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Employers hit hard by omicron

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday January 6th>>>>

Short staffed across San Diego

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

California has extended its state-wide mask mandate requiring people to wear masks in indoor public settings indoors to february 15th. That’s according to the state’s health and human services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. The mask mandate began in mid-December and was originally scheduled to expire in mid-january. Ghaly says the decision to extend the mandate was the result of the rising covid-19 cases numbers and the high transmission rate of the Omicron variant. Ghaly also says people should consider wearing higher-grade masks, not simply scarves or loose-fitting cloth face-coverings.

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Meanwhile, San Diego State university says spring semester will begin with virtual classes out of an anticipation of a continuing surge of covid-19 cases. In-person classes are now scheduled to begin on February 7th. They were previously scheduled to resume in mid-January. That’s according to city news service.

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State school's chief tony thurmond announced plans on wednesday to help california students coping with pandemic anxiety and learning loss.

that includes recruiting ten-thousand mental health clinicians and expanding literacy efforts ... programs that might already be included in governor gavin newsom's state budget proposal coming out next week …

" ... and even if these things aren't in the budget, we intend to pursue them fully in legislation because at the end of the day, they only become law if they go through the legislature and get voted on by the end of the legislative cycle."

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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.

Some of the region’s largest employers are finding it hard to keep staffing levels up in the midst of the current surge of covid infections. kpbs reporter erik anderson has more.

The omicron variant is now the region’s dominant COVID strain and the virus is driving record numbers of infections. The region’s biggest employers – like Sharp Healthcare -- are being buffeted by the disease. Sharp C-E-O Chris Howard says the impact is the latest challenge in the nearly two-year-old pandemic.

Chris Howard, Sharp Healthcare CEO

“At present we have 510 sharp covid team members that are COVID 19 positive and currently not working. And without a doubt the current omicron surge is exacerbating what has already been a difficult situation in terms of staffing.”

Howard says there are fewer people being treated for serious COVID ailments this year compared to last winter’s surge. 250 patients are hospitalized now compared to more than 600 a year ago. However, he says there are fewer people to care for those who need medical help.

Erik Anderson KPBS News

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The search for covid-19 rapid test kits continues for many san diego county school districts. Delivery of test kits from the state department of health fell far short of what was requested by county officials.

KPBS education reporter MG Perez explains.

The San Diego County Office of Education requested 5-hundred thousand antigen rapid test kits to cover every public school student in the county. Instead, it received 193-thousand tests from the state department of public health late Tuesday. County spokesperson Music Watson says those tests were distributed on a first come first served basis.

“We’ve created a wait list where people will be attended to in the order which they responded and as soon as we get more kits from the state, we will go down that list and notify our districts and charters and let them know we have them so they can come and pick them up.”

Watson says it’s not known when the next shipment will come and how many test kits will be included. MGP KPBS News.

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There is a new way to get around in encinitas.

kpbs north county reporter tania thorne says an electric bike sharing program launched on (wednesday).

Encinitas visitors will begin to see colorful electric bikes and docks on Coast Highway.

Similar to other bike sharing programs, the electric bike is unlocked through a cellphone app.

But this program has a major difference...says Tim Pirkey with Encinitas Beach Cycle, which is running the program

“Accountability. It provides for a much nicer experience for both the rider and the community.”

to complete a ride, the cyclist must return the bike to a docking station.

“You’ll never have bikes abandoned in front of businesses on sidewalks and intersections or anything like that.”

30 minute rides are $7 and monthly and annual passes will be available.

TT KPBS News

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An Iconic San Diego landmark is getting some much needed repairs thanks to a generous donation by a local organization.

KPBS reporter Alexandra Rangel has more on the regional landmark.

The iconic Junipero Serra Museum sits on Kumeyaay territory in Presidio Park.

The historical site was the first permanent European settlement in 1769 in what is today the State of California.

And the 93 year old museum nis in need of restoration.

Todd Gloria, San Diego Mayor

“Not long ago this building was starting to show its age.”

Mayor Todd Gloria says the serra museum is vital in keeping San Diego’s heritage alive.

Todd Gloria, San Diego Mayor

“This restoration will help further that. It will attract more people to come to this site and understand the history from the original san degans to the present and those in between.”

The Conrad Prebys Foundation is making sure that happens.

They are giving the San Diego History Center 330-thousand dollars to restore the North Tower and East Facade of the Serra Museum.

Chair of the fondation Tony Cortes says the foundation was pleased to be able to grant the award as the site is a sacred place for many.

Tony Cortes, Chair, The Conrad Prebys Foundation

“I’ve got a bit of a soft spot in my heart for this location. My wife Sara and I were married on the hillside. There's a little concrete footbridge.”

The restoration work is expected to be completed by mid February.

Work crews are already on site and working on North Tower.

While Junipero Serra has become a controversial figure of late, officials did not want to discuss the issue during today’s ceremony

Alexandra Rangel, KPBS News.

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Double Dutch is a beloved childhood pastime for many. The game includes a group using two jump ropes, with one person in the middle jumping and dancing to singing or music.

KPBS Race and Equity reporter Cristina Kim says some local women are reclaiming double dutch as adults and creating a healing space in the process.

On any given Wednesday night at the Allied Gardens Community Center… chances are you will hear the sound of music echoing off the basketball court’s cement…

‘Here you go girl….” Keep them cheering.

You’ll also hear the sound of women … all over the age of 40 … laughing…. And playing double dutch…

Setra Shields, 40+ Double Dutch Club

I would describe double dutch definitely as fetch. I am excited when I come to double dutbc like when I know it’s Wednesday

Fade under ambi here

That’s Setra Shields, the captain and founder of San Diego’s 40 plus Double Dutch Chapter.

She first started the club last summer after seeing a viral video on Facebook about the original 40 plus double dutch group in Chicago…

Setra Shields, 40+ Double Dutch Club

“And I looked and I said where is this… I need friends like this…”

She organized a club and then started spreading the word locally…

Setra Shields, 40+ Double Dutch Club

And I put it on black san diego.. i f you are interested DM and I had 50 plus

Fifteen of those 50 women became the core San Diego chapter…they’re all older than 40 years and proud of it.

She’s 57….

In fact, their ages are emblazoned on the back of their club t-shirts…

That’s the only rule… everyone’s welcome but you have to be a woman and you have to be over 40…

Pamela Robinson, Founder, 40+ Double Dutch

We don't want to deal with men, with boyfriends, with husbands. We don't want to deal with kids.We want this to be a time for us.

Pamela Robinson is the founder of the first 40 plus Double Dutch in Chicago and oversees the over 100 sub clubs around the world.

. We want this to be a time for us because at the age of 40, you do so much for other people. We're always doing for other people are holding everything together for everybody else. So we need some time to just hold ourselves together.

Back in San Diego….. Rosa Barr Williams has been part of the group since the beginning…

Rosa Barr Williams, Club Member

I think its just bringing out the youth in all of us.And that’s why I think it’s the 40 plus although your 40 it doesnt matter you can still come here, have fun and bring your childhood games with you because like I said…. I’ve been doing this since childhood.

The formula is simple. Each time the club meets they take turns playing double dutch…

They Hula Hoop,

And they dance…..

It’s really good exercise. But it’s also more than that. .

L3: Rosa Barr Williams, Club Member

I’ve had several horrible days…. We are here for each other every single day.

And that sisterhood is exactly what…. Regina Dixon-Reeves… was looking for when she joined the group after moving to San Diego in July.

Regina Dixon-Reeves

“we have such a small Black community here in San diego about 5% and I was just looking for people who looked like me and did some of the activities that I did…”

Shortly after moving… she had to get emergency dental surgery…she didn’t know anyone. It was Rosa… her fellow jumper… who took care of her and told her…..

Regina Dixon-Reeves

Girl, you here by yourself. I’’ drive you, ill see about you… ill make sure you are all right. And if I hadn’t had this group I woulnd’t have had that connection, right?

I think you’ve already said this so you don’t need it ^

It’s a place all their own where they can reconnect with who they used to be.

Regina Dixon-Reeves

For an hour, hour and half you get to just laugh and joke and be a kid again… be a black girl that is wonderful because one thing about it is that many of us Black girls we grew up to fast and so this gives us a chance to revisit that.”

Because sometimes in order to be an adult in this world…. It helps to remember what it was like to be a kid again.

Which is why every Wednesday these local San Diego women are making the time to lace up their sneakers and play until the lights go out…

Cristina Kim, KPBS NEWS.

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Coming up.... Last month congress threw out plans to require women to register for the draft. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

Congress last month ditched a controversial measure that would have required women to register for the Selective Service. Men must register when they turn 18 and can be forced into the military if the U.S. ever re-instates the draft.

But supporters of gender-neutral registration say they'll keep working to include women.

Desiree D'Iorio reports for the American Homefront Project.

It was the closest the country has come to requiring women to register for the Selective Service. The House of Representatives - and the Senate Armed Services Committee - approved the historic change as they debated the annual defense spending package. Then it got stripped out during closed door negotiations.

Support for the requirement has united unlikely political allies. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, a member of the Armed Services Committee, calls it a gender equality and a national defense issue.

“To say, ‘Only men are needed,’ in that moment of a national emergency, is outrageous and obscene.”

Gillibrand says she’s determined to get the law passed - whether that’s through annual defense spending, or a standalone bill.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst from Iowa also backs the measure. The Army veteran says a draft is very unlikely, but women would be essential in any future conflict.

“She could also serve in a cyber unit, where she is sitting behind the lines where she's safe, but certainly working to disrupt the enemy. All of these jobs are important.”

The call to include women in the Selective Service has picked up steam as women have expanded their footprint in the military. While Congressional Democrats are largely united on the issue, Republicans are split.

Republican Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said at a September meeting of the House Rules Committee that women would be unfairly disadvantaged if forced to fight.

“Men and women are not physically the same. And women do not possess an equal opportunity to survive on the battlefield in direct combat with battle-hardened men. And I can say that as a woman who can deadlift 300 pounds, can do more pull ups than anyone else in this room and run faster than any of you.”

Other critics say women play important roles on the homefront during war, like raising families.

The push to require women to register with the Selective Service reflects a report last year from a commission Congress created. It recommended Congress keep the Selective Service in place as a last resort in case the U.S. faces a threat too big for the all-volunteer military to handle. And it said women should be required to register too.

Republican former Congressman Joe Heck from Nevada served as chairman.

“Congress has once again shirked their responsibility to answer an important question that they themselves raised, that they charged a commission to review, which commission returned a report with a recommendation that both houses accepted in their respective drafts, only to have it taken out as a political maneuver.”

Meanwhile, some feminist groups are calling on Congress to dismantle the Selective Service System all together.

CODEPINK is an antiwar group that formed in 2002 during the runup to the Iraq war. National Director Carley Towne says supporters of expanding the Selective Service use “false feminist language.”

“It's premised on the idea that gender equality means expanding the opportunity for women to be coerced into joining the US military. Our take is: abolish it for everyone. That is true gender equality.”

This summer, the Supreme Court rejected a case that argued the all-male Selective Service is discriminatory. The justices said the issue was for Congress to decide. Former Congressman Joe Heck hopes now, the Supreme Court will revisit the issue.

I’m Desiree Diorio on Long Island.

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 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.

San Diego region’s largest employers - like everywhere else - are finding it hard to keep staffing levels up in the midst of the current surge of COVID-19 infections. Meanwhile, There is a new way to get around Encinitas with colorful electric bikes and docks along Coast Highway. And, last month congress threw out plans to require women to register for the draft. More on how supporters of gender-neutral registration say they'll keep working to include women.