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San Diego Nightlife Hotspots Are Also Outbreak Hotspots

 September 15, 2020 at 4:32 AM PDT

Millions of dollars in relief could soon be on the way to local businesses impacted by COVID-19. County supervisors will vote today... on how to allocate federal cares act dollars. The county has 20 million dollars to give out as part of the small business stimulus program. The money will be divided up between the supervisor districts. Supervisor Nathan Fletcher is proposing grants for around 500 businesses right now averaging around 5,000 dollars each. "Being a small business is hard, absent a global pandemic and what we're going through, with the public health orders and restrictions, it's even harder." Businesses and nonprofits can use the money for things like rent, payroll, and buying personal protective equipment. Countywide at least 44-hundred applications were received for the grants...requesting more than 650 million dollars in aid, far more than what the county can provide. The Mexican Consulate in Little Italy started free COVID-19 testing on monday. The new testing site is just one of several that are targeting Latino communities. Ryan Clabo is the team leader for San Diego County’s T-3 Testing team... who are running these sites. He says they are safe spaces for people of all backgrounds. "It's important to get tested. These are free tests, confidential. We don't ask citizenship questions, we don't ask national origin questions. This is for everybody in the community to come get free testing." Walk-up appointments are available there every Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The new testing sites will have a different location for each day of the week, spread out across the county. Two other sites will be at San Luis Rey Mission in Oceanside and St. Anthony of Padua Church in National City. And again, the covid-19 tests are free. Firefighters are getting closer to full containment of the Valley fire, south of alpine. Cal fire says as of late last night….the fire is 87-percent contained. It has burned more than 17-thousand acres since it was sparked in the first week of September. 30 homes and 31 structures werehave been destroyed, and 11 others damaged. The county is sending out damage assessment teams. They're also encouraging those who have lost their homes or other property to call 858-715-2200. If you'd like to help, the san diego foundation created a disaster-relief fund, you can find it at sd county recovery-dot-com. It’s Tuesday, September 15th. You’re listening to San Diego News Matters from KPBS News...a daily morning news podcast powered by everyone in the KPBS Newsroom. I’m Anica Colbert. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day. On Monday, Mayor Kevin Faulconer endorsed a measure on the ballot that will allow taller buildings in the Midway District. KPBS Metro Reporter Andrew Bowen has this overview of San Diego’s Measure E. AB: New buildings in the Midway District are restricted by San Diego's 30-foot height limit, approved by voters in 1972. But the neighborhood's volunteer planning group argues Midway has no coastal views to protect, and that the height limit has deterred investment there. Mayor Faulconer says allowing taller buildings in Midway would revitalize the neighborhood and allow for more parkland. KF: Measure E preserves the height limit in all of San Diego's beach communities, and it gives us a chance to finally turn the landlocked Midway District around. AB: Measure E on the November ballot has been endorsed by both the Democratic and Republican parties of San Diego County. Opponents have argued the measure is a slippery slope that could lead to raising the height limit in other neighborhoods. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. Wildfires continue to ravage large parts of the Western U-S. On monday, President Donald Trump stopped in Sacramento for a briefing on California’s fires. CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon reports. After stepping off Air Force One, Trump repeated his belief that if California cleaned up dead trees and leaves in its forests, the massive wildfires wouldn’t be an issue. TRUMP: When I first started talking about it three years ago, nobody agreed with me. Now everybody agrees that forest management’s a very important subject. And you can do it beautifully. Inside the briefing, Gov. Gavin Newsom told Trump he agrees… kind of. NEWSOM: I think there’s an area of at least commonality on vegetation, forest management. But please respect — and I know you do — the difference of opinion out here as it relates to this fundamental issue on the issue of climate change. TRUMP: Absolutely. Newsom also pointed out that as the owner of 57 percent of California’s forestland, the federal government is responsible for its management. He says the state only owns three percent of its forests, and the rest is privately owned.Experts say while land management is a contributing issue, it’s not the only reason wildfires keep getting bigger and hotter.So far, western fires have burned around 5 million acres, killed at least 35 people, and continue to fill much of California’s air with thick, hazardous smoke. SOC Election season is getting underway here, and California’s ballot is chock full of propositions. One measure would exempt gig companies from a law that makes it harder to classify workers as contractors. CapRadio’s Scott Rodd reports. Akamine Kiarie started driving for Lyft in Sacramento because the flexibility allows him to balance college classes with earning a living. “I was able to prioritize my education, put it first. I could build my work around my school work.” That’s why he supports Proposition 22. The measure would allow gig companies to classify their workers as contractors...as opposed to employees...which would help preserve that flexibility. In exchange the ballot measure would require gig companies to provide certain benefits to drivers. They would be guaranteed a minimum wage and healthcare subsidies, if they clock enough hours on the road. The companies would also cover vehicle insurance and provide safety training. Steve Smith is with the California Labor Federation and the No On Prop 22 Campaign. He says the new benefits are not enough, and that drivers would still be exploited by the multi-billion dollar companies. “We’ve got about 800,000 workers in the gig economy that would be affected by Prop 22. They should get workers comp if they’re injured. They should in fact get unemployment insurance if they’re laid off.” Uber and Lyft have previously threatened to leave California if they are forced to classify their drivers as employees....as required under the law AB5, which passed last year. So far a handful of gig companies have spent over $180 million in support of the measure. SOC Looking to adopt a pet? San Diego has just received close to 100 dogs and cats evacuated after Hurricane Laura in Louisiana. They’ll soon be available at local animal shelters. KPBS reporter Tania Thorne tells us about their arrival. With open arms, volunteers, veterinarians, and staff anxiously waited for the arrival of close to 100 dogs and cats from Louisiana this morning at Gillespie Field in El Cajon. The Wings of Rescue mission teamed up with three local shelters to get the animals processed and examined. Gary Weitzamn with the San Diego Humane Society says the arrival of the pets couldn't have come at a better time. "We can hardly keep up with the demand for animals right now which is an amazing problem to have." The animals from Louisiana were already up for adoption in shelters. But they were relocated to make room for all of the pets directly displaced by Hurricane Laura. Some pets will be up for adoption in the next couple of days. For more information, check the San Diego Humane Society website. That was KPBS’ Tania Thorne. A new documentary called “All In: The Fight For Democracy” looks at the history of voter suppression in the U.S. and the current fight against it. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews the film, which starts streaming on Amazon Prime this Friday. "All In: The Fight for Democracy" uses Stacey’s Abrams’ bid to become Georgia’s governor as the personal lens through which to start an examination of voter suppression. It takes us through history to celebrate gains but also alerts us to how those in power continually try to put up barriers that threaten our basic rights as citizens. Reporter Ari Berman notes: ARI BERMAN: The greatest moments of progress are followed by the most intense periods of retrenchment, that's what happened after the Civil War, reconstruction was a high point for voting rights, and it was followed by nearly 100 years of Jim Crow. "All In" vigorously and passionately presents its case. It connects the dots through history, shines a light on how voter suppression can impact elections, and urges activism. Beth Accomando, KPBS News. Coming Up on San Diego News Matters…. ightlife hot spots are also outbreak hot spots. Now, business associations in the Gaslamp and Pacific Beach are working to avoid repeating past mistakes. KPBS has newly obtained data that tells us about the ZIP codes experiencing the most outbreaks. That’s up next, after this. New records obtained by KPBS show community outbreaks of coronavirus were concentrated in areas known for their nightlife. The new data also shows outbreaks by ZIP code. KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento has our story. A night out in San Diego's historic Gaslamp District has taken on a different look during COVID. A blocked off street is a makeshift promenade. Dining rooms sit in front of parking meters. Neighborhoods across the county are taking similar steps to protect the public and keep businesses running during the pandemic. But community outbreak data show more is at stake in this area. A KPBS analysis found the ZIP code that includes Gaslamp, Little Italy and the East Village accounts for the highest number of outbreaks than any other in the county. An outbreak is defined as three or more cases that can be traced back to one location. "It would make sense with all the employees that are working down here and all the different establishments that our number would be higher than say Del Mar or La Jolla or other places" Michael Trimble runs the neighborhood business district Gaslamp Quarter Association. He's not surprised by KPBS's findings. But he points to banners above him that show businesses owners personally pledging to help keep customers safe. "They're going to have to be in an environment where they can actually be comfortable and know they're not going to come down with COVID." The pledge came after a Union-Tribune reporter's photos in May showed a sea of uncovered faces in the Gaslamp. "It really lit a fire under my office and my association and really taught the merchants that people are watching what we're doing." Data through late July shows 14 outbreaks have occurred in 92101. But Trimble says he didn't know of any tied specifically to the Gaslamp. "If it happened here, I would know about it, and at this point I don't know of anyone who had an outbreak in the Gaslamp." The Little Italy Association said two of its restaurants closed because of staff illnesses. The East Village business group didn't respond to messages. Overall, more than a third of the county's outbreaks happened at businesses in just four zip codes. That includes 92109 in Pacific Beach. (NAT SOUND/BROLL FROM PB) "People are coming in to the beach and with that they're bringing symptoms and coronavirus, and so it's not surprising it's happening here." Sara Berns is the executive director of Discover Pacific Beach. She helps businesses understand and follow public health regulations to keep customers safe. "Businesses care about preventing outbreaks, I mean, their staff is probably the one most at risk, and they're trying to stay open to feed their families and so that their staff can feed their families." But eleven outbreaks have happened in the ZIP code, which also covers Mission Beach. One PB restaurant El Prez was ordered to close when video showed unmasked customers packed inside. Berns says she doesn't know if El Perez was linked to an outbreak, but welcomes the county's action. "That's what we want to see us as a community; that those that are not following the rules or need assistance with the rules are getting that." She says businesses that have had outbreaks have shut down to sterilize the facility and get workers tested but none agreed to speak with KPBS. "A lot of this is coming from staff outbreaks, not necessarily customer outbreaks, and they're taking care of what they need to take care of to reopen safely. I don't think any business wants to necessarily be associated with an outbreak. The two other zip codes were located in the South Bay and more than half of the outbreaks there happened in manufacturing and food processing facilities. County officials won't release the exact outbreak locations because they fear it will cause businesses to shy away from reporting them. But KPBS and Voice of San Diego are challenging that in court because we feel the public has a right to know. (BRING IN NAT SOUND/SCENES) In the Gaslamp, business association head Trimble hired events coordinator Laurel McFarlane to help businesses follow public health rules. McFarlane says businesses should be notifying customers if they have an outbreak, but nothing more. "I do feel there's a responsibility to let your customers know, but I don't know if there's a responsibility to let everyone know because it's really about keeping the people who came safe and knowledgeable," But she says she'd follow whatever rules county officials put out. "If that's something they feel is we need to do more and do it publicly, then we'll follow those rules too. Everyone's just trying to follow the rules right now. The county health department did not respond to requests for an interview. That was KPBS Health Reporter, Tarryn Mento. To see a full map of outbreaks by ZIP code, go to KPBS dot org. That’s it for the podcast today, thanks for listening.

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A KPBS analysis of COVID-19 community outbreaks shows ZIP codes that include the Gaslamp Quarter and Pacific Beach have had the highest number of community outbreaks. Also, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is voting today on how to allocate millions of dollars for businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 restrictions. Plus, San Diego animal shelters have just received about 100 dogs and cats evacuated after August’s Hurricane Laura in Louisiana.