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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Lowriders Promote National City’s Vaccinations

Cover image for podcast episode

MELISSA MAE

The 100 day COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign at the National City Library on April 8, 2021.

Every second and fourth Saturday at a walk-up clinic in National City, lowrider cars will greet patients and promote the opportunity to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Meanwhile, the City Heights community and it’s leaders gather to discuss remodeling sections of El Cajon Boulevard. And, a preview of arts and cultural happenings this weekend.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Friday, April 9th.

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New ways of promoting National City Vaccinations

More on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines….

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La Mesa City Councilwoman Dr. Akilah Weber has won the 79th Assembly District, according to the city news service. The seat was held by her mother Shirley Weber until she became California’s secretary of state in December. Dr. Weber won with 52% of the vote with only 3-thousand ballots left to be counted. Weber is expected to be sworn-in later this month.

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If you’re tired of refreshing that vaccination website over and over again, in search of an open appointment -- try using twitter bots. These are Automated accounts on twitter that have been created to help people search for covid-19 vaccine appointments. The accounts provide real time availability for vaccine appointments by scanning multiple websites on the internet. To find and use the Twitter bots, search the internet for @covidvaccinesd, @covaxsd or @vaxspotter.

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More California counties are opening up vaccine eligibility to younger adults, a week ahead of the state's schedule. Santa Clara County and Fresno County are the latest to open up vaccinations to everyone 16 and up. At California State University, Los Angeles, a vaccination supersite announced it would take adults on a walk-up basis because of excess vaccines. But demand was so heavy on Thursday, that the site was forced to stop the walk-up vaccinations and move to appointments-only.

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About 28 percent of National City residents have already been vaccinated --and political leaders want to do better. They’ve partnered with a local lowrider car coalition to promote access to the vaccine. KPBS’ Melissa Mae reports.

National City is two weeks into the 100 day COVID-19 vaccination campaign. National City Mayor, Alejandra Sotelo (So-TELL-oh)-Solis (Soul-ees) says the community response has been positive.
Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, Mayor of National City
(531G0569.mov 05;39;59;09 - 05;40;04;21)(:05) “It’s been amazing. We heard that we are driving demand.”
So how do you do better? By using one of the most iconic symbols of family in this community, the low rider.
Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, Mayor of National City
(531G0569.mov 05;42;29;14 - 05;42;44;08)(:15) “Low rider is part of the Chicano/Latino culture. It’s not just a vehicle you see out on display, it’s art. Its expression of family members they may have lost or respect.”
The United Lowrider Coalition will showcase their lowriders on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month at the Las Palmas Elementary School, where there’s a walk-up, first come, first serve vaccination clinic.
Jovita Arellano, Volunteer at the United Lowrider Coalition
(zoom_0 00:04:45:05 - 00:04:48:12)(:03) “It’s a huge part of the culture in National City.”
Jovita (Ho-Vee-Tah) Arellano (Are-e-ann-o), a volunteer with the lowrider coalition says the group will support the city many of them call home.
(zoom_0 00:07:14:00 - 00:07:28:05)(:14) “It will draw more people to the event especially the Latino community. They’ll feel more confident in saying, you know what, I think I should go do this for me for my family.”
National City Fire Chief, Frank Parra knows what lowriders mean to National City.
(531G0574.mov 05;53;06;10 - 05;53;17;06)(:11) “A lot of folks enjoy the vehicles, the culture and it just brings it home for them.
From now until the beginning of July, pending vaccine availability, there will also be a walk-up clinic at the National City Library every Thursday. Melissa Mae KPBS News.

And that was KPBS’ Melissa Mae.

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Police and elected officials in San Diego want to make sure asian-americans feel comfortable reporting hate crimes. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman has more from an event in the convoy district connecting law enforcement with the community.

00:11:03:22 Todd Gloria, San Diego Mayor
And right now it is important for all of us to say with one voice that we do not support this and we will hold those that do it accountable
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria is encouraging asian-americans that have been victims of crimes to report it.
00:10:27:28 Gloria
And I recognize that for many in our community it’s hard for us to come forward and say something’s happened. As I your mayor I ask you to come forward
13;27;34;25 Matt Hoffman, KPBS News
Law enforcement says they can act if crimes aren;’t reported. And part of this effort is to make sure people are comfortable talking with police
13;08;49;04 Summer Stephan, San Diego County District Attorney
Hate crimes are one of the most underreported crimes it’s really important we get the word out that we can’t stop it unless we get those reports out
While some might not see it, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan says crimes against asian americans are happening here.
13;07;27;17 Stephan
It is unfortunately here in our midst in san diego in 2017, 2018, 2019 we had zero, since the pandemic we have three hate crime cases targeting our asian american communities
San Diego City councilmember Chris Cate who represents this area put together today’s safety symposium.
12;34;25;19 Chris Cate, San Diego City Councilmember District 6
We dont want our businesses owners and residents to feel vulnerable for any sense we want to empower them with information at their fingertips
Local business owners like Michael Tu are grateful officials are setting up events like this which aim to bring residents closer to police.
12;59;59;28 Michael Tu, local business owner
It’s very important to let the community know that if there’s anything they need their doors are open so it’s good it’s great
There are two more outreach events next week, one in Linda Vista and another in Mira Mesa. MH KPBS News.

And that was KPBS’ Matt Hoffman.

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One stretch of San Diego’s iconic El Cajon Boulevard is being re-envisioned by city planners and community members.
KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler reports.

A town hall this week is the third in a series that has helped community members and the business community re-envision parts of El Cajon Boulevard.
The previous town hall, in 2019, led to the creation of the El Cajon Boulevard bus rapid transit lane… in an effort to boost mobility for the area, which is shut off from the trolley system.
Tootie Thomas, with the El Cajon Boulevard Improvement Association, which is hosting the event, says this week’s gathering focuses specifically on the area between the 805 and 15 freeways.
With this town hall, we thought we would use it to reimagine what El Cajon Boulevard would look like in this boulevard central hub.
City planners, land use experts, and developers will focus on transportation, the building of accessory dwelling units in residential areas, and business recruitment…
Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News

And that was KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler.

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Donovan state prison in Otay Mesa is tied for the third highest COVID-19 death rate among California prisons. In the second of a two-part investigation, inewsource reporter Mary Plummer says multiple families of inmates who died say they had no idea their relatives even had the virus.

A winter outbreak at Donovan left 18 dead.
The virus tore through the prison infecting hundreds of people.
Several families we spoke with of people who died of COVID-19 told us they were left in shock and wanting answers.
They say the news was hard to take:
MASHUP: ROBERT: Like running into wall in a dark room. To find out he passed away it just floored me. BYRON: They didn’t tell us he was sick, they didn’t tell us nothing. CANDICE: Nobody tried to locate us, contact us, go through any of his things to see who's his next of kin, who can they contact, who can they write, anything. They did nothing. <20 seconds>
That’s Robert Lee, Byron Porter and Candice Fleming.
They say prison officials did not contact them before the deaths of their family members.
All had relatives at Donovan with COVID-19 who were taken to hospitals where they died.
The state corrections department defended its approach, saying its policies were followed.
And that for security reasons, family members aren’t always told when someone is taken to the hospital.
For KPBS, I’m inewsource investigative reporter Mary Plummer.

That was Inewsource investigative reporter Mary Plummer. This story was co-reported by Jill Castellano at inewsource, an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS. To read the full investigation go to inewsource dot org.

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Coming up.... The military is wrapping up their “Stand Down” initiatives to combat extremism in the military ranks. But...now that it’s complete, what comes next? We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

In the wake of the january 6 capitol insurrection, the pentagon ordered all service branches to conduct a one day stand down to discuss racial extremism within the ranks. These trainings were supposed to be finished by the beginning of April, and in the past couple weeks, there's been a rush to complete them.

KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh talked with a group of marines as many wonder whether the military is serious about rooting out extremism.

“That was touch as a service member that was tough to see.”
(consider turning down her track rather than cutting here.)
1st. Lt. Madeline Hoffman remembers watching the January 6 events at the capitol on TV.
“I take that oath very seriously and I want to make sure our Marines understand that that type of activity is directly in contrast to that oath.”
Hoffman leads a Marine infantry logistics unit at Twentynine Palms. We initially talked just before she conducted the required stand down on extremism. She was required to review the oath Marines take to support and defend the constitution against all enemies foriegn and domestic.
“We were pushed this a week ago, all the source material specifically for the extremism stand down. So I’ve been taking the last week to really educate myself and be prepared to give this training.”
Secretary of Defense Loyd Austin gave all branches of the military 60 days to conduct stand downs. Rather than having top commanders fill large lecture halls, the Marines pushed the task down to small unit commanders. It’s Hoffman’s first real training on the topic.
“Specifically, extremism hasn’t been a major talking point.”
Experts who follow the military’s checkered history with tracking extremism aren’t surprised that leaders on the ground haven’t been given the tools to look for it in the ranks. Heidi Beirich (By-rick) is Co-Founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.
“They need to make sure that anyone who is in a position to report this stuff, is doing so. That that information is captured. Their own investigators haven’t seemed clear in hearings in 2020, on what the rules are. I mean there is a lot that needs to be done to fix this problem in the military.”
Beirich is concerned that if the stand down isn't backed up tangible changes, it will send the wrong message to rank and file members of the military.
“I think of the stand downs as a good wake up call. And hopefully there will be serious discussions in every branch at every level, but that can be perceived as only one tiny piece. Of, It really is, an overhaul and a massive change in the way the military is managed.”
She says investigators in each branch need to work together. They still don’t have a database of extremist tattoos and symbols. They are still working on a policy to monitor social media for extremist activity, often relying on the FBI.
“How did it go? Great.”
After the Stand Down, 1st Lt. Hoffman said they went longer than she expected, mostly because of the number of questions. One thing that came up a lot is that technically, Marines are allowed to belong to extremist groups as long as they aren’t active members.
“You walk a very fine line between passive and active membership. Something as simple as sharing an article from an extremist group on your facebook page is grounds to move from passive to active member.”
Two Marines under Hoffman’s command say the military’s A-political reputation has been under siege for a while. The stand downs were a chance to right the ship, says Lance Cpl Allen Huff.

“If you can receive this knowledge about this class and be told it’s a relevant issue. And still somehow look away from it, then that’s kind of a personal issue.”
Marine Cpl. David Dorsey says he found the stand down informative. He hasn’t encountered people who are in extremist groups. But as an African American, he has seen bigotry and racial stereotypes among fellow Marines. He says there is no quick fix here.
“I feel like it’s not going to be a quick turn around. Usually nothing ever is when you’re trying to change a wide range of people. Do we work on fixing it, yes, but it’s a slow going thing. It’s not something that is going to change immediately.”
The Pentagon did not compile data on the extremist activity that may have been revealed during closed door sessions - preferring to let troops speak off the record. Next step, making sure troops feel comfortable saying something when they see it.
In San Diego, I’m Steve Walsh

That was KPBS Military reporter Steve Walsh. 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.

The weekend is upon us, and if you’re looking for some art and culture-y things to do….KPBS/Arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans is here with the weekend preview.

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 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.