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Schools Cautious About Reopening

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The Francis Parker School, a private school in San Diego. Aug. 20, 2020

Even some elementary schools that have received waivers to reopen campuses say they will continue offering online-only or hybrid options. Also, an appeals court has given the ride-hailing companies more time to fight a judge's order that they reclassify their drivers as employees. Plus, an interview with the owner of Derby United on how the roller rink has pivoted to stay open during the pandemic.

Cal Fire have sent about 600 firefighters to battle the L-N-U complex of wildfires burning near Vacaville in Solano County ... as well as parts of Napa and Sonoma counties. The complex was started by a series of lightning strikes in the area. At least 5 people are reported dead in the fire, including a helicopter pilot who was killed on Wednesday fighting the fire.

Cal Fire Chief Daniel Berlant said Thursday’s milder weather is helping in the fight.
"The lightning storm has passed. The temperatures in the next couple of days are going to go down ... slightly. But that may only last for a couple of days. And going into the weekend, we will expect to see temperatures go back up."

Cal Fire says that fires has scorched 215-thousand acres so far and are zero-percent contained as of 8pm thursday. Officials say more than a-hundred structures have been destroyed and 70 damaged.
Elsewhere, the CZU August fire in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties has forced the evacuation of UC Santa Cruz. has burned 48,000 acres and is 0% contained. And across the mountains from Santa Cruz, the CSU Lightening complex in Santa Clara and Alameda counties is 0 percent contained and has burned over 150,000 acres.

In San Diego, a wildfire broke out on Thursday near the San Diego-Riverside County line, according to City News Service. It was dubbed the Volcano Fire. It erupted sometime before 11:30am….by the afternoon crews were able to stop the spread at around 50-acres burned. No structures were damaged. The cause of the Volcano Fire is under investigation.

To keep up on fire information this weekend, check and fire dot ca dot gov.

Ridesharing in California will continue… for now. Thursday, A judge extended a stay on an order that requires rideshare companies to classify their drivers as employees, rather than independent contractors. The stay was issued hours after Lyft said it would shut down operations. Uber was expected to follow suit.

Before the stay was issued, KPBS talked to Joe Cescolini who drives for both rideshare companies. He was concerned for riders who rely on rideshare services.

How am I getting to work? How am I getting to my doctor's appointment? How am I getting to the airport? I'll have to figure a new system out."

The stay will last until at least October 13th, when the rideshare companies will be back in court. Just a couple of weeks after that, on Nov. 3rd, voters will decide on Prop 22. If approved, it would allow the companies to continue classifying their drivers as independent contractors. Otherwise, the ridesharing services will have to treat drivers as employees, offering benefits and overtime.


After two weeks of decline, the unemployment rate in San Diego has shot up to 14.2 percent, impacting over 200-thousand San Diegans.

Ray Major is chief economist at the San Diego Association of Governments. He says jobs just aren’t becoming available fast enough to keep up with the demand.
"The ability to move people into jobs will require training programs and retraining.
The hardest-hit neighborhood is San Diego's Logan Heights, where unemployment stands at 18.9 percent.

I’m Anica Colbert. It’s Friday, August 21st. 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.

Schools across San Diego County are preparing to reopen campuses once they get the greenlight from the state. But some schools are erring on the side of caution. KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong has our story.

"Local schools could reopen if San Diego County stays off the state's monitoring list for high rates of COVID cases for 14 days. But even if the county meets the state's criteria, the Francis Parker School, a private school in San Diego, plans to only partially reopen its classrooms. Kevin Yaley is Francis Parker's head of school. He said the school plans to offer only hybrid and online instruction for the entire academic year.

The reason why we would not try to return back to normal is because we're still in the middle of a pandemic and we have the responsibility to do everything we can. While we're in school while we're shopping at Trader Joe's and while we're walking along the beach. Francis Parker is one of 27 schools teaching elementary grades that received a waiver from the county to allow in-person teaching. If the county ends up back on the state's monitoring list, the school plans to welcome only its elementary-age students back to campus for hybrid instruction. Joe Hong KPBS News.


A state bill aiming to give more power to restaurants over delivery services is nearing the governor's desk. This is because the pandemic has brought the issue of who gets to deliver a restaurant's food front and center.
KPBS’ Matt Hoffman reports.
Many people stuck at home because of covid have probably had food delivered to their door not by the restaurant themselves but by companies like Door Dash or Postmates.
But a state new bill - the Fair Food Delivery Act - would protect restaurants from what some are calling food delivery exploitation. Jeff Rossman owns Terra American Bistro in San Diego . He said the delivery service Postmates had listed his restaurant on their app WITHOUT his permission and says change is needed.13;07;32;10 RossmanThis bill is really allowing us to recapture the customer and say hey we're behind our food it's our menu it's not just you picking something that we don't think is going to travel well Today, Rossman uses delivery services at his eatery - The fair food delivery act would mandate food delivery services have an agreement with restaurants in order to work with them. MH, KPBS News


President Trump on Thursday threatened to withhold federal aid to help with California’s wildfires, saying he’s warned the state it needed to quote ‘clean’ its leaves, debris and fallen trees.
CapRadio’s PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols has more.

The president made these claims during a campaign event in Pennsylvania.
They’re a close copy of his oversimplified statements in 2018. That’s when he said ‘poor forest management’ was to blame for California’s deadliest fire in history, the Camp fire, in Butte County. Here’s what he said Thursday. 01Trump: “They have massive fires again in California. Maybe we're just going to have to make them pay for it, because they don't listen to us. We say, you've got to get rid of the leaves. You've got to get rid of the debris. You've got to get rid of the fallen trees." (:12)

Keith Gilless is chairman of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. He called Trump’s statement ‘simplistic and misleading.’ He says the state’s extreme heat, the siege of lightning strikes and low humidity all combined to cause the fires. Dense material on forest floors can make fires worse. But that’s not what’s driving them. 01Gilless: “The problem is not simply one of accumulation of some organic material on the floor of the forest.” (:09)Two years ago, we rated Trump’s claim as False. Today, his words are equally wrong.

That’s CapRadio’s Chris Nichols

President Donald Trump also weighed in recently about the rolling blackouts last weekend. He tweeted... without evidence ... that ‘Democrats’ intentionally implemented the outages.

Once again, CapRadio’s PolitiFact reporter Chris Nichols has this fact check....

The state’s power grid is managed by the California Independent System Operator.
Late last week, it called on utilities across the state to initiate temporary blackouts -- because energy demand during the heatwave had outstripped supply. Officials at the system operator rejected Trump’s claim that politics had anything to do with the blackouts. Severin Borenstein sits on the group’s board of governors, which is appointed by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. He says it was a power grid manager, not any political appointee, that made the final call: 01Severin: “There was no connection at all between the people who made the decision and anyone who has any political position in the electricity system.” (:10)
As demand outpaced supply last week, he said operators wanted to prevent the entire power grid from collapsing, and weren’t thinking about partisanship. Trump provided no evidence to support his statement. In the end, we rated it False.

CapRadio’s Chris Nichols, again.
Full versions of all the fact checks are at politifact-dot-com-slash-California

This week we're reporting on the startling number of elder care homes in places across California at heightened risk for wildfire.

A KQED investigation found this is more than one-third of all these facilities in the state.
When elder care homes aren't ready for a disaster, local first responders get the call for help - but they're already overburdened, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here with the next story in our series, Older and Overlooked, are KQED Science reporters Danielle Venton and Molly Peterson.

It was a winner

Speaker 2: 00:30 Any day in August, two years ago, a CHP officer had died that morning, near a freeway in Fairfield. Lisa Romero went to see the makeshift Memorial on a Hill behind it. She noticed a ribbon of orange flame Romero knew older. People lived over that way with nothing between them and the fire. She went to offer help.

Speaker 3: 00:49 I saw a man, he looked a little panicked. He was outside.

Speaker 2: 00:53 Dan worked at loving place, a small assisted living facility on Hancock drive.

Speaker 3: 00:57 And he told me, he said, I have a lot of residents inside. I only, you know, I have my car. I'm going to have to get them in. Some of them are not ambulatory.

Speaker 2: 01:06 Marrow is a nurse. She knew what that meant. So she went inside the care home to help bring people out.

Speaker 3: 01:12 Then we started to gather their belongings. And then I remember one lady wanted to call a family member. So I helped her call a family member.

Speaker 2: 01:19 The fire kept coming closer. Romero says eventually she flagged down police and asked them to call nine one one.

Speaker 3: 01:25 And everybody worked together. The police, the good Samaritan, the person that was running the home, I believe we sent two ambulances, right?

Speaker 2: 01:33 Jimmy Pearson is the president of medic ambulance.

Speaker 3: 01:36 And then they need it for when we got there, but it was too late.

Speaker 2: 01:39 Pearson's Cruz Romero and others got the four residents out to save shelter

Speaker 3: 01:45 Right up to across the street from that house easily could have brought that up

Speaker 2: 01:48 In the end. Romero was there for hours. So it was another volunteer. So were the police, it was exhausting

Speaker 3: 01:55 Feeling the heat. It was unbearable. Like you could barely even open your eyes. It was so strong and I've never been that close to a fire

Speaker 2: 02:02 After a complaint about that evacuation state inspectors verify that loving place had a plan, but they concluded that the staffer on duty wasn't adequately trained and wasn't able to follow the plan. When the emergency came. [inaudible] analysis found that loving place is one of more than 150 care facilities at heightened risk for wildfire in Solano County. This year with the Corona virus still spreading Pearson says places like that should be prepared

Speaker 3: 02:29 Talking about a second surge or second wave. And they sort of massive fire, which is going to happen. You're living in fire world and you know, pandemic world.

Speaker 2: 02:40 The pandemic has reached skilled nursing facilities in fire prone areas from the Sierra foothills to the suburban fringe. More than half of those facilities have reported coronavirus outbreaks. One way to protect older and disabled people in care homes is to demand more scrutiny for their emergency plans. Kathy hire a gerontologist. The university of South Florida says climate driven storms have forced Florida to do just that.

Speaker 3: 03:05 There's a real effort to make sure that that communication occurs so that people can talk to each other during a local emergency ask for help, ask for supplies, tell them that they need to evacuate or whatever

Speaker 2: 03:19 Needs to happen. And for assisted living in particular hires, co-researcher Lindsay Peterson points out that States bear primary responsibility.

Speaker 3: 03:27 There is no federal mechanism to regulate assisted living. If it's going to happen, it will only happen on the state or local.

Speaker 2: 03:36 And Kathy higher says Florida law requires longterm care homes to get approval for disaster plans from emergency officials and regulators to check up on them. And if they don't find it,

Speaker 3: 03:46 They find either the assisted living or the nursing home for not

Speaker 2: 03:50 Having that plan. But in California, we don't do that when loving place got in trouble for failing to carry out an emergency plan or train its staff. Regulators couldn't even issue fines for those deficiencies. No law requires the state office of emergency services or County emergency managers to look at the plans, care homes make for wildfires or any other threats. My colleague Danielle Venton has been looking into how California response to disasters. She picks up the story. Callow ESS vans. Taylor says evacuations are always risky for disabled and older people. During the pandemic. It's especially important for facilities to have watertight plans.

Speaker 3: 04:30 We have to have it in our minds, but we're pulling people together and shoving them off in a hurry to one location might present an equal way or life threatening

Speaker 2: 04:40 Taylor's job is to make sure that emergency response plans include people who might otherwise be overlooked because of the pandemic. He says Calloway, yes. Now recommends more spacing among evacuees at shelters and even renting trailers and hotel rooms to keep people separate, but he can only offer guidance, not rules about planning for evacuations, a blueprint, but state policy is that locals are responsible. The County officials

Speaker 3: 05:08 Do what it is. They believe that the interest of the individuals from that community, okay, what's the money look like for these things

Speaker 2: 05:15 For godly is the emergency manager for Sonoma County. He says the state expects more from disaster response than ever before. And so does it

Speaker 3: 05:23 20 years ago, if you sat on an air horn and you put a pillow on a cot in the gym, do you recover? That was the entire scope of your service set. In recently

Speaker 2: 05:33 Years, state officials have spoken more about emergency preparedness for vulnerable populations. KQBD has found that 77% of Sonoma County care homes are in areas at heightened risk for fire. And when that wildfire breaks out and their plans are inadequate, the County has to divert from its other work mid disaster to step in, but godly doesn't have the authority to require better planning. So our

Speaker 3: 05:58 Relationship is one of certainly encouraging these facilities to step into that role, that responsibility more fully develop realistic emergency plans, not just hypotheticals it's sitting in a binder on the nurses.

Speaker 2: 06:13 Godly says the county's role is to warn vulnerable people when they need to get out of the way Sonoma was criticized for inadequate warnings. During the 2017 wildfires last year, the County began placing thousands of weather radios in schools and care homes where they can broadcast warnings and alerts some light up to warm. The heart of hearing others use attachments to shake the bed of a sleeping person alerts also go out through text messages, emails, wireless, emergency alerts, and high, low sirens that signal evacuations and godly says in pandemic times work like this and extra staff time is costing more money. How much more as a guest godly is now trying to get 10 shelters ready for any disaster to allow for distancing where usually he would just need one.

Speaker 3: 07:07 Okay. That's 10 times the amount of work and logistics, staffing levels and training for staffing. So it's a significant cost. It's not just buying two bottles of hand sanitizer and Paul A. Good,

Speaker 2: 07:18 And he worries that despite his warnings and preparations a nine 11 call to County services is still the backup plan for underprepared facilities.

Speaker 3: 07:28 Technology is great, but it does not reel a bed out of a home into a appropriate ambulance

Speaker 2: 07:34 What's needed. He says is a longterm shift Californians and their leaders need to plan for disasters as a way of life. Not a last minute scramble even if right now. And partly because of the pandemic, most local governments don't have the authority or funds to do that. I'm Danielle Venton and I'm Molly Peterson. KQBD news, KQ, ATS, data journalists, Lisa pickoff white also reported this story tomorrow. How to protect elders who live independently when it comes to an emergency

That was science reporters Daneielle Venton and Molly Peterson from our partners at KQED. KQED's data journalist Lisa Pickoff-White also reported this story. On Monday -- we’ll have the final part on how to protect elders who live independently when it comes to an emergency.

Coming up on San Diego News Matters….Derby United opened its two-rink facility in March and closed weeks later because of COVID-19. Now it's had to pivot.

ISABELLE RINGER: I'm not going to lie. It's been really hard. We built this place to have big roller derby programs.

KPBS’ Beth Accomando skated with the folks at Derby United. She has the latest on how the beat ‘em up skate sport battles on. That’s up next after this.

Filmmaker Barbara Kopple won Oscars for intimate documentaries about striking workers, "Harlan County, USA" and "American Dream." Now she looks to a story that has a more global scope, "Desert One." KPBS film critic Beth Accomando has this review of the documentary opening virtually at the Coronado Film Festival and Angelika Film Center today.

"Desert One" looks to the secret mission to free the 52 men of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. The press materials note that it was called "the most audacious, difficult, complicated, rescue mission ever attempted." And spoiler alert for those who don't know history, it also failed. But that doesn't stop filmmaker Barbara Kopple from documenting the mission in engrossing detail. She interviews Jimmy Carter, special ops members, hostages as well as Iranian captors. She even finds an Iranian man who witnessed the mission as a boy on a bus in the desert. She also uncovers amazing archival material.
CLIP They have passed the point of no return…
Although this is considered one of Carter's epic failures, what's refreshing is to see a president who's guided more by humanity than political opportunity, and who readily accepted all responsibility for what happened.
CLIP It was my decision to attempt the rescue operation, it was my decision to cancel it. The responsibility was fully my own.
"Desert On"e is a compellingly told, surprisingly intimate, and meticulously researched documentary but I wish it also looked for deeper insights. Take out tag
That was Beth Accomando, and sticking with Beth’s work here for a bit…..

In March, Derby United opened its outdoor, two rink facility for roller derby bouts. But, within just two weeks, the coronavirus pandemic happened...and it was forced to close. Since then, Derby United had to get creative, and find a way to re-open.

KPBS’ Beth Accomando went to the outdoor rink in Encanto, for a skate lesson...and there she met up with Nili Goldfarb, or, actually, Goldfarb is better by her derby name, Isebelle Ringer, or Ringer for short. She’s the owner and general manager of Derby United.

Here’s that interview….

That was Nili Goldfarb also known as Isebelle Ringer, owner and general manager of Derby United, speaking with KPBS Arts Reporter, Beth Accomando

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

And just a reminder, we’re still looking to hear from our audience in regards to the looming eviction crisis. Two state bills are still pending to thwart said crisis, but we want to hear from you if this is affecting you, or your family. Call (619) 452-0228‬ and leave a voice message with your full name and then tell us about your experience.

And as always, you can also find us on Twitter @ Kpbs news, or to find our podcast producer, Kinsee Morlan, she’s @ Kinsee. 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. 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.