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When Should Nursing Home Visits Resume?

Cover image for podcast episode

COURTESY MARIAM BARAKZOY

Pictured above is Zakia Azimi, Mariam Barakozoy's mother in a hospital in 2020.

As eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations expands and case numbers drop, there's growing pressure on the state to allow families to visit nursing home residents. Meanwhile, the Army is asking soldiers and survivors for ideas on how to fix its broken sexual assault and harassment prevention program. Plus, San Diego leaders launch a new program to get communities involved in the effort to stop gun violence.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, March 8th.

Covid-19 case numbers drop among residents of California’s nursing homes.

We’ll have more on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines….

San Diego County public health officials reported 187 new covid-19 cases on Sunday, and five additional deaths. There were no new community outbreaks. Meanwhile, Stadiums and Theme parks got clearance from the state to reopen on April 1 with restrictions. San Diego is still in the state’s strictest purple tier, but, if the county can get to the red tier by the end of March, about 8500 fans would be able to attend the Padres opening day at Petco Park.

Voting starts today for a special election to fill Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s former seat in the 79th District. Ballots can be cast at the San Diego County registrar of voter headquarters in Kearny Mesa between 8am and 5pm. The 79th district includes southeastern San Diego, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and parts of Chula Vista, Bonita, and National City.

About 700 homeless people currently being sheltered at the San Diego Convention Center are scheduled to move into smaller shelters starting on March 22. They’re there under the Shelter to Home program, but Supervisor Nathan Fletcher says there are now preliminary plans to convert the convention center into a mass vaccination site.

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

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

As Covid-19 cases in nursing homes have dropped by as much as 98% in recent weeks, advocates and families want California to re-open the facilities to in-room visits. They tell KPBS’s Amita Sharma that residents are dying of poor care and loneliness because of the year-long visitation ban.

As a lawyer who has long advocated for nursing home reform in California, Mike Dark has seen a lot of abuse and neglect of seniors. But never before did he see as many complaints as he has since senior care facilities barred inside visits last March to stop the spread of Covid-19.
“Family members are reporting that their loved ones are dying of dehydration, malnutrition, of not being attended to physically so that they avoid bedsores, kidney infections and the like.”
Dark says before the pandemic, families helped feed and bathe residents to compensate for poor care inside the facilities. Dark has been pushing the state to lift the ban on indoor visits at senior care centers to improve care. So is Mariam Barakozy. She says her 88-year-old mom, who lives in a Rancho Bernardo nursing home, has spiralled down in recent months. She blames restricted visits.
It's just the physical decline. It's a mental decline. It's an emotional decline. And I mean, I feel like there's no mercy. I know I'm not alone in this. I mean, what is it going to take?
The California Department of Public Health says it’s finalizing adjustments to nursing home visitation policies.

The U.S.Senate passed the 1.9 trillion dollar emergency relief package over the weekend. A version of the bill was originally proposed by President Joe Biden last month. The Senate version passed on a party line vote with all republicans against and democrats in favor.

The package focuses on getting COVID-19 vaccines into arms, and also money into peoples' pockets. San Diego Congressman Mike Levin talked about his vote for the House version of the bill.

“The American Rescue Plan has 33.4 million dollars in federal aid for Oceanside, 26.6 Million for Vista, 13.3 Million for Carlsbad and the list goes on...this funding is desperately needed.”

The House must now vote again on the Senate version bill on TUESDAY, which was passed with a number of changes.

In recent weeks, THOUSANDS OF POT CONVICTIONS in San Diego county HAVE BEEN REDUCED OR DISMISSED. WITH MORE HERE'S KPBS'S DEBBIE CRUZ.

Nearly 26-thousand people with felony marijuana convictions on their records in san diego county had them reduced to misdemeanors last month. in addition some 1-thousand people with misdemeanor cannabis convictions had their cases dismissed. accordin to a union-tribune report the reductions and dismissals were made official in an order signed by a superior court judge on feb. 5th. the order came a year after the county's district attorney’s office submitted a list of cases eligible for relief. it was part of a state law that was an outgrowth of proposition 64, the 2016 voter-approved measure that legalized some marijuana use. for kpbs, i'm debbie cruz.

The Army admitted in November that its sexual assault and harassment prevention program is broken. Now one elite Army corps is taking matters into its own hands--asking soldiers and survivors for ideas to fix it. Carson Frame reports for the American Homefront Project.

Staff Sergeant Shameka Dudley says she wants to show soldiers what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s boots.
DUDLEY: that is the goal, right there. Empathy, because that's an issue, we have to...you know, if someone comes up male or female and says, like, ‘Hey, I feel like I've been sexually harassed.’ Usually what happens is, is like, ‘maybe you're taking it wrong’
Early in her Army career, Dudley, a linguist at Fort Bragg, helped support a friend who was assaulted. She says other soldiers were nearby--and could have intervened to stop the crime.
So in February, she pitched an idea to the 18th Airborne Corps: use virtual reality to get soldiers to be proactive.
DUDLEY: if you were a bystander in this situation... you can be like, hey, what you're doing is wrong.
Dudley was one of seven finalists at the 18th Airborne Corps’ “Dragon’s Lair” event. It's normally a "Shark Tank'' style competition where the Army asks for tech proposals from rank-and-file soldiers. But this time, instead of focusing on tanks and computers, it asked for suggestions to improve its sexual harassment and assault response program, what the Army calls SHARP.
Colonel Joe Buccino was part of the team that put Dragon’s Lair together. He’s the innovation Officer for the 18th Airborne Corps.
BUCCINO: with the sharp program, you have to have buy in, you have to have trust at the lowest level. And if people don't have trust, then you don't really have a sharp program, because people aren't really going to report.
Buccino says there’s been a lot of pressure to rebuild that trust since the death of Fort Hood Texas specialist Vanessa Guillen last year. An independent review panel found Fort Hood’s climate to be ‘permissive of sexual assault and harassment.’ The 18th Airborne Corps isn’t based at Fort Hood--it’s headquartered at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. But Buccino says the problem is Army-wide.
BUCCINO: You know, Fort Hood is not some other planet, Fort Hood is a part of the United States Army. This is a problem that manifests on big army installations. there's public pressure, and there's congressional pressure, and there's soldier pressure, and there are soldiers on social media, and there are soldiers talking to their chain of command.
The suggestions were wide-ranging. One Dragon’s Lair contestant recommended putting more women on the boards that decide whether assailants will get kicked out of the Army. She also wanted to see career incentives for soldiers who act like allies. Another pitched the idea of having volunteers watch for problems at the unit level.
The 18th Airborne Corps could take some of those steps itself. But others, like changing how punishment is meted out, or giving SHARP more manpower, are up the Army.
Still, Captain Megan Mejia, an Army lawyer, says she feels empowered to take action. She was one of the panelists who reviewed the presentations.
MEJIA: the takeaway for us and I think for a lot of people at 18th airborne corps right now is that we can do more without having that systematic change, right, we can, we can close the information gap with our leaders and junior leaders and junior enlisted, we can talk to them, we can provide more training..if everyone is buying in, then it's getting better, better automatically. .
The 18th Airborne Corps has committed to implementing the concepts of all seven Dragon’s Lair finalists. It’s also sharing insights with Army leaders, who are in the process of revamping SHARP.
But the buck may not stop there. In late February, the Pentagon announced a civilian-led commission to address military sexual assault. Once formed, the commission will have 90 days to compile its recommendations and will report directly to President Biden.
That was Carson Frame, reporting. 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

Coming up.... Police say San Diego saw a spike in gun violence in 2020. Now there's a new community-involved program called “No Shots Fired” that’s trying to address it. We’ll have that story next, just after the break.

More reports of gunshots, more gun violence and more homicides- police say that’s what San Diego experienced last year. Gun violence in the city was up 28-percent, with gang members suspected in 20-percent of all murders. In response, San Diego leaders have launched a new program to get communities involved in the effort to stop the violence. The program, called NO SHOTS FIRED – is designed to work with gangs, reach cease fire agreements and help individual gang members find new directions for their lives. The NO SHOTS FIRED effort is a collaboration between city, police, community and faith-based leaders.

Bishop Cornelius Bowser is one of those leaders. He’s the founding pastor of Charity Apostolic church, and he spoke with KPBS Midday Edition Host about the effort.

That was Bishop Cornelius Bowser is the founding pastor of Charity Apostolic church, and he was speaking with KPBS Midday Edition Host Maureen Cavanaugh

The adrenaline of gliding into a bowl at a skatepark isn’t just for skaters or bikers. KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne tells us why.

Everybody here is a skater…

But not everyone rides a skateboard…..

Tony Thog-martin loves the skatepark.

But in 20-17 he got hurt really bad snowboarding.

“When I broke my back the doctors said I would never be able to skate again. And I wasn’t going to let that happen. I was like no there’s no possible way.”
After that he began researching wheelchair sports and met Troy McGuirk.
McGuirk also uses a wheelchair. He’s won several national titles playing and coaching wheelchair rugby.

McGuirk helped Thogmartin get a specialized skating wheelchair made to withstand the heavy wear and tear of skating.

“Our biggest problem is the price of a chair to really come out here and have a lot of fun. People have destroyed their everyday chairs and so there’s different foundations out there that gives grants for wheelchairs.”

Each chair has to be customized to the person and is handmade, making the price unaffordable for most people. Thogmartin was awarded a grant for a specialized wheelchair and has never looked back.

It took a lot of practice, a lot of time, a lot of effort. Just committing to myself, going out multiple times a week , pushing through the pain. Not really caring about the fear of falling, [crash nat] putting that into the back of the mind and just going for it.”
Thogmartin hopes to go pro and is grateful that the skateboarding community is encouraging.
“When it comes to the wheelchair, they've been very open arms about it. Skaters love it, because a lot of people don’t see this everyday so when they do see it, it kind of gives them a step back and go woah.”
Aside from coaching, Troy McGuirk is also the organizer of SOCAL-WCMX or Wheelchair Motocross in Southern California.
McGuirk puts together events for the wheelchair community to get together and skate.
“I put together a flyer and put it out. Whoever shows up shows up and we just skate and have fun.”
Most of McGuirks’ meet ups happen at Southern California skateparks. Although the skate parks appear to be a perfect destination for a wheelchair, one problem not visible to the naked eye is ADA accessibility.
It’s easy for wheelchairs to get IN to the pits and bowls of the skate parks -- but not so easy to get OUT.
Terry Newhouse sits on the committee for the new upcoming Fallbrook Skatepark. This will be the first skatepark for the city of Fallbrook.
“This is a needed thing in Fallbrook. There's so many kids here in Fallbrook that have nowhere to go.They’re skating in back alleys of apartments and stores trying to find some place to skate.”
Newhouse is a skateboarding instructor and also works with challenged athletes. While planning for the skatepark in Fallbrook, he wanted to make sure the skatepark included one thing…. ADA accommodations.
“They want to be self sufficient just like everyone else There’s going to be a way for them to get in and out the park on their own without the use of somebody pushing them out all the time or wait for somebody to help them.” 11:52:23
Newhouse said the Fallbrook skatepark is expected to be complete by the end of this year. Until then, Thogmartin has one piece of advice..
“Come to a skatepark, have some fun. That’s what it's all about.. “

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.