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Everybody Wants In On Antibody Tests

 April 23, 2020 at 2:00 AM PDT

Some local beaches and bays could soon reopen to the public. On Wednesday, a group of San Diego County mayors joined forces to announce a coordinated regional plan for the eventual reopenings. But San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said it won’t happen until health officials say it’s time. MAYOR BEACHES CLIP this would not go into effect until the County public health is ready to open up water access and provides that direction. That's when this plan will go into effect, and this will be based on health and it will be based on data. When the beaches do reopen, it won’t be without rules. Just like city parks that just reopened, the mayor said people will have to practice physical distancing and wear facial coverings. BEAT A woman who organized last weekend's protest in downtown San Diego opposing stay-at-home orders is facing arrest and possible misdemeanor charges that could result in 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Naomi Israel was one of hundreds who demonstrated in opposition to California's stay-at-home orders during a "Freedom Rally" Saturday afternoon in front of the Hall of Justice. PROTESTOR CLIP That was Israel in a Facebook video she recently posted to her page. BEAT On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom said that California hospitals will resume performing and scheduling non-emergency surgeries. He called it the first significant change to the state's stay-at-home order that has been in place for more than a month. State authorities had delayed many surgeries to be sure hospitals would not be overburdened, as they dealt with cases of Covid-19. But Newsom said hospitals can now go ahead with surgeries that are vital to Californians’ healthcare. SURGERIES 1A CLIP "These are surgeries that are scheduled but are also essential. Tumors. Heart valves. If it's delayed it will be ultimately denied. If it gets delayed it becomes acute." He said the change comes thanks to hospitals ability to manage and increase capacity. He said state officials will be monitoring hospitals closely to make sure they are not overwhelmed. BEAT Documents obtained by The Associated Press show THAT THE Trump administration has been quietly adding military surveillance cameras at the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the coronavirus pandemic, though fewer people appear to be crossing illegally. The AP found that 60 mobile surveillance cameras and 540 additional troops were sent to the southwest border this month. A Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson told the AP that the cameras would be removed after the pandemic. BEAT And for the latest local COVID count: San Diego County officials on Wednesday announced 9 new deaths, and said positive cases rose by 57, for respective totals of 96 and 2,491. BEAT I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to KPBS daily podcast San Diego News Matters. It’s Thursday, April 23. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. MIDROLL 1 AD Lots of people want to know if they’ve possibly already had COVID-19. Because if they did, then maybe they’re already immune, and the fear they have of catching the coronavirus will just completely disappear, right? Not exactly. The antibody blood test can reveal who may have been infected and recovered from the virus that causes COVID-19. But it’s not yet completely clear if that means they’re protected. Or if they are immune, for how long. Dr. Ronald McLawhon is the director of UC San Diego Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine ANTIBODY CLIP We've been testing for about a week now. We are expanding to do testing to our healthcare workers also to our patients. And we've gotten a lot of inquiries in the last week since we started to offer this test. Doctor McLahon warned that a lot of private companies see the huge demand for antibody tests and are rushing to enter the market with subpar tests. He said people should do their research. ANTIBODY CLIP 2 "Unless these tests are fairly, thoroughly validated and their performance verified before they were put out in the community, I would be very cautious." Widespread antibody testing is one of the things health officials consider as critical before lifting coronavirus restrictions and re-opening the economy. BEAT According to the latest numbers, lower income communities of color in southern parts of the county are being hit hardest by the coronavirus. KPBS Reporter Joe Hong spoke to city officials and experts about the disproportionate impact… and the response that'll be needed. _______________ ZIPCODES S/S "I do think that zip code is an important determinant of health, perhaps more important than your genetic code." When San Diego County health officials first released the numbers of covid-19 cases broken down by zip code three weeks ago, La Jolla, Hillcrest and Normal Heights were at the top of the list. But since then, the zip codes with the greatest increases in cases are in south and east county cities, including: Chula Vista, National City, Southeast San Diego and El Cajon. Maria Rosario Araneta is a professor of epidemiology and the assistant dean of diversity at UC San Diego's medical school. MariaRosarioAraneta.mp4 MARIA ROSARIO ARANETA // UC SAN DIEGO PROFESSOR "If you look at the mean incomes of these neighborhoods, their average incomes are less than the average in San Diego, certainly less than the average incomes in La Jolla." In the short-term, Araneta says this data should tell county officials where more testing is needed. In the long-term, these disparities are an opportunity for systemic fixes. Diana Ross is the executive director of Mid-City CAN, a community advocacy group in the City Heights neighborhood. DIANA ROSS // MID CITY-CAN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR It's an opportunity to deep-dive and to look for policy solutions and systemic solutions to why do we have a housing crisis to begin with? Why do we have disproportionate health outcomes for black and brown communities? BEAT With most San Diegans quarantining at home, city streets have taken on an entirely different character. There are fewer cars, no question. And in some areas, there are more people walking, jogging or riding bikes — either for exercise, recreation or essential trips. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says advocates want the city to adapt its streets to this new reality — to prevent both collisions and the spread of COVID-19. ______________________________________________________ CORONASTREETS AKC: It's just been a lot more easy, more calm, more peaceful. AB: Ann King-Concialdi is riding her bike more often these days. And she's not alone: She's noticed more people in her neighborhood of North Park biking, walking and jogging. She says with gyms, beaches and some parks closed, people are looking for ways to stay active and get some fresh air — not to mention fend off the cabin fever. ANN KING-CONCIALDI NORTH PARK RESIDENT AKC: And now that there's less cars on the street, it definitely is just more enjoyable. You can go at a slower pace, sometimes we'll kind of zig zag through the side streets now instead of taking just one straight route get there, get there quickly like it was before. Now we just get to kind of enjoy the roads. BIKE SHOP NAT POP AB: Bike shops are seeing more business, too. Dan Zapkowski is owner of Pacific Beach Bikes. He says he's seeing a flood of new customers — many of them young adults looking for new ways to exercise and parents who want to ride with their kids but don't have bikes of their own. DAN ZAPKOWSKI PACIFIC BEACH BIKES DZ: And then we're also seeing a huge uptick in old bikes that have been sitting around for 5, 10 years. I had a guy bring a bike from storage, he said it's been in storage for like 10 or 15 years. It needed a total overhaul. We got it in and out within a week so he was real happy, saved him money versus buying a new bike. AB: Last week, representatives from 12 different advocacy groups co-signed a letter to Mayor Kevin Faulconer asking him to make changes to local streets during the pandemic. They want pedestrian signals at intersections to be made automatic, so people don't have to risk spreading germs by touching crosswalk buttons. And on some streets they want the city to reduce speed limits and cut vehicle lanes and parking so pedestrians and cyclists have more room for social distancing. Andy Hanshaw, executive director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, says San Diego needs to catch up to other cities. ANDY HANSHAW SAN DIEGO COUNTY BICYCLE COALITION AH: We started to see several cities across the country implement slow street initiatives or networks almost instantly or very swiftly to alleviate the similar problem that we were having here. AB: Those cities include: Oakland, San Francisco, Denver, Minneapolis and Boston. La Mesa recently made pedestrian cross signals automatic. Faulconer is working on a plan in response to the letter, but hasn't made an announcement yet. Hanshaw says the pandemic is providing an opportunity to help more people experience the benefits of safer streets. AH: When we come through this and more people have understood what's possible, I think understanding the bigger picture for the climate crisis we're in and having the opportunity for safer streets and fewer deaths will hopefully be realized and understood more. AB: In the meantime, Hanshaw says one of the most encouraging things is seeing families biking together. 9:55 AH: It really warms your heart and it really makes you think it's a really important sort of time together. And I think being outdoors, being together, and having a safe environment to do that makes you feel better about doing that is what we're seeing. And I think it's great. (4:45) It's created a sort of vision of what's possible. BIKE SHOP NAT POP AB: Back at the bike shop, Dan Zapkowski says he also hopes people stick with their bikes, and when the need for strict social distancing is over, that they ride some of San Diego's most popular routes like the boardwalk or the Mission Bay path when they reopen. I hope that people will get to enjoy the same things I get to do when I get to ride my bike on the boardwalk. (9:51) You can pick up a bike for a couple hundred bucks. Go grab a sunset and I guarantee you're gonna come home with a smile on your face absolutely. It's one of the best things ever, absolutely. That was KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen. BEAT Mayor Kevin Faulconer wants to spend an untold amount of taxpayer money on motels to permanently house hundreds of homeless people who are sheltered at the San Diego Convention Center. It’s part of the effort to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. inewsource found that six of the 10 properties the city is looking to buy, possibly on a lease-to-own basis, have a history of code enforcement complaints about issues like cockroaches and mold. Four of the motels have logged more than 100 calls to San Diego police since January 2018. Inewsource reporter Cody Dulaney has the story. DULANEY: Code enforcement has investigated complaints of bedbugs, roaches and mold at six of the 10 motels the city is looking to buy. City official Erik Caldwell says buying distressed motels to provide housing for the homeless is not uncommon. CALDWELL: "What's different here is that the money that it might've taken to buy one hotel six months ago, we might be able to get two today." DULANEY: The city hopes to use federal funds to buy the motels and is working with the San Diego Housing Commission to assess the condition of the properties. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS. BEAT A south bay city is taking a recommendation for people to cover their faces one step further. KPBS Reporter Matt Hoffman was in National City on the first day of a new order mandating face coverings for everyone in public. ________________________________________________ NATCITYMASKS 1 Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, National City Mayor We've seen over the last two weeks an increasing number of positive reports in our south bay communities and in particular national city and so we said we need to be as proactive as we can So National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo (So-tello)-Solis and the city council moved to require everyone in public to wear a face covering. Many wonder how the emergency order will be enforced. This also too is going to have an education component. Sotelo-Solis is hoping everyone will comply. We don't want to get into that enforcement of ticketing or citing The city of Chula Vista is working on a similar order that would also require everyone in public to cover their faces. Remember it doesn't have to be a mask - a shirt or bandana will do. As temperatures heat up, backyard gardens are filling up with fruit and vegetables. Now, a group of business owners and community members in City Heights are making sure these backyard bounties find their way to those who are in need. KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler has the story. FRUITSWAP 1 Lemons, grapefruit, oranges, and other fruits are beginning to pile up in San Diego backyards. So the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association is now running a weekly fruit swap, where neighbors can drop off their fruit, and those in need during the pandemic can walk, drive, or bike to pick it up. Beryl Forman works for the El Cajon Boulevard BIA and helps organize the swap. FORMAN: During this pandemic, when people have a much greater need, we think that one very simple approach to that, would give them free food, free fruit, growing in people's yards. From 10-12, neighbors are invited to drop off food to be repackaged into separate bags for pickup, which takes place between 12-2. The fruit swap takes place every Wednesday at the Fair @ 44 on 44th street and El Cajon Boulevard. Perhaps the most vulnerable of vulnerable populations for the COVID-19 virus are the residents of nursing homes. Clusters of the virus have popped up in these care facilities across the state and country. Now the state has released data on which senior care facilities have residents who've tested positive for the virus. And the senior care industry is asking for immunity from potential lawsuits resulting from mistakes made during the coronavirus outbreak. KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma has been closely following the ongoing story. She joined KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanaugh. MIDDAY NURSING HOME PACKAGE What prompted the state to release this data on Corona virus in nursing homes Speaker 7: 18:29 Marine, the state just got a ton of pressure. They got pressure from families who have relatives in nursing homes. They got pressure from staff, from people who actually live there. The residents themselves and from people who advocate for these residents and the arguments for releasing this information were pretty obvious. The families, they want to know this information because they might want to move their parents out or at least get some of the concerns that they have about maybe infection control practices or other issues resolved and workers at these places who might have your own medical conditions or live with people who do it might also want to decide whether to continue working there or, or just quit. And there's another more practical argument. If nursing homes or certain nursing homes are in distress, if they don't have enough staff, if they don't have enough supplies, if they don't have the infection control under control, then other people can come in and help them. They could probably get healthcare workers from elsewhere. They could get additional protected gear if they need it. So there's that practical aspect of if you need help, tell us, we'll help you. Speaker 1: 19:42 Tell us about the nursing homes that have had positive co-fund 19 cases here in San Diego. Speaker 7: 19:48 Well, there are 11 of them. There's a place called country Hills post acute and alcohol at least as of last Friday. Country Hills post acute had reported 19 residents who had covered 19 there's another place in alcohol called the Bradley court. It had the second highest number. It had 12 cases in [inaudible] and less than 11 among workers. We don't know much else about the facilities that have covered 19 in San Diego County. I reached out to some of them at, didn't hear back from any of them. Speaker 1: 20:21 How many coven 19 deaths have happened in these homes in San Diego County? Speaker 7: 20:27 Well that's the a number that we don't have. We, the County has broken down some of this information but they haven't extracted nursing homes out of the total tally that they've given us. They combined the nursing home figures with numbers from other congregate care facilities like assisted living communities and rehab facilities. And the last time we actually bought an answer from the County was about a week ago and at that time it was more than 20 deaths for all three of those facilities or those types of facilities. And I imagine that the figure is a lot higher now. Speaker 1: 21:05 There's also been complaints that this data is really incomplete because of what it leaves out about other facilities, other congregate care facilities. Speaker 7: 21:14 That's right, Maureen. I mean it doesn't include the number of cases for people who live in assisted living communities. These are retirement communities that you see all over San Diego County, all over the state. The people who live in these facilities, they're older, they're frail, they have medical conditions. They're just as susceptible to Koch at 19 and they are experiencing carbon 19, both among residents and workers. And yet there is no requirement as of yet by the federal government or the state to require these facilities to report the number of covered cases they have. Um, and to report the number of deaths. Now I should say that the County is monitoring this. It does appear that the state is monitoring this. And last Friday, the state sent out in advisory to these assisted living facilities that that they are to notify the families of residents, uh, at these senior care facilities or retirement communities, uh, where they have hard coded 19 cases Speaker 1: 22:23 on the heels of that, there's a push to relieve these facilities from liability for decisions made during the pandemic. Tell us more about that. Speaker 7: 22:33 Yeah. Well there is a group of health providers including industry associations for both assisted living facilities and nursing homes. They want governor Newson to sign an executive order that would give them immunity from prosecution and lawsuits during the pandemic. They say that that kind of immunity or that level of immunity would better enable them to save lives without worrying about the decisions being second guessed later. But advocates for people who live in these homes say that, that if that happens, it would remove the last layer of protection that these residents have. That’s KPBS investigative reporter Amitha Sharma, speaking with Midday Edition’s Maureen Cavanaugh. Sharma also spoke with an advocate for nursing home reform earlier this week who facilities immunity from liability was, essentially, excusing elder abuse. Tim Pyles hosts 91X’s Loudspeaker show on Sunday nights where, from 7 to 10 p.m., you can hear music and news from the local music scene. 91X Loudspeaker has been using Facebook Live lately, and they recently had on local musician Drew Andrews, who has recovered from COVID-19. Andrews talked about how music helped him get through the virus. DREW ANDREWS CLIP You can find Drew Andrews on bandcamp, spotify and most places you listen to music. Here’s a little bit of his song “I Could Write a Book.” I COULD WRITE A BOOK CLIP That’s all. Thanks as always for listening. Do me a favor, and if you like the show, send it to one of your friends. Thanks.

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UC San Diego Health has started testing patients and health care workers for the presence of novel coronavirus antibodies, but the tests come with warnings. Also on the KPBS daily San Diego News Matters podcast: A regional plan to reopen local beaches and bays, lower income communities of color in southern parts of the county are being hit hardest by the coronavirus and more local news you need.