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Yes, They’re Open

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Some San Diego restaurants opened yesterday as the county moved forward with expanded reopenings. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: leaders and health officials in the South Bay are asking for help to control the surge of coronavirus cases there, the University of California became the largest public university system in the country to no longer require standardized testing and more local news you need.

Some San Diego restaurants opened for breakfast and lunch yesterday as the county moved forward with expanded reopenings.

Those were customers at STP Bar-N-Grill in Clairemont.

The news came late Wednesday night that the state had approved county official’s request for reopening, and that dine-in restaurants and in-store shopping could resume, both with social-distancing restrictions.

But before they swing the doors open, restaurants and shops must first fill out the county's Safe Reopening Plan form and post it publicly. That’s according to a tweet by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

Some restaurants completed the form ahead of time and were able to open as soon as they heard the news.

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The reopening news has some people concerned.

Because now, the employees of restaurants and retail shops will join the ranks of frontline workers, as they prepare to meet the public.

The Chicano Federation in San Diego is worried about the impact of the reopening on San Diego's Latino community as the coronavirus continues to spread.

Nancy Maldonado is the CEO of the Chicano Federation. She told KPBS that latinos in San Diego have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. And... the virus has exposed long-standing problems with access to care and adequate protection for essential workers,

Latinos have already been disproportionately affected….within our county.

She added that people in the Latino community are very very anxious about returning to work.

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The University of California on Thursday became the largest public university system in the country to no longer require standardized testing.

The University of California's Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously voted to eliminate the SAT and ACT requirement in their college admissions process.

These standardized tests, have been criticized for putting low-income students and students of color at a disadvantage. The universities will phase out the testing requirements during the next four years.

The plan is to create a new test that better reflects preparedness and is equitable to all applicants.

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And for the latest local COVID count: County public health officials announced 175 new positive cases and 11 deaths. That raises the county totals to 6,315 cases and 241 deaths.

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

It’s Friday, May 22.

Just a quick note: Monday is Memorial Day, so after today’s show we’re not back until Tuesday. For now, stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Leaders and health officials in the South Bay are asking for help to control the surge of coronavirus cases there.

And now an analysis of the most recent deaths due to the coronavirus shows just how hard that region is being hit.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser has this analysis.

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"Our positive test rate in Chula Vista is 18 percent."

Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder says Chula Vista and the rest of South Bay are being hit much harder by the coronavirus.

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"The county is telling everybody it's 4 percent right now, which is true countywide, but that's not true in Chula Vista. We've had to transfer 56 patients from Chula Vista up to our northern hospitals."

This concern is borne out when you look at who has died due to the coronavirus in San Diego County. Over the past two months, the virus has shifted to hit especially hard people in the southern region of the county, and people of Latino origin.

San Diego has seen about 230 deaths due to coronavirus. Among the first 100 deaths, more than half were white people, while under a third were Latino. But as the disease progressed, it shifted its deadly impact. Among the next 100 deaths, the numbers flipped--now more than half of the people who died were Latino, while just about a third were white.

KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman contributed to this story.

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Since the start of the pandemic, the Border Patrol has been sending anyone caught crossing the border back to Mexico within a matter of hours.

Now, it plans to fly many of them to Mexico City.

Max Rivlin-Nadler has the story.

The turnback policy has created a crisis in northern Mexico, with the US essentially shutting its doors and leaving asylum-seekers and other migrants without anywhere to go amidst a global pandemic.

Now, Border Patrol has announced that it has begun flying some of these individuals straight from San Diego to Mexico City.

In a statement to KPBS, Border Patrol says it's doing this to discourage people who have repeatedly attempted to enter the United States.

But medical groups like Doctors Without Borders have criticized the government's policy of both deporting and expelling migrants during a global health crisis.

Sergio (sir-jio) Martin (mar-teen) is the organization's mission director for Mexico.

Martin: It's not possible to say that we're taking all the necessary measures to ensure that we're not sending people with the virus from the United States to Mexico.

The first flight of migrants being expelled took off on Tuesday.

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To many, opening a business during the worst economic crisis in decades might not seem like the best idea.

But for one City Heights coffee shop owner, the move has seemingly paid off.

KPBS reporter Max RIvlin-Nadler has her story.

It took Marlyn Gonzalez over three years to line everything up for her business.

She had found the perfect spot off of El Cajon Boulevard, between City Heights and Talmadge. She had finally settled on a name -- GEM Coffee.

All she needed to do was open….. Which was scheduled for late March.

And then the pandemic hit.

MARLYN: It was oh my goodness, it was very confusing times to say the least.

Gonzalez decided to go ahead with opening anyway.

MARLYN: While we were trying to push our open, a lot of businesses were closing so that felt bad in a way, but then I kept thinking of how hard we worked, we had our team on board. We were ready.

Business has been steady, she says, and she has no regrets opening up, while it seems like the rest of the world is shutting down.

MARLYN: Full speed ahead.

Even in a pandemic, the press, well, presses on.

But it’s hard to keep doing the job when requests for public records are left unfulfilled.
Citing the COVID-19 emergency, the county has indefinitely delayed fulfilling some requests for government records.

KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento says a local journalism association is urging elected officials to take action. .____________________________________________________

The local Society of Professional Journalists last week called on the county to fulfill all requests for public records, which could include emails and other communication around the county's response to the pandemic. The group urged the region's elected officials to clarify their stance on the move.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher told KPBS Midday Edition that initial delays were understandable but not anymore.

"I think we're many months into this now and so I would be supportive of a change in posture and ensuring we're fully complying with the records requests."

He says he has shared his view with the county. Supervisor Kristin Gaspar says she also supports fulfilling all requests and has too communicated her stance on this. A spokesman for the county says it has delayed 31 requests but fulfilled around 500 others since March 1.

The three other supervisors did not oppose the county's approach and said requests may be fulfilled as time allows during the crisis.

***
Staying busy when you can’t leave your house can be a challenge. But lots of people are doing cool things, like picking up new hobbies, getting super productive and working out or organizing a ton...starting a garden or baking bread seem to be popular things to do.

And some people like Stephanie have found fun little brain games can be a great way to pass pandemic time, which can somehow both zip by quickly or drag on slowly depending on the time of day.

OK. That’s it. I hope you and yours find fun and creative ways to celebrate this Memorial Day weekend. Thanks 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.