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Teachers, Governor At Odds Over School Reopenings

 February 1, 2021 at 4:46 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, February 1st. >>>> Still no solid plans from the state on reopening schools…. That’s next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. San Diego County public health officials reported more than 1200 new coronavirus infections on Sunday and 16 additional deaths. Covid-19 Hospitalizations continue to decline. This as San Diego county opens up it’s third vaccination super station at Cal State San Marcos Sports Center. About a dozen personnel on the US destroyer Chafee tested positive for COVID-19 and were removed from the ship. The destroyer is homeported in Hawaii but is in San Diego for training. No sailors have been hospitalized. Commander Sean Robertson says to reassure sailors, everyone on the entire ship was tested on friday. Anti-vax protestors forced the temporary shut down of a vaccination station set up at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday. The LA Fire Department closed the entrance after it was blocked by demonstrators. The vaccine center was re-opened after about an hour and no appointments were cancelled. From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. It’s been nearly a year since schools moved to online learning, and there’s still no concrete plans from the state on how to reopen. CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon reports on what happened to Governor Newsom’s plans. Governor Gavin Newsom *had* a $2 billion dollar plan to bring younger students back to classrooms by mid-February, but the proposal appears to have stalled in the legislature. The influential California Teachers Association has resisted returning to classrooms during the pandemic. The union’s president, E. Toby Boyd, says counties where the virus is considered widespread should not open schools. BOYD: Yes, the numbers are going down. And yes, the ICU beds are opening up. That's wonderful news, but we can't just jump the gun and say, Okay, we're gonna do this now.<<:11>> CDC researchers have said there’s little evidence of outbreaks in schools as long as precautions like masks are in place. But Boyd says union members still don’t want to return to classrooms until they feel safe. BOYD: We need to make sure we have all the other items in place in order to mitigate the spread of the virus in the classroom, because it does occur. <<:07>> BACIGALUPI: This is now a matter of political will. <<:02>> Megan Bacigalupi is part of a growing group of parents across the state calling for a plan to reopen schools as soon as possible. The Oakland mother of two says it’s disingenuous for Newsom to say he’s following the science on pandemic precautions. BACIGALUPI: You can't say follow the science and listen to Dr. Fauci and listen to the CDC, when Dr. Fauci and the CDC are saying schools can be open safely. You can't then have one slight carve out for teachers’ unions. <<:13>> The CTA wants educators to get vaccine priority. But the state is short on supply and there are already millions of seniors waiting their turn, too. And that was CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon. San Diego County’s 27 million dollar COVID-19 rent relief program hasn’t rolled out exactly as planned. Inewsource investigative reporter Cody Dulaney explains. DULANEY: In August, County Supervisors were clear: None of the rental assistance should go to benefit tenants living in cities with money in their own programs. But that’s what happened. San Diego got about half of the county’s rent relief, even though the city had its own money. That doesn’t sit well with National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. Her city had a program, but got nothing from the county. The county wouldn’t explain how that happened. SOTELO-SOLIS: “If one group gets it, then all municipalities or groups should get access to that pot of money.” Through December, the county had spent about $11 million on rent relief, helping some 4,000 households. That was inewsource investigative reporter Cody Dulaney. inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS. There’s been a lot less traffic on the roads since the pandemic started. KPBS Editor Tom Fudge says a SANDAG study shows just how much rush hour has been impacted. San Diego's regional planning agency monitored a dozen freeway hotspots between 6 and 9 in the morning, and compared traffic levels to the year before. Between February and April freeway traffic levels plunged until, in April, they were 47% lower in 2020 than 2019. For the remaining months of 2020 traffic leveled off at 15 to 18 percent below that of the previous year. Cindy Burke is SANDAG's director of research and program management. She says rush hour traffic speeds, on the other hand, were up. "Those speeds have varied from about 63 to 65 miles per hour. So people are going about 15 miles per hour faster, on their morning commutes, than they were before. " She says one can hope that higher rates of telecommuting will continue once the pandemic is past. That would mean fewer traffic jams, lower carbon emissions and more flexible hours for the San Diego workforce. That was KPBS Editor Tom Fudge. The pandemic caused the government to make some of it’s immigration system deadlines more flexible. This bending of the rules has been extended through the end of March. From the Fronteras desk in Phoenix, KJZZ’s Matthew Casey reports. U-S Citizenship and Immigration Services weighs applications for benefits like green cards and naturalization. The agency can ask people for evidence that proves what they put on paper. Officials also send notices of plans to deny a person’s application or cancel their immigration status. Due to the pandemic, Citizenship and Immigration Services will continue to consider what would normally be counted as late replies for these, and certain other forms. The extension counts so long as the agency gets the documents by 60 days after a denial was issued, or when a response was due. That was KJZZ’s Matthew Casey. After a rough legislative session last year, California lawmakers are now proposing a slew of bills full of ways to tackle climate change. CapRadio’s Ezra David Romero reports. So far there are more than two dozen bills addressing climate change. Lawmakers want to tackle everything from coastal erosion in San Diego to wildfire prevention in the Sierra. One of the bigger ideas proposed is by San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener. He wants all big companies with revenues over a billion dollars to be held accountable for the pollution they emit in their supply chains. [WIENER] “There's no silver bullet. But we need to be clear that our business community and particularly our largest corporations, are having a real impact on carbon emissions, and are in a position to take bold action.” Lawmakers are also proposing ideas around making each part of the state accountable for adapting to climate change. The goal is to have a California-wide strategy for every ecosystem in the state. And that was Cap Radio’s Ezrra David Romero. Coming up.... Federal laws taking effect this year are aimed at reducing veteran suicides. We’ll have that story just after this break. Several new federal laws will take effect this year that are intended to reduce the number of veteran suicides. Former service members continue to die by suicide at a higher rate than non-veterans. But suicide prevention advocates say more help is needed at the local level on top of what’s being done at the federal level. From Washington DC, Caitlyn Kim reports for the American Homefront Project. Kristen Christy is often called a subject matter expert on the issue of suicide for active duty military, veterans and their families. It's not by choice. Twelve years ago, her husband Don, a Lt Colonel in the Air Force, died by suicide. KC CUT 1 I had no idea. suicide was not on my radar whatsoever Her husband deployed to Iraq in 2004. When he talked to his family about his experience, he focused on the positives -- meeting dignitaries or USO tours. It wasn’t until after his death in 2008 that Christy learned that a major part of his work was repatriating remains of service members. KC CUT 4: he just couldn't verbalize that he was in charge of the human remains. And in April of 2004, his first month there, they had had 94 casualties His death by suicide changed not just her life but those of their two young sons, who both struggled with the loss of their father. Her younger son left her a tearful message on his 20th birthday about the hole left in his life. It was used as part of an Air Force suicide prevention campaign. (BRING IN START OF SON CUT AD under this graph) SOn CUT from the recording. “I Miss Dad so much” (fade under next track) This all led Christy to become a suicide prevention advocate -- not just learning about the signs, which can vary from person to person, but how the ripple effect hits families and friends. She has spent much of the last several years working with active duty military and veterans groups near her home in Colorado Springs. KC Cut 2. I say, we're on an emotional battlefield and how can we arm our veterans, our active duty and their family members with the armor and the weapons that they need to combat whatever they're going through. It’s a mulitfront battle. When the Air Force saw a rise in suicide within its ranks, it held a one day stand down to focus on prevention. At the end of last year, Congress passed a legislative package to bolster and expand veterans mental health care and provide funds for community organizations helping vets. Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas says these measures will help. CUT: While this legislation puts in place the critical care services and support that will save veterans lives, it’s my hope that the bill will also serve as a signal to our veterans, service members and their families that they are never, never alone. Still Duane France aruges much more needs to be done to reduce veteran suicide. He’s director of veteran services for the Family Care Center in Colorado Springs and an Army veteran himself. DF Cut 1: we need to be able to establish infrastructure both in personnel and in funds at the community level. So, we can address it where it's happening rather than trying to establish this blanket, um, overarching solution, so to speak. Picture an inverted pyramid. He says there are lot of resources and people on the federal and even state level who work on suicide prevention. Less so at the local level and that's where France argues the front lines of prevention are. His colorado county loses a veteran once a week to suicide. DF Cut 2: not all veterans who died by suicide are experiencing a mental health crisis. It could be financial, it could be relational, it could be employment related. Um, and so we really need to be able to have a community response. While France appreciates the work Congress is doing, he notes legislative solutions always lag behind. It will be a year or more before these bills are fully implemented, and several years before we see if they made any difference. In Washington, DC I’m Caitlyn Kim And that was Caitlyn Kim, reporting from Washington DC. This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting… Black History Month starts today and the San Diego History Center wants to focus on local African American stories. KPBS arts and culture reporter Beth Accomando previews the Center's new online exhibit called Celebrate San Diego: Black History and Heritage. Gathering local history is an ongoing process for the San Diego History Center. As it launches its Celebrate San Diego: Black History and Heritage it is proud of all the amazing photos, artifacts and ephemera it has collected about African Americans living in the city and county. But it also realizes it has gaps in that history. So the Center is urging people to help fill them says marketing manager Shelby Gordon. SHELBY GORDON: There are some glaring omissions here. And we said, what a great idea then to go to the community so that they can insert their memories, their reflections, their milestones, their photographs, their art to be inserted into our virtual timeline. The Center is excited to see what people bring them but it’s also eager to share some of its own treasures online and on social media. SHELBY GORDON: Starting today, February 1st will be our twenty eight days of black San Diego history, social media promotion. And each day, yes, each day during the month of February, we will be featuring and highlighting a moment, a person, an event, an occasion, an organization, an entity that has been vital in the history of Black San Diego. A virtual timeline gathering all these materials can be found on the San Diego History Center website at sandiegohistory-dot-org. That was KPBS Arts and culture reporter 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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The state has yet to issue any concrete plans for school reopenings...Meanwhile, hospitalizations in San Diego are down but death rates are still high. Plus, federal laws taking effect this year are aimed at addressing veteran suicide.