Some City Parks Reopening, With Rules
San Diego News Matters / April 21, 2020
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said some city parks will reopen to the public Tuesday, following weeks of COVID-19 related closures, but there will be some extra rules. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: San Diego Unified School District could extend distance learning through the summer to make up for lost instruction and more local news you need.
In a tweet, president Donald Trump said late Monday night that he will sign an executive order “to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” because of the coronavirus.
Trump offered no details as to what immigration programs might be affected by the order. And the White House has yet to elaborate on the tweeted announcement.
Meanwhile in San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said some city parks will reopen to the public starting today.
City parks have been closed for weeks to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Clip City Presser 4-20
We want to provide, of course, an outlet for the people to be physically and mentally active as we grapple with this new normal going forward.
But he said there will be some extra rules.
Parkgoers will be limited to individual activities, with all social distancing, face covering and other health-related measures remaining in effect.
The mayor said discussions are underway for a phased reopening of beaches and other public places, but said San Diego would not reopen the beaches until the city received guidance from the county.
Local food banks are in need.
At the city’s press conference Monday, the leaders of Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food Bank put a call out to the community to donate more food to families in need.
Vince Hall, the CEO of Feeding San Diego, said the situation is dire.
FOOD BANK CLIP FROM City Presser 4-20
Today we're in the largest hunger crisis. Of perhaps a century, hundreds of thousands of San Diego are in need of food assistance due to unemployment to school closures, uh, to business closures. And many of these families are accessing food assistance for the first time.
If you have food or financial contributions, go to feedingsandiego dot org or san diego food bank dot com.
Also on Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom said Californians are beginning to flatten the viral curve. But its not going down… yet.
Newsom said we need to see that downward trend before the state will begin easing stay-at-home orders.
There were protests over the weekend in San Diego and elsewhere, demanding the state be reopened. The governor said he understands the anxieties of all Californians but that the state has to take a data-driven approach.
GOVERNOR PRESSER CLIP
We must have a health-first focus if we’re gonna come back economically…...economic recovery.
And for the latest COVID count: County health officials reported another 57 people tested positive for a total of 2,325 cases, and the death toll increased by one to 72.
I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to KPBS daily podcast San Diego News Matters.
It’s Tuesday, April 21.
Stick with me for more of the local news you need.
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Educators agree that distance learning is a poor substitute for in-class learning.
But with the coronavirus pandemic leaving school buildings shuttered indefinitely, it’s looking more and more like the only option they have for at least the rest of this school year.
The question now facing districts across San Diego County is whether to extend distance learning through the summer to make up for lost instruction.
Officials at the San Diego Unified School District say it’s the best way to mitigate the widening of achievement gaps while schools are closed.
In an interview with KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong, School Board Vice President Richard Barrera said continuing distance learning through the summer could cost San Diego Unified 50 million dollars.
But he said it’s far better than doing nothing.
no question the gaps will widen
there's no question that distance learning will mean that those gaps widen, uh, because certain students, the students who are most likely to fall behind during distance learning are the most vulnerable students. However, what is also a certainty is doing nothing will widen those gaps, uh, you know, uh, more than doing something uh, so, you know, we know that, you know, families who have some means and some ability I, uh, to okay pay for private tutors, uh, to enroll their students in, uh, you know, uh, uh, private lessons of some sort. We'll do so. And that's great. And, and we applaud that. Obviously in a district like ours where two thirds of our students live in poverty, that's not a possibility for most of our students.
Barrera told Hong the school district has not given up completely on the idea of opening schools back up.
But only if and when the governor and health officials say it’s ok.
And even then, social distancing practices would still be put in place.
possibility of staggered schedules
so, you know, is there a possibility that we can start. Maybe not bringing all of our students back, but bringing, you know, um, certain numbers of students back, you know, maybe in staggered schedules. Um, so the, uh, you know, our ability to do that. Mmm. You know, and to the extent that we can at least deliver some of that in our schools, uh, would be ideal.
At this time, though, Barrera said extending the school year and continuing distance learning seems like the more likely option.
we believe summer school is necessary
We believe it's necessary. And we've been clear. That, uh, you know, the ideal situation for us would be a simple extension of the school year by five or six weeks for all of our students. And that would be about $50 million to do that, or about $500 per student, which we think would be consistent around the state. So the question is, you know, is the some combination of state and federal funding. Again, I'll allow us to do that.
Whether or not the funding would be made available - from the state or the federal government - to pay for extending the school year is still a big question.
And San Diego Unified's teachers aren't yet sold on the extension either.
Teachers union president Kisha Borden told Hong that teachers are always open to doing what's best for students and educators to minimize the impact of the pandemic on students. But she says they are exhausted and many have already lined up summer jobs.
Initial restrictions on who gets tested for COVID-19 helped make sure limited resources went to those who needed it most.
But KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento says as facilities rapidly increased their testing resources, some are now facing an OVER - capacity..
Sharp, UCSD, Scripps and Palomar health systems say they're running fewer tests than they can actually handle.
Two are processing hundreds of tests below what they could and are loosening guidelines to better use the excess capacity.
San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten says the county wants to do that region wide and announced a task force to work on it.
"...to convene county hospitals, relevant clinics and commercial laboratory systems that are responsible for testing throughout our county to look at how these individual systems can increase testing to the capacity that already exists as well as adding additional capacity."
Wooten says that could mean expanding testing to those living in long-term care facilities or low-income communities. Health care providers are already testing all homeless individuals at the San Diego Convention Center, regardless of symptoms.
Wooten will provide more details on the task force at the board of supervisors meeting today.
Many doctors, nurses, police officers and other essential workers still need childcare.
So San Diego County has allowed daycare providers to stay open only for those workers.
But KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser found that the county isn't always enforcing these rules and some essential workers are on their own.
DAYCARE PODCAST CUT
Like many parents of young children, Julia Najera (who-LEE-yah nah-JEER-ah) and Shawn Starr are trying to figure out how to work from home while caring for their four-year-old son. He was in daycare, but he was kicked out because Shawn Starr is a nurse.
[00:06:27] Once they found out that I'd be taking care of Covid-positive patients at the hospital, as most nurses right now, they asked us to keep our son home the entire month of April. [00:06:41][13.8]
This isn't how it's supposed to work. San Diego County in its stay at home order allows for daycares to only stay open to care for children of essential workers--no one else. In this case, the opposite happened--Starr's son couldn't go, but the daycare was still open for nonessential workers, according to the couple. Starr didn't want to provide the name of their daycare.
[00:11:49] The only reason they were allowed to stay open was to provide care to essential workers. And yet they discriminated against probably one of the only essential workers that were still using their services by staying open for all the other kids. They were doing the exact opposite of what they were supposed to be doing. [00:12:10][20.9]
"We're required to only accept children from essential workers."
Holly Weber owns and runs Magic Hours Preschool in Mira Mesa, and she is following the county rules--children of nonessential workers are no longer allowed at her daycare. Though she says no one is checking up on her.
"They're not requiring us to regulate or verify in any way what the parents do for a living. We just know our families and what they do for a living."
San Diego County officials didn't respond to a KPBS reporter's request for comment on the assertions made by Starr and Weber.
Weber says it's very difficult to stay open right now--but it's important to her.
"It's what we do. We are a family that takes care of families, we take care of those children because their parents need us to help them with that. It would be much more difficult to close the doors and discontinue the only option parents may have."
The dilemma is obvious: essential workers like doctors, nurses, police officers and grocery store clerks need someone to care for their young kids. But that means the daycares that serve these families could be hotbeds for spreading the coronavirus. So says Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rady Children's Hospital.
"It's hard to control young children and keep them spaced apart, it's impractical to try to make them wear masks, it's hard to teach them and get them to wash hands. All the things that are things done to control infection are challenging."
He says the large majority of children aren't getting sick from Covid-19, but they can still spread the disease.
"Some people have no symptoms at a time when they're contagious, and children even more so, so you can have the best of intentions and be planning not to send your kids when they're sick, but by the time they're sick it's already too late. Then other children have the potential to get sick, and then they go home, and that cascades the illness from family member to family member."
Ideally, Dr. Sawyer says each family of an essential worker would have individual childcare at home, but he knows that's not an option.
SOT [00:00:18] luckily our daycare, which is an in-home daycare, is still open. [00:00:21][3.7]
One essential worker whose two-year-old daughter is still in daycare is San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate.
[00:00:57] my wife's watching our son while I do these calls or last week we had a nine hours council meeting. [00:01:05][8.5]
He knows how important child care is, so he's working to help essential workers find care for their kids, and is asking San Diego County to provide free daycare for essential workers
[00:07:48] We want their mindset to be on fighting the pandemic and treating patients and not worrying about child care and who will take care of their kids, or maybe they can't go because they have to take care of their kids. [00:08:02][14.4]
A recent survey found there are 12,000 hospital workers with young children, and more than 1,000 of them are single parents.
A spokeswoman for San Diego County said police, not county officials, should be enforcing regulations at daycares.
Our experience is this pandemic feels like nothing like this has ever happened to us before, but, of course, it's not the first time a virus has swept the globe.
It's helpful to look at what we learned from the last major pandemic in 1918 .
The San Diego history center has records from 1918 and has launched a new project to collect our own personal stories of this pandemic to document this moment in history.
Elsa Sevilla, director of external affairs at the History Center, and Iris Engstrand, professor emeritus of history at the University of San Diego, talked to KPBS Midday Edition’s Alison St. John about the 1918 flu…
how it can inform our responses and add context to our current challenges.
MIDDAY FLU PACKAGE
Speaker 1: 01:34 Irish. The the 1918 flu is sometimes referred to as a Spanish flu, but it didn't originate there at all. Did it? How did it get that name? Briefly?
Speaker 3: 01:41 No. The reason it was called the Spanish flu is that Spain was not involved in world war one. And so they were free to broadcast whatever they felt like. And so they talked about the flu and kept talking about how dangerous it was and where it was spreading. And so the only news that people were getting came from Spain. So they just kind of started calling it the, the Spanish flu somewhat in the same way as we, uh, sober people referring to the China virus. It had no more, you know, we, that's not an accurate description.
Speaker 1: 02:16 And you say that we here in San Diego saw some of the earliest cases of that flu back in 1918. Why was that?
Speaker 3: 02:24 Well, when they were in the, uh, the servicemen, they were, uh, first of all 11 men at the camp Kearney and it seemed to spread there. Then also we had a Naval, uh, operation at Balboa park and so they were housed close together. So the, it's almost a simultaneous breakout between the Navy there and the army at camp Kearney didn't involve too many people. There were like 11 at camp Kearney and uh, just, you know, a handful at Balbo park. But this is how it got started
Speaker 1: 02:56 because we were a military center. Interesting. Back then, the illness was pretty much of a mystery to people. Right. What do they know about it?
Speaker 3: 03:04 You know, they didn't have very much information like we do down not having internet, not having, you know, communication throughout the world to find out what was happening in different places. They just had to do their best. And uh, although we did have 5,000 sailors in Belvaux park under quarantine and they started issuing directions just like they did with this Corona vote, a virus about, you know, they shut down all the schools, theaters, movie houses, gym, pool halls, churches.
Speaker 1: 03:50 So one of the San Diego Katie's daily briefings now from supervisor Nathan Fletcher said that they reopened too soon back. Then here's that clip.
Speaker 4: 04:00 What you see in response to that pandemic was a number of jurisdictions that did not move fast enough to put in place restrictions early and they paid a tremendous upfront costs. But what you will also see in response to that was a number of jurisdictions that came out of their restrictions too soon and they had a second wave that in some ways was much greater than the first wave.
Speaker 1: 04:23 So talk to me about that.
Speaker 3: 04:24 They thought they were over it and they opened it too soon. They opened it shortly after the armistice in November 17th in 1918 but that was premature and they had to reopen and uh, the restrictions December six. So we have to make sure that we don't do the same thing now and, and uh, remove the restrictions too soon.
Speaker 1: 04:48 No. Back in 1918 worldwide, there were 50 million people who died. How does San Diego County do in terms of cases and deaths back in 1918?
Speaker 3: 04:57 Yeah, we have to remember that San Diego only had 75,000 people. But out of that, we had 5,040 cases and for about 366 deaths. So, you know, it sounds little, but if you multiplied it in terms of what we have today, if 1.3 million that would translate into 88,000 or almost 90,000 cases and more than 6,000 is it just that we were so much smaller
Speaker 1: 05:27 and also looking forward, the, the history center is, is documenting San Diego's experience of the Corona virus. Tell us how you're doing that.
Speaker 2: 05:35 So we are collecting, um, stories and what people are doing during the pandemic. Um, if people can go to our website, San Diego history.org and they fill out a questionnaire, a very simple questionnaire that, you know, allows people to talk about what they're going through, how they're coping, what's their experience, um, what's their experience outside the house? Are they all at home? A different questions like that. And so what we're doing is we're documenting history as it happens. And these are historic times. I mean, to see the pandemic similar to the 1918 again in San Diego. Um, you know, we looked up those photos in the archives that show people with masks around San Diego. And I thought just a few months ago when I looked at the photos again, I said, Oh, this would never happen. I mean, how could it, and here we are, but what we want to do and we're doing is collecting the stories and the history of San Diego from all communities.
Speaker 2: 06:36 And that's our mission is to collect, um, history and we're doing it. Um, as it happens, we want people from San Ysidro, from national city, from San Marcos, you know, all the way to Julianne to go onto our website, San Diego history.org, because we want to document the, the history from different communities because everybody has a different experience. And so we really encourage people to do that. And we are also looking to get those stories in Spanish. We have a form, uh, very soon that will be in Spanish and it would allow people to enter their, their experiences in Spanish as well. So we encourage everyone. The website is San Diego history.org, and it's the San Diego history center in Babel park. And our mission is to collect history all the time. And especially during these times. So are you looking for photographs as well as personal essays, things like that?
Speaker 2: 07:31 Oh definitely. Yes. We're looking for photographs. We're looking for videos that people have taken. They can submit that as well. Uh, we're looking for, um, you know, short essays and we are getting a lot from students already. We've received hundreds of entries and students, you know, are very interested in telling their story. And so, um, it's pretty incredible to hear the different, uh, age racquets whether they're, you know, we heard from a seven year old young lady who moved f rom Las Vegas because her mother had died. So she came to live with her grandmother, I believe about two years ago. And so she writes about the experience that she's had to go through and now going through the pandemic. And fortunately her grandmother's there to tell her that things are going to be okay. You know, we have to wash our hands, we have to be healthy and we have to keep our distance from people. She also talks about how she's, I'm staying in contact with her classmates and her friends via zoom or Skype or those kinds of things. So it's really detailed information that we're hearing from people and it's pretty incredible. But I think what will even be more incredible is, you know, maybe in a year, 2050 a hundred years from now when people go back and listen to what we went through during the pandemic, I think it's going to be super interesting for people to see photos, videos, the, and to hear from
Speaker 1: 08:56 different people in San Diego and what the pandemic was like in 2020.
That was Elsa Sevilla, director of external affairs at the History Center and Iris Engstrand, professor emeritus of history at the University of San Diego talking to Midday Edition’s Alison St. John. To hear the full interview, subscribe to the Midday Edition podcast on apple podcasts or wherever you listen.
And before I go, a bit about a local virtual poetry series y’all might want to check out. It’s organized by San Diego poet Adam Greenfield who used to run live poetry readings around town, but like everyone else has moved his efforts online.
VIRTUAL POETRY CLIP 1
At 7 p.m. Wednesday April 22nd, the Viral Poetry Series on Instagram will feature live virtual readings from San Diego writers and poets Rose Curatolo and B.H. Pitt.
VIRTUAL POETRY CLIP 2
Same, Adam, same.
Thanks for listening.