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

County Could Spar With Tribal Casinos Over Reopening Dates

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Viejas Casino and Resort in Alpine announced plans last week to reopen on May 18, and Sycuan Casino Resort plans to open May 20, but the county has a problem with those dates. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: County health officials made a significant decision last week -- to allow daycares to begin accepting children whose parents are nonessential workers, but because of miscommunications by county officials, daycares are just now getting the message. How a local nonprofit is stepping in to help some San Diego seniors cope with the increased isolation and more local news you need.

Viejas Casino and Resort in Alpine announced plans last week to reopen on May 18, and Sycuan Casino Resort plans to open May 20.
Both casinos are on tribal land, so they are not subject to the same state regulations that have limited most business operations in California.
But Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, said the county has a problem with those dates.

"We do not agree with the reopening of casinos on May 18," she said. "Opening of casinos will cause a risk to our public health. That is clear."
Wooten said that while the public health order is voluntary on tribal lands, county officials may reach out to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for guidance on how to enforce health orders should the casinos and local government not come to an understanding.
***
A group of medical professionals held a vigil outside of the county administration building in downtown San Diego Wednesday.

They're part of a nationwide movement by doctors calling for the release of civil immigration detainees during the coronavirus pandemic.

An immigration detainee who was being held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center died last week of COVID-19.

Tari Gilbert is a nurse practitioner who was taking part in the vigil.

As you're aware we had our first COVID death last week, and it was an entirely preventable situation. Otay Mesa Detention Center is not able to provide physical distancing, not able to provide adequate protection for the people who are housed there.

The Otay Mesa Detention Center currently has the largest outbreak in immigration detention in the country, with 149 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf toured the San Diego/Tijuana border from a Coast Guard helicopter Wednesday. Afterward, he told the media that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not be releasing civil immigration detainees just to avoid exposing them to COVID-19.

What we're not going to do is release all of the detainees in our care… it's irresponsible… it's irresponsible to the communities we release them into. So we're going to do this in a much more targeted effort.

Wolf also said since the pandemic, almost all migrants apprehended along the southern border are now returned to Mexico within two hours. He says this is in the interest of public safety.

And another Department of Homeland Security official visited San Diego this past weekend to assess the COVID situation near the border.

The development comes weeks after local hospitals and an elected official requested help with a surge of cases in the South Bay.

County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar says they discussed a possible pop-up medical facility near the San Ysidro crossing to screen essential workers and American expats seeking care.

(:12) where we could provide free health screening and testing to individuals that are part of that essential workforce. We also could better triage people that came across the border that were symptomatic

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And for the latest local COVID-19 count: On Wednesday, the county reported 117 new positive COVID-19 tests and five deaths.

That brings the total number of positive cases to 5,278, while the five deaths bring the total number of fatalities to 194.

National City has experienced the highest rate of COVID-19 cases among San Diego County cities. The city’s mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis said Wednesday that the city will be offering additional free testing and has received two new testing devices at Paradise Valley Hospital.
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From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters.

It’s Thursday, May 14.

And before the break, I wanted to play this sweet rhyme from County Supervisor Greg Cox.

Have a good day and remember, stay in place, maintain your space, and cover your face.

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


County health officials made a significant decision last week -- to allow daycares to begin accepting children whose parents are nonessential workers.

But because of miscommunications by county officials, daycares are just now getting the message.

KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser explains the confusion.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the county ordered the closure of all daycares, except those that serve the children of essential workers -- doctors, nurses, grocery workers and others. And those daycares had to drop their class sizes from as many as 24 to 10.

During a May 7 news conference, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced a loosening of restrictions. Here's what he said:

DAYCARE 1A
"You cannot effectively reopen jobs if schools are closed and there's no place for kids to go during the day. Child care centers can have groups of 12 kids, instead of 10; providers don't have to wear masks while working with kids, bathrooms can be used by multiple groups of 12 as long as they are cleaned regularly."

But he left out a crucial part of the county's revised policy -- that daycares serving nonessential workers could reopen. This means many more daycares could reopen if they choose to. Yet, nearly a week after the county's decision, several daycare owners contacted by KPBS were still in the dark.

And Fletcher was wrong about something else. He said daycares could increase their class sizes to 12. That's not the case -- the maximum class size for any daycare regulated by the state is still 10.

A spokesman for Fletcher acknowledged the miscommunication but Fletcher refused to do an interview.

Experts say senior loneliness was already rampant before COVID-19.

The virus and strict stay-at-home orders have only intensified the situation, worsening the elderly's physical and emotional well-being.

KPBS's Amita Sharma spotlights how a local nonprofit is stepping in to help some San Diego seniors cope with the isolation.

The drivers who drop off meals for low-income seniors in San Diego first began noticing the changes a few weeks into coronavirus pandemic. They saw some seniors, once well-groomed, looking disheveled and/or disoriented.
Paul Downey/President-CEO/Serving Seniors
5:21 "They're observing people who they see physically deteriorating because for the last six weeks, they've been sitting in their small single room occupancy unit or small apartment and unable to get out."
Paul Downey is president and c-e-o of Serving Seniors, a San Diego-based nonprofit that focuses on the well-being of elderly people
5:36 "This was a problem we had before that's only getting worse."
More than 119,000 elderly people live alone in San Diego County. Pre-pandemic, many of the neediest among them passed their time socializing at the senior center or other public places and running errands. Under shelter-in-place orders, the activities have come to a halt. And Serving Seniors's drivers are seeing the effects.
5:56"....depression, moodiness, lack of energy, not wanting to do much of anything. And so we're seeing that with the sort of the physical aspects of people just appearing to be kind of tired and what not. And so our drivers are doing their best to engage."
But it's not enough.
So Downey says Serving Seniors has recruited volunteers to phone residents at its affordable housing complexes every few days...just to talk.
8:42 "It could be talking about just what's going on in the world. But whatever it is, it's just a conversation so that there's a real live human being that you're able to be connected to."
Seventy-two year-old Esmerelda Sanchez is one of the people slated to get the calls. She says the isolation, save for the meal drop-offs, has been rough.
Esmerelda Sanchez/Senior
ADU 6979-01 2:01 "It just isn't natural. cut So for people to be in the house just there and someone brings food, knocks at the door, drops off food or runs away. They've got to feel like they're the ones this contaminated."

She says just learning that she would receive the phone calls has already lifted her spirits.

ADU 6979-01 2:51"....I feel warm and fuzzy inside." (Keep laughter)"
….Because she believes the calls will go a long way toward making her feel less lonely.

ADU 6979-01 4:00 "Your voice echoing off the walls is not healthy.
Volunteer Elizza Villarruel, a 21-year-old UC San Diego student says she hopes the senior she gets paired with is less concerned about checking in and more interested in getting to know a new person.

Elizza Villarruel/Volunteer
5:59 "I hope that this person is able to learn from me just as much as I'm able to learn from them.cu

Villarruel says she's volunteering for the calls to seniors because she wants to "go beyond herself."

5:19"….And I believe that within times of uncertainty, especially due to Covid-19, it's important for us to all care for each other."

USC gerontology professor Donna Benton agrees and urges everyone to pay closer attention to the seniors in their lives, to call them more often and search for signs of depression or worsening physical ailments. She says it's our societal duty to be concerned.

15:11 "If we don't care about the generation that's older than us, it is almost a reflection of how we feel about our own aging process. I like a quote that I read recently in a book on ageism which is "that ageism is a prejudice against your own future self."

And that was KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma.
***

The California State University system announced this week that nearly all of its classes will be online in the fall.

That's to protect against a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic..

KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong spoke with SDSU students about what this is doing to their college experience.

FabrizioLacarraRamirez.mp4
01:33
To be told hey you guys already paid your tuition and we're making this online right in the middle of finals week was kind of a big shocker in general.

Fabrizio Lacarra Ramirez is a third-year English major at San Diego State University. He wasn't pleased when he heard the announcement on Tuesday. He said when his r rclasses went online in March, the dynamic changed immediately.

FabrizioLacarraRamirez.mp4
03:54
It's not really the classroom looking at the teacher or the professor and the professor looking at us, it's more of us this very strange everyone is looking at each other at the same time, and you feel eyes on you at all times.

The biggest issue for him and many students is whether they'll have to pay full tuition for an inferior product. A spokesman for the CSU system said the governor's revised budget will determine whether the colleges can offer tuition discounts.

Theaters are struggling to create content online but La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls Festival may have an advantage. The goal of the festival -- called WOW -- is to force theater out of traditional spaces and into the community for site-specific work.

So WOW actually lends itself well to producing art from quarantine during a pandemic and the first show, "Ancient," debuts online today.

The festival has been downtown, at the Lafayette Hotel, and at Liberty Station. Now it's asking artists to look to the restrictions of quarantine as the site inspiration for this year's event.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accamando checks in with La Jolla Playhouse Artist in Residence David Israel Reynoso and others, who think the restrictions can inspire creativity.

For most people. Being in quarantine is a limitation, but that's not how David is real. Renoso sees it. What I love about being in the creative arts in the creative field and sort of being someone who is having to to think creatively when in terms of problem solving with work like this, it's important to focus more on the possibilities that are still available, despite the fact that we do have some things that are hedging us in.

I mean, there's no denying. We are certainly limited. And yet I think limitations encourage innovation. The LA Jolla Playhouse artists in residence is innovating to create a new work for the without walls or wow festival that's going digital this year. The goal of the wow festival is to force theater out of traditional spaces and into the community for site-specific work.

The festival has been downtown at the Lafayette hotel and at Liberty station. So wow. Seems perfectly designed to address the site specific demands of sheltering at home for Renoso. Watching his kids creatively deal with being stuck at home inspired him. And so I thought, is there a way of inviting are audience members for this piece to tap into that sense of creativity, that sense of imagination.

That allows, that's sort of our minds to be what transports us elsewhere. Perhaps those screens we look at all day could be a portal to something else. I think a lot of the content that's digital, you can also be quite passive in your seats and your bed. Where is it you're watching? And I think instead, I'm hoping that this.

It's something that encourages participation and encourages you to activate your mind in a way that, uh, you might not otherwise and your day to day within. Yeah. Do you have in court in jeans right now? So Reynoso's porta. Lisa will take you through an online portal to experience an inventive, multisensory journey without ever leaving your living room.

But blind spot collective's approach to wow is to get you out of the house, says it's director of artistic development. Blake McCardy walks of life is an auditory theater experience in much the same way that. You listened to a podcast audience, members will be asked to download an audio file and listen to an audio file, hopefully from something like a smartphone that will allow them to actually leave their home and take a 30 to 40 minute walk, and a narrator will take you through three place.

And each of those plays is then positioned as if it might be a slice of life that's happening behind the fences or front doors of the houses you're passing on that walk through your own neighborhoods. We're really interested in forging imagined connections with our neighbors, which for us is one of the losses of this time.

We don't necessarily have the opportunity. To go to the park or walk down the street and engage with neighbors in a physical sense or with friends and family for that matter. Any physical sense? Blind spot collectives, co-founder Katherine. Hannah Schrock says, it's a curious time for the organization because part of our vision in general is to aluminate stories in the, in the blind spot.

And to amplify marginalized voices, and we in this moment are all in the blind spot. We're all marginalized. We're all behind walls and doors and windows in our homes, but she loves the challenge of creating new works that reflect our current situation. For walks of life. Blind spot collective is asking people to provide the live component of the play in the hopes that they will feel more connected, that they will both feel connected to someone's unique experience.

Cause we love the idea of bridging disparate communities, but also that they'll feel some resonance in some of the very common experiences that we're all having right now in this moment. And by going digital this year, those common experiences can be shared by even more people. Who are all sheltering at home.

And that story from kpbs arts reporter Beth Accamando.

***
And San Diego doesn’t feel very San Diego-y without its never-ending supply of beer festivals.

But, guess what? A virtual beer fest is coming soon to San Diego. Because of course it is. Here’s more from the company behind it.

Hey this is Ryan….May 23…..get ready for a party soon…

And that’s all we have for you today. Thanks for listening and if you’re doing something to keep the community connected through COVID-19, call and leave a voicemail, tell me who you are, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. The number to call is (619) 452-0228‬.

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