker 2: (24:15)

Probably my most significant traumatic event that culminated in me putting a bullet in one of my man's head who just got blown up with an RPG.

Speaker 12: (24:22)

When self finish sharing his experience of the circle, it was crickets.

Speaker 2: (24:27)

People just didn't know how to respond. They were all civilians. They've had other hugely traumatic, but nobody knew how

Speaker 12: (24:32)

To deal with that. This was one of many instances that led self to a firm conclusion. We need our own program. Self envisioned, a prison yard dedicated to veterans. And later he founded an advocacy group to lobby for it past may. His vision became a reality as California prison officials cut the ribbon at the state's correctional training facility. The first prison in California to designate a yard just for veterans More than a dozen states have separate prison dorms for military veterans. But the California department of corrections and rehabilitation says that this will be the largest veterans hub in the nation. Eventually housing up to 1200 incarcerated veterans, getting

Speaker 13: (25:17)

The whole state to acknowledge that we're gonna be the veterans hub is what we're going through now. And that we're in the final stages of

Speaker 12: (25:24)

It. That's captain Jose Ortega. He oversees the hub and says the goal is to provide veterans inside the system with everything they'd be able to get on the outside job

Speaker 13: (25:34)

Trainings, vocations, higher education, their benefits.

Speaker 12: (25:38)

The hub also looks different from most prisons, a mural on the yard depicts the famous world war II scene of Marines, raising the flag at EIMA Sergeant Matt Dyer, who works on the yard. Isn't a veteran, but he has an American flag tattooed across his forearm. And he says the mural and the daily rituals are designed to restore a sense of patriotism and duty. We do raise

Speaker 14: (26:00)

The flag and lower it every morning and evening, um, play taps and readily in the morning. And at night, um, inside our housing

Speaker 12: (26:05)

Unit, still the purple us of the hub is much bigger than just restoring military tradition. Mark Wade is an incarcerated veteran at the hub and the veteran liaison responsible for communicating between his peers on the yard and prison officials. It's not so much.

Speaker 15: (26:21)

We want to see murals that we want to see flag falls. That's just a surface level. We we're trying to get deeper than that and really prepare people to get out

Speaker 12: (26:27)

Of here. Part of preparing people to get out of prison is connecting them to their VA benefits in order for vets to qualify, they need a medical exam. And with so few VA providers trying to get an appointment can take years. Wade hopes the hub will change

Speaker 15: (26:43)

That. And with the centralized location, now the VA doesn't have to travel to 34 prisons. They could come to one

Speaker 12: (26:49)

As VA. Logistics are finalized Wade and the 145 veterans on the yard have begun setting a tone of unity, starting with adopting the logo of the black sheep squadron. Okay.

Speaker 15: (27:00)

There's a Marine fighter squadron in world war II that will is made up of all the pilots that, that nobody else wanted, but it turned out to be the most successful combat squadron in, in world war II.

Speaker 12: (27:08)

Wade says veterans at the hub can relate. Society

Speaker 15: (27:11)

Didn't want us we're in prison, but we're gonna overcome our past band together to do what's right to serve and live vulnerable lives. Now

Speaker 12: (27:18)

There's little data on whether housing incarcerated veterans together makes it less they'll end up back in prison after they're released, but California corrections officials say they'll begin tracking that. And Wade says that will be the true test of whether the veteran's hub is a success. I'm Lucy cop in Los Angeles.

Speaker 1: (27:37)

This story was produced by the American home front project, a public media collaboration that reports on a American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting,

Speaker 4: (27:53)

A lot of restaurants temporarily, or even permanently close during the pandemic. And now some restaurant owners are having trouble hiring enough staff. So what is it like to open in a new restaurant in the middle of a pandemic? According to a recent article by San Diego union Tribune, reporter Pam Cragan at least three dozen new high profile restaurants and bars will be opening in San Diego this year. Pam joins me now to talk about some of the most anticipated restaurants of the year. Pam. Welcome.

Speaker 16: (28:21)

Thank you very much. Happy to be here. So these re

Speaker 4: (28:24)

Restaurants are all opening up sometime throughout this year, which means they've been in the works for a while. Now, what challenges has the pandemic brought to these restaurant owners trying to open a new

Speaker 16: (28:34)

Place? Well, you mentioned one of them right up front, and that was the staffing shortage, uh, that has affected a lot of restaurants to the point that they are, many of them are now closed on Mondays and Tuesdays or whatever. Were there slow days before? Uh, so that's been a big challenge and the supply chain problem limited access to ingredients. It's hard to get proteins and they're very expensive and labor prices. They just went up on January 1st.

Speaker 4: (28:58)

Now I wanna get into the details about some of the restaurants actually opening up this year. Let's start with Gordon Ramsey's hell's kitchen opening up at the Harris's resort in valley center. What can visitors expect

Speaker 16: (29:09)

There that should open probably sometime in the spring. And if you've watched Gordon Ramsey's TV show hell's kitchen on, uh, Fox it's, it's a very colorful, big production kind of look. And that same look is gonna be transferred to the restaurant, which is taking over the former buffet restaurant. It's gonna have a full scale restaurant and a bar and a lounge, and it's gonna feature there. Some of the dishes that Gordon Ramsey is known for, which are like, uh, pan-seared scallops, lobster, Reto, beef, Wellington, crispy skin salmon, and sticky toy pudding,

Speaker 4: (29:43)

All sounds delicious. And this restaurant will be taking over the former buffet restaurant space at the resort. How has the pandemic impacted these, uh, casino buffets? Well, you

Speaker 16: (29:53)

Know, casino buffets for many years have been what they call lost leaders for casinos. They would compete to offer the most extravagant buffet for the lowest price in order to drive foot traffic in hoping people would stay to gamble. And when the pandemic hit casinos closed. And, uh, of course all buffets closed because they were seen as unsafe at the time. And, uh, casinos had to learn ways to lure customers back without a buffet. And they've gotten pretty good at that. So it's not, they're going to generally for the most part, reopen those buffets unless they need to, because they don't wanna lose money. So Hills' kitchen is a good example of reimagination of a buffet space. And some of the casinos are looking to use the space to create, sit down restaurants where plated food is brought to them. Maybe unlimited. You can keep getting several plate if you ask your server, but the good old use the same utensil in front of the SNE shield, uh, buffet days are gone.

Speaker 4: (30:48)

Another restaurant opening up is chicken Hawk and a local skateboarding legend. Tony Hawk is opening up this new restaurant. Can you tell us about

Speaker 16: (30:56)

It? Yes. Well, Tony Hawk is pretty well known as a fan of, uh, restaurant dining. Can him out all the time he, he loves to eat out. And one of the restaurants he loves to eat out at is called ju Jo, which is a Michelin Stard French restaurant Carlsbad and their founding chef Andrew Bashier left, uh, June and Jo last year to do some new things. And he's friends with Tony and they are gonna be opening chicken Hawk, which is a cat casual restaurant serving fried chicken sandwiches, food made with FreshCo, local seafood and cocktails. And it's gonna open in the former Panos Mexican restaurant space in Leucadia sometime in the spring, late spring, most likely, and the

Speaker 4: (31:35)

New American restaurant, Madam Bon's has a unique story behind the name. Can you tell us about the history behind this restaurant?

Speaker 16: (31:42)

Yeah. Uh, the restaurant is opening in the former hotel, Lester, which was a gas lamp quarter district historic hotel that opened in 1905. And it is named for Bertha, Bonnie white, who ran what they call a respectable brothel in on the property in the 1920s in the former stingy or the brothel district of the gas lamp. Mm.

Speaker 4: (32:06)

And what can people expect with that restaurant?

Speaker 16: (32:09)

The menu is gonna be American with like Cajun prime, red bites, salads, house biscuits, rotiserie meats, Brio, bread, pudding, ice cream flights, and a pretty extensive cocktail menu, uh, with specialty of vodka, bourbon and cocktails. It should open in late February.

Speaker 4: (32:26)

All right. And glass box San Diego is another new restaurant opening up in Carmel valley. Can you tell us about this new place? And what's so unique about this restaurant

Speaker 16: (32:35)

Glass box will fill the last vacant space left in sky deck, which is a large 13 restaurant collective at the Delmar Highland shopping center in Delmar Heights. And, uh, glass box is just what it's described as it's a large rectangular glass box restaurant that people can sit, you know, on a bar, uh, surrounding the sushi chefs who are gonna be making, like I said, sushi, and ya Cator. And it, it is a project created by a, uh, local chef in San Diego who runs a Japanese restaurant. So, uh, it's got good chef credentials. And

Speaker 4: (33:07)

For people who are looking for a new, fresh juice and smoothie spot Joya, organic kitchen is opening next month. Tell us about it. Yes.

Speaker 16: (33:15)

Uh, joy is going to be opening in a office and, uh, commercial complex in the LA Jolla area near U C S D. They're gonna be serving fresh pressed juices and smoothies Andys and coffee. They're also gonna do a lunch menu and they're gonna do a cocktail menu during the happy hour. And this isn't just for workers in that complex called the boardwalk at science center drive. It's also for the look

Speaker 4: (33:40)

And the lab collaborative. Isn't just a restaurant. It has more to offer. So what more will this venue have for visitors?

Speaker 16: (33:47)

The lab collaborative is just starting to open up its first elements on Cleveland street and Oceanside just this month. And the project is gonna be a chef driven, coastal seafood, uh, California restaurant with a full bar program. It's also gonna have its own mobile food truck. It's also gonna have a coffee bar named jet fuel, and it's also gonna have its own farm. But at this point, the only thing that's opening up just jet is jet fuel coffee bar.

Speaker 4: (34:13)

Other than restaurants, a new winery is coming to town. The Liberty station wine garden will be opening soon. Can you tell us about it? Yes.

Speaker 16: (34:20)

That's a project from Carus sellers, urban winery, and they're gonna be opening a 10,000 square foot indoor outdoor wine garden and restaurant in the arts district at Liberty station, which is near con pane restaurant. Uh, it's gonna have a Coppertop bar and two very large outdoor patios, and they're gonna serve panini and salads and build your own cheese and charcuterie and items like that to accompany Caruth California style wines.

Speaker 4: (34:45)

And how do you foresee the restaurant industry growing this year as we are already seeing a surge in COVID cases at the start of the new

Speaker 16: (34:53)

Year? Yeah, the year hasn't gotten off to a great start, but fortunately restaurants have not been ordered to close down as yet, but you know, honestly I do these, uh, most anticipated restaurant opening stories every year. And last year I had 20 this year, I have 40. So to me that's a good sign. Um, I think that what some of the trends that you're gonna see at restaurants are continuing problems with the labor shortage and, uh, restaurants trying to accommodate the higher wages that they're paying. So expect more restaurants to be offering order at the counter service kiosk, ordering, ordering from your cell phone and ways to reduce their front of the house staffing. I think restaurants are going to be using more sustainable reusable, take home packaging for regular diners to try and reduce their take home costs and kind of accept the fact that the third party delivery and take out meal trend that started in the pandemic is going to continue.

Speaker 4: (35:47)

All right. I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter Pam Cragan Pam. Thank you so much.

Speaker 16: (35:53)

Thank you. I appreciate the time.

Speaker 1: (36:05)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Henman. If the OCN surge has you and the kids stuck at home, there's one way to experience a national landmark San Diego without venturing outside author bere, Zora, and illustrator Maira. Meza tell the story of Chicano park with pictures almost as beautiful as the Park's murals themselves. The book which was released during the 50th anniversary of the park tells the history of Chicano park through the eyes of two children, just moved to Barrio Logan, Allison St. John spoke with the two women behind the book called the spirit of Chicano park.

Speaker 17: (36:46)

RI Samora joins us now. Welcome

Speaker 18: (36:48)

Bere. Uh, good morning, nice to

Speaker 17: (36:50)

Be here. And illustrator Mira Mesa is also with us. Thank you for being with us, Mara. Thank you for

Speaker 18: (36:56)

Havings us.

Speaker 17: (36:57)

So bere, you were born in Barrio Logan and have become a longtime community organizer. What inspired you to write a children's book about the founding of the park?

Speaker 18: (37:05)

Well, actually I was born in Barrio Logan and, uh, shortly after my birth, my parents moved to Los Angeles where I was raised when I came back to San Diego as a young adult, I first became acquainted with Chicano park and I fell in love with the park. The first time I stepped foot on, on the land, I think learning about the history of a community that in many ways had been overlooked. Um, but they came together in unity and, uh, they worked hard, uh, found their voice and they asked that San Diego city of San Diego helped them build a park. So I was amazed at their fortitude and their resilience and the fact that they had been so successful in accomplishing their goal. You wrote

Speaker 17: (37:54)

About this story, it's one of struggle. And one that includes a part takeover the last 12 days in a protest against the construction of a CHP patrol station. Right? How did you explain this, this history to young kids in your book?

Speaker 18: (38:08)

The most important thing is to, to be honest and yet not complicate the dialogue too much. And so I wanted children to understand that this community had been a vibrant community for many, many years. Um, it was a, a Barrio that the folks who lived there felt so proud, uh, to live there. They had everything they needed and, um, it was a vibrant neighborhood. And then when I five came through and the Coronado bridge was constructed, um, about 15,000 residents were displaced through the laws of imminent domain. So I thought that was important for children to understand that this park is a symbol of so much more than a lovely part to come and, and visit and enjoy, but it's also a symbol of a community's voice and their efforts to, um, restore their community and to, um, develop more self-determination.

Speaker 17: (39:12)

So tell us a little bit about Betty and wonky. The, the two, um, main characters in your book.

Speaker 18: (39:19)

Well, bet is a young girl who, uh, is not all that happy to be moving, uh, once again, and, uh, this time though, it's different because her parents have actually purchased a home and they plan to make body Logan, their permanent residents. So she's, she's been through this before and, um, she's not so happy about leaving her school and her friends. Um, and then her mom has a great idea to, uh, take Bo both Bunky and Bey down the street to the, to a park that she hits scene. And, um, as they visit the park, they begin to realize the richness of the culture, the richness of the Barrio, and, um, the enjoyment that people have, uh, been part of this park and identifying with the park and in the end of the story, they realize that they have a lot to be proud of and that the park represents not only their past, but their future. And, uh, they're happy then to be a part of body Logan. So

Speaker 17: (40:29)

Mya, the, the artwork in this book, cuz as colorful as some of the murals in, in Chicano park itself, did you turn to those murals for

Speaker 19: (40:35)

Inspiration? Yes, I absolutely. I, I will both, um, be a three and I both felt strongly about the murals is it tells a history. Um, it tells the struggle and, and that was definitely something very, very important to include in the book, along with, um, all the names of the, of the well, most of the people that did some, some murals that we have some interviews at the back, uh, that are very important to include them includes, uh, Patricia, Victor OOA, and some of those, uh, those big shots that are, that got to experience, especially Victor got to experience, um, the takeover and the murals is just, if you walk through them, it, you could just, it tells a story. You don't need, um, anything to be printed. You just walk through it and, and it tells you the story of the, the struggle of the community and the victory that we all, we all get to experience, which is why it's so important to, um, continue, continue this and, and to inspire the youth, to learn about the takeover and everything that took place. And

Speaker 17: (41:42)

Berics, you know, the publishing industry has long been criticized for, for lack of diversity in children's books. And, and you actually self-published through to Takeko press this book, which is by Ling. How do you think that having books that reflect your own culture affects a child's learning?

Speaker 18: (41:57)

Well, I think it's paramount when they have literature in front of them where they can connect when they can see themselves in the book, it comes to life for them and becomes real. It becomes an inspiring moment for them to understand that educate is for them too. And so to me, I've always felt I'm a former educator and I've always felt that it was really important for kids to, um, to see themselves not only in the, in the books and the literature and the movies that they're learning about, but in their teachers, in their role models in the community. And to know that they can have a positive impact in their world and that some of the negative stereotypes that dominate the media and, and other venues are not the whole picture. They may be a slice of who we are, but there's certainly not all of who we are.

Speaker 17: (42:49)

So I'd like to ask both of you, how do you think parents can use this book to teach kids about out today's current protest movements against racial inequality? Well,

Speaker 18: (42:59)

I think the book demonstrates that, uh, a community that felt unempowered a community that felt that no one would listen to them, spoke up organized and realized that if they, they were persistent, if they persevered that they would be successful. And I think the current climate that we're living in, we've been dealing with these issues for forever all of my existence, but coming to a culmination of the black lives matter, that basically means that all lives matter. And that means all voices matter in this country.

Speaker 19: (43:34)

I used this book a lot. Uh, I, I teach classes online and a lot of our, the painters are our children. So, um, I'm very excited that a lot of them got to have this in their hand and enjoy it. And, and you can, you can learn so much from it. It's just important that we, we continue to teach our children that, um, it's important to, to speak up for ourselves, for our communities and to learn about our cultures and to stay involved with our cultures

Speaker 17: (44:04)

As well. The name of the book is the spirit of Chicano park. And we've been speaking with its author bere, Zora. Thank you, bere. Thank you. And the illustrator, Myra Mesa. Thank you. Thank you. That

Speaker 1: (44:17)

Interview was conducted by Allison St. John in 2020.

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Long waits for COVID-19 testing has prompted the state to bring in help from the California National Guard and change San Diego County’s testing guidance. Plus, San Diego’s homeless shelters struggle with coronavirus outbreaks led by the highly transmissible omicron variant. Also, military medical teams have been dispatched to hospitals across the country overwhelmed by COVID-19. Meanwhile, some hospitals are buckling under the pressure of omicron as the highly contagious variant continues to sweep through the state and a growing number of hospital staffers are testing positive. Then, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is trying to better serve veterans who are serving time by housing them together. And, the most anticipated restaurants opening in San Diego in the new year. Finally, from our archives: author Beatrize Zamora and illustrator Maira Meza tell the story of Chicano Park with pictures almost as beautiful as the park's murals.