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Living With The Coronavirus Pandemic
KPBS Roundtable / March 13, 2020
Cruise lines, concerts, classes, conventions, conferences, even conversations. The novel coronavirus is disrupting most aspects of daily life in San Diego, just as it is in the rest of the world.
Speaker 1: 00:00 From the travel and cruise industries to colleges and universities going online only from the taking stock market to worries about small businesses and the homeless. The Corona virus is affecting every aspect of life in San Diego. I'm Mark Sauer. The KPBS round table starts now.
Speaker 2: 00:27 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 00:27 welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS Roundtable today. Julia Dixon, Evans KPBS arts calendar editor, KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman, and Chris Genuwine, editor and publisher of times of San Diego. Well, this may be the week in which years of exaggerations disregard for facts and outright lies. Finally overtake the occupant of the oval office. Donald Trump and his administration are faced with trying to calm citizens whose lives are increasingly disrupted by the Corona virus and financial markets. We're in three fall much of the week. Trump's own remarks have been riddled with misstatements, misunderstanding, and outright falsehoods. Members of both parties are publicly frustrated after briefings by administration officials, the president did accurately note, however, that much of the direct response falls to local officials and San Diego. That means closing schools. Closing public events and performances banding a large gathering, staffing up public health centers and Andrews, let's start right there. You covered this a Thursday press conference yesterday. Tell us who was there and they talked about how many new cases we have. And it was a real show of force by a local officials.
Speaker 3: 01:40 Yeah. So the elected officials from really all across the County, mayors, County supervisors, people from the military in the school districts, uh, the, in terms of the message that there were five new presumptive positive tests that were announced for covet 19. Uh, two of them were on board, the diamond princess cruise ship. Uh, two of them had a history of co, uh, travel to Colorado, um, which they assume might've been the source of the infection. And one of them they presume was, uh, a source of locally local transmission, which we had not seen in San Diego up until this point. Um, so this led the County to impose a ban on all public gatherings of 250 people or more non-essential public gatherings. A smaller gatherings are discouraged. They urge people to practice social distancing. So stay at least six feet, uh, away from other people. Um, people with chronic health conditions or people over 65 should cancel all their non-essential travel and be wary of, of crowds as well. A County supervisor, Nathan Fletcher, was kind of the emcee of the press conference. Here's a bit of what he said.
Speaker 4: 02:47 The simple fact is this virus is highly contagious. We know that it is currently spreading throughout San Diego County and we need everyone to come together to take action to try and limit that spread. The step wall inconvenient is an established best practice consistent with federal guidance, with state guidance, and if a full support of our local public health experts based on the situation that we face here on the ground in San Diego.
Speaker 1: 03:14 All right. And Andrew, it appears that a, unfortunately San Diego, like many places across the country really doesn't have a lot of testing kits available, at least through public testing right now.
Speaker 3: 03:23 Yeah. The County says that it now has the capacity to test up to 1200 people, uh, which you know, clearly is not enough to meet the demand of all the people who want to get tested. Let's say they're, you know, but the, the fact of the matter is there is a shortage of tests. Um, there are also some tests that are coming online through commercial laboratories and uh, as well as the healthcare systems, the hospitals that we have in San Diego County. But the County can no longer authorize or not authorize who is tested in those private settings. Um, but they do expect to receive a positive results, you know, so they can do this contact tracing, basically interviewing the patient and asking them who they, where they went, who they had contact with and who else they might need to actually test. But it's a, it's a problem right now.
Speaker 3: 04:09 Um, there's a lot of people are worried, a lot of people are concerned and they want that certainty of, you know, whether or not they are in fact infected. But the County public health officer said with the testing that capacity that we have right now, we have to prioritize. We, uh, we're following the CDC guidelines and you know, if you have a cough or a sneeze or a sore throat, but, or a fever or otherwise healthy and your symptoms aren't severe, um, just stay home and avoid contact with other people if your symptoms are severe, certainly see a doctor. Um, but they, they want to preserve the resources in the public health system right now for the people who really need it. Isn't that a problem throughout the United States at this point? Uh, I think Dr. Anthony voucher, who's the face of our efforts right now, said that point blank and it's a failure throughout the United States.
Speaker 3: 04:59 Yeah. Well, you know, that, uh, I think that we are, we're seeing some of the shortcomings of our healthcare system right now, especially when you look at other countries with more robust public health systems and, uh, universal healthcare. Um, you know, South Korea, they've done enormous amounts of testing for pretty much anybody who wants it. Uh, I will say that the County health officials did say this week that there we appear to be in the very early stages of local transmission. And so, um, the need for widespread testing across the entire community isn't necessarily there quite yet. Um, we were behind a lot of the other parts of the country that have seen, um, larger outbreaks, but they say they're working up to, uh, increasing their capacity. They might, um, you know, Denver has implemented drive through testing. All you need is a doctor's note. You don't need insurance and it's totally free. The, the, um, the officials are actually in contact with those folks in Denver, uh, and they're working up to in the capacity
Speaker 5: 05:58 through the, through the commercial laboratories that exist here as well. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean right now, I mean, I think by the end of the week they could have up to like two, 2000 tests, but we're talking to, they're coming online much faster now, but we're talking for a County of 3 million, 3 million. Right. So, I mean, if cases explode here, I mean, they said yesterday that there's just no way they're going to be able to handle it. That's why you heard Andrew say that they talked about there's going to ask people to stay at home and then hopefully just wait for their symptoms to pass if they're not, uh, you know, too symptomatic that obviously if they need to be hospitalized, they will be hospitalized. But Andrew just talked about it. A health official said that they are, they said yesterday within 24 hours they might have some news about drive through testing something that's quicker, faster and easier.
Speaker 5: 06:36 Um, we're talking about like taking people's temperature. And then they also interestingly talked about in home options, a mobile capacity for testing, uh, going into individual's homes so that they don't have to leave their homes. Um, and also when we talk about all this, I mean now we're at six cases, right? Um, each of these cases you gotta remember they do a contact investigation and that is like a really lengthy process. We can't do that once we get more cases. Right. I mean even for like the first woman who had the case, for example, she was in the hospital for an unknown amount of time. They didn't know she had Corona virus. She could have exposed, uh, a Mirage of healthcare workers. Really? And then you had the County trying to figure out, okay, they have a number of people falling. Who did she come in contact with here?
Speaker 5: 07:10 Who'd you come in contact with here? The question is, when is the County, when is that going to one of their not going to be able to handle that capacity? And they said that they're going to be bringing in potentially hiring outside Norte nurses. Um, and that's where we see this emergency declaration come into play here. They don't have to go to the board. They can just say, Hey, we're going to hire these nurses. Also asking for volunteers. Interesting. Andrew, we should acknowledge while the number of presumptive cases is six o'clock, as we're taping this right now, the news is literally changing by the hour. So by the time this airs, we could have more. That was a point I wanted to make and we're going to get into a media discussion here and how difficult it is to cover these things, but it is so fluid even in, and of course you have a show like this that that air's a little later on in the evening. It's going to air a little later today where we're talking, the president's talking right now it's just happening hour by hour. And Chris, we've seen that in the markets this week, how things are gone, been so volatile in the financial market.
Speaker 6: 08:01 It's really been a roller coaster ride. Um, I was looking at the numbers just a few minutes ago before the show began and it's back up to about nine, 900. So the first, first major increase in a few days, um, it is eerily reminiscent of what happened in 2008 in the financial collapse. And if you remember what happened after that was the federal reserve bank moving to shore banks. This time the fed did something similar to help the markets function more smoothly. We had the treble assets to repayment program that build out a financial institutions. There was a separate bailout for the auto industry. We could be seeing measures like that happening at a national level. Again,
Speaker 5: 08:38 let's start talking a little bit about some of the cancellations here in San Diego and, and met a lot of the conventions are just, they're just shut down now for the rest of the month here at the big convention center down. Well, that's following that public health order yesterday saying events 250 people or more are now banned throughout the entire County. Obviously the San Diego convention center is heavily impacted by that. I actually just got the list from March. Um, I mean we're talking at least me, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, nine events, thousands of attendees and they're estimating million. I mean tens of millions of dollars of economic impact lost the city of San Diego. You gotta remember there's this trickle down effect, right? Conventions go there. They have sometimes up to like 65,000 attendees, like 50,000 hotel stays. All those hotel rooms will get canceled. And then what about the restaurants in the area?
Speaker 5: 09:22 Not to mention the transportation to get here. A taxi, an Uber drivers. Exactly. I mean, but then you've got to think about local business owners don't own restaurants and the Gaslamp area to some of them this week. Right. Some of them were pretty distressed. Oh yeah. I mean cause a lot of them, they don't have, they can only survive for maybe the rest of the month of March two, three weeks. Um, they rely on this convention center business because not only do they bring in a lot of people, but they say when people come in, they have these corporate credit cards. So they're not buying the $10 meal. They're buying the $20 meal. So they really rely on, yeah, take that what you want. But they say they really rely on this business. Then we talked to one business owners, um, who said that he had 25 events scheduled for the next two months and they were all canceled corporate events, citing coronavirus concerns and one of them renting out the entire restaurant. They don't take a deposit, so they're going to lose all that money and just people are scared to just go out right now, Chris, do we know, uh, we've talked about, and I'm going to get to a moment a what a house speaker. Nancy Pelosi said this morning as some brief remarks before the president spoke. But do we know if some of these folks, um, you know, can apply at some point for federal relief on this small business owners or people who lose wages? [inaudible]
Speaker 6: 10:25 the state is already moving in that direction. Um, governor Newsome announced yesterday that he's putting off, uh, the tax filing deadlines by 60 days. He's gonna let, uh, if you lose your job, you can apply immediately for unemployment assistance. You don't have to wait on that. Those are small steps, but that's the beginning. Uh, nationally we could probably, we're probably going to see a delay in tax filing. There's been some talk, uh, about, um, a payroll tax, uh, ending the payroll tax temporarily. Although Congress doesn't seem, seem to be behind that. We could have, again, something like tarp, the troubled asset repayment program that went into effect for the last crisis, but that may take, uh, some more of sessions of Congress before we get [inaudible].
Speaker 5: 11:07 Well, and Matt, you have a personal experience with this. They've canceled the NBA season, the NHL season though the local minor league goals team here has been canceled as San Diego state had this marvelous basketball season. We mentioned on the show 30 and two and now these guys might not get a chance to play the March match. Exactly. And not only that, so you think of the impact there, but you've got to think about the people that work at those arenas that like work at the convention center. I mean today the convention center basically said our part-time event workers, we're not scheduling them because we have no events for them to do. Now they are trying to find other ways for their staff. They're doing some repairs. In the meantime they're trying to look at this like on the bright side on the, you know, the glasses half full. Um, and, but they, they do say their food and beverage, which is a largest revenue source, they're completely shutting down their kitchens for the rest of the month of March. Um, so hospitality workers aren't working. Hotel workers aren't going to be working, season's coming, but they're going to delay open Andre season the late at least two weeks. And who knows? We might see that continue on. Um, it's going to have a huge trickle down impact, especially in the downtown area.
Speaker 6: 12:03 The really big, I mean, of course the immediate concern is people getting sick and, and dying from this, but longer term is that we may enter a recessionary period. Um, uh, economists have been saying that for the last year that the bull market has been running for too long. At some point we're going to have to have a recession. This may be what pushes the economy and [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 12:23 Sam, Gary Cohn, uh, Trump's original, uh, treasury advisor financial, a top advisor no longer with the administration was on CNN yesterday saying, we are in a recession. He just flat out said it, which a raised eyebrow. I mean, it's happened so fast. I wanted to turn to Julia. Now you've reported on theater, closing cancellations of arts events in San Diego, important to San Diego residents and tour saliva. Give us the overall picture there.
Speaker 7: 12:46 Well, we're looking at a lot of things canceling and people have canceled things or postponed things. Um, as early as last weekend. And then as the week progressed we saw an after governor Newsome's order. We saw, um, pretty much a blanket cancellation of large events and um, venues canceling things that were coming to them. They're, there have been a couple of holdouts of, of, of events that haven't quite canceled yet, but not many.
Speaker 1: 13:13 And uh, you know, we were talking here about a workers, of course, actors, performers, ushers, everybody involved in theater for example. What's the impact on the lives of these folks?
Speaker 7: 13:22 Well, I'm, in a lot of cases, you're talking about the opera that LA Jolla Playhouse, actors, singers, musicians, they're paid per performance. And a lot of times they have to cover their own travel and housing when they're here. So it's going to be a big economic hit for them and for the resources they use. We're also looking at, again, the ripple effect, the gig workers, the people who are hired to build the sets, the people who work the box office, the people who work for the smaller arts, nonprofits, all of that.
Speaker 1: 13:52 Yeah. A cafe is restaurants, bars associated. The old globe for example, has a number of those right there that patrons go to and they're shut down for the globe, for example. How long a, at least through the end of the month
Speaker 7: 14:03 at least. Right.
Speaker 5: 14:05 I just think we can't have this round table discussion without talking about, um, the missing toilet paper. The missing cleans and why, I mean, it's, it's really kind of crazy when you see all this hysteria going on out here. I mean, granted, County health officials did tell people, Hey, start preparing for a possible pandemic. Go out there, get two weeks of supplies, maybe three weeks of supplies. And people are definitely doing that. I know even myself, yesterday I got off of work. I went to three different stores, couldn't find any toilet paper. So I had a plan. I said, I'm going to go to sleep. I woke up in the middle of night, 2:00 AM I went out five stores, the fifth store, Rite aid had it. Thank God. But, uh, I mean there's no toilet paper. I fall asleep. I mean, I don't know why people are buying toilet paper out of all this crazy [inaudible]. It is. It's kind of astonishing. We won't get into the details of that, but in other countries, that's not a, it isn't a necessity. Yes and no, but brings up really important question and
Speaker 6: 14:52 that is how long does this last? And the County said, um, said two weeks. But I've also heard three, four weeks, uh, uh, quoting again, dr Fowchee, uh, who said this morning that it's probably going to be eight weeks. That's his estimate of how bad this is going to be. That, that the, the shutdowns, um, the, the, the unique things that we're facing right now. Eight weeks from now, maybe we start to go back to a more normal,
Speaker 1: 15:15 it's a virus running its course. Julie, I wanted to come back to you there. There's some folks who have kind of a window of opportunity. I'm thinking of book authors, bands that are out on tour and all they're trying to promote their works, trying to get the, the sales and that's the how they go. I mean this time has just lost. Right,
Speaker 7: 15:31 right, exactly. And um, a book tour can make or break a book success. A lot of times there isn't much funding from the publisher level on publicity. And sometimes these book tours are funded by the author themselves. And in the music industry, the profit model has really shifted over the last couple of years from record sales into performance and live music and tours. So that's something, yeah, livelihood of musicians depends on performing.
Speaker 1: 16:04 Right. And Andrew, getting back to the officials response, uh, yesterday, um, it's, it's still unclear and we're going to have a lot of, I want to talk in a moment about the media coverage of this, but we're going to have a lot of, uh, stories coming up that we just don't have answers to right now. For example, at the press conference, uh, an obvious question, it's kind of hanging there is are they going to close the school? Several States had already closed the schools. And from Thursday afternoon to just this morning, San Diego unified announced we're closing the schools.
Speaker 3: 16:31 Yeah. So I mean it's, it's as we mentioned, the, these, this news and everything is changing by the hour. Um, and I don't know if we've reached quite the, the peak, you know, uh, of, of things happening yet. Um, w we're, a lot of us are going to be working this weekend certainly to cover what's happening on Saturday and Sunday. But, you know, in terms of the media as a role here, I think we want people to be informed by the science. We want people to understand exactly what the Corona virus is, how they can protect themselves, how, you know, what sort of Phantom protections don't actually do anything. Um, and we don't want people to panic. They want, we want people to, to have the facts and to end to take care of themselves. And, um, he, the, the warnings of all the officials out there, um, you know, a lot of the questions that we're getting from our audiences are very specific things.
Speaker 3: 17:22 They are things like, you know, I, I have, um, kids and their, uh, their parent or their grandparents might be a caretaker. Should I keep them apart? Uh, you know, and, and all of those things are questions that everyone is asking and that we're trying to get answers for as well. I think we have to remember to like a, I mean a lot of these shutdowns are very proactive. I mean obviously it's like a public health order, but we're not seeing, you know, like arenas here like Pachanga Reno who by the way says that they're talking to tenants working to reschedule or cancel. We're not seeing
Speaker 5: 17:50 like a whole arena impacted here. Obviously that's a fear. But I think what's interesting, what the public should know is that we might see, I mean obviously we only, we know about six cases officials know about, but there could be a lot more out there that we don't know about. So we might see, right. So we might see a spike in cases like, you know, in the, in the near future. But that should go down if this containment works right, if no one's going to these public events, and then eventually we should see that kind of level out. So that's the thinking.
Speaker 6: 18:14 You know, one thing that strikes me in, uh, in the midst of all this is, um, we, we seem to be coming together certainly in California, maybe across the country at this point. For example, the announcement this morning about the schools closing in San Diego, it was joint with the LA school district. In other words, it was Southern California working together. This idea that, that maybe we're seeing nationally that, you know, uh, the divisiveness and whatnot, we're not seeing this in California. And yesterday at the press conference, um, a gray Cox Republican began it, but then turned it over to Nathan Fletcher, a Democrat.
Speaker 1: 18:44 Well, on that, Andrew, because that was one of the themes at the press conference where they said, I think may fault Faulkner and made the point that the, this transcends politics. It strand sends jurisdictions. We've gotten mayors from, you know, both parties all gathered here.
Speaker 3: 18:57 Yeah, no, it was certainly, I mean we, we see these elected officials in their sort of joint governmental organizations together, often disagreeing or, or, um, or kind of duking out on the issues. Um, most of the people in that room were silent, so not everyone got a chance to kind of, you know, get their piece in. But um, but I think that yeah, the everyone up there was saying, we want to stay United. We w we don't want to politicize the science on here. We want people to just pay attention to the experts and listen to them.
Speaker 1: 19:27 And a lot of us have experienced here of course over the years covering public safety issues. Wildfires come to mind where the media for a time, you know, we do our gotcha stories afterward and we do our postmortems, but when the people are evacuated from homes, for example, we come together with the officials. We understand the importance of getting out real realtime. KPBS goes on air for much longer than our normal programming, for example. But a stepping back to the Washington situation, we've had a president who for three years, we've called the press the public enemy, enemy of the people here and uh, you know, fake news and denigrating reporters on and on and on. Well, now we kind of have to work together. We're seeing that on the local level here, but what becomes the effect at the national level because of this history of the administration in this antagonist. And they, they got rid of the white house daily briefings, for example. Uh, and all of this going forward. And of course we're going to talk in a moment, politics inevitably plays into this.
Speaker 6: 20:23 Well, I think that, um, uh, because this may be a worldwide pandemic, but its impact is local and because it's local, it's local media that is in a straightforward matter saying this is what's happening. And at some point I think that pushes the, the, the divisive political parties, uh, in Washington to say, yeah, that's the truth. For example, take, take a Kirkland Washington. There's no way you can sugarcoat the fact third, that 30, I think people have died at that nursing home. You know, there's that, that's the fact, uh, no amount of, uh, uh, optimism on Fox news or Breitbart is going to change that. So I think it's the, the growing local news story that's making it impossible in Washington to ignore what's happening.
Speaker 5: 21:04 Chris, I mean that's like Krista, I will say it's interesting though that like a lot of people we talk to, they're sick of hearing it on the media and they think it's way over blown. But that's a good point. There might be a fair point there sometimes, but like we were talking to passengers who were going on cruise ships and they were saying, I want to go on the cruise because I want to get away from it. And a lot of the people were elderly people, these at risk population for traveling and they're saying, well, you know, Yolo. So like, you know, like you only live once a woman's center. So, um, I think, you know, they're heating mornings but some people really aren't too concerned about it. I will say that like the coming together part, this elbow bump thing, you know, I'm talking about that. That is actually a lot of fun and a lot of people like I found it's really cool. Like it's better than a fist bump that we're not doing right now that may prevent the common flu also. Right, right. Well, yeah,
Speaker 1: 21:46 yeah. Julie, are you getting some feedback here? Are you hearing from people saying, geez, my tickets were canceled. Why can't I go to the globe Saturday night?
Speaker 7: 21:53 Um, I think it's kind of the opposite. The feedback that I'm hearing is people saying, um, don't ask for a refund or people trying to find ways to help the institutions or the actors or the musicians for refund donate your ticket costs to whatever institution we're talking about or make additional donations for people who, um, who did requested donation or, or refund or for the loss of door sales, which is going to be a hit.
Speaker 1: 22:20 Now I should note here, I think I mentioned this earlier, how speaker Nancy Pelosi today announced the current Corona virus response act. This was before the president, uh, has press conference. Uh, as we're sitting here talking response will involve around testing, testing, testing. She made that point, the bill provide two weeks of sick leave, beef up unemployment insurance, bolster the food lunch programs at schools, a free virus testing, et cetera. Pelosi did not take questions. The politics are inevitable. Here. We had a response from Joe Biden, the, uh, one of the course leading Democrats and Bernie Sanders, the other leading Democrat for the, that nomination yesterday in kind of presidential addresses. And in response to, uh, to Donald Trump who made a point saying it's time to set aside Paris and politics. What was back tweeting within 12 hours and not setting that aside. And you mentioned Washington state, I should know, governor Jay Inslee was one of the first governors in the country to ban these large gathering of over 250 people. The president called him a snake, which was alarming to even watching, you know, the Trump circus there. Uh, how does this all play out as we go forward?
Speaker 6: 23:23 Well, I think this is the, the, the most important period in Trump's presidency. Um, this is the time when, uh, a commander in chief needs to reassure the American population and needs to make sure that something is fundamentally being done to prevent, uh, the danger. I'm not sure we're seeing that in Washington. Um, the, the testing, uh, the testing is really crazy in a country with this sophistication of science and technology and it appears to have been a deliberate choice. There was a, a world health organization test available in late February. The CDC chose not to use it to develop its own. There were manufacturing problems. Was that an America first a a problem or was that a or was that a legitimate Bureau? Bureaucratic, uh, uh, followup. So I think that, uh, it's not looking good for Trump right now. He's not reassuring the public. It's looking a lot better for governors and for local officials like, uh, like in San Diego where everybody comes together and says, we've got a problem. Let's fix it directly.
Speaker 1: 24:22 We've got about a minute left. I was going to ask about social media and some of the panelists here and reporters are on social media more than I am. A help or a hindrance here. I mean I helped her hindrance her. You can get immediate, you can get information out quickly, but you can get poor information.
Speaker 3: 24:37 Yes. And I actually saw a tweet from the China people's Republic of China news agency saying that the president of Brazil had tested positive for covert 19 that was not confirmed. And China obviously has a political agenda in terms of how the news is covering this. Um, so I think yeah, everyone needs to be a really smart news consumer. Um, I think KPBS has done a pretty good job. Um, and I think that, you know, going directly to the source, the public health officials and everything is always the best bet as well. I think it goes back to that point of it's constantly changing information every day. Not only are, you know, some of the news outlets being overwhelmed, but also the public information officers at the County level, the federal level, they are also being overwhelmed to trying to get information out.
Speaker 6: 25:18 But this may ultimately be where, uh, the public develops a new appreciation for the news media or redevelops that appreciation. That's a good point. So we may have a very powerful
Speaker 1: 25:27 man, I've got to close it up here, but I'll say, go to times of San Diego. Go to KPBS dot are go to the union Tribune website. You can get the local solid, reliable information at these reliable sites. Well, it does wrap up another week at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, culture reporter, Julia Dixon, Evan's Metro reporter Andrew bone of KPBS and Matt Hoffman also of KPBS. Seeing a pattern here today, and Chris Genuwine of the times of San Diego. Reminder, all the stories we've discussed today available on kpbs.org thanks for joining us today on the round table.