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San Diego County Fair Canceled Due To COVID-19

 April 15, 2020 at 2:59 AM PDT

Deep Fried Kool-Aid. Jalapeno-Infused Funnel Cake. Sandwiches with glazed krispy kreme donuts serving as buns. FAIR FOOD CLIP The San Diego County Fair has become simultaneously famous and infamous over the years for its .. lets call it … food. Each year, the vendors try to outdo the calorie-filled concoctions from the year before. But this year, that tradition will be put on pause. Beat The San Diego County Fair has officially been canceled this year due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, the Del Mar fair board voted unanimously to postpone it until 2021. A statement from the fair's organizers indicated that Governor Gavin Newsom's news conference on Tuesday played a major role in the decision. In the governor’s address, he said "mass gatherings are not likely to be allowed for the foreseeable future. We’re all still waiting for an announcement from Comic-Con about what it plans to do with its mega event scheduled for July. BEAT In PPE News, not long ago Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state has secured 200 million masks a month at a cost of nearly 1 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money… Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins has now created a special subcommittee to start reviewing the state's coronavirus spending. TZATKINS "The issue is getting that equipment out to the people on the front lines who need them and i think that he's shown that he's doing that but i do think that we have the responsibility to take a look at it and determine how that money is being spent." Questions about the state’s decision to purchase millions of masks from a Chinese firm have been raised due to the company’s track record of delivering faulty products. Governor Newsom has defended the decision, saying everything shipped by the company, known as BYD, would be required to pass federal standards. PFMASK 1A "We will not be procuring any products that don't meet FDA approval, NIOSH approval, that do not meet our contractual approval. We have a contract that I'll put up against any other in terms of our capacity to make those assessments in real time." A Vice news investigation questioned the deal. The report noted BYD has a track record delivering ineffective and potentially dangerous products to California communities, including battery-powered buses, forklifts and trucks. BEAT Two local organizations are working together to test all homeless individuals housed at the San Diego Convention Center for COVID-19. That’s according to county officials at a press conference on Tuesday. The testing will be done by Family Health Centers of San Diego and funded by Lucky Duck Foundation. The process will begin Thursday with 150 tests a day and grow to 250 until all are tested. BEAT San Diego International Airport will receive $91.2 million dollars in government aid to stay afloat while responding to plunging demand due to COVID-19 The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday that county airports will get $91.6 million altogether. Brown Field and Gillespie Field in El Cajon will each receive nearly $160,000. BEAT And for the latest covid count: Six more people died from covid-19, for a total of 53. Eighty three more people tested positive, bringing that figure to 1,930. BEAT I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to KPBS’ daily podcast San Diego News Matters. It’s Wednesday, April 15. Stick with me for more of the local news you need. MIDROLL 1 So, the San Diego Unified School District has moved forward with a soft launch of its distance learning program. We parents with kids at home get weekly lesson plans...lots of links to online videos...links to worksheets to print and a lot of teachers are holding daily morning check ins and otherwise trying to stay in touch with students. But as districts across the county are preparing to officially launch their programs, a number of teachers are having trouble making any contact at all with their students. KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong says this is raising concerns about academic disparities in a school year upended by the coronavirus. __________________ STUDENTCONTACT 1 **NATPOP KrisElam.mp4 02:03:03 So far, to this point I"ve heard from 42 percent of my 176... Kris Elam is a teacher at Sweetwater High School. She says her students either don't have devices, or they're just overwhelmed with other responsibilities at home. Either way, she sees the struggle to contact students as just the beginning of the inequities to come. KrisElam.mp4 10:33:00-10:49:00 KRIS ELAM /// SWEETWATER HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER You cannot move forward in an equitable way. Because even if I give these kids a device and wifi, I can't control for their home situations. We have a lot of families who live six people in a single room so there's no way to kind of say hey just find a quiet spot and work. At a board meeting on Monday, Sweetwater Union High School District board said 7,500 of its 37,000 students have not been reached. San Diego Unified has not yet started collecting districtwide data, but its individual schools have been keeping track. California is seeing a nearly three-fold jump in people enrolling in government-subsidized health insurance. KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento says 58 thousand Californians have signed up through Covered California over the last three weeks. __________________________ COVERED 1 (tm) Officials extended the enrollment period from January to June to help people gain access during the pandemic. The state is also trying to make it easier for people who are on publicly funded Medi-Cal to keep their coverage. The Department of Health Care Services director Dr. Bradley Gilbert says the agency temporarily waived requirements for people to prove they still need it. (:15) "No one will be removed from their eligibility, which, as you can imagine right now, is so critical to keep people having their medical coverage. And it allows the county workers who do the eligibility to focus on new applications." The agency is also expanding access to telehealth for Medi-Cal patients. This will allow low-income residents to get care they need from the safety of home. Meanwhile, San Diego's volunteer community planning groups -- the community forums that advise the city on housing developments and other land-use decisions -- are struggling to hold meetings during the coronavirus pandemic. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says some worry that could disrupt the city's homebuilding plans. _____________________________________________ PLANNINGGROUPS 1 AB: About half of the city's planning groups were unable to hold elections in March because of the pandemic. The city council on Tuesday passed a resolution allowing those elections to be postponed. But some groups have other pressing matters, like giving feedback on the city's plan to add thousands of new homes in Clairemont. Nicholas Reed is the Clairemont Planning Group vice chair. He says many of his neighbors are older and not very tech savvy, so Zoom meetings are not a good option.. NR: They don't really want to do anything online. They would rather meet face to face and have dialogue with city staff. They want their voice to be heard, but I don't think they want to have it heard in a virtual way. AB: The city is still scheduled to release its environmental review of the Clairemont community plan update in June. Nursing homes continue to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak nationwide. KPBS Reporter Amita Sharma says this is a big reason why advocates for nursing home residents and their families are calling on health officials to be more transparent about where cases are occuring. TRANSPARENCY 1 Lawyer Mike Dark of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform wants either the state or counties to name the facilities where there have been cases of COVID-19 among either staff or residents or both. 2:13 "Without that information, residents and their families can't make good decisions about whether or not they should be pulled out of the homes. That kind of transparency is essential." San Diego County has reported more than 180 cases and 22 deaths connected to 20 local senior care facilities. But the county won't release the names of those facilities. In an email to KPBS, a county communications officer wrote, "We are constantly balancing what information the public needs to know to make informed decisions to protect their health, while at the same time respecting the privacy of individuals who are the subject of infectious disease investigations." Meanwhile, Los Angeles County DOES list on its website the names of all congregate care places with at least one confirmed COVID-19 case on its website. This is usually a busy time of year for our desert community. The spring desert flower bloom is a big draw… Lots of people go camping in the desert for spring break. But just like cities big and small across the state, Borrego Springs has had to cancel its spring events and close tourist attractions under California’s stay-at-home order. KPBS News producer Bennett Lacy talked to Francoise (fran-swass) Rhodes of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce about how life has changed there. _________________________ BORREGO SPRINGS OUTCUE: "... respecting what we have here." So yeah, if you’re thinking about trying to escape isolation by camping in an isolated part of the desert….don’t do it folks. BEAT Those confined in close quarters like Navy ships and nursing homes are especially vulnerable to an outbreak of COVID-19. And that's certainly true in County jails. The San Diego County Sheriff's office says it's responding with face masks for guards and inmates, broad testing, prompt medical attention and hygiene kits for prisoners. But County inmates tell a different story. INMATE CLIP There’s been guys on the floors….for hours. That was freelance investigative journalist Kelly Davis talking with Edward Stewart -- an inmate who described conditions and concerns inside the San Diego Central jail on April 8. Kelly joined KPBS Midday edition’s Mark Sauer to talk about a story she and watchdog reporter Jeff McDonald did for the San Diego Union-Tribune. KELLY DAVIS MIDDAY PACKAGE Speaker 1: 00:33 Well, India reporting on coven 19, inside the County jails, you found wildly divergent stories. Tell us first about the jail system. How many jails, how many inmates? What are they generally in there for? Speaker 2: 00:45 Yeah, so the, the San Diego County jail system, there's, there's seven jails and they normally hold about 5,300 5,400 inmates. And, uh, of that population, um, about two thirds. Um, you know, it changes every now and then. About two thirds of them haven't been sentenced, so they're, they're awaiting trial waiting to go through the, the court process. Um, but, but you also have people who are in on probation violations. You have these, uh, they call them book and released inmates, uh, who might be just spending a night in jail. You know, these are usually homeless folks, people who are arrested for being drunk in public. So, um, yeah, so a whole range. Speaker 1: 01:26 And the department says five employees, three inmates tested positive so far. Uh, what adjustments is the department made to find and limit exposure? Speaker 2: 01:35 They're, they're trying to release people that they feel they could safely release so that you don't have, you know, multiple people in a cell or, or 50 or 60 guys in kind of a open, uh, dorm style space, Speaker 1: 01:49 an increase in testing or isolation since the, uh, positive, uh, test came back. Speaker 2: 01:55 Right now they tell us there are about 47 inmates who are in quarantine. I'm kind of a precautionary measure. Um, they've set aside 228 beds for anyone who needs to be isolated. Um, and yeah, like as you mentioned, five, five guards have tested positive. And so for, uh, deputies, uh, who work in the jails, uh, before they start their shift, it'll get their, their temperature checked each day. And, um, yeah, as I mentioned, they're, they're wearing masks and gloves as they do their work. Speaker 1: 02:29 Now, what have you discovered about conditions in the jails from inmates and their families? And talk about the basics. You mentioned masked soap and water. Speaker 2: 02:38 Yeah, we have Jeff McDonna and I have just been inundated with, with phone calls, emails, letters from inmates and from their family members. And there's a lot of concern. Um, the jail took a while to get the masks distributed. Uh, one inmate told me that they were promised the masks would be cleaned every, every, twice a week, but he, he told me they haven't. Um, so the inmates have taken to cleaning the masks themselves. Um, that SIM same inmate told me that he's been using his commissary money to buy, um, dial antibacterial soap, which he passes out to other folks in his module. Um, sicker inmates are being cared for by the inmates who are, you know, able bodied. But there's concern that some of those sicker inmates could have over 19 and they're just not being tested. Uh, there's a lot of concern over cleanliness and how well the, the modules and the cells are being sanitized. There's just a lot of, um, it almost verges on panic, especially, you know, we're hearing from, um, you know, wives of, of, uh, old or inmates who have a long list of, of health issues and they're really worried that they're, um, you know, their husband or their Risa and, or their, their nephews health is compromised and they're kind of, you know, as we say in the story, just, um, sitting ducks for catching Corona virus. Speaker 1: 04:19 And what does the Sheriff's department say about these complaints? Speaker 2: 04:23 They, they insist that they're there, you know, they're doing the best they can in a kind of, um, unexpected, unprecedented situation. Um, you know, and, and, and they say that they're all inmates who exhibit flu, like symptoms are, are directed to go see the nurse. Um, they're placed in isolation. If, if those symptoms seem to be coven 19 related as far as testing goes, a medical provider, a physician will have to be the one that recommends that someone gets tested. And, uh, I think a lot of inmates, they're saying that even if someone's so symptoms, they're not necessarily being allowed to go to the infirmary and they're not necessarily, um, being able to get tested. You know, I talked to one inmate and as we were talking, he says, there's a guy over here on the floor and he's just coughing and coughing and coughing and, and no one's doing anything about it. Speaker 1: 05:26 Do they hope testing? I mean, testing has been a problem here across the state, across the nation. They hope testing will, uh, will improve as more tests are become available. Speaker 2: 05:36 I, I guess. Yeah. You know, and initially they said they were only testing people who had a preexisting conditions and, and, uh, they were being very kind of careful with, with testing. Um, now they've expanded. They say they've expanded it to anyone who shows symptoms. Uh, but so far, only about, uh, five dozen, about a little over 60, uh, inmates have been tested according to the numbers that they've provided us, which seems low given, um, you know, a jail population about 4,300 and you still have dozens of people coming in and, and going out and, and cycling through each day. So, um, I think, yeah, like I said, 68 tests that seems kind of low for a, uh, congregate living facility where you've got people constantly coming and going Speaker 1: 06:32 and some, uh, families that inmates pictured in your story. I told you something happened after it was published. A, what did they say? Speaker 2: 06:39 Yeah, so you could do a, uh, a video visit with, with inmates. Families are able to do that. And so multiple people, um, as they were doing, uh, the video visit with their loved one, uh, inmates would, would come in with signs and hold up signs. And so the, the, the person, the family member doing the video visit would take a photo. And so we've got in the story, I think three or four photos of inmates holding up signs saying, you know, we don't deserve to die. You know, just kind of expressing concern, you know, kinda holding up signs, expressing their concern. And we heard from, from multiple people that, um, the inmates holding up those signs were placed in solitary confinement as punishment. We have not confirmed that with the Sheriff's department, but like I said, multiple unrelated people have told us that those inmates were, were put in isolation as punishment. Speaker 1: 07:38 Well, we'll look forward to a follow up here and see what happens going forward with, with the conditions in the jail. I've been speaking with freelance journalist Kelly Davis, who story with watchdog reporter Jeff McDonald appeared in the union Tribune on Sunday. Kelly, thanks very much. Thank you. You can read Kelly and Jeff’s story on the Union-Tribune website, sandiegouniontribune dot com. BEAT At the close of every rehearsal and concert, the San Diego Women’s Chorus gathers in a circle and finds middle C on the piano, joins hands, and then sings “Circle Chant” in a cappella. Well, now the women’s chorus is joining together virtually to offer the world their song of hope. WOMENS CHORUS CLIP You can watch the video of the women singing online. Just search san diego women’s chorus on youtube. That’s it today. Thanks for listening.

The San Diego County Fair has officially been canceled this year due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also in San Diego News Matters podcast: reports from inside jails contradict sheriff officials’ statements about conditions and more local news you need.