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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

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Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a dramatic relaxation of health standards to reopen the state. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: droves of people turned out for Viejas Casino & Resort's reopening yesterday, restaurants across San Diego are preparing to open for dine-in service as soon as they get the go-ahead, the coronavirus’ silver lining and more local news you need.

Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a dramatic relaxation of health standards to reopen the state.
It’s a move that could allow nearly every county to reopen the economy a lot faster than originally planned. He even said pro sports could be returning — without fans — as soon as early June.
And haircuts, those could start happening soon, too.

and a number of other sectors of our economy, uh, will open up again if we hold it. Uh, these trend lines in the next number of weeks. And that includes, uh, for example, getting a haircut, uh, which is very meaningful and that, uh, as it could be done on a regional variance, uh, but it will be able to be advanced, uh, we believe in the next few weeks, even statewide.
The announcement marked a significant departure from strict criteria Newsom laid out just over a week ago.
The reopening requirements were so strict they would have prevented most large counties like San Diego from reopening.
But Newsom cited decreases in both coronavirus hospitalization and ICU rates statewide as the reason for the shift.
The new criteria would let counties that want to move faster allow dining in restaurants and other services to reopen if they win state approval.

Um, bottom line is people can go at their own pace. Uh, and we are empowering our local health directors and County officials, uh, that understand their local communities and conditions, uh, better than any of us.
***
San Diego County is getting 334 million dollars from the federal government to help with its coronavirus response.
Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Dianne Jacob are proposing a plan for how to spend it.
The vast majority of the money would support the county's public health actions related to the pandemic.
But money would also go to support small businesses and mental health services via telemedicine.

NF: I have long thought that telemedicine, especially around behavioral health, is something we should embrace more fully. And so we think that this is a systemic change that can reap benefits moving forward.

Several county supervisors, who meet today, are also proposing that the county use some of the money to reimburse cities for pandemic-related spending.

***

Thousands of undocumented immigrants will receive up to one-thousand dollars from the state government starting this week.

The payments are drawn from a 75 million dollar cash assistance program launched by Governor Newsom last month.

It’s meant to help those left out of the federal government's stimulus efforts.

Jewish Family Service will be processing cash assistance requests in both San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Executive director Michael Hopkins says JFS received over 10,000 calls in just a few short hours since the program started.

Clearly the word has gotten out because while the program is scheduled to run through the end of June, I would be surprised if it ran through the end of this week. The volume is that great.

More information about the program can be found on the Jewish Family Service website.

***
And for the latest local COVID count: San Diego County health officials reported 110 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths on Monday, raising the totals to 5,946 cases and 211 deaths.

***

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

It’s Tuesday, May 19.

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

Lots and lots and lots of people turned out for Viejas Casino & Resort's reopening yesterday.

KPBS's Amita Sharma says the line outside the East County casino started forming at 6 am.

And because there were so many waiting to get inside to gamble, Viejas opened its doors 30 minutes early.

By noon, the line of masked men and women, young and old, hoping to play the slot machines or black jack at Viejas stretched down the block. Sixty-one-year-old Ruben Orozco drove two hours from San Bernardino to gamble even though he says he's a little concerned about catching coronavirus.

MIKE0972_01 1:14 "Hopefully, I win something."

Vance Donovan, 57, of La Mesa says he plans to wager some of the money from his federal stimulus check.

MIKE0982_01 :15 "We had nothing else to do and this is the first casino that opened and we're tired of spending money on lottery tickets."

Several area casinos are opening this week despite advice from Governor Newsom and health officials to hold off in the interest of public health.

***
Restaurants across San Diego are preparing to open for dine-in service as soon as they get the go-ahead from health officials.

But dining in the coronavirus era will look very different when it happens--servers wearing masks, tables spread apart.

And, as KPBS reporter Claire Trageser explains, in some places, restaurants are asking for contact information from all customers to get in touch with them in case of an outbreak.

___________

NAT POP 10;58;08;09
"Every table six feet apart."

PJ Lamont walks around his restaurant Raglan Public House in Ocean Beach.

SOT 10;58;16;05
"Bar seating we're probably not going to be able to do period. That's one of the pending items right now."

He's furiously getting ready for whenever his five restaurants in San Diego can open for dine-in service.

PJ Lamont
New Zealand Eats Partner
SOT PJ Lamont11;01;18;04
"Everything will be in a sealed container, the host will bring that as well as rolled silverware to the table, more than likely with either gloves or tongs."

The restaurants have been open for takeout since stay at home orders and they expect it to continue to be the majority of their business even after they open for dine-in customers.

SOT11;12;35;22
"When we are going to be open for dine in, it's going to be about 30% is what we're anticipating, so the to go business is really a giant shift for us. We've always done it in the past, but now it's going to be on the forefront. So we want to make it as much of a gift as possible as opposed to just food in a bag.

They’re also making preparations for employees.

SOT 11;13;14;14
"For staff, we do face coverings, gloves and temp checks when they come in. Anything over 100 and they go home"

But Lamont says he’s not ready at this point to require temperature checks for customers, or to collect their contact information so they can be reached if cases are traced back to the restaurant. Such measures have become the norm in other places around the world -- including South Korea and Hong Kong. (https://kpbs.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/assets/img/2020/04/16/south-korea-vote_wide-353a30e6b3da4697721a0b36a68605ca660cdbe8.jpg)

And in Washington State, restaurants will have to keep logs of customer phone numbers and email addresses as part of a statewide contact tracing program. https://abcnews.go.com/US/washington-state-directs-restaurants-log-eat-customers-order/story?id=70663870

But as of now that's not part of California's guidelines for restaurants to reopen. https://covid19.ca.gov/pdf/checklist-dine-in-restaurants.pdf

Would Lamont do it?

SOT 11;13;46;26
Want? No. If they require it, yes we'll do it. It's one of those things, once you give up one more little piece of freedom, are they always going to be doing that? I personally don't want to be the one holding all that information of other people."

Eyal Oren
San Diego State Epidemiologist
SOT 00:05:32:09
"Right now, there are a lot of efforts for how do you stem transmission, how do you control this outbreak quickly."

Eyal Oren is an epidemiologist at San Diego State and used to run the contact tracing program for King County in Washington State.

He says a log of restaurant customers would be helpful. (https://blacksheeprestaurants.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/black-sheep-restaurants-sop-covid19.pdf pg 15 or restaurant broll) (Find other b-roll)

SOT 00:06:15:24
"We know that highly effective contact tracing and case isolation is paramount to controlling this kind of outbreak, and the probability of effective control decreases as you have a longer delay in someone being symptomatic to their being isolated to people around them are not quickly found, traced."

Still, he says, the privacy concerns would be difficult for Americans.

ID Gregg Frasier
Stone Brewing VP of Hospitality
SOT 00:11:09:05
"We'll comply with whatever the state and local mandates are."
Gregg Frasier is the vice president of hospitality for Stone Brewing. (can cut for TV)

SOT con't
"You do get into some privacy issues when you start keeping track of who's coming in the doors, we clearly not going to overstep the boundaries or want to do anything that's wrong in that nature. So I don't think we'll go above and beyond, because we want to ensure we're not breaking any rules in the privacy piece."

But Stone has developed detailed plans for its spacious restaurants in Liberty Station and Escondido. They include spacing out tables and posting marks every six feet in walkways to ensure proper social distancing.

SOT
In Escondido, even at 50% that's north of 600 people, and at Liberty Station that's north of 1,000 people, huge footprints, so we can do 50% capacity and have a significant amount of room for social distancing.

They're also planning to use an app called GoTab (https://gotab.io/).

SOT 00:04:01:13
"They are a contactless ordering process, what that means is people will be able to come in, scan a QR code to get not only the menu on their phone and but also open up a tab."

NAT POP 11;04;56;12
"If someone wants to go out to a restaurant, it's because they want to enjoy themselves."

Back at Raglan Public House, the owner Lamont has figured out a way to keep a good atmosphere even with social distancing.

SOT Raglan 11;04;38;24
"Instead of what we have here where you see a chair and that's where seating will be available, we're just going to fill up the other tables with giant stuffed animals.

He says with just spaced out tables, it looks too bare.

And that story from KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser.
***

The COVID 19 pandemic shutdown Southern California in mid-March, squeezing the life out of the region’s economy.

But KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson says there may be a silver lining.

The pandemic response got people out of their cars.


Southern California freeways just haven’t been the same recently. (car sound) The ribbons of concrete are still there, but the traffic isn’t.

00:00:51 – 00:01:05 “It’s a very dramatic decline.”

Gustavo Dallara is the acting director for CalTrans district 11. That’s the region which includes San Diego.

00:00:53 “During the year we have some seasonal drops in traffic when kids are off school and things like that. During the summer typically. But we haven’t seen anything to this magnitude.”

Dallarda says a critical freeway like Interstate Five, typically has hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks. During rush hour, traffic frequently slowed to a crawl. But not anymore.

00:01:38 --- 00:01:53 “What you saw right after the stay-home order was issued about half of the traffic on any given day was travelling on I-5. Right now it’s about a third drop”

Dallarda says he is curious to see how freeway traffic changes as the state begins to ease social distancing restrictions and allows the economy to reignite. He is unsure whether COVID will have a lasting impact on traffic.

00:04:38 -- 00:04:59 “We need to see how society is really going to change as part of going back to what they call the new normal. There’s a lot of people that are teleworking right now. We expect that there will be a lot of people teleworking after this as well and that may reduce some of the demand on the transportation system.”

Teleworking has been a huge eye opener for climate advocates.

10:10:12 – 10:10:18 “The biggest driver of the climate crisis in the San Diego region is cars.”

Nicole Capretz is the Climate Action Campaign executive director. She says San Diego’s Climate Action Plan requires the city to cut its carbon footprint in half by 2035. Shrinking the city’s carbon output was always going to rely on getting people out of their cars.

10:10:36 – 10:10:50 “That’s always been a struggle to implement. And then suddenly overnight, because of the COVID crisis. We kind of see, wow, if we did actually find a solution to cars being on the road. We have clean air.”

Capretz says teleworking was never a part of the carbon reduction equation. The strategy focused on biking, walking and mass transit. She says working from home was not widely accepted culturally. But when the shutdown hit, the unexpected happened. Now, Capretz says teleworking could become a key strategy.
10:17:21 – 10:17:38 “We have to figure out a way to just transform our whole energy system. To transform just about everything about the way we live work and play. Again we’re sort of getting a peek at what that might look like. And hopeful people will see that it could be a better quality of life.

The San Diego’s Chief sustainability officer Cody Hooven says carbon emissions have already been trimmed by 21 percent since 2010. But she concedes the effort hinges on changing how people move around.

00:05:08 -- 00:05:31“We like to drive long distances on freeways and that’s the way our city is designed so shifting that behavior and building up public transportation and bike accessibility, walking, pedestrian access so it’s safe and comfortable for people. It’s a pretty big lift.”

Hooven says the quick shift to telework was unexpected, but it gives city leaders something to think about as they give the Climate Action plan its scheduled five year update.
00:07:45 -- 00:08:01 “What does a work from home scenario look like in the future. What other things are changing. Now people are thinking about walking or biking more as a safe way to commute because they don’t have to be crowded with other people in a carpool or a van or a bus.”

Stand-up 10:43:04 – 10:43:21 “How many cars end up on San Diego’s freeways after the COVID 19 situation is resolved will go a long way toward determining how successful San Diego’s Climate Action Plan is.

And that story from KPBS’ Erik Anderson.

**

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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.