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Over 1,000 San Diegans Dead

 December 2, 2020 at 4:00 AM PST

San Diego reaches a deadly new milestone. Over 1,000 people ...that’s a thousand moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, sons, daughters who live in our county...1,000 of our neighbors… dead from COVID-19. Local health officials reported 1,378 new cases yesterday and a total of 22 new deaths. The region’s death total is now 1,019. *** For those struggling to pay rent because of economic fallout from the pandemic...some relief… An additional 10,000 households impacted by COVID-19 are now able to apply for rent relief from San Diego County. Starting Tuesday, County residents can qualify for assistance of up to 3,000 dollars to pay for past-due or upcoming rent. To apply or find out more about the county’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program go to san diego county dot gov slash sdhcd. *** Last spring, a historic commercial structure in downtown La Mesa was set on fire during a protest against police brutality that devolved into rioting. A man suspected of setting that fire is now in jail. 43-year-old Daniel Louis Sandoval was arrested Tuesday morning near his Campo Home and his being held on suspicion of arson and felony vandalism. La Mesa Police say Sandoval is responsible for the destruction of the Randall Lamb and Associates Building on Palm Avenue. The building was one of several buildings, including two banks, that were burned to the ground during the unrest. Two other men have been arrested in connection with the fires and the looting of stores. *** It’s Wednesday, Dec. 2. From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan, in for Anica Colbert all week, and you, my friend, are listening to San Diego News Matters, a daily podcast powered by everyone in the newsroom. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. By the end of the calendar year, city officials say they're hoping to have housed more than 1-thousand currently homeless San Diegans. Since the pandemic, many vulnerable residents have stayed at an emergency shelter inside the San Diego Convention center. Incoming San Diego mayor todd gloria says hundreds more will soon move into city-owned hotel rooms. We need more of this in San Diego. This is a testament to what we can do if we choose to do it. Shouldn't take a pandemic to care about our shelter population (:11) KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman has more about the city’s ongoing efforts to get people housed. Hundreds of people who used to be homeless are getting ready to move out of the convention center and into housing. 00:37:22:19 McElroy This is not easy. Waking up every morning in the middle of a gigantic room and staying motivated and having the will to do so Bob McElroy is CEO of the nonprofit Alpha Project which helped run shelter operations downtown- 00:38:29:00 Bob McElroy, Alpha Project President & CEO And the biggest challenge is, we'd house everyone here if there was an inventory but there is no inventory of low income housing in san diego or in any other city So officials had to get creative, leveraging state resources to purchase two hotels in mission valley and kearny mesa that in the coming weeks will start to be filled.. Combined they have more than 300 units that will be staffed by homeless service providers. *** I’ve definitely noticed this...there hasn’t been a lot of rain this year...right? Well...Government climatologists say two-thirds of California is in some degree of drought. And with little rain in the forecast, scientists say these drought conditions could get a lot worse. But…. is this the beginning of another prolonged dry spell? CapRadio's Ezra David Romero explores that question. The answer is maybe. Last year was dry and this year La Niña is pushing storms north of California … and no rain is predicted this month. Dan McEvoy [Notes:mack-eh-voy] is a climate scientist with the Desert Research Institute in Reno. He says there's reason to believe we're at the beginning of another multi-year drought. [Notes:MCEVOY] "We're starting to kind of get into this overlapping dry seasons where we had last year ended up being really dry and we're falling into drought this year again." But Michael Anderson, state climatologist with the Department of Water Resources, says it's too soon to know how dry the winter will be. [Notes:ANDERSON] "We've had dry starts like this, and I've seen that storm door open and part of December that leads to a wet December, January, February." Still Anderson says warming temperatures are creating a sort of climate whiplash … weather is becoming increasingly variable, which makes it tough to forecast what exactly will happen this season. *** So, the COVID vaccine… A possible emergency use approval for a vaccine is on the horizon. But multiple vaccines will be needed. California is expected to receive a limited supply….just 327,000 doses of the emergency authorized C OVID vaccine. Pfizer could be the first one approved later this month. But KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento tells us that the race for the first vaccine can complicate the search for the best vaccine. In short...researchers are worried that the first vaccine could harm other ongoing studies. It's a lot of paperwork to be a human test subject. 03;27;16;12 "So here's the first three. Do you have a pen?" "I do. My own pen, yeah." A nurse hands multiple forms to volunteer Christian Ramers. The papers are the final steps before Ramers joins an experimental COVID-19 vaccine study with Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The company is part of Johnson and Johnson. 03;28;06;02 "So this just says if you were to get sick, would you allow us to get that information?" The nurse's disposable gown rustles each time she explains what Ramers is signing. After a few pages, Ramers needs a new pen. 03;28;59;12 "My pen just ran out." He also answers a series of questions that has the nurse scribbling down too. 03;31;50;14 "And then what is your ethnicity?" "I'm Hispanic, white." The process to join a COVID-19 vaccine trial is not only lengthy but also invasive. 03;40;08;11 "I have to ask some confidential questions." "OK." In a follow up interview Ramers, a community clinic physician, says he endures it all to help fight the pandemic and skepticism around a vaccine. 00:00:49.540 "There's a lot of suspicion and fear. And that's based in historical injustices, really, from biomedical research. And so I wanted to really take a proactive stance against that." But the personal gain is uncertain. Ramers doesn't know whether he received the vaccine or a placebo. People giving the injections don't know either — it's called a double blind and protects the integrity of the study. But volunteers can drop out at any point. And researchers worry the first emergency approved vaccine may give them just the reason. (:08) 03;39;17;28 it's always the participants' right to pull out of the trial if they want to." Doctors like Ramers would be prioritized to receive an emergency approved vaccine. (:10) 03;39;26;07 "And so that's a key consideration for me is, If I have the ability to get a vaccine that's approved and I get in line because I'm a health care provider, you always have the ability to pull out of the vaccine trial." UC San Diego's Susan Little is overseeing the local trials for Janssen, as well as for AstraZeneca. They require enrolling hundreds to thousands of volunteers. (:09) 00:05:46:23 "So the AstraZeneca study, we're hoping to put closer to seven hundred and fifty and the Janssen study were quite a bit ambitious. We're trying to put two thousand on." Plus tens of thousands of others elsewhere. But she's worried another vaccine receiving emergency use approval could push some people out. That would jeopardize long-term data collection needed to produce multiple vaccines. (:10) 00:23:29:16 "It would be nearly impossible for one pharmaceutical company to generate enough doses of vaccine to vaccinate the US, let alone the world." And she says many volunteers may not even be eligible for the initial doses that will likely be in short supply even among priority groups. But she also says COVID is a public emergency that demands an urgent response. (:11) 00:24:07:07 With the epidemic raging the way it is, we need vaccines as fast as possible for as many people as possible, so we're in a very difficult Catch-22 position here. Little says she's already planning how to talk to participants once the first emergency authorization is granted, which could be later this month. (:13) 00:19:08:19 "We might advise our participants that really, if you were to wait until February, you could evaluate this vaccine study that you're on and see if it was better." Janssen's is a one-dose vaccine while Pfizer's requires two injections. FDA guidelines say it does not consider an emergency approved vaccine as a reason to tell participants if they received a placebo. But a leading bioethicist from NYU says participants have a right to know under such circumstances. Ramers says he hopes he's in the vaccine arm of the Janssen trial. (:09) 00:09:18:01 But I did get a sore arm. And so, you know, fingers crossed that it was the vaccine. But that's the idea of going in, is that you have to be willing to take a placebo for the sake of the science. Still, he plans to review data from any emergency approved vaccine before making up his mind. But Janssen told KPBS they'll notify participants about eligibility for an emergency approved vaccine. The company said volunteers can use that info to continue as is or seek to be unblinded. That story from kpbs health reporter Taryn Mento. *** Coming up… California Governor Gavin Newsom dropped hints of another stay-at-home order if coronavirus cases don't improve. A local expert tells us what that order might look like and how or if it’s likely to help. That story after a quick break. San Diego county is seeing its rate of newly diagnosed coronavirus cases hovering at around 1000 per day…. even more concerning is this…..hospitals are filling up with Covid patients. At last count 692 San Diego hospital beds were taken by Covid patients, that's three times the number from early November. On Monday...Governor Newsom said the same situation, or worse, is happening in most counties across California and that drastic action is needed soon. A new statewide stay-at-home order is expected...and it sounds like it will be similar to the one California had in place last Spring. But...did the lockdown really help last time, and would it work this time? Rebecca Fielding-Miller, is an epidemiologist and a professor of infectious diseases at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. She spoke with Midday Edition host, Maureen Cavanaugh. Healthcare workers are already bracing for the surge coming after Thanksgiving. Now, if current conditions continue, how long before San Diego hospitals are in serious risk of being overworked Speaker 2: 01:23 Crowded, it's hard to give an exact timeframe. There is somethings that are different now than were happening in the spring and summer. Um, for example, it tends to be younger people. We're seeing more infections and folks in their twenties and thirties right now, whereas very early in the epidemic, it was folks who were a lot older, but certainly we're on a trend to see some pretty overwhelming numbers in our healthcare system. And there's really no reason to think that if things continue, we won't start looking the way New York or Phoenix or El Paso have been looking. Yeah, Speaker 1: 01:57 There's been so many openings and closings since the pandemic first began. Can you remind us what that locked down last spring was like? Speaker 2: 02:05 I think one of the things that was pretty unique about the lockdown in the spring was it was the first time it happened as opposed to the fact that we've been doing this now on and off, like you said, since March. And I think that first locked down that first day at home order was nobody was to leave their house except for essential business. So grocery shopping trips to the pharmacy, things like that, the schools closed retail closed indoor dining restaurants closed. And what we saw is that it worked, we saw case levels level off and then drop pretty quickly and stay that way actually until this summer, when they started to go up again and we had to put in another closing of businesses and indoor restaurants and dining, Speaker 1: 02:47 Should we have kept that original stay at home order in place, Speaker 2: 02:51 Everything we've learned about COVID-19 we've learned since January. And I think one thing that is becoming really clear that we didn't know, and in March and April is really how this is transmitted and that it is predominantly spread through aerosols through a lot of super spreading events, which tend to be indoors when you have a lot of people who are unmasked, who are talking, singing, things like that. And so it has become a little bit easier to calibrate what those stay at home orders should look like. For example, gyms, indoor dining, indoor businesses, anything where people are spending a significant amount of time and talking or doing anything else that would emit breath. Those things should probably be closed. And for awhile, until we have community spread under control, other businesses or things that can be done outdoors are certainly higher risk. But I think we know now that they are not the predominant sources of spread. So basically, Speaker 1: 03:48 Well you're saying a second stay at home order could be tailored to what we've learned about the virus. In fact, I think the first stay at home order closed some beaches, playgrounds parks. Would it be a good idea to close them again? Speaker 2: 04:04 Let me say yes. And I think that now numbers are staggeringly high. This is the highest that we've seen in San Diego County ever to date. We have, like you said, over a thousand cases a day right now, and with numbers that high even low risk events become risky, right? Because if you assume that there's a, I don't know, one in a thousand chance of getting infected by somebody at the grocery store, if somebody is infected, but all of a sudden there are more people infected at the grocery store than there were before then your chances of getting infected at the grocery store go up. If that makes sense, when absolute numbers go up, rare events happen more often. And so I think when numbers are this high, really all bets are off. And this is when we need pretty drastic measures that said that drastic closures, people simply can't sustain for that long. Speaker 2: 04:55 And I think we just need to be mindful of the fact that people are people. So while I do think there should be something fairly drastic for the next few weeks, I think coming out of that and more tailored approach is important. And we know people are people, um, we know perfection is hard. And so I think it's important that there be opportunities for people to engage in lower risk behavior. So for example, if you cannot completely isolate, then at least socialize outside. And so keeping outdoor venues open kind of provides the opportunity for some harm reduction, so to speak, considering Speaker 1: 05:34 Many people disregarded warnings, not to travel or gather for Thanksgiving, do you think it might already be too late to stop our hospitals from being overwhelmed in the final weeks of this year? Speaker 2: 05:48 You know, I I'm an eternal optimist. I don't think it's too late, but I think that the other thing to think about with the stay at home order and with the closing indoor businesses is a lot of our risk in the next few weeks is not going to come from bars and gyms and restaurants like it has been through the fall. It's going to come from people gathering with loved ones in their own homes. And that's not something that the state can really limit. And so I think it's really very much up to individuals to decide whether or not this is something that we can get under control. And so it's important to remember that this is finite. The first set of vaccines are being licensed. As we speak with emergency use authorizations, people are going to start getting vaccinated in December and January. And while this holiday may be lonely, this is not how we want to spend the Hanukkah and Christmas and Thanksgiving. It is finite. And I think by the spring and the summer, these gatherings will be so much safer. So at this point, because closing businesses, it's not going to do it. It's about holidays. It's really in the hands of individuals to say, I love you so much. And because I love you, we're not going to get together for that holiday party, but I cannot wait for the 4th of July. Speaker 1: 07:07 If we do see a surge at local hospitals, how long after Thanksgiving would you expect to see? Speaker 2: 07:14 So I think we would start to see it probably within a week or two. You can kind of think of it coming in waves. So there are going to be the folks who became sick over the Thanksgiving weekend, but then also there's going to be the folks who were part of that transmission chain, who maybe they didn't get together with somebody over the holidays because they're higher risk. But somebody who went to a family gathering then spent time with somebody else who then spent time with somebody who is elderly and vulnerable. So we'll probably start to see the beginning of it in a week or two. And then it'll probably keep climbing as just again, the sheer absolute number of cases means that people who are more vulnerable get exposed more. And that was Rebecca Fielding Miller, a UCLA epidemiologist and assistant professor at UC San Diego school of medicine's division of infectious diseases and global public health. She was speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanaugh. *** Sooo...Giving Tuesday was yesterday, but no one is gonna judge you if you make a pledge a day late. If you enjoy listening to this podcast, why not support it? Go to kpbs dot org and click on the blue give now button. Join the kpbs family today...thanks in advance for your support. Public media really can’t exist without you.

San Diego County health officials reported 22 deaths Tuesday, bringing the COVID death toll to 1,019. Plus: city officials say they're hoping to have housed more than 1-thousand homeless San Diegans by the end of the year, why researchers are worried that the first COVID vaccine could harm other ongoing vaccine studies and more local news you need.