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Pandemic Life: The Impact On Health Care

 March 16, 2021 at 5:16 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday March 16th. >>>> How the pandemic has changed healthcare. We’ll have that next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. ###### Scripps Health says the Del mar Fairgrounds vaccination superstation will close again this week due to a vaccine shortage. They’ll be closed on wednesday, friday and saturday. Meanwhile, a new vaccination site is opening up in Oceanside today at the North Coastal Health and Human Services Facility. It’ll be staffed by National Guard medics, instead of nurses. Also, UC San Diego says it will close the Petco Park vaccination super station permanently after this Saturday, to make way for baseball. UCSD says it will prioritize getting everyone their second dose of vaccine before the station closes. San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten sent an email Sunday night informing parents that a tentative deal had been reached regarding reopening plans for schools. She says families should get more details from their schools by next week. ###### Three people were killed and six injured on (MONDAY) after a man drove a car into a homeless encampment near San Diego City College. All the victims appear to be homeless. Mayor Todd Gloria says the rain pushed people to take shelter under the bridge, making the crash worse. “This crash this morning did not have to be so devastating. Let me state it clearly: A street is not a home. It's not humane or safe to keep allowing our unsheltered neighbors to sleep under bridges, in alleys or in canyons. And we must take decisive action to provide more compassionate solutions for people experiencing homelessness.” The 71-year-old driver, Craig Voss, was arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter and felony DUI among other charges. ######### 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 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Few could have imagined the toll the virus would take… more than two-and-a-half million people have lost their lives across the world… nearly 530-thousand here in the United States. Health care systems everywhere continue to be faced with enormous challenges. As part of our series Pandemic Life: One year on, KPBS reporter John Carroll looks at the impact on San Diego County’s health care providers. They are the places we go when we’re sick… from broken bones to heart attacks, hospitals and the health care professionals that work in them are always ready… 24/7, to help restore us to health. But last spring, a new challenge emerged… a novel coronavirus… novel, new… something that outside of research labs, no one had ever seen before. “It got our attention big time when it was announced that the US refugees were gonna be flown from Wuhan, China to the Miramar Air Station.” That was February 7th of last year. Scripps Health President and CEO Chris Van Gorder realized back then his institution would play an important role in what was to come. At that point, there were 76-thousand cases of COVID-19 worldwide… more than 21-hundred deaths. "Shortly thereafter, it was March 9th... that San Diego had its first positive case and that was at Scripps Green Hospital.” As Scripps, along with other local health care providers and the County began to gear up for what they were quickly realizing was going to be a major health challenge, guidance coming from the government was anything but helpful. On February 27th, President Trump said this: "It’s going to disappear, one day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” But it wasn’t just Trump. Guidance from the CDC and WHO was confusing as well. Early on, the CDC was telling Americans not to buy N95 masks, or the surgical ones that have now become so familiar. The concern being there wouldn’t be enough for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. That guidance from the CDC didn’t change until April, when the agency recommended people start wearing cloth facial coverings. The WHO eventually followed suit in June. Even after all that, the President of the United States refused to wear a mask in public. Here in San Diego, Brett McClain was just beginning his job as Chief Operating Officer of Sharp Healthcare. “We have a committee called the HID, highly infectious disease committee.. McClain says in late February, the committee began meeting every day, constantly assessing the fluid situation. “Throughout the entire pandemic, we dealt with all the things around the right medications, and you know vent utilization and staffing and all that.” As a sign of just how much things have improved, that committee is now meeting once every two weeks. Masking, hand washing and physical distancing, they’re all we had to prevent getting infected for most of this pandemic… but then came the vaccines. Important work on the science behind them was done right here, with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine tested in National City. Now, the vaccine supply is rising… fast. President Biden said in his address to the nation last week that every American adult will be eligible to get a vaccine by May first. The president said every adult who wants a vaccine should be able to have gotten one by the end of May. But the challenge has been to get those vaccines into people’s arms. San Diego county has opened vaccination pods and superstations throughout the region… but the vaccination program has been disrupted by problems ranging from difficulties in getting appointments to vaccine shortages… to the weather forcing shutdowns. That means a lot of work on the ground for organizations administering those vaccines. For Sharp Healthcare, it means having enough vaccine to supply 5 super sites throughout the county. “We are committing to being able to vaccinate within those 5 super sites, a total of about a hundred thousand vaccinations a week.” Late last month, the state designated Blue Shield to transition the state’s existing provider network to a new enhanced network which is supposed to take the amount of vaccines administered per week from one to four million by the end of March. Chris Van Gorder says things are not going well so far and that’s caused problems for them at their Del Mar super site. “It’s the most flawed supply chain process I’ve ever seen. We have no idea how much we’re gonna get any particular week… That forced Scripps to close the Del Mar site for a day and then this past weekend, they had to close the site again… once again due to scheduling snafus, leading to a shortage of vaccine… but this time the closure lasted 3 days. Still, COVID has brought some silver linings to health care. We know a lot more about how to treat it now than a year ago… and innovations made necessary by the pandemic are likely to have a lasting, positive impact. “The only way we could actually start to see patients was through telemedicine and up until the pandemic start, we had done maybe a half a dozen or two dozen telemedicine visits and literally we were doing tens of thousands of telemedicine visits within weeks.” So now… a year later, what a difference 365 days… or so… make. The vaccine supply is ramping up fast. And what everyone from the President on down to local health care folks are hoping for… pleading with all of us to do... is stick with the non-medicinal safety measures… different paths, forged together to finally get us all out of this once-in-a-century collective crisis. And that was KPBS’ John Carroll...We continue our series speaking with small business owners who were heavily impacted by the pandemic. Today we hear from Maribel Estrada, who is struggling to keep her City Heights restaurant El Toro Grill Taqueria open. Well, our family from our side, from my mom's side, cousins and relatives have restaurants. So I grew up in restaurants. But my husband's side and they had one in Cuernavaca. [02:06] So when we got married, then after that, we decided to open one as a family, as our own business. [02:38] it's basically his recipes, what from his side of Morello's guess I'm from Michoacan. So they cook differently a little bit. So it's more like his style food. [03:25] I guess we wanted to be different. You know, there's a lot of Mexican people. There's a lot of people from Michoacan already that owns restaurants [03:34] Our theme has not been a taco shop, has been more us Mexican food, fresh food. [06:01] Regular customers and they're asking me, when are you guys going to open? I was like, I don't know. We don't know yet because we keep being back and forth, you know, open inside, closed it down. Make them people eat outside and then they close down again. [07:02] Now, we're not thinking about making a profit. We're thinking about keeping the restaurant open, you know, survive to have our business going on because it hurts a lot. [09:07] my husband and I, we work all day long and it's not that bad on work because we don't have a lot of business so we can handle it and be here six days a week because we close on Mondays. So Mondays we don't open. So it's basically it's slow, but it hurts a lot to us, like 70 percent or more. It's down on our business. We barely we barely making enough to pay all the bills and everything. [11:35] we have to close down for our business that we don't have anything right now other than this. You know, this is only our support and we don't do anything on the side like working from another company or anything. No, this is basically our own income for our own family. [15:00] I keep the business going up for them, you know, I guess even if I told my daughter, my older one, they, she wants to study for she wants to go to the government side. [15:29] So instead of going to another place and work, we want you to stay here and work, you know, with your own business. So I have two boys to grow. So that's my main thing, is to keep going, grow up the business, you know, so they can stay and they can work in there and stay on and manage the business. [06:41] I know it's difficult for restaurants, and I know a lot of people, they're getting close. They have to close down their business and I feel bad for them. The good thing with us, as we still surviving, we still getting customers at least to keep us open. That story was produced by KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser and video journalists Nic McVicker and Christopher Maue. Coming up.... Fewer than 1 percent of san diego inmates have been vaccinated against covid-19. We’ll have that and more local news next, just after the break... FEWER THAN 1 PERCENT OF THOSE INCARCERATED in San Diego County Jails HAVE BEEN VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19. JAIL STAFF HAVE BEEN VACCINATED AT A MUCH HIGHER RATE. INEWSOURCE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER MARY PLUMMER HAS MORE. Just 26 inmates have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The daily population in county jails is about 4,000. That’s according to Sheriff’s Department data provided last week. But nearly a quarter of employees have been vaccinated. The numbers alarm advocates who say infection rates are higher for those living in jail settings. Here’s Wanda Bertram of the Prison Policy Initiative. BERTRAM: There’s really no reason to be prioritizing corrections staff. Under new state guidance, vaccine access to people in jail will expand starting today . For KPBS, I’m inewsource investigative reporter Mary Plummer. That was Inewsource investigative reporter Mary Plummer. INEWSOURCE REPORTER JILL CASTELLANO also CO-REPORTED THIS STORY. INEWSOURCE IS AN INDEPENDENTLY FUNDED NONPROFIT PARTNER OF KPBS. On Monday, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled in favor of a group of North County parents who sued the state in order to re-open schools for in-person learning. The suit alleges that the state’s pandemic-related rules unfairly interfered with local districts’ reopening plans. The temporary restraining order prohibits the state from enforcing provisions that keep schools closed while case rates remain high. The school districts involved include Carlsbad, Poway, Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista and San Dieguito. In Carlsbad, the empty halls of local schools will once again be filled with students starting this week. KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne tells us what students can expect. Carlsbad Unified has gotten the green light to welcome some students back to classrooms. Starting Monday, groups of middle and high schoolers will be able to return to school campuses two days a week. Devika Blasi, the mom of a middle schooler at Valley Middle School says even this limited hybrid schedule brings some relief. “I’m not a teacher and I can't replace what he's missing by being in a classroom with a teacher who can give the proper instructions and that social piece.” Students will be allowed on campus in two groups. One group will meet on Monday and Tuesday while the other meets Thursdays and Fridays. Schools will continue enforcing the use of face coverings and social distancing. Help is on the way to protect vulnerable residents struggling with the effects of the pandemic. Th city’s housing stability assistance program was launched on Monday to dole out More than $83 million dollars in rent relief. Here’s San Diego Mayor Todd gloria. “this program will not only help tenants, it will also help the many small landlords who depend on rental income to pay their bills. this program goes hand in hand with our city’s eviction moratorium.” Qualified low-income san diego tenants will get help with past-due rent, utilities and internet service. The application period opened this week and applications can be found at covid assistance dot sdhc dot org. The pandemic has turned all our lives upside down. But now, as more people get vaccinated every day, there is hope that we can eventually go back to doing the things we used to. We talked to people around San Diego to find out what they’re looking forward to once the pandemic is over. Here is what some of them had to say. That piece was produced by Emilyn Mohebbi. 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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One year into this pandemic life, we look at the response of major healthcare organizations to COVID-19 and how the pandemic has changed the healthcare system going forward. Meanwhile, Carlsbad students are returning to classrooms this week. Plus, an inewsource investigation finds fewer than 1% of those incarcerated in San Diego county jails have been vaccinated against covid-19.