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Some Progress Made In Containing Valley Fire

 September 9, 2020 at 5:03 AM PDT

Progress is being made in the Valley Fire battle. As of late last night, it’s 11% contained. That said, Firefighters are expecting the worst as Santa Ana winds kick up this week. The Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the region until 8 o'clock tonight (Wednesday night). County officials are urging people who live near the fire zone to be ready to evacuate in 15 minutes or less. Here’s County Supervisor Dianne Jacob... "The Santa Ana winds move a fire very very fast as we have seen here in San Diego. And they're expected to hit the hardest in the middle of the night. That's not the time to make an evacuation plan." All the large farm animals in the east county, like horses, also need evacuation plans. At a press conference, Poway Mayor Steve Vaus talked about places big animals can go if their owners are evacuated. "Large animals can go to Canyon Ranch at 12310 Campo Road. Smaller animals can go to the Bonia Shelter. This morning in a worst case I've spoken to Lakeside Rodeo Grounds and Poway Rodeo Grounds and if things get bad, they will be ready. They're not open yet but they will be ready to open." So far, firefighters don't know what started the Valley fire. The Valley Fire south of Alpine has burned more than 17-thousand acres, destroyed 11 homes and 25 outbuildings. To keep up with the latest, go to KPBS dot org, and fire dot CA dot gov. In much of northern California, Pacific Gas & Electric has cut electricity to customers in 22 counties as part of their Public Safety Power Shutoffs. Governor Gavin Newsom says the utility is using better protocols than in the past “A year ago, I would have imagined more customers being impacted for a longer period of time. There’s more precision, there has been more communication but we’re not where we’re going to be and not where we yet need to be.” The utility shuts off power to areas it believes are the most at-risk during high-wind events, like the one we’re experiencing now. And we should note... PG&E has been found at fault for several catastrophic wildfires in the past, when its lines were blown into trees or dry vegetation. San Diego leaders came together on Tuesday to unveil "Listos California.” It’s a plan to inform the most at risk communities of emergency information. San Diego County received $20 million dollars in state grants to help the county partner with nonprofits and first responders. Supervisor Kristin Gaspar says each family should have a plan in an emergency situation... especially in light of the current wildfires. "The state has created a five step plan called Listos California to help you assemble the necessary items you will need as well as mentally prepare you to take quick action, should the time come." For more information on the five steps to prepare for emergency situations, go to listoscalifornia DOT org. I’m Annica Colbert. It’s Wednesday, September 9th. This is 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. The VA is still searching for Vietnam Era vets who qualify for a new benefit. KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says coverage for so-called “Blue water veterans” comes after decades of waiting. When the bill was signed in June 2019, advocates worried that the clock was ticking on Vietnam Vets who suffered from one of 14 ailments associated with defoliant Agent Orange. VA Deputy Under Secretary Willie Clark says the VA needed that extra time. "Six months sounds like a long time, and it is, if you're waiting but we needed that time to train our employees on these laws and the eligibility but we were ready to go." Beginning this year, Vietnam Vets who served on board ships as far as 12 nautical miles from shore now qualify for benefits - so do their survivors. -- The same benefits already extended to those who served on the ground or in the coastal waters from 1962 to 1975. The VA also wants people who were turned down in the past to reapply. Steve Walsh KPBS News. ######## More than a million acres have burned across California this summer. The fires can be devastating to people. But as CapRadio's Ezra David Romero explains the burns could have long-term ecological benefits. Rachel Lazzeri-Aerts has been barraged with questions about whether or not six coastal redwood groves will survive fire season. She's a climate scientist with San Jose state who specializes in the trees. "Yes, there's going to be some of the trees that aren't going to survive, but the rest of them they're going to regrow. They're incredibly resilient." Lazerri-Aerts says when a wildfire burned a redwood grove in 2008, a majority survived and grew new shoots. Wildfires present a complex mix of challenges and opportunities… While climate change is creating more megafires, each one offers a chance to manage land better so that there are fewer fires in the future. At least that's how Susie Kocher sees it. She's a UC system forest advisor in Tahoe. "There'll be some areas where the fire did a lot of good." By good she means excess brush is gone and trees can grow back spaced out or be planted to offset the carbon that was emitted during a wildfire. "It's a chance to reset our management. Once the fuels are gone how do we maintain that over time." Kocher says the fires in the redwoods could have opened up growing space for more trees in the future, but she says it's too early to tell. Ezra David Romero, CapRadio News. San Diego State University has been forced to backtrack its plans to reopen some in-person classes this semester. That was after nearly 300 students tested positive for COVID-19. SDSU has issued a stay at home order. Meanwhile questions are being raised about UC San Diego’s plan to bring students back in the fall. Gary Robbins is a reporter at the San Diego Union Tribune. He spoke with KPBS Midday Edition Host Alison St John to discuss the situation. Here’s that interview. So fill us in first of all, on what SDS use approach is now following the revelations earlier this week, that hundreds of students had tested positive Speaker 2: 00:35 On Saturday, San Diego state decided to essentially lock down students in their dorms. They have about 2,600 students in dorms and all of them were told to stay at home, stay in the dorms. Um, they could only leave for central things like food and medical supplies. And perhaps even to exercise the idea there was that they're trying to, um, control an outbreak. Um, within a week's time, they went from having 64 infections infections among students to 286. Now on Monday night, they extended the lockdown until September. I believe it's 14. So it was about, they extended it for a full week. So those students will be, you know, not be able to go very far for the next week. They've also asked students who are living in housing near campus to do the same thing. I'm not sure how they're going to enforce that, but, um, San Diego state's, um, on campus students are essentially in lockdown right now. Speaker 1: 01:29 Do you have a sense of, of how many of those students are actually staying on campus and how many maybe go? Speaker 2: 01:34 I don't know. I talked to one student last night. Um, Caitlin Robinson, what she said was if I'm moving back into the dorm last night, was that she thought what the university was doing with sensible, because they're trying to get the number of new daily cases down. And by limited limiting the amount of places that students can mingle, uh, that, that might get at it. The university has had a really bad problem. Um, you know, during the weekend, when they were moving in just before classes started and during the following weekend, I spent a lot of time on Kanjet campus at night, watching students. And I saw hundreds of them just not social distancing in any way or wearing mouse. They would be standing in big groups outside Trujillo's where many of them eat, uh, or in front of dorms or over by senior PA ponchos or Padres, you know, the typical places and on the science streets like Rockford and Mary Lane, um, big parties, no mass, no social distancing. Speaker 1: 02:31 Well bearing in mind that it looks like none of the COVID cases have been traced back to academic schedules. Do you think that this is more the fault of students not social distancing and wearing masks, or is it the fault of the university for bringing students back too soon? Speaker 2: 02:47 I think it has to do with a lot of different things. Um, let's talk about students for a minute. Um, you know, across the United States, 51,000 students have tested positive at more than a thousand campuses. So we have to ask ourselves why. I mean, they've been told what to do to remain safe, but yet many of them are not doing it. So I've been talking to scientists and psychologists about that, and they say, one thing to keep in mind is that you're dealing with 18 to 22 year olds. And in those people, many of those students just have not fully developed emotionally in their brains, particularly in the amygdala and the part of the brain that has to do with reasoning and consequence. So in many people, the brain doesn't fully develop until a person is 25 years old. You also have the exasperations factor, these students, so generally didn't have high school graduations. Speaker 2: 03:35 They didn't get to have problems. Many of them weren't even able to get jobs over the summer. So by the time they got to college in the fall, they were really exasperated and wanted to blow off some steam. So I think that you're seeing some of that as well. And I think some of it is mixed messaging. We've talked to college presidents locally and they say, you know, kids look at the news and they see that some people are refusing to wear a mask and others are doing it in a diligent way. And it's a mixed message. So some students just adopt the idea of not wearing them. So you have all of these factors and then you have the university's trying to cope with it. San Diego state university and UC San Diego have worked incredibly hard to be ready for this. Um, the educational materials that they've produced a really clear and thoughtful, um, San Diego state Brock brought their students back in the dorms, you know, by phasing them in and by having them sign documents, acknowledging that these students will, you know, a Bay, the roles, um, they've had a lot of medical people on hand to deal with it. Speaker 2: 04:38 And UC San Diego is just about to do the same thing. So the campuses have been, I'm trying, but it just may be that you're dealing with human nature here. That's very difficult to control. And a virus has that is very easily spread. Speaker 1: 04:53 Well, we've been talking mostly about SDSU so far, but moving to UCS D a an open letter signed by 600 faculty staff and students is calling on the university. It's calling the university's plans to reopen quote negligent and arrogant. First of all, what were the university's plans for reopening? Speaker 2: 05:12 They have a plan called return to learn, and it has a lot of components. One of them is bringing back about 75 undergraduates and putting them in very highly socially distanced dormitories and testing them a great deal. So for example, if I was a student and I was showing up in a couple of days, you know, as soon as I walked on campus, they would test me on the spot before even letting me into the dormitory. Uh, the results would be delivered within 24 hours and in many cases as little as 12 hours. So if they found someone who had tested positive, they would put them in isolation, in other buildings on campus right away, or have them go into some place off campus where they could isolate say with family, they would repeat that test are in 12 to 16 days. The idea is that if I show up campus today, I may not be showing any Sam symptoms and I might have say, become infected or a day or two earlier. Speaker 2: 06:04 And the incubation period lasts up to 14 days. So they want to make sure they're catching everybody just because you don't test positive when you move in, doesn't mean you're not going to test positive within a couple of weeks. Then the idea is that throughout the semester, you would test students every two weeks and that students would, um, uh, test themselves in a sense by reviewing themselves for daily symptoms, if they were going to be on campus at all. And the same goes with anybody that comes to campus, who is, um, faculty or staff. So it's pretty comprehensive. Speaker 1: 06:35 How are university officials responding to the open letter? Speaker 2: 06:39 They gave us a statement and we're just, they reiterated that. They thought that their, um, um, program was actually very strong. And I talked to one of the doctors that is most responsible for responsible for this plan at, um, UC San Diego, dr. Angela Sotia. She believes that they could control an outbreak because they would test them so fast. And so thorough, uh, thoroughly. Now the people who signed the letter don't agree on that. Speaker 1: 07:02 So finally, what is a student who is scheduled to start a new academic year supposed to do right now, Speaker 2: 07:11 Sarah expected to roll a dice. Um, if they're going to be living on campus, I have to know, um, that there is a possibility that they'll get a stay at home order or that they'll be sent home. Now, there is also possibility that everything will go fine and that the university will control outbreaks. And it will be a fairly normal experience. As far as living in the dormitories. What will be different is the fact that only about 12% of students will have in person classes. Most of the classes will be taught online. The reason that they're bringing so many kids to campus is that a lot of their students aren't from Southern California, they're from other parts of the state and the United States. And particularly overseas, they need a place to live. A lot of these students are going to be sitting in dorms and looking out windows at classroom buildings that are essentially empty most of the time, because most things are going to be on line. So it's going to be a very weird experience. However you cut it. That was Gary Robbins, a reporter at the San Diego Union Tribune. Speaking with KPBS Midday Edition Host Alison St John. Coming up on San Diego News Matters, a new Digital WOW production from La Jolla Playhouse invites you on a magical journey. And I wanted this to feel like an invitation for you to use that wonderful tool that you have in your brain of imagining something beyond your reach. Artist David Reynoso reveals some but not all of the mysteries of his online experience Portaleza. That’s up next, after this. La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls or WOW festival was forced online by COVID-19. But as a site specific event the restrictions of quarantine have simply become a creative challenge. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says the latest Digital WOW work to debut is Portaleza and displays an innovative approach to creating a virtual experience. PORTALEZA (ba) 4:00 In a time of instant gratification, Portaleza asks you to slow down to enjoy a delicious sense of anticipation. DAVID REYNOSO: So you as an audience member purchased a ticket and then you wait for something to arrive in the mail. Multimedia artist David Reynoso. DAVID REYNOSO: When this parcel arrives in the mail, you open it and it launches you into an experience. An experience that elicits wonder as it addresses the need for connection during a time of social distancing. Portaleza begins with instructions on how to build a Hypnocular Device that will be a portal to your cell phone screen. DAVID REYNOSO: This idea of truly kind of losing the periphery of a screen, of being able to then think of what it is you are seeing on screen and have that kind of expand and explode beyond your sense of peripheral vision. Reynoso explodes expectations by reimaging what an online experience can actually entail. I was so enthralled with the inventiveness of his work that I’m not sure how much to explain and what to leave a mystery. It’s like you have been given an ancient artifact that has never been seen or used before. DAVID REYNOSO: I think it gives you permission for it to feel completely outside your realm of experience. Yes, I'm seeing a screen that I see every day, but suddenly it's being presented to me in a way that I had never experienced before. And that imagination of that invitation to enter that dimension, that portal through the screen in a new way is exciting. It is like a view finder that turns your flat cell phone screen into a mind-blowing kaleidoscope. DAVID REYNOSO: I remember as a kid making my own kaleidoscope and then you put objects that are very boring. You know, you might put sort of like a bead… and these things that feel very kind of not very special on their own. Suddenly within a kaleidoscope as they're moving around, they're being multiplied, makes them immensely more magical. Then combine those trippy, magical visuals with a seductive soundscape. DAVID REYNOSO: So it is a myriad of sounds that I have found and cut and spliced. And I'd say it’s a kind of a sonic collage, I think sound is so powerful in what it's able to do to us emotionally. So pairing that with the visuals and the experience of then having to getting to touch that I wanted this to be a very multisensory experience for as much as I was able to provide that… [00:14:09.270].. And I think certainly within a sort of physical space of creating something. I like the idea of going through a labyrinth in order to kind of get lost. Lost in a realm that feels both retro and futuristic, low and hi tech, familiar yet strange. DAVID REYNOSO: I remember assembling things out of cereal boxes and imagining that when you make this all of a sudden ta-da, you now have a sort of like magical binoculars. I thought that there was something about that fun in that low-tech magic that invited the audience members to then think about also playing along within this. Portaleza, the latest of La Jolla Playhouse’s Digital WOW productions, engages you with its humble yet inspired artistry and its rapturous innovation. DAVID REYNOSO: I think we love imagination. I think this is a time in which we need imagination in order to keep us moving forward. And I wanted this to feel like an invitation for you to use that wonderful tool that you have in your brain of imagining something beyond your reach. Portaleza asks you to narrow your field of vision in order to expand your horizons. Beth Accomando, KPBS News. That was KPBS Arts Reporter, Beth Accomando. Portaleza opened yesterday and runs through Oct. 4. More information is available at lajollaplayhouse-dot-org. That’s it for our podcast today, thanks for listening!

Firefighters battled for a fourth day Tuesday to subdue a Santa Ana-driven wildfire that’s blackened thousands of acres in rural eastern San Diego County. The Valley Fire is now 11% contained, but over the Labor Day weekend, it leveled about a dozen homes and forced widespread evacuations. Also, San Diego leaders unveiled Listos California, a plan to keep the most at-risk communities up-to-date with critical emergency information. Plus, State data released Tuesday shows San Diego County is regressing in its fight against COVID-19, with the number of new cases per 100,000 people reaching 6.9 and the percentage of positive tests at 4.2%, perilously close to slipping into the tier defined as “widespread” infection, like much of the rest of the state. There have been community outbreaks at businesses and a bar, and cases have spiked among university students.