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US marks 1 million COVID-19 deaths as summer approaches

 May 5, 2022 at 2:19 PM PDT

S1: The contradictions of COVID in this new phase of the virus.
S2: I profoundly hope it won't be as bad as the Omicron surge of January , but we are starting to see yet another uptick.
S1: I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Andrew BOE , and this is KPBS Midday Edition. How the Fed interest rate hike may affect prices in San Diego.
S3: The median price of a house in San Diego that all time high at a $975,000. And so if you applied this hap percent increase to that price , mortgage payments are going to go up by more than $300 a month.
S1: The flap over funding for San Diego City Police and KPBS launches a new TV series highlighting Filipino arts and culture. That's ahead on Midday Edition. The COVID pandemic is in a stage of contradictions. We're taking off masks on airplanes while new , highly infectious sub variants emerge. We're headed into a summer of vacations and concerts while the U.S. marks its one millionth death from COVID 19. To get a better grasp on where we are in the progress of this disease , I'd like to welcome epidemiologist Dr. Rebecca Fielding Miller. She's spoken with us many times during the course of the pandemic , and she's just co-authored a study on the effects of the pandemic on the refugee community in San Diego. Dr. Fielding Miller , welcome back to the program.
S2: Thank you so much for having me.
S1: And I'd also like to welcome another co-author of the study , Janine Areikat , who is policy associate at the non-profit organization Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans known as PANA , San Diego. And welcome , Janine.
S2: Good morning. Thank you.
S1: I'm going to direct some questions to you , Dr. Fielding Miller. NBC News released data showing that COVID has now claimed a million lives in the U.S..
S2: I think that's really tragic. It's heartbreaking that we've lost , you know , a million of our friends , of our neighbors , of our loved ones. And , you know , as as a scientist , as somebody who tries to do public health , I think that it's really important that we think about how we can make sure we don't lose more people that we love.
S2: We're in year two and a half , year three of this , and we all just so badly want this to end. And I think that there has been a lot of , you know , the pandemic is over. We're done. We don't have to wear masks anymore. That chapter in our lives is done. And it is exhausting to know and think about the fact that it's not that this is going to continue to be with us for a while.
S1: And of course , COVID case numbers are still way below the surge of Omicron last winter. But for instance , the Bay Area is now experiencing what it calls its fifth surge of the virus. Do you expect that we'll see that here ? Yeah.
S2: So one of our best metrics now to keep an eye on what's happening with COVID is really wastewater data. Here in San Diego , we have a really strong wastewater program both at the county level and even in a number of public schools. And we are seeing an uptick in virus in the wastewater in Point Loma. If you look nationally , quite a lot of places in the Midwest and the East Coast are seeing really strong week over week increases. So I profoundly hope that won't be as bad as the Omicron surge of January. But we are starting to see yet another uptick.
S1: And so many people who are getting cases of COVID 19 now have already been vaccinated , already been boosted.
S2: There's no question. And , you know , it seems as if when we kind of look at some of the data , probably about half of people who are not vaccinated have gotten COVID here in San Diego , but only about 17% of people who have been vaccinated have gotten COVID. That's a big difference. We also know that you are a lot less likely to get hospitalized , a lot less likely to die. And that's really important. But one of the most important things that folks can do if they're not vaccinated , get vaccinated. If they're not boosted , get boosted. Because the more people who have immunity , the more that we protect those folks who who don't or who are too young to get vaccinated yet.
S2: Issues every year continue to be around housing , affordable housing , equity and inclusion because we know that's what our communities most impacted by here in San Diego and across the nation. And what we found in this report is that our refugee communities are disproportionately affected by COVID 19 and exasperated inequities that are faced by refugees and immigrant communities.
S2: And what we saw is that in regards to wage loss , it was about 84% and 49% reported worsened mental health. And what we found when talking to our families beyond the 84% in these community conversations with refugees , is that our refugees in San Diego are in predominantly public facing jobs. And often it's because that's the access that refugees have when they're looking for jobs and trying to quickly adjust to. Life in the US and make ends meet and our public facing jobs in service industry. Jobs like Uber , Lyft , like working in hospitality services were the first to go in the pandemic and they continue to be jobs at the highest risk of exposure and so on. Folks who are unemployed , struggling to figure out how are they going to feed their family. They have kids , they have a lot of our refugees come from large family sizes and of course , worsen mental health. And so that's also why we saw this statistic of 49% worsened mental health.
S1: Now , Janine , one surprising finding in your paper about the impacts of COVID on refugees here in San Diego was that relatively recent arrivals to the U.S. seem to fare better than in refugees who've been here for years. Tell us about that.
S2: Yeah , speaking to that statistic , what we've seen time and time again , by and large , is that refugees are continuously underinvested in and much longer than the typical 90 day resettlement period. And so when we invest in refugees and access to mental health services , education , employment is all important for our refugees today and future generations and for refugees. We've been here for five years. What they've been experiencing is limited support because in many cases it's only within the first couple of years that people have access to certain benefits. And over the course of five years , people become ineligible for programs that would could help them with rent or other forms of assistance. And as people start living here , they're getting accustomed to a culture , to life in the United States. People begin to know what to expect and what's , quote unquote , considered normal here in America. And it's much easier to have a baseline of what we see as an increase , what we see as decrease , what are the worsening mental health conditions if you've lived here and you know the standard here , whereas , you know , folks who are coming here really recently , you know , some of them are still have just recently been escaping violence or really traumatic conditions have been going through different refugee camps and have had a really long migration process to get to the US. Right. Because we know folks don't just come automatically here but have to go through a very intensive immigration process. And so folks , you know , at the beginning are really just trying to survive.
S1: And Dr. Fielding milling around this out for the general public , so many people are eager to stop COVID precautions and resume normal life. You were referencing that earlier with no regard to the virus that's still circulating.
S2: We go out to eat , but we prioritize eating somewhere that is outdoors. We only go to restaurants that have patios. And I do think that certainly in my family , we've also really tried to emphasize this idea of of community care. The thing about public health and the thing about an airborne infectious disease is it just really emphasizes how deeply interconnected everybody is. We're all breathe the same air. And so one of the best ways that we can make sure that we are safe as individuals is by making sure that communities that have been hit the hardest , like the refugee community here in San Diego , is making sure that that they are safe because none of us are going to be free of COVID until all of us are free of COVID. Yeah.
S1: Yeah. I've been speaking with Dr. Rebecca Fielding miller , epidemiologist at UC San Diego , and Janine Erica , policy associate at PANA , who both authored the study on the effects of the pandemic on the refugee community in San Diego. And I want to thank you both so much for joining us.
S2: Thank you. Thank you for your time. It was a pleasure speaking with you all today.
S1: Inflation , bringing higher prices on everything from groceries to gas is now the number one financial problem facing many families in America. In response , the Federal Reserve yesterday announced its highest interest rate hike in more than 20 years. The Fed boosted its prime lending rate by a full half percentage point , and similar hikes are expected in June and July. The Fed action is aimed at cooling inflation without pushing the economy into recession. For insight on how this all works and what the interest rate hike could mean to you , I'd like to welcome Alan Johnson , economics professor at the University of San Diego. And Alan , welcome back to the program.
S3: Thanks for having me.
S1: Now , the Federal Reserve hasn't raised interest rates this much for 22 years.
S3: So the people who have been hit first will be those , for example , Rabba adjustable rate loans. And so if you have adjustable rate mortgage or something else than that , that the rate is not fixed , then you'll see that been going up and then people start borrowing money right now. If you're thinking about buying a home right now or buying a car. You're going to be impacted by that , Ben , as as well.
S1: Do we have any idea how much this interest rate hike would affect , let's say , mortgage payments in San Diego ? Yeah.
S3: Right now , the median price of a house in San Diego that all time high at a $975,000. And so if you applied this hap percent increase to that price. Mortgage payments are going to go up by more than $400 a month in that case.
S3: I don't know if it's going to cause prices to go down , but I think it will reduce the rate of increase as far as that's concerned. And prices just skyrocketed in recent time. So I think a slowing of that would would help in terms of potential homebuyers. And the Federal Reserve is not done. They're signaling that they're going to increase rates even further in the future.
S1: And I'm wondering about the high price of food , gas and other items.
S3: Now , those are caused by factors outside of the strength of the economy. The gas prices have shot up due to decreased production by OpEx by by by the United States. It's come back a little bit since the end of the pandemic , but also now the conflict in Ukraine has made the situation worse. So I think we're going to see some relief a little bit in the oil markets because I think the role of air supply is going to increase. And then food prices have been impacted by by a lot of things , including supply chain issues and bad weather. We had a series of things like droughts and freezes that have just impact been the the the price of feed for example which has caused meat prices to rise to barely. That's the worst category in terms of price increases for food. If we could see some improvement , though , if we don't see any of these extreme weather events , I think we'll see some relief on that front.
S3: Borrowers are going to be hurt that people who saved money then will will benefit. You know , the interest rate on things like savings has been , you know , virtually zero for a long time. And so I think people are going to see then some some increase in terms of the amount of interest that they're that they earn.
S3: Right now , I think there is a possibility of that occurring. But but I think it's more likely than not that that the economy will be able to weather these increases. We have a really strong economy right now. The labor market is at a really low unemployment rate. We've got pretty good job growth. And so I think there's a lot of strength in the economy that could help it absorb this increase in interest rates.
S1: Now , tomorrow , the April jobs report is supposed to come out.
S3: But again , I don't see that occurring. We have a situation right now where the labor market is really tight. So. So even if there's a slowdown in the in the number of jobs gained , the unemployment rate , again , I think will remain relatively low because employers are having just a difficult time finding workers to fill these positions. So we had a whole bunch of people retire early when COVID hit. And then we also lost some people then to either deaths from COVID or or they're COVID long term , or if they have serious medical problems that are affecting their ability , then to be in the workforce. So that created a lot of openings. And as a result , people are just quitting their jobs in record numbers. And then we've got this churning been in the labor market , but right now it tends to favor the worker. The labor market has tightened , so it's easy to find a job.
S1: The stock market loved the rate hike announcement yesterday. The Dow Jones average gain more than 900 points and then this morning it fell a thousand points.
S3: They didn't think that this was going to adversely impact the economy in the sense that will push the economy then into a recession. Then today again. Might be just some reaction to that and other events then occurring. It's tough to predict the day to day fluctuations as far as the stock market is concerned.
S3: I think the initial reaction then was more important than they like the idea that the Fed Reserve was going to take some action to try to reduce inflation.
S1: Some economists are pointing to the war in Ukraine as a wild card in the economy's future.
S3: And again , that's reflected in things like higher , higher gas prices. We also have , though , two important countries there , Russia and Ukraine , in terms of the world economy , in a sense that they exclude a lot of food. So we have disruptions in food exports. Then that that's going to cause then prices to rise. For example , Ukraine is the world's fourth largest exporter of barley. We don't eat a lot of barley here in the U.S. , but it's barley , the wheat crop. If there's a disruption , the barley market , that means food prices going to rise. And again , that affects meat prices here in the U.S. And it's important to look out for that in terms of disruptions in the in the food supply chain and in the food market. And we could see some situations where where there's going to be some food shortages , because a lot of that the food , for example , goes to places like Africa and other parts of the world. And unfortunately , I think we could see some some some problems as far as food and food distribution is concerned.
S1: I've been speaking with Alan Ginn , economics professor at the University of San Diego. Alan , thank you very much.
S3: Okay , thanks.
S4: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Andrew Bowen with Maureen CAVANAUGH. San Diego's police officers union is picking a fight with city council member Monica montgomery step. The union released a statement last week warning of an increase in homicides in city parks and had accused Montgomery step of seeking to cut funding for the police. The council member held a press conference yesterday saying that's false and the city needs to think bigger than traditional policing.
S2: Violence is not biological. It has not been solved with overpolicing and it has not been solved with more funding. And until we address the root causes of violence and crime , we will continue seeing the exact same issues in our city and in our systems.
S4: Joining me to unpack this story is KPBS reporter Jacob Air. Jacob , welcome. Thanks for having me on , Andrew. So you spoke with the president of the police union , Jared Wilson , and he referred to a dramatic uptick of violence in city parks over the past year. Now we know there are a hundred different ways you can look at crime statistics. So tell us what data he has to back up that claim. So the police union president cited their own data more or less , which he said dated back to the beginning of 2021 , which showed that they had an overall uptick in crime and violent crime across the city. That does mirror national trends. He said that compared to his other 17 years on the force , there was about an average of 2 to 3 homicides per year at city parks. Last year that number was 12 , according to what he told me. So the union now is pointing the finger at Councilmember Monica montgomery Stepp , who is also the chair of the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee. And they basically say she isn't doing enough to address this violence. Tell us how she's responding to that claim. So Montgomery Stepp held a press conference Wednesday morning in addition to releasing a counter statement that said the police union's claims articulate a fallacy of what her work on her committee has done. She also noted that national trends of violent crimes have gone up , as the union noted as well , and so have those in San Diego. What she really doubled down on was preventative versus reactive ways to reduce violence. She calls it , quote , crime prevention by environmental design , end quote , in order to discourage violence from happening in the first place. Do we know why the union is singling out Montgomery step on this issue ? It's pretty unusual for a public employee union to call somebody out like this. Right. So some background on this is that the police union says that they're stopping situation is dire. And part of that problem is due to an effort spearheaded by Montgomery Step called the Protect Act. The police union statement said she and other members of the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee and this is a quote. Support defunding the police and are pushing a new law that would attempt to abolish policing within the city of San Diego. Wilson said that they have a very young and low wage workforce compared to other departments in the Southern California region , and people are moving out for better pay and that their work in their eyes is less difficult in those other departments. Some places he mentioned that people are moving to included Oceanside in Riverside County as well as out of state. So Jacob , what is the PROTECT Act and how would it change policing in San Diego ? So the PROTECT Act , to the best of my knowledge , would reduce racial profiling , and there would have to be probable cause in order for police to make stops. From the police union side. This is viewed as something that would prevent them from being able to do their jobs. But from what Montgomery Step is seeing , this would actually be better and benefit the minority communities who have been overpoliced historically throughout San Diego. Now this story seems to underscore a larger conversation about police resources and what role the law enforcement should play in reducing violent crime in the city. And it doesn't seem like a coincidence that this is happening as the city council is starting to review the mayor's budget proposal. So tell us what's happening there. Well , police funding in San Diego has increased significantly over the last ten years. Montgomery Step even said yesterday that it's nearly doubled. The police union says that they need more funding to pay and keep more veteran and well-trained officers on staff. But Montgomery Steps says violence has not been solved with overpolicing and it's not been solved with more funding. We heard that earlier. She sees the need to address the root cause of violence and crime. And until that point , she says , San Diego will continue seeing the exact same issues in their city and systems. So what is the police union suggesting as a solution for curbing this increase in violent crime at city parks in particular ? When I spoke to Wilson yesterday , what he told me is that the police union wants to increase community policing and foot patrols and create trust between law enforcement figures and specific communities. Union President Gerard Wilson told me San Diego is a leader in the nation of community policing in the late nineties and early 2000s. And he says that San Diego's lost their way. He says that it's become a training ground for other agencies and they need to get officers back in the street and on patrol. MONTGOMERY Step in a press conference today actually invited the police union to come to her public safety committee and make a presentation about what they want to see happen. She's also suggesting a more community oriented approach for this problem of violence beyond what she calls overpolicing. Can you tell us more what she means by that ? So for Montgomery Step , she sees the increased police budget over the last ten years and the increase in crime that we've been seeing recently as proof that more money doesn't necessarily solve the violence. As mentioned earlier , Montgomery step has an approach with both long and short term impacts of crime prevention by environmental design. She said some examples of ways to do that include funding more youth and community programs , adding streetlights and taking down graffiti in a quicker manner to address the problem. And those are just some examples. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Jacob Air. Jacob , thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me on.
S1: The number of people experiencing homelessness in downtown San Diego and the surrounding area doubled last year. KPBS race and equity reporter Christina Kim says an SDSU professor and his students are now asking people living on the streets what they actually need.
S5: We're going to go down to National.
S2: On any given day , you can find Bruce Appleyard and his students walking around San Diego's homeless encampments.
S4: Thank you , guys.
S5: You betcha.
S3: It was very nice talking to you guys.
S2: Talking with people and asking them to draw maps.
S5: Researchers myself go out and have people answer a few questions and then draw maps on blank pieces of paper. Of their most important activities. And the most important destinations of their daily lives.
S2: It's all part of a research project Appleyard started in spring 2021. He's a professor of city planning and urban design at SDSU , and he's trying to better understand how people experiencing homelessness navigate their daily lives.
S5: It's a human centered approach to understanding their home territories and their needs.
S2: It all starts with Appleyard and the students asking people if they're in fact experiencing homelessness and if they have time for some questions.
S5: Karen Yes. Mayfield LastName.
S2: People like Terence Mayfield , the 45 year old native San Diegan , has been living in the streets for years.
S5: It's been a struggle , you know , out here. Just trying to maintain and survive.
S2: As DACA student. Even Dennis interviewed me , failed. She made sure to ask questions about certain services , such as shelters and how they're working for him.
S5: When I go to the shelter , I might I might go to a shelter , but I just got out of one and I'm pretty much burnt out on dealing with the people out here is a little more.
S5: You know what I'm saying ? It's close , close quarters. And you got hygiene issues with , you know , other people and , you know , using the facilities and whatnot.
S2: And finally , Dennis and Appleyard asked Mayfield to draw a map of his home territory where he goes to sleep to get food , charges , phone and other daily tasks.
S5: Where do you charge your phone ? Library. Okay. Maybe Kumar thought.
S2: He says he's always moving , but that the map he just drew says a lot about where he lives.
S5: You know , I really don't go past this area. Would you consider this your home territory ? I wouldn't consider it home. Right. But it's my community.
S2: And that's a distinction Mayfield wants to make. Home means something very different than just shelter to me.
S5: You know , homeless and and houseless are , you know , two different things. And , you know , you can have a house or apartment or whatever and still be homeless.
S2: After the interview wraps up. Appleyard gives Mayfield a gift card for food. Everyone who does an interview gets one. And at the end of the day , the SDSU group reviews all the maps it collects.
S5: Socialize with friends are interested in , appear at Imperial and.
S2: They want to use them to design services that make sense based on what they've heard about shelter , curfews , crowding and the areas many people avoid. But Appleyard says the maps are also a reflection of our society.
S5: It's not as much what the maps say about the homeless individuals who are interviewing. It's really about what it says about us. And oftentimes people are just looking at homelessness as a problem that needs to be solved and dealt with , but admit that in ways that really aren't helping things , things in the way that we've seen them through the maps we've collected.
S2: And that message of seeing people for people is a message that's already taking hold with his student researchers like Evan Dennis and Michael Run Phila.
S4: It's just a really humbling experience getting out to go back into the.
S5: Community and give people in.
S4: The community an opportunity to share their story.
S2: Appleyard and his students plan to keep collecting maps and hope local governments will use the lessons gleaned from them. They've already met with the county's Office of Homeless Solutions. Christina Kim , KPBS News.
S4: San Diego County is scrambling to move dozens of people out of a hotel in Old Town that has been sheltering people experiencing homelessness for more than a year. The residents have underlying medical conditions that put them at risk of complications from COVID 19. The need to move them came after the hotel's owner decided to terminate the contract with the county early. But finding a hotel willing to rent to homeless people as the peak tourism season approaches is proving to be a challenge. I knew Sauce investigative reporter Cody Delaney is following this story and he joins me now. Cody , welcome. Hey , thanks for having me. So the county's hotel program is supposed to run through the end of June. Why does this hotel owner want to pull out of the program early ? You know , that's a great question. I haven't had a chance to to get in contact with the owner yet. But , yeah , I mean , it's it's totally within their right to pull out early. And they've they've given 30 the proper 30 day notice to do so. And what is the county doing to try and keep these residents housed ? I'm actually trying to follow that , and that's one of the things I'm continuing to look into. A county spokesperson has told me that officials are doing everything they can to place people into housing. But when you drill down on that and ask for specifics , questions consistently going unanswered. And one thing that county often points to is housing subsidies and the number of or the number of guests who have received a Section eight housing voucher. But when you talk to folks who've received these vouchers , they say that only goes so far. You know , a Section eight voucher doesn't make it any easier for a potential landlord to look past prior rental debt or poor credit history or previous eviction. So it's been pretty tough for the people who are actually trying to find the housing. Now we know that this program was supposed to end at the end of June , so the plans should have already been in place to move these residents somewhere else anyway. Was there some sort of plan on the books , transitional housing or what have you , to make sure these residents aren't put out on the streets ? Yeah , like I said , that's that's one of the things I'm trying to trying to find out. I've been hard pressed to find quality answers from the county on this on this. And it's causing a lot of stress for for the people who are in this program. Right. I mean , you know , at the beginning of the year , I was reporting about how this program was going to end of March. And then come mid-March , I'm reporting , hey , it's been extended to June. And here we are. And just beginning in May. And now we're talking about it closing by the end of May. So from from a lot of the people who are in this program , they feel like they're being jerked around and we're talking about their housing situation. So that's causing a lot of stress for them. So , Cody , tell us about the people who are residing in this hotel. Who are they ? The folks who are staying in this program ? There are 34 people who remain. I think there are at least two , maybe three families , and there are children there as well. But even be allowed to stay there. These are people who have underlying medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. And they don't have anywhere else to go. And what have you heard from the affected residents about this unexpected news that they'll have to leave in the next few weeks ? Yeah. I mean , they're they're scared. They're worried about having to return to the streets , many of them , again. So there's a lot of uncertainty in this county housing program. During the pandemic has had a number of problems since it began , which you've reported on quite a bit. Can you remind us what are some of those issues ? Yeah. My colleague Joe Castellano and I have been following this program since it started in March 2020. At the beginning of the pandemic , the goal of this program is twofold. It was to isolate people who test positive or come in contact with the virus and to protect people who are at risk for developing severe illness. And many of the people who were entering this program were unhoused , struggling with mental illness or substance abuse disorders. And we had obtained early on records that showed county officials quickly became overwhelmed with the level of care that was required. The tipping point came when a man died by suicide and it wasn't discovered for five days. Two months after we had reported that , the county came and hired a private company called Equus Workforce Solutions to come in and take over. But the problems continued. I mean , we're talking mismanagement , neglect , harassment of guests. And Jill and I continued to report on all of this. And that's when the county came out and asked San Diego State to conduct an evaluation of the program. And that's when SDSU came out with a blistering report that said this company , Equus , was never qualified to run the program to begin with and employed poorly trained staff who allowed gaps in services that may have led to overdoses and suicide. And how much has the county spent on this program and where did that money come from ? Yeah , so the county says this program will be entirely paid for by FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency. And officials have already requested $100 million in reimbursements from FEMA , but that only covers the work completed through the end of March. So the county's pandemic hotel sheltering program is nearing its end. I'm wondering , as you've been covering this , what are your main takeaways from this program ? I should say this was an unprecedented program from the start. I don't think San Diego County has ever tried to undertake an effort quite like this before. So with that being said , there wasn't much of a playbook and they really just had to figure it out as they went. And I think that's part of the reason why officials asked SDSU to come in and conduct an evaluation in case they ever had to do something like this again. They have some best practices to follow. And I should also say this program has been praised for its success in preventing the spread of COVID and saving lives. But some of the people who have gone through this program have also had a very tough time. So it really depends on your perspective and who you talk to. All right. I've been speaking with Cody Delaney , investigative reporter from KPBS , his media partner , Eye News Source. Cody , thank you. Thanks for having me. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Andrew Bowen with Maureen CAVANAUGH. San Diego is home to one of the largest Filipino communities in the state of California. Yet despite the significant population , meaningful representation of Filipino culture and identity is often missing in art , media and other creative sectors. A new KPBS docu series looks to change that by exploring the question of Asian-American identity through the lens of San Diego's vibrant Filipino community. Midday Edition producer Harrison Patino spoke with the series hosts and co-creators about the project. Out of The Boondocks will feature interviews with Filipino artists and creatives who discussed the importance of their work with their strong cultural ties. Here's a clip from the show.
S2: I think it really is so significant in terms of what representation means for Filipinos in the theater , because even , say , ten years ago , we probably wouldn't have had that moment right of seeing ourselves on this stage. And now there are so many more people who are of Filipino descent , and you see them more on TV and film. You see them more on Broadway , certainly since the nineties when I started working professionally. It has improved for Filipino Americans.
S4: And I'm joined now by series creators and hosts of Out of the Boondocks Rio Villa. Hi , Rio. Hello.
S2: Hello. Thanks for having us.
S4: And JJ Mannix. JJ , welcome.
S3: Thanks for having me. Harrison And looking forward to talking to you. Okay.
S4: So let's start off by talking a little bit more about the name of this new show , Rio. Why did you settle on the name Out of.
S2: So that's why it it has basically been translated into English. But the two words have a totally different meaning , right ? So the Tagalog word is boondock , which means mountain and boondocks. It's kind of a negative word in a way. If you're from the boondocks , you're kind of seen as an outsider. So taking the duality from those two words , we came up with the title so that we're basically saying , you know , Filipinos , like you had said , are one of the largest Asian groups in America , and we're the largest Asian group in San Diego and in California. Our presence is strong. We are here and present and are adding to the cultural layout of San Diego. But like you said , our representation doesn't really match that. So the word boondocks means something strong and unified , and boondocks means something far and unknown. And that kind of represents the Filipino American experience of those of us in San Diego.
S4: JJ How do you think this show.
S3: Explores the duality that Rio is talking about there ? For many years we haven't been able to tell these stories and had the platform and with the word Boondock Boondocks , it's like coming from a faraway place. And a lot of our heritage and our culture comes from an island which is so far away from here. And many of us Filipino Americans like me in Rio , we grew up here in San Diego trying to find a connection to our heritage. And it's really important for us to show that the culture behind the Filipino American experience. So I think it's really important to highlight that.
S4: And can you talk a little bit about the show itself and some of the people you'll be talking to.
S2: Some of the people that are going to be featured on the show ? Our ground floor murals , I'm sure so many people listening to this have seen their murals around town. They're just eye catching and so lifelike , mostly sports icons and animals and things that represent San Diego. And another is the queer. He's a tribal tattoo artist and he's helping revive Filipino tribal tattoo. Oftentimes when people think of tribal tattoos , they think of maybe like Polynesian tattooing. But the Philippines also has its own tribal tattoo traditions. And so he's one of those people who are helping those living in San Diego who might not feel that connected to their Filipino roots , connect back to that history.
S3: Another person that came to mind is someone that Rio interviewed , and that was Jess Mercado. And she practices. A.
S4: A.
S3: Screamer , which is Filipino martial arts , and her talking about her journey through Filipino martial arts and connecting with the culture and her roots. We also interview my cousin. She is a.
S4: Theater casting.
S3: Director for the Old Globe , and she talks about her role as a casting director and how she came from the Philippines , lived in Indonesia , and how she was trying to identify with with her Filipino American identity.
S4: Now , as we're talking about here , you'll both be speaking with people from a pretty diverse group of different creative backgrounds and interests.
S3: Each of the creatives that we've interviewed this season , they're all so different and also unique and they just really exude the spirit of the Filipino and of somebody here that so creative that happens to be San Diegan and guys like Willie Santos , who is a professional skateboarder , and he's Tony Hawk's best friend. And he's a person that's known within the San Diego community , not just through Filipino Americans , but everybody. He's he's a pretty famous skateboarder. And skateboarding here in San.
S4: Diego is a huge. Thing.
S3: Thing. So we just wanted to have a nice variety of creatives , and this is who we ended up with. So we're excited to tell their story.
S2: And these can be stereotypes of the careers that we tend to go into. And so we just wanted to show that there are tons of different routes that we have taken to get to where we are in order to improve representation , to document our stories. And all these people are doing it in so many different ways. Another person we interview is my dad and he just retired from being in the education system for 36 years and his art form is helping students go to college students who are often first generation. So everyone is helping the community in so many different ways. And that itself is it's creative.
S2: And that's exactly why we decided to create this series. We wanted to just show that we are in all of these different places , that we are in this tattoo shop , The Good Life and downtown. We are in a health center that provides traditional massage by Doctor Couch is another interview of ours that we are in the film industry in San Diego , and you'll see that with Alma Francisco and Benito Bautista of the San Diego Filipino Cinema. We're present in so many of these different places , and even within our own community , we often don't know about these people. So we're trying to show people who are non Filipinos about where we are and what we're doing here and also the Filipino community that might not be aware.
S4: And J.J. , to that point , what do you wish more San Diegans knew about Filipino culture and the Filipino experience in general ? I'd like to.
S3: Have us break the stereotypes of just the general people that don't know about the culture , to know more about just the lumpia and the pine set at parties and and , you know , those types of things. Filipinos are around and they have talents in all spectrums from being muralists and skateboarders. And they're not just , you know , some of these people could be nurses or doctors , but at the same time , they also have a side passion. And we just want to show those more well-rounded types of stories.
S2: I'm literally over here giving thumbs up to what he was saying , because that's exactly what we want people to get from this and to also in the process learn more about our history that we we throw in some historical facts as well. And for people to want to learn about our history , about our culture and our creative outlets.
S4: All right. I've been speaking with Rio Villa and JJ Mannix , co-creators and hosts of Out of the Boondocks , which premieres tonight on KPBS Rio. JJ , thank you so much for joining us.
S2: Thank you. It's been great.
S3: Appreciate you. Thank you for having us on.

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Pandemic restrictions are easing as summer approaches, a new highly infectious omicron subvariants emerge and the U.S. marks 1 million COVID-19 deaths, where are we in the progress of the disease. Plus, how raising the interest rate fights inflation and what it means for you. Meanwhile, the San Diego police union is blaming the rise in crime at city parks on police funding cuts and accuses San Diego Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe of orchestrating them. She says that’s false. Also, the number of unhoused individuals in San Diego doubled last year. An SDSU professor and his students are asking people living in the streets what they actually need to find a solution to the problem. And, an Old Town hotel that has been sheltering people experiencing homelessness for more than a year is terminating its contract early, leaving the county scrambling to find other willing hotels to house them through the end of June. Finally, in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a new KPBS docuseries “Out of the Boondocks” explores the question of Asian-American identity through the lens of San Diego’s vibrant Filipino community.