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SDSU Sees Spike In COVID-19 Cases

 September 11, 2020 at 10:27 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:01 San Diego state extends its shutdown. Work on a vaccine is paused and president Trump downplayed the threat, a busy week and efforts to contain COVID-19 when the jobs come back, some worry they'll be forgotten. The city steps in to help laid off hotel workers and new polling shows how the race for Congress in East County is tightening I'm Mark Sauer and the KPBS round table starts now welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me for this remote edition of the KPBS round table, KPBS health reporter, Taren mento, San Diego union Tribune, reporter Charles Clark and reporter Maya Sri Krishnan. A voice of San Diego a lot has been written and said about president Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's his own words. This week recorded by reporter Bob Woodward that stand out. Trump said he always downplay the virus despite knowing early on just how deadly it is as we wait for the political fallout. Speaker 1: 01:10 The consequences remained clear as day six months in as the health crisis shows no end in sight. San Diego state university extended at stay at home order, a mid hundreds of new cases and efforts to develop a vaccine. Hit a snag here to talk about this week's developments is KPBS health reporter Taren mento. Hi Tara. Welcome back to the round table. Hey Mark. Good to be here. Let's start with the situation at San Diego state. As of this recording. We're well over 400 new cases, just the past couple of weeks. What's the university doing to try to rein this in, Speaker 2: 01:42 Right. Well, as you just stated, they're encouraging students to, to stay at home, to not engage in any social activities, which is what I'm at least one cluster of cases was linked back to early on. When last week we thought there was only 64 cases at the time. Um, the university also has private security guards that are going around on campus and actually off campus to enforce social distancing policies and other safety protocols. And those are resulting in citations and I believe there's been at least 500 citations and those can carry consequences possibly to suspension or expulsion, but, uh, in a press conference, uh, with public health officials kind of public health officials earlier, this week's SDSU representatives didn't get into what the consequences have been so far from those citations. So they are taking a lot of measures and including they halted any, um, in person classes, which were very limited to begin with, uh, for at least four weeks. And they have said that there haven't been any cases tied back to on campus educational activities. It's um, they've been linking it mostly so far to social gatherings. Uh off-campus Speaker 1: 02:51 And UCS D will begin its academic year later this month. That's another large university, many students who live on and around and any concerns there, given what we've seen at SDSU and of course, many other colleges and universities around the country, Speaker 2: 03:06 Right? There was an open letter drafted by students and in faculty members to UC San Diego leadership expressing concern about reopening and the UCS D does have one of the, and I did speak to, I have to say our education reporter, Joe Hong, before joining you all to get more of the details. And we do know that UCF is planning one of the more aggressive re reopening, um, strategies, um, more, uh, in person classes than in the others of the system. So there is a lot of concern among hundreds of students and faculty members, but UCS D leadership has said that they have a robust testing plan ready and are really going to be adhering to some strict safety guidelines and regulation. So they're prepared, they say for, um, their plan of reopening. Speaker 1: 03:55 Well, it sounds like they get a do over compared to San Diego state. Well, speaking of UC San Diego researchers, they're planning to work with the pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca on trials for a COVID-19 vaccine, but the company put the process on hold this week. What happened there? Speaker 2: 04:10 Right? So this is related to one person who fell ill, um, in the trial that's taking place in the United Kingdom. We do know that it was a very rare illness, um, inflammation of the spinal cord, and there's still a lot of work to be done to ensure what was the connection between that illness and, um, the, the vaccine. So officially, um, AstraZeneca hasn't said too much, this stop, this kind of stoppage does happen because there's an a, they want to make sure that things are safe. And so we're still waiting for official details to come out of what Speaker 1: 04:44 Now I wanted to turn to this public health messaging around COVID-19 president. Trump is just getting hammered for his comments months ago, acknowledging and private that he knew the virus was a major threat while downplaying it again and again in public. And how does something like that kneecap and effective public response? I mean, after all a public health crisis, the response is a campaign. Its messaging is critical. Speaker 2: 05:08 I do know that with containing a virus like the Corona virus, a respiratory illness comes down a lot to personal responsibility and human behaviors. So a lot of public health officials will say that, that, uh, those activities that would prevent the spread kind of trickle down when leaders themselves put them on display. And, you know, Trump has faced a lot of criticism about the way that he himself has responded. Um, there's an issue with the debate over masks. Well, um, he was hesitant to publicly wear them quite often. And then we're seeing, um, all across the nation, a debate over masks and people getting an actual, sometimes violent fights over when people tell them to wear masks. And so, um, it trickles down, uh, public health officials have said that had we taken this more seriously early on and done some more nationwide social distancing measures, perhaps we could have saved tens of thousands of lives. Speaker 2: 06:01 So it is something that they're concerned about, but however, in this issue has become quite politicized. Um, you know, people have also pointed out that even though the president did admit that he's down, he downplayed it early on around the time of this interview. We also know that the U S was evacuating people out of China and bringing them to the U S and we know here that to be very true in San Diego, because we were receiving some of those planes. So people argue that words may have been different, but the actions were very strong that the administration was taking it. Speaker 1: 06:33 And the story is going to continue indefinitely. What, what stories and specific angles are you pursuing the days ahead regarding COVID-19? Speaker 2: 06:41 Well, we're following a lot, uh, this issue of the location of outbreaks, as many of our audience members may be from I'm aware, KPBS has joined a lawsuit with voice of San Diego, against the County to get them to release the names and addresses of the establishments where community outbreaks are occurring. So we're looking, we're continuing to work on that and see what other details that we can bring to our public at the same time. We're also looking at this issue of, of data, um, right now the County and the state, once again, are having disagreements over how to calculate our case rate. Um, we saw that previously when it was calculated under a different reopening plan led by the state. Now we have a new reopening plan that's based on tiers. They've slightly adjusted the way that we calculate our case rates, but again, the County and the state are still not 100% on the same page. So we're going to continue following those trends. Speaker 1: 07:31 Well, we'll certainly be watching for that coverage because it's critical to all of us at this time. I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter Taren mento, thanks for joining us Terran. Thanks Mark San Diego's job crisis due to the pandemic is staggering. We're at 14% unemployment. According to the latest numbers from SANDAG among the hardest hit are those who work in hospitality and tourism, the pain is felt industry-wide so many of these workers are stuck waiting for a rebound. And this week, the city of San Diego took steps to help them get their jobs back when the time comes, reporter Maya, Sri Christian, and has an in depth piece on this and voice of San Diego. And she joins me now, hi Maya. Hi, well, let's start broadly. What's the current state of the tourism industry. Is it starting to open back up locally as some of these COVID-19 restrictions are eased? Speaker 2: 08:21 So it is a little bit, um, there are more people who are coming to stay in hotel rooms, but there are still parts of the hotel and hospitality industry that are not even close to coming back, like mentions or large events, banquets, things like that. So, you know, we're seeing the recovery in some regard, but there's still a lot of damage. That's still existing in that, Speaker 1: 08:47 Right? We've got no cruise ships here or coming here when the fall season heats up and we've got no baseball, we got an exciting Padres team, but nobody can come and go to the games or come down for a weekend and stay in a hotel and go to a baseball game. It's really rough right now. Yeah. Speaker 3: 09:01 Especially if you want to be a tourist here Speaker 1: 09:03 Right now, you profile a couple of women who are laid off by a hotel right next to the airport on Harbor Island. That's the Sheraton San Diego hotel and Marina. They expected to be among the first call back due to seniority, but that wasn't the case. Speaker 3: 09:16 Well, they're both in departments like banquets and room service. That really haven't completely opened back up yet. But what they both expected was to not be laid off because their departments weren't entirely demolished. They kept on a few employees, but both of these women, they had 35, 40 years in their departments and they were assuming that they would be safe. But what happened was that many of the employees that stayed on were people who had had less time with the company and were less experienced Speaker 1: 09:44 And the union filed a grievance. Why does a union president of believe these women might've been targeted for layoffs Speaker 3: 09:52 Union believes that the hotels kept on younger, less experienced employees because they're cheaper effectively. The other employees who were laid off who had more senior status, they were more expensive employees. They got paid more, they had more vacation time, things like that. Speaker 1: 10:06 And I guess I take it, the, the union contract doesn't specifically address this a seniority issue. Speaker 3: 10:11 I think they have been trying to deal with some stuff in negotiations, but it hasn't been going well, which is why, um, the union has sort of taken this to the side. Speaker 1: 10:22 And now this week, the San Diego city council took up an ordinance that addresses the hotel layoffs. Generally there will be some rules on how jobs are filled when they opened back up, explain for us what will be required under this new ordinance. Speaker 3: 10:35 Yeah. So the ordinance was proposed, you know, not only for hotels like the Sheridan, but for a lot of the non-unionized hotels, because the vast majority of hotels in San Diego are not unionized. Um, and what it would require is that hotels and other businesses in the service and hospitality industry need to notify, laid off employees of open positions when they become available. And then the laid off employees who held similar positions or who could be easily trained as any new employee to take some of those positions. Um, we need to be offered the position if they were, if they had the most seniority before the layoff in that area. And if the employer did not want to give that most senior person, that job, they would need to provide sort of a written notice of that person's lack of qualifications that made them choose somebody. Speaker 1: 11:28 And this is similar to a statewide bill relating to the same issue. Speaker 3: 11:32 There's a provision in, um, assembly bill 32 16, um, that would provide laid off workers, sort of a path back to their jobs that is similar to this. It's part of a larger bill. Um, and other cities have also passed ordinances like this, including long beach, Los Angeles, Oakland. Speaker 1: 11:48 Now going back to the women, you profile those who work in these jobs as evident. The examples in your story are largely women of color. How does a story like this highlight how the pandemic and the economic fallout has disproportionately affected that demographic Speaker 3: 12:03 Seen throughout this pandemic that, um, Latino and black workers in particular have been hit really hard economically. The zip codes that are experiencing the highest unemployment rates are places like city Heights and a Seadrill Logan Heights neighborhoods that are home to many service workers and many employees of color. Um, so, you know, when industries that they're overrepresented, like the service industry are hit so hard, they are disproportionately impacted. Speaker 1: 12:30 Now, any update on these women that you profiled, how are they getting a buy as they wait to return to work, if they can return to work. Speaker 3: 12:37 So they're currently getting by on an employment and disability, um, which is considerably less money than what they were earning before. So they're both struggling. Um, they're both participating in union negotiations and I think waiting, you know, this ordinance, it does provide a path back when there are a lot of open positions, but in some of the departments like banquets, which one of the women I spoke with was a part of, we don't really know when that department is really gonna come back and full force. We don't know when hotels are ever going to be able to host large events ever again. So, um, you know, even though this does provide a pathway back, um, as hotels experience some sort of recovery, we don't really know what that's going to look like or what the timeline will be Speaker 1: 13:23 Well, right. And we talk about, um, you know, the industry itself and we can give statistics and numbers, but when you bring it down to the, the human level, uh, it really becomes, uh, you know, quite a dramatic story. And then of course you, you're talking about what's going on in Congress and the Senate failed to pass, uh, the bill to pick up the houses, work on extending the stimulus for the, uh, for the pandemic. And that would have helped specific workers like the one you profiled in this story. Speaker 3: 13:48 Exactly. And I believe in the service industry, there were more than 80,000 workers laid off throughout San Diego County. So that's a huge chunk, you know, about 46% of that industry was laid off. So it is really something that is affecting a lot of people. Speaker 1: 14:08 Well, I'll tell you keep, keep up the, uh, the reporting on this because when you humanize it, I think it really brings it home to people. I've been speaking with my Esri Christian and the reporter for the voice of San Diego. Thanks, Maya labor day is traditionally viewed as the unofficial start of the election season, but 2020 is anything but traditional aside from the backdrop of a pandemic, we might be on the verge of a seismic shift in reliably red East County. The 50th district is up for grabs after former Congressman Duncan, Hunter resigned in disgrace submit a corruption scandal, and now Democrats see an opening with a known candidate taking another crack at the seat. Our guest is Charles Clark. He covers the race for the San Diego union Tribune, Charles. Hi Mark. Thanks for having me. Well, the UT and 10 news commissioned a poll for the 50th district, uh, give us the numbers and what they say about how this race is tightening, Speaker 4: 15:01 Right? So it was really fascinating and it showed that this race is as dead heat or a statistical tie. Uh, Darrell Eissa was leading, um, with 40%, 46% of the vote, but a Mark camp in a jar was right behind him with 45% of the boat. Um, meaning it's really anyone's right. Speaker 1: 15:19 And that's within the margin of error. So that really is a dead heat at this point. Now these congressional races don't necessarily get a lot of polling, a, this one, if it gets on the radar, there's so many we saw in 2018 when the Democrats flipped the house, uh, that could change. But how does this latest polling we're talking about stack up, uh, with, uh, any earlier polling done here? Is this an outlier or are we seeing a trend toward company jar? Speaker 4: 15:44 Right. So that I think was actually what made this really fascinating and what made myself and a lot of other, you know, political observers like yourself really interested in this is that this is the third pole in as many months that shows this race, neck and neck. Uh, there was a poll from late may commissioned by the deputy Sheriff's association of San Diego County, a group that any, you know, objective third party observer would characterize as conservative. Um, and they actually had camp in a jar winning in the race, uh, with 42% of the vote compared to Daryl ISIS, 39, but a second internal poll from the camp and a jar campaign a month later had isolating 47% over camping and jars 43%. So then to have that, and then follow that up with this latest poll, that is the most recent, which is really, really striking. And it certainly suggests that it's, it's truly, as the pollsters wrote, anyone's guests, who's going to win the, Speaker 1: 16:37 No, it's not just this congressional seat. There are numbers on the presidential race what's going on there. Speaker 4: 16:42 So that was really striking as well. And frankly, for, for me, as someone who's followed this race now for three years, going back to when it was Duncan and Amar, that was actually the thing that made me kind of raise my eyebrows the most and think that, okay, we really got to a real contest on our hands is that, you know, the, the latest polling of how voters in the district are feeling about the presidential campaigns, shockingly, and, you know, conservative stronghold East County had Joe Biden beating Donald Trump by three percentage points, 48 to 45%. And kind of the contrast there is that Trump won the district with, by 15 points in 2016, Mitt Romney won it by 23% in 2012. So it's just, I mean, frankly, it's kind of unprecedented Speaker 1: 17:27 Shocking. I mean, w w wonder on those, on those presidential numbers, the national figures of a district like that, where to go for Biden, or even be very close in the end. Uh, you wonder how that bodes for the president and the GOP nationally. Speaker 4: 17:40 Exactly. The old adage, right. Where California goes, you know, the nation follows, I mean, this, this could be a bellwether, right? If, if Trump's not able to pull it off here, I mean, yes, we're still California, but the demographics in that district in particular, haven't shifted that much. It's, it's a bit more, as I like to say, whenever I'm out in East County, I think of back to where I spent my high school years and in Arizona, like it's much more akin to rural Arizona. And if he's having issues there, obviously that's a swing state. I mean, he could be in some real trouble, Speaker 1: 18:12 Right. That reminds me of the Northern Michigan up in the, above the thumb area where I had my first job out of, out of a college, same type area, Trump country, you would think, but it could be, it could be a change. Now, Darryl, I say, he's the former North County Congressman. He's trying to get back to DC. He quit the race in his own district. It's been a vocal supporter of president Trump. What's he doing to solicit solidify the district, uh, and who knows if it's gonna work based on what we're talking about? Speaker 4: 18:38 Yeah. So, you know, I think, you know, former congressman's campaign, I mean, everything kind of got put on ice a bit, right. With the pandemic and he, and the Mark camp and ajar, both switched to kind of this more PSA style campaign that I like to say, or as my colleague, Michael, Smolan put it, he started running as if he were the incumbent. Right. And he was like doing caseworkers services. He became a very vocal advocate for reopenings and initially getting information out about the pandemic, I think, where we've seen them a lot so far is often, you know, if you flip on K USI, obviously conservative leaning, or some of these other, you know, TV stations, you'll see them pop up. And usually they're talking about the news of the day, or, you know, the response to the pandemic. I think he was doing at least some virtual small meetings with some small business groups and things like that as well. Speaker 4: 19:26 Traditionally, I think he's never been one of those guys who has these big, you know, campaign rallies and things like that. So in that case, he's probably, you know, not to, to teared by the pandemic, but he certainly, it seems kind of trying to go that more traditional path of showing them, Hey, I am your congressmen and trying to convince people that he's a reliable conservative. Now there's some legitimate questions, right. About, especially when you see the polling, if that's working, you know, coming off of what we saw in a very bloody primary challenge that I know you and I spoke about, I think a few months back with Carl de Mio. I think there's some serious questions about whether the Republican factions are really jumping on board with him, or if they're just planning to sit out right. Cause California is going to go for Biden. Speaker 4: 20:11 Anyway, if they're not all in on Eissa, I could very easily see a lot of them not feeling all that motivated to get out and vote. And what kind of speaks to that is that if you know another question within our poll was gaging enthusiasm for their vote and ISIS supporters, you know, nearly about a third of them said they had reservations about voting for him, which I've never seen a number quite that high in the campaigns I've done out here and kind of for contrast and context, our camp and ajar supporters, only 15% of them said the same thing. Speaker 1: 20:44 Yeah. Well, there was a reason I said, I said dropped away from his own seat a few years back now, a Mark Hampton, a GRE lost this district in 2018, but he made a good showing in a tough district. Granted, he was running against a guy under indictment, but is there any sort of new dynamic at play for this time around, other than the fact that his opponent isn't of illegal issues right now, maybe the support from the party that we're talking about and how close the race is becoming. Speaker 4: 21:10 Yeah. You know, I think there's, there's definitely a different dynamic to this, right? I mean, given the camp and ajar, I mean, several things I point to one camp and the jar has now run in the district for four years. Right. He's not an incumbent, but he certainly has name ID. Right. When he ran the first time, no one knew who the heck he was. I think the joke he's to say right, was that he was the guy with the funny name, like people were getting to know them and they didn't even know till, so at September of 2018, once Duncan got indicted, you know, no one really cared. And even at that point, the D triple C, the Democrats congressional campaign arm, they didn't touch the race. They really just sat it out, which I think speaks to how strongly conservative they felt the district was. Speaker 4: 21:53 I think also, you know, kind of the other thing that changed the dynamic for camping ajar this time around is while there is no Duncan Hunter in the race, right? The, the, the, the kind of smear of him, it's still kind of drags on. It's easy to forget just given pandemic times. Right. And we're all a blur, but it was only January when this guy stepped down in disgrace and not too long after that, where he got sentenced to federal prison. So that's certainly, I think something on voters minds. And if you combine that with some of the mistrust that it certainly seems like is out there for Isla, as well as clearly a changing attitude about Trump and the district, you know, that's certainly, uh, offers some good wins and a market cap in the jars favor. Yeah. Speaker 1: 22:38 Yeah. It's like they say about the skunk in the jury box. You can take the animal out, but the remnants linger linger a little bit. Now the drama surrounding Duncan Hunter, big reason that we're talking about this, his wife, Margaret Hunter recently sentenced to a home, a confinement for her role in the scandal. What's next for Hunter himself? He's out of jail because of the virus, right? Speaker 4: 22:59 Correct. Correct. So at some point here, he will have to start his 11th. I believe it's an 11 month prison sentence. My colleague Morgan cook has been kind of our big rock star on that, but it's not really clear. I mean, he's been kind of, as far as I know, more or less underground, we really haven't heard from him since then. Presumably at some point here, he's going to have to actually make his way to federal prison Speaker 1: 23:22 Voting, always a concern by San Diego County. We're about three quarters of the folks close to that are voting by mail. Anyway, not going to be a big transition here. Probably not a problem. You can't go door to door. Competent jars is going to have to find a different way to campaign. He was successful going door to door in 18 to the, to the point he was successful. But, uh, they're going to get the vote out there. That's not really going to be an issue. Is it in the 50th? I don't think so. I mean, Speaker 4: 23:46 You, you, you struck on a good point there, which is, it'll be interesting to see how the campaigns adjust, right? As far as get out the vote efforts, if you can't physically get out to meet people. And then again, we've seen some other congressional candidates in San Diego County who have taken a, I would characterize more lax approach with that. But regardless, kind of the interesting thing we found in our polling is that, uh, about 58% of voters in the 50th said they intend to vote by mail. Um, but there was a partisan split, which isn't exactly surprising given that we've seen the president make a very concerted effort along with his allies to try to delegitimize voting by mail, which is a common and safe practice, especially in California, but throughout the entire country. Uh, I know for me where I sit and I, I is something that frankly does concern me a bit. Is that given what we've been hearing, as far as the rhetoric, right. Trying to deal legitimize voting by mail. I mean, I give pretty comfortably say this is not a race, especially with how competitive it's polling that we are going to know the results on election night, especially with so many voters voting by mail. We've already known in San Diego County, in California at large, that takes a longer time to count. Speaker 1: 24:55 Sure. Just as Barbara Brie. Right. Speaker 4: 24:58 Right. Yeah. And then I think just with this race, I think would kind of struck me about those numbers in particular though, it's just that, you know, when Duncan won in 2018, he had like a 10 point advantage on election night that went down to 3.4. I could very easily see Darrell. Eissa having an 11 percentage point advantage on election night in part because more Republicans are voting in person and most Democrats are not, they're just going to evaporate in the days to come. Speaker 1: 25:23 Yeah. Well, it'll be very interesting to see in the postmortems as well. I've been speaking with Charles Clark reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks Charles. Thanks Martin. That wraps up another week of stories on the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests. Taran mento of KPBS news, Charles Clark of the San Diego union Tribune and Maya Sri Krishnan, a voice of San Diego, a reminder, all the stories we discussed today can be found on our website, kpbs.org. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for listening and join us again next week on the round table. Speaker 3: 25:58 [inaudible].

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San Diego State University pauses in-person classes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases among students, San Diego takes steps to help hotel workers reclaim lost jobs, and the tight race for congress in east county.