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San Diego's First Few Days Of Reopening

 June 18, 2021 at 9:59 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:01 California's reopening is underway from big events to simply taking your mask off. We'll check in on how San Diego is trying to get back to normal. What's worthy of a recall the challenge to a brand new city council woman in Oceanside, and what it says about our current political climate and a racial reckoning for biotech, the push to build a more inclusive life sciences industry in California. I'm Andrew Bowen and the KPBS round table starts. Now. Speaker 2: 00:33 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 00:37 Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Andrew Bowen. Joining me on this remote edition of the KPBS round table are KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, KPBS, north county reporter Tanya Thorne and San Diego union Tribune, biotech reporter Jonathan Rosen for the first time in more than a year, most of us don't have to figure the pandemic into our weekend plans. The state's COVID-19 restrictions ended Tuesday allowing businesses to operate at full capacity. The change also comes as big crowds arrive in Torrey Pines for the major us open golf tournament, KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman had a busy week of reopening coverage and he joins us with an update on how things are going so far. Welcome Matt. Hey Andrew, let's start with your most recent story for KPBS on the U S open at the Torrey Pines golf course did the loosening of restrictions in California change anything for the event organizers or for fans who were in attendance? So Speaker 3: 01:36 Championship golf is back at Torrey Pines for the first time since 2008. But if you were there in 2008 or you saw it on TV, it is going to look a little bit different. You know, this is, is considered, you know, they're expecting, uh, only to have up to 10,000 people per day. And we know that that's considered an outdoor mega event, uh, by state guidelines. It basically, it asks for them and what they are doing is checking every, asking everybody if they have been vaccinated, uh, they're able to do verbal attestation for that. Um, if they say no, then they have to require proof of a vaccine, have a negative test result within the last 72 hours. So things are a little bit more scaled down. There's a lot less food and beverage, but a lot of fans say that they really like it a lot more. Um, one kind of a unusual restriction. I mean, they say it's to protect the players and everything, um, is, you know, this year, no autographs from the players, uh, no selfies, no fist bumps or high fives as they're walking by on the course. Speaker 1: 02:26 So you spoke with people out there, uh, about the end of the pandemic restrictions and how attending a big event like this might've been in jeopardy without the progress that we've made against the pandemic over the past a few months. Tell us more about what they told you. Yeah, Speaker 3: 02:41 Actually they didn't even know up to like 90 days ago, you know, around when the governor kind of throughout this June 15, three opening, they didn't know if they were going to have fans at all. Uh, last year at the U S open in New York, there were no fans. Um, and the year before, uh, in 2019, they had a lot. And usually they're used to having tens of thousands of fans out there every day, you know, racking, uh, in the hundreds of thousands for the whole week. Uh, but something we're not seeing this time though, but they are grateful. They were able to kind of scramble at the last minute. So to speak, set up some bleachers, um, and allow at least some fans to come in and watch the championships Speaker 1: 03:12 There. This is a big weekend for baseball fans as well. The Padres are back for their first series at full capacity in Petco park. Will there be any lingering reminders of the COVID era or is it mostly just back to normal there? Yeah. Speaker 3: 03:25 You know, uh, some Padre fans, uh, myself, I've been to a game when they had the social distance seating and I actually liked it a lot more because if you're not around a bunch of people, there's like four seats on one side, four seats on another side. Uh, but Petco park is back to full capacity. Uh, on Thursday they're having their official, you know, grand opening where they, um, are able to put butts in every single seat. So, um, some reminders of COVID are going away, but they too are also asking people if they are vaccinated. Uh, and just to note, you know, if you're going to some of these big events, you're probably gonna want to have a photo or some sort of proof, maybe a copy of laminated, uh, vaccination card, just in case they ask you for that Speaker 1: 04:00 Petco park was home to of course, one of our vaccine super stations in San Diego county it's closed now, of course, but you've reported this week that the plan is to phase out all of those larger vaccination sites that are currently still operating. What's the county strategy going forward. Speaker 3: 04:17 I knew this was coming county officials were saying that these vaccination sites, super stations, you know, that can move, designed to move thousands of people a day. The one down there at Petco park up in Del Mar, um, that used to be able to do up to 5,000 people, the one down there in Chula Vista. Um, but we knew that they were going to be going away at some point. And they had this week, we finally, you know, heard from sharp healthcare, which operates three of the sites that they are going to be all closing down by the end of the month. And it's going to be sort of a phased in process. So, you know, on Friday we have the Grossmont center, one that's closing, and then the last one to be closed is going to be the one up in Del Mar the Superstation there, that's operated by script's health that one's slated to close, um, on July, or excuse me, on June 30th. And basically what they're shifting to is a PA is a flu distribution model. So that's like where you would go to a CVS or Rite aid or a Walgreens to get your flu shot. Um, you can also go to your primary care doctor and the county is still going to operate a number of sites, just not those big super stations or like the ones up in Del Mar, where you can drive through and get your vaccine. Speaker 1: 05:15 The county's vaccine dashboard says that 63% of people, 12 and older have now been fully vaccinated. And their goal is to get that number up to 75%. What is likely to be different with the pandemic as we get closer to that goal, Speaker 3: 05:31 I will say, you know, 63% of people are fully vaccinated. There is now at least people who have had their first dose, that number is higher than 75%, you know? So we're seeing, uh, you know, some county officials, uh, not necessarily declaring victory, but at least declaring that, you know, we are at some point of herd immunity. Um, but yeah, it'll be interesting to see, you know, we know that there's a lag time as well, too, right? Cause when you get your first dose, sometimes you have to wait up to three or four weeks to get your second dose. So that 63% will likely go up. I mean, something to keep in mind too, though, that still means that there's 25% of San Diego that are not vaccinated. We still have to deal with kids that are younger than 12. Um, so it'll be interesting to see, we know, you know, a lot of the restrictions in terms of places you have to wear a mask. That's like an airports in schools, you know, help protect the kids, help protect the teachers. Um, so we'll see if maybe some of the mask mandates go away in areas like schools. Once we start to see more kids getting vaccinated more of the overall community, getting vaccinated Speaker 1: 06:26 On Tuesday, you covered the final scheduled press briefing from the county on COVID-19. These have been happening really since the very beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's chief medical officer had this to say about reaching this milestone and her focus going forward. We Speaker 4: 06:42 Are very excited about where we are today, but it doesn't mean that things are over, uh, as I, to state the eligible population right now for being vaccinated is 12 years of age and older. But we, in the coming months, uh, in this year, we have to focus on vaccination of those, uh, individuals, six months of age to 11 years of age, the vaccines aren't available yet, but they are coming. So, um, we have to be ready when that occurs. In the meantime, we will continue to do what we do, which is surveillance, uh, within the general community for, uh, COVID 19 and as well as, uh, over 80 other, uh, communicable diseases that we still monitored during this pandemic. Speaker 1: 07:31 Matt, was there anything else that stood out to you from that final press briefing? Speaker 3: 07:35 Dr. Rudin, she made a good point in that, you know, just because the state mandated and the CDC now says that, you know, uh, people who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks scenarios like restaurants or even grocery stores, um, each individual business, they do have the right to make, you know, be more restrictive. So, um, keep in mind, you may want to keep a mask in your wallet, in your purse. Um, so if you go to a grocery store, you know, you may go to a grocery store in one area and go to grocery store in another area. And maybe that other store says, Hey, we're still requiring you to wear the mask. So something to keep in mind, I'm unsure if will there'll be any confusion over that. Um, but businesses can choose to be more restrictive, including workplaces, if they want to Speaker 1: 08:12 On that topic of workplace safety, uh, the state's regulatory body with workplace safety and health is Cal OSHA. It's revising its guidance on masks. What's the latest that was announced this week. Speaker 3: 08:24 Yeah. So a Cal OSHA basically aligned themselves with the CDPH, with the CDC guidelines, uh, that says, if you are vaccinated, you do not have to wear a mask in the workplace. Uh, those workers up until Thursday, uh, we're supposed to keep those masks masks on according to the employment law, but we know that's been changed and we were going to have to wait until about the end of the month, the 27th, 28th for that to go into effect. Uh, but we do know that governor Gavin Newsome has signed an executive order. Um, basically speeding up that process. So, you know, as of now fully workers are no longer required to wear masks at work. And now we do know that employers, if they want, they can be more restrictive Speaker 1: 09:03 On that. Thanks for your great reporting on this and many stories on COVID and other health stories to come. I'm sure I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman and Matt. Thanks for joining us. Thanks Andrew. With the pandemic largely behind him, governor Gavin Newsome will be turning his attention to the recall campaign that will play out this summer. And he's not the only politician facing this conundrum. There are a number of recall campaigns underway across California, and one of them is an ocean side where a city council woman is facing her own recall challenge. It's the latest push by voters in San Diego county to remove a politician outside the normal election process. And there have been mixed results. KPBS north county reporter Tanya thorn is covering the story for us. Hello, Tanya. Hi Andrew. So the council member we're talking about is Cory Jensen. She's the newest member of the Oceanside city council. How did she arrive at city hall? Yeah, Speaker 5: 09:58 So she got appointed to her position, um, which represents district one and that sea used to belong to Esther Sanchez, mayor Esther Sanchez and Sanchez actually requested a special election, but the other council members didn't, didn't go through with that. And they actually selected Cory Jensen to take Sanchez's old seat. So tell Speaker 1: 10:21 Us a bit more about the controversy around the recall and why she's being challenged after such a short amount of time in office. Well, Speaker 5: 10:29 Andrew, I think after she got appointed, this already sounded alarms and many of district, one residents and just voters and Oceanside. And so she, she had an eye on her already because of this. And so at her first city council meeting a vote came up in regards to neighborhood pools and she actually voted to close down the Brookstreet pool that really is available for, you know, low-income and just in an underprivileged neighborhoods and communities. And so she just came under fire with that decision. Then more eyes were on her. And I think, you know, more and more residents started digging more information about Corey Jones. Speaker 1: 11:08 And another issue was, uh, questions about where she actually lives. And whether she's an Oceanside resident, you spoke with Cory Jensen for your story. What did she tell you about this? Yeah. Speaker 5: 11:18 So after the pool decision, a tax record, a tax document came up indicating that she had a Carlsbad residents. And so people started asking her, do you live in Oceanside or do you live in Carlsbad? Well, I sat down with her and she told me she does live in Oceanside. She has roots here in Oceanside. Her parents attended Oceanside high school. Her grandparents came to Oceanside in the 1940s. So she told me she lives in Oceanside and she loves Oceanside. And she's really happy to represent the people of district one. Speaker 1: 11:52 We have a clip from Councilwoman Jensen, uh, from your interview with her. Here's what she had to say about securing her job at the ballot box. Speaker 2: 12:00 I'm just hoping that they'll give me a chance to do some good and then, um, go from there because we will have an election. And if I do a good job and I run for election, hopefully I'll get my position Speaker 1: 12:15 Back now to Councilwoman Jensen's point. Uh, there is an election happening next year. Why is this group which we should say is called, let Oceanside vote. Why is this group backing the recall petition, not happy with just waiting until the next election? Speaker 5: 12:30 Well, I think after the residents suspicion, then, you know, people just really want their voice heard. They want somebody from district one or that has a record of servicing district one to be the one representing that community. And so they really, from what I've heard, they really don't feel like Cory Jensen is that person. And so her term lasts until November 20, 22, but you know, this group and I think, you know, residents that are signing the recall, I think they want an election. They want somebody that's going to represent them and that they can choose and have their voice heard. Speaker 1: 13:05 What more can you tell us about Councilman Jensen's politics and what her goals are for the Oceanside city council? Speaker 5: 13:11 Yeah, so I talked to her on what she wants to address in Oceanside and in her district. And one big point that she made was affordable housing, you know, um, Oceanside has been building some beautiful resorts and just really adding to the downtown area. And many residents are scared that that's going to spike up rent prices. And so she really wants to concentrate on affordable housing and she, she thinks we can get that done. And so that's one thing, and she's also working on adding new bathrooms to escape park in her district. So she's doing a couple things and she really hopes, you know, residents will we'll notice her efforts. The recalls Speaker 1: 13:51 Have been in the news quite a bit lately. Of course, I think everyone knows at this point, there is one that will be on the ballot involving governor Gavin Newsome. We also recently had the unsuccessful effort to recall San Diego city council, president Jen Campbell, the campaign, they are just failed to get enough signatures to put that question on the ballot. Is this ocean side, recall story purely local? Do you think, or is there more at play here in terms of how people are expressing themselves politically and frustration with their elected officials? Speaker 5: 14:22 You know, I don't think it's local. We were obviously seeing a pattern of this and you know, people want their voice heard. They want to elect their representatives and they want through to go through the correct process. They want to feel like they are electing their representative. Speaker 1: 14:38 And what's the threshold for this recall. And how many signatures do they have to gather? And what's the deadline for turning those in? Speaker 5: 14:45 Yeah. So let Oceanside vote needs to collect 4,484 signatures and represents 20% of district one voters they have until September 10th to collect all the signatures. Speaker 1: 14:57 Let's also get your take, uh, this week on the overarching and dominant story of this week, which is the end of the state's COVID-19 health restrictions. How is the reopening going in north county? Speaker 5: 15:08 Well, Andrew, I think it's going great. Like I mentioned before, downtown Oceanside just got up to a beautiful new beach side resort and, you know, we missed out on last year, summer. So I think this summer may be really busy for downtown Oceanside. It's it's, it might become a tourist hotspot because you have the beach, you have the resorts, you have, you know, things to do here in downtown Oceanside. And so I'm excited for that. And also a lot of manufacturing companies are hiring. Um, I did a story on, you know, the shortage of staff and one big incentive for north county residents is that no more commute, you know, um, getting a job here in a local manufacturing company could mean you don't have to fight the, the five and the merge and deal with that traffic that I'm sure we're going to start seeing here very soon as you know, the rest of the state and San Diego county opens up. Speaker 1: 16:03 All right, I've been speaking with Tanya thorn. Who's the north county reporter for KPBS news. Tanya, thanks for your reporting on this. Thank you, Andrew. Some of the work that went into developing vaccines and responding to the pandemic happened in San Diego counties, thriving life sciences industry, the past year has elevated the fields and the people within it. And now there's an effort to deal with racial inequities that persist staffs are largely white and male, even in a state like California, Jonathan Rosen covers biotech for the San Diego union Tribune and has more on the tangible steps being taken to close that gap. Hello, Speaker 6: 16:40 Jonathan, thanks for having me. So this Speaker 1: 16:42 Effort is all coming from an umbrella organization called Biocom California, which is based in San Diego. Tell us more about this group and what this pledge is that it announced this week. Speaker 6: 16:53 Sure. So Biocom is a trade group, essentially they represent and they lobby on behalf of the biotech industry. The pledge that they announced on Monday was a pledge to promote a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment. And, you know, they talk in there about this, not just being a smart business decision in terms of having a more diverse workforce, being a more, uh, innovative workforce, but they also say fundamentally that it's the right kind of thing to do. So they talk about making their own board of directors more diverse. They talk about taking the lead and issuing regular reports and surveys on in terms of how the industry is doing sharing information among companies when it comes to how to implement certain diversity programs. So they go through things that they'll do it, and they invite companies that are affiliated with Biocom to also publicly pledged to attract and promote diverse teams. So Speaker 1: 17:48 1400 life science companies are involved with Biocom. Does that include large? I assume, large companies, small companies, any names people might recognize? Speaker 6: 17:58 Oh yeah. So Illumina, which is the biggest biotech company in town, and also happens to be the world's leading supplier of genetic sequencing equipment, Gilly Gilliad, California company that, uh, currently is, uh, using a grim desert veer, which is an antiviral that's being used. The COVID-19 treatment that's on that list. Uh, you know, Dexcom, uh, San Diego based company that sells glue coasts monitoring devices for people with high blood sugar, uh, and then a whole bunch of companies, big, medium, and small, including, you know, many, many, uh, a lot of folks may not have necessarily heard of at this point, you break Speaker 1: 18:35 Some of the numbers down in your story with regards to diversity in this field, which groups are the most underrepresented and how far do we have Speaker 6: 18:42 To go? Yeah. So I can tell you how it looks here in San Diego. We reached out to the San Diego workforce partnership last summer to get some better data here and basically Hispanic or Latino San Diego ones and black San Diego. These are clearly the most underrepresented in, in local biotech. So, you know, we're a region that is about one third Hispanic and the biotech industry is about 16% Hispanic by comparison. Uh, you know, the county numbers for black San Diego is around the five to 6% range. And about 3% of people in the life science industry are black. So there's a gender disparity as you rise the ranks. And there's also a racial and ethnic disparity, pretty much across the board. Speaker 1: 19:31 The challenges that seems to be ahead in diversifying the field of life sciences is just getting good demographic data in these companies. Why does so many companies not have an accurate picture of their own workforces diversity, or if they do have that data, why would they not be willing Speaker 6: 19:48 To share? Yeah, that's a good question. Especially since these are folks who work in science. So every decision they make is driven by data. I think there are a couple of things going on there. One is that a lot of biotech companies are actually pretty small. They're not publicly facing companies in most cases, so there's not a whole lot of pressure necessarily for them to have and share data and other pieces that the kind of data that they are used to collecting and sharing really is the latest data on their cancer drug or their autoimmune drug. Uh, so the incentives in place for them to be collecting and sharing information about their workforce, uh, so far has been pretty limited. And I think the fact that companies aren't making that more public is probably not because the data is, you know, shockingly good or impressive. Speaker 1: 20:43 I spoke with one of the only black CEOs of a biotech in the San Diego region for your story. Paul Mola, he's the CEO of Roswell biotechnologies. What did he tell you about his thoughts on this effort by Biocom to really put some numbers and some real effort into diversifying the field? Speaker 6: 21:01 Paul thought this was a good step. He thought it was a pretty important step. I asked him what he thought about the past year and you know, there's been a whole lot of talk around diversity, whole lot of talk about equity, pull out a talk around racial justice. And I asked him if he had seen anything tangible come out of that. And he said, not yet, at least not within the life science industry itself, but he felt that this type of public pledge, especially coming from Biocom, uh, was going to be part of taking that next step from, you know, saying the right things to doing the right thing. So he thought it was a good step. He's actually, he's a as of a couple of weeks ago now, part of the, the board of directors for Biocom. So he's going to be one of those voices, I think keeping them honest. Yeah. You're Speaker 1: 21:48 Not just a journalist, Jonathan, you also hold a PhD in immunology from Stanford university. Have you ever personally experienced or witnessed examples of racism or discrimination in the field of life sciences? Speaker 6: 22:02 Yeah, I got kind of a unusual background for a reporter. Uh, you know, thankfully I was pretty fortunate. I had a lot of good mentors, a lot of good people in my corner, so I did not have any explicit discrimination, um, you know, directed my way, you hear stories from other people, but my own particular experience was pretty good. You know, the main thing I remember from that time is really just that they were very few and far between conversations around race, around social issues. You know, it didn't really feel coming into graduate school that the bio-science program was a space where you could talk about those things. Talk about really anything outside of science. Um, I think that started to change, you know, around 2015, roughly around the time Mike Brown, Michael Brown was shot. And I mostly just remember, uh, you know, that environment being, uh, kind of silent on, on these types of issues, but my own experience was, uh, relatively good in the sense that there was nothing, uh, negative, those directed my way. Speaker 1: 23:11 We've been talking with our guests this week about the end of the state's pandemic restrictions as someone who covers the science behind this story of COVID-19. Are there any lingering issues or topics that you see as still needing to be addressed? Speaker 6: 23:26 Oh yeah. I mean, I think the one topic without question, and this is more of a global issue is the fact that this is a worldwide pandemic and we have a whole lot of people across the world who haven't been vaccinated yet. So, you know, in San Diego or in across the U S you can go to a CVS, you can go to a, you can go pretty much anywhere and get vaccinated, uh, without much of a weight these days, but there are so many other regions, so many other continents, parts of the world where that's not at all the case. So I think, you know, vaccinating, not just locally statewide, nationally, uh, but actually getting enough immunity and enough parts of the world to have some confidence that we won't see big surges in the future. That's, that's going to be the way that we assure ourselves that we won't have to worry in the fall, or we won't have to worry a year from now, so that, you know, global vaccine rollout, I think is the key. Speaker 6: 24:22 Uh, you know, obviously there are new variants that people are hearing about here and there, but the bottom line is that the vaccines that are available right now, uh, are surprisingly effective, maybe to different degrees, but especially effective when it comes to keeping people from getting really, really sick. So global vaccine rollout, I think maybe another related topic is that no matter what, every scientist I've spoken to expect the coronavirus to be around for the long haul, they don't expect this virus to go away. So in addition to vaccines, you know, there's been a lot of awareness that we're going to need more treatments, better treatments, and easier to take treatments. So ideally, you know, a pill versus something that you have to get through an IV drip. And we just heard on Thursday now the Biden administration commit to spending $3 billion in the coming years, develop new antiviral treatments. So, you know, this week was a good week for California, but I think we do have to pay attention to the global picture of the pandemic as we go forward. Speaker 1: 25:24 Speaking with Jonathan Rosen, biotech reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Jonathan, thanks for joining us. Anytime that wraps up this week's edition of the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, Matt Hoffman, and Tanya thorn from KPBS news and Jonathan Rosen from the San Diego union Tribune. If you missed any part of our show, you can listen anytime on the KPBS round table podcast. I'm Andrew Bowen. Thanks for listening and join us next week on the round table.

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Most COVID-19 restrictions come to an end in San Diego County, an Oceanside city council member faces a recall effort after just a few months on the job and a new effort to track and boost racial representation in California's life sciences industry.