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Pandemic Life: One Year On

 March 15, 2021 at 4:53 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday March 15th. KPBS is looking back at the pandemic... one year in. We’ll have that next, But first... let’s do the headlines…. Starting today, people under age 65 with certain health conditions are eligible to get a covid-19 vaccine. Those conditions include but are not limited to cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic pulmonary disease, sickle cell, obesity and Down syndrome. Health care providers will determine which patients can get a vaccine but. there’s still confusion about whether patients will need a doctor’s note. Here’s Long beach physician Dr. Jeff Luther: “Especially cause a lot of people who qualify don’t have a relationship with a physician or a medical practice and they kinda would be left in the cold. so far that’s also a source of mystery and confusion for health providers.” If you think you’re eligible, you should talk to their doctor or local health department about how to sign up. Meanwhile…. San Diego public health officials reported 198 new covid-19 infections and eight additional deaths on sunday. The Del Mar Fairgrounds vaccination super station is set to reopen today after vaccine shortages closed it over the weekend. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction says California schools - shuttered by COVID-19 - are on a path to re-open next month. "Two hundred thousand educators in the state have received the vaccine - that's significant." Superintendent Tony Thurmond says it's considered a key number to be able to start phasing schools into reopening. He says many schools are scrambling to meet the state's goal of opening by April 1st, while others are looking at reopening in mid-April. From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. It’s been just over a year since a pandemic was officially declared... Shortly thereafter, restrictions, shutdowns and deaths soon followed in San Diego and around the country.. Today KPBS kicks off a series called Pandemic Life: One Year On. We begin with KPBS’ Matt Hoffman who takes us back to March 2020. This time a year ago, pandemic hysteria was gripping the nation -- the death toll was rising in New York city.. While in San Diego store shelves were out of cleaning supplies.. items like toilet paper and water became hard to find.. And gun stores were seeing record sales to people like Daniel Frank of El Cajon.. People are getting crazy over this coronavirus and I want to be able to protect myself and protect my family There weren’t even a hundred confirmed cases here, but San Diegans were already familiar with the virus.. A month before In February hundreds of evacuees were flown in from the virus's epicenter in Wuhan, China and quarantined at MCAS Miramar.. That included Frank Wucinski and his three year old daughter Annabel- She doesn’t understand what’s going - why mom’s not here. Within days of the first evacuees arriving, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher declared a crisis on February 14th- “Acting out of an abundance of caution the county of san diego is taking an administrative action by declaring both a local emergency and a public health emergency On March 9th, county public health officer Wilma Wooten announced the first positive test for a San Diego County resident. I will not go into details about the case except to say that the case is a female in her 50s and is hospitalized and okay At the same time numbers were rising statewide-- Tragically we now have six individuals that have passed away from COVID-19 On March 15 the governor would issue a first-of-its kind order-- We are calling for the home isolation of all seniors in the state of california Newsom also took aggressive measures that day to begin mitigating the virus’s spread- We are directing that all bars, nightclubs, wineries, brewpubs and the like be closed in the state of california Indoor capacity at restaurants was cut in half, and social distancing measures put in place.. By this time San Diego was feeling the financial impact of COVID-19.. Major conferences at the San Diego convention center were cancelling, schools were closing... then San Diego state students including freshman Chase Conderman were sent home from the dorms -- It’s absolutely nuts they gave us less than 48 hours to get out of here On March 19th all Californians were ordered to stay at home. Let’s bend the curve together. Let’s not regret - let’s not dream of regretting, go back say we coulda woulda shoulda Then on March 22nd, the pandemic took a deadly turn here. We will be reporting our first death for the county of San Diego The county’s Chief medical officer dr. nick yphantides had this message that day-- Without alarming but with bright eyed realism we are still in the eye of the storm. And we are asking you not board up your windows, but to board up yourselves at home please A day after the first death -- in response to crowds at beaches and parks -- then San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer took action. Now I am directing city of San Diego staff to move forward with the closure of all parks, beaches, boardwalks, bays, city lakes and trails to the public until further notice to slow the spread of COVID-10 Masks weren’t required in San Diego County until a local order went into effect on May 1st. There are 64-thousand americans who have died in the last two months. The danger that is presented is real and you can’t reopen an economy until you have a handle on your public health situation At first it was hard to track the virus spread -- samples had to be sent to the CDC lab in Atlanta for confirmation.. And early on you needed to be showing symptoms or have a doctor's referral to get a test.. It wasn't until early May when state-sponsored sites were opened in San Diego for the general public. As summer came, cases rose and officials warned that we were heading in the wrong direction as parts of the economy began reopening.. But it would still be months before the health care system saw its biggest test yet, with holiday-related surges in hospitalizations. We know people are hurting out there and we know they’re tired of the pandemic - you know what we’re damn tired of it too. That was Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder in December…. when the pandemic pushed the healthcare system to the brink. Matt Hoffman, KPBS News. And that reporting from KPBS’ Matt Hoffman. … small business owners were among those who struggled the most throughout the pandemic. Today we’ll hear from Gregg Schloss, whose North Park store A&B Sporting Goods closed for good in January. “My grandfather started it in 1941, and those days it was a small appliance store where he sold radios and phonographic records and all kinds of small appliances. My father came to work at the store in 1946 after he got out after high school and he went in the Navy during the war and then came to work for his father. And I've worked there for 40 years..16;05;30;24 I was I think 22 when I started working there. We sold team sporting goods, meaning no camping, no fishing, no golf, no things like that. We sold things for, you know, ballplayers, kids that wanted to play baseball or football or soccer. There was nothing better than having a mom bringing her children into the store, knowing that you were going to treat them right. You were going to get them exactly what they need, not load them up with a bunch of accessories and things that the kid didn't need until he figured out if you really enjoyed the activity. And it rings in my ears as even though I haven't worked, the store's been closed for a couple of months, it rings in my ears. When my dad used to tell me, don't be a big shot, just get the customer what they need and they'll remember, appreciate it. And as they need other things going forward, they'll remember that you treated them well and they'll come back and get whatever they need on their next visit. The first three months of the year were excellent. I was finally on my way to figuring out how to run the store as I needed to run it. And then the pandemic hit and I knew I was in trouble immediately. The local little league played one game and then canceled the rest of the season. All the high school sports were closed and I knew I was in trouble but I tried to keep a positive attitude and work my way through it. But, uh, you know, I knew that I was going to have to make a difficult decision. I knew one day things might get back to a semi normal. But I also knew at that point I was so far behind that regardless of how good business was going forward, I would never be able to relax and run the store as I wanted to run it. I would always feel the pressure of the previous year. I didn't pay myself for almost seven months, just used whatever money was coming into the store to do the daily operations. And I also knew that there was no pension coming from a sporting goods store and at being 60 years old or 61 now, I knew that I had to look forward to being able to live a good life for my girlfriend and I going forward. And I didn't want to try to be a hero, keeping a business going that was probably not going to survive. So I took the thoughts of my grandfather and my father and just made decisions that were based on the way they affect me on a daily basis, not looking for anybody else to help me get out of the bad situation.. I think they would have told me both that I made the right decision. I'm not doing anything now. It's been as of yesterday, it's been two months since I closed this door. I thought that I would feel much differently than I do now. I thought that I would feel like there's a huge weight being lifted off of my shoulders and it has been financially. But as far as knowing what's next for me, I'm still feeling like I'm floating around in a boat to a certain extent. It is hard because I'm a routine oriented person. I went to the store every day at seven thirty in the morning for 40 years. So that's that's a difficult routine to, you know, to stop all of a sudden. That story was produced by KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser and video journalist Nic McVicker. Stay tuned for more on our series throughout this week on air or online. Coming up.... Gun violence could become harder to study in California , and the homeless may be eligible to get healthcare under a new proposal. We’ll have those stories and more up next, after a quick break. Last week we brought you crime stats showing how violent crime had risen in San Diego, and in big cities like it across the nation. But studying gun violence in the state may be harder, if A proposed rule change within the California Department of Justice goes through. KQED’s Katie Orr reports that some researchers are pushing back. That was KQED’s Katie Orr reporting. As San Diego prepares to move about 700 homeless individuals out of the convention center, a new bill is making its way through the state legislature to help people living on the street and in encampments. The bill would allow the state’s unhoused population to get medical and behavioral health care. Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager of Los Angeles says the bill addresses an inequity unique to the state's unhoused. "They have issues with transportation, maintaining and keeping ID and records, they might have challenges with mental illness, they don't have a mailing address, and all of those are very real barriers to entry to the traditional healthcare model that we have." Kamlager says delayed and neglected treatment results in longer and more costly hospital stays when the unhoused finally reach an emergency level of health---a cost that is borne by taxpayers through Medi-Cal. Recently, the federal government has run into a new immigration crisis -- they have to find places to house hundreds of migrant children crossing the southern border without their parents or guardians. The solution could lie at some vacant facilities in Northern California. KQED's Farida Jhabvala Romero explains. That was KQED’s Farida Jhabvala Romero reporting. 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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KPBS kicks off a series looking back at the past pandemic year. We’ll also speak with small business owners who have been among those most impacted by the pandemic. Plus, starting Monday, COVID-19 vaccinations are available for San Diego County residents ages 16 to 64 with underlying medical conditions.