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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Tokyo Olympics

The Unvaccinated Left Behind

Cover image for podcast episode

BIANCA SANTOS

Bianca Santos works from her home in this undated photo.

Many in San Diego County have chosen to not get a COVID-19 vaccine. But there are a few among us who desperately want to be vaccinated, but can’t due to medical issues. Meanwhile, The San Diego City Council unanimously voted on Monday to pass Mayor Todd Gloria's roughly $4.6 billion proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022. Plus, summer camp is making a comeback.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday June 15th

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Californian reopens, but what about people who can’t get vaccinated?

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

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I probably don’t need to tell you that today is THE day we’ve all been waiting for. Stay at home orders in California are officially lifted, and businesses at full capacity. No more social distancing, masks off for those who are vaccinated. And if that’s not enough incentive, Governor Gavin Newsom announced yet another reason to get vaccinated on monday. --a new lottery drawing to take place on July 1st when six vaccinated Californians will win quote “dream vacations” and two thousand dollars for travel expenses.

State officials are set to unveil a new electronic system that will allow businesses to check the vaccination status of customers. Newsom stressed that this system is voluntary. It’s meant as an option for businesses dealing with people who aren’t wearing masks. Here's California's health and human services secretary Mark Ghaly.

"you know we worry about discrimination, inequities....is somebody's personal prerogative."

neither Ghaly nor Newsom would go into further details about the verification system. Unvaccinated people are supposed to continue wearing masks.

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The national weather service has issued an excessive heat warning for San Diego county deserts, valley and mountain areas until the end of this week. The San Diego Humane society has some caution to give to pet owners as well, especially regarding doing activities with your pets in hot weather. Here’s Nina Thompson with the San Diego Humane Society.

“the best thing to do is leave them at home. we want to bring our pets with us, but during the heat of the day, they’re actually more comfortable resting at home where it’s cool, where they have water, where they can stay out of the sun.”

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

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

Today marks the state’s official reopening. Occupancy restrictions inside offices, stores, restaurants, bars and stadiums are gone and mask requirements are greatly relaxed. Californians are celebrating their rediscovered freedoms. Except for one group, who KPBS reporter Claire Trageser tells us about….people who can’t get vaccines for medical reasons.

“It was very poor timing, two weeks after I got the medication, the vaccine became available to people who worked in the food industry.”
This is Bernice--we’re not using her real name for privacy reasons.
Food worker broll
Because of her job she knew she would be near the front of the line for a COVID-19 vaccine when they became available last winter.
Cut back to Bernice?
But Bernice has multiple sclerosis. And at the time her symptoms were flaring up.
“I always feel like I'm pretty comfortable being uncomfortable because I'm a runner, so I was thinking, how much discomfort was I willing to accept?”
Vaccine/medical broll
There are drug treatments that alleviate her symptoms, but they suppress her immune system, making the vaccines far less effective. So, if Bernice were to do the treatments she couldn’t take the vaccine for six months.
“And then at one point I was like, ‘I can't do this anymore.’”
Vaccine/medical broll
So she got her treatment. Two weeks later, she was eligible to get the vaccine. But instead she’ll be waiting until September??
“It wasn't immediately frustrating, I feel like it's more frustrating now that people are back to normal.”
Millions of people nationwide have chronic conditions requiring immunosuppressive treatments. AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s Disease are a few examples. Also, included are people who’ve received organ transplants and many cancer patients. UC San Diego epidemiologist Rebecca Fielding-Miller says these people aren’t getting enough consideration.
“We have not done a great job thinking about people with disabilities, we’ve only thought about the able-bodied throughout this pandemic, and that isn’t changing now.”
She says loosening mask rules in stores and workplaces put unfair burdens on people.
“What it means is for everyone to be able to go into Target, buy a carton of ice cream, and not have that be a terrifying experience.”
“But other than those very, very rare cases, everyone should get the vaccine.”
Dr. Davey Smith, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego, says only people with known allergies to a vaccine ingredient should skip the shot. That means people on immunosuppressive treatments should probably still get COVID-19 vaccines even if they won’t be as protected as a healthy person.
What I say to my patients is, ‘I’m going to give you the vaccine, but it might not work as well, so you need to go out into the world and be careful.’”
“The most I would do is drive through, that’s it.”
That’s the attitude taken by Bianca Santos, who takes immunosuppressive drugs after her kidney transplant. She received both doses of the Moderna vaccine, but knows they may not be as effective on her, so she doesn’t feel the freedom many others experience post-vaccine.
“It’s disheartening, because you see your friends going out, doing activities, eating restaurants.”
As a young person, Santos says it’s depressing to look at her friends’ social media accounts.
Claire Trageser, KPBS News

That was KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser.

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The pandemic was hard on a lot of local businesses. So, KPBS’ Alexandra Rangel checked in with how some of them are adjusting today.

It’s the day many local businesses have been waiting for as California's color-coded tier system comes to a halt.
Customers can say goodbye to capacity limits, social distancing requirements, and those who are fully vaccinated can do away with their facemask.
While some businesses can't wait to get back to normalcy, others aren't in a rush.
Carlos Reyes, the head Chef at Pokez Mexican Eatery says, they’re taking a slower reopening approach.
Carlos Reyes, Pokez Mexican Eatery Head Chef
“It doesn't change much for us. We are going to continue running operations with dining outside and a little indoor as well.”
He says vaccinated employees can feel free to ditch the facemask.
Carlos Reyes, Pokez Mexican Eatery Head Chef
“We like to let our employees know that if they feel comfortable with the mask that’s cool, if you don't then you don't have to wear it if those are the regulations.”
Although some restaurants in the downtown area have already loosened up restrictions many still have face mask requirements for customers and some still require temperature checks.
Krizia Albuquerque, San Diego Resident
“They took our temperature checks on my wrist.”
Krizia Albuquerque says it’s time to lift restrictions.
Krizia Albuquerque, San Diego Resident
“That means people can be on their own decisions on how to take care of themselves and others.”
Although she believes some restrictions were necessary, Albuquerque isn’t fond of employers asking whether or not employees have been vaccinated.
Krizia Albuquerque, San Diego Resident
“Very scary question.”
Some restrictions in California will remain in place.
Those who aren't vaccinated are still required to wear a face mask.
Masks will still be required on all public transit and at airports.
Alexandra Rangel, KPBS News,

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The San Diego City Council approved a $4.6 billion budget on Monday to cover the coming fiscal year. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says funding for police, parks and the arts dominated the debate.

AB: For months, progressive activists have been pushing for cuts to the San Diego Police Department budget, and for increased funding to social programs. Many repeated those calls Monday, while others called in to oppose cuts to police funding. Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe tried unsuccessfully to cut police overtime funding and reallocate it for new streetlights, homeless outreach and other priorities that she says also support public safety.
MONICA MONTGOMERY STEPPE
SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCILMEMBER
MMS: This is what the reallocation is about. It is about finally, finally prioritizing the communities that have been left behind. And because they have been left behind, yes, they have higher crime.
AB: Ultimately the council approved a $19 million increase to the police budget — mostly due to rising salary and benefit costs. And there were a few last-minute changes to the budget, among them an additional $2 million for arts and culture organizations and $350,000 for a new Office of Child and Youth Success
RAUL CAMPILLO
SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCILMEMBER
RC: We can and we must invest more of our city's resources with the success of children and youth in mind. And by establishing this office we are going to leverage our assets to make our city a great place to grow up and raise a family.
AB: The city budget was stabilized thanks to roughly $150 million in federal aid from President Biden's American Rescue Plan. That money is offsetting massive drops in revenue from the local tourism economy, which is still recovering from the pandemic.
Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

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Coming up....after a year of no Summer camp, it’s finally making a comeback. We’ll have that story next just after the break.

The pandemic canceled most summer camps last year, But this year it’s making a comeback. CDC and state of California guidelines allow for increased operations … especially in cases where all staff and children are fully vaccinated. As part of the ongoing Shared Spaces series about emerging from the pandemic, CapRadio’s Randol White looks at the upcoming camp season … and how COVID-19 is not the only focus.

SUMMER CAMP feature
AMBI: walking through snow
Recently while hiking with roughly a dozen young kids along a trail near Donner Lake in the Sierra Nevada … this happened ...
BITE (:03)
“(kid) A bug … (camp leader) oh my gosh … (kid) a bug!”
… the kids stopped to observe a curious insect resting on a boulder.
BITE (:13 )
“(kid) it’s furry (camp leader) Is it furry? (kid) it looks like a grey and yellow bee … (kid) it looks like a fly … (kid)
The hike is part of a TINS day camp … … or Tahoe Institute for Natural Science. Education Manager Kendal Scott says … more outings are now on the summer camp schedule … which were canceled last summer because of Covid. She says parents couldn’t be happier.
KENDAL SCOTT/TINS Education Manager (:14 )
“We have kind of have unprecedented levels of interest in camp this year. We actually opened up two new sections of camp … so yeah, I definitely think people are really excited.”
But expanding camp operations is not the only issue on the minds of some in the camp industry. There’s a new push to make this childhood tradition more inclusive of different races, cultures, and of those in the LGBTQ communities.
LIZ KIMMELMAN/Owner, Tumbleweed Day Camp (:??)
“The considerations and the thoughts and the questioning is happening like I haven’t seen it before.”
Liz Kimmelman is the owner of Tumbleweed Day Camp in Los Angeles and a member of the American Camp Association.
LIZ KIMMELMAN/Owner, Tumbleweed Day Camp (:??)
“The camp industry is, slowly, but is working on creating more spaces that directly support and make safe for the non-dominant culture.”
Kimmelman believes diversity, equity and inclusion is not just about providing camp scholarships for economically disadvantaged children … but it’s also about reconsidering some long-held camp traditions - like using native-sounding words and images of tepees.
LIZ KIMMELMAN/Owner, Tumbleweed Day Camp (:??)
“Oh my goodness we are greatly culturally appropriating indigenous iconography and to realize that, you know, I’m acknowledging it and we’re going to do something about it. ”
Another important issue as children head back to these large social settings … is mental health.
Doctor Heather Bernstein is a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in the Bay Area.
She thinks camps could use this summer’s reboot to focus on the mental well-being of the kids they serve. Bernstein anticipates a lot more anxiety in campers this year, … and says camp staff and parents shouldn’t just brush it off … and instead should be…
DR. HEATHER BERNSTEIN/Clinical Psychologist, Child Mind Institute (:??)
Really leaning into the validation of how stressful that this might be, and tt might be fun and your kid might have an awesome time but kind of giving them the space to just talk about that it is scary and then helping them problem solve and helping them come up with strategies to live with the anxiety and still go to camp.”
AMBI: Should we continue hiking up to the stream?
Back with the kids on the trail near Donner Lake … camp leader Kendal Scott says learning about and being in nature are cures for some anxieties.
She says spurring kids to be inquisitive about their surroundings … helps them better understand and reduce fear.
Which brings us back to the unusual bug spotted earlier in the hike and how I noticed the kids getting excited, not frightened by the insect … part of that teaching method in action.
In this case … the kids learned it was a type of hoverfly … totally harmless.
AMBI: “bye bye bug”
Exploring our Shared Spaces as we emerge from the pandemic … I’m Randol White.

And that was Cap Radio’s Randol White.

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.