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LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

The Intersection Of Racism And Health

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Above: A sign requiring face covering is pictured at a beach in San Diego, July 10, 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic's disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic communities has highlighted long-existing health disparities. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: eighteen sailors were hospitalized Sunday with minor injuries after a fire broke out aboard a ship docked at Naval Base San Diego, about 136 of every 100,000 San Diegans are testing positive for COVID-19 and more local news you need.

Seventeen sailors and four civilians were hospitalized yesterday with minor injuries after a fire broke out aboard a ship docked at Naval Base San Diego.

Navy officials said the fire was caused by an internal explosion aboard the ship...but the exact cause has yet to be pinpointed.

Firefighters from San Diego and National City joined federal firefighters in responding to the scene, where plumes of smoke could be seen on the naval base from miles away.

Thousands more California prisoners could be released ahead of schedule, in response to the Covid crisis behind bars. That’s on top of 10,000 who’ve already been released since the start of the pandemic.

The California Corrections Department said the approximately 8,000 prisoners could be released by the end of August.

Those prisoners must have a year or less to go in their sentences, not be registered as a sex offender or be viewed as being at high risk of violence.

The releases are meant to maximize space in the prison system for physical distancing and quarantine efforts.

Governor Newsom says nearly 2,400 people in California's prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus... more than 13 hundred at San Quentin alone.


Local organizations are working to make sure that this year's census count includes everyone, which in turn will ensure that federal resources find their way to all San Diego communities, including those that are low-income and immigrant.

In City Heights recently, employees of the Neighborhood Cafe at the Union of Pan Asian Communities handed out food and census forms to people in need of being fed and who need to be counted.

Dante Dauz (DAWZ) helped put together the event, which handed out food to 185 families.

Obviously when a crisis occurs, it's important that our community is informed as much as possible. This is an opportunity to provide that information, one of the critical pieces is census information. All of our staff were born and raised in this community so it's a perfect match.

Local census organizers say San Diego County is slightly behind it's 2010 response rate, making the next few months critical for census efforts in our region.

Local COVID numbers are still high. According to county health data, about 136 of every 100,000 San Diegans are testing positive for the illness. More than 75% of all the community outbreaks so far have been traced to restaurants and bars, and 45 community outbreaks remain active.

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

It’s Monday, July 13.

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

The new school year starts in less than two months, yet, San Diego Unified School District teachers don't feel ready to reopen campuses while the pandemic rages.

KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong spoke with the teachers union president about the concerns.

The state's second largest school district says it has a detailed plan for its scheduled reopening on August 31st. But its teachers say the plan in its current form lacks some basic protections against the coronavirus.

I'm very concerned...

Kisha Borden is the president of the school district's teachers union. She said students and teachers need smaller class sizes, more ventilation and robust testing when schools reopen.

There were no plans for the six-feet distancing, so that was very concerning since throughout the whole covid crisis, that has been one of the primary advisories from public health officials.

In response to the union's concerns, San Diego Unified's administration teamed up this week with public health experts at UC San Diego to design a plan for safe reopening. District Spokeswoman Maureen Magee said school officials will let the scientists decide when it is safe to reopen, but that there are currently no plans to delay the start of school. She said the district is also working with public officials to increase testing capacity for students and staff.

How do you feel about schools reopening at the end of August? Call (619) 452-0228‬, tell us who you are, what neighborhood you live in and what you’re wondering about when it comes to schools and the pandemic.


A San Diego nursing home now carries the dubious distinction of having the highest number of coronavirus-infected residents in California.

KPBS's Amita Sharma has more.

Reo Vista Healthcare Center acknowledged this week that it has "100 confirmed, COVID-19 positive" residents at the facility. No other nursing home in California has that many cases, according to a state database. San Diego resident Noemi Duenas says her mother-in-law lives at the Paradise Hills facility. The 71-year-old is suffering from cancer and contracted COVID-19 during a hospital stay. Duenas says she has pleaded with Reo Vista to allow her to be properly screened so she can visit her mother-in-law.
[Notes:00:17:31.260] "She's at the end of her life...It could just be a few hours."

A spokesperson said privacy laws prevent him from talking specifically about individual residents. In an email, Reo Vista Administrator Curtis White attributed the increase in cases to rigorous testing. He added that most of the residents with coronavirus are experiencing mild or no symptoms. Also, the California Department of Public Health told KPBS that it has a strike team working with Reo Vista and San Diego County officials to help the facility with infection control.


Mexican officials say there may be relief soon for San Diego south bay residents enduring massive sewage flows from Tijuana.

KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has details.


The south bay region has endured daily sewage flows that routinely hit 25 million gallons a day. Some days it is more than 70-million gallons. Imperial Beach mayor Serge Dedina says his community has been bombarded with sewage this summer, and he calls the situation unacceptable. The counsel General of Mexico in San Diego says there are projects underway in Tijuana that will help. In a written statement, Carlos González Gutiérrez says there are several projects underway that could help. He says the Mexican government has new pumps that will be installed at a key location near the U-S Mexico border. There’s a flood diversion dam under construction there and Mexico is looking for a private contractor to run a key pump station near the border. Dedina says he welcomes the improvements but will wait to see their impact before he celebrates.


The Trump administration has effectively ended the asylum system along the southern border during the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of asylum-seekers
have been turned back to Mexico.

Now, KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler tells us that late last month, an asylum-seeking mother was given the choice of leaving her newborn child alone in the US, or both of them being returned to Mexico.

On June 27th, a pregnant Honduran asylum-seeker, her partner, and their nine-year-old son, were arrested by Border Patrol agents shortly after crossing the border through the desert near the San Ysidro Port of entry.

The woman was taken to a hospital in Chula Vista, where she gave birth. Two days later, Border patrol agents gave her a choice: either hand over her U.S. citizen child to social services, or return with the baby to Mexico.

Mitra Ebadolahi is an attorney with the ACLU. She said the mother and the baby were returned to Mexico.

MITRA: These people both, both the mother and the father, were literally driven in a patrol vehicle to the border and forced to walk across into Mexico, by armed agents. I don't see choices there.

A Border Patrol spokesperson said that because the mother has no "right" to be in the US, she can't "choose" to stay there and that she could simply choose to leave the child in their custody.

On Friday, Jewish Family Service of San Diego issued a request to Customs and Border Protection to simply allow the family to enter the US to continue their asylum process.


Coming up after the break….

A look at the intersection of racism and health….How COVID cases are highlighting long-existing disparities.

Plus...plasma with antibodies as a treatment for coronavirus….how well does it actually work?

Sit tight.

Plasma donations as a treatment for coronavirus patients have gained attention in recent months.

But UC San Diego Health is participating in a national clinical trial to see whether the tactic actually works.

KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chatlani has the details.

The idea of transferring plasma, with virus fighting antibodies, from a survivor patient to an infected patient has become more widely embraced since the onset of the pandemic.

But there haven't been many large-scale, controlled clinical trials to see whether the method actually reduces the severity of an early infection, says Edward Cachay, infectious disease expert at UC San Diego Health. He says in some early clinical trials - like in China….

CACHAY: those patients were receiving other interventions, like steroid.. So on those smaller studies it's hard to disentangle what worked because it wasn't controlled.

The study will recruit nearly 500 patients across the country. Cachay says he thinks the treatment could be most effective in patients with early exposure and little to no symptoms.

The coronavirus pandemic's disproportionate impact on Black and Latino communities has highlighted long-existing health disparities.

KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento digs into the history of how inequities developed.

San Diego's City Heights neighborhood is seeing a higher rate of coronavirus cases than the county. It's the same trend in Southeast San Diego. These communities that have larger Hispanic and Black populations than the city are where the nearly century-old and now illegal practice of redlining occurred. That's when a government backed body marked maps of predominantly minority communities in red and labeled them a poor financial investment.

NAT POP: ) "Black Americans being essentially by policy, forced to stay in one part of a community

Dr. Cheryl Anderson joined me outside the school of public health where she's dean to explain how this anti-black policy led to the health disparities we're seeing today in black and even Hispanic communities.

12;53;29;26 (:25) and white Americans being encouraged and supported in staying in another part of the community, the start lines are different. And so you now have certain neighborhoods that by sheer structure and design, don't get resources."

She says those disproportionate jumping off points become exacerbated over time.

12;54;02;18 (:20) "And then you look up and you see outcomes, whether they be educational in nature or health in nature. And you say, oh, it must be that there's something wrong with black people because black people are having these poor outcomes. No black people were by policy forced into neighborhoods that were not developed, that were not invested in"

She says this goes back to zoning and planning decisions.

"So in San Diego. Much of our county's activities are based on a concept of three, four fifty and three. Four fifty is a way that we think about chronic disease prevention in that three behaviors are responsible for four health conditions that are responsible for the mortality of 50 percent of our county. And these figures play out across the country as well. When you look at those three behaviors, they are physical inactivity, inadequate diets and tobacco use.

"So you have a policy around housing that then settles people in a neighborhood where it is more likely to have tobacco and alcohol sold to you, where you are less likely to have greenspace and be physically active, where you are less likely to have access to grocery stores that allow you to nourish yourself in ways that are more adequate."

"And then the chances of you developing high blood pressure, diabetes, lung disease are increased."


"But the real deal is when we take a justice approach, which is to really understand what is the barrier, what is the reason, what is the root cause for us, seeing the outcomes that we're seeing and removing those systemic barriers so that people can actually have the ability to get to that better outcome."

I asked Anderson if there's anyone, anywhere doing the work to counter these barriers. And she brought up the recent news that certain sports teams are rethinking their mascots that people have long pointed out are racist.

"Why are they rethinking that? They're rethinking it because certain businesses are saying we will not advertise. We will not support you if you continue to have this practice. And so I think what what needs to happen is we need to think about this from a systems perspective and we're all accountable. We all have a role here. And so when you see the power and the privilege beginning to listen and say this is not OK. We have to figure out how it is that we're going to turn this around."

TM: "There might be some people out there, business owners or individuals who have nothing to do with health care, who have nothing to do with providing resources for a community, who may think that they are exempt from having to take any action because they're not part of what created it and they're not part of the system that can directly fix it. But it sounds like with your mascot's example, you're saying that's not the case."

"So if you are supporting a community practice that has racist historical origins, racism is not a deal breaker for you. So you may not be racist. You may not be practicing or engaging in a racist moment. But is racism a deal breaker for you? And if racism is a deal breaker for you, then the way you vote, where you spend your money and how you exercise, you know, your your time and energy will somehow be engaged in trying to help us address this issue of racism."

Dr. Anderson is penning an op-ed on the actions an individual can take.

KPBS health reporter Tarryn Mento.


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.