Skip to main content

ALERT: KPBS 89.5FM is undergoing scheduled upgrade work which may result in a temporary signal outage. Click here to listen on our radio stream.

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

Churches And Vaccine Decisions

Cover image for podcast episode

People gather at Awaken Church's Bressi Ranch location, Feb 14, 2021

JACOB AERE

Many religious leaders across the county are actively encouraging followers to get vaccinated. But, at least one megachurch is advocating against vaccines, while others are trying to avoid taking sides on the subject. Meanwhile, parents and students rallied outside the San Marcos Unified School district offices Monday morning, saying the district has no reopening plans in sight. Plus, a settlement has been reached between the Metropolitan Transit System and the family of a man who died in MTS custody in 2019.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday, April 20th.

>>>>

How churches play a role in people getting vaccinated ...or not.

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

######

Activists rallied at the San Diego City Hall on monday to oppose San Diego Gas and Electric’s bid to continue being our power provider. Last week, city officials said SDG&E was the only company to give a bid for a new franchise agreement.. Here's Matthew Vasilakis of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign.

“The companion cooperation agreement that has been proposed by SDG&E is exceptionally deficient, and it's not going to do anything to hold them accountable over the course of what the mayor is proposing as a 20-year contract with SDG&E.”

Mayor Todd Gloria is expected to enter negotiations with SDG&E and present a deal next month.

########

The pandemic has changed our work lives --- state government employees, like all workers across California, are wondering whether working from home will continue after the pandemic. Yvonne Walker is president of SEIU Local 1000, a union representing 100-thousand state workers.

They have to be strategic about how they're figuring out how to change directions. But I do believe that we have the commitment from the Newsom administration to figure that out.

She says the state should rethink how it can better serve the public and be a competitive employer going forward.

########

The California Senate voted on monday to allow businesses to deduct expenses from their state taxes, in addition to being able to deduct them from their federal taxes.

#########

From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.

Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

People often look to their faith leaders for guidance on big decisions—who to marry, how many kids to have, whether to change jobs. These days, parishioners are asking another big question: should I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser tells us the answer local faith leaders give could impact when we reach herd immunity and the severity of future outbreaks.

“The future of humanity and freedom lies in the hands of the believing Christians.”
In February, a large crowd gathered at the Awaken Church in San Marcos to hear from Dr. Simone Gold, a well-known anti-vaccine doctor.
She spoke with the church’s founders and made several claims regarding the safety of the vaccines that have been debunked by health authorities and mainstream scientists.
Awaken has five locations in San Diego. It is the same church that’s been the source of significant outbreaks and that county officials have called out for a flagrant disregard of the county’s COVID-19 health order.
Awaken’s anti-vaccine stance could have a broader impact on our region, says UC San Diego epidemiologist Rebecca Fielding-Miller.
Folks who don’t get vaccinated still go grocery shopping and go out to eat and their kids go to school.”
But Fielding-Miller says faith-based communities can also be key drivers in the push to reach herd immunity.
“People mix randomly-ish, but not really. If everyone you work with, or go to church with, is talking about getting vaccinated, that’s a social norm, this is just what we do.”
“We will do everything we can to encourage people to obtain a vaccination, to get it done so we can resume normal life.”
Kevin Eckery is a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of San Diego.
The Catholic church and many other local faith-based organizations are on the other end of the spectrum from Awaken. They are actively encouraging followers to get vaccinated.
Some local churches are taking vaccine advocacy a step further by actually helping put shots into parishioners' arms. Last month, the Bay View Baptist Church in Encanto held a clinic where 500 people got vaccines.
Pastor Keith Brown says the event helped some who were skeptical of the vaccines make the decision—including him.
“I was a skeptic when they first had them come out, but what made me change my mind was statistics.”
U.S. Adults Who Will Not Get Vaccine
White Evangelical: 45%
Black Protestant: 33%
Hispanic Catholic: 22%
Unaffiliated: 28%
Source: Pew Research Center
Nationwide, survey data show that white evangelical protestants are less likely to get vaccinated than other racial and religious groups.
While other evangelical megachurches in San Diego don’t appear to be taking the same anti-vaccine stance as Awaken, they are not advocating for vaccines either. Rock Church’s assistant pastor Mickey Stonier says his church won’t be making any recommendations.
“We’re not medical doctors, we’re doctors of the heart...00:02:10:09 We encourage people to adhere to all safety health guidelines, eat, exercise, keep yourself safe.”
When asked why Rock Church isn’t promoting vaccines the way other churches and religious organizations are, Stonier says they don’t stand in judgement of what other churches are doing.

And that was KPBS investigative reporter Claire traegeser. She also spoke with KPBS Midday Edition Host Maureen Kavanaugh about her story. Here’s that interview….

And that was KPBS Investigative reporter Claire Traegeser, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition Host Maureen Kavanaugh.

##########

Coming up.... A settlement has been reached in the case of Angel Hernandez, who died in MTS custody in 2019. Also, parents are upset after the San Marcos schools district doesn’t reopen while other school districts have. And, monoclonal antibody treatments for covid-19 available in San Diego. All that local news is next, just after the break.

San Diego’s Metropolitan transit agency has reached a settlement with the family of Angel (AYN-jell) Hernandez, who died in the custody of MTS security officers in 2019..
KPBS reporter Alexandra Rangel has more on the chilling video that bears a striking similarity to the death of George Floyd.

MTS body cam and surveillance video was released of the October 2019 event. It shows how 24-year-old Angel Hernandez was taken into MTS custody following a short foot pursuit.
The video also shows Hernandez being held on the pavement by the weight of two officers….one officer can be seen placing his knee on Hernandez’s neck for more than six minutes.
At a joint press conference with MTS on Monday…..Hernandez’s family attorney Eugene Iradale (EYE-er-dale) says Hernandez died of asphyxiation.
Eugene Iredale, Hernandez Family Attorney :13
“Angel Hernandez died as a result of positional asphyxia when he was held thrown, face down with pressure on his back and regrettably a knee on his neck.”
Iredale says MTS has taken full responsibility in the wrongful death of Hernandez and has reached a settlement with Hernandez’ mother It includes changes to policies and training for security personnel… and $5.5 million dollars in compensation for the Hernandez family.

##########

San Marcos parents have seen nearby school districts reopening, but their school district has no plans in sight, despite a court order. KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne spoke with parents and students at a rally on monday and brings us this report.

Parents and students chanted “5 days now” at a rally outside the San Marcos Unified School district offices Monday morning.
Kimberly Imhoff is a parent in the San Marcos School District. She’s frustrated that the district hasn’t come up with a plan to reopen 5 days a week, even after a lawsuit ruling.
“San Marcos Unified had told us ‘well you can’t compare us to smaller districts like Carlsbad and Encinitas because we are so large’. Well San Diego Unified is much bigger than we are, so if they can do it in some form or fashion, then we should be able to also.”
Last month, a judge ordered San Marcos and 5 other North County school districts to “reopen their schools for in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible” as soon as possible.
San Marcos and Oceanside Unified are the only two defendants in that lawsuit who have not fully resumed in-person learning since the order.

County health officials are increasing access to a coronavirus treatment that’s been proven to reduce the severity of the illness. KPBS’ Matt Hoffman says you can get it for free in the north and south county and officials are hoping more people will use it.

The sooner the better is always best for this treatment
In Chula Vista health officials are opening up a new early-action treatment center for those who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and are showing moderate symptoms--
Pool feed low rez 00:07:53:07
It really is there just to help your immune system fight this virus
Dr. Maria Carriedo-Ceniceros with San Ysidro Health is describing the therapy process called monoclonal antibody treatments. The antibodies are lab-made proteins that attack the virus, potentially keeping those who’ve tested positive from developing more severe symptoms or dying.
Pool feed low rez 00:00:32:00 Nora Vargas
This is a great opportunity for south bay residents to seek early covid-19 treatment
This new facility is run by San Ysidro health and is located at an old fire station, in a ZIP code with the second most reported covid cases in the county.
Pool feed low rez 00:14:48:22 Dr. Jennifer Tuteur, County Deputy Chief Medical Officer
If you do test positive for covid-19 we urge you to access treatment as soon as possible
Up until now only Palomar Health was offering the therapy locally, at their old downtown Escondido Hospital.
Zoom 4:53 Dr. Omar Khawaja, Palomar Health Chief medical officer
It’s a fairly low risk therapy with a very high reward
Dr. Omar Khawaja (Ko-wachz-a) is chief medical officer for Palomar Health. He says since they started offering the treatment in February, just 200 people have used it--
Zoom 1;40 Dr. Omar Khawaja, Palomar Health Chief medical officer
Has it been safe for people? Has it been a good treatment? Yes
He says just two of those patients were later admitted to the hospital and the whole antibody treatment process is fairly simple, requiring just one visit.
Zoom 00:03:25:23 Dr. Omar Khawaja, Palomar Health Chief medical officer
They’re going to give you an infusion sort of like a saline bag that you might be hanging in a tv show. That’s going to run in about thirty minutes and then you’re going to hangout with us for another hour so it’s going to take a little bit of your day
The treatment is available for those twelve and older with mild to moderate symptoms and it’s available at no cost, regardless of immigration status. The antibodies are designed for those who may get very sick from the virus--
Zoom 5:43 Dr. Omar Khawaja, Palomar Health Chief medical officer
If you’re over 65 you definitely get it all other age groups need some type of comorbidity
To see if you qualify for an appointment in Escondido or in Chula Vista people are urged to call 619.685.2500 for more information.

And that was KPBS’ Matt Hoffman.

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.

San Diego News Now podcast branding

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.