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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

As COVID-19 Pandemic Takes Hold, Governments And Schools Face Budget Challenges And More Local News

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Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Tuesday, March 24th I'm Deb Welsh. And you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up the mercy depart San Diego on a mission to backup hospitals strained by the coronavirus and one week into school closures, errands of special education. Students are already feeling overwhelmed

Speaker 2: 00:19 as with any child, you're afraid of regression, right?

Speaker 1: 00:23 That and more coming up right after the break.

Speaker 3: 00:34 [inaudible] [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:36 the Navy hospital ship mercy left San Diego on Monday, bound for long beach KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says, commanders emphasize they are there to help but not with the virus.

Speaker 4: 00:49 After receiving their destination over the weekend, the USN has mercy departed San Diego for the port at long beach. Their mission is to backup local hospitals strained by the Corona virus, but not actually handle patients infected with coven. 19. Captain John road truck says instead they'll deal with

Speaker 5: 01:06 whatever it goes into a local hospital. It could be someone with pneumonia, it could be somebody with a broken leg. Uh, we will not be taking trauma directly to the ship, but a patient that has been exposed to trauma with some sort of like a motor vehicle accident, we may take that patient and transfer and continue their follow on. Cares

Speaker 4: 01:22 also bring medical supplies to a strained healthcare system. Normally the hospital ship is prepared to leave within five days, but they will be in LA and ready to receive their first patients. Tuesday Steve Walsh KPBS news

Speaker 1: 01:35 gun stores in San Diego County or seeing record sales during the Corona virus outbreak. But are they allowed to stay open? KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman takes a look

Speaker 2: 01:44 over the weekend. County supervisor Nathan Fletcher addressed if gun stores are considered essential businesses under the governor's order. We consulted with our County council. Uh, it is not our belief that gun stores are essential businesses, uh, based on the governor's executive order. And so therefore they should not be open, uh, in the County of San Diego. But some are. David Chung is the owner of AOS sword firearms in El Cahone. We have no plans to close. We we have, we have not heard any lawful order to shut down. Chong believes forcing gun stores to close violates the second amendment to bear arms. The big question here is enforcement. Here's County supervisor, Greg Cox. If gun shops are and are not in compliance, we would like to know about it and we will have the appropriate law enforcement agency make contact. Not Hoffman, K PBS news.

Speaker 1: 02:31 San Diego is homeless population is especially vulnerable to the coronavirus KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen says the city has plans to add many new shelter beds, including at the convention center to prevent a public health catastrophe.

Speaker 2: 02:46 Many homeless San Diego sons are older and have chronic health conditions and most don't have access to proper hygiene. On top of that, the city's shelter system is crowded, making social distancing nearly impossible. That's city officials are

Speaker 6: 03:00 re-purposing two facilities for new shelter beds, golden hall next to the city administration building and the convention center. Mayor Kevin Faulkner says the convention center is a centerpiece of the local economy

Speaker 7: 03:12 during this pandemic. It will be a centerpiece of our fight against the coronavirus. Many events and conventions are on hold for the time being and right now there is no higher and better use for this facility.

Speaker 6: 03:26 It could be weeks before the convention center is ready to shelter the homeless. In the meantime, the County has nearly 2000 hotel and motel rooms for people with symptoms of coven 19 who have no home. They can stay in Andrew Bowen KPBS news

Speaker 1: 03:42 as the Corona virus takes hold, leaders of local governments at school districts across San Diego County and the state are raising for financial challenges. I knew source investigative reporter Mary Plummer has more. The covet 19 pandemic is hitting at a time when officials are preparing for the upcoming fiscal year. Governments and school districts must find a way forward, but it's usually need to be approved by June 30th up and down the state. Billions of dollars in funding for public safety roads, schools, public health and more is at stake. San Diego County was projected to have more than two point $2 billion in its general fund balance at the end of this fiscal year, but that was before the coven 19 outbreak. Here's County board of supervisors, chairman Greg Cox.

Speaker 8: 04:29 Our highest priority is public safety and we will spend whatever we need to spend in order to make sure that the citizens of San Diego County get the services and programs, uh, the health, uh, assistance that they need.

Speaker 1: 04:41 Cock says the likely get state and federal reimbursements, but many of the financial details will have to be sorted out later.

Speaker 8: 04:48 The cost at this point is, is not going to be a factor.

Speaker 1: 04:51 San Diego mayor Kevin Faulkner has said the impact of the city's budget is quote far greater than those of nine 11 for KPBS. I'm a news source investigative reporter Mary plumber. For more on this story go to, I knew source.org I knew source is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS. Some senior living communities in San Diego County now have access to a limited supply of covert 19 test kits, but there's still significant concern about this. Vulnerable population has reporter Ameesa Sharma has more,

Speaker 9: 05:25 the kids will only be used on elderly people who are experiencing [inaudible] 19 symptoms, which include fever, dry cough and fatigue. One of the communities that has the tests on site. Belmont village, senior living won't test employees. Workers at Belmont and other senior facilities in the County are screened for temperature and other symptoms before and after their shifts. Any of them who display coven 19 symptoms will be put on quarantine out of the building. Senior care residences across San Diego County started banning visitors nearly two weeks ago. Several senior facilities nationwide have had outbreaks and public health officials are concerned that more will come. I mean the Sharma KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 06:11 some parks and beaches remain open throughout the County offering families a break from home isolation during the Corona virus outbreak. But County health officials say they've seen crowds that are undermining their containment efforts. If you're going for a walk, officials are urging you to stay at least six feet away from anyone who's not part of your immediate household. Dr Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer said Monday. If cities are unable to enforce that order in their parks and beaches, the County may step in and close them.

Speaker 10: 06:42 And we also know that many jurisdictions are closing. They are beaches and that's a great to help in force. Our uh, social distancing, uh, order

Speaker 1: 06:53 on Monday, mayor Kevin Faulkner ordered the closure of all city-owned beaches, parks and trails and said violators could face fines and jail time. Members of the California national guard began helping out at food banks up and down the state. Governor Gavin Newsom announced the deployment of the troops on Friday in response to the coven 19 outbreak. First Lieutenant Jason cell, Donna is the officer in charge of the operation at the Sacramento food bank and family services,

Speaker 2: 07:22 forklift operation, inventory transforming of products and really got to work, help them. Packaging

Speaker 1: 07:28 Sacramento food bank, president blank young. Welcome. The help.

Speaker 2: 07:32 Normally we feed about 150,000 people a month. We provide food to 220 agencies. We'll all, everybody in the community it seems like is, has interest in trying to feed more people. Uh, the need is exploded. Uh, I think an unintended consequence was we didn't know so many people are gonna lose their jobs and so many seniors would be housebound.

Speaker 1: 07:52 Young says the troops work faster than the senior volunteers that are replacing. He says food base are considered an essential service, but even with the troops he says they still need additional volunteers sit. So many of their regulars are confined to their homes as the coven. 19 crisis continues. People are going to need essential supplies like eggs and vegetables, cap radios, Ezra David Ramiro reports here in California, farmers markets are considered essential and don't have to close.

Speaker 10: 08:21 The Midtown farmers market in Sacramento was bustling this past Saturday, but there were no samples. Kathy Koch is packaging mushrooms in bags at the dragon gourmet mushrooms booth. She's thankful this market is still operating because a lot of the farmers business is on hold. Our farm has been affected because of a lot of restaurants have a closed. That's a huge part of our market, but not all markets are open across California. Says Ben Feldman with the farmer's market coalition.

Speaker 2: 08:49 It's definitely a challenging situation and I mean again, our perspective is that farmer's markets are absolutely essential

Speaker 1: 08:56 because of that. Many farmers are getting creative. Courtney Smith is with a shared abundance organic farm in Auburn. They're selling more of their home delivery boxes that include Kiwi's herbs and veggies more than doubled definitely for our CSA numbers. And even at the Sunday market we saw a huge increase in sales. These farmers say they're the original social distances and open markets are keeping them afloat

Speaker 10: 09:19 as other revenue streams dry up. For shoppers like Chelsea Elliot at the Midtown farmers market, having fresh produce is important as we all embrace life with more cooking at home and that's why she's supporting farmers. Oh my God. Thank you so much. I really, in Sacramento I met her David Romero

Speaker 1: 09:39 a week into school closure. Some parents of students with disabilities are already in crisis mode. KPB has education reporter Joe Hong spoke with parents and experts about what special education will look like in the age of the Corona virus.

Speaker 11: 09:54 Uh, it's been pretty stressful. Uh, just trying to get situated with having the kids. Yes ma'am. Okay. Okay.

Speaker 12: 10:03 Christian Sanchez and his wife have five children, two with special needs. One of them, his six year old has ADHD. His four year old daughter is on the autism spectrum. She had just been approved for a whole host of special education services just weeks before the Corona buyer's outbreak started shutting down schools. Now the family of seven is just trying to adapt,

Speaker 11: 10:23 just trying to get, kind of create an order here is, uh, it's been a little difficult as well because the kids are used to getting up, going to school and you know, following that routine. And now it's like mommy and daddy have to be.

Speaker 12: 10:36 It's teacher and the Sanchez children are among thousands of students across the County who receive special education services like speech therapy and occupational therapy. Parents like Zahar Sheffa have seen their kids improve during the school year.

Speaker 13: 10:49 He was putting two word utterances together. Um, he's starting to put three to four word utterances. He starting to recognize sight words, just things that I'm getting used to the routine of school itself. He started getting toilet trained at school, which was completely shocked because it's something he does not do at home at all.

Speaker 12: 11:10 Schaeffer has a five year old son named Cameron on the autism spectrum. She's afraid Cameron's probably worse. It will be undone during this time away from school

Speaker 13: 11:18 with a child with special needs. It's kind of as with any child you're afraid of regression, right? But with a child with special needs, it's like once they regress, getting them back to where they were takes a much, much longer period.

Speaker 12: 11:32 And while districts roll out plans for virtual or distance learning, those plans might not be feasible for students with disabilities. Chris Braum is a special education professor at San Diego state university. He said for many special ed students, school isn't just the place to learn. It's a way to structure their lives.

Speaker 1: 11:49 Kids in special ed really rely on the predictability, consistency in their routine, um, of a given school day of the, the whole structure of school. So that alone is just really disruptive.

Speaker 12: 12:01 The federal government is currently considering waiving some requirements for districts regarding special education services, but San Diego students will likely get some support from their districts. Carrie Schakowsky is the executive director of special education at the San Diego County office of education.

Speaker 10: 12:17 The response from the 42 districts within San Diego County has overwhelmingly been, we want to serve students,

Speaker 12: 12:24 but providing services like one-on-one speech therapy or occupational therapy will be a challenge in a time of social distancing.

Speaker 10: 12:31 We will look at the different services that students have and make individual determinations about what is safe, what is feasible, and what would be meaningful.

Speaker 12: 12:42 Experts like Schakowsky and Brum. See, parents can find high quality special ed materials on district and university websites, but without the core services, they need students like Cameron on limbo.

Speaker 13: 12:54 It scares me a lot because my son, like I said, he's just, he's breaking through to becoming verbal, like he's right on that cusp and I just have a feeling that it's just going to, hopefully it won't. We're going to do everything we can, but I can't predict anything.

Speaker 12: 13:13 Joe Hong K PBS news.

Speaker 1: 13:23 Thanks for listening to San Diego news. Manners. If you're not already a subscriber, take a minute to become one. You can find San Diego who's matters on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

The coronavirus outbreak is creating big-budget unknowns for cities, the county and schools. The future of billion-dollar budgets is unclear as local governments, schools respond to the virus. And gun stores are seeing record sales during the coronavirus outbreak, but are they allowed to stay open under Gov. Newsom's orders? Plus, the hospital ship USNS Mercy left San Diego Monday bound for Los Angeles in support of the nation's pandemic response efforts.

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