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Roundtable: One year with the COVID-19 vaccine in San Diego

 December 3, 2021 at 12:00 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

How concerned should we be about OMI, Cron and update on the new COVID-19 variant. As we hit one year of having access to the vaccine, baseball's off season grinds to a halt, we'll hear from one of San Diego's iconic voices about the labor fight and how it affects the Padres and behind the scenes at the demolition of Santa, no frame, I'm Matt Hoffman, and this is KPBS Roundtable

Speaker 2: (00:26)


Speaker 3: (00:36)

So we're incredibly excited in the next 24 hours here at Rady children's hospital. We'll be receiving the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19. This is an incredible time. I mean, this is the first time in the past seven months, we actually have a very proactive way of being able to combat COVID-19. Uh, we've been very reactive, uh, over the past year and appropriately. So because this is an epidemic of that. Anybody could, no one could have imagined

Speaker 1: (01:04)

What a year it has been this month. We're marking the first anniversary of the first COVID-19 vaccines arriving in San Diego. That sound was from the COO of Rady children's hospital, Dr. Nicholas Holmes. He was talking to media when they got the word that the help that they've been waiting for was finally on the way optimism was high after months of lockdown measures because our community had no real protection beyond wearing masks and staying away from crowds. But now here we are. It's December, 2021. Vaccines are widely available for people. As young as five adults can get a booster and some places don't even require appointments here to reflect on the past year with the vaccine, what scientists have learned and why we're still struggling to put this pandemic behind us is Jonathan Rosen. He covers biotech for the San Diego union Tribune, and he's been leading pandemic coverage here locally. Welcome back, Jonathan. Good to be

Speaker 4: (01:53)

Back. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: (01:54)

So we went back and put together some sound from the arrival of the vaccine that we'll play in just a moment. Now you've been covering this extensively from the start, like so many other local reporters. Big picture though, Jonathan, how are you reflecting on that time last year and where we're at right now?

Speaker 4: (02:09)

I think there are two things that have really surprised me and stand out in my mind about the vaccine rollout. One is how quickly it all happened. And the other frankly is how badly we needed a vaccine and how badly we still need the vaccine. In terms of speed. We really went from not knowing that this Corona virus existed to developing a vaccine and getting that out to the first batch of people within a year, which is completely unprecedented. And, and frankly, pretty remarkable when you look back on it. Uh, and really, if you just think about vaccine development in general, is this something that takes many, many years, you know, we still don't have an HIV vaccine 40 years, uh, into HIV. So imagine where we'd be with COVID, if no one had been vaccinated versus, you know, more 2.5 million San Diego.

Speaker 1: (03:00)

Now let's go back to that big day. It was December 15th that Rady's and for those listening, you'll mostly be hearing the voice of Ron DeLuise, he's the pharmacy manager at Rady children's hospital. And Jonathan, we'll get your reaction in just a minute.

Speaker 5: (03:17)

Yeah, thank you.

Speaker 5: (03:27)

Let's open up the box here and there's a little digital data logger there to keep track of the temperature during shipping each box has 195 files containing 975 doses. I certainly hope so. The vaccine represents hope for our staff and our community, and we're very excited to be a part of it, help distribute it as a person you're handling the first dose that you get here. How does that make you feel? Very excited. You know, like, as I said before, this vaccine brings a lot of hope to the community and to our staff. And so we finally have a chance to have an intervention that can really help improve care and improve health in the community. It's very excited.

Speaker 1: (04:11)

That seems like it was so long ago for some of us who've been covering this very closely, but listening to those moments, Jonathan, did it bring back any memories from your work covering the vaccines arrival?

Speaker 4: (04:21)

Oh, definitely. Uh, yeah, I, I remember that day very well. I think it was a Tuesday morning. I remember showing up at Rady children's hospital, probably around 6:00 AM, 6:30 AM in the morning. It was very dark, very cold showed up there with a photographer, Casey Alfred, and, uh, you know, we were there with the Rady's team, uh, essentially waiting for that for a ship into arrive. It's probably the most highly anticipated, uh, midsize FedEx van in recent San Diego history because that's the way the vaccine doses came in in this FedEx van and, uh, sort of a packaged box that was kept with a lot of, uh, insulation materials to keep the vaccine doses cold. And I remember talking to Ron and there were some other reporters, really mild mannered, uh, soft-spoken reserved guy, and all these other journalists were asking him and maybe a dozen different ways to sum up the mood and the spirit.

Speaker 4: (05:18)

And that moment, I think the one word that we used in our story that he said was that there was really this feeling of hallelujah when that vaccine came in and, uh, you know, Dr. Nicholas Holmes, the chief operating officer at Rady talked early that morning about the vaccine marking a shift in the fight against this virus, really from defense to offense, to having this really powerful tool that healthcare workers could go out and administer to the community. So that was all happening early in the morning. Uh, we wrote up a story as quick as we could, and then basically came back in the afternoon for the action, which was the vaccination because, you know, the vaccine vials were frozen. So they had to warm up for a few hours. So came back to Rady and it was really a festive atmosphere. You know, it was like Christmas had come early for some of these health, health care workers. People had been on the front lines of the pandemic for months who had, you know, lost patients, some people who had lost family members. Uh, I remember speaking with, with folks who had lost relatives to COVID, so it was definitely a festive atmosphere and that's, uh, a day and a clip and a moment in the pandemic that, uh, that I'll remember for a very long time.

Speaker 1: (06:30)

We're speaking with Jonathan Rosen, he's a reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. And we're so glad he's here to talk all things COVID, let's shift now to the news of the week, the big news that has a lot of people concerned about a possible, another setback. How big of an issue is this new COVID-19 variant it's being called OMI Cron. It seems like everyone right now is talking about it, but there's a lot we still don't know. Right?

Speaker 4: (06:51)

Absolutely. And frankly, the short answer to the question of how big of an issue is this variant is really the it's a bit unclear and that's a picture that'll clear up in the coming weeks and maybe months to some degree. And that's because there are these big questions that are out there that haven't been answered yet. And that comes down to is OMI Cron more transmissible than Delta? If so, how much, how well do vaccines work against this variant? If you're infected with Omicron, are you any more likely to end up in the hospital or to even die from COVID compared to an infection with previous strains like Delta? So those are at least three huge questions. We don't really have concrete answers to any of them at this particular point in time. Uh, there's no reason to believe that OMI Cron will be a sort of a game changer in the sense of the vaccines being dramatically less effective.

Speaker 4: (07:54)

Uh, we have a lot of tools against this virus that didn't exist a year and a half ago in terms of the vaccines, in terms of our understanding of how effective masks can be. Uh, you know, there's some hints that monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as effective against Omicron. We saw a statement from, uh, Regeneron to that effect, but there's no clear data on that just yet. On the flip side, you have people like Eric Holman, Sapphire at LA Jolla Institute of technology, who was part of an effort to test literally hundreds of different antibody treatments against the different strains out there, including Omicron. I was actually speaking with her yesterday. So there's a lot of work being done, not too many clear answers. Uh, I would say definitely cause for a careful research, but not necessarily alarm given everything we've learned and all the tools we have against the pandemic at this point in time.

Speaker 1: (08:51)

Yeah. And I, I know you mentioned right there, you know, not necessarily cause for alarm yet. Uh, but there is definitely a cause for concern and I know myself, somebody who's new to sort of the health reporting field. Um, it seems like that there's some signs that, you know, medical experts can see when it comes to, Hey, we think that this facts where we think that this strain is going to be less susceptible to the virus. Um, and Jonathan is that because, you know, we're hearing, you know, with Delta, which we know is more contagious than it mutated, maybe about four times, but we're hearing maybe that Omicron is mutated about 30 times, is that why officials are sort of worried that, uh, it may, uh, you know, elude some of this, uh, vaccine effectiveness. Yeah,

Speaker 4: (09:27)

That's a good point. So, and that's definitely true. So OMI Cron seems to have about 30 mutations in the part of the viruses surface called the spike. That's the protein that actually grabs onto your cells and allows the virus to infect them and start replicating inside of them. So, you know, when you have that many mutations, there's some chance that a few of them or several of them, uh, individually or working together, uh, may allow the virus to be less sensitive, to antibodies, less sensitive to other aspects of the immune response. There are things in principle that are concerning and that's true. And that's why researchers are paying such close attention to this strain.

Speaker 1: (10:09)

Let's sort of wrap up here with some news for you professionally, Jonathan you'll soon be joining stat news. It's an online outlet that focuses on life sciences. Now this is a big loss for San Diego, but tell us more about your new gig and the kind of content that readers should expect to find that stat news. Well, I'm hoping it's not

Speaker 4: (10:25)

Too big of a loss because I'll still be living in San Diego and I'll be joining stat specifically to cover life science and biotech along the west coast. And, you know, we are us and the bay area are basically the two hubs of life science activity in the state. So I expect to still be, you know, writing quite a bit about the research, basic research about the pharmaceutical companies and the biotech companies here, as well as in other parts of the state. So I figured the new role will look a little bit like the current one, but maybe for a bit of a different audience, a broader audience. Uh, but yeah, stat news, uh, just to give you the quick rundown is basically a health and science focused news organization that started back in 2015. They're part of the same umbrella company as the Boston globe.

Speaker 4: (11:14)

Uh, and so they, they do a lot of biotech and pharma coverage essentially a year round. I mean, I think they've gotten a lot of visibility because of the pandemic and a lot of the work that they've done on that front. Um, but they, they sort of focused pretty specifically on, um, on that sector. And I think it'll be probably good for, for them to, you know, have me out here and it'll be good for me because, uh, there's a whole lot to cover and you know, a whole lot to learn that I'm still exploring. So I, I think people, if you've liked things I've written for the union Tribune, you know, I think, uh, stat news will probably be sort of, uh, more of the same and maybe diving a little bit deeper into what these companies are really doing and what they're really

Speaker 1: (11:58)

Contributing. You're staying local. So then we'll look forward to having you back on soon. Then I've been speaking with Jonathan Rosen, he's a biotech reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. And thanks so much for your time, Jonathan.

Speaker 4: (12:09)

Absolutely. Anytime

Speaker 2: (12:12)


Speaker 6: (12:20)

We came to Texas to make a deal. Um, we committed to the process. We made proposals and it just did not happen after the owner's meeting in Chicago. I made clear the rationale for an off season lockout. It's the norm in professional sports. And we feel it's the best strategy to protect the 2022 season for the benefit of our fans. We made the mistake of playing without a collective bargaining agreement in 1994. And it costs our fans and our clubs dearly. We will not make that same mistake. Again, we understand it's bad for our business. We took it out of a desire to drive the process forward to an agreement.

Speaker 1: (13:02)

Now, if you go to the Padres website these days, it's a much different place gone is any mention of off season player signings or trades and the young face of baseball, Padre superstar, Fernando Tatis Jr is nowhere to be found that's because he and all of his teammates are blanked out and replaced by dark generic silhouettes, digitally erase from the team's roster page. The orders come from the top with major league baseball owners imposing a lockout this week. It's the first disruption to labor peace. Since the disastrous strike that wiped out the world series a generation ago here for a quick check on where this is going is a familiar voice to San Diego radio, former sports talk show host and broadcaster Lee Hacksaw Hamilton Haley,

Speaker 7: (13:46)

Good afternoon. We knew this was coming. It has arrived. I fear it's going to go on for a long period of time. And the first days of the lockout have now been hammered by a war of words. It's broken out between Rob Manfred, the commissioner, Tony Clark, the head of the union, and there will be a lot of rhetoric going forward. And you made reference to them, erasing all the pictures of all the players and all the, all the columns that were written about Friesian signings. That's really Ticketek while you're doing that to your fans, you want to continue to sell your teams and what they've accomplished and what might happen going forward. I just, I was stunned when I woke up in the morning and I saw what they had done to each of the major league teams, website, really ticky tack, but this, this civil war words is going to go for a while.

Speaker 1: (14:37)

And if you could just clarify for some of our listeners, what's the distinction between a lockout and a strike. And is this something that's sort of all about money?

Speaker 7: (14:45)

Everything is about money. Everything is about a pie that keeps getting bigger and bigger. And I want a bigger share of the pie. A strike is when players withhold their services. Last time we saw it was the bloodshed that happened in 1994 in the middle of the pennant race that effectively killed the Montreal expos franchise. And Rob Tony Quinn have a chance to hit 400. A lockout is we're not going to do business the way we've been doing business until we come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement. There's no damage done by triggering a lockout in December. If they had just continued to talk and nothing got accomplished, and here came to spring training and the players decided we're not coming to camp. Now you got real significant financial damages. And then of course, if it spills into the regular season, none of the players stopped getting paid and the damages get even bigger. So I'm not panicked about the lockout, but that's the background. And the difference between the two,

Speaker 1: (15:43)

Uh, uh, you know, a lot of fans have really enjoyed seeing a lot of these free agent signings and some of these blockbuster trades among teams, but that's all on hold right now, right?

Speaker 7: (15:51)

Exactly. There was no business at all. And all we're getting now is the rhetoric. Can I use, I use the term war of words, Rob Manfred on Thursday morning said, we're not going to allow baseball to go back to what happened in 1994, which was when they killed half the season. Things like that. Uh, he said the union's vision will not allow half the teams in baseball to be profitable. Now, Tony Clark, San Diego native head of the union player association, he says the free agent system is broken. Now how stupid of comment is that Matt, within the last 48 hours, baseball team spent 1.6 billion in free agent signings of guaranteed contracts for all the stars of the game. To me, that system does not look like it's broken. Now the system I think needs to be changed. And I'll tell you the other factor in the equation, Matt, everything in these negotiations is like a chain link fence. One link is tied to another link as it relates to dollars. The missing word in all this rhetoric that we've gotten in the last 24 hours, the missing word is partnership. And that's what I think they have to adopt to find a solution because the pie's big and they all want a bigger slice of the pie, but there needs to be a partnership. Not me beating you with the negotiating table. At least that's my one man's opinion on that.

Speaker 1: (17:16)

I've been talking with Lee, Hacksaw, Hamilton, longtime sports talk show, host and broadcaster here in San Diego. You can get his best 15 column at Lee Hacksaw, And thanks so much for your timely,

Speaker 7: (17:28)

My pleasure all the time at that to talk to you again,

Speaker 1: (17:41)

It can be hard to relate to millionaires and billionaires fighting over money. Especially if you just paid rent in San Diego, housing is only more expensive and it's changing our neighborhoods. It's also the focus of a special forum. KPBS is putting together next week. Here's Christina Kim with a previous

Speaker 8: (17:58)

Gentrification. It's the word we often use to talk about how our cities and neighborhoods are changing as investment begins to flow in. Sometimes the signs of it are obvious. The large housing development with price points so high, no one in the neighborhood can afford it. Other times it's something a little more subtle and slow. The you hip coffee shop the art crawl, bringing in new faces to the neighborhood or the Spanish immersion program. That's suddenly become highly competitive while the sudden influx of wealth and development into certain neighborhoods may seem like a good thing on paper. Quite often. It also means the displacement of the residents who have been living there for generations. According to a 2020 study, the San Diego Metro area is the 14th, most intensely gentrifying Metro in the country. So what does that really mean for the people of San Diego? Let's talk about it. Join me, Cristina Kim KPBS is race and equity reporter on Wednesday, December 8th, at 6:00 PM for an online community conversation with tuber Rocca, a barber and resident of Southeast San Diego, Julie [inaudible] of the environmental health coalition, Isaac Martin of UC San Diego, and you visit to register. See you there.

Speaker 1: (19:17)

It's one of Southern California's most distinctive and unique landmarks. The two massive silos nestled just south of San Clemente and steps from the ocean. It's almost a visual halfway point when making the drive from San Diego to Disneyland. And over the years, we've covered the long and slow process of deactivating the Santa, no fray power plant. And it still may be many years before. It's a race from the landscape. Not many reporters get a behind the scenes, look at this demolition, but NBC San Diego is Joe Little, got an in-person tour this week. And he's here to tell us all about what he saw. Hey, Joe. Hello.

Speaker 9: (19:51)

How you doing buddy?

Speaker 1: (19:52)

Doing good. Doing good. Great to have you here. Okay. So let's get into it. How did this tour come together? Was there sort of something in particular that staff at San Onofre that they want to show you, or you were just working on this request for a while?

Speaker 9: (20:05)

I, I think I have a one I did not work on this for a while. This is one of those situations where my assignment manager said, you're doing this. Uh, but to go back on your question, I believe sent a no for a, uh, Southern California Edison, which owns it the property. I think they've, uh, they've been working on this because they invited just me and they invited, uh, someone from the UT and then someone from the voice of San Diego to go along. And we were the only ones there. And it was a long tour.

Speaker 1: (20:33)

Local media has covered this story for a long time, as you know, uh, while there might not be a lot to say, you know, there's not always a lot to show. How does this sort of access, you know, this behind the scenes to our help you add color to what can be sort of a, maybe dry topic? Well,

Speaker 9: (20:48)

It's one of those things that everyone recognizes this landmark. We all have our own dad jokes. We all have our own landmarks. A lot of people when you drive up and down the five that it's, that's our landmark. We know we're either almost there or halfway there, or it's just that landmark where all the dads and kids point and say, ha ha ha. But I think because thousands and thousands of us drive by it every day, it's theirs, but we've very few of us have had a chance to go and walk around it, stand at its base and look up and just sort of see what goes on there. It pulls back the cool curtain on it. And, and one of the things that even though there's not a lot of moving parts, it's not incredibly sexy. It's a, it's a huge chunk of concrete out there just getting that access and going and taking people's eyes. Places they never get to go is is, is really the story to show the progress what's going on. But I also believe that Southern California, California Edison also wanted to do it so that they can reassure people that they are doing everything in their power to do this long, long process safely.

Speaker 1: (22:01)

Okay. So tell me a little bit more about what you learned on your tour, you know, is the demolition on schedule? Do we know how long it's gonna take,

Speaker 9: (22:07)

Oh my God. Talk about a slow process there. The number they gave me is a hundred billion pounds of garbage of concrete metal wood that they're taking out of there. And it's so much that they've taken away, that they are building their own railroad yard right there on site. So the re they, they created a fork off the railroad tracks that the, the, the, the Amtrak goes on and it goes right into their yard. And they're creating this, this system in there so that they could load up railroad cars, worth of waste to take out of here. And one of the cool things I learned is that 100% of everything that existed at Seminole fray, from the desks and chunks of concrete, all the way up to the radioactive spent fuel rods, fuel cells, all of it, we leading the state of California, nothing will stay here.

Speaker 1: (23:04)

And so for those who use those as sort of visual markers, when they're driving on the freeway, it sounds like that those silos aren't going to be gone for at least a few more years,

Speaker 9: (23:11)

Uh, 20, 28. So 2027, they said is when they expect to begin putting Jack hammers into the side of those silos, they look like domes from the highway, but they're actually two silos to burst anyone's bubble. Um, they expect them to both be gone. They're called unit two and unit three by the end of 2028. So those landmarks will be gone forever in the next six to seven years.

Speaker 1: (23:38)

You've been reporting here in San Diego for a while, and people who follow your work or your social media presence know that you're a passionate and accomplished visual storyteller. And you do a lot of work teaching colleagues through the NPPA that's the national press photographers association. Uh, first story like this, how do you approach it from a visual standpoint for

Speaker 9: (23:57)

This one? Cause this one is, is different. This was a challenge for me because I usually like to take people up close with super up-close shots and, and natural sound, letting people hear the noise of what's going on for this thing. It's just, uh, it's, it's more the grand jury of what was there, everything there is so huge. So I had to take a step back literally and figuratively zoom out with my camera and hit record and let people see the enormity of these sayings to see what they look like from the other side of the, of the silos to let them see the old generators that have now been the turbines and the generator that have now been uncovered. And they're being hit by the elements now, um, just to show those people that this is what it is. There's not too many closeups available in a place like that. One of the cool things and most important things about our job is to take people, places and their eyes, places that they don't usually go or see, we take and television and, and, and photojournalism, we take your eyeballs places. They don't go well. This is like literally taking you on the other side of the famous Senator, Jeffrey domes and showing you what's going on, what they look like now. And you know, this might be your last look at these domes before they are torn down forever.

Speaker 1: (25:22)

Joe Lidl is a multimedia journalist for NBC seven here in San Diego. He's on Twitter and Instagram at little Joe TV. Thanks so much for your time, Joe.

Speaker 9: (25:33)

Thank you, brother. Appreciate it. Thank

Speaker 1: (25:35)

You so much for tuning into this week's edition of KPBS round table. And thank you to my guests, Jonathan Rosen from the San Diego union Tribune sports writer and broadcaster Lee, Hacksaw Hamilton and Joe Little from NBC San Diego. If you missed any part of our show, you can listen anytime on the KPBS round table podcast. I'm Matt Hoffman. Join us next week on round table.

A nurse inspects the first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in San Diego on Dec. 14, 2020.
County of San Diego
A nurse inspects the first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in San Diego on Dec. 14, 2020.
KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman hosts a discussion on San Diego soon reaching the one year mark since the COVID-19 vaccine arrival, Major League Baseball's labor fight as owners begin a lockout, and a rare look inside the demolition underway at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman talks with San Diego Union-Tribune biotech reporter Jonathan Wosen about the arrival of the COVID-19 omicron variant in California and the progress made against the virus one year after vaccines arrived in San Diego. Also, local sportswriter and broadcaster Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton weighs in on the start of the Major League Baseball lockout and what it means for the San Diego Padres. We also hear from NBC San Diego reporter Joe Little about getting a rare behind-the-scenes look at the slow demolition of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.