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

Record High Deaths

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Above: Vials of coronavirus test samples at the University of San Diego testing site on July 15, 2020.

San Diego County public health officials reported a record 17 COVID-19-related deaths and 409 new cases Thursday as they opened a new testing site in Imperial Beach. Plus: some school districts are still planning on bringing students back to campuses, San Diego Pride’s digital offerings and more local news you need.

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San Diego County public health officials reported 17 COVID-19-related deaths yesterday. A record high for the region…

They also reported 409 new cases…

The good news? Out of 10,434 recorded tests in the county on thursday, 4% of which were positive. The rolling 14-day average for positive tests is now 6%. The state's target is below 8% positive test rate.

A new COVID-19 testing site is now open in Imperial Beach. The site at Mar Vista High School offers up to 185 appointments per day. It's the sixth testing site in South County, a part of the region which has been especially hard hit.

Tests at the site are limited to those with symptoms or those in high risk groups. You can schedule an appointment by calling 2-1-1 or going to the county's coronavirus website at coronavirus-dash-sd-dot-com.

Meanwhile...Rite Aid is expanding its COVID-19 testing capacity with more than 1-
hundred new drive-through testing locations opening yesterday across California ...
including five in San Diego County.

Testing at Rite Aid is available by appointment for people 18 years of age or older ... regardless of whether the person is experiencing symptoms. Results are expected in three to five days.

County locations providing testing starting as of yesterday are in Alpine ... Fallbrook ...
Lemon Grove ... Oceanside and Valley Center.

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 Friday, July 17.

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

As school districts mull whether to bring students back to the classroom this fall, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond says he supports some districts' decision to continue with distance learning.

"If school had opened tomorrow, most of our districts would open in distance learning. And that is a decision that I think is a good decision if conditions don't change"

With COVID-19 infections surging, the San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified School Districts this week announced plans to begin their school years online.

Several other San Diego County districts quickly followed suit. But others are still planning on bringing students back to campuses.

KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong spoke to administrators about their different plans for the Fall.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District decided not to reopen physical campuses and to start with online instruction in the fall. Superintendent Francisco Escobedo said he's not committing to any timeline for reopening school sites, but he said a significant drop in infection rates and increased testing capacity are crucial.

I would hope it's the second or third week, but it's hard.. I can't pinpoint a time frame until the indicators tell me it's time to start coming back.

But up in the Poway Unified School District, students will be able to choose between in-person, online and hybrid instruction. The district has installed plexiglass barriers and new ventilation filters at all of its schools. Superintendent Marian Kim-Phelps said the district made its decision after getting input from the community.

"This is what our students need and this is what our community's asking for. I think every district needs to react and be prepared to serve the children they're responsible to serve."

San Marcos Unified and the Cajon Valley School District have also committed to reopening campuses. Meanwhile, Sweetwater Union High, which covers many of the same neighborhoods as Chula Vista Elementary is starting online only. Others, like Oceanside Unified and Vista Unified, have yet to decide.

‘Police Accountability Now.’ That's the call from a group of San Diego civil rights attorneys in the wake of recent protests against police violence.

Attorney Dante Pride is bringing four suits against the City of La Mesa and its police department. One of them involves Leslie Furcron, who was hit by a beanbag round between the eyes during last month’s protests..

"She has no vision in her left eye, she has problems walking, she has problems remembering, “

But KPBS reporter John Carroll says the attorneys’ demands go beyond justice for their clients.

Six civil rights attorneys took to zoom today… they held a news conference where they detailed lawsuits they're bringing on behalf of clients involved in anti-police violence protests. Some of the stories of what they say happened to their clients are disturbing and unnerving. This one from Dante Pride.

"Bethany LeBarge, she was out at the protest and she was hit an inch and a half away from her pacemaker. She could have died."

The attorneys are calling for police accountability now… and that's more than words. It's the name of a policing policy package put together by the local non-profit, Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency. Some of what's in the package is also in legislation before lawmakers in Sacramento. And the attorneys are calling for San Diegans to support a November ballot initiative which would establish a civilian police review board with actual power to demand changes in policing.

A federal judge in San Diego is considering whether or not to uphold California’s ban on private prisons

The ban, passed into law last October, prohibits the renewal of detention facility contracts with private companies, such as those that run immigration detention facilities.

In a press conference shortly before the hearing, former ICE detainee Humberto (oomberto) Hernandez spoke about his treatment at the Adelanto Processing Center, which is operated by a private detention company.

Medical access is very limited. It takes weeks just to get any medical help. Adelanto and G-E-O cut down on costs in any way they can, and medical help is one of them. It took me over three weeks just to see a doctor, for a skin condition, and I can't imagine what it's like now, during COVID-19.

KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler has details about the case.

Federal District Judge Janis Sammartino said on Thursday morning that she was prepared to allow most of California's ban on private prisons to continue.

The bill, known as AB 32, banned all private prisons in the state, including immigrant detention facilities like the Otay Mesa Detention Center. The lawsuit was brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and the private detention company the Geo Group.

Nikki Marquez is an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. She said that judge Sammartino understood the aims of California's law.

MARQUEZ: You know, the state of California, this law, AB 32, it is not about immigration enforcement, it's about protecting the health and safety and human lives of Californians that are in detention.

The judge did leave open the possibility that private facilities used by the US Marshal's service, one of which is in San Diego, could be allowed to continue to operate. She has yet to issue a formal ruling.

The Navy says the fire on board the USS Bonhomme Richard is finally out.

KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says now the process begins to determine what really happened.

Burning since Sunday, the Navy is declaring the fire out, on board Bonhomme Richard
According to documents provided by the Navy -- Over the last decade there were 9 serious fires on board Navy ships around the world -- 7 have been on board ships in port -- most undergoing maintenance.Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck addressed whether ships are safe, tied to the dock in places like San Diego.
"Of the countless thousands of maintenance availabilities that we do. Over the last 10 years, you're going to have places where errors exist. We've addressed each of those areas, each one of those times. And we've learned those lessons, both from human error or from equipment failure."

At the moment, it hasn't been determined whether the Bonhomme Richard can be returned to service.

Coming up….

What does it take to move the region’s biggest annual event from in-person to online?

Learn more about San Diego Pride’s virtual offerings this weekend after a quick break.

Like Comicon baseball and other large outdoor gatherings, San Diego's annual pride parade has been canceled this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the event has shifted online.

KPBS Midday Edition’s Mark Sauer talked with Fernando Lopez Junior, executive director of San Diego Pride, about the virtual happenings.

what was it like transitioning this 200,000 person event to an online venue this year?
Speaker 2: 00:27 It has been quite the task and I couldn't be more proud of the team for completely shifting, not just this weekend's event, but really the entire organization. San Diego pride is a year round education and advocacy organization with more than 37 different programs. And so right away, when all of this started, we had to immediately shift everything into online and streaming formats. And then the big challenge became how do you do that for something as massive as the single largest civic event in the region with over 350,000 people in attendance. And we got creative and I think we are going to pull something off this weekend that our community is going to be really proud of.
Speaker 1: 01:08 Yeah. But it's all brand new. Right? Uh, you had some specific challenges that you really had to think about and work on, right?
Speaker 2: 01:14 Oh, absolutely. We have a amazing large volunteer team of over 150 LGBT and ally community members who every year and all year round give their specific skillsets and passion and time to the organization to make sure that all of our programs and pride weekend runs successfully. And so all of a sudden that giant production team and leadership team had to learn all of these new skills. So that way we could produce all of these videos, um, and just change everything that we do into this online format when we essentially became TV producers, uh, in the matter of weeks, in some ways. And then definitely for this weekend was an enormous task with thousands of people working to have hundreds of people, editing videos, just to be able to produce these about eight hours of content on Saturday.
Speaker 1: 02:04 What are some of the online events that stand out to you as you put this all together?
Speaker 2: 02:08 So this last weekend we had our LGBTQ women's event. She Fest, which on a normal year we'll have about a thousand to 1500 people participate. And this year we had over 16,000 people tune into the live event. And while it was streaming live, there were simultaneously happening for different at any given time like workshops with different education and classes and performances that were happening on the side that people were able to tune into. And that was hugely successful. I never could have imagined that that would have been that successful. And then last night was our spirit or our light up that cathedral event where almost 20,000 people tuned in. And that really focuses on LGBTQ interfaith organizing and social justice work that happens through our faith community for our movement. So, I mean, we've already had two very successful events and then is our spirit of Stonewall rally, where we honor the origins of our movement, talk about the issues that we still have to overcome and just call to action. And I'm really excited for that. And then of course probably live this weekend.
Speaker 1: 03:12 Well, it seems these online events are increasing access, as you say. Um, pride has been criticized about that previously, is this something pride may continue in future years, post pandemic when we're back doing a real live event parade and such?
Speaker 2: 03:26 Oh, absolutely. We're, we've just been overwhelmed with how much positive response there has been to this programming. And so a lot of this is going to stick with us. We're our spirit is Stonewall series that we did where we took each of our awardees. And instead of just putting them up on a stage and have something, their bio and a website, we gave them a 30 minute to one hour live streaming segment where folks were really able to get to know these people, their organizations, and how to get involved. So that's definitely something that we're going to keep going forward. I think it was a huge success.
Speaker 1: 03:57 It's a huge economic driver for San Diego, as well as a big fundraiser for your organization. What do you expect the monetary impact will be of not having the in person event?
Speaker 2: 04:07 Well, for San Diego pride, the organization itself it's represents about a two point $5 million loss to the organization, but we've been fundraising all year and we're still fundraising. So if people want to chime in and make a donation to us, that would really be helpful because we are the single most philanthropic pride in the world. We've given out more than $3 million to LGBT serving organizations locally and all across the globe. So that is impacted all of our education advocacy work is funded by this weekend. So we're hoping that folks see it, uh, that they're able to make a contribution and donate to San Diego pride. And the other piece of that is so many local small businesses and in particular, LGBT small businesses are impacted by pride. We have a 26 point $6 million economic impact in the city of San Diego. So without the massive in-person event, that's definitely going to be yet another financial strain on all of these businesses that are already hurting
Speaker 1: 05:03 As if we need more strains these days in San Diego. Well, the Supreme court rule last month that gay and transgender workers cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. I assume that's something that this year's pride is going to celebrate as well.
Speaker 2: 05:17 Absolutely. The title seven Supreme court victory was a huge win for our movement. We're going to ride that wave. Absolutely. And we'll be talking about that. We'll be talking about, of course the black lives matter movement and the ongoing and systemic police brutality that happens towards the LGBT community and to communities of color, whether they're black, Latino, or indigenous communities. And in particular, our trans communities that, you know, we've been seeing a global uprising and response to that. And that's also the origins of the pride movement, right? Pride started as, as a riot against police brutality. And in many ways that work continues. There was some news as well
Speaker 1: 05:58 This year, uh, this all leads me to the suspected homicide of a trans woman in Imperial County. That was a very disturbing story. What does Maryland's death say about where our country is with trans rights?
Speaker 2: 06:11 You know, um, that really hit me personally. Um, I'm from the Imperial Valley and I grew up there 21 years ago. I left because I received death threats. People literally tried to kill me in the Imperial Valley and I got out and I came to San Diego as a homeless youth. And 40% of our homeless youth are LGBT identified and trans women are being killed all over this country at epidemic rates. And there is so much work to do there. And so the death of Maryland has really impacted me and has really impacted our region. Uh, we're working directly with [inaudible] the executive director of the LGBT community center down there to try to support them as best we can. A lot of our leaders here are from the Imperial Valley. So we're doing our best to really help the movement down there in the community down there. And we're all grieving
Speaker 1: 07:03 Organization announced last month that police would no longer be involved in the pride parade and festival that it will be reconsidered once a, a series of steps are taken. Why did your organization decide to make that move?
Speaker 2: 07:15 So we've been asked by the LGBTQ black and trans community for a very long time to remove law enforcement officers or law enforcement agencies from participating in the pride parade, SDPD his own data shows that there is a disparity in the treatment of how law enforcement officers treat LGBTQ folks and the black and Brown communities. And so that disparity is real, that sort of systemic discrimination still exists. And a lot of that has to do with implicit bias and San Diego prides mission is to make sure that we're calling out discrimination and meeting it head on. And so what we've done is finally listened to the LGBTQ black community and said, okay, we see that this discrimination is real. And so how can we find a way to address this? Like obviously we know that SDPD and local law enforcement agencies do so much to keep us safe and particular at the pride event.
Speaker 2: 08:11 So that's not going to change. They're still going to be there to keep us safe every single year. But what is going to change is, as we've witnessed all of this trauma online of police brutality and the murder of innocent black and Brown Americans, that that is trauma and that it's traumatizing and we're being respectful of our LGBTQ black communities and this intersectional movement and saying, we're not going to allow these agencies to March down the parade for the time being with, you know, full uniform and their weapons because that's retraumatizing for a lot of folks in our community. So while we have the utmost respect for what they do to keep us safe, we also want to be respectful of the black community and what they're asking us to do.

And that was Fernando Lopez Junior, executive director of San Diego Pride, talking with KPBS Midday Edition’s Mark Sauer. To hear more stories like that one, make sure you’re subscribed to the Midday Edition podcast…

And if you’re listening to this episode right now online via your web browser, and you have yet to subscribe to San Diego News Matters and become a daily listener, take a minute and do that now. You can find this show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher...or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thanks in advance. And thanks for listening to today’s show.

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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.