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Reopening California

 May 5, 2020 at 2:00 AM PDT

California Governor Gavin Newsom says the state will move into the second phase of his reopening plan as early as this Friday. Phase 2 allows lower-risk workplaces to resume operations with modifications to help prevent spread of the coronavirus. That means, among other things, that retail businesses like those specializing in books, sportings goods and clothing will be able to offer customers curbside pickup. This is a very. Positive sign. And it's happened only for one reason. The data says it can happen. The governor called it a “sober announcement,” adding that if at any point cases start spiking, restrictions will be put back into place. *** On the heels of Newsom’s announcement, county and city officials said they too will transition into Phase 2 of reopening society. County Chairman Greg Cox says the board of supervisors will be voting this week on a set of guidelines that cover a range of issues. Such as employee safety, customer safety , sanitation, physical distancing and then general business practices and communications. The reopening strategy will include things like requiring personal protection equipment for employees, compliance with contact tracing and testing, controlling lines and crowds, workplace social distancing, employee training on washing hands and keeping bathrooms and shared spaces clean, plus a lot more details they’re still working out. Some businesses like offices, dine-in restaurants and shopping malls will stay closed during phase 2. *** And for the latest local COVID-19 count: San Diego County health officials reported 93 new cases and five additional deaths Monday. The county's coronavirus totals now stand at 4,020 confirmed cases and 144 deaths. But officials said numbers are trending in the right direction and thanked San Diegans for behaving responsibly this weekend as beaches opened. *** From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters. It’s Tuesday, May 5. Listen, today KPBS is participating in #GivingTuesdayNow, a worldwide day of giving unity. Right now, KPBS is working hard to provide you and your family with trusted news and information about things that affect each and every one of us. And we will continue to be here for you. If you’re able to support this important work and want to help KPBS thrive in these unprecedented times, #GivingTuesdayNow is the perfect time to give back to KPBS. Go to kpbs dot org and click the blue give now button, or text the word “donate” to one eight hundred five seven six, K P B S. Thanks in advance, and as always, stay with me for more of the local news you need. *** On Monday, San Diego City Council members started a week-long review of the proposed budgets for each city department in the upcoming fiscal year. Every department is facing significant cuts forced by the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Kevin Faulconer unveiled the spending plan on April 15. In it, he calls for the elimination of 354 city jobs — many of them in libraries and parks and recreation. The city estimates the economic toll of the pandemic on city finances will be around $300 million. This is largely because of lost hotel and sales tax revenue. The city is eligible for up to nearly $250 million in federal aid, but that money can only be used to reimburse costs directly related to the pandemic response, not to make up for lost tax revenue. Chief Operating Officer Kris Michell noted Monday that some of the assumptions in the initial budget were already out of date. "We are doing the best we can to project out," Michell said. "But those projections really don't mean much until we start to see where the bottom is and we start to turn around on the health side that will then impact the economic side." KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has more on the proposed deep cuts to city services caused by the coronavirus. _______________________________________________________ AB: Virtually every city service is impacted by the cuts: libraries, parks and recreation, tree trimming, road maintenance, arts and culture funding, even police. Council President Georgette Gomez says the city's historically disadvantaged neighborhoods — from City Heights to Logan Heights to San Ysidro — are feeling the economic crisis much more acutely than better off neighborhoods. GG: Over 30% of our population is unemployed right now. And I only hope that as we're moving forward and we're making these decisions of cutting services that are really important to these districts, that we keep that in mind. AB: The mayor has proposed closing libraries on Sundays and Mondays, and permanently shuttering the smallest branch library in Mountain View — part of Gomez's district. By the way, the mayor is not proposing eliminating any sworn police officers, but he is cutting some civilian positions in the department as well as some officer overtime and funding for a police-led program that serves disadvantaged youth. *** Major budget cuts are also in store for Community colleges across San Diego County … a time when students might need those colleges the most. inewsource reporter Jennifer Bowman explains. Community colleges educate close to two-hundred-thousand local students. During economic downturns, they serve even more. But as COVID-19 takes its toll on the economy, it will mean less money for community colleges. CARROLL: "The news is not good." (00:02) That's Constance Carroll, head of the San Diego Community College District. Already her district has spent an extra four-million-dollars because of the pandemic. With extensions given for people to file their income taxes, the colleges will have to develop their budgets without final numbers from the state. CARROLL: "We will be rolling the budget forward within all this ambiguity as best we can." (00:06) Extra costs related to COVID-19 are expected to continue in the weeks and months ahead. inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS. Prepare for a heat wave. Hot dry air from the east will push over the San Diego County mountains this week, setting the region up for hotter than normal temperatures. Casey Oswant is a National Weather Service forecaster. She says the desert community of Anzo Borrego will likely be the region's hotspot. "And they usually see an average max temperature of about 93 degrees but for Wednesday and Thursday we are forecasting that their high temperature is going to reach as high as 106 degrees." The high temperatures will also dry out all the plants that sprouted in the back country during the wet April weather. CALFIRE Officials say they are bracing for extra fire activity and they hope to knock down any wildfire before the blazes race out of control. *** Among the many things that have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic is the treatment regimen for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. The V-A and other providers are trying to move the therapy online. Stephanie Colombini of the American Homefront Project reports from Tampa. Yoga instructor Forest Spall is leading a meditation session on the video chat service Zoom. "inhale straighten...and exhale bend....good.."... trails off and fades under as I continue talking Small windows at the top of the screen show veterans in their living rooms following along. The session is run by the Tampa-area nonprofit Veterans Alternative. It typically brings vets to Florida from across the country for intensive alternative treatment programs. The Coronavirus is preventing that from happening, so the group is offering virtual therapy instead. "...there's no wrong way to do this just like there's no wrong way to be you...." Joining for yoga is Kathleen Stadler from Connecticut. The Persian Gulf War veteran has battled PTSD for decades and attended a program with the group in February, just weeks before her community shut down. "So that's really hard because me staying home and just being idle is not good for any person never mind a veteran with PTSD they need to get out and they need to be on the move." Stadler says there are times when the isolation and concerns for her loved one's safety trigger her PTSD symptoms. When she feels them come on she tries to remember what she learned during treatment to calm down - things like recalling positive memories and spending time in nature. Stadler's life is about to get a lot more stressful. She's starting a new job as an emergency department nurse and will be on the front lines fighting this pandemic. She says virtual therapy is a huge help. "This is teaching me how important it is to be practicing those tools that give me peace during times I don't have that peace or my body won't let me have that peace." COVID-19 has led to a dramatic increase in virtual therapy for vets. The Department of Veterans Affairs says its mental health providers completed thousands more appointments with the VA Video Connect app in March compared to February. And Vet Centers, which provide counseling services separate from VA medical facilities, saw a 200 percent increase in the number of virtual appointments. Michael Fisher is the VA's Chief Readjustment Counseling Officer and oversees those centers. "Our focus has always been on that face-to-face connection and creating community by bringing in veterans and service members and allowing them to connect with each other." Fisher says it may not be ideal to provide counseling virtually -- especially for group therapy -- but it's essential right now. "We have to continue making sure individuals are staying on track with whatever their goals might be, but I think the other thing is making sure we're effectively dealing with the anxiety and fear that these kind of situations create." But video chats and virtual yoga don't work for everybody. Not every veteran has access to the technology or feels comfortable with it. Fischer says for those vets, the VA offers mental health care over the phone. And for those who really need in-person interaction, vet centers are still open and are taking protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The VA has also deployed mobile vet centers in New York, Los Angeles and other communities hit hard by the virus to target vulnerable vets near public places like parks and grocery stores. This is not a permanent thing it's really just so we can get through this response while keeping our veterans and service members and families safe. Mental health experts say it's critical veterans maintain social bonds right now even if they don't receive formal therapy. They say any sort of support system will help vets get through this uncertain time. This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting *** Lux Art Institute in Encinitas has been one of the many local arts organizations embracing technology and keeping the community connected during COVID-19 isolation. If you search for them on Facebook, you’ll find all kinds of live events and videos they’ve been doing. Today, Lux is hosting ``We're Giving Back Tuesday,'' with a set of free programs and events supporting creativity and community. They're holding virtual interactive workshops, children's art activities, short film screening and guided meditation. Check out Luxartinstitute dot org for details. That’s it. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk tomorrow.

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California Governor Gavin Newsom says the state will move into the second phase of his reopening plan as early as this Friday. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: San Diego City Council members started a week-long review of the proposed budget, an impending heat wave and more.