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

Vaccinating Cruise Ship Crews

Cover image for podcast episode

Holland America Line crew members get COVID-19 vaccine at the B Street Pier & Cruise Ship Terminal in San Diego on May 19, 2021.

MELISSA MAE

Over 400 cruise ship crew members received their vaccinations this week due to a partnership between the Port of San Diego and Sharp HealthCare . Meanwhile, activists were disappointed by Mayor Todd Gloria's latest revised budget proposal that keeps police funding where it was before. And, the Quinceaneras industry had a tough pandemic year, but now there’s finally hope of a comeback.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, May 20th.

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Vaccinating Cruise Ship Crews

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

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The San Diego Community College District says all students and employees who will be on their campuses will be required to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The District plans to increase it’s on-campus and hybrid classes by at least 22% in the fall.

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In a unanimous vote, The San Diego County Supervisors are creating an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice. Here’s District One Supervisor Nora Vargas.

“in my own district, the communities of barrio logan and national city rank in the top five percent in the state for diesel and air pollution. children’s hospitalization rates for asthma are three times more than the county average. we’re proud of being a border community, however, as a result. in san ysidro, residents are exposed to pollution from vehicles that are waiting for hours at the ports of entry.”

The office will focus on helping the county reduce air pollution and reduce the exposure to toxic chemicals, particularly in communities of color.

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On Tuesday, Congress passed the COVID–19 Hate Crimes Act to address the increase in hate crimes and violence against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Between March of 2020 and 2021, 40% of all Anti Asian hate crimes reported in America occured in California. The Hate Crimes Act makes it easier to report hate crimes by providing online reporting resources, available in multiple languages.

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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.

The cruise ship industry provides a nearly $300-million dollar boost to our local economy.. But that all sailed away with the pandemic. But now there’s a positive sign that the industry is on its way back. KPBS’ Melissa Mae was dockside on Wednesday as ship employees got a much needed shot in the arm.

“I would like to start all the vaccinations.”
Captain Henk Draper of the Holland America Line is eager to…
Henk Draper (:06)
“Get back in doing what we do best, which is giving out guest a memorable cruise vacation.
Melissa Standup (:25)
“For all of 2020, cruise ships were either docked like this one or stuck out at sea without any guests. 137 cruise ships that were scheduled to stop in San Diego were cancelled. In an effort to jump start the cruise season as early as October of this year, the Port of San Diego and Sharp Healthcare have partnered to vaccinate crew members on this ship and two ships off the coast.”
Over 400 crew members got their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Rafael Castellanos (:08)
“This is a major step to opening up this industry and it’s an incredibly important industry for the port of San Diego and the San Diego region.”
San Diego is the third busiest cruise port in California. Port Commissioner Rafael Castellanos knows that this industry...
Rafael Castellanos (:09)
“Creates thousands of good jobs in the restaurant, lodging, transportation industries, longshore workers, working waterfront workers.”
Executing a vaccination event like this one was a team effort.
Rafael Castellanos (:07)
“In close coordination with our local, state and federal partners. Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve obviously had to coordinate very closely.”
Brett McClain the Executive Vice President & COO of Sharp HealthCare described their pandemic efforts so far.
Brett McClain (:08)
“As of this morning, we have vaccinated approximately 542,000 San Diegans.”
Brett McClain (:14)
“We are transitioning and pivoting from the work that we’re doing in our vaccination sites to partnering with community industry as well as agencies to be able to bring vaccinations to the places that people work.”
Sharp Healthcare personnel also headed out on boats to vaccinate the crew of a Princess ship today. Tomorrow, they will sail out to one more Holland America ship to vaccinate that crew. Melissa Mae KPBS News.

And that was KPBS’ Melissa Mae.

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Activists calling for San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria to cut the city's police budget and invest more in social services were disappointed this week.
KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen explains why.

AB: The San Diego Police Department saw no big changes in Gloria's final budget proposal released yesterday. Last month Gloria proposed $19 million in additional police funding, mostly to cover rising pension costs. Keara Piña of the progressive think tank Center on Policy Initiatives says while Gloria has called for more oversight and reforms to police policies, that isn’t enough.
KEARA PIÑA
CENTER ON POLICY INITIATIVES
KP: None of those are reflected in the proposed budget. So I think to community members who have been advocating for this for a really long time, not seeing that funding behind that is disappointing.
AB: Gloria says he wants other types of first responders to help with homelessness and mental health crises, not police. But Darwin Fishman of the Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego says Gloria hasn't yet backed up that rhetoric with action.
DARWIN FISHMAN
RACIAL JUSTICE COALITION OF SAN DIEGO
DF: My biggest concern about Mayor Gloria is actually the issue about courage. Quite often he'd say the right things at the right time, but it's just a real issue about believability.
AB: Gloria has proposed a $4 million cut to police overtime spending, with some of those savings invested in a new police oversight commission and youth gang prevention programs. The City Council will discuss the latest spending plan on Thursday. The final deadline to approve the budget is June 15. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

And that was KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen.

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Community college enrollment plummeted across the state during the pandemic.
But KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong says local college officials are optimistic about post-pandemic recovery.

In San Diego, many community college students decided to put their education on pause during the pandemic.
At San Diego City College, enrollment dropped by nearly 15 percent between Fall 2019 and Fall2020 semesters. Carlos Cortez is the president of the College of Continuing Education at the San Diego Community College District.
CARLOS CORTEZ /// SAN DIEGO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICTThe district itself is about 8% under-enrolled right now from our target. That’s a direct consequence of the pandemic. We have moved all of our programming online. And the online environment is not ideal for some students and certain programs.
But the pandemic did have some positive outcomes for San Diego Community Colleges. Cortez says enrollment for vocational training programs like welding actually increased.
We have over 75 free job training certificate programs. Yesterday we ran our enrollment, and we are 17% over our target. So we are popping at the seams in terms of enrollment.
Cortez says this trend makes sense. Job training programs are exactly what the country’s labor force needs right now for the economy to recover.
At Southwestern College in Chula Vista, the enrollment drop was primarily due to economic factors. That’s according to College President Mark Sanchez.
MARK SANCHEZ /// SOUTHWESTERN COLLEGE PRESIDENTMany of our community members have lost their jobs or have had their hours cut and businesses have been shut down or severely reduced, so for them their priority is employment rather than trying to go back to school at this point.
Both Sanchez and Cortez say enrollment dropped disproportionately for students of color. At San Diego City College, while the number of students in job training programs increased, the number of Black and Latino students in those programs went down. Joe Hong KPBS News.

That was KPBS Education Reporter, Joe Hong.

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Home prices in California continue to soar, and competition for a limited supply of single-family homes is the new-normal. KPBS reporter Jacob Aere looked into the reasons for the sky-high prices and what it means for housing affordability in San Diego County.

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in San Diego County rose to $825,120 in April, an increase from $800,000 a month ago, and over $150,000 more than the same time last year, according to the California Association of Realtors.
Those numbers mirror a statewide trend in increasing housing prices.
San Diego real estate broker Voltaire Lepe says that this kind of market growth is unprecedented in the region.
Voltaire Lepe | Real Estate Broker
“There’s very little inventory, right? So there’s about 2,300 homes for sale. Last year at the same time, there were over 5,000. In a normal market there’s about 6 to 8000 homes for sale.”
“And that just causes multiple buyers per property.”
For some, the swelling market has made their dreams of buying a home unaffordable, particularly for first-time home buyers.
But for those who can afford the sky-high prices, Lepe says supply is in such short demand that forgoing appraisal contingencies and bidding wars have become commonplace.
That means homes in San Diego have recently been selling for well-above the asking price, especially in North County.
“North County, you know it starts at 50,000 and it goes up to 150,000. North County, it's very competitive and the difference between what it's worth and what people are paying for it is higher.”
In April, California home sales increased for the third consecutive month, and have risen over 65% from a year ago while the median number of days it took to sell a California single-family home hit a record low of just 7 days.
Lepe says he expected home prices in the region to continue to increase throughout the rest of 2021 as long as the federal government keeps interest rates low. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.

And that was KPBS Jacob Aere.

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Coming up.... the quinceanera industry had a brutal pandemic year.

“It was so sad and I was so scared of losing my business, and this is a family business where my kids help me.”

But there’s hope that events are coming back now. Also, today marks the end of the road for a lot of bills in the state legislature. More on those stories next, just after the break.

Many important events of our lives … like weddings and quinceaneras were put on hold during the pandemic...and the event industry was hit hard.
KPBS reporter Alexandra Rangel spoke with some Chula Vista merchants who are eager to get back to work.

Along Third Avenue in downtown Chula Vista / sits a row of restaurants, businesses and breweries. It’s also a go-to spot for people looking to plan a wedding or celebration.
These businesses are picking up following a brutal year of pandemic restrictions.
From party photographers….
Arturo, Enciso, VPA Photo and Video
“There was no business for us.”
To party bus rental companies...
Adam Benhaddouch, Coastal West Limousine
“Because we work mainly with restaurants, weddings, quinceaneras, birthdays, and churches are closed, restaurants are closed.”
Dress shops...tuxedo shops...D-J’s...catering companies…(pause) an entire industry completely shutdown.
Vicky Hernandez, Illusion Hall
“It was so sad and I was so scared of losing my business, and this is a family business where my kids help me.”
Vicky Hernandez is the owner of Illusion Hall. She says the party venue she’s been running for ah decade was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Vicky Hernandez, Illusion Hall
“Some people don't know, but I had to take the decision to work as a waiter. I never believed that I could do that, but I was trying to find a job.”
She also took out a 60-thousand dollar loan for her business.
Vicky Hernandez, Illusion Hall
“And when the loans started coming out, I qualified for a loan, and that was my key to continue in this business.”
After ah year of canceled events, Hernandez is scheduled to host ah string of parties starting this summer.
Vicky Hernandez, Illusion Hall
“Get ready Mom because now, I am very very busy. I have almost 50 events waiting.
She marked the turn around with an open house on Sunday (pause), giving clients ah feel of what their dream day can look like.
Angelo Rocha has ah tuxedo shop across the street from Illusion Hall. He says the reopening of the party halls is ah good sign, as he knows people will be looking for formal wear.
Angelo Rocha, Angelo Formal Wear
“It’s low, but everyday, more people coming up, more people coming up.”
The majority of Rocha’s income comes from quinceaneras - Ah celebration of a girls 15th birthday.
He says 90% of his clients are latino.
Angelo Rocha, Angelo Formal Wear
“Quinceaneras is something special for the hispanic people, it’s very important for the family.”
Rocha says it’s loyal customers that are keeping him afloat.
Out of 50 events he had scheduled last year, he says only one asked for their money back and the remainder 49 have rescheduled for this year.
Angelo Rocha, Angelo Formal Wear
“Most of my customers are old customers. I have a customer from 20 years. They come back. They do a quinceanera, then they come for their wedding, later on they come for another event.”
Other store owners aren’t as fortunate.
Mario Urista, the owner of Mario’s Boutique, says he has an entire demographic of clientele he hasn’t been able to reach.
Mario Alberto Urista, Mario’s Boutique
“About 30-40% of my customers come from Tijuana to look for dresses here. It’s a lot of people.”
Urista says he’s had several customers looking for prom dresses, it’s an added bonus he wasn't expecting to see this year with the uncertainty of high school proms.
As the event industry begins to salvage what’s left of this year, Hernandez is just grateful to have made it through.
Vicky Hernandez, Illusion Hall
“I’m happy that I didn't stop. I'm happy that I didn't go bankrupt, but it’s going to take us at least a year or two to go back to where we were before the pandemic.”
Alexandra Rangel, KPBS News.

And that reporting from KPBS’ Alexandra Rangel.

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Today marks the end of the road for dozens of bills in the California Legislature.
Senate and Assembly Appropriations committees are holding a twice-yearly hearing that releases hundreds of bills to the chamber floor for debate. But many others will be held back with little or no explanation.

CapRadio’s politics reporter Nicole Nixon spoke with anchor Randol White to explain what’s known as the Legislature’s suspense file process.

CapRadio’s politics reporter Nicole Nixon speaking with anchor Randol While.

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.