Santa Ana Winds And A Red Flag Warning
San Diego News Matters / September 29, 2020
Santa Ana winds are sweeping through parts of San Diego County as temperatures heat up amid low humidity, significantly raising the risk of wildfires throughout the region. Plus, Former aide to City Council President Georgette Gómez, Kelvin Barrios, is ending his campaign for her seat. Also, before they battled major coronavirus outbreaks, Imperial County’s skilled nursing facilities already had histories of past citations and non-compliance, including infection control issues.
San Diego County fire officials are on alert right now as hot and dry winds move through our area. A red flag warning is in effect through this (Tuesday) morning. CalFire spokesman Thomas Shoots says the risk of a major fire is also boosted by extremely dry conditions in the backcountry.
”The fuel moistures around the county are at or near critical levels so that means we don’t have areas in the county where everything’s green and lush and we don’t have to worry about it.”
The chance for dangerous wildfire conditions extends well into November. Several of San Diego’s most damaging fires started in the final week of October during Santa Ana wind events. Meanwhile, in northern California, fires ignited on Sunday have forced the evacuation of tens of thousands in the wine country. There are more than two dozen wildfires active in the state.
La Mesa Police are asking for help identifying people involved in the violence that broke out four months ago, following peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd.
On Monday the department released a list of 25 people arrested or charged in connection with the events in May.
"These people are innocent until proven guilty. These are just people that were identified and there was probable cause developed to arrest."
Police also released surveillance images of suspects they say are connected to the burglary and looting of Pierre's Jewelers on La Mesa Boulevard.
Over 50 crimes were documented by La Mesa PD. They estimate millions of dollars in losses for the victims and affected businesses.
UC San Diego began its fall quarter online this week with virtual and in-person classes starting on Thursday. The university is only allowing half the number of students that they have the capacity to house to actually live on campus. And the school is using a phone app to help contact tracing for the coronavirus.
Shreeya Candipali is a first year human biology student at UCSD.
"I'm really happy with the way that UCSD is handling this whole COVID situation. I feel like although my experiences are limited, I still feel happy to be surrounded by people who share the same values of safety."
All students who live on campus will be tested for COVID-19 twice a month. The university can test up to 2000 people a day and get results back within 24 hours.
It’s Tuesday, September 29th. This is San Diego News Matters from KPBS News...a daily morning news podcast powered by everyone in the KPBS Newsroom. I’m Anica Colbert. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day.
After weeks of news reports outlining financial irregularities related to his campaign, ninth district city council candidate Kelvin Barrios says he’s dropping out.
KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler reports on this announcement that came late yesterday.
Barrios, a former City Council aide and current labor union staffer, lost the support of his union on Monday morning. Over the weekend, National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis and Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas also withdrew their support from Barrios.
He's currently under investigation for admitted misuse of funds while he served as treasurer for the San Diego County Young Democrats.
He made the decision to suspend his campaign over the weekend, and announced on Monday afternoon. KPBS broke the story of the suspension.
In a statement, Barrios said that while there were legitimate issues regarding his campaign he needed to address, by doing so he was shifting focus away from the real needs of his community.
Barrios will still be on the November ballot, however. He's squaring off against Sean Elo-Rivera, who runs a youth-focused non-profit in City Heights.
Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News
That was KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler. Barrios will still be on the November Ballot, but he won’t be eligible for the seat. His Opponent is Sean Elo-Rivera, another democrat, who runs a youth-focused non-profit in City Heights.
Imperial County’s nursing homes have been hit hard by COVID-19. But their troubles began long before they battled the virus. Inewsource investigative reporter Jennifer Bowman explains.
Imperial County’s three skilled nursing homes have seen violations ranging from minor infection control issues to major lapses in care.
Now, they’ve had over two-hundred COVID-19 cases and at least twenty-six deaths.
CHICOTEL: “Yeah, we’re less surprised that bad facilities have had worse COVID-19 outbreaks.”
That’s Anthony Chicotel, an attorney with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. The group and others have found correlations between the severity of facility outbreaks and their quality of care.
CHICOTEL: “With COVID-19, the burden of that really exposed weaknesses in the system.” Two of the county’s homes still have active COVID cases. For KPBS, I’m inewsource investigative reporter Jennifer Bowman.
That was inewsource investigative reporter Jennifer Bowman. Inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS.
Contact tracing was supposed to be one of the main ways we could flatten the covid curve and reopen the economy. San Diego County hired hundreds of contact tracers and otherwise invested heavily in contact tracing. And yet...we’re not really seeing much results.
KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser spoke with a UCSD epidemiologist about what’s gone wrong.
The county has hired more than 500 case investigators and contact tracers who are supposed to spend their days calling people who've tested positive for COVID-19, and then calling all of the people the sick person has been in contact with. Those people are told to get tested and stay home for 14 days.
But despite these plans, the county's program seems to come up short--the disease continues to spread through our region, and contact tracers are only contacting on average 2.2 people for each person who tests positive.
I talked to UCSD epidemiologist Rebecca Fielding-Miller about why that is.
So we've heard how contact tracing is supposed to work. What can you tell us about how it's actually working?
I think the most important thing to know about contact tracing is it's really, really hard to do.
You have to get somebody who has never heard of you and might have a few reasons not to trust you. You have to call them up out of the blue, potentially give them some pretty bad news, ask them a whole lot of personal questions and then get them to tell you everybody they've been around for the last 14 days. And then you have to get ahold of all of those people and do the same thing. So that's just hard any way you slice it.
So we're doing better, but it's hard to be perfect.
So why are we so bad at this? Is it underfunding or the distrust of government?
It's a big ask for you to pick up the phone for a number you've never seen before to talk to somebody who says, hey, I'm from the county. And first of all, I have some bad news. Second of all, I have a lot of personal questions. And third, can you please remember everybody you've been around for the last 14 days. There is an art to it and an art to doing it well. And if you think of it as a matter of scale, if you're following up on 100 cases a day and you're missing 3 percent, that's three people give or take. If you're following up on 200 cases and you miss 3 percent, that's six people. And so the more cases that have to be investigated today, the more people are going to fall through the cracks.
Are there any model programs in the US who are doing it well? And if so, what are they doing that we should be learning from?
My understanding is Boston is doing pretty well, the state of Massachusetts. And I think in part that's because they've contracted with Partners in Health, which is an organization that has a lot of work working in low resource settings, making sure that they're doing work that's trusted by the communities, being really aware of sort of local conditions on the ground.
We can look back to the Ebola outbreak where contact tracing was the primary strategy that we had for stopping that outbreak. And it turns out that contact tracers that are from local trusted community organizations are going to be a lot more successful than contact tracers that are from more centralized government entities. It's going to take longer, but you're going to get more people. And I think striking that balance of working with trusted community partners, but also having sort of vetted, centralized, well-trained folks is the important place to look.
So we have some numbers from the county about contact tracing, interviews that I want to go over. They say they complete 76 percent of their interviews, which means when they're calling people who are have tested positive for COVID and asking who who their contacts have been. But they say on average, they only get 2.2 contacts per positive case. So can you explain a little bit more what this means and what that says to you?
If you think about it, the folks who are at home all the time who leave to go grocery shopping, those folks are much less likely to be infected with COVID. It's the folks who are being exposed a lot. Let's say you work at a restaurant or you work in a pharmacy or a bar and you're coming in contact with a lot a lot of people, your odds of being exposed are a lot higher. So it is probably pretty likely that the people who are sort of in this pool of folks the county is trying to reach, those people have more contacts than the average person in San Diego County, which is to say 2.2 is probably an undercount because imagine you wait tables, you might be able to say, well, here is the name and phone number of the three people who are on my shift.
But are you going to be able to give the name and phone number of everybody whose table you waited that day? Are you going to know the name and phone number of the person who was washing dishes in the back of the kitchen? So it's quite likely that you are getting the name and phone number of two people whose name and phone number of these contacts know, but there's probably a lot going unsaid there.
I think when we think about contact tracing and numbers, it I think it is natural to sort of imagine it happening a little bit at random. Right. Like you have in statistics 101, you have 100 hundred marbles and 90 of them are green and 10 of them are blue and the blue ones are just kind of scattered. But I think it's really important to remember that the potential issues with both who is at risk of getting sick and who is at risk of falling through the cracks for contact tracing, that's not random. So the people who are at risk of getting sick, people who are more likely to work service jobs, people who are less likely to have paid sick leave, people who are less likely to be able to isolate people who are more likely to live in multigenerational homes.
Those are the same people who, for example, might be undocumented, who might be somebody whose name you won't remember because they were your Lyft driver. Those are the same people who are not going to be caught by this contact tracing safety net.
And so what you really have is not sort of 4 percent of people in San Diego County chosen at random will get sick and half of those at random will fall through the cracks. You have this chunk of people are going to get sick and then those same sort of people are going to fall through the cracks.
And you have this sort of cascade on the people who are most vulnerable over and over and over again.
So it seems like we're all so concerned with the community outbreaks that the county announces every day. They say, you know, bars, restaurants, offices and so on. But then they say that that only accounts for 5 percent of all local cases. So how how could that be?
So let's say there are two people who get sick in a gym. Two staff members in a gym get sick, they go home and four of their family members get sick. That would technically not be an outbreak since those are connected households and because it's pretty likely, since the majority of transmission is within households, that community outbreaks with people who don't live together would still be in the minority.
But is it also then because if we're not really effectively tracking who someone has been in contact with, every single person, that then we're not finding out about more of these kind of communities spread incidents.
Yes, so it's also quite likely, given the way that contact tracing works, that we're also just not catching the size of an outbreak. So imagine, for example, that to go back to the restaurant example, somebody in the kitchen is undocumented and you might not want to share their name and phone number. Imagine you are an undergrad at SDSU or one of our many other institutions of higher learning. And you were at a party where there was underage drinking.
You are almost certainly not going to name people who were drinking because you don't want to get them in trouble or you don't know who they are. So there are a lot of reasons why people might not be naming all of the folks who would be involved in an outbreak in a public situation.
Or when you think about a school or a child care or anything that involves kids because kids are so likely to be asymptomatic and younger adults are to imagine you have hypothetically 10 kids and five teachers in their 20s, it is not impossible that a teacher in their 20s could get sick, remain asymptomatic, it could pass through a couple of kids who are asymptomatic through another 20 year old teacher and then out to somebody else in their 50s and 60s. And so these two cases are connected, but nobody would ever know because the three links in the middle are silent.
Contact tracing was supposed to be one of our big ways out of lock down by keeping cases contained, but is a poor contact tracing program actually worse than having none at all. So in other words, if county officials say only 5 percent of cases come from outbreaks based on a subpar contact tracing program, aren't we giving people a false sense of security?
No, I think it's really important to have that contact tracing system up and running for a couple of reasons. One is because there is an art to it and an art to getting people to share this information, we want the people in those jobs to be practiced and good at what they're doing. I think contact tracing sort of works like you can think of it like like fighting a wildfire, for example. So when you have kind of a giant uncontained wildfire, which is sort of when case numbers are really high, you want to do everything you can to suppress that wildfire. And that's what lockdowns are for, asking people to shelter in place, this type of thing.
But you also want to make sure that there's not flare ups.
When we are able to catch a potential flare up in the community, whether it's at a restaurant or a child care setting or a gym, we can at least stop that from getting worse. And as we manage to bring the total case numbers down, as we manage to suppress the bigger wildfire situation, then contact tracing becomes even more important because we can stop those flare ups before they start and the numbers get higher.
Thank you very much for explaining this to us. Rebecca Fielding Miller, we appreciate your time.
That was KPBS Investigative Reporter Claire Traegeser, speaking with Rebecca Fielding Miller, an epidemiologist at UC-San Diego. And remember you can always catch the full version of Claire’s investigative work right here on San Diego News Matters.
Coming up on the podcast….if climate change is making you feel hopeless, one environmentalist has some more positive news in a recent essay titled “Stopping Climate Change Could Cost Less than Fighting Covid-19.” We have that story next, just after this break.
The news is relentlessly bleak and scary...Record heat, explosive wildfires in California and the West; a parade of deadly and destructive storms in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico; 100 degree temperatures in the Arctic; massive ice sheets breaking up in Antarctica and Greenland.
All happening amid a pandemic. Yet in the Washington Post comes a headline of hope … “Stopping Climate Change Could Cost Less than Fighting Covid-19.”
The co-author of that bright essay is Rick Parnell, who is president of the Foundation for Climate Restoration, and a former chief operating officer of the United Nations Foundation. He spoke with KPBS Midday Edition Host Mark Sauer. Here’s that interview…..
It's great to be here. Well, the essence of your essay is as hopeful as it is eye catching. You write it as it happens. We can make a very real difference against climate change for less than we've already spent to fight the Corona virus. That's still trillions of dollars, but compare the estimated cost of climate change. If we fail to address it worldwide now, with the solutions that you're proposing.
Speaker 2: 00:58 Yeah, I would say that, um, by a magnitude of we've had estimates of everything times 10 plus of what it will cost on a, on not only over the longterm, but on an annual basis. If we don't react now for us at the foundation of a climber restoration that we believe, and what we are working with partners to do is to make climate restoration, um, specifically around carbon removal and some of the other solutions, the third pillar of climate action. One of the things that's little known is that even if we reach to net neutrality in 2050, the legacy carbon of two centuries will still be an atmosphere. So the fires that you just spoke about, the, the storms, the flooding, the sea level rise, it will still be here. So we have to do this third piece, this third piece of climate action, and that is restoration and remove all of this legacy carbon, as you said, good news is we can do this at a cost effective, and we can do it at scale with solutions that are already on the market or emerging now. Right?
Speaker 1: 01:56 Right. And you argue that not only can we halt the expansion of greenhouse gases, but actually reverse climate change, clean the air and water as it were and restore a livable planet, how could it be done,
Speaker 2: 02:08 Um, through there's several solutions, there's natural solutions and there's technological solutions. But let me just focus a little bit on some of the technological right now, a perfect example is carbon negative concrete. There are a handful of companies that have come online over the last couple of years that can actually remove carbon, turn it into synthetic limestone from the production of concrete. So what that means is that you have a market that's already there. We're not going to stop building. The developing world is not going to stop building. The developed world is not going to stop building. So here is a solution that can rapidly, um, for no, uh, uh, maybe one, 2% cost difference between traditional concrete and this new carbon, uh, uh, negative concrete. We can scale buildings. Santa Clara County was the first local government in the world to call for their local County commission to be, uh, uh, climate restoration.
Speaker 2: 03:00 And we're working to spread that globally. Look at, um, if we could grow the kelp, um, and the ocean. Um, it was in one of the pieces that was in the article. Um, it grows two feet a day and it has the advantage of that. It can be farm not only for, um, human consumption, but it can be feed consumption. It's used in beauty products. And so there's already a market. Therefore we just need to grow it. That the point of the entire story was we can change behavior. We just have to choose to do so.
Speaker 1: 03:30 Well, talk a little more about these direct air capture systems. So we have so much pollution in the air now, which is causing the warming and the climate change. How do you actually reverse that with these air capture systems?
Speaker 2: 03:43 What we were talking about is that you remove the carbon from the air. You can turn it into, some of it can be sequestered underground, permanently. Some can be turned into products that can be somewhat of a recycling of, um, of carbon. So they can be turned into things like jet fuel. That's not a perfect climate restoration solution, but it's a path. Um, and then, um, still others, they are developing products where you use the director capture machines, um, and they can be, uh, deployed at scale, um, to remove the carbon and turn them into useful products. Uh, climax is doing carpentry, carbon engineering is working on it. Um, director capture has a very, very promising future for us getting to full climber restoration.
Speaker 1: 04:26 Uh, but this is worldwide. Uh, can these mitigation methods possibly be cost effective if they're, if they're done worldwide,
Speaker 2: 04:33 They can be because they can be done in both the private sector and with the government policy. So again, um, there's about a six, 650 different carbon removal operations that are both tiny and large around the world. Um, and they're, they're growing every day. So yes, they can be. What we need is that the private sector comes in with the beginnings of investments, um, seed capital for some of these different solutions, then local governments can take them to scale because they can do it through their planning and procurement. So yes, absolutely. Yes.
Speaker 1: 05:07 It sounds like Joe Biden is making the, uh, the same argument with his build back better part of his campaign. Now, when you make these arguments, you put forth these proposals, uh, I'm interested in the response you're getting from leaders and lawmakers. How can we possibly get United leadership on this among hundreds of nations and different political systems?
Speaker 2: 05:26 Well, I think that the biggest thing is that people need to use their voice. So when, when you know what I mean, let me talk more about the movement that we're building. Um, for climate restoration, we have so many different partners ranging from earth day network to the girl up campaign to, um, faith leaders, you know, the Pope called on climate restoration and a letter on September one. Um, he talked about it for our common home. So more and more and more, you're seeing this out there. Um, I think that using your voice and demanding it, um, as we'd like to say, climate restoration should happening in the pews. It should be happening at school at work wherever you are, you should be calling on your leaders to do climate restoration. So, you know, a year ago when we launched the foundation at the United nations headquarters during general assembly, it was an idea around climate restoration and it was, it was somewhat nascent and we just finished our second annual global climate restoration forum.
Speaker 2: 06:18 And we had unbelievable, um, turnout. We had incredible speakers. Um, we had 40, I think, 40 or 42 different, um, leaders talking about the investment opportunity, the science behind it calling for climate restoration. So I think that it's the biggest thing is using the voice we can change behavior we have to choose to do so. And if, if, once we have critical mass of people asking for this, then we'll make the change. One of our speakers, Christine Harada. She was the chief sustainability officer for the United States under the Obama administration. And she said 10, 15 years ago, investment in wind and solar was, was pretty iffy and look at that market now. So, you know, I have another partner that has said the work that you're doing is 10 years in the future. Yes it is. So we start now and build this next 10 years of the future that we want. So
Speaker 1: 07:08 Build back green, it's a simple concept, a simple slogan. Do you think bill back green can be the campaign going forward?
Speaker 2: 07:15 I would love to see that. I hope that we, uh, in the U S can join the rest of the world on a global green campaign, but that would be our goal. One of the things that coming out of our second annual forum is that we've had investors. We've had entrepreneurs, we've had business leaders. How do we work together over this next 12 to 14 months? So when we get to cop 26, all sectors are calling on the UN and global leaders to make climate restoration and carbon removal. The third pillar of climate action.
That was Rick Parnell, president of the Foundation for Climate Restoration, and a former chief operating officer of the United Nations Foundation. Speaking with KPBS Midday Edition Host Mark Sauer. That’s it for the podcast today. Thanks for listening!