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COVID Testing At The Border

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San Diego County is launching free COVID testing at the San Ysidro border crossing. The local action comes months after funding for support at the border never arrived from state and federal agencies. Plus: The city of San Diego is cracking down on a vacation rental that officials say hosted large parties against COVID-19 health orders, Californians are seeing their electricity bills rise as they're forced to spend more time at home due to the Covid pandemic, how to fix the living-at-work feeling and more locals news you need.

San Diego News Matters is our daily news podcast supported by listeners like you. Donate today: https://www.kpbs.org/donate

The city of San Diego is cracking down on a vacation rental that officials say hosted large parties in violation of COVID-19 health orders.

The city attorney's office is seeking a permanent injunction and civil penalties against the Bankers Hill property owner and manager.

Neighbors say for at least the last six months there have been large parties at the home near 2nd avenue and Quince Street. Pam Adler lives across the street.

This is an inappropriate location. This is a quiet residential neighborhood lots of seniors just not the appropriate place for large parties.

City attorney mara elliot says not only did owners pack the house during the pandemic, they also made a lot of illegal modifications. An inground pool, a jacuzzi, fire pits, two bathrooms and other projects were all done without permits…. in all, more than 20 violations of state and local laws.

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California's Health and Human Services director says a technical glitch that caused a lag in collecting coronavirus test information has been fixed. But it could take up to 48 hours to get the data updated. Dr. Mark Ghaly says as many as 300-thousand records might be backlogged.

COVIDGLITCH 1A:
We don't yet know how many of those are positive or how many are negative. And in fact, this entire Cal Ready system excepts results not just for COVID but for other reportable diseases. So, all of those records are the total number of records that need to be sorted through."

Despite the lag in numbers, officials believe overall COVID-19 trends remain consistent with positive cases inching lower. California has more than ten thousand coronavirus deaths.

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There’s no big spikes or dips in the local COVID numbers today, but the one area where we continue having trouble is a high number of community outbreaks.
On Sunday, health officials reported four new community outbreaks….all at businesses, In the past seven days, 24 community outbreaks were confirmed.
Our target is to have less than seven community outbreaks in seven days.
A community setting outbreak, by the way, is defined by health officials as three or more COVID-19 cases that happen in one group of people from different households.
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California lawmakers are pushing to enact nearly a dozen policing reform laws driven by nationwide outrage and protests after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May.

The bills include a statewide ban on chokeholds, one that would require law enforcement officers to immediately intercede and report what they believe to be the use of excessive force and others.

Lawmakers have until Aug. 31 to approve and send legislation to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters, a podcast powered by our reporters, editors and producers.

It’s Monday, Aug. 10.

Stay with me for more of the local new you need.

The county is launching free COVID tests for essential workers coming across the border in San Ysidro.

KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento says the local action comes months after help requested along the border from the state and federal government never arrived.

BORDERTEST 1

Local county and hospital reps asked for help from federal agencies back in April. A homeland security official did visit the area… but the state and feds never agreed to fully fund a border testing plan proposed by UC San Diego.

Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder says back then almost half of their South Bay COVID patients had recently traveled to Mexico but the need has lessened now that so much time has passed.

00:10:59:17 I'm a little less alarmed than I was when back in May when we were seeing close to 50 percent of the patients in Chula Vista having crossed the border. That's that's dropped in almost half. Now, again, we could see another spike.

He says some resources are already limited and more non-COVID patients are now taking up more beds. But he says Scripps and its very tired staff will continue to adjust to the situation.

The Department of Homeland Security and the governor's office would not give an interview despite multiple requests.

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Every election cycle, ballot propositions offer a unique set of political battles in California. With the election just a few months away, supporters and opponents of various ballot measures are already sparring -- in court -- over HOW some of these ballot measures are described and who gets to pen that description.

CapRadio's Nicole Nixon reports.

PROPLANGUAGE 1

(ambient sound)

On a recent weekday morning, Lyft and Uber drivers circled the California Attorney General's Sacramento office to protest the language that will appear on the ballot for Prop 22. That's the contentious ballot measure that would carve many gig workers out of AB 5, California's new labor law.
Jan Krueger has been a Lyft driver for six years and believes the ballot title and description are misleading. They were written by Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
KRUEGER: "We just want the voters to have the opportunity to make up their minds on their own without being misled by the description that he has provided. He's supposed to be impartial and let the voters decide and it's very misleading. <<:13>>
Prop 22 backers are suing to try to get the language changed
MAVIGLIO: It's almost an annual ritual that the attorney again general gets sued, whether republican or democrat. <<:12>
That's Steve Maviglio, a longtime Democratic strategist. He's working for a group that filed their own lawsuit over arguments in the state voter guide for a ballot measure to expand rent control.
In addition to the lawsuits, this week Republican lawmakers renewed calls to have the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst write the language.
Maviglio admits while courts often side with the attorney general on these issues, legal challenges can be effective in drumming up publicity, especially when paired with, say, a car protest.
MAVIGLIO: These are high-stakes measures that have potential impact of billions of dollars, so words do matter. And it's so important because the title and summary are often all that most voters read. <<:12>>
And there is a time crunch for these legal decisions —those voter pamphlets go to print on Monday.

The descriptive language Prop 22 supporters object to says the initiative, quote, "exempts app-based transportation and delivery companies from providing employee benefits to certain drivers."

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Californians are seeing their electricity bills rise as they're forced to spend more time at home, due to the Covid pandemic.

CapRadio's Scott Rodd has this story.

I actually gasped when I saw my electric bill the other day. Sure it's been scorching hot and I've been working from home most days...but it still caught me off-guard.

So what else could I do but air my grievances on Twitter.

Turns out, I was not the only one

MARK-1: "So I'm logging in right now…"

Mark Kewman [Notes:CUE-men] hadn't opened his PG&E bill yet…but agreed to record his reaction.

MARK-2: "WOOAH, jeez...shoot. 434.72 for a two bedroom, one bath, and a home office."

He says that's nearly $100 more than last July's bill.

MARK-3: "That hurts...that's like two car payments."

A PG&E spokesperson said the company expected customer bills to jump during the pandemic, due to people working from home and schools shifting to distance learning.

The utility has halted shutting off power for non-payment during the pandemic and has encouraged low-income customers to apply for its reduced rate program.

State lawmakers are debating a bill that would require companies to reimburse remote workers for some home utility costs.

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Researchers at U-C San Diego have come up with a solution to part of the problem with the increasing amount of plastics filling our oceans, beaches and landfills. They're taking algae, and turning it into biodegradable flip-flops.

Unlike fossil fuel-based plastics, the algae-based polyurethanes can decompose in as little as 16-weeks. Chemistry professor Michael Burkart says word of their success has spread.

FLIPFLOPS 2A
"From just about anybody that uses polyurethanes, from shoe companies to companies that make yoga mats to companies that make pool noodles and they all asked us, can you make renewable polyurethanes, and we said yes."

KPBS reporter John Carroll has the story.

FLIPFLOPS 1

Plastics of all kinds pollute the world's oceans and waterways. But at U-C San Diego, a solution is afoot. After a lot of experimenting, faculty and student scientists have come up with a way to turn algae into polyurethanes, which are then molded into the soles of the world's most popular shoe… flip-flops.

Whereas plastics can take up to one-thousand years to decompose, these flip-flops can completely degrade in as little as 16-weeks. U-C-S-D Chemistry Professor Michael Burkart says the algae-based polyurethanes are one way to begin getting fossil fuel-based plastics out of the environment.

"We really only want to be making materials that have the ability to decompose and/or can be recycled."

Burkart and his students are working with a local manufacturer. He says the environmentally friendly flip-flops should be on the market sometime next year.

Our partners at inewssource have started a new series called Veteran’s Voices. In this story, Army veteran Joel Andrews shares his struggles with depression and VA healthcare.

inewsource reporter Brad Racino has the story.

ANDREWS 1

"I'd have mood swings and I'd be angry all the time or sad and just, and uh, between that and then having rheumatoid arthritis, it just turned my life upside down and just was a mess."

RACINO: The San Diego VA tried a range of drugs and therapies to help Joel Andrews with his depression before sending him to an outside clinic for ketamine treatment. Andrews said he's had more than 100 ketamine injections over the past two years at the Kadima Neuropsychiatry Institute in La Jolla. [Notes:18]

ANDREWS: "And uh, coming here it's just, it's helped me tremendously.

RACINO: But in May, the VA alerted Andrews and other local vets they'd no longer be covered for treatment at Kadima. Instead, they'd be put on an alternative drug treatment called Spravato at the VA hospital. The vets say Spravato isn't helping. [Notes:12]

ANDREWS: "Which doesn't seem to be as effective for me as coming here."

RACINO: Andrews and other local veterans are sharing their stories so the public can better understand what it's like for them to live with a mental illness while battling the VA over their healthcare. You can read Andrews' story in his own words by going to inewsource dot org slash veterans voices.

inewsource is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS.

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Coming up….

The other day, I heard someone say this whole working-from-home through the pandemic thing should actually be called living at work.

Well, one local journalist couldn’t take it anymore. A story about what she did to fix things and why she did it after the break.

Many people are simply grateful to still have a job during COVID-19. But for those of us lucky enough to work at home, - while we HAVE saved money on gas and eating out, - maintain healthy routines can be a challenge when the structure of the office is lost after nearly five months.
Well, one reporter for the San Diego union Tribune decided it was time to get back into an office and a re embrace the commute.
Brittany Meiling covers business for the UT and join KPBS Roundtable’s Mark Sauer to talk about finding a work-life balance in the age of COVID. ROUNDTABLE SEGMENT 15:50
Well, your story this week, it's a personal Awana, but working from home in the downtown newsroom at the UT is off living now with the pandemic. Why do you feel you had to find a setting outside of your home?
Speaker 5: 16:39 Honestly, I feel like we could talk for your entire show just on that one question, because it's very like, there's lots of reasons, but I'll try and narrow it down to just a couple, which is that I found that the working from home scene setting for me contributed to a lot of bad habits. I think that a lot of people set up a structure around physical spaces. So for me, I would always pack a healthy lunch. I'd make sure I only had healthy snacks available at the office. I would work out at the gym across the street from my office during lunchtime and being in those physical spaces was like my, my trigger to do those things. It's like I set up these bumper rails for my behavior and working from home. It was just, you know, 10 hours of your day, uh, in one space. And so then at the end of that time, I kept feeling this need to get out of my apartment. And I found myself consistently going in grabbing takeout, junk food and you know, not having the motivation to work out, cause I didn't want to just work out in my living room again. I definitely think there are, who were different, you know, they're like, I go and I do calisthenics at the park, but, um, I'm just not that person. I found myself doing things that were, were unhealthy instead. So it was about structure for me,
Speaker 1: 18:01 Those who might be interested in doing something like this, how expensive is it? This is kind of a [inaudible] market, right?
Speaker 5: 18:07 It, it, it definitely is. Um, and I didn't get into full detail in the, um, the essay that I wrote, but right now it's very affordable compared to what it once was. You see some private offices going for as low as like three 50, um, depending on the part of town, some of those even come with parking spaces, if you're in an area like mission Valley or maybe, uh, Mesa Vista. And then there are some spaces that you could pay upwards of $2,000 for a private space. So it really depends on if you're looking at a coworking type building, um, or sublease of a commercial real estate building that used to be occupied, you know, by, by an office, a company. So I would say anywhere between three 50 and over $2,000.
Speaker 1: 18:52 Oh wow. All depending like anything else you're choosing, whether it's a home apartment or, or an office. So you're commuting again, you're actually embracing the commute.
Speaker 5: 19:02 Yes I am. And that is that's one point of kind of contention with a couple of readers where, you know, you should be embracing the fact that you don't have to drive and, you know, contribute to pollution. And I definitely understand that point of view. Um, but for me, uh, the commute provide, you know, short of always only have like a 10, 15 minute commute and it provides this kind of trigger for me of, um, separating the home, you know, brain and getting into the Workbrain. I always listen to the news on the way in, or my favorite podcast. And when I arrived to work, I'm just in a different Headspace. And so I I've always enjoyed a commute
Speaker 1: 19:38 And you cover business and startups for the union Tribune, many workers in that sector also use coworking, but how has this area been hit by COVID-19? Is there more of a demand from people who otherwise lost their normal location?
Speaker 5: 19:52 You know, it's kind of interesting because no, I think, I think right now they're in a really kind of a difficult spot, not just coworking, but commercial real estate. You have a lot of companies, most companies that are not in their space and they decided maybe to abandon their space altogether. So they're trying to get out of leases or their, when their lease came up, they went ahead and just said, yeah, we're not going to resign. So you have a lot of, um, open square footage available for sublease and for coworking, that was kind of even a worse position because this was all set up around community and shared spaces right now, most people do not want that. And so they, you know, I talked to several coworking companies that said their occupancy was way down, 75%, 90% down, just lots of empty spots at these spaces.
Speaker 1: 20:40 Yeah. So it sounds like from what you're describing, a lot of this model is, is broken. We see all sorts of office buildings and spaces downtown, for example, other places in the County that are congregated, what happens if suddenly they're not needed anymore? Do they become housing or some other purpose?
Speaker 5: 20:57 I think that's a really fascinating question right now is how will our communities look different? Because obviously we all know that housing is a real need in our community. So the natural thought is we'll do, they should all convert to housing, but in the past it's always been, you have to have a certain mix in a neighborhood for it to be successful. They developers want to have a certain amount of offices so that people have jobs and close relation to their apartments. And there's also that like live, play, you know, retail park spaces, that kind of stuff you want all of it in one space. So if you have some neighborhoods that just become bit of ghost towns for awhile, or don't have the right mix, I think you might see this phase in between while redevelopment happens around our new needs, where you go into neighborhoods that feel very empty. I think right now, a lot of places where there's a high concentration of offices, um, feel pretty desolate right now.
Speaker 1: 21:52 And maybe this, uh, this pandemic will be the catalyst to kind of jump forward. What we've been talking about you for years, or just a big push to, to telecommuting in our, um, in our whole, uh, business model in the United States. Um, you think that that's the case here? Is this going to be a permanent thing? I mean, you mentioned, you touched on the idea that we might get a benefit out of all this from not commuting. And of course we've seen a fossil fuel use go down because of so many people not driving to work.
Speaker 5: 22:23 I think it really, it will require some additional changes because I actually believe that we are wired for a few things that the current telecommute model does not serve very well. And one example of that is humans need community. And for a lot of people, especially younger generations, you're seeing that places where they used to find community like church, for example, that has dropped in populate popularity with younger generations and kind of the, one of the last physical places that younger generations get community is the workplace. And so if the, if the model changes and everything's remote and we're all kind of isolated at home, I'm not sure that that it's going to work without seeing a change. You know, like maybe more businesses pop up that focus on connecting people in physical spaces. I really think that there's some changes before that's going to be a really permanent change.
Speaker 1: 23:19 And you've been in your new space a couple of weeks. Let's bring it back around personally. How has it improved day to day life? I hope it has improved it.
Speaker 5: 23:27 It's improved it immensely. In fact, I don't think I touched enough on that, uh, in the column that I wrote, it's only been a couple of weeks. And so, you know, it's hard to say for sure, but as far as my, uh, mental health goes, it's significant improvement. I feel a lot more energized. I feel I've, I've been a lot more productive and active in the meetings that I've had with my publisher editors. And, um, at the end of the day, when work has done, I feel more sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. And then I can kind of walk away from that and just be someone else at home. Like just, just be, you know, with my husband and have dinner and have that kind of rejuvenation time as well.
Speaker 1: 24:09 Well, work is work and home is home. Now you touched on, uh, some response from readers about, you know, why are you embracing the commute again? What other kind of response did you get from your story?
Speaker 5: 24:20 I honestly could not believe it. I have never written something from the first person before account, and I was really nervous to publish it. I thought, who, who am I to have any kind of complaint over the last few months? I've, I've kept my job and my paycheck, I haven't gotten sick. I haven't lost any loved ones. And, and it felt like writing a piece that was kind of emotional and kind of like, this has been hard. This last five months have been hard. I felt guilty about it. And I, and when I shared it, um, I felt like I'd get a lot of negative response. And instead I've been overwhelmed. I mean, 99% of the responses have been people saying, I feel the exact same way. I feel like I haven't been able to talk about it or put it into words and, and feeling like they really related, I've never written a story that got so much written response, like emails and direct messages and comments. And so I feel like it did, uh, it struck a nerve with a lot of people who kind of felt like they couldn't talk about it themselves.
And that was U-T reporter Brittany Meiling talking with KPBS Roundtable host Mark Sauer. To hear more of Mark’s interviews with local journalists, find and subscribe to KPBS Roundtable wherever you listen to podcasts.
That’s all for today.
Thanks for listening.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.