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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

San Diego Politicians Want To Decide How To Reopen

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San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer are telling California Governor Gavin Newsom requirements to reopen businesses are too strict. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: Southwestern Community College has been lauded for its restorative justice program, but its work has been upended by the coronavirus, how telework during the coronavirus pandemic may change the workplace for good and more local news you need.

San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer say state requirements for reopening businesses are too strict.
In a joint letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday, Cox and Faulconer pointed to what they called “unrealistic” readiness criteria to reopen businesses ….criteria such as having no COVID-19 related deaths in the last 14 days.
They said those requirements can’t be met anytime soon.

San Diego is ready to safely and strategically reopen. we urge the governor to give our region the flexibility to do so. Uh, workers. Are ready to start collecting a paycheck again, businesses are ready to safely reopen their doors and customers are ready to follow public safety health orders.
Faulconer and Cox said the state's current approach has frustrated millions of workers struggling to make ends meet. The pair are telling the governor they have worked with businesses and labor leaders on a plan balancing public safety and the need to get back to work.
The San Diego region's estimated unemployment rate rose to 26.8% last week amid the coronavirus pandemic, a high not seen since the Great Depression.
That’s according to a report released by the San Diego Association of Governments.
According to the analysis, out of 450,000 people out of work in the San Diego region, more than 400,000 lost employment after March 7 — the date public health officials pinpoint as the beginning of the local health crisis.
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Governor Newsom on Friday ordered ballots to be mailed to all of California's 20 million voters for the November election.

State officials say mail-in ballots provide the social distance voters need in response to COVID-19.

Michael Vu is the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. He told KPBS Midday Edition that already about 75% of San Diego County voters receive a mail-in ballot.

"We are going into a historical moment of sending everyone a mail ballot, but now there will be some level of in-person sites out there and for me that's where most of the concern is at right now."

Vu said that the location of these in-person sites -- along with how many there will be in San Diego -- will be announced soon.

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And for the latest local COVID-19 count: County health officials reported 139 new cases, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 5,065. The number of deaths stands at 175. That’s 2 days without a COVID19 death in the county.

There have been an estimated 2,966 recoveries from the illness in the region since the pandemic began.

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From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters.

It’s Tuesday, May 12.

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

Southwestern Community College has been praised for its restorative justice program, which helps prison inmates and those recently released access a college education.

But its work has been upended by the coronavirus.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser takes a look at how students and teachers are working to keep the program going.
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"I'm probably not living in the safest housing environment because all of the residents that live at this house and there's six of us total, all have jobs."

Shawn Khalifa is standing on the porch of his transitional housing in Talmadge, filming with his phone to show us around.

Shawn Khalifa
Restorative Justice Student
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"So we all are out in the community with the potential to bring back coronavirus to our housing."

Khalifa was just released from Donovan Correctional Facility after 16 years. He was charged with felony murder as a teenager and now has served his time. So worrying about getting sick is just one of his challenges right now.

Khalifa was counting on getting help from Southwestern College’s Restorative Justice program, which provides an opportunity for inmates to take college classes while they’re on the inside and continue working toward their degree on the college’s eastern Chula Vista campus when they get out. But like classes everywhere, Khalifa’s are now online-only. This is not easy for him.

SOT con't
"I never did well in school before being incarcerated, so I always had ADHD. It's hard for me to focus and pay attention and just keep my attention on one thing. So online courses...ugh. I'm grinding it out, though. I work hard."

Despite Khalifa's challenges, he's doing really well, says Patrice Milkovich, program’s director She's more concerned about other students.

Patrice Milkovich
Restorative Justice Director
SOT "We are trying to create that community of on campus support and it's very difficult to do that remotely when those students are struggling, have housing issues, food security issues, don't have work. It's hard to see people and work with them without having that face to face contact. The relationships we build are based on trust, and it's hard to build trust over text or a phone call."

So she and her staff struggle to reach students...and worry they won't attend their online classes.

SOT "They may have reluctance to get on Zoom calls with their instructors, don't want to show their face because of embarrassment about their living conditions. Or they may have a difficult time to find a place to quietly do academic work."

The pandemic has also kept the program’s teachers from being able to go into prisons to hold classes. But they’re doing the best they can with this part of the program as well.

SOT IMG 0598
"We're here at the Chula Vista campus of Southwestern College getting prepared for the drive up student packet handoff."

The program was also unique in the county for holding classes with prisoners still on the inside. But now that is on hold. Teachers are not able to go into the prisons to hold classes, so instead the Restorative Justice staff are trying to make do with what they can.

They pick up completed coursework packets from students in prison, let the papers sit for 48 hours while the germs die, and then hand them off to teachers. Two weeks later, teachers drop off the graded work. It's not as good as holding classes, Milkovich said, but it's something.

She said they're not giving up, especially because their students need help now more than ever.

SOT "We're trying to be an ambassador, an agent for how to navigate these crazy times. "We don't want people to quit the path just because it's hard."

As for Khalifa, life outside prison is not exactly what he expected…at least not so far.

SOT IMG_2218.MOV
"Staying in a house on quarantine, like I have this unyielding urge to get outside. I don't ever want to be in the house since I've been released."

And something he was really looking forward to--trying to date--has become especially complicated.

NAT POP
"This is my profile. I would swipe right on me."

That was a story from KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser.

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The pandemic is shifting and changing the economy in all kinds of ways - some obvious, others not.

Like, take the local fish economy where a market is experiencing a boom in business….

Hundreds of people lined up to go to the Tuna Dockside Harbor Market in downtown last Saturday to get their hands on some fresh seafood.

KPBS Science and Technology reporter Shalina Chatlani says in recent weeks the market has become packed due to coronavirus.

AMBI:
At the Tuna Dockside Harbor Market visitors will find coolers overflowing with seafood and butchers sharpening their knifes AMBI KNIFE SOUND.

Residents like Luis Gomez say they've always liked the fresh fish here, but with grocery stores being packed he thought it's an even better way to shop. Gomez has been to the market 6 times.

"Fresher, cheaper, easier. And because we weren't able to fish on our own fishing boats…. Personal sporting boats they're not allowing… can't have 72 people on one boat."

The fishermen say due to the shutdown they aren't able to sell to restaurants they normally get most of their profits from.

So they are selling extra stock at this market, which happens every Saturday.

Work habits have been upended by the Coronavirus pandemic, even for those who haven't lost their jobs.
Telecommuting is a new way of life for many workers now.
Kate Lister is president of global workplace analytics based in Carlsbad. It's a consulting firm that helps employers prepare for the new changing workplace.
KPBS’s Alison St. John spoke with Kate about how telework during the Coronavirus pandemic may change the workplace for good.

So now you surveyed over 2000 workers last month and found that 77% want to continue working from home after the quarantine is over. You know, who were those workers and what's your big takeaway from their response?
Well, to tell you the truth, I was a little bit surprised. We know historically about 80% of the population or the workforce says they'd like to work from home at least some of the time. But given the havoc that they were thrown into in this last month with children at home and not having the technology and you know, all of the cacophony, I was quite surprised that, that many want to continue to do it.
And that's critical because, you know, we've got a lot of office buildings that are empty right now, and this is going to have an influence on the future of work. It certainly is. I mean, were there any of the people that you surveyed who said they didn't like it and don't want to do it in future only 6% and that 77% want to do it right.
One day a week or more. Now your work is to help employers, you know, optimize working from home with telecommuting and flexible workplace strategies. What would you say distinguishes between a company that runs the successful work from home program and one that is not successful? It's really all about planning.
With a large company, we would typically spend six months to a year even more developing a remote work program, and that involves training. Protocols, policies, practices, how do you communicate? How do you collaborate? When do you communicate, collaborate? Who pays for your home office equipment? You know, it answers all those questions that everybody, uh, is asking.
In these last several weeks, what would you say are perhaps some of the biggest mistakes that you've seen in, in all this time? Working with employers? Uh, you know, who are allowing workers to work from home and not doing the training that they need to, to be successful at it. The biggest problem is middle middle managers that don't trust their employees to work on tethered.
And so trust has to be there for work at home. And instantly, the biggest determinant of trust is whether or not somebody has worked. A manager has worked at home in the past. So once they've done it, they're more inclined to understand, Oh, I can manage people remotely. And so I think that's going to be another driver as we emerge from this crisis, because now all of these managers have seen that they can do it.
And we've seen that in the survey that we just released. So, you know, productivity is always a concern for employers. And your respondents were employees, of course, but what did they say about how productive they felt they were working from home? Actually, we did parse the data by managers and by employees, and both said that they were more productive working from home in both private work, solo work and collaborative work, which was interesting.
So, so they're able to collaborate equally when they're at home or when they're at the office, but they're more satisfied with the collaboration when they're at the office. Uh, they say they're far more productive solo work when they're working at home. Well, what about distractions? I mean, there are so many distractions, especially if you have the kids at home too.
What, what did you find out about how people deal with those distractions at home? Well, again, that was one of the things that surprised us in the numbers, but we expected there to be so many distractions at home. As you say with all of the children home and barking dogs and people not used to working from home, but they actually, we actually asked that question and people said they lost 75 minutes a day to interruptions while they're in the office and 35 minutes a day to interruptions when they're at home.
And did any of them give you suggestions about, um, you know, as from a manager's perspective about how you can deal with, uh, people who are dealing with disruptions at home? Yeah, we've been asked that question a lot on webinars that we've done. And, you know, it's a matter of, of being somewhat structured about your day.
Um, you know, I think right now is just unusual times. We can't expect a hundred percent productivity out of people. We just don't have the bandwidth, both literally and, and, um, individually. So I think it's getting along, doing the best you can, having access to the technology that you need. Having robust set of technology.
That's really been a big part of the difficulty with people that, uh, our thrust into this working from home and didn't have experience with it, but people give back about 60% of the time they would have otherwise spent commuting. So overworking is actually one of the bigger problems in terms of working from home.
Huh. And then what about morale? I mean, when you don't see someone face to face at work, isn't it a bit easy to lose touch with how they're doing? The companies that have been doing this the longest are the ones that sort of feel that impact. And there are all kinds of technologies coming together to try to recreate the water cooler virtually.
Yeah. Having online birthday parties, having, uh, online pizza parties being intentional about when you start an online meeting, socializing, you know, in some ways, I think that this whole video technology and people working from home will actually bring us closer together. I mean, when you see the CEO sitting there and his dog walking by, or his grandkids walking by and you know, you.
You see something going on in the background and people having trouble. I think it brings us closer together. I think it creates a sense of empathy and lowers the. Hierarchy in organizations. You know, I'm sitting here and you're just regular clothes being me. I think we're much more able to be ourselves when we're sitting at home in the comfort of home.

So you spoke about training for, I mean, for example, a zoom meeting. What would you say is the biggest difference between a zoom meeting and a face to face meeting and what are the things we need new skills that we need to learn. Yes. Well, for one thing, when to use it and when not to. I think we've all gone a little bit overboard on so much, and part of it is because we're sheltering in place and we miss our colleagues and we want to be together.
You know, there's, there are some protocols that, yeah, yeah. If we were doing training, we would talk about when to use. Synchronous versus asynchronous communication. When do you have to get on a video? When should you pick up the phone? When do you use an email or a chat? You just can't be on video all day long.
It's exhausting. Uh, because we don't have all of those other elements. You know, we only have the two senses that we're using our vision and our hearing. And we're sort of second guessing all the rest of those things. So it really takes a mental toll, uh, being on video too much. And, you know, in the future, I suppose there'll be more of an option to balance working from home with working at the office.
I mean, do you. Do you recommend a particular balance for people? Say there's a particular balance they would prefer. We query that in the a survey that we did and yeah, it comes out at about two to three days a week. So you know, you get your social time when you're at the office, your collaborative time, your team time, and at home is where you get your productive time.
And it turns out that we do about more than half of our day is spent. On solo work. So it makes a nice balance. And companies have actually been moving in this direction for, for many years, creating workplaces that are places for social collaborative work.
And that was global workplace analytics president Kate Lister speaking with Midday Edition’s Alison St John. Get the Midday Edition podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.
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That’s all for today….working from home. Thanks for listening. Do me a favor, and if you appreciate this daily news podcast, take a minute to send this podcast to one of your friends. Thanks.

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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.