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Erase racial covenants, or remember that history?

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Friday, November 19th

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What should you do if your home deed includes racial restrictions? More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

The county of San Diego is encouraging booster shots for all eligible adults. Paul Downey is with Serving Seniors. He says they’ve been working throughout the pandemic to make sure seniors have easy access to the vaccine.

“since most older adults were in the early phases of getting the vaccine back in february and march. there six months have passed.”

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With gas prices going higher each day … driving up inflation … President Joe Biden yesterday called on the FTC to investigate whether oil companies are fueling the spike.

But San Diego State economics professor Joe Silverman thinks it’s just political theater.

“To show collusion, you'd have to show that people from different oil companies have gotten together and fixed the price. And I don't think that what you're seeing in the market now can only be explained by collusion.”

He says it’s simple economics … supply and demand. More people are driving now but oil production hasn’t bounced back to pre-pandemic levels.

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The San Diego VA hospital may soon be renamed in honor of a local combat veteran. Army nurse Capt. Jennifer Moreno was 25 years old when she was killed in Afghanistan in 2013 while serving with Special Operations forces. She may become only the third woman to have a VA facility named in her honor. Roughly 14 percent of the military are women but they don’t always feel welcome at VA facilities. A VA study recommended a long list of changes, including renaming facilities for female veterans. The bill, written by Congressman Mike Levin, passed the House earlier this week and awaits a vote in the Senate.

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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.

In the final part of our 3-part series on racial covenants, KPBS Race and Equity Reporter Cristina Kim examines how people are reconciling the legacy of racial restrictions, as well as why people are choosing to remove … or in some cases… NOT remove the racial restrictions from their deeds.

“I can sense there’s a calm energy about it and Everyone who has come into this house has had that moment where they walk and they go, ‘Oh my god, I feel so good. It feels like a sanctuary,’”

And that’s exactly what Kyona Beatty and Ken Zak’s 1920 mission hill bungalow feels and smells like… a sanctuary perfumed with palo santo and filled with plants and decorated in rich earth tones.

But in 2019, they uncovered a hard truth about their dream home -- a racially restrictive covenant attached to the original deed. It like so many other San Diego properties built in the early 20th century… barred non-white people owning in their neighborhood.

“That’s a shadow over this property…. But so to me it was like let’s remove that, let’s remove that shadow from this house.”

Beatty is Black and Zak is white. It felt wrong that the original deed to their shared home banned Beatty from living there.

The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racially restrictive deeds in 1948, And there was an attachment to their deed saying just that. But Beatty and Zak wanted to take things a step further.

They wanted any and all mentions of the restrictions struck from the document.

So what I did is I just you know, again, I was a retired lawyer at the time, so I just Googled, you know, the statute and found it. And the stat ute is pretty clear.

The statute Zak is referring to is a law that was enacted in 2005. It gives California homeowners the ability to cross out racially restrictive language from their deeds. Kyona and Ken finished the process on the last day of …. 2020’s Black History Month … they immediately felt the difference.

people might say, oh, it's not enforceable. So what's the point in going through all the steps and doing this? Like what does it really prove? And I like to say it felt like doing like just like a big sage, you know, like smudge stick is like the ultimate smudge stick.

For them it’s not about forgetting… but creating a new foundation and future for their home.

Not everyone in California,however, is eager to remove the racially restrictive covenants from their deeds…

You can make a statement, as they have, that says that that language does not apply. But I don't want it to be lost 20 years from now that this was a part of society. I say be aware of history or forever be doomed to repeat it. You know, certain parts of the country, I see repeat, you know, and for me, I just want it known. This happens here in San Diego

Michael Dew of El Cerrito… is a black homeowner who was once mistaken for a gardener in his own El Cerrito neighborhood. He’s keeping the restrictive language on his deed. And he’s been trying to use it to get his extended family to talk about San Diego’s racist history and the hurdles they’ve faced. It’s not been easy.

But to that point and how these aren't discussed, these aren't topics of conversation at Thanksgiving. And you really have to pull teeth to get your older relatives to talk about these things. And I think that's a piece of the trauma of it all is like rather than tackle it head on, we're just going to put it in the back.

He understands why his grandfathers and family don’t want to talk about it … but he also wants to make sure the history is kept alive especially as debates over suburbia, single-family zoning and where to build affordable housing are once again taking center stage… at the local level….

and as we saw during the 2020 Presidential campaign … at the national level.

People have been fighting their whole lives…

Racially restrictive covenants and many other forms of housing discrimination illegal now… but the ideas and language that normalized racial restrictions in the first place continue today.

you see it a lot in NIMBYism. So a lot of an anti movement's not in my backyard movements where people are pushing back against changes that would make a neighborhood more accessible. So a really simple example is more affordable housing, the construction of more affordable housing.

That’s Nancy Kwak a UC SAN DIEGO historian. Often, when local San Diegans talk about property values and their rights as homeowners, she hears the same logic that was used in the past to defend segregation.

I earned this house. This is where I put my money and I saved my earnings. So therefore, this is something that I deserve.

Kwak says that while we no longer hear overt racist statements around housing… homeowners still feel it’s their right to control who can and can’t live near them.

That is why she and others emphasize the importance of seeing and understanding the connection between the racial covenants of last century and the housing issues of today. It is key to a more equitable future.

Last month, Governor Newsom signed into law new legislation that makes it even easier for Californians to find and redact racial restrictions. If you missed any part of KPBS special three-part series you can catch up on K-P-B-S dot O-R-G.

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The vaccine deadline for the city of San Diego's employees is less than two weeks away … but how many have yet to comply with the city's mandate? KPBS’ Kitty Alvarado looked into the numbers.

eleven thousand three hundred and eight 11,308 … that’s the number of people who work for the city of san diego … all of them must be fully vaccinated by december 1st to comply with the city’s mandate or be dismissed.

nearly 20 percent of the city’s staff is confirmed as unvaccinated.

the city can actually condition continued employment on getting vaccination that’s the bottom line

dan eaton is a legal analyst who practices employment law.

there is a risk that not only with respect to public safety but also with respect to a variety of other city functions that some employees are going to choose resistance to vaccination over continuing to work for the city

four departments in the city have the highest number of unvaccinated people … the police department with almost 37 percent, manual and skilled workers at almost 29 percent and fire department and the city’s lifeguards are essentially tied at just over 16 percent.

all of this comes on the heels of osha suspending the emergency temporary standard that states private companies with 100 or more employees must require vaccination or weekly testing. an appeals court says that rule it needs judicial review. eaton says it has no bearing

the stuff that’s going on it’s important to understand the stuff that is going on at the federal level with the occupational safety and health administration doesn’t really have very much to do what is going on at a state and local level

but does create confusion

when you look at how fluidly this coronavirus has progressed since its inception, it’s been moving faster than the speed of law and because of that if you’re not confused about what you can and cannot do whether you’re an employer or an employee, you’re just not paying attention

ultimately he says whether or not the federal mandate holds private employers have the right to create their own mandates as a condition of employment … kitty alvarado kpbs news

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The City of Sacramento is weighing whether homeless residents should have the legal right to housing. CapRadio’s Chris Nichols has more.

As an advisor to the governor, Steinberg for years has called on California cities to create a legal right to shelter for homeless people.

Now, he’s proposing his own city take it one step further…by mandating a right to housing.

Steinberg Bite: “Providing housing for people in society as a matter of law is optional, involuntary there is no production requirement. There's nothing that says we have to do anything about these sets of issues, and of course we do.”

His plan… which would take effect in 2023... would require unhoused people to accept shelter when given at least two options.

If they decline, they’d be moved, even if they’re on public property. But there’d be no fines or arrests.

Homeless advocate Bob Erlenbusch praised the plan… But says Sacramento needs to create new shelters faster.

Erlenbusch bite: “At the rate they’re creating those programs, which is incredibly slow, there’s no way that they’ll be ready to enforce anything in 2023.”

The city previously passed a plan to build more shelters, tiny homes and campgrounds… but only a few sites have opened so far.

In Sacramento, I’m Chris Nichols.

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Holiday food distributions continue throughout San Diego as Thanksgiving approaches. KPBS Reporter Melissa Mae attended two recent events aimed at helping our military community.

The San Diego Military Advisory Council says this region is home to over 100-thousand active duty service members and more than 240- thousand veterans.

Nancy Sasaki

“The military is out there protecting us and making sure that we have our freedoms, so just a small way that we can give back to the community.”

“They serve and sacrifice so much for our nation and this is just a really great way to give back.”

“So, they can concentrate on their mission and not have to worry about their families back home.”

To help active military members, veterans and their families during the holiday season, organizations are stepping up to help.

Anna Breese // Armed Services YMCA San Diego

“We host about 300 families each distribution and especially during the holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas time, families are really in need for that extra help and support so we’re here to help.”

Anna Breese is the director of community relations at the Armed Services YMCA.

Anna Breese // Armed Services YMCA San Diego

“We are in the middle of the largest military housing in the nation and the largest concentration of military kids are all within this Murphy Canyon area, so it’s really important for us to be here and it’s convenient for the families.”

With the help of about twenty volunteers, families received fresh produce and canned goods, along with a turkey!

Right up the road, Support The Enlisted Project or STEP received a unique donation from the United Way of San Diego County.

Nancy Sasaki // United Way of San Diego County

“There’s a lot of food distribution, but then what do you do with it? It’s really great to be able to have a crockpot that they can then use to cook the food that they get and it’s so easy.”

Nancy Sasaki is the president and CEO of United Way of San Diego County and they delivered 130 crockpots to STEP.

Nancy Sasaki // United Way of San Diego County

“They can have dinner on the table. They can help their kids with their homework and that’s just a little bit of a relief from the stress of all the day and just the environment that we’re in these days.”

Tracy Owens // Support The Enlisted Project

“I know when I was on active duty, I used my crockpot quite a bit. It’s less time consuming after a long day at work, but something our families can use not just once, just for one holiday, but for many holidays to come.”

Tracy Owens is the programs manager for STEP and served in the military for 30 years… She explains why military families sometimes need extra support.

Tracy Owens // Support The Enlisted Project

“The cost of living here is high and so the BAH they receive doesn’t go as far as it does in some other part of the country and it just helps them to offset those high expenses.”

The crockpots will be distributed on November 20th during their Step into the Holidays meal distribution campaign that will help about 200 active duty service members, veterans and their families. Melissa Mae KPBS News.

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Coming up.... With all that’s gone on with covid-19 vaccines, surges in infections and hospitalizations, and the new push for boosters….is herd immunity still possible? Well, the CDC’s shift in messaging away from herd immunity hasn’t instilled much confidence. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

When the pandemic began, some leading health officials maintained that herd immunity would eventually provide a clear path back to normality. When enough people are immune — through vaccination or natural immunity — a population achieves herd immunity. The disease stops spreading efficiently and starts to fade away.

But, with a portion of the population refusing to get vaccinated, and with waning immunity among people who survived coronavirus infections as well as those who’ve been vaccinated, reaching herd immunity seems unlikely.

Just recently, the CDC has moved away from messaging that touts herd immunity as a national goal for the American public - signalling a distinct shift in the fight against COVID-19. Rebecca Fielding-Miller is an epidemiologist and professor at UC San Diego. She spoke with KPBS Midday Edition Host Jade Hindmon. Here’s that interview…

Can you give us a quick recap on the concept of herd immunity and why it was such a strong goal in the fight against COVID-19? So I think,

I think we've all learned a lot of new words in the last couple of years in terms of our public health jargon toolkit. So herd immunity is a really specific idea and what it means is enough people are vaccinated or not vulnerable to infection that when a virus is going around, we can sort of form a protective wall around people who aren't able to be vaccinated or who are extra susceptible. So imagine 98 people in a room and they're all vaccinated and they're all surrounding a two year old who can't get vaccinated. The virus can't break through to the vulnerable person. So as a, as a herd, as a community are protecting people. And I think that's kind of gotten confused with the idea of eradication or elimination or, or control

Speaker 1: (01:34)

When health officials began to discuss herd immunity as a way of fighting COVID. Did it always seem like a realistic prospect in the United States?

Speaker 2: (01:43)

I think that it's a hard number to calculate what percentage of people need to get vaccinated. And it depends on a lot of things. It depends on how easy it is to transmit the virus. It depends on how susceptible people are to getting the virus. And I think that in, uh, in their early days, we really confuse the idea of herd immunity. And like, just to say, enough of us are vaccinated who can get vaccinated to protect those who can't. We really confuse that with the idea of, of elimination or eradication. So COVID was never going to be eliminated through vaccination. That was never the goal, but the goal was enough. People can get vaccinated to protect people who are vulnerable. And I think with the Delta variant really taking off the, the increase in how easy it is to transmit has really made that number even harder to achieve.

Speaker 1: (02:35)

We're seeing the city see, move away from herd immunity as a tangible goal. Why is that?

Speaker 2: (02:41)

I think that has a lot to do with the Delta variant and the fact that again, herd immunity is predicated on the idea that enough people are safe, that we can protect people who are vulnerable. So babies kids under five, who can't get vaccinated in an ideal world, we could vaccinate enough people that little kids could go to T-ball or a, and not worry about it because so many people are vaccinated that the virus isn't circulating enough to get to them. The problem is the Delta variant is so infectious. That it's really that it's very easy for it to kind of slip through that wall of protective adults and kids over the age of five. And we're seeing that there's just not a willingness, um, nationwide so far among people who are eligible to get vaccinated, to protect those who can't

Speaker 1: (03:27)

Transmission is a key aspect of this. Why haven't any available vaccines been able to reliably block transmission of COVID-19

Speaker 2: (03:36)

What the vaccines are really, really good at doing is preventing kind of a systemic, like a whole body infection. So when we see these kind of breakthrough infections, what that typically is is somebody has an infection that's like living in their nose or their respiratory track. So the virus can still replicate a little bit before the vaccine can knock it out. And in that short window of time, you can still potentially breathe out enough virus to get somebody else sick, but you're sick for a shorter amount of time, which is really important because it means you have less time to breathe out that virus and you yourself are going to be healthier. And hopefully you'd be breathing on somebody who also would be sick for a shorter amount of time if they did get sick and would be breathing out that virus less well. So they do, even when there are breakthrough infections, they do severely limit how bad the spread is from a vaccinated person.

Speaker 1: (04:29)

You mentioned earlier how the Delta variant plays into this, but why is COVID-19 a particularly hard virus to achieve herd immunity for? Is it mainly due to the Delta variant or are other factors at play here?

Speaker 2: (04:43)

There are a lot of non-vaccine related reasons why it's been really hard to reach that number. For example, it's become really clear that COVID is, is an occupational disease. Um, if you look at data out of, for example, UC San Francisco that found that line cooks, um, had some of the highest rates of illness and death out of any occupation. We know that professions where you can't work from home, where you're constantly in contact with the public. Those folks are really, really high risk. And because we didn't have employment protections in place for enough people, the virus was really allowed to continue transmitting until, um, a variant came along. That was so transmissible that it made herd immunity even harder to get to, and that could continue to happen. Delta doesn't necessarily need to be the end, all be all a variance. Another one could come along that is even better at evading our vaccine. So the number of people vaccinated matters, but so does protecting people who are at the highest risk, um, socially of getting the virus,

Speaker 1: (05:41)

Given this new messaging from the CDC, what new ways can we mark progress against the virus?

Speaker 2: (05:47)

I think one thing that we can certainly keep an eye on is the, um, the case rate. Um, so here in San Diego, our case rate has been plateauing a little bit. We can see there's a really big difference between, um, the rates of illness for people who are vaccinated and not vaccinated. And I think it's really important and the county has done a really good job of using, um, some, some health equity and markers. So people who are the most vulnerable to getting sick people who, you know, live in crowded housing conditions, people who have these frontline jobs, if we see that numbers are consistently pretty low for those communities, that's a sign that we're all doing a really good job because it's, it's an airborne infectious disease and everybody's not safe. Like you're not safe until everybody is safe.

Speaker 1: (06:35)

Now, since we're moving away from herd immunity, what are the long-term strategies now of limiting the spread of COVID or even just treating COVID?

Speaker 2: (06:43)

Yeah. So the strategies really remain the same, um, that we've been talking about this whole time, um, a mask that fits you well, um, and that you're willing to wear, um, that your kid is willing to wear, um, is always going to be a really helpfulness, uh, risk mitigation strategy. I wear kn 90 fives. My daughter wears tiny child K in 95, um, spending as much time outdoors and fresh air as you can. And making sure that we have bigger social structures in place to make that easy for people, making sure that everybody who wants to get vaccinated has the opportunity. And, um, you know, the south county, um, has done a really phenomenal job in ensuring equitable vaccine access, um, making sure that people have access to paid sick leave so that if they need to stay home, they can, and they don't spread it. These are all what we call sort of like non-pharmaceutical or policy level interventions. And they're also incredibly important, just as much as these new pills that are coming out, that's really exciting or vaccines or boosters.

That was Rebecca Fielding-Miller, an epidemiologist and UC San Diego professor. She was speaking with KPBS Midday Edition Host Jade Hindmon.

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.

Some San Diegans are choosing to remove racially restrictive covenants from their deeds; others are preserving the language so that racist history is never forgotten. A California statute has eased the process to change deeds and is opening up conversations about the past. Meanwhile, nearly 20% of city staff are still unvaccinated and risk losing their jobs if they miss a December 1 deadline to get the shots. Also, is herd immunity still a possibility?