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

Childcare Crisis Looming?

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY JOE HONG

Above: Students in the Neighborhood House Associations childcare program enjoy their outdoor time. Jan. 16, 2020

We now know that many schools in San Diego will likely be closed in the fall, but what about daycares and preschools? Plus: Thousands of workers in California have filed complaints in recent months about feeling unsafe on the job because of coronavirus, members of the Kumeyaay Nation have been protesting the construction of a border wall and more local news you need.

San Diego News Matters is KPBS’ daily news podcast. Support the show: https://www.kpbs.org/donate

Most of California’s 6.7 million schoolkids will be learning from home when the new school year begins in a few weeks.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday issued strict educational guidelines for 32 counties..including San Diego County...that are on a state watch list because of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Safety is foundational and safety will ultimately make the determination of how we go about educating our kids as we move our way into the fall and work our way into the pandemic.

Under the new rules, not a single San Diego County school...public or private...would be allowed to start in-person instruction if the fall semester began today. A county now must be off the state's COVID-19 monitoring list for 14 days before school campuses can be reopened.

In a statement issued after Newsom's announcement, the county office of education said it will work with districts to help them comply with the order.

***

Thousands of workers in California have filed complaints in recent months about feeling unsafe on the job because of coronavirus … The grievances show up in a range of industries including manufacturing, retail and food production.

Between February and May, the state received 26-hundred complaints, according to a CapRadio review of publicly disclosed data.

Health systems had some of the highest number of complaints. CapRadio's Scott Rodd says Kaiser Permanente topped the list.

"Dozens of filings with the state claimed Kaiser did not provide adequate protective equipment to staff...specifically N95 respirator masks. Kaiser is now providing the masks, but requires staff to reuse them after being sanitized. "

In a statement, Kaiser said it is committed to the health of its staff and patients...And that's reflected in its workplace safety policies.

The company did acknowledge that the health care industry as a whole has struggled to obtain protective equipment, especially at the start of the pandemic.

***

The number of daily COVID-19 cases in San Diego County has topped 600 for the second time.

County public health officials reported 625 new cases Saturday/

A new record of 153.2 of every 100,000 San Diegans are testing now positive for the illness as of last Thursday's data...

***
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 20.

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

Members of the Kumeyaay (KOOM-E-YAY) Nation have been protesting the construction of a border wall atop their ancestral lands in the Laguna Mountains.

KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler was there on Friday as they blocked construction vehicles at the site.

The youth-led group says the government has refused to consult with them to identify possible heritage sites they say the massive construction project is now destroying.

Cynthia Parada is a council woman with the La Posta band of MIssion Indians.

CYNTHIA: We found mitten soil, which is signs of cremation, which is our remains. We found tools and flakes and stuff that symbolizes there are villages in this area and that our people stayed here.

WALLPROTEST 2A (0:09): They're infringing on our religious freedom to be able to keep our cultural areas, our sacred areas, where we go and pray, a lot of our cultural areas and we're tired of losing them.

On Friday morning, Kumeyaay protestors successfully blocked the path of construction vehicles that were moving into the area.

They're say they're taking direct action to buy time for a legal challenge to the wall construction.

***

It's the number we all rely on in an emergency. But now, when you call 911 for police in Chula Vista, you become part of a new, first-of-its-kind 911 system.

Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy says the system, called "Live 911,” is helping speed up response times, and also helping officers to de escalate situations.


"This is an opportunity to help officers have more information to make better informed decisions."

KPBS reporter John Carroll tells us more.

______________________________________________________________________

911 isn't what it used to be in Chula Vista. Now when you call in, you're not just on the line with a dispatcher. Your call is also being monitored by police officers in the field equipped with special laptops that pinpoint your location. Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy says the system, called "Live 911," is shaving seconds, even minutes off of response times.

"If an officer has the ability to get there quicker and your family member or you are in a situation where it's potentially life or death, will 30 seconds make a difference to you?"

The Live 911 system has been in use for about 6 months. It was the idea of a now-retired Chula Vista Police Captain who worked with an L-A software company to make it a reality.
***
Staying home to reduce the spread of COVID has also helped keep most other communicable diseases from spreading. But KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento tells us about one annoying reason to stay vigilant.

__________________________________________

Infections linked to mosquitos are down this year. That's partially due to stay-home orders because some diseases are only picked up in foreign countries and few people are traveling. But county vector ecologist Chris Conlan says that's not the case with West Nile, which is present in the region.

(:08) "So it's always here but it has a natural cycle that it follows and that cycle can be 2, 3, 4, 5 even more years apart sometimes."

He says there's a coincidental lull in west nile cases but that can change with or without orders to stay home.

(:08) 10;18;09;13 so yeah it's been quiet. Now that's not to say it can't take off once it gets going but fingers crossed we seem to be doing OK so far this year

He says to keep it that way… San Diegans can use this time home to check for stagnant pools of water.

Health officials worry some disease numbers are down not because of quarantine, but because people are staying away from doctors, fearful of getting care during the pandemic.

***

We now know that many schools in San Diego will likely be closed in the fall, but what about daycares and preschools?

Some have stayed open throughout the pandemic, and others are opening now. But a childcare crisis could be looming.

Providers throughout the county tell KPBS reporter Claire Trageser that COVID-related restrictions are putting them out of business.

Randy Lum and his wife Abigail have struggled since the beginning of the pandemic to work from home while caring for their two young children. So they were eagerly awaiting the opening of their son’s preschool at the beginning of July.

Randy Lum
San Diego Parent
SOT
"But the closer it got, they said they were going to reopen, but then we were a couple days away and didn't hear anything."

Then the email arrived. The school wouldn't be able to open as expected. They were told to check back in September.

Lum’s predicament could become reality for many parents. KPBS surveyed 10 owners of preschools throughout the county and all said their businesses have been decimated during the pandemic. Seven said they are in danger of going out of business permanently.

There are a few reasons. First, many parents are scared to send their kids back to preschools. Also, the county’s social distancing requirements mean class sizes have been cut in half.

Holly Weber
Magic Hours Preschool
SOT
"My hourly wages and salaries for staff, my rent, any operating expenses are made to sustain full time enrollment."

Holly Weber is the owner of Magic Hours Preschool in Mira Mesa.

SOT
"Now I'm at a third income, but my operating operating expenses haven't changed, my salaries and expenses are the same, so I'm at a two-thirds deficit."

Sally Chenoweth, the owner of Discovery Preschools in Oceanside, says the new reality means daycares are full without really being full.

Sally Chenoweth
Discovery Preschools, Inc.
SOT
"Right now, based on the restrictions for how many kids we can have in the building, we're bringing in about 60% of what we normally do but our costs exceed that."

The county had a significant shortage of daycare spots before the pandemic. And now many are worried that a full-blown childcare crisis is unfolding that could sink a local economy already depressed by the coronavirus.

SOT
"The current moment looks bad, but the long term looks dire."

Alicia Sasser Modestino is an associate professor in economics at Northeastern University. She says because daycares and preschools operate under very slim margins, these restrictions, along with short-term closures, are difficult to recover from.

Alicia Sasser Modestino
Northeastern University
SOT
"All parents are dealing with a paradox. If they are working from home, they are grateful to have a job and have that flexibility, but at the same time they are drowning in how hard this is to juggle."

She recently conducted a survey of 2,500 working parents about their childcare during the pandemic and found that 13% reported losing a job or reducing hours as a direct result of a lack of childcare. And, she says, those losses disproportionately impacted women without a college degree, or who were lower income, or who were Black or Hispanic.

Now, there may be some help on the way. San Diego County is looking to spend an extra $25 million in federal funds on grants for existing preschools.

Also, the state and county have begun to loosen restrictions on how daycares operate. For example, instead of requiring smaller class sizes, new guidelines say groups of children should be “as small as possible.” And keeping teachers from co-mingling with different groups of students is now a recommendation rather than a requirement.

https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-childcare.pdf

Several of the daycare owners surveyed by KPBS say loosening of the rules mean they will increase their class sizes to 12 and have a "floater" teacher who goes between groups.

Chenoweth, the owner of Discovery Preschools, says those changes would help, but still would not bring her business's balance book back into the black. And she doesn't think raising fees would help because there is only so much parents can afford to pay.

SOT
"We'd all have to double our rates, and that's not going to work."

Lum and his wife are still looking for a preschool for their son. He says he could stomach a small tuition increase.

SOT
"The dentist now has a $20 PPE upcharge, and if people want to be properly guarded, they have to pay that fee. The teacher to student ratio is more challenging, and with more challenges comes more expense."

But there would be a limit.

SOT
"If it went above $1,500 a month, we're not going to be able to do it."

And that story from KPBS investigative reporter, Claire Trageser.

***
Coming up after the break…

Women in the military are much less likely to get their medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs compared to men. So the agency has made an effort to convince female veterans to give VA healthcare a chance.

That story and more.

Stick with us.

So...the big Navy ship fire is finally out...but what’s next?

KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says the Navy is deciding what to do with the burnt ship and how to prevent the next disaster.

Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday toured the fire-damaged ship Friday. The day after the Navy declared the fire was essentially out. After Seeing the damage, Gilday says the Amphibious Assault Ship may be a total loss.

Adml. Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations
2;16
"I am 100 percent confident that our defense industry can put this ship back to sea. But having said that, should we make that investment in a 22 year old ship."

Three separate investigations now get underway.
14;31
"Whether we had an adequate number of people on board for this particular environment, given the fact that this ship was at a certain point in maintenance."

Investigations will not only look at what caused the fire, but any potential criminal charges, and whether the Navy needs to change how it handles ships undergoing maintenance.

***
Last year 20-thousand women transitioned out of the military. Yet compared to men, they're much less likely to get their medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

So the agency has stepped up its efforts to convince female veterans to give VA healthcare a chance.

Jennifer Brookland reports for the American Homefront Project.

To understand who the VA was set up to serve, look no further than the agency's motto: "To care for HIM who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan." When that motto was adopted by the VA in 1959, around 98 percent of veterans were men. And that ongoing focus on "him" pretty much sums up why women today might not look to the VA as a place to get gender-specific healthcare. Women at the VA have historically- even officially- been an afterthought. So, women like Tanesha Tumblin, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, have repaid the favor.
Tumblin:
When I think of the VA, I see wounded warriors and I see broken people and someone without a limb. A women's clinic never crossed my mind.
Tumblin is separating from the military after six years in the Corps. And like many other servicewomen, she assumed VA healthcare would feel the same as the medical attention she received on active duty.That is to say...not exactly attuned to a woman's needs.
Tumblin:
When it comes to medical treatment for women, they automatically assume Oh, she's just saying she's hurting so that she can get out of this field op or this hike. And that's not the case at all...and another thing. They assume that we're all pregnant!
When she began her separation process, Tumblin never considered enrolling to get her healthcare through the VA. That's part of a longstanding trend, one that the VA is hoping to reverse with the Women's Health Transition Training Program. Nancy Maher is the program's senior Manager. She says female veterans wait longer than men do to enroll in VA healthcare, and at just 25 percent, are under-enrolled in general.
Maher:
They think that the VA is only for men. They don't think that VA is a quality place to get care. And, and they're just very unaware of all the health care services that the VA has for women.
Maher sees that under-enrollment as a big problem for women, whose health needs could fall through the cracks as they transition out of the military. The VA says women face greater health-related challenges after military service compared to their male counterparts, including chronic pain, depression and suicide. So to persuade women to enroll in VA healthcare, the program holds interactive seminars for troops who are about to leave the service.
[Notes:Bring up program audio]
"Welcome, again, to the Women's Health transition training. We're so happy you've taken time out of your busy day to join us."
Kelly Griffiths is a trainer with the program, addressing online attendees from Lackland Air Force Base.
Griffiths:
We're in the military for a long time. We have our needs taken care of. Just know that as you transition out, the VA can be there for you, as you can see for a whole host of reasons.
Griffiths says the seminars are totally different from most military training- they're led by female veterans like her who use VA healthcare themselves. And they're much more participatory and personal, even now that it's shifted online because of COVID-19. And Griffiths says just having a training geared toward women makes a difference.
Griffiths: they're so happy when they leave because there wasn't anything in the military that was ever women specific.
Maher says the program is working to change minds. She says women who've taken the training are more likely to enroll in VA healthcare and to do so more quickly. At Fort Hood, Texas, Larrie Rocha is retiring in September after 20 years of active duty in the Army. She says the training made her see the VA differently.
Rocha:
We sit back and we listen to, you know, the horror stories about receiving medical care at the VA … Knowing that we have the option as women to seek all of our health care from the VA when it comes to women's health was a huge relief to me. And I know it will be for tons of other people also.
Rocha says she plans on enrolling. And Tumblin says the training gave her a change of heart too.
Tumblin:
I definitely need to recognize that the VA is not at all like Marine Corps medical in that they really are out there to help and there are programs geared towards women. So no I don't have that mindset about the VA anymore.
As her time in the Marine Corps comes to an end, she'll be signing up for healthcare at her local VA.

And that’s Jennifer Brookland reporting for the American Homefront Project….a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

***
Churches and other religious centers can’t congregate because of the Coronavirus...but it’s been cool to see social media feeds on Sunday fill up with lives streams from all kinds of different faiths.

Here’s a little montage of yesterday’s virtual teachings…

What are some positive things you’re seeing come out of the pandemic? Call us and leave a message..(619) 452-0228‬…..tell us who you are, which neighborhood you live in and what unexpected good things have come out of all of this…

That’s all for today’s show. Thanks for listening...and if you’re looking for more KPBS podcasts...search for My First Day wherever you listen to podcasts. The KPBS explore podcast is about how people have come from elsewhere and now call San Diego home….AGain, the show’s called My First Day and you can get it on Apple, spotify or 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.