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San Diego Removed From State Monitoring List

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Families having picnics at Balboa Park on June 17, 2020, as a bicyclist rides through and a sign in the foreground showing what's allowed in the park during the coronavirus pandemic.

While off the state monitoring list for now, San Diego county could be placed back on should it be flagged for exceeding any one of six different metrics, such as case rate and the number of intensive care beds available, for three consecutive days. Also, the Governor declares a state of emergency and California's power grid managers are under fire after initiating r the first rolling blackouts since 2001. Plus, classrooms are virtual but some students are still misbehaving. This adds another layer of complexity to the challenges facing teachers and administrators amid the pandemic.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Tuesday … due to widespread wildfires and the ongoing heat wave. His declaration noted hundreds of fires actively burning across the state as a result of … extreme weather conditions. The declaration is aimed at freeing up resources for crews battling the fires.

With the heat wave continuing to put pressure on energy supplies, the state system operator declared a stage 2 electrical emergency on Tuesday.. Stage 3 is when outages can occur.

Further along in the show we’ll have more on the state power struggles from KPBS’ Erik Anderson.

San Diego County is officially off the state's coronavirus watch list. Now, the countdown is on.
If we stay off for 14 days, K-thru-12 students would be allowed back in classrooms. For now, all current restrictions on businesses remain in place … until the state provides additional guidance.

As for the latest numbers, the county reported seven more people died from the virus Tuesday and there were 202 new positive cases.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed an executive order yesterday aimed at making it easier for churches and gyms to operate outside.

“Fitness camps, gym classes, religious services, they can all be held in a park, giving patrons plenty of room, and air to physically distance. You can pray, you can do pilates, you can do it all in one of San Diego's 340 parks.”

The order is set to take effect next Monday. It comes as a number of indoor churches and gyms across the county have remained open for weeks now,... in direct violation of the mandate to move operations outside.

Krista Lombardi is the owner of Hardcore Fitness in Mira Mesa. She says she’s glad for the space, and shade, that parks could provide for her business.

"It's obviously very difficult for members to go outside in a parking lot, in the asphalt in the hot beating sun."

Gyms and houses of worship still need to apply for permits for the use of public parks,.... but fees will be waived for the first 60 days.

The Democractic National Convention continued last night…. with former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and it’s on again for tonight. Be sure to tune in to KPBS Radio starting at 6pm … or catch it this evening on KPBS Television. If you miss it, you can always go online at KPBS dot org to get the latest recap.

I’m Anica Colbert. It’s Wednesday, August 19th.
You’re listening to San Diego News Matters from KPBS News.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

California’s power grid managers are under fire after initiating the first rolling blackouts since 2001. Now, a former utility regulator says it may be time to change the system.

KPBS’ Erik Anderson reports.

The governor is investigating and critics are calling out the California Independent System Operator for initiating rolling blackouts. Demand for power during the current heatwave is outstripping supply, but a former state utility regulator sees a different picture. Loretta Lynch argues there are plenty of reserves.
“The utilities have already bought up to 100 percent of the expected peak, plus 15 percent more. The ISO just won’t use this for no good reason and that’s what they should be explaining to all of California.”
The former California Public Utilities Commission President says she wants more transparency. UC Berkeley economist Severin Borenstein sits on the the Cal ISO board. He says making contract information public is NOT a good idea.
“There is a reason to keep contracts confidential in business dealings. They’re trying to get the best deals they can. And making them public could undermine that.”
Borenstein says grid operators are handling the current situation correctly, although he says the public did deserve more notice before rolling blackouts hit. He says early power forecast predicted energy supplies would be tight if a heatwave hit this summer.

That was KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson

All of the struggles with the state’s energy supply has had some San Diegans wondering how they’ll know if they’ll be impacted by rolling blackouts. San Diego Gas & Electric spokeswoman Helen Gao said...there’s a list.

GAO: Customers are grouped into blocks and we have a list of blocks that we will rotate through if we are asked to do rotating outages.

So your potential for an outage depends on how high up on the list your residence block is. How many outages we’ll have depends on...well, you! How well we all conserve energy between 3 and 10pm. The good news is that conservation efforts prevented outages earlier this week. But, Gao says, it’s not over.

We're not out of the woods. THe situation is still really critical. We need everybody to do their part to conserve energy.

The blackout list can be found on the SDG&E website at SDGE-DOT-COM

A court-ordered freeze on evictions expires September First, and California state lawmakers are scrambling to avoid a wave of new evictions.
CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon reports.

San Francisco Assemblymember David Chiu sounded a dire warning about what could happen if the legislature doesn’t pass new protections for renters and homeowners affected by the pandemic. CHIU: If we don’t change state law in the next two weeks, we will see a massive wave of evictions. This will be catastrophic for tenants, property owners, homelessness and COVID-19 spread. His bill would give renters until April 2022 to backfill missed payments — but it wouldn’t cancel rent. Homeowners and landlords would also get a forbearance period.Chiu’s proposal passed a Senate committee after a marathon 6-hour hearing.There are still questions about potential court challenges and how much a yearlong protection period will actually help. But Chiu says he’s just trying to stave off an immediate homelessness crisis.

More than half of the men locked up at a privately-run detention center in Bakersfield ... have been diagnosed with COVID-19. That's after a federal judge ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to test all detainees at the facility.

KQED's Farida JAB-vah-lah Romero reports.

San Diego leaders rallied at the Midway Post office in support of the U.S. Postal Service in a 'Day of Action' Tuesday. It follows weeks of mounting concern over mail delays and cost cutting measures.
San Diego Congresswoman Susan Davis said the role of the post office affects all Americans.

“Suddenly blue mailboxes have disappeared, sorting machines have been turned off, postal workers have been told to go home and let mail pile up on tables, and post offices have closed during lunch. These actions hurt everyone"

Eddie Cooper Jr is the President of San Diego's American Postal Workers Union. He says USPS desperately needs the recently proposed billions of relief funding.

"That's going to affect the running of the United States Postal service. Without that stimulus money, the postal service can literally be out of money here in the next four to five months."

In response to widespread criticism, Late Tuesday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy,, said he will suspend the operational changes he had instituted for the post office … until after the November election.

Classrooms might be virtual now, but disruptive student behaviors are still very real…. And so are their consequences.

KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong spoke to administrators about how distance learning impacts school discipline. He brings us this story.

Earlier this month, on the first day of the new school year in the Sweetwater Union High School District, a student brandished a firearm during a virtual class session. The police were called and officers arrived at the student's residence to find that the weapon was a BB gun and no one was harmed.
Later in the week, the district, which was the first in the county to start the fall semester, received reports of students sharing pornographic images during online classes.
These disruptive behaviors add yet another layer to the challenges facing teachers and administrators as they re-start school in the COVID era.
Manny Rubio is the spokesman for the Sweetwater Union High School District. He said the expectations for student behavior are the same as they were before the pandemic.
If you were in a classroom, it's respecting your classmates, respecting the teacher that's in front of you giving the lesson, asking questions that are thoughtful. It's making sure you're prepared. It's making sure when you're offline it's making sure you're conducting yourself in a way that's proper.
But educators across the county know that this is a new reality for students. And while rules for behavior stayed the same, the learning environments are completely different. Jamie Dayhoff is the director of attendance and discipline at Poway Unified. He said the new setting can lead to changes in student behavior.
This is a new environment for students, the rules are not established. This is… we make some assumptions that kids know that when you're in your bedroom or the dining room table doing this stuff. …. You're held to the same levels of conduct that you would be if you were sitting in a classroom. I don't think we can make those assumptions.
The state education code requires suspensions, and even expulsions, for certain offenses. And Dayhoff and other school officials made it clear that students will still be punished for disrupting online classes. But they also acknowledge they'll have to take extra steps to make sure the punishments don't further exacerbate the problems schools have connecting with students. Rubio said Sweetwater is having counselors reach out to students and parents to better understand negative behaviors.
And so what we wanna understand is, is this just a case of a kid wanting to make a disruption just for the sake of doing it or is there something behind that? We really want to get to the root cause of that.
School officials are also quick to say that they are still working to emphasize restorative justice and other alternatives to punitive discipline, in part to eliminate the disproportionate impact on students of color, students with disabilities and low-income students.
But advocates worry that when physical campuses reopen, districts will revert to overly punitive practices in the potentially dangerous learning environment created by the pandemic.
Daniel Losen is the director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA. He's concerned, for example, that a shoving match between students or a confrontation with a teacher where a student violates social distancing could lead to harsher penalties due to the public health risks involved with physical contact.
And I worry that when we reopen schools that teachers may feel greater… May with increasing frequency view situations that they normally might handle as dangerous situations... one response might be that teachers and administrators will call police more often than before because now every small incident could have a danger component that didn't exist before.
Dayhoff said planning and communication will be key to avoiding such scenarios.
It's like you're in school. And we want you to be relaxed and be able to learn but you can't be disrupting. There are certain things you just cannot do. The more specific we can get with students on scenarios and things that occur, the better. Joe Hong KPBS News.

That was KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong

Stay with us…

Part two of the “Older and Overlooked series comes to us from our partners at KQED. The series is an investigation into the challenges faced by long-term care homes … during both a pandemic and wildfire season. That’s up next after this.

A number of wildfires are currently burning in California. And this week, we're exploring how assisted living facilities prepare for emergencies in a special series from our colleagues at KQED called Older and Overlooked.

The investigation found that - across the state - 37 percent of these facilities are located in areas at heightened risk for wildfire. It's a little higher in San Diego County at 41 percent. But in Nevada County, 100 percent of facilities are at risk.

KQED's health correspondent, April Dembosky ,dem-BHOSS-kee> travelled to Grass Valley in Nevada County before COVID-19, to see how assisted living facilities for the elderly are preparing for wildfire season.

April tells us a new law aimed at helping these facilities prepare for disaster… is falling short.

Continue on California, 49 South for nine miles.

Speaker 1: 01:00 Randy dinning spends most of his work week in his black Honda fit. He's a longterm care ombudsman for the state department of aging, which means he drops in at residential facilities for the elderly to check on the quality of the food or the care. But on this shift for the first time he's asking about disaster preparedness,

Speaker 2: 01:21 Alrighty, off we go.

Speaker 1: 01:23 First stop of the day is Sierra view manner. This is assisted living as opposed to skilled nursing, which is overseen by the state department of public health assisted living is nonmedical. It's overseen by the state department of social services. So overall the rules here are weaker, but Randy, isn't the enforcer as an ombudsman, he's more the tattletale to the enforcers straight away. He has to talk to the boss.

Speaker 2: 01:47 The boss, ladies around

Speaker 1: 01:49 Administrator of Vanessa Lely, tennies comes out and as Randy tries to ease into questions about disaster planning, she interrupts to say, we are the best.

Speaker 2: 01:58 Well, I'm going to brag right from the beginning.

Speaker 1: 02:00 And she begins listing the virtues of her generator, cover the entire buildings and in their evacuation plan within seven minutes and the go bags, they prep for each resident.

Speaker 2: 02:10 Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. We do those redo evacuation drills. Oh yeah. I have often, probably every quarter, every quarter,

Speaker 1: 02:19 But the conversation gets awkward when Vanessa reveals, they only have one employee on staff overnight caring for 46 residents. If wildfire strikes, she says the folks at the skilled nursing facility next door, we'll take them in

Speaker 2: 02:34 And they have 46 beds over there. No,

Speaker 1: 02:40 She says maybe they'd take them to the local high school, but we're never going to happen.

Speaker 2: 02:43 Have one of those kinds of emergencies I insist,

Speaker 1: 02:49 But that's exactly what happened nearly three years ago in Santa Rosa, when wildfire swept through in the middle of the night, two assisted living facilities had only a handful of staff and they left about a hundred elderly residents behind for relatives and police to rescue one facility burned down as did eight others across the state that year, that was a real eye opener for us. And that staff weren't trained Pandic FOSS is the enforcer. She oversees licensing for assisted living facilities for the department of social services. She says the new law that took effect last year was a direct response to what happened in Santa Rosa. These fires identified the need for the entire area to be evacuated. Instead of being prepared to escape a kitchen fire as the older law outlined facilities now need to have options of where they'll go to shelter locations for how they're going to get their plan for transportation and who will be responsible for what this bill really strengthened the requirements in an emergency plan.

Speaker 1: 03:53 But state data indicates the department is reluctant to enforce them in 2018 state inspector cited, just 62 facilities for having an insufficient disaster plan. Last year, when the law took effect, they cited 239, but that's still just 3% out of nearly 7,600 facilities across the state. Dick VA says inspectors, see themselves more as consultants rather than disciplinarians. It's really a collaborative effort across the state between the providers, between the advocates and the department, but that's not how some advocates for the elderly see the department. It's a provider protection agency, not a consumer protection agency. Chris Murphy runs an advocacy group dedicated to assisted living reform. She and her colleagues have been asking regulators for better evacuation plans and training for a decade. They will rarely come down on the side of the consumer. She says the new law was written by the assisted living industry and doesn't do nearly enough to protect residents. For example, it requires portable evacuation chairs. At the top of every stairwell, the facilities are still required to have just one employee on duty overnight for every 99 residents. I don't care how many little evacuation chairs you have. If you have one person trying to do that, nobody's giving out Murphy says the law also fails to acknowledge how complex resident's health status has gotten. Two decades ago. Assisted living was meant for people who needed a little bit of help. Now more and more are bedridden or have dementia

Speaker 1: 05:33 At the cascades of grass Valley assisted living facility. 90% of the residents have some form of dementia.

Speaker 3: 05:40 Ms. Betty, hi

Speaker 1: 05:43 Administrator, petsy Pittman. Rest her hand on the shoulder of a resident sitting by herself at the kitchen table. Are you ready for lunch for lunch? I thought I was here for breakfast. Research shows that people with dementia are more likely to die after a disaster, but the new law is silent on how to prepare this population. Fire drills. Aren't really an option loud sounds and changes in routine, but people with dementia at risk for wandering off, we don't want to overstimulate them. We don't want to make them anxious for advice on this Pepsi confers with other facilities in town like atria assisted living down the road. When a brush fire broke out next to Atrius building last fall and they had to evacuate 110 people. Staff told the dementia residents, they were going on field trip. You act like it's just another day and we're going for a bus ride.

Speaker 1: 06:34 Vice president, Andrew Levine says they took everyone to the crown Plaza hotel in Sacramento. Their teams got to work, making the room safe for people with dementia. When we take out all the coffee machines, we take out the iron, the soaps, why the soaps, uh, because we don't want them to eat it. You know, we take out everything that potentially could be harmful on safety staff went about recreating life at atria at the hotel games, karaoke dancing. Yeah, it was a little mini vacation. It was fun. I think I won three bingo games, Betty Johnson and bud Paul are both 94, three days later when they came back to grass Valley staff were in the driveway, shaking Palm palms and pouring champagne, greeting us all lined up, welcome home. And you really felt it. But all these efforts were possible because atria has a corporate office that can mobilize teams of people. Most facilities are smaller and can't afford that. And together the industry lobbies to keep these kinds of best practices as recommendations rather than law.

That was April Dembosky with our reporting partner KQED.

Tomorrow (Thursday), Bodhi Tree Concerts presents Songs of Suffrage, a concert to mark the centennial of the passing of the 19th Amendment…. granting women the right to vote... although not guaranteeing any women the ability to vote.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando has this preview.

Bodhi Tree Concerts recounts the fight for the 19th Amendment through history, songs, and speeches performed by local artists like Mary Munger Taylor.
CLIP Suffragettes were distinguished from Suffragists by their willingness to take militant action… (music) We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats, dauntless crusaders for women’s votes.
Songs of Suffrage is a free event on Facebook and Youtube, but donations are encouraged. Event organizers hope the concert highlights how voting rights are still under attack and the fight for equity continues. For more information go to bodhitreeconcerts-dot-org.
Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

San Diego News Matters is a daily morning news podcast powered by all of the reporters, editors and producers in the KPBS Newsroom.

Tune in to KPBS Midday Edition at noon on KPBS radio or KPBS Evening Edition at 5:30pm on KPBS television to keep up with the news throughout your day.

You can also find us on Twitter @ Kpbs news, or to find our podcast producer, Kinsee Morlan, she’s @ Kinsee. I’m @AnicaColbert. And as always you can find more KPBS podcasts, like Only Here or Cinema Junkie, on our website at KPBS dot org slash podcasts, or wherever it is you get your podcasts.

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San Diego News Matters

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