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Region Projected To Lose $12.4 Billion

 October 16, 2020 at 5:25 AM PDT

The San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, released a report on Thursday that shows San Diego taking a huge hit to its economy because of the pandemic. The report says the region has lost 12-billion dollars from mid-March to mid-September. The brunt of the losses were in three industries… tourism, retail and education. Those industries also account for 80-percent of jobs lost. SANDAG Chief Economist Ray Major says low income workers have been hit hardest. On the other hand, Major says some sectors have recovered. "In the industries that are primarily white collar, when you take a look at things like the innovation sector, you look at finance, insurance and real estate, pretty much those jobs have come back and people are working remotely." Major says we'd be in even worse shape if it weren't for the money from the first stimulus bill. He says a second stimulus package is critical to keep San Diego from falling into a financial abyss. El Cajon police have referred an investigation into sexual assault accusations by a caregiver to the San Diego County District Attorney's office for possible prosecution. It follows an investigative report by KPBS last week on the Avocado Post Acute nursing home. The police are handing over the case more than a year after the alleged assaults took place. A police lieutenant told KPBS, that the delay was due to its own efforts to investigate the case as much as possible before turning it over to another jurisdiction. San Diego's refugee community has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our partners at inewsource say a survey released (THURSDAY) shows 42 percent have at least one family member who has lost a job or was laid off. Meshate Mengistu is with United Women of East Africa and says many families can't meet basic needs. Not being able to, uh, eat, feed their children, just the, you know, those things that are just as a parent, you can't even fathom or want to imagine. Families with children are also struggling with online learning and face language challenges. The survey was carried out by the San Diego Refugee Communities Coalition. For more on its findings, go to inewsource dot org. It’s Friday, October 16th. Halloween is two weeks and a day away. This is San Diego News Matters from KPBS News. I’m Anica Colbert. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day. More than 2 thousand students went back to in-person classes at San Diego State University on Monday...just as administrators were investigating reports of house parties from over the weekend. KPBS's Sarah Katsiyiannis has this report on one party video that went viral. More than a hundred students stand face to face at a daytime party in the College Area on Oct. 10th - with masks nowhere to be seen. That's what you see in the video posted on Twitter. The original video was posted by an Instagram user that had the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi listed in their bio, according to San Diego CBS8. San Diego State University responded saying the situation has been formally reported. They would not comment further on the party. But they repeated their policy that all members of the campus community must follow public health guidelines and public health orders. The university has had over a thousand confirmed COVID-19 cases since the fall semester started. This party took place only two days before SDSU brought back over 150 in-person classes. The university also recently implemented mandatory testing for all students living on-campus, as well as biweekly testing for students taking in-person classes. San Diego's tribal casinos began reopening in May with new COVID-19 measures. But inewsource reporter Camille von Kaenel says it's unclear if the gamble paid off. AMBI: Sycuan casino noise: machines jingling, talking, soft music. VON KAENEL: Visit a local casino and you'll find temperature checks and anti-crowding signs. But you won't know how well the policies are working. County officials aren't tallying COVID-19 outbreaks on tribal lands and casinos aren't disclosing details either. But they do say safety is a priority. They've tightened mask and smoking rules, among other measures. Here's Sycuan's safety manager Eddie Ilko. ILKO: We know how COVID spreads and we want to minimize that risk here at the casino, as much as we can. The county has tracked over three-hundred residents who went to a casino shortly before testing positive, but isn't making definitive links. For KPBS, I'm inewsource reporter Camille von Kaenel. Inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS. The race for City Council in District 9 was thrown into turmoil last month. Leading candidate Kelvin Barrios suspended his campaign amidst allegations of misusing campaign funds. KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler gives us a look at the only candidate still campaigning. For San Diego Community College board member and non-profit executive director Sean Elo-Rivera, this election is all about opportunity. I am someone who can't walk down the street or meet someone and not want them to achieve what I see in them, or what they see in themselves more importantly. And that's not limited to the opportunity he's been given, after his opponent, who had far more money and institutional support than he did, and handily led the March primary, was sidelined by scandal. The Democrat says he wants to make sure that city resources are spent on keeping tenants in their homes. District 9, which includes much of the Mid-City area, has seen rising levels of rent, displacing long-standing communities in the district. Elo-Rivera says he'll also stay focused on the young people in the district that he's been working with, who he says have been left out of the city's plan for any sort of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. I would really like the city to invest in jobs programs for young people, whether that means a conservation corps, an environmental corps that's keeping our neighborhoods clean, good chances for young people to build their resume, gain experience, and at the same time, give back to their community. Elo-Rivera's opponent, Kelvin Barrios, is still on the ballot, and if he wins despite suspending his campaign, says he still intends to take office. Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News Measure A on San Diego's ballot would raise 900 million dollars for affordable housing. Supporters say it's the city's best shot at making a serious dent in the homelessness and housing affordability crisis. Critics say its increase to property taxes comes at the worst possible time. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has this explainer. AB: At the corner of Twain and Fairmount Avenues in Grantville sit 79 apartments housing the formerly homeless. The complex, called Stella, opened in December of last year. Residents pay deeply subsidized rents, and have onsite services to help them live healthier lives. Stephen Russell, president and CEO of the San Diego Housing Federation, says San Diego needs more of this. A lot more. SR: We have been absolutely heartbroken over the fate of the folks who are living on the streets of San Diego. We've seen what a terrible cost it is to them, to their health, to our common health, to the quality of neighborhoods. We believe we have an opportunity now to resolve that. AB: Russell says the 900 million dollars in bonds that Measure A would raise could fund construction of 7,500 affordable homes for the chronically homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. SR: We want to create a safety net for seniors, veterans, people living with disabilities and youth who are transitioning out of foster care so they would not be at risk of homelessness. They're disproportionately homeless in terms of the population as a whole. AB: Russell adds that the local money could be matched 3 to 4 times over with state and federal subsidies, which could work as a local stimulus program as the region recovers from the pandemic. SR: We believe that as property tax that's spread so thin over so many people, that it's relatively modest, and that it really provides an opportunity for us to create a safety net that is so clearly lacking, as we saw during this pandemic. AB: Measure A would be paid back with an increase to property taxes, starting next year. And how much you pay depends on the assessed value of your home. For every 100,000, you'd pay about $3 extra in the first year. So say the county assesses your home's value at 600,000 dollars. In year one, you'd pay about an extra $1.50 per month. That would gradually increase to about $10.50 per month by the end of the decade. If you're a renter, some of those costs may be passed on to you. SS: You keep giving the bureaucracy more money to spend, they're never going to have any incentive to implement those reforms and regulations. AB: City Councilmember Scott Sherman is voting "no" on Measure A. He points out that with interest, the measure would cost 2.1 billion dollars over 46 years. He says building affordable housing is too expensive, and that the government should focus on lowering the cost of construction before raising taxes. SS: Politicians told you, "Oh, it's just a small little bit of tax, it won't amount to much, it's not that much out of your budget. Well if you keep doing that time and time again, it finally adds up to where now it's almost half the cost of building housing in this city. AB: Sherman is referring to a 2015 study from Point Loma Nazarene University that found regulations account for up to 47% of the cost of housing in San Diego. With subsidized affordable housing, Sherman says the state should end the requirement to pay construction workers higher wages, called "prevailing wage." SS: Which, by everybody's account, ups the cost of those units by 20 to 25%. I'd much rather get that done without prevailing wage, save that 20% and build more units with that money. AB: Measure A has been endorsed by the county Democratic party, affordable housing builders and organizations that serve the homeless. It also won support from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the Associated General Contractors San Diego and the Building Industry Association of San Diego County. It's opposed by the county Republican party, the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board, three city councilmembers and conservative radio host Carl DeMaio. Measure A needs a two-thirds majority from city voters to pass. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. That was KPBS’ Andrew Bowen. And remember, you can find the KPBS voter guide online now. It has links to this story and everything else you’ll need for getting that ballot completed this election season. You can find it at KPBS dot org slash election. Coming up….The challenge of tracking hospital capacity during the pandemic. "If a hospital has 300 licensed beds, that doesn't mean that at any given point they're staffed for 300 beds." Why not everyone agrees on how to count beds. That’s next after this break. San Diego County businesses have been stuck in the red tier of reopening because of the region's consistently high rate of new coronavirus cases. But local health officials are pushing the state to consider other data points, like hospital capacity, to help loosen restrictions. In our ongoing series about the county's COVID data, KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento learns capacity differs depending on who's counting. The sound of the ICU at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center carries all the way to the elevator. "Our ICU looks very different than what it used to." Danisha Jenkins heads the unit. They recently added noisy but crucial negative pressure systems to every patient room. "Prior to covid, we only had three negative pressure rooms in our intensive care units. The suction system keeps contagions from seeping into the hallway. "now we've converted every single room up here to negative pressure, which is twenty eight beds" The sound earned it a nickname — "the spaceship." It now allows the hospital to safely host COVID patients in any of its ICU beds. San Diego County closely tracks that resource to reveal any extra stress from the pandemic. Governor Gavin Newsom relies on a data-driven process that controls limitations statewide… but a county system uses 13 metrics to drive local decisions that could further restrict activities in San Diego. A KPBS review of the county's process revealed local government and health care leaders don't always agree on how to count crucial resources, like ICU beds. "Pretty much with every patient interaction, there's some clinician putting something in the computer." Back in Jenkins' office, her computer screen shows a system that logs the status of every bed. "They're blocked for one reason or another. They're dirty. Tells us if it has a patient going into it or out of it." But early in the pandemic, capacity got so tight they transferred patients to other Sharp the nursing community, especially during these times, is strong and powerful The county wants at least 20% of the region's ICU beds to be open or it may consider new restrictions to limit community spread of the virus. The county tallies empty, clean beds as available and that capacity hasn't dipped below 27%. But Jenkins says there's another, more realistic way to count beds. "And this is the number of staffed ICU beds that we have available." Sharp's spaceship may have 40 unoccupied beds. But Jenkins says they may only have enough nurses for 30. That means what the county considers available may not always be ready to take patients right away. “If a hospital has 300 licensed beds, that doesn't mean that at any given point they're staffed for 300 beds." Dimitrios Alexiou heads the region's hospital association. He says hospitals would have to add shifts and temporary workers to close the gap between open and staffed beds. But it is a familiar strategy. "If we got to the point where we didn't have beds available, we would continue to work to find staff. It's what always happens." The county wouldn't agree to an interview but a spokeswoman says health officials don't focus on staffed beds because it will "always look like the hospitals are almost out." She says the number "doesn't accurately account for their ability to rapidly increase capacity and staff." At Sharp Chula Vista… the surge has subsided for now. But flu season is nearing and reminders of the influx that could come again are all around. Pictures from children calling them heroes hang at the nurses station. Brown grocery bags of staff protective gear fills their former conference room. everyone's equipment that keeps them safe. It's kind of crazy looking in there The county's metrics also track safety gear to make sure hospitals aren't running out.. yet some hospitals don't think they tally enough items. But for Sharp Chula Vista, the biggest mark from COVID is the ache left from losing one of their own. Jenkins and lead ICU nurse Elosia Salinas embraced as they remembered Sharp's longtime facilities manager. I had known this person for a long time, and I know the family for a long time, and now it was the end of life for this person and it was heart breaking. 51-year-old Raul Romo... a new grandfather … who painted his beard pink for breast cancer awareness and played Santa at Christmas... died at the hospital in May after contracting COVID. "The numbers are people. And some of them were our people." Romo helped build the spaceship. Tarryn Mento. KPBS News. That was KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento. San Diego County officials are drafting a letter to the governor asking him to consider hospital capacity in the reopening process. Jack London’s 1909 semi-autobiographical novel Martin Eden inspires a new Italian film that starts streaming today. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando has this review. Jack London always struck me as a quintessentially American writer so I went into this Italian adaptation of Martin Eden curious about how the material would translate to both another country and a more contemporary time period. But Pietro Marcello has done an impressive job capturing the heart and soul of the book. The title character is a young sailor who hungers for knowledge and betterment. He eventually decides to become a writer providing what he calls “one of the eyes through which the world sees.” Martin Eden is a film full of passion and politics, romance and tragedy, intimacy and epic sweep. I think knowing more about Italy’s political landscape would help peel back some of the film’s layers but even without that Martin Eden proves compelling and poignant. That was KPBS’ Beth Accomando, film critic, arts reporter, and the host of Cinema Junkie. Before we end the podcast, KPBS wants to know what you’ll be doing for your first, and hopefully only, pandemic Halloween? Call (619) 452-0228‬ and leave a voice memo with your name, your neighborhood, and then whatever your plans might be. I am carving a pumpkin. I wanna make it look like a pumpkin house pumpkin. And then put a mini-pumpkin inside of it. Again the number is (619) 452-0228‬ or you can tweet us @ KPBS news on twitter. We’re looking for your pandemic Halloween plans or ideas. That’s it for the podcast today, thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may cost the region's economy more than $12.4 billion in 2020, according to a report released Thursday. We’ll review the San Diego City Council race for District Nine, and also Ballot Measure A regarding Housing Bonds. Plus, part three of KPBS’ Trigger Tracker series goes over the challenge of tracking hospital capacity during the pandemic.