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State officials consider order to suspend elective surgeries

 January 12, 2022 at 4:12 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

Hospitals are having to cancel some surgeries.

Speaker 2: (00:03)

We're hearing about organ transplants, being postponed surgeries for kidney stones, which are incredibly painful.

Speaker 1: (00:10)

I'm Jade Henman with Marine Kavanaugh. This is K PBS midday edition. What local advocates are saying about voting rights and Biden speech. It's no longer

Speaker 3: (00:29)

About who gets to vote. It's about making it harder to vote. It's about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.

Speaker 1: (00:39)

Driverless semi-trucks could be on our road soon and hear about the new work of a local author. TJ Parker that's ahead on midday edition. Imagine being scheduled for brain surgery or back surgery or a knee replacement only to be told, sorry, your procedure has been called off today. That's what people are experiencing across San Diego and the state. So many healthcare workers are out with COVID state officials are now considering an order for hospitals across California to suspend some elective surgeries in San Diego. Dr. Wilma Wooten is warning that hospitals may be in for a rough couple of months. Barbara Feder Ostrov has been covering this for Cal matters and joins us now. Barbara, welcome.

Speaker 2: (01:36)

Thanks for having me. So

Speaker 1: (01:38)

Elective procedures are being postponed around San Diego county and the state. You know, when people think of elective surgeries, they think of cosmetic surgeries or perhaps something very minor, but what are some examples of the procedures being put off you're

Speaker 2: (01:53)

Right. It's not just procedures like a nose job or a colonoscopy elective in medicine doesn't mean optional. It just means that it can be schedule ahead of time of like emergency heart surgery. When you're having a heart attack. This is a term that's really misunderstood outside hospital medicine. So we're hearing about organ transplants, being postponed surgeries for kidney stones, which are incredibly painful. Uh, they can be postponed some cancer surgery such as removal of a tumor if it won't, uh, cause immediate harm. But research has shown the long term harms of such delays, you know,

Speaker 1: (02:31)

Here in San Diego, which hospitals are already rescheduling elective surgeries,

Speaker 2: (02:36)

Probably almost all of them. At this point, there have been reports of surgeries, rescheduled or canceled at UC San Diego radial hospital and scripts hospitals. There are also reports of procedures being postponed at Kaiser Permanente facilities across the state, including, uh, most likely in San Diego.

Speaker 1: (02:55)

What's been the reaction from patients affected by this.

Speaker 2: (02:58)

Well, they're obviously not happy. They're very worried and some are more understanding than others. After our Cal matter story ran, I saw a lot of reaction on social media from people who had procedures canceled for them or for their family members. And I spoke with one man in orange county who had waited two months for back surgery to relief,

Speaker 1: (03:18)

Constant pain. And he was waiting on a gurney, fully prepped for surgery for three hours before the surgeon came in and told him he could not do the operation at the schedule of time. He was very disappointed. Uh, but he also said that he couldn't be mad at the doctors or hospital because he saw how hard they were already working. Do you have any sense of how long procedures are being postponed?

Speaker 2: (03:41)

It depends on the procedure and it could be a matter of days, weeks or months, the person who needed back surgery that I spoke to, he was able to get it yesterday. And, um, there are other surgeries that might be postponed for a few days just to make sure you can get the specialized staff you in the operating room. And then other things like colonoscopies and other like say exploratory surgeries, that type of thing can be postponed for weeks or possibly months, especially diagnostic procedures.

Speaker 1: (04:12)

You touched on this a bit earlier, but some of these procedures sound pretty serious. So could postponing some of these elective surgeries be life threatening?

Speaker 2: (04:21)

Well, that's the worry, you know, across the state hospital physicians and hospital leaders are really basically triaging these procedures, uh, you know, patient by patients saying, you know, how long has this person been waiting? What is their prognosis? You know, how would their life be affected if we had to reschedule this and for how long? So it's not a blanket we're canceling everything. Um, one hospital administrator said we are absolutely not postponing any cancer surgeries, but other things like say, you know, ear tube surgery for a kid with a lot of ear infections or colonoscopy, those things we are postponing.

Speaker 1: (05:03)

The California department of public health is currently weighing whether to issue an order to hospitals across the state to postpone some elective surgeries. Um, when is the decision on this matter expected?

Speaker 2: (05:14)

It's unclear. Uh, but it could be coming soon as hospitalizations rise in the state. Um, there are expecting, uh, at some point at the peak of this kind of Omicron wave, that there could be as many as 53,000 people hospitalized in the state, not just for COVID, but for everything else. So they are weighing that kind of order for hospitals to triage surgeries, and only do the most urgent ones. I would imagine in a matter of weeks, along with other supports, they're trying to give hospitals including money for more staff and possibly national guard staff and other public health workers.

Speaker 1: (05:55)

Okay. Cuz that was gonna be my next question is the state looking for outside health to alleviate the strain here

Speaker 2: (06:00)

They are. They're, they're working on a lot of different things. They're working on readapting hospital wards for the various kinds of patients that you're getting. There are a lot of patients coming in right now with COVID, but not for COVID symptoms. So you might come in in because you broke your leg, but they test everyone who comes into the ER, almost everyone. And a lot of people are coming in with COVID, even though they might have arrived for a different reason. So those people have to be separated, isolated so that they don't. In fact, other patients are staffed. So the California public health department is, uh, considering having more national guard members come in, they are diverting some of their own staff to hospitals to help out with infection control. Uh, they're working on a lot of different fronts to try to ease the strain on hospitals right now,

Speaker 1: (06:51)

Vaccinations are up compared to this time last year. So why are we seeing this spike in hospitalizations?

Speaker 2: (06:57)

There are a couple reasons. One is that even though the Omicron variant is believed to cause more mild disease, there's always going to be a subset of patients for which, uh, there is severe disease, particularly in the UN vaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. And just because Omicron is so much more contagious than previous variants in the original coronavirus, we are seeing that that subset is much bigger than we previously saw with, you know, past cases. The other thing that's happening is during our last surge last year, when it was mostly Delta cases, those are pretty deadly variant, but a lot of things were locked down there weren't enormous concerts. People were not, you know, going on bike rides or getting into car accidents. Uh, flu cases were down that sometimes cause hospitalizations. So basically since we've kind of opened up our state and people are out and about the usual things that cause you to land in a hospital, like say falling while putting up your Christmas lights, those things are happening more than they happened last year.

Speaker 1: (08:08)

I've been speaking with Cal Matt's reporter Barbara Feder Ostro Barbara. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you.

Speaker 4: (08:19)

This Senate is preparing for a vote next week on two long awaited voting rights bills. President Joe Biden gave a forceful speech, Tuesday, spelling out the need to protect the democratic process across the nation.

Speaker 3: (08:33)

Jim Crow, 2.0 is about two insidious things, voter suppression and law subversion. It's no longer about who gets to vote. It's about making it harder to vote it's about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.

Speaker 4: (08:53)

In order to secure passage of both the freedom to vote act and the John Lewis voting rights act Biden says he supports changes to the 60 vote filibuster rule in the Senate, but with at least two democratic senators still waffling over that change and no Republicans support the fate of the voting rights bills is still UN joining me is Chris Wilson associate director of Alliance, San Diego, an organization that has encouraged voter registration and participation across San Diego county. And Chris, welcome to the

Speaker 5: (09:27)

Show. Glad to be here with you ma thank you. What

Speaker 4: (09:30)

Did you think of the president's speech yesterday?

Speaker 5: (09:33)

I felt like his tone and 10 was what the country needed to hear to understand what's going on across this country and how the things that are happening, especially around voter rights, uh, voter suppression are tearing at our democracy. I think, you know, that's the president's job to sound the, the warning when you know, red flags and we see things that we don't want to happen in the future

Speaker 4: (09:59)

And what is going on around the country. Why do supporters of these bills think voting rights needs protection

Speaker 5: (10:06)

In large part, it's a result of the, the 2020 election results and how the, the right wing in this country framed losing? I think it started before 2020 though. I think, you know, we've seen a decline in bipartisanship. We've seen a, a rise in rightwing rhetoric that sparks, uh, hate and discontent. And we've seen, you know, the way people who are trying to protect and preserve our democracy get treated. And so I think, you know, it's all coming together to unwind the clock, so to speak on the gains that have been made in expanding our democracy, ensuring people's right to vote and participate in our democracy. And it it's no coincidence that it coincides with the rise of, you know, people of color in our American electorate.

Speaker 4: (10:57)

Now, California is not among the nearly 20 states that have enacted, uh, voting restrictions, uh, on early voting let's say, or the need for a voter ID or haven't, uh, participated in, in highly partisan gerrymandering. So therefore is California pretty safe from these threats to voting rights?

Speaker 5: (11:18)

Well, you know, Maureen, I've been doing, um, voter engagement work and political work in San Diego for over 20 years now. And I can tell you that we may not label it voter suppression. We may not label it attacks on voting rights, but we have our own brand in California, our own style of, of you, you know, limiting the vote. It looks like vote centers and limited early voting. It looks like people being purged without notification from the voting roles. So California has its own issues and policies to contend with around expanding our electorate. We just don't see the legislature passing laws that make it harder for people to vote. Uh, so we, we still need to be vigilant here in California and we need to be vigilant here in San Diego, as you are probably aware San Diego's moving to a vote center model for our elections, which is a huge change in departure from what we've done for the last 40 years.

Speaker 5: (12:17)

And so, you know, vote centers while providing and expanding the opportunity to vote in an election. They also are fewer voting centers in between each voting center there. So they expand the distance. People might have to try, I would vote, they change the way people vote. Um, and while it's a better and bigger opportunity for more people to participate, we need to make sure the information is getting out to people here in San Diego about how to vote and how things are gonna change and where to vote. And so all of those things, if not done correctly, could limit voter particip. So again, while it's not labeled as voter suppression, there are things that can happen in our own backyard that can limit voter participation.

Speaker 4: (13:01)

You know, at times like these, uh, San Diego can feel a very long way from Washington DC, what is your organization going to do to support the voting rights battle that you feel so strongly about?

Speaker 5: (13:14)

Well, you you're right. San Diego is a long way from DC and California is different than a lot of states. I think, you know, in terms of supporting the voting rights battle, again, we have to focus on what changes need to be made in our own backyards first and make sure that we in California are the model for expanding the democracy or the democratic principles. We need to make sure we are the model for ensuring people's right to vote and making it easier for people to participate in elections. We should have a national holiday election day should be a national holiday. And if we can't do it in a nation, we should do it in California and lead the nation and, and show folks what expansion of our democracy and respect for the voting process looks like. And so we're gonna be focused on ensuring that the residents and the, uh, voters that we communicate with and care about have ample opportunity to vote. We're gonna be focused on making sure the policies put in place to Institute. The vote centers in our region are, are open and noticed to the public. And that public has opportunity input to provide input on those policies. And we're gonna make sure that those policies don't negatively impact historically marginalized folks in our community.

Speaker 4: (14:30)

I've been speaking with Chris Wilson, associate director of Alliance, San Diego, Chris, the thank you so much.

Speaker 5: (14:37)

Appreciate it, Maureen. Thank you.

Speaker 4: (14:50)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Henman one day soon, you may be driving on the interstate and pull past a truck and notice there's no one driving it. A similar thing took place late last month. That's when a San Diego company called too simple, announced what it called the world's first semi truck run on public roads with no driver in the cab. K PBS science and technology reporter Thomas fudge tells us how robo trucks could strengthen the American supply chain and maybe threaten the livelihoods of truckers

Speaker 6: (15:27)

Robotics. Professor Henrick Christensen stands next to what like a golf cart. That's been delivering mail at UC San Diego without a driver to guide it. Computer program, driverless vehicles like this one are becoming more common. And Christensen says the new technology coupled with overloaded supply lines and a shortage of truck drivers are putting driverless trucks in the science of a lot of companies. We have this

Speaker 7: (15:54)

Massive need for getting more out of the ports, getting it on the roads. That's where we are seeing these new. So we've seen multiple new companies come up that are actually working on this technology. Not only too simple, Aurora GM, uh, Teslas promising this,

Speaker 6: (16:10)

But let's stick with that. San Diego start up too simple. It's driverless run last month from a rail yard in Tucson to a distribution center in Phoenix was a first for the company and they say a first for the industry. But working with partners like ups, the company is already delivering goods with its autonomous trucks provided a human safety driver is present. Pat Dillon is the chief financial officer of two simple.

Speaker 8: (16:36)

The vision of two simple is that from a major freight, uh, location, like a port like a rail yard, uh, we can take our custom built, uh, trucks that will have no driver in it to take a journey that could be a hundred miles or it could be a thousand miles and go from one freight location to another freight location. The

Speaker 6: (16:58)

Idea that robo trucks would be the spear point of self-driving technology makes sense to U C S D professor Christensen. He says, driving on highways is the easiest application for self-driving vehicles. And given the choice between trusting a human or trusting a robot at the wheel of a truck, the professor's view is pretty clear. The drivers

Speaker 7: (17:19)

Get tired from these long hauls. Uh, and at the same time, you might not be aware of this, but when you have autonomous driving trucks, they actually save fuel. It's no surprise, really. But if you think about it, computer better drivers than people,

Speaker 6: (17:36)

Trucks park side by side, in many rows at this truck, stop in O time Mesa, truckers, stop here for fuel a shower and some rest. Some of these drivers are resigned to the future of automation in the trucking industry, but they don't share the view that computers are better drivers than they are.

Speaker 9: (17:54)

Um, I think it's the way the industry's gonna go because of the lack of drivers that we do have in it. But I don't particularly care

Speaker 6: (18:00)

For it. Ron caplet, who hails from Pennsylvania says he's been driving a truck for 30 years. I just

Speaker 9: (18:06)

Think it's gonna be unsafe for a while. You know, they, you know, not being able to, you know, deal with the traffic conditions, the weather conditions, there's too many variables out here that maybe a computer won't be able to adjust to the same way. It just seems like it won't be able to adjust. Like we can adjust. They're gonna ask you

Speaker 6: (18:24)

If you need a professional, about 10 miles of waste students working to become ed truck drivers listen to an instructor at the United truck driving school in mission valley. The school training coordinator is Phil Harris who says he thinks automation is great. Will it replace all truckers? No way he says, but it'll change the nature of the job, making it necessary for truck drivers to understand the technology. We're gonna have someone

Speaker 10: (18:50)

In there as a technician, probably. So I can see us being called pilots, navigators, technicians, overseers, whatever. Maybe we won't be called a driver, but that's why we'll always be

Speaker 6: (18:58)

In that truck. Driverless technology still needs some attention. Again, here's pat Dillon of too simple things like

Speaker 8: (19:05)

Redundant breaking and steering so that, uh, you always have the ability to, to control the vehicle. Even if there is some type of a sense, uh, a system

Speaker 6: (19:13)

Degradation one student at the United truck driving school, Antoine Rackley says if the job of being a truck driver changes, that's okay with him

Speaker 11: (19:22)

Advancement. I'm trying to stay on top of. So it's, you know, you, you either keep up or you get left behind. So if that's the way the world change and you gotta change it with it.

Speaker 4: (19:32)

Joining me is KPBS science and technology reporter Thomas fudge, and Tom, welcome to the program.

Speaker 6: (19:38)

Hi Maureen.

Speaker 4: (19:40)

Now the first truck run completely without a driver took place last month in Arizona. And in your report up, PS is already using some driverless trucks.

Speaker 6: (19:52)

They are, according to, uh, my sources are too simple, which is a San Diego startup, which started up in 2015. They have a partnership with ups and they are delivering goods, you know, as we speak with automated trucks, but it's not entirely automated. There's still a wheel in the cab of the truck. And there is a driver there sort of a safety driver, I guess you would say.

Speaker 4: (20:19)

So what's the aim is, is the two simple company planning to put a fleet of trucks on the road without any drivers at all, or are they planning to keep the way it is now to keep backup drivers in the truck?

Speaker 6: (20:32)

Well, there will be backup drivers for a while. When I asked, uh, the CFO of two simple sort of what their goal is, he told me they want to be selling driverless trucks in about five years. And I think their goal is to have trucks run without a driver in them until that is something that is acceptable and safe. And there are still some issues that they need to iron out. Uh, one thing he talked about was redundant breaking systems, just to make sure that the brakes still work, if there's some degradation in the existing system. And so there's still some safety concerns. There is also a liability concern, and this is the case, not just with trucks, but with driverless vehicles all altogether, uh, when a driverless vehicle gets into an accident, whose fault is it? Is it the fault of the owner of the vehicle? Is it the fault of the computer systems? So there are still some stuff they need, some things that they need to work out.

Speaker 4: (21:32)

What is the underlying reason for the development of robo trucks without drivers? Is it for the trunking companies to save money? Is it to cut down on accidents? What, why do they wanna do this?

Speaker 6: (21:45)

Well, I think both of those things are true. Although we should point out that, uh, these computerized trucks are going to be quite expensive. I can't give you a figure, but, uh, they will save a lot of money on labor because it won't require at least the way they look at it. It won't require a driver to be there. So it should be a cost savings. And, uh, a robotics professor, the, that I spoke to at U C S D said to me, let's face it. Computers are better drivers than humans are. Now. That's not an opinion that all truckers agree with, but that's what he said.

Speaker 4: (22:20)

Is there a benefit for the public though, Tom? Our, I don't know, prices supposed to come down. Is there any reason that the public should wanna see driverless trucks?

Speaker 6: (22:30)

Well, I think, uh, we have seen in recent years, there is a shortage of truck drivers and that means that our supply lines get bogged down with automated trucks. You're automating a system where there's a labor shortage, which is what industry very often does. And, uh, when we get it into this business, uh, the supply lines will move more quickly. There won't be as great a need for drivers eventually that will get products to consumers more quickly, it'll get, uh, materials to builders more quickly, and there will be less in terms of labor cost.

Speaker 4: (23:10)

And what do the truckers unions have to say about driverless trucks?

Speaker 6: (23:15)

Well, I didn't interview anybody with, uh, the unions, but I did dig up a statement from the Teamsters union. And, uh, as you might expect, they are not crazy about it. Uh, it says right here at the top, autonomous trucks threatened the livelihoods of millions of truckers across the country. It goes on to say, this would be devastating in this well paying field where more than 93% of the workers have less than a college degree. So the Teamsters are clearly, if not opposed to it very concerned about it. And they are lobbying the government to, if not slow down the system, at least make sure it's very well regulated.

Speaker 4: (23:54)

Despite the optimism you heard from the truck driving students that you spoke with, this does sound like it will decrease the need for drivers. And can you tell us again what the timeframe is that too simple and other companies like it would like to see for the automation of the industry?

Speaker 6: (24:10)

Well, what the timeframe is when this is going to happen, kind of depends on who you talk to. A couple of truck drivers. I talked to at a truck stop in O time Mesa expected it to come in about 10 years, the CA O it's too simple said that they hope to be selling their trucks to companies like ups. In about five years, the job of a truck driver is going to change and they are going to have to start to understand this technology better, what their role will. Be's kind of hard to say at this point, maybe they won't be drivers. Maybe they will be computer technicians. But the guy I talked to at the school said there will always be in his view. There will always have to be a person in the cab of that truck.

Speaker 4: (24:58)

And I've been speaking with K PBS science and technology reporter, Thomas fudge, and Tom, thank you so much.

Speaker 6: (25:04)

Thank you very much, Maureen. All

Speaker 1: (25:10)

COVID 19 affected our mental health in ways we're only just beginning to understand for some, the problem of the pandemic created an added layer of anxiety on top of an already deeply uncertain world from the California report. K PCCs, Robert how the pandemic has shaken the mental health of the undocumented community.

Speaker 12: (25:31)

Norma Ramirez entered the us without legal authorization. When she was five, she says, growing up in Las Vegas, she always did really well in school. Then Ramirez couldn't get into a college prep program because she didn't have a social security number. I grew up

Speaker 13: (25:45)

Thinking that I could pursue anything that I wanted and suddenly

Speaker 12: (25:50)

It was like, Nope. Eventually she did manage to get into college. Later on, she got temporary legal status through the deferred action for child arrivals program or DACA. When Ramirez went to work for an immigration nonprofit, she was so struck by the mental health struggles of undocumented people that she decided to make psych her life's work. Ramirez sought help with her own mental health too, but she went through three therapists. One of whom tried to give her legal advice.

Speaker 13: (26:15)

They also were like, you know, if you wanna be a therapist, like

Speaker 12: (26:18)

Go to Mexico now, Dr. Ramirez is a clinical psychologist who works in the Northridge area, mostly with children. She says, she's proud of being able to provide the culturally compet and help. She didn't get as a kid. Many of her clients are Latino and are in families with mixed immigration status. Ramirez says for many undocumented families, the pandemic became yet another worry in an already vulnerable existence, especially if the whole family isn't together in the us not being

Speaker 13: (26:44)

Able to visit family. If they are sick. Like I think it just makes the wounds deeper. You know, like can't even say goodbye or

Speaker 12: (26:52)

Something like that. Ramirez was not immune to that stress. The continued uncertainty of the DACA program's future and finishing grad school during the pandemic, took a huge emotional toll on her. Just a overwhelmed

Speaker 13: (27:03)

With stress that, yeah, my body just was not responding the way it would have.

Speaker 12: (27:08)

Normally Ramirez says she completely blocked out some of 2020 from her memory. She's not alone in her suffering. A national survey by an immigrant rights group found the majority of respondents said COVID 19 affected their emotional health. More people mentioned in packs to their mental health than they did to their physical health or financial situation. As an

Speaker 13: (27:27)

Immigrant myself, I have to say like it doesn't

Speaker 12: (27:30)

Surprise me. Juliana Mao Demento is senior advocacy manager at United we dream, which conducted the survey. Everything

Speaker 13: (27:37)

That has to do with COVID has an immigration component to it. If we lose our jobs, then like, do we lose maybe a visa that we might have that's connected to it, right? If we get sick and we have to go to the hospital, will we be picked up

Speaker 12: (27:52)

By eyes? Mental health concerns also rose to the surface and a survey last year of more than a thousand undocumented undergrads at California, public universities about one in three reported anxiety and or depression at that warranted clinical treatment. Mercedes Valez is a professor at Cal state Sacramento and worked on the survey. A lot of these

Speaker 14: (28:10)

Students live in homes where they don't have their separate bedroom, where they would be able to attend class virtually uninterrupted. A lot of these students had to take care of younger siblings or children.

Speaker 12: (28:25)

Valez says she'd like to see colleges hire more counselors, especially ones familiar with issues that concern undocumented people. Dr. Melanie domes Rodriguez is a psychology professor at Utah state university. She led the United re dream study. Domes Rodriguez says it was heartbreaking for her to see the level of mental distress undocumented people were reporting, but she says there were some encouraging signs too. There

Speaker 15: (28:48)

Were a lot of strengths. And when we looked at people's coping styles, we see that people are using mostly pretty effective coping

Speaker 12: (28:56)

Strategies. Those strategies included meditation, exercise and binging, Netflix too, Julian Ceto Demento of United be dream also had to find ways to deal with life in the pandemic, especially as a DACA recipient, waiting to find out if the program will survive.

Speaker 13: (29:13)

One of the biggest breakthroughs I've had in therapy was finally accepting and realizing that it's a completely reasonable and, and rational reaction to my circumstances to have anxiety and

Speaker 12: (29:24)

Depression. It's a, not that there's anything broken inside me. She says, it's just my situation. That was

Speaker 1: (29:31)

KPCC reporter Robert GU Grova Sadly sports are not immune from the impacts of the Omicron surge yesterday. The San Diego state university men's basketball team was forced to put its promising season on pause just days after a big win last week against a ranked, then unbe, Colorado state team here to tell us more about what it means for the team's prospects. This season is Bryce Miller sports with the San Diego union Tribune. Bryce. Welcome.

Speaker 16: (30:04)

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: (30:05)

So what did the team announce yesterday?

Speaker 16: (30:07)

Well, they're going on COVID pause, which is now a phrase it's beginning to kind of seep its way into our, into our language a bit in the COVID era. Um, basically it means they, in short, they don't have enough players to compete. Um, you're required to have at least seven at this point to feel the team based on a roster that you turn into the conference. And, uh, they, they don't share a lot of that personal health information. Uh, they talk about it in broad strokes, but, um, because of HIPAA concerns, they don't give individual names, but essentially you can do the math and say they've had enough cases that they don't have, uh, seven players available in play. Um, so that's going to, uh, you know, potentially knock out, uh, their next game and maybe, maybe the next two, uh, as they move forward

Speaker 1: (30:53)

And your latest column, you lament the timing of the team's forced break. Why is the timing so unfortunate here? Well,

Speaker 16: (31:01)

San Diego's state always plays defense. That's their DNA, that's their pedigree, which keeps 'em in lots of games, makes them an annual contender for the mountain west title positions them in most years to contend for the NCAA tournament. But this year offensively they'd struggled early, even, even with a, with a solid record to figure out what they're doing offensive. Matt Bradley is a transfer from Cal who always has been a player. People expected to carry the bulk of the load offensively. He finally had the huge, huge game, uh, in, in the situation national TV, CBS undefeated, number 20 Colorado state over the weekend. And, uh, kind of on a national stage show that he can someone offensively that you can turn to in those types of games. But they've, they're also getting a lot of contributions from other players offensively that they had to this point, Keisha Johnson, others, uh, just for lots of reasons, they're finally playing some of their best basketball and, uh, as a team with new pieces and parts that you kind of, you know, transfer portals and those things that make call basketball. So transient today, they were finally finding some rhythm, some chemistry on the court. And again, that win on national TV against an unbe team was a, was a big benchmark moving forward. And for all those reasons, uh, to just hit the brakes and hit stop at that point, uh, for this team in particular, what they're trying to do, where they've finally, uh, gotten to at this point, it, it, it doesn't feel like fortunate time for the aspects.

Speaker 1: (32:27)

I mean, will any missed games be made up later in the season?

Speaker 16: (32:31)

That's the huge question in the mountain west in particular last year, last season, they built in a week at the end of the year to try to, you know, thinking in terms of, COVID trying to provide a cushion to make up games, if possible, if needed to determine conference titles to balance schedules. So it's a, a level playing field in terms of home in a way, you know, just a, a week to mop up all those things. They didn't do that this year. So as teams kind of, you know, if there aren't, COVID pauses with programs in the mountain west and the final week, that means those programs. If they're playing those games, won't have open dates to turn around and make up games with the Aztecs. It's not just a competitive concern. It's a financial concern. Again, mark Siegler reported that every home game to the Aztecs right now is worth about $250,000 per game. And if you lose those games in conference, uh, refunds to season ticket holders, you start to just put all that together and, you know, and consider the broader impacts of this. It's a competitive thing, but it's also a financial thing. And the mountain west doesn't really have a set formula or strategy at the end of the season to deal all this.

Speaker 1: (33:40)

You know, this isn't the first SDSU team to be impacted by COVID their football team went through COVID related difficulties, uh, lightened their season last year. What happened to that team?

Speaker 16: (33:51)

Well, speaking of, uh, poor timing, uh, not that there's any great timing for any of this, but San Diego state seems to be hit with it. You know, in a couple, the sports we mentioned, uh, it was the mountain west championship game against Utah state. And there was a lot on the line in that game, uh, because if they had won, I think they would've qualified for their most attractive, old situation. They would've played in the Jimmy Kim bowl at sofa stadium in LA. So that was all on the line. Plus, you know, they were going, they were on pace to go for a program record, uh, for single season wins. And then they had 20 players who were, uh, ruled out because of COVID and, or contact tracing. So you're talking about, you know, college football rosters have 85 players on 'em and you're missing 20, and you can do the math there and your head about what a factor that is especi when you're playing a team. That's good enough that it's in the title game for your conference championship. So yeah, that, that was a huge factor in that championship game. And it's just one of those things, uh, they're hardly alone. It's happening all over the country and lots of sports. Hmm.

Speaker 1: (34:57)

You know, all sports teams and leagues have really had to navigate the coronavirus pandemic at this point. And what do you think they've learned from this experience?

Speaker 16: (35:05)

I think they've learned to not plan too far ahead. like all of us really in life right now in the COVID era. I mean, it can change on a day to day basis. You can have your starting point guard one day and you don't have 'em for 10 days. The next you can have a huge game. Last weekend was a perfect example. The Aztecs were set to play Nevada at the AAS arena in San Diego. Uh, that program goes on pause and all of a sudden it creates in a 72 hour window on national TV. You're playing, uh, the other team that's expected to challenge for the conference title and all of a sudden with very little warning, you're playing an undefeated number 20 team in Colorado state. So last weekend was a perfect example of what they're learning is, is you can't look too far ahead. You, you have to kind of roll with the punches as they say. And, um, you know, nothing is guaranteed and, uh, in college but basketball, but I think it, that extends beyond sports as well.

Speaker 1: (35:59)

Flexibility is key. I've been speaking with Bryce Miller sports columnist with the San Diego union Tribune. Bryce, thanks so much.

Speaker 16: (36:08)

Yeah. Thank you.

Speaker 4: (36:20)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Henman times may have been simpler in the past, but they could be just as bizarre, just as heartbreaking and just as dangerous as the present. That's the world we enter with author T Jefferson Parker in his new book, a thousand steps said in 1960s, Laguna beach, it's weaves a coming of age story with a deadly mystery, one surrounded by surf sand, hippies, rock and roll. And the backdrop of the Vietnam war in this standalone thriller Parker takes a break from his usual detective series said in Fallbrook to paint a picture of a time and place. Not that far away, just up the road in orange county. Joining me is three time Edgar award winner and New York times bestselling author T Jefferson Parker, and Jeff, welcome to the program.

Speaker 17: (37:13)

Thank you. It's nice to be here. Maureen,

Speaker 4: (37:15)

Why did you take a break from your detective Roland Ford series to go back in time to Laguna beach?

Speaker 17: (37:22)

You know, I felt compelled to when I started remembering some of the times that I spent there as a young boy, age 14, approximately, and, uh, you know, it was time for me to write another book. I just finished my fourth roll in Ford story. And, uh, the more I thought about 1968 and Laguna and the things I saw there and heard about there and read about there, the more interested I became and, and a thousand steps kind of just presented itself as a story to me and compelled me to sit down and write it. So I put Roland decide and wrote this book in place of another role in Ford book.

Speaker 4: (37:54)

Now, 16 year old, Matt Anthony is the main character in a thousands steps. What did you wanna tell the story through his eyes?

Speaker 17: (38:03)

I just thought it would be utterly fascinating and challenging and fun to write a, a coming of age story. He's 16, like you said, and he grows throughout the course of this book, physically and mentally and, and, uh, emotionally. And he begins this story as very much as kind of a passive bewildered earnest boy. And he ends this story well on his way to becoming a capable, discerning grownup man. And I'd never written that before. And I thought it would be a blast. And I, I gotta tell you, I had fun tracing Matt's growth, uh, physical and emotional throughout the course of the book. And I think that when the reader comes to the end of the book, she'll see, uh, uh, that, that Matt has changed in, in a bunch of really interesting ways. And I think that's kind of what novels should do, show you characters in change.

Speaker 4: (38:48)

Yeah. Can you share with us just a bit about the plot?

Speaker 17: (38:51)

Yeah, I will. I, I, I can give my sort of standard synopsis of the plot, um, without wrecking too much of it. I think a thousand steps is a story about a 16 year old boy who is searching for his older sister who has gone missing in the psychedelic underground of Laguna beach in 1968 and

Speaker 4: (39:09)

Trouble develops along the way. Now Matt spends a lot of his book, literally a honest search, but it seems like all the characters are searching for something. Would you agree? Yeah,

Speaker 17: (39:21)

I think they're all kind of unfinished. And I think that that was endemic in the, in the time, you know, 1968 was a, a tumultuous tumultuous year, culturally, politically in, in our country, especially and in the world. And so I, I think it was a time of older power and older belief systems sort of being forced aside and newer, younger points of view and, and methods coming coming into play. And, and so it was a, it was a time of great change. And I think a lot of us went into 1968, you know, kinda one way and, and came out another.

Speaker 4: (39:51)

Now the name of the book, a thousand steps, is that based on the beach?

Speaker 17: (39:56)

Yeah, kind of, you know, um, I love that beach. It's one of the first places I saw when I was a kid going to Laguna. I'll never, never forget that beach. It's hard to get to and it's gorgeous. And of course, the first time I went there, I don't know, I was probably 14. And I walked down the thousand steps to thousand steps beach, and I had to count 'em, you know, as any kid would do. And, uh, there were 220 something I remember. And it was an awfully long way down, was kind of dark down those steps. And when you came onto the beach, it was like walking onto a, a stage that was lit by his bright sun. And it was just, just gorgeous place. So yeah, I used the steps, uh, you know, uh, uh, for a title of a thousand steps, a couple of big scenes in the book take place there at the thousand steps beach. And, uh, there's a lot of stepping in this book. Matt literally walks Laguna many, many times over and looking for his sister, just going door to door, basically. So, so he takes a thousand steps. Every page of this book, practically. Now

Speaker 4: (40:45)

You're telling us this book is suffused with your memories of Laguna beach at that time, but the portrait you paint, doesn't totally read like a nostalgic look back. What was the atmosphere you aiming for in this

Speaker 17: (40:58)

Book? Yeah, not nostalgia, not that at all. Um, you know, this book is written through the eyes of, uh, in, in the tone of the, uh, observing, uh, Matt Anthony and what he sees and what I saw in Laguna beach when I first crashed into Laguna beach, uh, in 1968 was, was a, a, a beautiful city, a village, a lot of really interesting, good artists and galleries, fantastic beaches, uh, very crowded full of hippies, wild hair, wild wild tie dye. You know, EV EV every hippie has to have at least one bag on him. I remember. And, um, uh, cops, uh, in hot pursuit, uh, drug deals going down before your very eyes, the entire city smelled like marijuana smoke. And, um, that's the Laguna that I entered as a 14 year old. And I was impressed. It was kind of like this, this colitis, uh, scene of, of weirdness that I, as a, a 14 year old, you know, uh, suburban to teenager suburban dude had experience before.

Speaker 17: (41:55)

So to me, it was wild and it was kind of crazy. And it was also undercut Maureen, uh, by the daily visits from Vietnam, from the news, you know, the, the boys coming back in coffins and body bags and the body count, uh, you know, the terrible assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther king in the hostile polar as of 68, you know, male versus female and, and racial, and, uh, have, and have not, uh, just a underneath all the weirdness in the rock and roll music and the, and in the marijuana smoke, there was this, this kind of dark tumble in the country. And I, and I tried to capture that in some of the book

Speaker 4: (42:28)

Now, what's it been like developing plots and storylines during this bizarre time of pandemic and political upheaval?

Speaker 17: (42:36)

You know, how this book started was, uh, I needed to write another book. It was time. And, uh, I became interested in the thousand steps, this book through my memories and experiences in Lagoda. And I, I, I, I wrote a, a cobbled together, a quick outline and sent it out to a publisher and they really liked it. And, uh, so I made a few more notes to myself and, and started writing it the very month, if not the very week that the, the first lockdowns hit United States, New York. And, uh, that would've been March of 2020. And, and I, I started writing this book and, and, and I think largely because of the mounting dread of waking up every day and reading about the case increases and the, and the hospital overloads and the, you know, the, the , the freezers and just, I mean, this grim stuff, uh, you know, I, as a, as a person, I think, and as a writer kind of descended into this ulterior world, you know, and Laguna beach of 68, you know, 52 years ago.

Speaker 17: (43:27)

And I inhabited that world. And, and, and I think COVID kind of kept me in it, you know, um, I, I never really thought that escapist fiction was any kind of a compliment, but you know, this, this is ESCAP fiction in the sense that I escaped, uh, from, from the, the, the dread of COVID back to a, a time that was not that, you know, um, COVID made me write this book in a way. And also, as you would imagine, you know, when you're locked down, you can't go anywhere and you can't do anything or make any plans. So I just, I did nothing, but right. And this book him out much faster and much longer than any novel I've ever written. And again, I think it's because I was, I was here in this, in this office, in under lockdown doing the, the only thing that I really know how to do, which is right. I've been

Speaker 4: (44:08)

Speaking with three time Edgar award winner and New York times bestselling author T Jefferson Parker. His newest book is called a OU some steps. Jeff, thank you so much.

Speaker 17: (44:18)

Thank you, Maureen. Back at you.

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Many healthcare workers are out with COVID, and state officials are now considering an order for hospitals across California to suspend some elective surgeries. Plus, the Senate is preparing to vote on two long-awaited voting rights bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Meanwhile, San Diego company TuSimple, announced late last month, that they made the world’s first semi-truck run on public roads without a driver or human intervention. Later, KPCC's Robert Garrova explores how the pandemic has shaken the mental health of the undocumented community. Afterwards, Bryce Miller joins KPBS on how the SDSU Men’s basketball team was forced to put its season on pause after their win over Colorado State. Finally, KPBS speaks to T. Jefferson Parker about his new novel: “A Thousand Steps.”