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

Closing San Diego Bars

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY ALEXANDER NGUYEN

Above: Patrons sitting outside in front of El Chingon on June 20, 2020, the first weekend Fifth Avenue was closed in the Gaslamp Quarters to allow for customers to patronize restaurants and maintain physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

All San Diego bars, breweries and wineries that don’t serve food must close at midnight Tuesday night in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: Covid-19 is a serious problem in the California prison system, George Floyd's in-custody death has renewed calls to stop adding people's names to California's controversial gang database and more local news you need.

All San Diego bars, breweries and wineries that don’t serve food must close at midnight tonight.

San Diego County officials have also paused any additional reopenings through at least August 1.

The news comes after ongoing spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

On Monday, Public health officials reported a single-day record of 498 new positive COVID-19 cases, the fifth straight day of more than 400 new cases and a new daily high for the sixth time in a week.

Of the 6,908 tests reported Monday, 7% returned positive. The percentage of positive tests has increased sharply over the last four days, raising the county's rolling 14-day average to 4.1% of positive tests.

San Diego County's public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten also reminded residents that gatherings, like Fourth of July parties, are still against public health orders. She urged people not to throw parties — indoor or outdoor — in celebration of Independence day.

The simple matter of the fact is that the pandemic is not over the virus is still pervasive, pervasive in our communities, and it is still widespread with the numbers increasing every day. please, uh, do not, uh, uh, convene, uh, dinners or house parties and, uh, conduct no gatherings of any kind.
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And then there’s the prison system. Governor Gavin Newsom Monday said Covid-19 is a serious problem in California prisons.

Newsom said there are nearly 26 hundred inmates who have tested positive. At San Quentin, cases have shot up this month to a total of 1,011.

Newsom said one solution is to try to further reduce the population of California's overcrowded system. A few months ago state officials began an early release program. It targeted 35 hundred non-violent offenders, whose terms were due to end within 180 days.

"We have identified an additional cohort of over 35 hundred additional prisoners who are working through a similar process. Accordingly, and not surprisingly, we're looking at medical conditions of many prisoners. Those who are medically vulnerable."

A spokesperson for Donovan State prison, in San Diego County, said more than 600 inmates there have been tested with no positive results. But she said seven prison staff members HAVE come down with Covid.

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The San Diego Blood Bank announced Monday that from now through the end of July, it will test all blood donations for antibodies from the virus that causes COVID-19.
Donors who are found positive will be able to donate plasma the next time they donate. The plasma can then be used to treat critically ill coronavirus patients.
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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 Tuesday, June 30.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

The Coronavirus pandemic put a hold on naturalization ceremonies in San Diego's Golden Hall — which has been converted into a homeless shelter.

But thousands of immigrants safely became citizens today, thanks to a naturalization "drive-through."

KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler has the story.

Ambi: I hereby take the oath…

Behind a community center in El Cajon -- is a roundabout, and the end to the long journey to citizenship.

600 people from 68 countries participated in the drive-through ceremony on Monday morning. It's part of an effort by US Citizens and Immigration Services to provide a safe way to become citizens during the coronavirus pandemic. They've been holding these daily in San Diego since early this month. .

One of those brand new citizens was Belinda Rodriguez, who was born in Mexico. She's been trying to become a citizen for twenty years. She came to the ceremony with her sister and niece.

She didn't think her naturalization would be quite like this.

Oh no, it's very different :: LAUGHS:: not in this condition, but I'm very excited. Emotional, excited about it, and I'm very happy.

The drive-through ceremonies will wrap up at the end of this week, as USCIS looks for ways to safely bring back larger ceremonies.

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The San Diego VA has had its first hospital employee die from COVID-19.

inewsource reporter Jill Castellano tells us about the 62-year-old veteran.

CASTELLANO: John Paul Martinez, who died last Wednesday, was a medical technician at the San Diego VA who worked with ventilators and other equipment.

CASTELLANO: His sister Bernice Villanueva said he retired last year, but the VA asked him to return to work when the pandemic began.

VILLANUEVA: "He was telling me, 'I don't know how I'm gonna do it here. Cause I'm working anywhere between 10 and 14 hours a day just trying to get everything done." (11 seconds)

CASTELLANO: Martinez served in the Army and Navy before going to work for the VA. He had two sons, John Jr. and Josh, and a granddaughter Leila.

CASTELLANO: During the pandemic, five other veterans have died at the San Diego VA from COVID-19.

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George Floyd's in-custody death and the increased attention to racial inequity has renewed calls in California to stop adding people's names to the state’s controversial gang database.

inewsource investigative reporter Cody Dulaney explains.

DULANEY: Police can put someone on the Cal-Gang database without them ever having committed a crime. Once labeled a gang member, police can justify stopping and questioning them. And the vast majority of those on the database are African American and Hispanic men. (14 secs)

Now, activists are demanding a freeze on adding people's names to the database. (9 secs)

GARCIA-LEYS: "This is exactly the kind of policing the protests have been directed at. … There are systemic problems with the way inner city communities are policed." (9 secs)

DULANEY: That's Los Angeles attorney Sean Garcia-Leys. He's part of the effort to halt Cal-Gang's use. (6 secs)

An inewsource analysis of records from San Diego County police agencies found affiliating with a gang member and frequenting a gang area are the most commonly cited reasons for adding someone to Cal-Gang. Laila Aziz is with the Southeast San Diego nonprofit Pillars of the Community. She wants Cal-Gang to be abolished. (19 secs)

AZIZ: "We have the data, we have the stories, we have the experience, and we have built the community power in order to really ask for the things that we've been asking for for a long time." (9 secs)

DULANEY: The head of the San Diego police union, Jack Schaeffer, says Cal-Gang needs more scrutiny but it remains an important law enforcement tool.

Those last two stories are from inewsource, an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS.

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When we come back….How much of a threat is COVID-19 to young people? Don’t go away.

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Much of the surge in COVID-19 cases we're seeing in California and across the nation is due to an increasing number of young people testing positive.

Last week, for instance, as positivity rates climbed, 56% of people diagnosed with COVID in California were 18 to 49 years old. That demographic only makes up about 43% of the state's population.

Health officials warn that young people may not be taking proper precautions against the disease because they believe the virus can't make them very sick.

So how much of a threat is COVID-19 really to the younger population?

KPBS Midday Edition host Marueen Cavanaugh got some answers from Mark Sawyer, an infectious disease specialist with Rady children's hospital and UC San Diego.

Some people are making the argument that we're seeing this bump in younger people testing positive because more tests are now available for people who are not feeling sick. What do you think about that?
Speaker 3: 02:13 Well, it is true that we are testing more and we're testing in some situations, people with no symptoms just to see what's going on in our community or because they're curious, but what's happening in San Diego over the last few weeks is a true increase in the number of cases. In other words, it's not simply because we're testing or we're seeing a bounce back and that's concerning
Speaker 1: 02:38 Younger people have been told they should take precautions against COVID-19. So they don't spread it to older and more vulnerable people. But isn't the virus also a threat to younger people, especially those with preexisting conditions.
Speaker 3: 02:52 Yes. We have seen stories of, of previously healthy, uh, young adults ending up very ill with COVID or even dying with COVID. It's sort of like influenza in that most young adults do okay. With these respiratory infections, but a small number don't do. Okay. And so, uh, it isn't correct for young adults to feel that they're not at any risk, they are at risk.
Speaker 1: 03:18 And what are those preexisting conditions for instance, is asthma a one of them
Speaker 3: 03:24 We think asthma probably is. And it makes sense anything that affects your heart or lungs, which are the Oregon's most directly impacted by COVID is likely to make it worse if you get COVID. So if you have asthma, if you have any other chronic lung or heart condition, but you know, probably the more common situation that people probably don't think about is obesity. Obesity seems to be a risk factor. And people don't think about that as a concern.
Speaker 1: 03:52 What about young women who are pregnant?
Speaker 3: 03:54 Yes. We've recently learned that young women who are pregnant may be at increased risk. We have seen that with other viruses. It's certainly true for influenza. It's a combination of the fact that your immune system is a little bit suppressed when you're pregnant. And then in the later stages of pregnancy, your lungs are compressed because you've got a baby kicking up from below and you can't take deep breaths or sometimes cough effectively. So for both those reasons pregnant women are at risk.
Speaker 1: 04:23 Do we know enough about this virus to be certain that getting a mild case won't produce some side effects down the road?
Speaker 3: 04:31 No, we don't. And of course, and so the problem is we're not down the road yet. In other words, not enough time has gone past for us to assess the longterm effects of COVID. And there have been some concerns that there could be some COVID seems to cause increased clotting in your blood system. For example, that could lead to permanent injury. Even if you have mild respiratory symptoms, when you're, when you have the infection,
Speaker 1: 04:57 What have we been learning about COVID lately? I read that researchers are now saying most people who catch the virus should develop symptoms in three to five days, instead of the 14 days originally thought, what else is new?
Speaker 3: 05:10 Well, we're learning that it can be transmitted from people who don't have symptoms, but that's not a major part of our story. Most people do have symptoms or get symptoms shortly after they pass it on to somebody else. So they know that that something has happened. So that's one thing we're learning. We're continuing to learn that young children are generally not severely affected by that, by this infection. And that's good news. Uh, but we're also learning how incredibly contagious this virus is. And that is illustrated by the return of cases that are being seen around the world. As we start to relax our social distancing.
Speaker 1: 05:50 Well, as you mentioned, dr. San Diego has seen record numbers of positive tests in recent days, hospitalizations are up 20% and we've hit trigger numbers for community outbreaks. Is this the kind of spike everyone said we should expect when society began to reopen? Or is this worse?
Speaker 3: 06:11 No, this is exactly what people were predicting would happen. And they quit. The only question was how bad would it get? And so this entire COVID control effort has been about trying to level the curve as people would say, or flatten the curve that is too spread out cases. So we don't overwhelm the health system and to isolate people as much as we could. So we did that very effectively in March, April and may. We've started to relax the social distancing so people can get back to work and school, and there are other activities. And as a result of that, we're seeing the cases go back up. Hopefully they won't go up to much higher, but that remains to be seen.
And what's your advice to people most vulnerable to this disease, older people and people with preexisting conditions. Should they remain at home as often as possible? Or are they okay outside with masks on?
Speaker 3: 11:15 No. I think people who have high risk conditions are unfortunately need to heed the recommendations that they stay as isolated as they reasonably can. And so that means not going out into public, not having lots of visitors. You know, I'm not going to go so far as to say you shouldn't ever visit your family for example, but you do have to be careful even in that setting, wearing a mask and staying six feet apart whenever possible. And so high risk people need to stay isolated until we have a more permanent solution, which will either be a treatment that we can count on very effective
Speaker 1: 11:54 Or hopefully a vaccine that those people can then get and then be protected.

And that was Dr. Mark Sawyer, an infectious disease specialist with Rady children's hospital and UC San Diego, talking with Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanaugh. Hear the full interview, plus more in-depth conversations about the news of the day, by subscribing to Midday Edition wherever you get your podcasts.
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That’s it for today. Thanks for listening.

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San Diego News Matters

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