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Navy Deploys San Diego-based Mercy Hospital Ship To Respond to COVID-19 And More Local News

 March 19, 2020 at 3:00 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Thursday, March 19th I'm Srilina Celani and you are listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. San Diego County announces stricter measures to prevent the spread of the Corona virus and we get an update on a local labs vaccine. We've managed to Excel [inaudible] of the type lines concentrically look at where they plan to test, test the vaccine and how many doses they'll produce by the end of the year. That and more coming up next Speaker 2: 00:36 [inaudible] [inaudible] Speaker 1: 00:37 the San Diego based hospital ship, the U S NS mercy is preparing to respond to the Corona virus threat. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says the ship is awaiting orders after president Trump said it would deploy. Speaker 3: 00:49 Trump made the announcement Wednesday afternoon that the Navy's two hospital ships us NS mercy and us NS comfort. We'll deploy somewhere to help with the response to the virus. The comfort is actually undergoing maintenance in Virginia at the San Diego Bay is mercy can actually be ready. Within a few days. President did not announce this specific mission, but the ship could be headed anywhere along the West coast, including Seattle, which has seen a number of cases or it could stay in Southern California to back up the civilian medical system. The mercy carries 1000 hospital beds, including 80 intensive care beds and multiple surgical suites designed for trauma. The Pentagon has said the ships are not expected to handle patients with coven 19 directly. Mercy has set up to leave on five days notice. In 2013 it was deployed in three days to respond to a typhoon in the Philippines. Steve Walsh, KPBS news. Speaker 1: 01:39 Doctors want to keep patients from overcrowding facilities, so they're pushing for some appointments by phone, but KPBS health reporter Taryn mento says this causes a financial burden for clinics that serve vulnerable low income patients. Those are the patients covered by the government. Funded insurance. Medical providers are reimbursed by Medicare for care. They give, but that doesn't extend to tele-health appointments. State officials are working to fix the problem during the national emergency, but need the federal government's. Okay. That means clinics like family health centers of San Diego aren't getting paid for appointments by phone. But CEO Fran Butler Cohen says they're still providing up to 300 a day anyways. If we don't at least interface with these patients, then what's going to happen is our emergency rooms are going to be completely clogged more so than they are now. If the federal government approves, they could bill medical for the appointments retroactively. Taryn mento, KPBS news, governor Gavin Newsome said Tuesday that he expects many California schools to be closed for the rest of the school year as a precaution against the coronavirus KPBS education reporter Joe Hong spoke with parents, teachers and administrators about what this could mean for San Diego schools. Speaker 4: 02:47 Despite the governor's candid prediction. San Diego unified school district officials are still expecting to reopen schools on April 6th, Jennifer Alfonso's, the mother of junior at university city high, she said the uncertainty was the scariest part. Speaker 5: 03:01 Um, well my daughter is more worried about is the sat tests cause they were all delayed. Uh, the AP exams cause those are delayed as well. So she's just, we're just wondering like what's going to happen. But we, I have faith in the system that everything will work out Speaker 4: 03:18 and then interview with KPBS San Diego unified superintendent Cindy Martin said her team is focusing on what they can control, providing meals to families and creating a plan for distance learning. Joe Hong K PBS news, Speaker 1: 03:30 even though schools and businesses have mostly shut down to stop the spread of the Corona virus. Several San Diego County casinos remain open until Friday. KPBS is a meet. The Sharma reports Speaker 6: 03:41 the bright lights outlining the words welcome home. We're on just about the door is Wednesday morning at Perona casino inside people, including many seniors played the slot machines and blackjack. Many sat next to each other violating social distancing recommendations. County officials have prohibited gatherings of 50 or more and on Wednesday reduced it to 10 the state is asking seniors to stay at home. The casinos are owned by native American tribes that are considered sovereign nations and are not subject to state and County laws. On Wednesday, there were at least 100 people in the Barona casino. One of those people was a man who said he was over 65 he did not want to give his name. He said he brought his wife to the casino to play the slot machines and quote, give her something to do. We also observed several seniors exiting one of the casino's buses. Hours after KPBS is visit Barona and the other tribal casinos in the County announced they were closing temporarily. Beginning Friday. Amit, the Sharma KPBS news, Speaker 1: 04:46 homeless shelter is funded by the city of San Diego are refusing to accept new people to help stop the novel Corona virus from spreading. I knew source investigative reporter Cody Delaney has the details. Authorities hope that stopping new intakes at homeless shelters will allow them to identify and isolate those who are already in a shelter and might be showing symptoms of coven. 19 Lisa Jones with the San Diego housing commission said she anticipates this measure will only be temporary. Official said that so far there haven't been any positive cases of covert 19 in San Diego county's homeless population, but father Joe's villages removed someone with flu like symptoms from a homeless shelter. The person who is symptomatic was placed in one of the motel rooms. The County acquired to house people awaiting test results. The nonprofit anticipates those results in the next 24 hours. For KPBS, I'm I news source investigative reporter Cody Delaney, San Diego County officials made some tweaks to its public health orders. Speaker 1: 05:45 KPBS health reporter Taryn mento says more businesses must close and gatherings must shrink as County cases of coven 19 reach 80 the order added fitness clubs to the list of businesses that must close. They also ask childcare providers to limit kids to groups of 10 and make sure they stay in the same cohort. They're also further limiting public gatherings to fewer than 10 people that's down from fewer than 50 some exceptions for transit and essential businesses are allowed as long as social distancing is still observed. The county's Dr. Eric McDonald says these actions are necessary because the limited testing available means we're missing most of the cases, Speaker 7: 06:23 so I would only interpret the numbers as a tip of an iceberg in terms of the cases that are being reported versus that are actually in the community. Speaker 1: 06:32 McDonald says, people showing symptoms should isolate themselves as if they have the illness. The low number of tests mean only certain people will be tested until more materials become available. Hopefully in the next few weeks. Taryn mento, KPBS news, San Diego County officials are trying to ease the financial worries for people dealing with an unprecedented economic slowdown. San Diego city officials are trying to ease the financial worries for people dealing with an unprecedented economic slowdown. KPBS reporter Eric Anderson says the city council acted in a special meeting. I'm calling this emergency meeting of the city council Speaker 7: 07:05 toward our San Diego city council. President Georgette Gomez presided over the extraordinary meeting. Only three council members were present. The rest. Joining by phone, the council convened to ratify the mayor's state of emergency declaration. Work is slowing down. Businesses are shuttering their doors. Jobs are being eliminated and tax revenues are shrinking by the hour. The state of emergency allows the city to seek out state and federal funding to help deal with the coven. 19 outbreak. City officials also took steps to make sure the impact of the pandemic doesn't hurt those losing jobs or income. Eric Anderson, KPBS news. Speaker 1: 07:47 Wednesdays San Diego County amended its public health order to set strict limits for childcare centers. Childcare has become a major concern as fears of the Corona virus have closed schools in San Diego. The County did not insist that childcare centers be closed due to those health concerns, but County public health officer Wilma Wooten said the number of kids allowed in a daycare setting has been reduced. Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of 10 or fewer. Stable means that the same 10 or fewer children are in the same group each day. Children, she'll not change from one group to another. The County also amended the order to provide it any public gathering of 10 or more people. Earlier, the County was allowing gatherings of up to 50 people. The growing coronavirus cases in San Diego County have shuttered businesses and forced residents to stay away from each other. A local lab is hoping to bring relief with its experimental DNA based vaccine. KPBS health recorder. KPBS health reporter Taryn mento has been following the progress at ENOVIA pharmaceuticals since January and brings us this update from senior vice president Kate Broderick. Due to extra precautions two spoke just outside the Sorento Valley lab where Broderick discuss the latest developments. Speaker 8: 09:01 Yes, certainly. So we've managed to accelerate [inaudible] and the timelines consecutively tons. So we're now looking at getting into the clinic and next month and April, we don't have an exact date yet. As you can imagine, there's still a lot of organization, a lot of moving parts at the moment. But when you think that we only started and designing this vaccine on the 10th of January is pretty remarkable that we are aiming to be in the clinic by the the um, by next month. And another goal that we've set ourselves is that by the end of the year, we hope to have a million doses and ready for distribution, which is really quite a remarkable scale up from kind of a small scale trial like we're doing at the mall. Speaker 1: 09:49 There's still a lot more testing to go. Why I have a million doses ready for distribution by the end of the year. What's the point? Speaker 8: 09:55 I think it's just really good to have a figure to target. And we thought that on the scale up basis targeting a million doses that still are a number that could be used to really protect and people health care workers from lane and medical professionals that are going to potentially need this and vaccine and also potentially people who have underlying health issues as well, which is obviously our tier one group that needs to be protected. Speaker 1: 10:25 Is the expectation that you would have completed all three trials by that time? Speaker 8: 10:31 No, absolutely not. So, um, so as I mentioned, we'll be starting our phase one testing and April and we would hope to get what we call an interim readout, which means, you know, you would start to get to see and you wouldn't get the whole through trial, but you'll get to, um, get some of the details of that certainly by, um, late summer, autumn fall type time. And then we would be hoping to move into a phase two trial, which is where we can actually ask the question, does the vaccine work to protect people against the Vidas? And we would hope to do that very, very quickly, but that would have to of course have the Seesaw of the regulatory authorities. Speaker 1: 11:12 And with the first phase of the trial starting next month, I believe you've already identified those locations. Correct. Speaker 8: 11:18 Um, so we're going to be two sites for our phase one trial and starting in the U S and it pro and we're looking at one site at the university of Pennsylvania on one site and Kansas city. Speaker 1: 11:31 Based on what you know about how this virus works and how viruses like it work, is this what we should be doing or should we be doing more? Should we be doing less? Speaker 8: 11:41 To be completely honest, we don't really have a choice. If we don't do what we're doing right now, the situation will get a lot worse, a lot more quickly. And so I, I'm very supportive of all the measures that have been put in place, both at this sort of local and national level. And it seems like the testing now we're starting to come through, we're getting higher numbers of testing and that's absolutely critical. And so, so that's some, that's a positive. Definitely. And I'm sure over the days and weeks that's going to improve more and more, you know, in late December when I first heard about this fight, as if anybody had asked me, would we be essentially shutting down all, all spheres of public interaction in San Diego in a couple of months time? I think I wouldn't have believed that would have been possible. And yet here we are today and it's a reality on its own reality that my children are at home and you know, predicting not to be at school for another month. And it's almost hard for me to get my head wrapped around that. And I kind of, I'm living and breathing this everyday, so I can't imagine what it's like for everybody else. Speaker 1: 12:51 That was KPBS health reporter Taryn Mentos speaking with the Novios Kate Broderick.

The USNS Mercy medical ship will deploy to help coastal communities faced with COVID-19. Plus, San Diego County announces stricter measures to prevent the spread of the virus. And San Diego-funded homeless providers refuse to accept new people in response to the virus.