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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | Election 2020

Gyms And Religious Services Can Move Outdoors

Cover image for podcast episode

Picnic tables are seen behind yellow caution tape in the pavilion at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park, Aug. 5, 2020.

NICHOLAS MCVICKER

County supervisors approved a measure Wednesday to allow gyms and houses of worship to meet outdoors at county parks, as more activities move outside to limit the spread of COVID-19. And, clean air advocates fall short in their bid to protect communities of color from fossil fuel extraction in urban areas. Plus, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Wednesday that California had reported issues with private labs and reporting, meaning some additional cases might be retroactively added to both local and statewide case totals in coming weeks.

San Diego County is joining a growing list of jurisdictions with expanded outdoor business and religious activities. COVID-19 is far less likely to spread outdoors than indoors, and San Diego's agreeable climate has made moving activities outside an easy alternative. The County Board of Supervisors Wednesday approved a measure to streamline permitting for outdoor gyms and religious services at reservable county parks. Supervisor Dianne Jacob sponsored the action.

OUTDOORS 2A 0:16
DJ: We're being as innovative as possible and as flexible as possible to help our businesses and our churches, our gyms and other businesses as much as possible under some very, very understandable, strict circumstances.

The move comes a day after the city of San Diego extended its fast-track approval for outdoor dining, retail, salons, worship services and gyms. Similar measures have been passed in Chula Vista, National City, Poway and other cities.

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California companies could soon be required to tell their employees if someone in their workplace has been exposed to COVID 19. Assembly Bill 6-85 would also require employers to report to CAL-OSHA if a worker tests positive, if there's an order to quarantine, or if a worker dies from a cause that could be COVID 19 related.

San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez says the legislation is crucial to stopping the spread of the virus in the Latinx community.

REPORTING 2A :12
"It will prevent our Latino communities from taking that home and exposing their families. We know that's also happening and so this is essential we think to stop the bleeding in our community."

If all goes well, the bill could be on the Governor's desk in a few weeks.

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State Senator Ben Hueso, a Democrat from Chula Vista, voted against a bill Wednesday that would increase buffer zones between oil or gas pumps and homes or schools.

The bill was before the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.

He called the bill a publicity stunt at a time quote “when we cannot afford publicity stunts.”

Assembly Bill 3-45 was widely panned by the oil industry and labor groups, but it was praised by environmentalists. Hueso rejected the bill, asking if it was essential legislation during this pandemic. He got pushback from other committee members who say clean air for communities of color is essential business. Community advocates say more than five million Californians live within a mile of a drilling site - though none of those sites are in San Diego County. The bill will be reconsidered next week.

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I’m Anica Colbert, filling in for Kinsee Morlan.
It’s thursday August 6th. You’re listening to San Diego News Matters from KPBS News.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day.

Recovery efforts are still underway in Lebanon's capital city,after an explosion killed at least135 people and injured thousands more.

Doris Bittar (Bee-tar) is a North Park resident and has lived in Beirut. She says many in the capital city, including her cousin, can't count on the government right now.

LOCALBEIRUT 2A
They're just going to take matters into their own hands not in terms of government but in terms of cleaning the place up and rebuilding (:06)

Seeing the once vibrant capital city of Beirut in shambles is not easy for Bittar.

LOCALBEIRUT 2B
The main feeling I have is aside from sadness is frustration it feels like lebanon has hit rock bottom right now (:06)

Kpbs reporter Matt Hoffman spoke to another San Diegan who has roots in Lebanon, Mark Kabban.
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LOCALBEIRUT 1 (1:00)
00:01:20:19 Kabban
My family is lebanese and we emigrated the country during the civil war
Mark Kabban spent the early part of his life living in Lebanon and says family members tell him the blast has devastated the capital city.
00:05:29:19 Kabban
Their windows are blown up their businesses are blown up all the mom and pop businesses around the port in the surrounding cities four kilometers have lost everything
The explosion is thought to have been caused by nearly 3-thousand tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate being stored near the port..
00:04:08:10 Kabban
To think about san diego this would be like our port but to image that it's the only port in your city that brings in any supplies medicine, food vaccinations
For Kabban the explosion comes at a crucial time -- Lebanon is strapped for cash and their currency is plummeting--
00:11:13:14 Kabban
How do we rebuild the country? There are thousands of people that have lost everything. If you see the streets they are unrecognizable. Matt Hoffman KPBS News

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San Diego County now has a hotline for reporting violations of the Covid public health orders. Health officials said wednesday 10 more people died from the virus and that there are 348 new cases. It comes as the state is reporting technical glitches that may have led to an under-reporting of cases.

Here's KPBS’ Health reporter Tarryn Mento with more…..

WEDCOVID TRT: 3:00
{San Diego County officials say they are working to determine if the region was affected by a technical glitch at the state level that may have undercounted cases.
00;09;24;03 This is primarily from the commercial labs
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher says positives confirmed by county and local labs are reporting back to the county. But commercial labs communicate directly to the state.
ID: Nathan Fletcher / San Diego County Supervisor
WEDCOVID 1A
00;09;50;00 There's been a breakdown in that reporting system...missing and over what time frame
Because of that …. Not all tests they processed -- which Fletcher says isn't an insignificant amount -- may not have been clearly communicated with counties.
00;10;01;00 ...w e know and expect those to be shared with us in the near future
Until then he says it would be irresponsible to speculate on how many were missed or their results. But officials say staff is making progress on how quickly they're investigating new cases that are reported to the county.
00;26;11;00 So this is very good news… with any other case investigation assignments
San Diego County's public health officer Dr Wilma Wooten says the increased staff and recent lower number of daily cases …. helped it improve on this point. She says lower daily cases also helped improve the county's case rate to get it closer to coming off the state's watch list.
ID: Dr. Wilma Wooten / San Diego County Public Health Officer
WEDCOVID 2A
00;22;43;05 It is a really thanks to everyone in san diego that have done their part to change this metric so we want everyone to keep u the great work and hopefully next week we will see that articular metric also normalize
However… this differs from what's currently listed on the state's website and Wooten says that could be outdated or using a different calculation. The county is also still seeing far more community outbreaks at businesses than its threshold… Supervisor Greg Cox announced a new compliance hotline for San Diegans to report those not in line with public health orders.
ID: Greg Cox / San Diego County Supervisor
00;01;03;16 The number for the call center….2900 (white flash) 00;01;23;21 once a complaint is received… determine if there's a violation
At the same time… organizations are working with county officials to better engage the hispanic community… which has been hard hit by the virus. South Bay Community Service's Mauricio Torres says the organization is connecting those who test positive with Spanish-speaking peer educators known as promotoras.
ID: Mauricio Torre / South Bay Community Services
WEDCOVID 3A
00;29;12;01 The continuous contact… protecting the community's health.
Supervisors also voted to provide 200 tests at the border for crossing essential workers and US citizens. That's expected to launch in a few weeks. Tarryn Mento KPBS News.

That was KPBS Health Report Tarryn Mento. The hotline number for reporting violations of public health rules is 858-694-2900.

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Child care providers in San Diego County can now apply for cash grants to help them stay in business.

This comes at a time when daycares and preschools across the country are struggling to stay afloat because of class-size restrictions brought on by the pandemic. KPBS reporter Claire Trageser has the story.

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DAYCARE 1 (ct) 1:14 soq
The county board of supervisors voted unanimously this week to spend 25 million dollars in federal CARES Act funding on grants to existing childcare providers. Providers operating in the county can apply for the grants to pay for COVID-related expenses, such as cleaning supplies and extra staff.
Chantay Brown, a childcare provider for 22 years, called into the supervisors meeting to say the money is badly needed.
DAYCARE 1A
To make sure we have PPE supplies to keep everyone safe. We also need to make sure we can provide professional sanitation in our facilities.
Speaking through a translator, Sylva Aldana says the money wouldn't just help childcare providers.
DAYCARE 2A
We ask that you continue to support us as we continue to support the economy and all the families that are living here in San Diego, especially those that go between San Diego and Tijuana.
Most daycare operators that have stayed open during the pandemic are losing money because of requirements that they reduce class sizes to prevent outbreaks.
A recent study from UC Berkeley found that in Southern California, almost two-thirds of child care programs experienced loss of income since March.
The YMCA and the San Diego Foundation will be tasked with giving out the grants. The San Diego Foundation will also be giving out $10 million in private donations over the next five years. A county spokesman estimated that a typical grant would be around $5,000. Claire Trageser, KPBS News

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The city council is scheduled to vote today on how they’ll go about negotiating a new franchise deal to provide electricity to the city –-it is a multi-billion dollar and potentially decades-long deal. SDG&E has held that franchise for the past 50 years. But, there are some community groups who want the city to take more time on the decision. . KPBS Science and technology reporter Shalina Chatlani has more.

(0:44)
The franchise deal could impact San Diego's energy and climate future for decades to come, but the terms of how to broker this deal are moving quickly through city council. The environment committee first saw the recommendation and voted to move it forward on July 16.
While city officials say they've been reasonable and transparent, members of the community and one city council member says the process is being rushed and appears to be a back room deal. In fact, a local law firm is suing the city for allegedly violating open meeting laws and not giving the public a chance to participate in discussions on the deal.
Critics say the deal could be a significant source of revenue for the city, but if the city votes to move forward with the report, they'd be giving away the opportunity for too little money.

The City Council is set to consider the item during a special session (Thursday/this) afternoon.

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State lawmakers hoping to create more affordable housing tried to make granny flats cheaper and easier to build.

But inewsource investigative reporter Cody Dulaney found San Diego might not be complying with state laws.

TOT: 00:38
DULANEY: If you’re one of hundreds of people who built a granny flat in San Diego since 0-17, you might have been overcharged thousands of dollars in fees for your permit. Construction fees on new granny flats under 750 square feet should have been waived at the beginning of the year. And some property owners should have qualified for breaks on water and sewer costs.
But an inewsource analysis found San Diego may still be collecting those fees. City officials have not provided records that showed compliance - and did not answer questions.
Based on the city’s record keeping, there’s no way to know how many people overpaid.
For KPBS, I’m inewsource investigative reporter Cody Dulaney.
ANCHOR TAG: inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS
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And coming up….As border wall construction continues in San Diego County, native groups say they weren't given any warning about the possible destruction of cultural heritage sites.

TZWALL (0:12): "when we've gone out there to protest, we've seen mittensoil, which is signs of cremations, flakes, grinding stones, and we've seen everything out there and that's in places where they say there aren't artifacts."

How young native women are leading a protest movement in the mountains. That’s next after this break.

For weeks, members of the Kumeyaay (Kume-a-yay) nation have been protesting border wall construction in San Diego County, saying their cultural heritage sites are being destroyed.

Human remains have now been identified at the construction site, and local tribes are preparing for legal action against the government. KPBS Reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler has the story.

WALL
It stretches for fourteen-miles along rugged terrain.
The quickly-rising wall now cuts through areas that the Kumeyaay nation, a collection of native tribes based on both sides of the US-Mexico border, consider a major thoroughfare for their people.
It was used for generations before white settlers arrived. Burial sites, former villages, and other culturally sensitive sites dot the landscape.
But members of the Kumeyaay say Customs and Border Protection, which is helping manage construction on the site, has ignored evidence of the cultural heritage sites they're now building atop of.
They're using 10-year-old surveys to try to say that there aren't sites in certain areas and when we've gone out there to protest, we've seen mittensoil, which is signs of cremations, flakes, grinding stones, and we've seen everything out there and that's in places where they say there aren't artifacts.
28-year-old Cynthia Parada is a tribal councilmember for the La Posta Band of Mission Indians.
She and other young Kumeyaay women have been leading the protest movement in the searing heat of summer in the Laguna mountains. They've been standing in front of construction equipment and blocking access roads.
Parada says the government is breaking the law by disregarding the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, known as NAGPRA. Congress enacted it in 1990 to protect and safely relocate native burial sites.
We just want them to do it right. Right now their waiving the laws that protect our remains, which is through NAGPRA, and they're waiving NIPA and a lot of other laws as well, which we're just not OK with because we fought so hard to get those laws to begin with and now they're waiving them and just blowing through the work.
Last week, members of the Kumeyaay nation were accompanied by a forensic anthropologist who says she identified what was most likely a cremated human bone.
This looks like it could be hand or foot bone. Source
In the past, Customs and Border Protection has reached out to native groups to determine what to do with remains, and engage in a government-to-government consultation about the best way to move forward with construction while preserving cultural heritage sites. It usually does this months before the beginning of construction.
But this time, Parada says the government began construction before doing any of that. .
We just heard about it and went to see if it was true and we see the construction work being done, and that's when we decided to take action. We didn't know about it, we din't receive any notification about it.
The Kumeyaay say a representative from the Army Corps of Engineers told them the DoD is allowed to waive laws regarding burial sites because the wall construction is a matter of national defense.
The money used for the wall construction is being redirected from the Pentagon's counter-narcotic budget, a transfer of money that's currently being challenged in court.
Now, with further proof that CBP and the DoD are moving forward with the project without following the law, the Kumeyaay are preparing a lawsuit to try to stop the wall construction.
They're creating new access roads, they're creating new storage areas for their equipment and none of those areas were monitored.
CBP says it had several discussions with Kumeyaay leadership and members of various tribes since June to address their specific concerns .
Kumeyaay protesters, and especially younger tribe members, say those meetings have gone nowhere.
12:30
We're protecting the land, protecting the history.
19-year-old Brooke Baines, who grew up on the Manzanita reservation, has been juggling her first cashier job with helping organize the protests.
13:15
Kumeyaay women are really strong women. TKTK
Baines says that's why they have to continue direct action, to keep going to the wall to try to stop construction.
16:40
I stay in prayer while I'm out there. I'm praying for the safety of my people, for the desecration to stop. I'm not thinking about me, myself, or my body, I'm praying. Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News.

That was KPBS Reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler

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