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In-Person Voting Starts Tomorrow

 October 30, 2020 at 4:43 AM PDT

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla says ... don't think of next Tuesday as Election Day ... "Think of Tuesday, November 3rd as the last day to vote. With so many options to voting early, by mail or in person, we're really encouraging people to vote early, if they can, and avoid those lines." Padilla says if you haven't registered to vote, you can still do it at any in-person voting location. Meanwhile, early voting returns are way up ... "Nearly 9 million ballots already cast between vote by mail ballots that have been returned and some of the in person voting locations throughout the state. So all signs point to a big, big turnout this year." He says it'll likely take longer to cast your ballot in person because all the equipment needs to be sanitized before and after every voter uses it. A rise in white supremist incidents nationwide has election officials on edge. The FBI has listed white supremacy as the number one domestic terror threat. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla says the state plans for disruption at the polls before every election. "I think what is unique about 2020 is the political environment that we find ourselves in right now. It seems a little more tense right now." There is a concern that groups responding to the president's call to watch the polls may result in voter intimidation. Padilla says watchers can observe but cannot interfere with the process. So far, the elections statewide have been free of overt acts of interference. It’s Friday, October 30th and you’re listening to 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. The number of polling places in the county has dropped from about sixteen hundred to just two-hundred and thirty-five. inewsource investigative reporter Jill Castellano explains how that drastic change could impact voters. CASTELLANO: We compared this year's polling locations to the ones chosen in 2018 … and we found some neighborhoods may be facing more challenges than others. CASTELLANO: ZIP codes that include City Heights and Old Town lost all but one of their polling locations. But other ZIP codes with smaller populations — like in Point Loma and parts of Rancho Bernardo — are keeping more of their polling centers. CASTELLANO: Mindy Romero runs the Center for Inclusive Democracy at U-S-C. She says that means voters in some neighborhoods are going to have a harder time, because they're no longer within walking distance of a polling place. ROMERO: "For some communities, it means that it's actually going to be a greater chore and maybe more of a struggle to figure out how to get there on election day." (9 seconds) CASTELLANO: County registrar Michael Vu says his office considered a LOT of factors when picking polling locations, including transportation access. VU: "I think, frankly, our decision making has been thus far pretty darn solid in terms of how we have managed the election." (8 seconds) CASTELLANO: Polling locations open Saturday and will stay open through Tuesday. For KPBS, I'm inewsource investigative reporter Jill Castellano. This story was co-reported with Mary Plummer. inewsource is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS. Jose Alfredo Castro Gutierrez ran out of his apartment in mental distress, carrying a shower rod. That's when a San Diego police officer shot and killed him. KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler tells us that newly-released footage of the encounter again raises questions over police response to people with mental health issues. The San Diego Police Department waited more than a week to release the body camera footage of the shooting in San Diego's Mt. View neighborhood. The footage shows Castro Guitierrez running out of his rented apartment with the shower rod and towards officers. Castro Guitierrez, a Mexican citizen and legal permanent resident, can be heard yelling "ayudame!" or "help me!," in his final moments. One officer tases Castro Guitierrez, another fires a bean bag round at him. A third officer, shoots Castro Guitierrez, killing him. Gene Iredale, an attorney for Castro Guitierrez's family, says he had been running to the police looking for help. His demeanor and the manner in which he was running, made it very clear he wasn't really a threat to anybody The shooting was the second killing of a Mexican national in recent weeks by law enforcement in San Diego. On October 23rd, Border Patrol agents shot and killed a man in San Ysidro. SDPD's homicide unit will review both killings. Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News Students from financially challenged families will be getting access to high speed internet thanks to San Diego county and local philanthropists. KPBS’ John Carroll reports. On Thursday, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced the County is allocating two-million dollars out of its general fund, and the San Diego Foundation is kicking in another one million to provide high-speed internet connectivity to more than 43-hundred students throughout the county. The King-Chavez charter schools in Barrio Logan is one of the recipients. Their director of technology, Carlos Salazar, says a father of three students was recently at the school to pick up what he thought would be just one hot spot. Salazar told him that he would receive one for each of his sons. "You could see the swelling and tears coming up in his eyes because he knew that this was something that was a need that was met." Imagine stories like that happening thousands of times over, and the significance of this three-million dollar donation becomes so real and so meaningful. JC, KPBS News. Hospital resources are under a spotlight during COVID-19. Governments are counting available hospital beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment to monitor the pandemic's impact. But in our ongoing series looking at the region's COVID data, KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento says hospitals are also focused on the crucial component of staff. For Brittany Goyette, home is where her chihuahua Charlie is. This is Charlie. That can be a little difficult traveling with a pet. Goyette and her 10-year-old pup are Northern California natives. But they're living on the beach in San Diego. But Goyette is part of a mobile hospital workforce that's been filling gaps in staffing during COVID. And ever since the pandemic began, they've called San Diego home. And then he loves it here as well. He loves running down by the bay. Travel nurses like her are flowing to regions where COVID is hitting hospitals the hardest. Early on, that included Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. That's where Goyette has worked in the noisy negative pressure rooms to care for San Diegans during their toughest and sometimes final moments. Like an eldery COVID patient who was just down the hall from his wife. She also had the virus. Just really funny, really genuine, really nice guy. She recalled the experience during an outdoor interview near a busy beachside road. Both her patient and his wife were near their final treatment options. But he declined anything more. And asked only for comfort care. Goyette gave him pain medication and held his hand. And the only thing I could think of to do was say a prayer for him outloud. Sorry. And that was hard because I asked him if you'd like me to pray for him, and he said yes. So I said our father had paused like every three words. It was really hard just to watch him. His sons made it before he died. But his wife was unstable and couldn't be transported. Unfortunately we weren't able to get him to see his wife. That was also really tough. We ended up taking him to her afterwards so she could say goodbye per her request. The pandemic has created more demand for highly qualified ICU nurses like Goyette. Sharp Chula Vista Director of Critical Care Services Danisha Jenkins says the state mandates one ICU nurse for every two ICU patients. "If we are getting to the point where we're having to go beyond that, then that becomes a very challenging situation to manage." She says the state allowed flexibility during the emergency because ICU nurses are a limited resource. They pull staff from sister facilities. But Jenkins says they've also heavily relied on skilled travel clinicians to maintain their nursing community. And so you're tracking your ratio daily? Hourly. Because COVID doesn't care about ratios. In a video diary for KPBS, Goyette recalled that day's 12-hour shift when she tended to only one patient. we do that often with a lot of our covid patients if they're requiring to be manually proned is what we call it It took Goyette and four other gowned up colleagues to flip her sedated patient and improve their oxygen flow. We usually leave them on their back for a couple of hours if they tolerate it, but my patient didn't She needed her colleagues back but they were already down the hall turning another patient. And then I had to find a whole new group of people to flip my patient while another patient wasn't doing well so needless to say it was a pretty busy day, a little hectic Travel nurses can help make hectic days manageable. Jenkins says Sharp works to retain its top travel clinicians so patients continue to see familiar faces -- especially behind the heavy safety gear they must wear in the noisy negative pressure rooms. But supporting them can be draining on core staff. ...because they're having to orient people every single day to our area, our processes, how we're doing this. But it pays off. Jenkins says travel nurses often refer friends. And Sharp just extended its contract with Goyette. That means she and Charlie get at least three more months in the same place. I don't feel like you ever feel like this isn't my community, because in the end, this is like another human. This is another soul, another life that I don't need to be part of your community to make sure I do my best job that I can. And that job has many bright spots — while more than 800 San Diegans have died in the county, thousands have survived. to see anyone get extubated honestly and like, do well or get recovered to where they're moving out of the unit, you feel really proud and just like happy that, like, you got them there And they all leave a mark on Goyette. She remembered one recovered COVID patient the day he was going home. But he was heartbroken to be leaving before his wife, another ICU COVID patient. ...they're kind of worried about how sad he is. So I was like, well, why not, like, bring him up here? He already has COVID she has COVID like he should see his wife. That time she was able to reunite a husband and his wife. Tarryn Mento. KPBS News. That was KPBS Health reporter Tarryn Mento. For more on this series and the county's COVID data, go to Coming up on the podcast…. In the West, wildfires don't just happen in forests. "On average we actually see more acreage of rangeland burning than we do of forest." Researchers are looking at how fighting invasive species could help prevent drought-fueled fires out on the range. We bring you part four of a series about where fire and water intersect in the West. That’s up next after this break. When you think of wildfires, you probably think of forests. But they burn out on grasslands too and they can be just as big. Drought and fires are hitting the mountain west especially hard this year. Catherine Wheeler of Wyoming Public Radio reports on how researchers are looking at solutions to keep grassland fires in check. I'm standing on the side of a rocky hill in Sheridan County in northern Wyoming. And Brain Mealor is showing me all of his weeds. Here let me grab a cheatgrass so you can see it, too. They all kind of look the same this time of year...Yeah, this is a mix, cheatgrass and there's a little bit of ventenata, oh i was going to show it to you…** fade under Mealor is the director of the University of Wyoming's Research and Extension Center in Sheridan. And he's performing experiments on how to manage and kill invasive annual grasses, like cheatgrass, ventenata and medusa head, with herbicides. His goal is to restore rangeland to its more natural state and as a result hopefully make events like wildfires less devastating. But first, it's helpful to first understand what these uninvited guests are and why they are harmful to this environment. Dan Tekiela is an invasive plant extension specialist at University of Wyoming. He says there are three things that make plants invasive. Starting with the easiest: they aren't from here. Generally, we what we think of something coming from another country, crossing an ocean or a large boundary. And that allows them to spread easily, overwhelming native plants. In Wyoming and much of the West, impacts come to ranchers on rangeland, where these invaders can take over areas meant for grazing. That means less vegetation for animals and wildlife to eat, making the land harder to use. And like all strong enemies, the invasive plants are formidable. Tekiela says the invasive plants quickly take over what's supposed to be a patchy landscape, and die, creating a lot of wildfire fuel. they create these really thick patches and cause more problems by creating these large fires that wouldn't happen because we typically have what we call interspace in those plants so that the fires don't spread all that well. Most of the attention around wildfires tends to surround forests. And while losing trees and concerns about public safety are really important, Tekiela [Notes:tuh-kel-uh] says there are equal concerns about rangeland, too. We have the exact same issues in rangeland, they just aren't as flashy in that they don't create as much smoke, there isn't as much biomass to burn, however in terms of acreage, on average we actually see more acreage of rangeland burning than we do of forest. And Tekiela says the increased drought across the West is not helping. These invasive plants can grow back much quicker than the native species after a fire and they can grow with very little water, and that just creates a cycle of problems So, how are Mealor and other researchers trying to fix all this? Back on the hillside, he's showing me about 18 different plots. They were sprayed with a herbicide in different amounts at different times of year. I mean you can see exactly where I sprayed and where I didn't. It's not like there's this sort of vague line. It's like you came up here and erased it. See, like the upper plots right here above us? Some plots, everything is dead. Some plots still have plenty of brown and green villains. But in others, bright green western wheatgrass is springing up from the ground. Mealor says that's the goal with these spraying experiments. So we've got a bunch of annual grasses, but there's still a bunch good guys that are in there as well. So if we can just reduce the pressure from the annual grasses and we see a really good recovery from those perennial plants. Mealor says these experiments and the results aren't limited to Wyoming. There are other scientists working on the same issues across the West. In fact, the Western Governors Association has an invasive species working group where agencies can discuss how these experiments are working in states with different conditions. As we cooperate with one another and with industry and with landowners and agencies and we see a pattern like that that is very consistent across Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Idaho, wherever else then it really increases our confidence Mealor says as they start to see consistent results they can start making recommendations to land owners and managers AND it means researchers are steps closer to understanding how to take the bad guys out for good. I'm Catherine Wheeler in Sheridan, Wyoming. That was Catherine Wheeler reporting from Sheridan, Wyoming. This story is part of a series looking at where water and wildfire intersect in the West, produced by KUNC, KJZZ, KHOL, Aspen Public Radio, and Wyoming Public Radio. Support comes from the Walton Family Foundation. That’s all for the podcast today. Thanks for listening and have a safe and fun halloween weekend.

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In-Person voting begins this weekend in San Diego, but the number of polling locations in the county has been reduced. Our partners at inewsource have an in-depth look at how that impacts some neighborhoods over others. Also, we have part four of our series on tracking how covid-19 data points are determined.