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

So You Think You Had COVID?

Cover image for podcast episode

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser has a blood sample collected at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, June 3, 2020.

Claire Trageser

One thing we don’t know now, and might never know is exactly when the coronavirus first arrived in California, which has led to lots of people suspecting they may have had the virus before it was a thing in California. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to kill DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the zoo is reopening and more local news you need.

Advocacy groups say around 40 thousand DACA-eligible immigrants live in San Diego County.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to kill DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

And that means DACA recipients, people brought across the border without papers when they were kids, are safe from deportation - at least for now.

Dulce (DOOL-say) Garcia is a daca recipient and immigration attorney in San Diego.

She filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its decision to end DACA - which was consolidated into the case before the supreme court.

"This is not the end for us. We're going to keep fighting for a path to citizenship but at this moment we celebrate. For me it means I'm able to maintain my office open and employ US citizens. And so it just means that we can breathe in peace, knowing that for now we're not deportable."

Twenty-five year old Irving Hernandez got a degree in aerospace engineering from San Diego state. He entered the U.S. illegally at the age of six with his parents from Mexico. And coming to America as a child allowed him protection from deportation, under DACA,

When it looked like Trump's effort to end the program might succeed, he spoke to his parents about what he might have to do.

"We sat down. We talked about it. And it broke my heart to see my mother cry. But I gave my parents the confidence that other fellow activists have given me and I told them that I was not going to back down."

Hernandez told KPBS Midday Edition that upholding DACA was just one step. The goal is a path to being able to vote and have the rest of what full citizenship offers. The Trump administration COULD still end the program, if they followed different procedures to do so, according to the Supreme Court ruling.

To hear the full interviews with Garcia and Hernandez, go to kpbs dot org slash podcasts and listen to Midday Edition.

***
San Diego County health officials are putting a pause on future reopenings, for now.

They say we've now had eight community outbreaks of COVID-19 within a week and that's a reopening trigger requiring corrective action.

Officials plan to step up enforcement on businesses, such as restaurants, violating reopening guidelines.

County public health officer Dr Wilma wooten says we're also seeing outbreaks from parties at private homes and other gatherings.. All activities not allowed under current health orders.

People think that they can go back to the precovid-19 existence we cannot. This virus is the community, some people can spread it without any symptoms

Tattoo shops, nail salons and massage therapy businesses are still being allowed to reopen today.. But at least for now, future reopening plans will not go forward.

So, how do you feel about San Diego hitting the pause button on reopening because of the community outbreaks? Does this change your or your business’ plans at all? Call the podcast team at (619) 452-0228‬, tell us who you are, where you live and what you’re thinking.

By the way, yesterday Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all residents to wear face coverings in basically all settings outside their homes to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The statewide mandate requires residents to wear masks in "high-risk situations," which cover virtually all scenarios outside the home.
So yeah, wear your masks.
***

San Diegans are getting their first look at a proposed ballot measure that would create an independent commission on police practices for the San Diego Police Department.

The commission would be able to subpoena the police department to look into possible misconduct, and make disciplinary recommendations to the police chief.

On Wednesday, youth leaders from Mid-City CAN - or Community Advocacy Network - hosted a virtual forum about the proposed commission. 17-year-old Ananely (Ana-Nelly) Alonso said recent protests over the killing of George Floyd and other acts of police brutality have driven up support for the measure.

We need to make sure that this movement stays a movement, instead of a moment. If we stop now, nothing will ever come of it. We're already too deep into this to stop now.

The City Council is set to vote on Tuesday on whether it intends to place the measure on November's ballot.

***

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, June 19. Happy Juneteenth.

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

One thing we don’t know now, and might never know is exactly when the coronavirus first arrived in California.

This reality has led to rampant speculation that the disease was spreading much earlier than the first confirmed case at the end of January.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser has the story of the rampant speculation inside her own family.

We probably all know someone who thinks they had COVID-19 back in January. For me, I know someone like that pretty well.

SOT
Claire: "And what is your title?"
Seth: "I don't have a title. I'm Claire's husband."

My husband, Seth, was really sick in mid-January.

SOT
"It came on very suddenly, I woke up one morning, started getting ready for work, never made it to work...I was coughing so long and to such a degree that I had to force myself to stop coughing to gasp for breath (Cut for TV...I remember it taking very long for the chills to pass."
Claire: "Did you take your temperature?"
Seth: "I don't recall taking my temperature."
Claire: "I just wanted to get that on the record."

Seth never took his temperature, but after three weeks of illness, I did finally convince him to go to urgent care. He got an inhaler and some antibiotics.

Then, about a month later, the coronavirus showed up in the US, and we all started paying close attention to it.

SOT
"Then I would kind of wonder if this sudden, unusual illness could be attributed to that disease."

(Cut for TV
I thought it was a possibility--Seth's symptoms so closely matched the coronavirus symptoms. And a week after he got sick, I was knocked out for two days with complete exhaustion and body aches. And of course I wanted it to be true--if we really had already survived coronavirus, while we'd still be cautious, it would feel like a huge worry had been lifted, both for ourselves and our almost 3-year-old son.)

So we decided to check it out.

NAT POP calling to enter La Jolla Institute

We went to the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, which right now is leading a global study searching for antibodies from people who have survived coronavirus.

A nurse there took blood samples from both of us, put them in a centrifuge and passed them off to Dr. Jen Dan, an infectious disease researcher. She began what's called an ELISA--a way of testing the blood samples to see whether they contained specific antibodies. She would compare our blood to other samples from people who had survived coronavirus, and people who hadn't been infected. If we had the same antibodies as the survivors, that would strongly suggest we had also had COVID-19.

For this reason, antibody tests are in high demand. You can buy them over the counter or on the Internet--even now many blood banks are doing them for free. But epidemiologists are heaping lots of caution on both the tests and their results. The tests can be wrong, even giving false positives. And, even if you had antibodies, you don't know for sure whether you're immune.

Side note: the institute did this test for us as part of this story, but they don't normally run antibody tests on the public. For their study, they only want participants who know for sure they had coronavirus.

The test would take 24 hours to complete, so we'd have to wait another day to know whether our suspicions were founded.

SOT
"There are a lot of unknowns."

Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire is the director of a global antibody consortium at La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

SOT con't
"We think that most people that have been infected will have made an antibody response, but there may have been some that didn't. What we most need to know is whether the antibody response is protective, whether having those antibodies will mean that you won't get sick again, and whether if you were exposed again, you would not transmit that virus to anyone else."

Saphire says the evidence suggests people with antibodies likely have immunity, but they don't know how much or how long it lasts. The research she's leading is working to find the very best antibodies from COVID-survivors, which will be used to treat COVID and hopefully prevent it in the first place.

The next day, we came back to the institute and watched Dr. Jen Dan finish the test. During the last step, she added a colorless solution to reveal the presence of antibodies--if there were antibodies, the mixture would turn blue.

NAT POP
"So Claire's is in C and Seth's is in D."
"I can see color."

I kept peering over the tiny plates of tubes hoping for two blues.

Dr. Dan had a great poker face, and not just because she was wearing a mask. She didn't give any hint of what she thought, and then took the samples away to analyze them on her computer.

After what seemed like a really long time, she came back and went over them with Dr. Shane Crotty, an infectious disease expert at the institute.

NAT POP
"I will pull it up…"

Crotty seemed like a doctor who was very good at giving bad news.

SOT
"These are the positives, she draws the line here. Today, here are the negatives that she ran, and here's Seth and here's Claire."

Our marks sat on the graph...below all the other negatives. We were super negative. Meaning we definitely did not have coronavirus.

SOT
"We're below negative, not even negative.
"Yeah, you are."

Crotty says our results make sense.

SOT
"This certainly fits with the timeline in California, that there weren't any confirmed cases in California at the time you were sick. And even right now when people get serological tests, you can see the numbers that are reported are 10% positive, which means 9 out of 10 people who thought they were infected are frequently turning out that, no it wasn't."

So, what do the results of our trip to the lab mean to you? They mean that despite what your friend, your neighbor or your husband might be telling you...and what you might be telling yourself -- it’s highly unlikely that anyone in San Diego had COVID-19 before February.

That was KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser.

And dang, my husband and I went through pneumonia and bronchitis last winter, so we were in the ‘we definitely had coronavirus” camp too. Guess we’ll have to reevaluate.

***
So San Diego is developing plans to allow for more outdoor dining and retail.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says the goal is to help businesses facing limited capacity because of COVID-19.
____________________________________________________________

AB: Many restaurants still can't afford to open for in-person dining while also limiting customers because of social distancing requirements. The city's proposal would allow them to put tables and chairs on sidewalks, parking lots and street parking spots to attract more customers. Angela Landsberg is executive director of North Park Main Street. She says while some businesses have fought to preserve as much parking as possible, the pandemic has changed their thinking.

AL: We're not going to have a parking issue if we don't have businesses. We've got plenty of parking, people are not coming out and filling all the spots. Let's use those spots right now to keep our businesses in business.

AB: The program is scheduled for a City Council vote on July 7. But businesses don't have to wait: Applications are already available on the city's website.

***
Drive-ins theaters have been open for a few weeks and now the outdoor Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills has reopened with Raiders of the Lost Ark.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando explains some of the changes you can expect.

When Cinema Under the Stars opened in 1991, it never expected to shutdown for a global pandemic. The intimate outdoor venue closed in mid-March but can now reopen but with new rules in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Most notable is that the zero gravity recliners have been reduced in number and set in pairs at least six feet apart. Doug Yeagley owns the cinema and the adjoining Tops Salon.

DOUG YEAGLEY: Probably the biggest challenge is just getting people to feel comfortable with the fact that we're an open air venue that only does one show a night so we have 24 hours to completely clean and sanitize and make sure that everything is in accordance with the law.

Everyone is required to wear a mask unless seated six feet apart. Couples, however, are allowed to sit next to each other. Raiders of the Lost Ark plays through Sunday.

***
The San Diego Zoo begins welcoming the public this weekend as the facility ends the longest closure in its 103-year history.

KPBS Reporter Erik Anderson says it is an early sign that the region’s slumbering tourism economy is starting to wake up from its coronavirus coma.



Visitors will get a taste of the Zoo’s new normal before they walk through the front gate.
10:25:24 – 10:25:29 “There’s one that will bring people around and they’ll come up this way.”

Erika Kohler is the San Diego Zoo’s deputy Director and she’s standing in the parking lot in front of the main gate. She points to the poles, ropes and gates that will funnel visitors at safe distances until they get inside.

09:38:26 (nats of flamingos)

Once inside, visitors get a combination of the familiar, like the flock of pink flamingos wading in shallow water. And they get heavy doses of the new normal. That’s mostly in the form of green and white signs that seem to be everywhere, even on the ground. All remind visitors to maintain social distance and be safe.
10:11:54 – 10:12:01 “we’ve really looked at everything to make sure we are providing a very safe and very comfortable environment for our guests.”

Safety includes keeping capacity at 50 percent as the facility reopening is rolled out. It also means a lot of plexiglass barriers at cash registers and any place there’s interaction between visitors and staff.

09:55:16 – 09:55:37 “you’ll see a lot of staff on grounds, again to remind people about social distancing. At the elevators, making sure there’s only one family group at a time. Our tours. Only one family group at a time. We’re really taking a measured and strategic approach looking at all of our operations to make sure that they are as safe as possible for our guests.”

Kohler knows that building confidence is important to building crowds. And building crowds is key to helping revive the local tourism economy. The economic sector employed 13 percent of the San Diego’s workforce before COVID 19 shut things down.

00:05:08 – 00:05:19
“It takes time to be able to reengineer to reopen, to call employees back to do training. But it’s great to see more coming on line.”

Kerri Kapich is the San Diego Tourism Authority’s Chief Operating Officer.

00:02:27 – 00:02:43
“It’s the new normal, if you will, for where we are as a community. And obviously we’re excited to see that more and more businesses are starting to reopen because we’ve had so many workers, out of work, through this crisis.”

She is encouraged that the Zoo is reopening along with other local attractions. Parks, museums, and the region’s 70 miles of beaches are key lures for San Diego’s third largest economic sector after the military and manufacturing. Kapich says tourism is a cornerstone of the local economy.

00:06:15 – 00:06:29
“Many economists will tell you that this pandemic has had nine times the economic fallout of 9-11. It’ll take us time to recover as a community. It’ll take us time to recover as a business sector.”

00:03:44 – 00:04:08 “People have to have confidence.”

Alan Gin is an economist at the University of San Diego.

00:03:44 – 00:04:08 “Confidence to travel. Confidence to go out and eat at restaurants. Maybe even meet in smaller groups with social distancing. Until that happens, the restaurants can open, the amusement parks can open, the hotels can reopen but they’re not going to get a lot of customers.”

Gin says the tourism sector has suffered a dramatic economic shock and it will take a long time to rebuild. He says there’s also the chance COVID 19 infection rates could climb forcing more social limits in the fall.

00:05:43 – 00:06:02 “As people go out, some are adhering to recommendations but a lot of people have been avoiding the social distancing wearing masks, things along those lines. And I’m worried that we’ll have a second outbreak which will further derail the local economy.”

Avoiding that outcome will require diligence and persistence. The same kind of diligence and persistence the tourism sector will need to rebuild the public’s trust.

That’s KPBS environment reporter Erik Anderson The San Diego Zoo opens tomorrow at 9 am. And I hear even the polar bears will be wearing masks, so don’t forget to wear yours.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Have a great, and safe, weekend.

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San Diego News Matters

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