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An end to COVID emergency?

 February 28, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Tuesday, February 28th.

The state and County’s COVID emergency orders end today. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


The Supreme Court is hearing arguments today, over President Biden’s student debt relief plan.

It would cancel 10-thousand-dollars in federal student loan debt for those who meet the income requirements.

It was put on hold after it was challenged by six Republican states and two students.

A lower court dismissed the lawsuit involving the six states, but the program was put on hold during an appeal.

Now, the Supreme Court is weighing in.

It could take months after today’s hearing, before a decision is made.


Nearly a month after his arrest, a San Diego County sheriff’s deputy was arraigned yesterday, on charges of bringing cocaine to jail.

48-year-old Alan Wereski pleaded not guilty in front of a courthouse audience that included advocates who want county jail staff to be scanned for drugs when they show up for work.

They say a lack of screening is contributing to overdoses and deaths in the county’s jails.

Wereski has been suspended without pay.

If he's convicted, he could face four years in prison.


S-D-G-AND-E announced that an additional 16 million is available in relief to help ratepayers who are behind on their bills.

According to the utility company, 6 million of the funding goes to doubling the amount of assistance available to each qualifying customer.

That’s through the company’s neighbor to neighbor program that is for residents who are not eligible for other state and federal assistance.

10 million of the money will go to local nonprofit organizations that provide essential services to vulnerable customers.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.


The state and county’s COVID emergency orders are ending today after being in effect for the last three years.

Health reporter Matt Hoffman has a look at what’s next.

It’s been more than three years since San Diego County officials declared a state of emergency for COVID-19.. It was announced mid February 2020 out of an abundance of caution.. Soon after  the governor’s stay at home order was issued along with California’s state of emergency. That resulted in 74 executive orders and nearly 600 additional provisions that state officials say helped save thousands of lives. Van Gorder There were a lot of regulations that were suspended as a result of the pandemic to allow us to move faster Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder says hospitals have been able to keep up with demand thanks to those orders. They allowed for higher patient to staff ratios and the ability to quickly add extra bed space. Van Gorder We certainly wouldn't have taken in the amount of patients that we did. We could have had a real health care catastrophe had the government not worked hand in hand with health care Last week on Thursday Scripps had 80 COVID patients admitted across the county, but that’s far from daily counts of more than three hundred during surges. Van Gorder says it’s time to end the state and local emergencies. Van Gorder That fear and verge of panic that we saw three years ago is really gone. Our physicians and nurses know how to take care of these patients California’s department of public health says of the nearly 600 provisions issued, just 27 are in place until March. Masking is still required in health care settings and long-term care facilities. State health officials say those orders are not tied to the pandemic emergency ending and Van Gorder is waiting for more details– Van Gorder Our answer to that one is let's wait and see what the order says. Certainly the state of california could say hospitals you need to continue wearing your mask He’s also looking to see if state officials will continue their vaccination requirement for health care workers. Van Gorder There’s probably a lot of people including hospital employees that are curious about that -- and we’ll wait and see the state may decide to waive that when the waive the health care emergency -- or they may extend it The state and county have been winding down their pandemic responses. Long-gone are the mass drive up vaccination and testing sites -- and smaller clinics funded by the state closed earlier this year. San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten has been leading the region's pandemic response. Wooten We still have to do the same things that we’ve been doing for the last three years -- now at a smaller scale but who knows how the situation could change where we need to ramp up again Wooten says plans are in place should they need to scale up again.. But she says the pandemic is manageable. Wooten The cases are not as low as I’d like to see them. They’re between mid to 200’s - that is evidence that the virus is still circulating in our community and we can't rest on our laurels oh we’re through this -- the pandemic is not over The county is still monitoring COVID through San Diegans wastewater and recently the amount of the virus has been going up. Topol Things are overall pretty darn good in San Diego County the only issue that doesn't go in the right direction is the wastewater surveillance shows some uptick, but hospitalizations are way down Dr. Eric Topol from the Scripps Research Translational Institute isn’t forecasting any substantive changes with the state and local pandemic emergencies going away.. The virus has been producing new variants, but while things are relatively quiet, he would like to see investments in better vaccines. Just in case we get a whole new family of variants beyond this omicron family that we’ve dealt with for well over a year -- We’re not prepared. We could be working on this but we’re not serious enough. He and other health officials say COVID certainly isn’t going away.. And could look similar to the flu -- with vaccines recommended each year. Topol says if we continue to have minor COVID waves the virus could be considered endemic, but that’s too early to say for sure. It all depends on whether this virus can find a new path to get to path to hurt us -- whether it’s run it’s course with all these recent variants we’ve been through then it will be in an endemic state. The federal COVID emergency is set to end in early May.. For all Californians -- vaccines, testing and treatments will still be available with no out of pocket costs for an additional six months. MH KPBS News.


Another storm is predicted to hit the county tomorrow.

Over the weekend, we got several inches of rain and more than two feet of snow.

Sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge says storms like these across the state could make this rainy season, a drought buster.

California has experienced drought conditions over the past 2-half to three years. But meteorologist Alex Tardy, with the National Weather Service says this rainy season could bring precipitation levels and water supply back to normal.  Alex We need about two times the snowpack and also about 150 percent of the rain. Not for San Diego but central and northern California and we are on pace for seeing that.” But if California is rebounding, another area that provides water to Southern California, the Colorado River basin, still has a long way to go. Alex 1521 “Now the Colorado is doing well with snowpack. It’s above average. But they have more than three years to make up. They have a decade to make up.’ He says that means even in the best conditions we won’t be able to stop saying “drought” after this winter is done. SOQ.  


Developers can get financial incentives to build low-income housing.

But right now, there’s nothing like that for building moderate-income homes.

Reporter Kitty Alvarado tells us about a new bill to change that.

There is no question one of the biggest issues facing San Diego County and the state is housing …with that in mind Assemblyman  Assemblymember David Alvarez introduced legislation to build more middle income housing … AB12-87 Housing affordability is a big challenge facing a lot of not just poor people who have a hard time making right now. It's also middle class people, working people are having also big challenges That’s Colin Parent with Circulate San Diego. He says his nonprofit came up with the idea to expand on existing density law to create a middle income bonus program… and pitched it to the assemblymember. this program can only be used if a project maxes out their production of affordable units … And we're really trying to to ensure that this is a real win win The bill may get its first  committee hearing next month. Kitty Alvarado KPBS News.


Coming up.... We’ll fill you in on what’s being done to stop sewage from Tijuana. We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.


Sewage spills originating in Tijuana have forced the closure of beaches in Imperial Beach, and south toward the border, for most of this winter.

It’s been a frustrating part of life for many south county residents for years.

A recent settlement has been made between a federal agency and the cities of Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and the San Diego Port Authority, to prevent Tijuana’s sewage from reaching the ocean in the future.

Paloma Aguirre (ah-gear-ray) is the mayor of Imperial Beach.

She spoke with my colleague Jade Hindmon.

That was Paloma Aguirre (ah-gear-ray), speaking with KPBS’s Jade Hindmon.


A dispute between neighbors, has led to a new regulation for backyard skateboarding ramps in Vista.

North County reporter Alexander Nguyen talks to neighbors involved, and why they say it was needed.

Evandro Menezes has had a skateboard ramp in his backyard for more than 10 years. He says he’s never had a problem until now. “We always try to accommodate the time is to escape, to not interrupt them, to do anything in their yards or noise wise. And for some reason, in the last three or four months, it just flipped. I don't know what happened.” His ramp is roughly 12 feet tall. Neighbors like Tom Payne said Menezes has hosted private events that bring traffic, parking issues and noise to their quiet neighborhood. “The noises that were being generated between their amplified sound system and all the skaters going and making all this horrible noise, it's very loud.” The Vista City Council recently approved an ordinance requiring residents who want to build ramps that are more than 6 feet tall to apply for a minor use permit. That permit will cost nearly 34 HUNDRED dollars and will also specify the times the ramps could be used. AN/KPBS.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great Tuesday.

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After three years, California and San Diego County’s COVID-19 emergency orders end today. In other news, developers can get financial incentives to build low-income housing, but there’s nothing like that for building moderate-income homes. We have details on a new bill that would change that. Plus, Imperial Beach’s mayor reacts to a recent settlement made to prevent Tijuana’s sewage from reaching San Diego.