Business Owners Question New Contact Tracing Mandate
San Diego State University is halting its in-person classes. The university is now reporting 64 covid-19 cases since reopening last week. SDSU says they’ll shift to online-only learning for the next month. University officials say a majority of students didn't actually set foot on campus...and those that did were mostly for health services. The county's Dr. Eric McDonald says they're still investigating the cases but he pointed to off campus socializing. you should not be scheduling or attending social gatherings that are non essential and the essential job of a student is participating in education and most of that is online He says there haven't been hospitalizations, but he expects the number of cases to grow. Businesses are reopening their indoor operations this week, with some restrictions. And this time, businesses are required to take contact information from customers in the event of an outbreak. The local chapter of the california restaurant association says they've been working closely with county health officials...but they were caught off guard by the new mandate. Ben Clevenger is the Chapter President and owns the Hills in La Mesa. We're trying to adhere to everything possible that makes the safety of our staff and patrons the number one priority and this just doesn't seem like something that goes toward that (:10) County public health officer Dr. Wilam Wooten doesn't believe they're asking for too much here. We want them to keep it on hand for three weeks this information will help with our contact tracing efforts and help us be more efficient The new mandate went into effect this week. The clock is now ticking for California cities, housing agencies and tribal authorities to apply for Homekey. It’s a 600-million dollar plan promoted by Governor Gavin Newsom to buy hotels, motels and apartment buildings to get people without shelter off the streets. "I've long believed that homelessness is solved through permanent supportive housing. I've said it many, many times, that shelter solves sleep but housing and supportive services solve homelessness" Homekey follows on the heels of Roomkey, which has sheltered 22-thousand homeless people in rented rooms since April. 550-million dollars of the money comes from federal coronavirus relief funds which must be spent by the end of the year. I’m Anica Colbert. It’s Thursday, September 3rd. You’re listening to San Diego News Matters from KPBS News...a daily morning news podcast powered by everyone in the KPBS Newsroom. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day. San Diego County gyms are allowed to re-open this week. But there was one gym that remained open for 2 months unlawfully despite public health orders to close. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says that gym will likely get off scot free. AB: Boulevard Fitness in University Heights made national headlines for its defiance of the county public health order to close indoor operations. It finally shut down last week, but reopened Monday under the state's new guidelines. And the City Attorney's Office says if it stays in compliance, the owner won't have to pay any fines. Such news might anger people who feel it sends the wrong message to not punish those who violate the health order. UCSD public health professor Rebecca Fielding-Miller says citations and fines have a role to play when businesses endanger public health — but that social pressure can work, too. RFM: "It is not socially acceptable for you to run a business that means my kid can't go to kindergarten or third grade. And I think it is perfectly appropriate to work to reinforce those social norms for us as a community to say, 'This is unacceptable social behavior, this violates the social contract between us, and we don't want to be your friend anymore if this is something you're going to do." AB: Bryan Welch is general manager of Point Loma Sports Club, which obeyed the county's health order while Boulevard Fitness flouted it.. He says he won't judge another business too harshly if they had to stay open to survive. But he says the pandemic will be over faster if everyone just follows the rules. BW: I think it's less about punishment and more about community. And if it's everybody just wanted to throw open the doors, we're not going to wear masks, and then you look at the, you know, as a society, the toll, which is sickness and death, the stakes are pretty high. AB: The City Attorney's Office says Boulevard Fitness could still face fines if they violate the public health order again. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. That was KPBS Metro Reporter Andrew Bowen. San Diego county Catholics can once again have services inside their churches. KPBS reporter Jacob Aere says churches must follow social distancing and are limited to a total of 100 parishioners. INSIDEMASS 1 (:42) Both inside and outside, mass is now very different. There's no holy water in the fonts, Communion can only be received by hand, singing is not permitted and worshipers have to wear masks and maintain seven feet of social distance at all times. Father Peter Navarra is a priest at St. Joseph's Cathedral in downtown San Diego. He says being indoors brings himself and other Catholics closer to their faith. Fr. Peter Navarra | Priest, St. Joseph's Cathedral (:12) "Now instead of being outside in the sun and the wind we can be more conveniently inside, indoors. And of course, it's more sacred." Churches can still have outside services, and parishes are encouraged to continue to livestream masses so that vulnerable communities can exercise their spirituality. Jacob Aere, KPBS News. The Environmental Protection Agency will make a big investment to help stop the flow of cross border sewage and trash in Imperial Beach. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has details. EPA chief Andrew Wheeler says his agency will spend 25 million dollars to divert some 10 million gallons a day of sewage-tainted wastewater and trash. Supervisor Greg Cox praised the move after months of massive cross border flows. “We are now moving forward with actual solutions and projects to address this problem.” Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina says his city has endured a sewage apocalypse. “We’re making sure that my kids, all our kids, and all of our residents, border patrol agents, our Navy Seals and all of us. Can swim and surf and have the best day of their lives at our beautiful Imperial Beach and Coronado coastline.” The EPA is also working on possibly spending 300 million dollars more for a long-term solution to the sewage issue. Erik Anderson KPBS News For about a century, San Diegans have been buying their electricity from San Diego Gas & Electric. But the city's agreement with the company is about to expire. Mayor Kevin Faulconer says he plans to put a new agreement up for bid to private utilities. But Community activists want public power. KPBS Science & Technology Reporter Shalina Chatlani has our story. It was a scorching hot August afternoon. Over a dozen activists lined the stairs of the tall brown skyscraper at 101 Ash st downtown. The building was once occupied by San Diego Gas and Electric's parent company, Sempra Energy. Activists gathered here to announce a new coalition with an ambitious goal. AMBI: Public Power, Public Power Now! A city-owned utility. The city bought 101 Ash in late 2016 for hundreds of millions of dollars. But, it remains empty, because, it turns out, it's filled with asbestos. Activists gathered here because they say the building is symbolic of wasted money, just like the high rates San Diegan's pay for electricity. ROSE: We're paying $18,000 a day to pay for this uninhabitable building, the current franchise with SDG&E is delivering A million dollars a day in profits, fifty times bigger.. That's former energy journalist Craig Rose. He says San Diego Gas & Electric customers pay the highest rates in the state, while cities with public utilities - like Sacramento - have among the lowest rates. engineer Bill Powers, says a public utility could help the city better reach its ambitious climate change goals. POWERS: solar power for all, battery power for all. PART 2: The good versus the bad. Then there's another reason these activists want public power now: timing. interest rates are at historic lows, and now they say is a good time for a big infrastructure investment. But, city leaders don't are not on board. The mayor and key members of the city council say breaking away from a contract with a private utilit, at this time would be too hard and cost too much money. Activists pledge to continue their fight to have public power, like thousands of cities across the country, including about 45 that operate in california. MOLINE: It sort of boils down to: we can control our own reliability Barry Moline, is executive director of the California Municipal Utilities Association. He says reliability and meeting aggressive environmental goals are two of the main reasons cities opt for public power. It's just that we have a different motive. They're focused on profits. Our focus is on controlling costs He brings up the Sacramento Municipal Utility District The utility formed in the 40s and offers residents among the lowest rates in the state, with nearly half of its energy mix coming from renewable sources. But Stanford energy lawyer Michael Wara says buying private utility's poles and wires can cost billions of dollars. WARA: you can't just take them for free. You have to pay the owners of those assets. Also, Wara and others say it's highly likely SDG&E would sue to block the city's move. it is wildly complicated to arrive at a number and it creates an opportunity to fight :13 It took Sacramento two decades of court fights to ultimately municipalize. PART 3: It's too hard These realities resonate with San DIego's current leadership. BRY: for me, it's a no right now. Councilmember Barbara Bry has consistently said public power isn't on the table right now. BRY: It is not free to take over those transmission lines. Second, I have no confidence in the city to operate anything. San Diego hired consultants earlier this year to look into the feasibility of public power. They estimate the cost for taking over SDG&E's electricity infrastructure as ranging from around $2 billion to just under $5 billion. In all low to medium cost scenarios, which are most likely, the reports say the city would ultimately save money with a public power option. But in the least likely high cost scenario, public power wouldn't be worth it.And that's the advice Mayor Kevin Faulconer took, his office is moving ahead with an auction to take bids from private utilities to take over the franchise. As for SDG&E a company spokeswoman said SDGE is a good partner and plans to submit a competitive bid. Cody Petterson, of the San Diego Democrats for Environmental Action, says activists aren't giving up. Petterson: Yes we do need a city that works for its residents more broadly. and we are already working on a path to do that. That path is trying to work with councilmembers to stop any vote at city council when the mayor presents a franchise agreement. And if that isn't successfulPetterson: Our target is to have municipal power in 3 to 7 years. The path there is going to be bumpy one way or another. As bumpy as losing a million dollars a day? No, I don't think it is. :11 Shalina Chatlani, KPBS news. That was KPBS’ SHalina CHatlani. For a longer version of this story go to KPBS dot org and look for the KPBS Investigates Podcast.Series. Coming up on the San Diego news Matters. Deaths at home from covid-19 are up in San Diego County. Nobody help, nobody called. Nobody say anything about how I can take care of him. A number of these people received little to no medical care before they died. Our partners at Inewsource looked into why. That’s up next after this break. An inewsource investigation has found deaths at home are up across San Diego County since the pandemic began. Some of those deaths involve COVID-19 victims, who received little or no medical help. Inewsource investigative reporter Mary Plummer has this story on a family in San Marcos. That was Inewsource investigative reporter Mary Plummer. This story was co-reported by inewsource investigative reporter Jill Castellano. Inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS. That’s it for the podcast today. Thanks for listening.