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

Anti-Vaxxer Threats Prompt State Capitol Closures

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A temporary six-foot high chain link fence surrounds California's state Capitol because of concerns over the potential for civil unrest.

Rich Pedroncelli AP

Portions of the California State Capitol were closed last week after lawmakers received threats from so-called anti-vaxxers. Also, as San Diego County Senior Care facilities scramble to get covid-19 vaccines for their residents and staff, they’re finding that roughly half their caregivers are refusing the shots. Plus, Air Force leaders have had to make cuts to basic training to keep troops safe during the pandemic.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, January 18th.

Anti-vaxxer’s threatened state lawmakers over the coronavirus vaccine.

That story next...But first... let’s do the headlines….

San Diego county public health officials reported more than 1800 new coronavirus cases on Sunday and 38 additional deaths. California nears 3million coronavirus cases. More than 1100 people died from the virus in California this weekend.

In a statement this morning, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten says she’s been tapped by the incoming Biden Administration to be the next United States Deputy Secretary of Education. Pending confirmation in the Senate, she would serve under Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona.

Today is Martin Luther King junior Day, in honor of the civil rights leader’s birthday on January 15th. On Friday, community members honored King's life and legacy with a wreath-laying at San Diego's Broadway promenade.

Reverend Harvey Vaughn The Third addressed the gathering.

“we need dreamers that can look beyond the pigmentation of someone’s skin. we need dreamers who can dream like dr. king and when we see one another judge a person by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

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

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

Portions of the California State Capitol were closed to the public last week after members of the anti-vaccine movement threatened state lawmakers.

At a public legislative hearing on Thursday, Three unidentified women made not-so-veiled suggestions they would use violence. . They were protesting coronavirus vaccine plans and pandemic shutdowns. Here’s one of the women:

“So keep threatening us. Keep taking our [BLEEP] away. Keep telling us we can’t do anything about it and see how much longer we’re just going to sit here and wait to give public comment. We didn’t buy guns for nothing."

State Senator Richard Pan was singled out by the women. The Sacramento Democrat has been a frequent target of so-called “anti-vaxxers” and CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon reached him yesterday to react to the threats. She started by asking him about the womens’ statements.

That was State Senator Richard Pan speaking with CapRadio Politics Reporter Nicole Nixon about thursday’s threats during a legislative hearing at the state Capitol.

As san diego county senior care facilities scramble to get covid-19 vaccines for their residents and staff, they’re finding that roughly half their caregivers are refusing the shots. kpbs’s amita sharma has more.

Caregivers -- turning down coronavirus shots at senior care communities -- is yet another layer of the public health threat posed by the pandemic. Karl Steinberg, president-elect for The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, says their reasons for refusal run the gamut, including worry about long-term side effects.
“Some people say I don’t want to be a guinea pig. Other people think they might be able to catch covid from it. Some people have those really wild theories about microchips.
Meanwhile, Steinberg says about 90 percent of residents are taking the vaccine. Health officials plan to combat the vaccine skepticism among caregivers by stepping up information campaigns.
“So there will be outreach to communities of color, the Latinx population and we’re hoping to get some peer counseling, perhaps some help from the faith community.”
Some facilities are even offering 50 to $150 bonuses as an incentive for caregivers to take the shot. Amita Sharma, KPBS News.

Those who make their living, caring for elderly people have never had it easy -- often doing backbreaking work for little pay. Then the pandemic hit. A caregiver at a local assisted living facility spoke to KPBS’s Amita Sharma. In this monologue she tells about the emotional toll it has taken on her.

Coming up....Air Force leaders have made adjustments to basic training in order to keep troops safe from COVID-19. Some of the cutbacks include marching, hand-to-hand combat, casualty care and survival skills. We’ll have more on that next, just after this break.

The coronavirus pandemic has led Air Force leaders to scale back basic training. They've removed elements like hand-to-hand combat and shortened field training to try to keep troops safe. But some military training instructors are concerned that recruits are losing out.

From San Antonio, Carson Frame reports for the American Homefront Project.

Some elements of basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base are the same as they’ve always been. Think pre-dawn workouts, obstacle courses, silent meals in the chow hall, and screaming instructors...
AMBI of PT
But as the pandemic tightened its hold on the country, the Air Force made adjustments. Basic training was shortened by a week--and things like marching, hand-to-hand combat, casualty care and survival skills were cut back. Tech sergeant Alexandra Springman is a military training instructor.
SPRINGMAN: we always say flexibility is the key to air power. And that's really been a true statement. Um, we have definitely had to adjust.
Trainees normally do chemical and biological weapons training, where they expose themselves to tear gas and practice putting on protective equipment. But now that’s off limits… because the gas masks can’t be properly cleaned between uses.
And, because of social distancing, trainees have to use dummies to practice applying tourniquets and bandages--something they used to do with one another.
SPRINGMAN: that does not provide even close to that real world application. So while it's pretty easy to apply a tourniquet on a dummy, you can't know if you're actually putting the tourniquet on tight enough and cutting off that circulation, cutting off that blood supply.
Though Springman and other military training instructors understand the need to keep airmen safe, they still wish they could teach them more.
SPRINGMAN: We do feel kind of robbed in the sense of, we're not being able to complete all those additional training objectives that that enhanced training, because sometimes those are the things that the trainees remember.
But with new health and safety guidelines coming down all the time, both trainees and instructors have had to roll with the punches.
Would-be linguist Zachary Maples finished basic military training in November.
MAPLES: You just gotta go into it with the attitude of I'm, I'm not here to know exactly what's going to be happening, I'm here to be trained…. And just having that mindset kind of, it kind of kept the stress of change, kind of to a minimum.
Air Force leaders say the upheaval in basic training won’t affect readiness. Colonel Rockie Wilson commands the 37th Training Wing at Lackland. He says basic training is supposed to work as an orientation to the military—not a final lesson.
He says there’ll be other opportunities down the road, like during an airman’s vocational training, or before a combat deployment.
WILSON: They get all that…when they get to their home station anyway. Especially if they're going to deploy into contingency.
But critics argue that curtailing basic training is a problem. Mark Cancian is a senior adviser with the Center For Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan think tank in Washington, DC.
He says traditional military skills help teach airmen about hardship and teamwork--and what it really means to be in the Air Force. Without that, they might not be mentally prepared.for what’s next.
CANCIAN: the kinds of things that they've had to cut out, you know, these are the military skills, the warrior skills that let people know that they are now in a very different kind of environment. And it makes it a little harder for someone then arriving at a unit to accept the sacrifices that might be entailed in service in the field.
He adds that it’s difficult for advanced training and operational units to get airmen caught up on basic skills, especially since there are so many demands on their time already.
Back at Lackland, Colonel Rockie Wilson says they’re taking the opportunity to teach recruits more about the Air Force’s history and values...and the pandemic has been a valuable lesson in and of itself.
WILSON: This has been a wonderful readiness training and it’s not an exercise. It’s real. And so if we can beat COVID, then we can beat any competitor around the world, we know that.
But he says his top priority is controlling infections—and protecting trainees—even at the expense of some traditional skills.

That was Carson Frame reporting from San Antonio. 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

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television. 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.