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San Diego County Now On State's COVID-19 Monitoring List

 July 6, 2020 at 2:00 AM PDT

San Diego County has become the final county in Southern California to be placed on the state's monitoring list. That’s because we’ve seen a steady rise in daily coronavirus cases since last week. Being on the list could lead to more closures or new business restrictions. We’ll likely know more after today. Meanwhile, county beaches remained open over the Fourth of July weekend amid beach closures in other parts of Southern California. Parking lots at state beaches here were supposed to be closed as part of an order from Gov. Gavin Newsom. It was an effort to curb crowds. But while some local cities - like Carlsbad - did close beach parking lots, others didn’t. San Diego's Chief Operating Officer Kris Michell said in a statement Saturday that California officials didn't give the city enough time to put in place a beach parking lot shutdown for the Fourth. *** More than 300 people gathered in downtown El Cajon on July Fourth for a protest that called for the city to defund its Police Department. In part, they chanted the name “Alfred Olango as they marched. Olango was an unarmed black man shot and killed by El Cajon police during a mental health call back in 2016. *** County libraries are among the businesses that have had to backtrack plans to go back to business as usual. The libraries were planning to reopen for in-person services today . County librarian Leslie Masland says the danger of spreading the virus at libraries posed too great a risk. "We are not just county staff. We are parents, caregivers and your neighbors. We cannot afford for our libraries to be the outbreak areas for the virus." She said starting today county libraries will accept returns. The books will be quarantined for several days before being allowed to recirculate. *** From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan, and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters, a podcast powered by our reporters, producers and editors. It’s Monday, July 6. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. A study involving local researchers found no evidence that racial justice protests across the US led to a surge in COVID cases. KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento tells us how a local protest organizer is hoping to keep it that way. The crowd at a recent protest calling to defund school police should have included Rashanna Lee. But 23-year-old Lee didn't attend because she was still waiting on her COVID test results. She had no symptoms but gets weekly tests to reduce the risk of spreading the illness and to set an example for other demonstrators. (:09) "If cases are skyrocketing, we don't want it to be hey it's because of us. We want to point to the people that are enjoying their brunches and going out drinking with friends and not wearing masks." San Diego officials have linked an increasing number of outbreaks to bars and restaurants. And local researchers found protests in hundreds of US cities did not cause cases to skyrocket. Joseph Sabia directs the Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies at San Diego State University. (:15) "We want to be clear that we're not arguing that COVID-19 couldn't be spread among protesters, what we're suggesting is that even if that is occurring, it's not leading to net increases in COVID-19 case growth in those communities where it's happening." He says mask-wearing and the young age of demonstrators played a role because they suffer fewer complications from the virus and may be less likely to get tested. But also the protests in public spaces prompted non-participants to stay home. The paper still needs to go through a peer review. That was KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento. *** It’s been three years...but with the racial justice movement on the rise….The family of a young Latino man shot to death by a San Diego Sheriff's Deputy is again asking for justice. KPBS reporter Claire Trageser says the man was unarmed and was shot 16 times. NAT POP 02:35:16 "My cousin was tortured to death." Rocio Zomora is the cousin of Jonathon Coronel, who was shot by a San Diego Sheriff's Deputy on July 5, 2017. The deputy, Christopher Villanueva, was not charged or disciplined for the shooting. JUSTICE 2A 0:10 "Brown and black people train ourselves and our children to remain calm when the police harass us, when they hold us at gunpoint." Zomora asked for the deputy to be charged with the shooting, and for Sheriff Bill Gore to resign. On the date Coronel was shot, deputies were chasing him to serve a search warrant, according to District Attorney Summer Stephan. They thought he had a gun wrapped in a t-shirt, but he didn't. When he reached into his waistband, the deputy shot him, and then shot him again as he laid on his side. A spokesman for the Sheriff's Department declined to comment. *** Coming up after the break...The families of nursing home residents worry about what's happening to their loved ones behind closed doors. An inewsource investigation and more stories soon. Stick with us. Veteran unemployment continues at a high rate. KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says even during a pandemic, there are still efforts to bring homeless veterans back into the job market. Britney Morello runs the job training program at Veterans Village. They provide housing, drug treatment and -- even during a pandemic -- job training. Morello says - some jobs are still in demand. VET VILLAGE 2A "Bus drivers. We do a lot of commercial truck driving licence, long haul, Amazon delivery stuff, there is a big need for that right now since everyone is shopping online. Also a lot of armed security." This week they were awarded a grant from the US Department of Labor specifically to bring homeless veterans back into the workplace. Overall veteran unemployment topped 10 percent in June - more than double the unemployment rate for veterans in June of 2019. *** In San Diego County, at least 60 nursing homes have reported COVID-19 infections and 14 have reported deaths from the virus. inewsource investigative reporter Jill Castellano explores the history of staffing shortages at nursing homes, which have left many of them especially vulnerable to the pandemic. CASTELLANO: Esther Hernandez was a 94-year-old resident at the Windsor Gardens nursing home when the pandemic hit. CASTELLANO: Her family used to be there with her every day, making sure she had enough food and was taken care of properly. NIEBLA: "When she was at the facility, she was never by herself." (3 seconds) CASTELLANO: That's Hernandez's granddaughter Rebecca Niebla. She said when her grandmother's National City nursing home went on lockdown, her family worried about what would happen to Hernandez without them there. NIEBLA: "It was very hard and very difficult for us not to physically be there because we knew that her care was going to be way different. So we were afraid that something like this would happen to her. And unfortunately it did." (18 seconds) CASTELLANO: In May, Hernandez tested positive for COVID-19. The next time her family video chatted with her, she looked sick. But Niebla said during the six-hour call, no one from the nursing home checked on her grandmother. NIEBLA: "They put the computer and they left it there from two to eight and she was agonizing." (7 seconds) CASTELLANO: Hernandez died two days later. None of her family members were with her. NIEBLA: "It's something very, very hard to process, you know, after so many years, this relationship that we had, for her to go alone." (12 seconds) CASTELLANO: An inewsource investigation found that the San Diego County nursing homes with the most COVID-19 cases, including Windsor Gardens, have long histories of staffing shortages. All have faced lawsuits or government citations in the past three years in response to understaffing their facilities. LINDSLEY: "In many facilities, there's not the staff it really takes to do the job they need to do." (5 seconds) CASTELLANO: Philip Lindsley is a senior attorney at the San Diego Elder Law Center. He says nursing homes have been cutting their workforces for years to increase profits. LINDSLEY: "So when there's family that can and are willing to come, that could be an important difference for keeping an eye out to make sure that what should be happening is happening." (12 seconds) CASTELLANO: Advocates believe banning visitors during the pandemic has made nursing homes more vulnerable to COVID-19 rather than less. They say families would be the ones to sound the alarm if staff are not following infection control plans or providing proper care. CASTELLANO: Rosa Montiel does this for her sister Lilly, who lives at San Diego Post-Acute, where she's treated for Down's Syndrome and epilepsy. MONTIEL: "Normally I would ask her, do you need this, do you need that? And I could get an answer. And then I could just ask the staff to come in and provide the care that she needed. And now it's much more difficult because I can't be inside and it's difficult to tell from outside to determine what she needs. I can't do that anymore. It's horrible." (21 seconds) CASTELLANO: Montiel spends nine to 10 hours a day sitting outside the window to her sister's room, making sure she's fed, changed and given her medication on time. MONTIEL: "I come here and as you can see I have this little stool and I sit and observe what she's going through." (8 seconds) CASTELLANO: Montiel became her sister's caregiver in 1992, after their mom had a brain aneurysm on the same day their dad died. MONTIEL: "I did promise I'd take care of her always. So I'm here to fulfill that promise." (4 seconds) CASTELLANO: Montiel is concerned that the staff are too busy and are not taking enough precautions. She fears someone might accidentally bring the virus into the building and get her sister sick. MONTIEL: "One staff person bringing it in would be, it would be devastating. It would mean the end. It would be the end of her life. It would be the end of many of them." (7 seconds) CASTELLANO: Mary Comrie, the administrator of San Diego Post-Acute, said that Lilly Montiel is receiving round-the-clock care and the staff's top priority is the wellbeing of its residents. CASTELLANO: Windsor Gardens wouldn't comment for this story. That was inewsource investigative reporter Jill Castellano. inewsource is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS. *** That’s all for today. Thanks for listening.

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San Diego County was placed on the state's COVID-19 monitoring list, which could lead to closures or new restrictions on businesses following the Fourth of July weekend. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: County libraries are among the businesses that have had to backtrack plans to go back to business as usual, the histories of staffing shortages at nursing homes, which have left them especially vulnerable to the pandemic and more local news you need.