Schools Opening Late Summer?
California kids could return to classrooms as soon as late July, though likely with some noticeable changes. Gov. Gavin Newsom made that announcement Tuesday as he outlined plans for easing stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic. Newsom said no official decisions have been made, but he acknowledged that there have been “learning losses” as parents struggle to teach their kids at home. That learning loss is very real. And from a socio economic frame, from a racial justice frame, this is even more, compounding and more challenging. And, uh, again, I, uh, am looking forward to those robust conversations. About the prospects of an earlier school year that I do think, uh, is warranted considering the consequences of neglecting our next generation If schools do start back up in a few months, though, they may look radically different than before the pandemic. The governor didn’t detail plans, but in the past has said schools may launch with staggered start times to limit the number of students in the school. And there could be changes to recess, lunch and other school gatherings that draw large groups of students together. *** The annual homeless point-in-time count is an effort to track the number of unsheltered people across the county. This year’s homeless census numbers just came out, and they’re down. The 2020 point in time count found that there were 4,887 individuals experiencing homelessness in San Diego. Uh, and I am pleased to announce that this year's count shows a significant reduction and the number of people living outdoors, we saw a 12% decrease on people living in the streets. Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the drop means more people are getting connected to services they need. It's further proof at the city of San Diego is continuing to lead with real solutions on the statewide crisis. *** Starting Friday, public transit passengers in San Diego County will be required to cover their nose and mouth on buses and trolleys. The Metropolitan Transit System made that announcement Tuesday. The agency says passengers without face coverings will be denied service. At least five MTS bus drivers, two trolley maintenance workers and one fare compliance inspector have tested positive for the coronavirus. The agency suspended cash fares on buses and began having passengers board via the rear doors earlier this month. *** And for the latest local COVID count: County health officials reported 173 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths. That raises the county totals to 3,314 cases and 118 deaths. The 173 cases are the second-highest reported since the pandemic began, but officials said that could correspond with the significant increase in daily test results. *** I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to KPBS’ San Diego News Matters. It’s Wednesday, April 29. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. ********************************************The USS Kidd pulled into San Diego Tuesday in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus on board. KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says roughly 50 cases have been diagnosed. The destroyer arrived Tuesday morning, part of the Navy's plan to stem the second largest outbreak of the coronavirus on board a Navy ship. Nearly 50 sailors among the crew of 330 have tested positive. In San Diego, the crew is being moved ashore. Sailors will be screened twice a day, while the ship will be deep cleaned over the next two weeks. The USS Kidd was in the eastern Pacific. At sea, 2 sailors were evacuated to hospitals. Another 15 sailors were moved to the San Diego based USS Makin Island, which has a larger medical team. Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other healthcare providers have been lobbying for broad legal immunity during the pandemic. Advocates for the elderly say Governor Newsom is close to approving such an order. KPBS Reporter Amita Sharma has more. Lawyer Mike Dark of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform says Newsom is expected to sign an immunity order within days. The order would give nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals immunity from administrative, civil and criminal action for decisions made during the COVID-19 outbreak. Dark says he fears the immunity will cover reckless and dangerous conduct. (Mike Dark) 6:01 "Reckless conduct is conduct when the defendant knows what they're doing is dangerous and they don't care and they do it anyway and people are hurt or die as a result." Micha Liberty, president of Consumer Attorneys of California, says there are existing laws that give them protections and this order would eliminate accountability. (Micha Liberty) 7:08 "It would be absolutely impossible to sue any of these covered entities for reckless misconduct or willful misconduct." Groups representing nursing homes and assisted living facilities declined comment. Governor Newsom's office responded to a request for comment by saying, "We'll let you know if we have anything on this." The ACLU has also written a letter opposing this potential action, saying it will disproportionately harm people of color in nursing homes. *** State and local officials are demanding immediate action to stop unprecedented flows of BILLIONS of gallons of sewage-tainted water across the U-S Mexico border. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has details. The flow of sewage-tainted water is massive, even for a region that’s become accustomed to regular toxic flows into U-S waters. Billions of gallons of urban runoff carrying untreated sewage and other toxins have crossed into the US since last November. Some days up to 60 million gallons flow into the Tijuana River Estuary and then out to sea. State Senator Ben Hueson says Mexico needs to step up. Ben Hueso 3:55 – 4:11 (time NM_0085_01.wav)“They’ve got to make those investments in areas that prevent these outflows. It’s as simple as that. I just can’t express it any other way. I know it’s that simple. But it’s not happening. Local officials are moving ahead with three lawsuits aimed at pressing the U-S federal government to act but they say that doesn’t mean they can’t take emergency action now. San Diego County officials are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to approve spending for a new diversion system and a sewage plant upgrade. There has been no action since the COVID 19 pandemic started. San Diego Unified School District officially started its distance learning program this week. One San Diego student gave KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong a tour of his online classroom. One day I'm going to tell my kids basically like, look little jimmy you're lucky you get to go to school. Frank Granda is a junior at Serra High School in San Diego. As a student on the autism spectrum, he was in smaller classes and got extra help. The transition to distance was difficult for him at first, mostly because he wasn't getting the immediate, face-to-face attention he needed. But now, he's gotten the hang of things. I would actually consider it an improvement because normally... What happens is that I have to compete with other support…. Back in chemistry, I have to be with 30 other students who also need support and help... But now it's just me... I can mostly be free to finally get the support I need to get my grades up. But Frank's experiences are more the exception than the rule for students with disabilities, experts say. Many have lost services like speech and occupational therapy and the online platforms don't meet their needs. San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond and the mayors of five north county cities are calling for non-essential businesses to reopen May 1st. That's this Friday. Desmond says the situation is getting desperate. We need a handful of businesses to be phased in and see how it goes then phase in the next set of businesses and then if we have a big surge we're not so far out that we can't retreat The group of mayors say non essential businesses like hair salons and restaurants can adopt the same strategies essential businesses use to reduce the virus's spread. But in his COVID-19 update Tuesday afternoon, Governor Gavin Newsom said it’s still too soon. He outlined the state’s plan for four phases of re-opening businesses. The state is currently in the first phase - planning for the new normal. Phase two would be businesses, like manufacturing, retail and childcare, re-opening. Newsom said those reopenings may begin within weeks. Phase three would include opening personal care businesses, like gyms, nail salons and hair salons. The last phase would be facilities at the highest risk - public venues, conventions and concerts. Newsom said different regions will be able to reopen at different times based on strict state-monitored criteria. Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, spoke with Midday Edition’s Maureen Cavanaugh prior to Newsom's daily briefing. He discussed how San Diego businesses are planning for when the time comes that they will be allowed to reopen. Give us an idea of the types of preparation San Diego businesses are making to reopen. Well, there's a couple of task forces that are working on net. Uh, we've got the mayor, Faulkner and Greg Cox, uh, task force where, uh, there's several, probably about 30 different business organizations that are part of that. But we also hear from a lot of individual businesses about what they're going to need to open, what kind of assurances they're going to need, and what type of, uh, uh, lead time they're going to need to get back into business. Do you think some businesses will have to reinvent themselves to operate in this new environment? Uh, it's certainly gonna be a different customer experience and it's going to be a different experience for the people that work in those businesses. And that's because of the social distancing and a lot of the guidelines that will probably go with opening business. And do you expect some kinds of businesses will have to make actual physical alterations to their spaces. Well, you know, we've already seen that, uh, in supermarkets and in, uh, liquor stores and all that, where they have the plexiglass shields. Now, uh, I've talked to some restaurant tours who are talking about, uh, trying to increase capacity by putting Plexiglas around, uh, different tables in different ways. You know, I also think that we're going to find that a lot of businesses are going to be segmented in certain ways that will allow people into some areas and not others until they need to go in there. So I think there's going to be a lot of talk about that. One of the more interesting conversations I had the other day and something I hadn't thought of at all, and obviously I should have, but, uh, in talking with building operators and owners of high rises, uh, how many people do you let on the elevator one time? Uh, how do you have lines that cue into that, that are socially distanced? And do you need to stagger, start times for different companies on different floors so that you don't have too many people crowding the lobby waiting to get into an elevator? So it's going to require a lot of thought by business. And I think. A lot of the associations have already done this. I know the restaurant association has been planning on opening and working with the members and the building owners, and uh, even SeaWorld has a tremendous plan put forward, uh, that they'll be able to implement when they're allowed to open. Also now the governor is talking about a phased reopening of business. How would you like to see that happen? I'm not sure how you do the phased part. Uh, when we surveyed about 700 members, uh, they said to be back in business and to, uh, make it so that it's profitable to be in business. They needed a lot of businesses open. Uh, so they, they rely on foot traffic and things like that. Um, I think the phased part of it will come in with a, you know, we're already seeing the beaches being opened for a water. Uh, then we'll see other things being opened in different ways, but it's going to be a difficult thing to, to phase in unless you, uh, kind of unleash it a little bit. And I think that most business owners want to be safe. Uh, they want their patrons to feel safe. Uh, but it's going to be a difficult thing to phase out. I think it's going to look entirely different when we come back. And I know just from our staff's experience, many of them feel more productive at home because, uh, they save the commute. Uh, they can get right into the calls they have to make and do the things they do. And I see other businesses that are probably going to want to have everybody in and. Oh, that's going to require a certain phasing to CDOT crowd. The workplace. Now, some members of the County board of soups, along with some North County mayors, they are urging a May 1st reopening. What's the Chamber's stance on that? You know, where we haven't taken a position on when to reopen. Uh, we certainly think everybody would like to get back to work. Um, certainly the economy needs it in there. A lot of people who are really hurting right now, but we've left that up to the public health experts to set that date. .Uh, it's going to be the County board of supervisors is going to be the mayors, uh, in consultation with the public health department. Um, because I, I mean, you've got two different interests there, and I think there are a lot of things are going to have to be weighed, uh, before a mayor or a County board of supervisors gonna feel comfortable in opening and look at, probably going to take the lead. But at some point, uh, those are decisions that have to be made by the people who are elected. What have you heard, Jerry, about how the federal, state and local relief packages are helping local businesses stay afloat? Well, you know, I know a lot of them have gotten the relief. I know a lot of, uh, unemployment's going out to the employees who, uh, were laid off. I also know that, uh, it's been very difficult for the banks to process the SBA loans or the PPP loans. Uh, because they're just being slammed by so many people who need them, and they're spending hundreds of hours and working around the clock to get those into the system. And it seems like the second they get them in, then they run out of money. So, you know, I think that the assistance is coming. So I think it's working fairly well now and I think it'll continue to get better, the local relief packages more helpful at this point. Well, the local relief packages are great, except they were out of money almost the day they opened. For instance, the city of San Diego, I think by the, uh, by the close of business, after they opened that day, they'd already had enough, uh, applications if they couldn't fund all of them. But I think that that reliefs on its way, and, uh, that's one of the things that open up businesses, again, will help out in as that people start being rehired. How much longer do you think some small businesses can hold on before reopening? Uh, I've talked to a lot of businesses. I, our, uh, staff goes, has calls with different groups. Uh, and I, I admire the spirit. A lot of them are transforming the way they do business. Uh, they're changing their business models. They're doing different things with their business. And I think that's what's going to get people through as the innovativeness of the, of the small business. Now, many San Diegans have jobs in the gig economy. How was that sector of the business community doing? Well, I think that's tough. Um, you know, I don't see nearly as many lifts or Uber's or, uh, that type of thing. Uh, you know, if, if you're a shopper. Uh, for the grocery stores, you're probably doing okay. But I don't know that anybody feels real good about it right now. And I don't know a lot of people who really want to get into somebody else's vehicle right now. What about our business partners in Tijuana? What's the situation across the border? You know, I think the situation is almost exactly the same as here. I mean, if you look at the two border cities and, uh, you know, our region, they really mirror what we, uh, look like here in terms of business and opportunities and all of that. We know that they've led a lot of the manufacturing. Uh, again, again, uh, because it was vital to the cross border, uh, region. A lot of the businesses in San Diego depend on that cross border traffic.So, uh, having them working and having us working on that. It is really critical. So we keep the supply chain going. Now, the number of coven 19 patients is still on the rise in San Diego County. We've had more than a thousand new cases in just the last two weeks. Six Bay area counties are extending the lockdown through may. So my question is, is it why for us to begin opening up, you know, once again, I, um, I, I'm only working on the business side, the public health side. I think that's a difficult issue. I think the, uh. Oh, the politicians are having to do some soul searching on what's right, and I think the fact that they're so deliberative in they're trying to get information from both public health and business, I think it means a really thinking through this before they make a decision to switch the economy back. Call it. Okay. Then I've, I've been speaking with Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego regional chamber of commerce. Jerry, thank you very much. You're welcome. Thank you, Marie. One cool and colorful local tradition that’s continued through COVID-19 is lowrider cruises. A group of lowriders cruised through National City over the weekend. And yes, in the photos and videos of the cruise, it appeared that social distancing was in full effect. OK That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. And if you want to share a story, call or text us at (619) 452-0228 anytime.