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South Bay Braces For Another Surge Of Coronavirus Cases

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SHALINA CHATLANI

Araceli Mauricio volunteers at a pop-up food donation stall in Sherman Heights. She says a lot of people in the community have started coming here since the pandemic started, Nov. 20, 2020.

Coronavirus cases are surging among Latino communities in the South Bay, and unemployment is on the rise there as well. While they only make up one third of the population in San Diego county, Latinos account for 60% of all cases. Meanwhile Governor Gavin Newsom gives a press conference from quarantine in his home after a family member was exposed to Covid-19. Plus, local restaurants are making plans for deliveries and take out for Thanksgiving as they struggle to survive during the Covid-19 shutdowns.

Governor Gavin Newsom held his weekly coronavirus news conference from his home on Monday. He says he’ll be quarantining after his family had contact with a CHP officer who tested positive for Covid-19. Newsom says he now knows how difficult it is to self-isolate for days at a time.

It is a very challenging and trying time and it certainly something that is now been brought home quite literally in terms of my own experience just over the course of the last couple days."

Newsom says he was tested on sunday, and it came back negative. But he plans to quarantine for two weeks anyway.

The governor also apologized again for not wearing a mask while eating inside at a Napa Valley restaurant with a group of people larger than the state recommends.

Meanwhile in San Diego county, health officials reported nearly 1200 new COVID-19 infections yesterday. It’s the 13th consecutive day that more than 600 new cases were reported. A record of 1478 new cases was reported last Saturday. Hospitalizations continue to rise with 479 currently in the hospital, and 142 in intensive care.. That’s more than double from a month ago.

While the CDC recommends people stay home for the holidays to avoid spreading COVID-19...it appears many people are just not. And now, booking a plane ticket includes getting a COVID-19 test.

Kyle Rudman (Rud-MAN) waited in line for a test at Former USD Electronics Recycling Center testing center.

"Im flying to NYC so I have to get tested and I have to make sure Im really safe about everything."

Many travelers have opted to get tested before their travels and upon their return before going back to work.

It’s Tuesday, November 24th. This is San Diego News Matters from KPBS News. I’m Anica Colbert. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Coronavirus cases are rising in San Diego, but the largest increases are happening in Latino communities in the South Bay. Latinos account for 60% of all cases in San Diego County, while only making up one third of the population. KPBS reporter Shalina Chatlani says for many in low-income communities, health takes a backseat to the stress of putting food on the table.

At a food donation stall outside a Sherman Heights home, an elderly man sifts through bags of dried black beans, rice and onions .
MAN: lemoncito, las pela, y el lencillo y auuuuuuuu
Onions are delicious when peeled and paired with a squeeze of lemon, the man says to volunteer Arresli Mauricio. Mauricio says since the pandemic started many like this man have relied on these food stalls that have expanded across the South Bay region.
MAURICIO: Mucha gente que viene aqui dice que es una buena ayuda porque mucha gente ya perdi su trabajo...
Mauricio says a lot of people who come here appreciate this help because they lost their jobs. Unemployment rates in places like National City are nearly double that of Del Mar and Poway, for instance… But it's not just unemployment that's surging. Compared to those northern cities, Imperial beach and Chula Vista have on average three times the coronavirus case rate
MAURICIO: Yo mirado mucha gente que no se pone la mascaria
Mauricio says there are a lot of reasons why the spread could be so high. She says a lot of people don't like wearing masks but they still like having gatherings. And there's more...
MAURICIO: Está preocupada en la renta y la comida… tienen miedo ir a la clinica.
Mauricio says...people are too worried about paying their rents or putting food on the table for their children… They worry about their health but they also worry going to the clinic could lead to missing a paycheck.
RAMIREZ: behind me are the hardest hit zip codes of covid-19 positive cases in the entire county..Chula Vista National City...
Christian Ramirez is standing at the top of Grant Hill in Sherman Heights. He's the Policy Director of the labor union SEIU United Service Workers West. He says the community does have a lot of essential workers in businesses like grocery stores. Those stores keep the economy running...but workers are at high risk for contracting coronavirus.
But, he says, those issues are part of a larger problem contributing to covid cases here… and that's a historical lack of healthcare resources in low-income Latino communities.
RAMIREZ: Not far from here is an abandoned hospital.
That's where San Diego General Hospital shut down in 1991.
RAMIREZ: when you have a population of folks who have been left to fend for themselves without adequate services… then this happens, the pandemic just grabs hold and spreads.
The Dartmouth Atlas of Healthcare Project found that 87% of the region's 7,000 hospital beds are in the city of San Diego and cities north of San Diego, leaving fewer than 900 total beds in South Bay cities.
Ramirez says people in south San Diego County have always figured out a way to persevere. But with the pandemic, people are juggling poverty and their health.
RAMIREZ: we're telling communities, get out there and work, provide for us. But if you get sick, well, good luck to you.
COX: I think I've worked very closely with the South County elected officials, the mayors of Chula Vista, National City and Imperial Beach.
Greg Cox, is the outgoing supervisor for District 1, which covers South Bay. County officials say spread is high in this region because of the concentration of essential workers. They also say cross border traffic may contribute to higher rates. Cox says officials have reached out in Spanish and increased access to testing.
COX: And we've got over 50 testing sites on some days when you had as many as sixty three different testing sites.
Cox says the county has tried to offer assistance for rent and food.
COX: Can we do more? Yeah, we can.
Incoming County Supervisor Nora Vargas agrees. Vargas is from the district and will be the first latina woman to hold that seat. She says support must include practical solutions like financial assistance.
VARGAS: it means people have better opportunities to access, for instance, Calfresh. the government can continue to provide the EBT emergency card so that people can have that access to that food right now.
Vargas was an executive with Planned Parenthood for 20 years. She says it's important for county leaders to build trust so people go to a community health center or get a covid test.
VARGAS:it's not just an email and a text, right. It's actually getting out there in the community and having conversations
She says people in the South Bay who are worried about feeding their families won't be able to focus on their healthcare. Especially if those healthcare resources are scarce. (scare-s)Shalina Chatlani, KPBS news.

That was KPBS” Science and Technology reporter Shalina Chatlani

A judge has denied a request by a group of local businesses to continue indoor operations, despite record numbers of coronavirus cases.

KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler tells us the judge found that the risk to public health outweighed the needs of the businesses.

The lawsuit came from four businesses…

including restaurants and gyms…

which have to end indoor service under the state's purple tier guidelines…

On Monday afternoon, San Diego Superior Court Judge Kenneth J. Medel ruled the state's order has quote "general support in science and reason…"

And that the dangers of rolling those measures back "outweighs the economic harm" caused by them."

Shortly after the ruling, County Board of Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Greg Cox proposed a $20 million dollar relief program for businesses impacted by the move to the purple tier.

The board is set to consider this proposal on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Judge Medel set a hearing for next week, to listen to further arguments over whether the county's health orders should be rolled back.

Father Joe's Villages plans to serve over 1000 Thanksgiving meals on Wednesday to people experiencing homelessness in San Diego. KPBS reporter Jacob Aere says the organization will also distribute hygiene kits to people who show up for a meal and will hold a 5k fundraiser run.

This Thanksgiving will look different at Father Joe's Villages. There will still be turkey, cranberries and all the trimmings, but the food will be packaged in to-go boxes.
Deacon Jim Vargas with Father Joe's Villages says this year's event is also providing safety kits for those who participate.
"Everyone who comes will walk away with a backpack. The backpack will have hygiene kits, will have PPE's like masks and sanitizing and a letter of encouragement."
Deacon Vargas says that Father Joe's Villages will have a socially distant 5k run fundraiser on Thanksgiving Day, host a Christmas meal next month and continue to provide three daily meals to those in need. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.

California wants to eliminate new gas-powered vehicles from the state's roads in 15-years. But that push hasn't triggered a huge spike in zero emission vehicle sales yet. Third-quarter numbers show they represent just less than 7 percent of alternative fuel vehicle sales, up from about 5 percent a year ago.

Rob Lapsley is with the California Business Roundtable. The group is critical of the Newsom administration's effort to make all new vehicles zero-emission by 2035 as part of the state’s climate action goals.

"Yes, they're up to 6.7 percent and there is a market for this but we're not going to reach our goals and they need to start rethinking that now before we get further because it still comes down to how are you going to pay for it."

But supporters of the zero-emission-by-2035 goal say the electric car market is still growing and incentives would help boost sales.

Coming up on the podcast….restaurants in San Diego have been struggling to survive with repeated Covid-19 shutdowns. Many are planning special deliveries and take outs for Thanksgiving. That story is next, just after the break.

Restaurants are scrambling to figure out how to offer their regular Thanksgiving meals to customers...outdoors or at home. In fact, San Diego restaurants who’ve never offered meals specifically geared to the Holidays are trying to promote special takeouts or deliveries for Thanksgiving. It’s all part of an industry trying to use creativity and perseverance to survive multiple coronavirus shutdowns.

To talk about what’s available this holiday and to catch up with the struggles restaurants are facing, KPBS Midday Host Maureen Cavanaugh spoke with San Diego Magazine Food writer Troy Johnson. Here’s that interview.

That was Troy Johnson, Food Writer for the San Diego Magazine, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition Host Maureen Cavanaugh. That’s it for our podcast today, thanks for listening and have a great day.

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San Diego News Now

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.