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

Coronavirus’ Sugar Shield

Cover image for podcast episode

CREDIT: IMAGE COURTESY OF LORENZO CASALINO, ZIED GAIEB AND ROMMIE AMARO/ UC SAN DIEGO

Above: On the left is a computer model picture of a coronavirus spike protein without a sugar shield on it. On the right is a computer model picture of the spike protein with a sugar shield on it. The models demonstrate how the infection mechanism of the coronavirus is highly protected by these sugars, in the digital image above, June 25, 2020.

San Diego scientists have zoomed in on the coronavirus and say the virus is coated with a sugary exterior that makes it hard for the human body to fight it. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: San Diego County public health authorities reported over 300 new COVID-19 cases for the fourth time in five days, unemployment numbers continue to decrease across San Diego County from a high of 25% in May and more local news you need.

San Diego County public health authorities reported over 300 new COVID-19 cases for the fourth time in five days.
The case total in the county is now near the 12,000 mark.
Health officials reported 335 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.
That’s yet another new daily high -- the third new high mark in a week.
***
A report from the San Onofre Task Force recommends forming a federal Nuclear Waste Administration focused on safe storage of spent fuel.
That’s just one of several recommendations put forward this week by the Task Force.

Another concern raised by its members is the possibility that Southern California Edison could sell the now-closed nuclear plant to a private company to complete the decommissioning.

Retired Admiral Len Hering, who co-chaired the task force, says the State Attorney General should intervene if such a sale is proposed.

"If something goes wrong then the entity that owns it simply goes bankrupt and we are left holding the bag. Our nuclear waste should not be owned by a private entity."

The task force also recommended moving spent nuclear fuel from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station to a higher elevation that's further from the coast.

***’
Unemployment numbers continue to decrease across San Diego County from a high of 25% in May.

A report released yesterday from the San Diego Association of Governments found that the region's unemployment rate is estimated to be 15.9%...that’s 1.8% lower than the previous week and 9.1% lower than this time last month.
***
The historic Hotel del Coronado plans to reopen Friday, ending the first closure in the hotel's 132-year history.
The famous red-roofed hotel closed with other hotels in late March due to the pandemic.
Hotels have started to reopen his month, following state and county public health guidelines. The Hotel del will reopen with limited amenities and reduced occupancy.
***
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 26.

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

Before the pandemic, the San Diego food bank was feeding some 300-thousand residents.

Over the last few months, that number has nearly doubled.

Cari Mata of San Diego went to something called a "super pantry" in Kearny Mesa Thursday to pick up food for her family. She says her husband recently lost his job.

People really don't realize how hard it is even for simple things like food. So we're a family of three I have an eight year old son and we're so thankful to this so thankful (:10)

KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman explains how the San Diego food bank is working to serve more people.

10;53;50;06 James Floros, San Diego Food Bank President & CEO
So we have 500 nonprofit partners. We're taking 35 of them to make them high volume, high frequency distributions sites

Food Bank CEO James Floros says thanks to donations to the food bank's COVID-19 response fund, they're creating about three dozen "super food pantries" countywide.

10;53;50;06 Floros
So what they have to do is they have to distribute at least three days a week until December 31st. In return they're going to get as much food as we can give them and their going to get capacity grants of $20,000 to help build their infrastructure

The food bank previously was doing large-scale distributions at places like SDCCU stadium in mission valley, but these "super pantries" will take their place.

10;54;30;08 Floros
We learned that the mass distributions lacked client dignity. So you know 1,000 you can serve but 3,000 get turned away they wait in line they dont get food. So this is a grassroots approach they get the food they need to feed their family with complete client dignity.

To find a food distribution site near you call 2-1-1.

***
San Diego scientists have zoomed in on the coronavirus, and found a picture that isn't very sweet.

KPBS Science and Technology reporter Shalina Chatlani says the virus is coated with a sugary exterior that makes it hard for the human body to fight it.

Most of us have seen a photo of the virus. A giant sphere covered in spiky proteins.

It turns out, those spikes are covered in sugar, says UC San Diego Chemist Rommie Amaro.

L3: Rommie Amaro, Chemist, UC San Diego
TIME: 00:03:41:05

It's really those spike proteins that are really the main infection machinery of the virus. And these are the bits of the virus that get really heavily coated with this sugary coating so that our immune system can't detect it in the body.

Many cells in our body also have sugar coatings. Amaro says viruses like coronavirus have adapted to be covered in sugar to "blend in," so they can survive and be more infectious.

00:04:48:13
The human body thinks it's sort of similar to what should be in the body and then doesn't attack it.

The existence of this coating is well known in research, Amaro says. But her lab used a super computer to zoom in on the virus and figure out what these sugary spikes actually look like.

00:05:44:24
there are some holes in the shield. And these are some so called vulnerabilities … and this is why it's important to identify where those open areas in the shield are it gives us a better chance to design neutralizing antibodies.

Amaro says the research will help with vaccine and antiviral design so that they are more effective.

That’s KPBS Science and technology reporter Shalina Chatlanni.

***

Late Wednesday night, the Sweetwater Union High School District's board voted to place Superintendent Karen Janney on administrative leave.

This announcement comes just a day after a state audit revealed evidence of financial fraud at the district.

KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong has details from the meeting.

Among other things, the audit found that the district relied on incomplete financial information before authorizing a pay raise for teachers in 2017 and did not make proper disclosures in a 2018 bond measure. However, School Board President Frank Tarantino said the decision to place Janney on leave shouldn't be viewed as punishment.

FRANK TARANTINO /// SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT
The board's action is not a disciplinary action, but it is to support and ensure an efficient investigation of the concerns raised in the FCMAT report.

Also during last night's meeting, the board officially laid off 223 employees. The cuts included teachers, librarians and other staff. District administrators said the layoffs would close 22 million of a 30 million dollar budget deficit for the upcoming school year. Many members of the public, who attended the meeting online, voiced their opposition to the cuts.

The Marine Corps recently banned the confederate flag on military bases around the world.

It is the beginning of a difficult conversation for the marine corps

One about racism in the military. Marines say this conversation has never been easy. KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh has the story.

(Marine Boot camp DVIDs )
From the time Marines enter boot camp they're told that the service is colorblind -- there are no white Marines, brown Marines or black Marines. Everyone is Marine Green.

00;28;43;01
"That statement, I'm totally against. And I explain it to a lot of the leaders."
(some picks from his website)
Stephon Williams runs a leadership training firm in Jacksonville, Florida. He joined the corp in 1993 and retired in 2014. During that time, Williams facilitated many conversations on racial bias. He still works with Marine units as a consultant.
(finishes the first cut)
"When you tell people you're all green, it's like saying I don't see color. If you don't see color you don't know who is on your team. So I have to know that as an Asian Marine, I know the cultural challenges you're going to have in the Marine Corps."
(Photos of him or even hold the video)
Williams, who is African American, remembers walking into an empty barracks. His new roommate had a confederate flag on the wall.

00;04;48;08
"I told him hey listen, this is not going to work out. I'm going to have to leave. And they pulled me out of the room and I got a different roommate. But later on that person was actually court martialed for actively recruiting into a racist organization."

Early in his career, at the time, Williams says he didn't think about reporting the incident to his command. He feared HE would be the one who would get into trouble. Other marines felt the same way.

00;12;13;03-o
"When you go against the grain, you get singled out. You don't want to be labeled an outcast, right."
(photos of him and Marine installations in San Diego from DVIDs)
Francisco Martinezcuello is from San Diego. He retired from the Marines in 2015. Originally from the Dominican Republic, as a kid he was attracted to the macho image of the Corps. He remembers talking to a friend in his unit who was constantly being singled out for extra duty. They both agreed it was for one reason: his friend was Black.

00;13;36;09-
"I actually remember talking to him and apologizing to him. And it got me really emotional because I didn't do anything about it. I just looked at him and said, well, you got to do it, but I didn't speak up."
(photos of him. Afghan war video from 2010 to 2011. Make sure the DVIDs shows Marines/afghan villagers)
In conversations with a number of retired marines, it's a common story. Ten years ago, Travis Horr was at an isolated post in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Like Horr, most of the unit was white. He remembers fellow marines repeatedly complaining about their African-American corpsman -- the Navy term for medic. Horr says he remembers defending the corpsman, after seeing him help save an Afghan woman's life.

00;09;04;08-
"So why are you giving him a hard time? Probably not as much as I should have, in retrospect, but I was young and again, I (he exhales hard into his mic)"
(return to his video)
Stephon Williams, the retired marine who still works with military leaders on issues of race, says it's still a difficult conversation to have.

00;24;35;01-
"First let me tell you why people don't speak up. They look at what they're willing to lose to do the right thing...We're a little different because a lot of people have power around us. But we talk about intestinal fortitude all the time. And moral courage all the time."

Williams worked in personnel for a significant portion of his career. He remembers white Marines who didn't want an African American president's name on their retirement papers.
(supposed to get me photos. Video of multi racial Marines in action. Make sure the footage depicts Marines)
Quinton Hinnant was a sergeant. He left the Marines in December after four years in the corps. Like other marines, Hinnant says there has been change. But it's been slow. For Hinnant, honest and open conversation is key. It binds together people, and it binds together units, or shops.
0;09;29;00
"And where you don't have that connection where you can talk to someone. And have a friendly conversation at all times, not just be work related. It could diminish relationships between shops. It could diminish relationships between people."

(secretary Esper, Pentagon footage, Marine installation footage)
He welcomed the ban on the confederate flag, but said the Corps is no worse, but no better than any other American institution when it comes to handling race. Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently announced he was ordering the Pentagon to take yet another look at how racial dynamics play out across the military.

KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh.

This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

***

This week in Clairemont, an encounter with a Starbucks worker made waves when a woman who was refused service for not wearing a mask posted her story on facebook.

But...the woman’s post ended up totally backfiring.

KPBS Roundtable host Mark Sauer talked with Abby Alford, a reporter for CBS eight in San Diego, about what happened and how masks have become such a divisive issue.

What happened inside of Starbucks in Claremont? Well, what had happened is now it has gone viral.

There was a woman who had posted on Facebook. She had tagged the Claremont, Starbucks, Starbucks, excuse me to say, um, take a look at this guy, linen. He told me that I needed to put a face mask on. Um, the next time I'm going to call the cops. And show them my medical exemption. Well, that has backfired because what she was intending to do or what it appeared to be is trying to shame this man.

Who's a young man. And instead there was a, an outpouring of support. There are I think 132,000 comments on it. Now there was a GoFund me set up for the man, um, just to kind of put a virtual tip jar out there. And I'm looking at his GoFund me right now. And it has raised 22,000. $721. And that was since last night.

Wow. This is the greatest thing ever happened to this guy. Yeah. And, you know, I mean, it's, so it really just goes to show that kindness matters. Um, and when we're looking at these mask policies that it's not just the businesses that are requiring it, we're looking at a state order by the governor. Who's ordering face mass to be required in public places.

Um, with a few exceptions now has Starbucks reacted to this incident? Starbucks has they've released a statement and they say that they welcome all of their guests. They just ask that they adhere to the public health borders. That's pretty much what they've said about it. Uh, Lennon, the Starbucks employee.

He has not. I'm done any interviews per se, but he wanted to thank all of the supporters. And he says that he couldn't comment about, he said, Starbucks told him that he couldn't comment about the incident, but he does have a video on his own Facebook that thanks everybody for their support. And he kind of gives his side of what happened, saying that the woman walked in, she did not want to wear her mask.

He told her that she needed to wear a mask and try to give her this. Piece of paper that I, uh, Starbucks must have too to kind of let them know what the rules are. And she started cussing up a storm. She flipped them off. She called everybody in the store sheep and just kept continuing to cuss. And of course this isn't the first example we've seen of people behaving badly.

And. In terms of wearing a mask in public places. I'm just in the past week, president Trump, uh, held indoor rallies, Oklahoma and Arizona COVID-19 19 cases are spiking in both places, Trump and the vast majority of audience or the audiences in those places. Didn't wear masks. Now TV coverage makes this visual statement.

Prominent. Do you think this is kind of, what's maybe spurring this whole political divide. If, if it is one, um, across the country, as you see the coverage of this stuff, Well, I think when you look into who are these anti mask wearers, if that's what you want to call them. Um, and in case with this woman, she also had Facebook posts that she was at those rallies, or those protests would be open California protest.

Ironically, there's a picture of her wearing an American flag scar for face covering over her mouth. Um, so I wouldn't per se say, you know, if you are. If you refuse to wear your mask, then you automatically support Trump. I think these people who are refusing to wear their mask are those that don't want to be told what to do those.

They don't want to believe the science that I'm wearing a face mask will reduce the numbers of deaths. And there are there's research out there that shows by wearing your mask, it does help protect the spread of COVID-19 and I look at it as okay. W what her, what harm am I doing? If I'm wearing my mask?

You know, those that don't believe in wearing the mask, they think that there is research out there, credible research, but all of the credible research out there shows that if you wear your mask, you have reduce the exposure. And that's what we're trying to do. So we don't overload these hospitals and we don't get any more people.

Sick. Governor Gavin Newsome made wearing a mask in most public settings, mandatory statewide, but I listened to the governor again today. Uh, It seems like common sense if you're outside, say walking on the beach and you're, you're, you're many feet away from most people walking along, nobody's saying, and you don't see a lot of mass in those situations, but then you go into a coffee shop or you stopped to get something to eat in the cafe.

That's open along there. And people tend to put on the mass when they get around people. That, that seems like an example of me, of what he's saying. Right. Right. And that's what he's tried to outline is is that if you're walking or biking or doing any kind of, um, athletic or leisure sport, and you can stay within six feet of people, you don't need to be wearing your mask.

But if you're waiting in line, you're going into these restaurants or going into businesses, you need to be wearing a mask unless you're under two years of age or you have some type of medical exemption. But Mark. That's what a real sticking point is right now. We've received many people calling in and writing our newsroom saying that they have a medical exemption and they're not allowed into these businesses.

Well, some of the businesses are making their own policies saying that you aren't allowed in there. If you can't wear your mask. And it's the slippery slope, because you know, these businesses can't ask them, show me your medical exemption. Um, just like, you know, if you had a service animal, but there are those who are taking advantage of it saying that they have a medical exemption and they really may not, and kind of ruining it or making it harder for those who actually really do need it for those who have asthma, asthma, or respiratory, or those who, um, may need to use sign language or need to read their lips.

Um, So that's where it's kind of the gray area of these medical exemptions or those who have a disability that, that can't wear their mask and they aren't allowed into these stores. And besides that feedback, what other sort of feedback have you gotten about your story regarding the Starbucks worker in the mask issue?

My Instagram and my Facebook has blown up, you know, each week you kind of get your algorithms to see like how your stories do, but I've noticed that I've gotten a lot of new comments or new people who like my page or, you know, following me on Instagram and it's filled. Yeah, I have not had one person comment on either of my social media and support of the woman who tried to shame this Starbucks worker.

Everyone is support of linen. Um, you know, they thanking him for standing up for what's. What he believes is right. Standing up to those who may try to bully him into thinking that I don't have to wear my mask. And look, he's just an employee. That's probably making minimum wage and he just needs to enforce what the policies are at Starbucks.

And instead, you know, this woman tries to call them out and boy did it backfire. He has $22,000 on his GoFund me. And he's so sweet. He writes on his Facebook that he is a dance teacher and he wants to be able to. Use that money to help expand and continue to teach students. And I think it's amazing how he's tried to use this to spread kindness and spread love, and also raising awareness of how important it is to wear your mask.

***
And that was Abby Alford, a reporter for CBS eight in San Diego, talking with KPBS Roundtable host Mark Sauer.

Roundtable airs on KPBS at 12:30 Fridays.

That’s it. Stay Safe and try to have some fun this weekend.

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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.