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Deaths High, Case Rates Down

 January 29, 2021 at 4:43 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Friday January 29th. What Would It Take To Get San Diego Out of The Purple Tier? That’s next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. San Diego county public health officials reported more than 1400 new covid-19 infections and 69 additional deaths on thursday. That’s the second-highest number of single-day COVID-19 deaths. As county leaders have repeated, one day doesn’t make a trend, but Thursday's data show that case rates are not so much dropping, more sort of a plateau-ing. Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced on thursday the Metropolitan Transit System and the North County transit district will now offer free rides to anyone going to and from their vaccine appointments. You only need to show some form of an email confirmation of your appointment. San Diego will start enforcing parking regulations again starting today. The announcement came on thursday, following the California Department of Public Health lifting regional stay at home orders. Through February 7th, the city will issue warnings, but after that it’s citations and fines. Well, the rain is here. It’s the third storm in an atmospheric river that’s coming from the north. It’s expected to last through the day, and then turn into scattered showers by tonight. The national weather service has issued a flash flood watch in coastal areas, valleys and the western mountains. From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. With the regional stay at home order lifted, San Diego still faces a list of restrictions because the county remains in the purple tier of the COVID-19 reopening system. To get out of purple tier restrictions we’ll need to see a dramatic drop in case rates in the county. Right now San Diego’s state-calculated adjusted case rate is 50 cases per 100,000 and we have to be at 7 or less to get to the less restrictive red tier. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman says officials are hoping to reduce numbers as a new, more contagious strain is spreading. Officials believe a 71-year old died from a more contagious variant of COVID-19 that’s been traced to the United Kingdom.. County Public Health Dr. Eric McDonald says some 150 suspected cases of the “B-1-1-7” variant have been found in San Diego County.. 23:10 Dr. Eric McDonald, County Health and Human Services That’s a small number, but we think it’s increasing to maybe one or two percent of all the cases that are out there FLASH TO 23:40 Dr. Eric McDonald, County Health and Human Services The potential impact of that could be seen in a surge later in february or march The variant is in the community but health officials say the measures to contain it are no different. . 24:00 Dr. Eric McDonald, County Health and Human Services Wearing masks, social distancing using only essential activities outside the household Countywide there has been a slight downtrend in hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions but those numbers remain high. That story from KPBS’ Matt Hoffman. San Diego County’s top health care, government, and maternal and infant health experts joined together Thursday to launch Black Legacy Now, a campaign to improve birth and maternal health outcomes for Black families in San Diego County. Dr. Wilma Wooten of the County’s Health and Human Services Agency says the initiative should improve implicit healthcare biases towards Black mothers and their children. “These disparities mirror state and nation trends, are far higher for black mothers compared to racial and other ethic groups and persist regardless of protective factors such as the mothers income, education or prenatal care. ” Black infants and Black pregnant mothers in San Diego County are roughly three times more likely to die due to childbirth complications than their white counterparts. A Coronado man faces federal charges with illegally entering the nation’s capital during the january 6th siege. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says the man admits he was caught on tape. Jeffrey Alexander Smith is a 33 year old Army veteran who spent one tour in Iraq. Living in Coronado with his parents, he went to Washington DC for the January 6 rally that turned into a siege of the Capitol. His attorney John Rice says he was caught up in the moment. 00;34;20;05 “I think many of the people there will tell you they were swept up in the moment. There was a large crowd. A lot of excitement and he just kind of went along with the crowd.“ Charged with two misdemeanor counts, Smith admitted to participating in the siege, at one point posting a video on instagram. The magistrate allowed Smith to be released on $25,000 bond. Smith is part of a larger federal probe into violence during the Jan. 6 storming of the capitol. That was KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh. The Port of San Diego just endured a brutal financial year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The agency is charged with managing the land around San Diego Bay. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson recently sat outside next to San Diego Bay and spoke with the Chair of the port commission, Michael Zucchet. He said 2020 was an unprecedented challenge. 13:09:17 – 13:10:33 “On the one hand, cruise ships, hotels, restaurants, convention base, this was not a good year for those tenants and for those entities to the extent that they pay rent to the Port, that’s been a particularly challenging part of our book of business. Luckily we’re also quite diversified we have a lot of cargo and marine terminals. Dole is still shipping billions of bananas every year. We’re still handling a lot of cargo. Shipbuilding, shipbuilders and ship repair is still thriving. Hundreds of thousands of cars from aisia are still coming. And so we’re sort of just navigating all of that. Luckily as an organization we had substantial financial reserves which we have used this year. I think this is the definition of a rainy day as it relates to public entities and so we’ve used that. The big question is, is this summer really the beginning again of some form of normalcy, that’s the optimistic view and maybe the base case, but who the heck knows? 01:33:01 – 01:33:10 Has this financial crunch inhibited your ability to do what you feel is necessary for the Port to do for the people of San Diego? 13:11:12 – 13:12:08 “we have a need to spend money to maintain these lands so we’ve been able to do that. We have definitely cut expenses. We’ve deferred certain capital projects, We’ve instituted a hiring freeze. Our employees have given back pay increases. So there has been sacrifice, but in terms of delivering those services. We’ve continued. In fact, these parks and the open space and access to the waterfront, has been particularly important during the pandemic because that’s some safe, outdoor, socially distanced activities that we can do. 13:12:27 – 13:13:04 When you think of the year ahead, what do you think of? Continuing navigation of the pandemic and continuing on with those services. The port is responsible for 10’s of thousands of jobs, cargo and goods that are important for San Diego and our region and the country frankly, so continuing on all of that, is number one. Number two we’ve got some transitions are the Port that are happening. We’ve got some new commissioners and a new president and CEO. 13:13:10 – 13:13:44 Third, we have a number of projects in the pipeline some high profile projects from reimagining Seaport Village, the Chula Vista Bayfront project and a number of others that are important. Then for me personally the initiative this year that I’ve really identified and am going to be working on is clean air. The port obviously engages in a lot of activities that affect our environment, particularly as it relates to diesel truck trips through some portside communities. 01:44:35 – 01:44:49 “If you think about the port today and you think about the Port in five years. What transitions can we expect.? 13:22:50 – 13:23:24 “I think for starters we could be on our way to a fully electrified port. Not just in terms of diesel truck traffic but that’s something that is a possibility within the next decade. And to get there in ten years we have to start now. With our infrastructure. And shore power. And microgrids. And dealing with cruise ships and everything else. So I think you’ll see an energy and greenhouse gas emission and diesel emission transformation over the next five to ten years. That was San Diego Port Commission chair Mike Zucchet speaking with KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson. Coming up.... Fact checking wild rumors that baseball legend Hank Aaron’s death was caused by a COVID-19 vaccine. We’ll have that story next, just after the break. This week baseball’s beloved Hank Aaron passed away. Soon thereafter, posts spread on social media falsely suggesting that the Baseball Legend’s death was caused by a covid-19 vaccine. So, for this week’s Can you Handle The Truth Segment from our partners at Cap Radio, Anchor Mike Hagerty spoke with Politifact California reporter Chris Nichols to fact check these claims... ANCHOR: Chris, Hank Aaron was a beloved figure, a Hall of Famer who battled racial justice on the way to breaking Major League Baseball’s career home run record in 1974. He passed away last week at the age of 86. Now these questionable social media posts are popping up -- What are they saying? CHRIS: They are strongly and falsely implying that Aaron died from the COVID-19 vaccine that he received in early January. PolitiFact and other news outlets examined these claims and found there is no evidence to support them. In fact, just the opposite. The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office told news outlets in Georgia, where Aaron died, that there was no indication that the vaccine contributed to his death. That office said Aaron appeared to have died of natural causes. One of the saddest parts about all this misinformation is that Aaron himself was really proud to publicly take the vaccine so that he could help build trust among Americans who are worried about its safety. He spoke with the Associated Press shortly after getting his shot: 01Aaron: “I feel quite proud of myself for doing something like this. ... It’s just a small thing that can help zillions of people in this country.” :12 And then of course we saw those posts that had no connection to reality. ANCHOR: The COVID-19 vaccines have been studied for months -- Remind us what public health experts have said about them. CHRIS: Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has spoken publicly about them many times. He has knocked down this idea that the speed with which the vaccines were developed means they are not safe -- Some people expressed concern that corners were cut or there were political motivations. Here’s what Fauci told ABC in December: 02Fauci: The speed was not at all at the sacrifice of safety. The speed was the reflection of extraordinary advances in the science of vaccine platform technology,” (:13) Fauci in a separate interview also talked about all of the trials done on these vaccines, making the point there is a record to show the safety of the vaccines. 01Fauci: “We’ve had clinical trials -- and thanks to the volunteers -- in tens of thousands who have put themselves on the line to prove to the country and the world that these are safe and effective products.” (:13) ANCHOR: Chris, PolitiFact has been busy fact-checking other misinformation about vaccines. Can you mention some examples? CHRIS: There’s really been a lot of bad information on this topic -- and these false claims have spread in online communities that are skeptical of medical science and the power of the federal government. PolitiFact has fact-checked many unproven and inaccurate claims -- those include the false allegations that say the coronavirus vaccines can cause death and infertility; that all Americans will be forced to get vaccinated; and even the really wild claims that say the vaccines are part of a larger plan to implant people with microchips. That was CapRadio’s PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols speaking with anchor Mike Hagerty. You can find full versions of all of the fact checks at PolitiFact-Dot-Com-Slash-California. And for our art’s segment today…. Ukraine has submitted a dozen films for oscar consideration since 1997 but has yet to win a nomination. This year’s Ukrainian submission for the academy’s best international feature is atlantis. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says you can buy a virtual ticket through digital gym cinema. Atlantis is a film that deserves to be in a cinema where it can command a viewer’s full attention. I worry that this slow, elegantly made film may lose people watching at home where distractions abound. Atlantis gives us a dystopian Ukraine of the near future. CLIP You and your grandfathers worked long and hard to produce a living for your family but times are changing… Eastern Ukraine has become unihabitable but people traverse the desert to explode old mines and exhume bodies left by a war. Director Val-in-teen Vas-ya-no-vich constructs his film in a series of 28 shots, mostly from a slightly distant and static camera. The lengthy shots may test the patience of viewers accustomed to rapid cuts that assume attention spans are a mere few seconds. But each shot is beautifully and carefully designed so that if you wait and pay attention you’ll be rewarded. Sometimes the length and stillness is there to make you think as when we watch an autopsy. We feel like an observer as the camera lingers objectively on the corpse. As we hear it being described we think about war and violence in a different way. Atlantis is a remarkable film but you need to give it your full attention to appreciate it. That was KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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San Diego recorded its second highest death rate from COVID-19 on Thursday, while hospitalizations continue to decline and new infections appear to have plateaued. But what will it take to get San Diego out of the State’s Purple Tier? Plus, the Port of San Diego struggled last year, but there’s hope that, by summer, the economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will ease.