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San Diego Wants To Be The Test Case For Faster Reopening

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On Tuesday, San Diego County Supervisors decided to ask the state to let our county be a test case for an accelerated reopening. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: San Diego City Council members extended a moratorium on evictions for struggling renters and businesses, California blood banks are urgently asking COVID-19 survivors to donate plasma and more local news you need.

On Tuesday, San Diego County Supervisors decided to ask the state to let our county be a test case for an accelerated reopening.
They voted to request reopening everything from condo swimming pools to modified fitness facilities, youth sports and outdoor religious services..
And to do so faster than currently recommended by state guidelines.
San Diego County is asking to jump ahead despite the fact that positive cases continue to grow and we have 178 cases per 100,000 residents.
But health officials say our county now meets most of the state’s new reopening requirements.We were able to meet those requirements - officials say -- due to swift moves to close beaches and ramp up hospital capacity, plus they credit the population here for mostly following the social distancing rules.
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Public schools are in trouble.

Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a revised state budget last week that cut hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to K through 12 districts.

On Monday, superintendents from six large urban California school districts sent a letter to Newsom saying schools might not open on time for the fall semester if the state can't find more funding.

The letter, which was signed by San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten, said the cuts would force districts to delay reopening schools even after public health officials say it's safe to do so.

A cut to education makes it extremely difficult to make opening plans that has the proper social distancing guidelines that will be required to implement in our schools, and we need to make sure that we have with that social distancing proper. Also, it support and any type of blended model that's going to go on for an extended period of time has to be properly funded.

After the letter became public, San Diego Unified officials clarified that the district is still planning to start school on August 31st. But - unless the state provides the needed funding to put new social distancing measures in place -- it will be a continuation of distance learning.

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Yesterday, San Diego City Council members extended a moratorium on evictions for struggling renters and businesses.

The city's eviction moratorium was set to expire at the end of the month, but is now extended through June 30.

Councilmember Chris Ward says with some tenants at risk of owing thousands in back rent, the city should also consider using federal stimulus dollars for direct financial aid..

We of course have temporary relief under a moratorium, but assistance payments made directly to the landlords can really start to reduce the total rents and arrears across our community and provide long term relief.

The moratorium requires tenants and businesses to notify their landlords in writing that they're unable to pay — and they must prove their hardship is caused by COVID-19.

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And for the latest local COVID count: The county health department on Tuesday reported 80 new cases and 11 additional deaths. That raises the county's totals to 6,026 cases and 222 fatalities.

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

It’s Wednesday, May 20.

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

COVID-19 patients no longer are being accepted at Imperial County's two hospitals after a recent surge in cases.

inewsource reporter Jennifer Bowman has more.

Imperial County has fewer than 300 hospital beds and the highest hospitalization rate for coronavirus in the state.

Now, its hospitals in El Centro and Brawley are telling paramedics to take COVID-19 patients elsewhere, which means some will be coming to San Diego.

Adolphe Edward, head of the El Centro Medical Center, says the recent rise is due to U.S. citizens coming from Mexicali. He announced the decision on Tuesday.

EDWARD: "We want to make sure that we don't overwhelm either one of the hospitals and overwhelm the system with COVID patients to the point that we can't take care of you." (00:09)

The county's emergency rooms remain open for non-COVID patients.

inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS.

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California blood banks are urgently asking COVID-19 survivors to donate plasma. Some early research shows it can be used as a treatment for people currently fighting the disease.

CapRadio's Sammy Caiola has more.

If you can document that you've had COVID-19 and you've been symptom-free for at least two weeks, Vitalant wants your plasma.

The blood bank network has locations across the state. They're working with hospitals to get plasma to current coronavirus patients. There's some evidence showing the antibodies in the plasma can help COVID patients recover faster.

This type of plasma isn't FDA-approved yet, but it's considered an investigational product and is one of many coronavirus therapies scientists are looking into.

Vitalant also says demand for blood is up 25% now that hospitals are performing regular surgeries again. You cannot donate if you are feeling ill.

The county board of supervisors will revive the Human Relations Commission.

The vote to revive it comes after a pair of incidents at Santee grocery stores -- one with a man wearing a KKK hood, and the other involving a man wearing a swastika on a face mask.

The commission had existed in the county for decades, but was dissolved in 2018.

County supervisor Nathan Fletcher, spoke about why the commission is needed.

We have seen issues around COVID-19, the virus called the chinese virus or the Wuhan virus. Anti-asian, hurtful derogatory and hateful graffiti recently targeted a LIttle League Field in the Allied Gardens section of San Diego.

The 25-person commission will host public events and make recommendations to the county board of supervisors on how to fight back against intolerance.

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Just a few months ago, 17-year-old Marlene Herrera was looking forward to graduating from high school, going away to college, and voting in her first presidential elections.

Now, her life has been turned upside-down like so many other Americans.

As part of a collaboration with The World's "Every 30 seconds"— which looks at the young Latino electorate in the US -- KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler tells us how one San Diego high school senior is faring during the pandemic.

I first met Marlene, in February. She's a senior at Scripps Ranch High School.

She has her entire life planned out in a notebook, that she keeps color-coordinated and marked with sticky-notes. In it -- she was keeping track of ALL her college applications.

Marlene: (Coffee shop ambi here) It just helps keep me organized and makes me feel like I'm not going crazy. Especially during finals week so I'm not like, where's that, where's that, where's that?

She's the first person in her family to go to college, so it is up to her to figure out how to pay for school.

Marlene: (Coffee shop ambi here) So it was kind of just a little, what do I do? What do I put here, what do I put there? I know my mom would try to help me with the application process, but there was stuff even she didn't know, like what am I supposed to put there?

Marlene wasn't yet old enough to vote in the March primary. But she WAS following the election closely before the pandemic hit.

She said that she didn't want to see a repeat of the 2016 presidential election. Where her family members were turned off by both parties and their failed promises.

Marlene: (Coffee shop ambi here) My family members, once it came down to the two candidates, they just didn't vote.

Now, months later, Marlene's carefully-planned world has been turned upside down by the Coronavirus pandemic. No grad night, no prom, no graduation.

Marlene is splitting her time between her two parents.

For the first month of the quarantine, Marlene and her younger brother stayed with her father, a first generation Mexican-American. He manages a grocery store and has been working non-stop during the pandemic.

Marlene: You can noticeably see how much more tired he is. There's times he doesn't even want to stay up to eat because he's that tired. A lot of times when he gets home, my brother and I just say, here's your blanket, here's your pillow. He does this thing where he passes out on the couch first before he goes to bed.

While her father was at the grocery store, Marlene and her brother were stuck inside. Marlene spent time taking online classes from a nearby community college, and...

Marlene: I picked up gaming. ::laughing: fade out laughter under next track

She borrowed her brother's Playstation 4 and is now meeting up with her friends on Grand Theft Auto online.

Marlene: We joked that we were going to use the pier in the game as our grad night. ::laughing:: fade out laughter under next track

Marlene moved back in with her mother last month. Her mother had spent weeks at home sick with flu-like symptoms. But she never got tested for coronavirus, because she's uninsured and worried about costs.

A few weeks ago, Marlene's mother was also laid off from her job at a law office and had to apply for unemployment.

Still, even with all the uncertainty, Marlene has had some recent reasons to celebrate. Her mom's business was able to hire her back last week thanks to a government loan. And Marlene got into her top college choices. In the fall, she'll be attending San Francisco State.

Virtually, that is.

24:00
It's never going to be back to normal if you really think about it. Because a lot of schools shut down, a lot of kids are online. A lot of colleges right now are being lenient for our grades and stuff. I just don't know what to expect.

In college, Marlene wants to study psychology. So she's closely watching how the country's health care industry is responding to the pandemic.

Marlene says her family has experienced what happens when healthcare comes at a cost.

Marlene: I am a low-income, as well. I know that feeling. Thank god my little sister and I have it, but my mom doesn't. When she gets sick, she needs to just fight through it. She's worried about how much it's going to cost. It frustrates me.

With everything going on now, the general election is still far from Marlene's mind.

Marlene: ---especially because I'm not happy with either of the candidates. Putting aside what I feel for the candidate, is different from politically what they'll bring to the government, and I'll have to see which one is the best option.

With Marlene's future very much up in the air, and the stresses of the pandemic weighing especially heavily on her family, her first presidential election as a voter this November, still feels like years away.

And that story from KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler.

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Seinfeld fans will love this.

Local artist Carolyn Ramos has used the forced isolation of the pandemic to finally launch an art project she’s been thinking about getting off the ground for years.

Hi Kenzie, this is Carolyn Ramos calling you about my Seinfeld girlfriends project. Seinfeld girlfriends was an idea I had a few years ago to draw each of Jerry Seinfeld's girlfriends in the show, but it seems so daunting that I never started. So then of course, coven 19 came and after, after several weeks of.

Isolation. I didn't have an excuse to not make it. So I'm drawing a girlfriend today and posting it on Instagram, and it depends on the online source, but with a PDF of that, Jerry had up to 73 girlfriends. I really miss meeting my friends and going to music and art shows, but considering the amount of uncertainty, two more months of Seinfeld girlfriends will help me pass the time.

If anyone wants to follow my progress, it's on Instagram at Soma Ramos. S. O. M. A. R a. M. O. S. Talk to you later. Bye.

I’ve been following Carolyn’s work on insta and I love it because seeing these gals in art form just sparks this instant feeling of 90s nostalgia and always makes me giggle a little because Seinfeld’s girlfriends’ fashion sense ranges from kinda awesome shoulder-padded lady blazers to Really? People dressed like that at one point?

If you’re doing something cool because of the pandemic, I want to hear about it. Call and leave a voicemail at (619) 452-0228‬.

OK, that’s all for today. Thanks as always for listening.

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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.