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

San Diego’s Essential Workers

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PHOTO BY JAE C. HONG AP

Above: People take the oath of allegiance to become U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center in 2017.

A new report from the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at UC San Diego says one-third of the city of San Diego's essential health, food and agricultural workers in the city of San Diego are foreign-born. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: San Diego City Council members voted Tuesday to extend the city's moratorium on evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more restrictions for bars and restaurants and more of the local news you need.

On Monday, San Diego County officials ordered all bars that don’t serve food to close indefinitely.

And on Tuesday - they added on a new order -- all restaurants that serve alcohol must close by 10 p.m. That new rule goes into effect today.

The orders come amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

Health officials reported 317 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, bringing the county total to over 14,000. . They also reported 4 more deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 365.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said bars, restaurants and private residences make up the largest source, or approximately 40%, of recent community outbreaks.


our hope is the actions we're taking, shouting bars and restaurants. And simultaneously limit the number of outbreaks and the spread from those two settings. But these two actions alone will not be enough. And that is why we continue to call on the public to please use caution. Please follow the public health guides,

AS COVID-19 cases continue to jump across California, Governor Gavin Newsom said he will be announcing new restrictions today to address the virus's spread.

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The man shot by San Diego Police officers after a confrontation in downtown San Diego on Saturday has died.

25-year-old Leonardo Hurtado Ibarra had been in intensive care since being shot by two officers just before 6 p.m. Saturday at the corner of Sixth Avenue and B Street. He was pronounced dead on Monday night, according to a statement from the San Diego Police Department.

The statement also named the two officers who shot Ibarra: Jonathon Lucas and Tevar Zaki, both 4 year veterans of the Central Division . The officers have been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation of the shooting by the homicide department, which is standard procedure.

Neither officer has been involved in other shootings, according to records released by the San Diego Police Department.

A police statement about the shooting says the officers recognized Ibarra from a recent wanted flier because of distinctive tattoos on his face.

The release said that when the officers attempted to contact him, he drew a firearm and pointed it at one of the officers, prompting them to fire their weapons.

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San Diego City Council members voted Tuesday to extend the city's moratorium on evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The moratorium, which applies to both residential tenants and businesses, had been due to expire yesterday, but will now last until September 30.

Councilmember Vivian Moreno says while some parts of the economy are reopening, parts of her district like Logan Heights are still seeing unemployment rates around 25 percent.


"This is only going to get worse as bars are being asked to close as we speak. We need to ensure that residents have some security and know that they're not going to lose the roof over their head while we continue to battle this pandemic."

The council also voted to allocate 15.1 million dollars to help low-income tenants pay rent. Those funds are expected to become available in August.

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From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters.

It’s Wednesday, July 1.

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

Advocates are asking the state to end what they call the trauma of "solitary confinement" for residents at senior care facilities by allowing them at least one designated visitor.

KPBS's Amita Sharma reports that the ban on visitors, that took effect at the COVID-19 pandemic's start, has taken a toll.


Some people living in senior homes have grown despondent after going months without seeing family and friends. A few have stopped eating and getting out of bed. Dementia has worsened. Pat McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, says the isolation has led to preventable deaths and emotional devastation.

2:03 "Continuing to leave nursing home residents to get infected, to suffer and to die alone is not a civilized option."

McGinnis is calling on the state to mandate that each resident in a senior care facility have at least one "support person visitor" who would undergo the same screening for COVID-19 as people who work at the facility.

In emails to KPBS, state officials and representatives of senior care facilities have said they are allowing visitors to facilities that meet certain standards for staffing, testing and safety compliance.

However, it is unclear who is ensuring that compliance, and advocates say visitors are still being turned away.

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Genetic sequencing, or decoding someone's DNA, may help hospitals care for babies with rare genetic diseases much faster and more effectively than traditional treatment.

Stephen Kingsmore is CEO of Rady's Children Institute for Genetic Medicine, one of 5 hospitals participating in a two-year study that decoded the DNA of over 170 newborn babies with unknown but critical illnesses.


It actually costs less to do genome sequencing than not to do genome sequencing because of the benefits to these children.

KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chatlani has the story.

When newborn babies go to an intensive care unit, it's difficult to determine what condition the baby has.. That can lead to years of ineffective treatment and high hospital bills.
So in 2018, 5 different California hospitals participated in a state sponsored study to see whether a rapid genetic sequencing test could help. Doctors decoded the DNA of around 170 newborn babies with these critical, but unknown illnesses. And, Stephen Kingsmore CEO of participating Rady's Children Institute for Genomic Medicine, Says the results are exciting,
~ 9:50
KINGSMORE: almost half of the babies we tested did indeed have a genetic disease. We were able to identify the cause of their illness. We were able to shorten the length of stay. And these babies have better outcomes.
The biggest question in the study however was cost. Genetic sequencing, while it only takes a couple days, is expensive. But the study also found the tool saved money, said Bryce Waldman, a market analyst at Radys.
~21:20
WALDMAN: So a large majority of the savings, approximately 94 percent were from reduced days, reduced inpatient days. The baby quickly was able to leave the hospital and didn't have to stay in another week, two weeks, even months.
Waldman says the over two million dollars in savings across the study is a modest estimate.

San Diego's immigrant community is playing a pivotal role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new report from the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at UC San Diego says one-third of the city's essential health, food and agricultural workers are foreign-born.

For instance, approximately 36,000 essential health workers in the city of San Diego are immigrants.

Tom Wong, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at UC San Diego, authored the study. He joined Midday Edition’s Maureen Cavanaugh to discuss what he learned from the data.


What more can you tell us about foreign born essential workers in San Diego, specifically those who are employed in the healthcare?
Speaker 2: 00:55 Yeah, so we looked at the most recent American community surveys. So that's a census survey, micro data, and we were trying to better understand the foreign born population here in San Diego, a demographic trends, economic contributions, education. Uh, one of the things that really stuck out is that approximately one third of our essential health food production and agricultural workers are foreign born. So when we think about the COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it, then the foreign born population here in San Diego certainly are critical for the front lines. What we also found was that approximately two thirds of those foreign born essential food production and agricultural workers are non-citizens. And when it comes to essential health workers about one third are non-citizens. So when we think about the foreign born population, we generally dis-aggregate between those who are naturalized citizens, and those who are non-citizens within that non-citizen category. That includes people who are green card holders, but that also includes undocumented immigrants. And so from these data, we can see that, uh, San Diego's foreign born population across many immigration statuses are on the front lines, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaker 1: 02:25 And how much of the economy would you say relies on foreign born workers, the economy of San Diego?
Speaker 2: 02:31 So what we've found in the data are that approximately 213,000 foreign born workers add to the city's overall labor force. So among those foreign born workers, uh, 94% were employed at the time of the survey, uh, given the covered 19 pandemic and its effect on the economy. We fully suspect that the percentage employed has has, uh, as it has across the board, uh, for all Americans. But when we think about what the data show in terms of economic contributions, those 200,000 plus workers, they've added an estimated 2.6, $8 billion in federal taxes and almost $950 million in state and local taxes based on the pretax wages and salary income that they've earned. So it's clear in the data how important foreign born workers are to the economy in terms of their, uh, monetary contributions. But we also see in the data how the foreign born population more generally is adding to our sort of innovation economy and our 21st century workforce.
Speaker 2: 03:51 So when we think about the foreign born population and the skills that they have, or are currently acquiring while in school, we can see in the micro data, not just whether or not one has a bachelor's degree or higher, but we can also see the degree field that a person has earned a degree in. And so among the foreign born population in San Diego who has a bachelor's degree or higher, the top five degree areas are engineering at the top, followed by business biology and life sciences. Next comes medical and health sciences, and then the social sciences. So when we think about the foreign born population and the current contribution to San Diego's economy, we can think about dollars and cents. But when we combine education, we can also think about how San Diego's foreign born population is making us that much more competitive, uh, by growing our 21st century workforce.
Speaker 1: 04:56 So almost 30% of San Diego's population is foreign born. How does that compare to the nation as a whole?
Speaker 2: 05:05 Yes. So California leads the way when it comes to immigration and immigrants in American society. So the foreign born population in the United States is just under 14%. And so with nearly 30% of San Diego's population being foreign born, we are over double the national average. When we think about where these immigrants are coming from, this is where the data become incredibly interesting. So when we think about the foreign born population in the city of San Diego, one might think our neighbors to the South Mexico is being a, uh, large sending country, which of course it is. But when we look at the data over the last five years, the most significant growth in our foreign born population, it's not coming from Latin America, but it's coming from Asia and more significantly from Africa and the middle East. And so what we also see in the data is that by 2030, the plurality of immigrants here in San Diego will be from Asia. And when we think about a neighborhoods like city Heights, when we think about, uh, alcohol and our resettled refugee community, we can also begin to imagine how the trend of more immigration from the continent of Africa and the middle East will further diversify the region as a whole,
Speaker 1: 06:36 As the nation's reckoning over race and racism continues. How do you think this information can contribute to that larger conversation?
Speaker 2: 06:46 I think we are at an inflection point when it comes to race and politics in American society. I think for many good reasons, the last, uh, several weeks have been focused on the experiences of black Americans in the United States. I think when we look at the data and see an increasing number of, uh, immigrants in San Diego, coming from the continent of Africa, we can begin to understand why some of the refugee resettlement organizations here in San Diego were such strong allies and, and, you know, working in partnership with the black lives movement. When we think about what the data show in the future, and not too much further into the future, but you know, a decade from now, we're also going to see that Asian immigration is going to be a much more significant, uh, chunk of overall immigration in the United States, but also, you know, more significantly here in San Diego, the increased racism that Asian Americans have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, I think is something to also keep an eye on to the extent that we have more Asian immigrants coming into the U S and a continued perhaps conflation of, uh, immigrants and, uh, foreignness with things like disease.
Speaker 2: 08:16 Then what we can learn from the data is that the city of San Diego can be a leader. If we can manage our diversity in a way where we can grow from that diversity in a way where we can collectively think that diversity is a value added to not just the economy in terms of dollars and cents, but how people interact with each other and grow with each other. Then we can set a tone, not just for the rest of California, but for the rest of the country.

And that was Tom Wong, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at UC San Diego, talkin with Maureen Cavanaugh, host of Midday Edition. For more in-depth interviews like this one, find and subscribe to the Midday Edition podcast wherever you listen.

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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.