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Record COVID-19 infections at Rady

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday. January 11th.>>>>

Record number of covid-19 cases in children

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

California lawmakers will be debating whether to create the nation’s first universal health care system today. A bill that would create the system and set its rules will have a hearing before the Assembly health committee. A separate bill that would lay out how to pay for everything will be heard at a later date. That’s according to the associated press.

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four weeks of a republic services trash hauler strike in chula vista and mira mesa has caused a lot of trash to pile up across neighborhoods.

chula vista mayor Mary Salas says she wants this public health and safety threat to be resolved.

she says at tuesday’s city council meeting all options will be considered.

Dohney Castillo is a driver with republic services. He says they’re hoping the mayor’s pressure will result in a contract they think is fair.

“we saw it as a hopeful sign as a sign that we are being backed up by the city and we hope that it stands.”

Meanwhile, residents are driving to the landfill to dump their own garbage.

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San Diego police are investigating a fatal shooting (Monday) morning by three officers in the Stockton area.

Police say the officers were checking into a report of a robbery at Mullens Market & Liquor on Imperial Avenue, near 30th Street, when a suspect pulled a gun on them in an alley.

The officers opened fire, killing the suspect at about 7:30 A-M. The suspect, whose name was not immediately available, died at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

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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.

Rady Children’s Hospital is seeing a record number of children testing positive for COVID. But most of these children didn’t go to the hospital for COVID in the first place.

KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado has more.

This omicron variant is spreading like wildfire in the community

AND THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN TESTING POSITIVE FOR COVID IS THE HIGHEST IT’S EVER BEEN. DR. JOHN BRADLEY, THE DIRECTOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES AT RADY CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL, SAYS LIKE THE REST OF THE COUNTRY THEIR HOSPITAL IS SEEING A SURGE.

Omicron compared to Delta we are probably twice the number of hospitalizations that we had compared with last winter but again the kids aren’t as sick the numbers of positive tests is through the roof that’s, you know, five times more positive cases are being reported now since last year

TWENTY ARE IN ISOLATION WITH COVID.

BUT THE HOSPITAL SAYS THESE CHILDREN DID NOT COME TO THEM FOR COVID AT FIRST. THEY CAME IN FOR OTHER REASONS, LIKE CANCER TREATMENT OR OTHER ILLNESSES. ROUTINE TESTS CAUGHT THE COVID INFECTIONS.

THE CHILDREN TESTING POSITIVE HAVE EITHER MILD OR NO SYMPTOMS.

MEGAN CLARKE-DIMAQUIBO (DIMAKEEBO)AND LITTLE DASH ARE VISITING RADY CHILDREN’S.SHE'S THE MOTHER OF FIVE CHILDREN. SHE AND HER HUSBAND ARE BOTH ICU NURSES IN SAN DIEGO.

THEY’VE SEEN THE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID SKYROCKET WHERE THEY WORK.

I am concerned.

HER CHILDREN HAVE NOT HAD COVID. SHE SAYS HER FOUR OLDER CHILDREN ARE VACCINATED AND THEY’RE TAKING EXTRA PRECAUTIONS WITH MASKING AND AVOIDING CROWDED PLACES.

To protect little dude here, he’s here for an appointment cause he’s got some underlying issues and he’s not old enough to be vaccinated.

DR. JOHN BRADLEY SAYS SHE’S DOING ALL THE RIGHT THINGS AND ALL PARENTS SHOULD FOLLOW SUIT: TAKE PRECAUTIONS AND VACCINATE THEIR CHILDREN AGAINST COVID BECAUSE EVEN A MILD INFECTION CAN TRIGGER MORE SERIOUS ILLNESS IN CHILDREN

multi system inflammatory syndrome of children, where after you get COVID, even mild COVID, 4 to 6 weeks later your body has this intense auto reactive autoimmune response to the virus …

FOR NOW HE’S NOT AS WORRIED ABOUT OMICRON AS THE GREEK LETTER TO COME

It would be foolish to think that we’re done with omicron, I just pray that the next variant is not more virulent and causes more sickness and death.

KITTY ALVARADO KPBS NEWS.

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Demand for COVID-19 testing is skyrocketing, yet across San Diego county most testing turnaround times have been efficient. County officials say on average, labs are completing tests in just under two days, but not everyone is getting their results back quickly.

KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman spoke with people who have recently encountered issues at transit testing sites.

My wife, my mom and myself and we’re all three waiting, none of us have heard anything

Bay Ho Resident Adam Epstein is one of hundreds who turned to transit station COVID-19 testing sites over the holidays.. But now more than 10 days later he and his family still haven’t gotten any results.. We spoke to him when he was first getting tested--

We’ve actually been looking to get tests for a couple of days and she actually got one yesterday and it was an hour plus wait and we were just driving down the street here flipped a quick u turn and we’re done

Adam Epstein, lives in Bay Ho

We were very excited when we actually spoke with you that day we were excited that were able to make it work, we almost just wish we wouldn’t have seen that and gone somewhere else and probably got results by now

The Epstein’s aren’t the only ones who are waiting more than 10 days for results.. The Metropolitan Transit system has been getting complaints about their testing partner testsd.io, which is operated by Broadwell Health.

Platt Longstreth

It’s been a very terrible and frustrating experience, covid is bad enough but having to fight to get your results makes it even more frustrating

Mission Hills resident Veronica Platt Longstreth and her husband were tested twice at transit COVID sites -- they got results for one, but still don’t haven’t heard anything for tests taken on December 30th--

Platt Longstreth

12 days. Basically it’s worthless

Veronica Platt Longstreth, lives in Mission Hills

It’s a public health hazard because people don't’ know if they are positive or negative

Veronica was excited to find free testing sites that didn’t have long lines and were promising results in one or two days.. So she went on social media and let her neighbors know all about it, something she now regrets--

Platt Longstreth

We feel bad, we sent all these people to the testing site and no one has gotten their test results

Flash to

And I am on day 13 today

Mission Hills resident Becki Webster was one of the neighbors that saw the social media posts.. She says she was tested at the old town transit center on December 28th, but still doesn’t have results.

Beckie Webster, lives in mission hills

Not a thing, not ‘hey we’re running late’, nothing. Of course my results are useless at this point but my feeling now is I want to save other people from going through this misery

Broadwell Health which oversees the transit testing operations issued a statement saying due to a sudden increase for demand in testing over the holidays they failed to meet their anticipated one to three day turnaround time.. The company is apologizing saying they are now increasing staffing capacity and adding more labs to increase speed--

Platt Longstreth

They should have had a system in place so they could have handled the quantity of testing

The Metropolitan Transit System has been allowing the testing to be done at half a dozen of it’s transit sites since May.. they said in a statement that “Broadwell Health has been responsive to MTS by developing a plan to reduce the wait times.. And say they will stay in contact with the company.”

Still, some are left waiting, wondering if they will ever get their test results.

I do feel bad because it's a free service and they are trying to help and I understand that — I just wish it would have been communicated to us what we were to expect because there really is no purpose in getting the results at this point," said Epstein. "We haven't felt any symptoms, we were exposed but now it's been long enough where per the CDC we're kind of ok to go back to normal life. MH KPBS News.

Meanwhile, the national guard is arriving in san diego to help with covid testing.

kpbs military reporter steve walsh says it’s part of a request from governor Gavin Newsom to shorten lines throughout the state.

Lines have been backing up at test sites around San Diego county. Master Sgt. Jose Mercado, spokesman for National Guard:

“Either they are getting their test for work. Getting their test for school or just getting their test for sanity's sake. It’s such a vulnerable time for us. We don’t know if we have just a cold or we’re really transmitting something to our families.”

The guard is estimating they will be there at least a month, maybe longer. Beginning late last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered roughly 200 California National Guard troops to 50 sites around the state. So far 70 guard troops have been called up in southern California, including San Diego. More are on the way. Steve Walsh KPBS News

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Sticking with the governor…. newsom laid out his plans to spend another record-smashing state budget on [monday]. capradio’s nicole nixon has more.

The state’s fiscal fortunes are still flying high. The latest figures from the Department of Finance project a 45-billion-dollar surplus, though administration officials warned there’s always uncertainty from pandemic surges.

Newsom’s spending plan includes a number of liberal wish-list items, like full Medi-Cal expansion to all undocumented residents by 2024, and 6 billion for zero-emission vehicles.

NEWSOM: You can’t get serious about climate change unless you’re serious about tailpipe emissions and all the related emissions from extraction to power our transportation sector. Newsom also wants to pause an annual gas tax hike this year. If the surplus holds, he also said he may be inclined to send out another round of targeted stimulus payments later this year.

The governor’s plan also includes 2-point-7 billion in emergency funding for increased covid vaccinations, and more statewide testing for the public and school staff and students.

Troy Flint is with the california school boards association representing more than a thousand governing school administrations. He fears the governor’s budget could be just a quick fix.

“so much of the relief funds and special programs are one time funding…what’s going to happen when those funds go away.”

The governor’s final budget proposal for the legislature’s consideration will come in May.

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Coming up.... Robot trucks. As in, robot semi-trucks, with no driver in the cab. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

This has happened to me once in San Diego, so maybe it’s happened to you. You’re driving along, and you look over there’s a car with a bunch of gear on top of it, and it’s going kinda slow…and then you pull up next to it and look over and there’s no one in the driver's seat.

Now imagine pulling past a massive semi and you look at the giant wing mirrors, and find there’s no one in the truck. Late last month a San Diego company called TuSimple (too simple) launched what it called the world’s first semi-truck run on public roads with no driver in the cab.

KPBS Science and technology reporter Thomas Fudge tells us how robotrucks could strengthen the American supply chain… and maybe threaten the livelihoods of truckers.

Robotics professor Henrik Christensen stands next to what looks like a golf cart that's been delivering mail at UCSD…. without a driver to guide it. Computer programmed driverless vehicles like this one are becoming more common. And Christensen says the new technology, coupled with overloaded supply chains and a shortage of truck drivers are putting driverless trucks in the sites of a lot of companies.

“We have this massive need for getting more out of the ports. Getting it on the roads. So we’ve seen multiple new companies come up that are actually working on this technology. Not just TuSimple. Aurora. GM. Tesla is promising this.”

But let's stick with the San Diego startup, TuSimple. Its driverless run last month, from a railyard in Tucson to a distribution center in Phoenix, was a first for the company and, they say, a first for the industry. But working with partners like UPS, the company is already delivering goods with it’s autonomous trucks, provided a human safety driver is present. Pat Dillon is the chief financial officer of TuSimple.

“The vision of TuSimple is that from a major freight location like a port, like a railyard, we can take our custom-built trucks that will have no driver in it to take a journey that could be a hundred miles or a thousand miles and go from one freight location to another freight location.

The idea that robotrucks would be the spearpoint of self-driving technology makes sense to UCSD professor Christensen. He says driving on highways is the easiest application for self-driving vehicles. And given the choice between trusting a human or trusting a robot at the wheel of a truck, the professor’s view is pretty clear.

“Drivers get tired from these long hauls. And at the same time - you might not be aware of this but - when you have autonomous driving trucks they actually save fuel. It’s no surprise really but when you think about it computers are better drivers than people.”

Trucks park side by side in many rows at this truck stop in Otay Mesa. Truckers stop here for fuel, a shower and some rest. Some of these drivers are resigned to the future automation of the trucking industry. But they don’t share the view that computers are better drivers than they are.

“I think it's the way the industry is going to go because of the lack of drivers we do have in it. But I don’t particularly care for it.”

Ron Caplette who hails from Pennsylvania, says he’s been driving a truck for 30 years.

“I just think it’s going to be unsafe for a while. You know, not being able to deal with the traffic conditions and the weather conditions. There are too many variables out there that maybe a computer won’t be able to adjust to the same way.”

About ten miles away, students working to become registered truck drivers listen to an instructor at the United Truck Driving school in Mission Valley. The school training coordinator is Phil Harris, and he says he thinks automation is great. Will it replace all truckers? No way, he says. But it’ll change the nature of the job, making it necessary for truck drivers to understand the technology.

“Yer gonna have somebody in there as a technician, probably. So I can see us being called navigators, pilots technicians, overseers, whatever! We might not be called the driver but that’s why we’ll always be in that truck.”

Driverless technology still needs some attention. Again hee’s, Pat Dillon of TuSimple.

“Things like redundant braking and steering. So you always have the ability to control the vehicle, even if there is a system degradation. Making sure you have a supercomputer that controls all elements of the sensor input and actual controlling the vehicle.”

One student at the United Truck Driving School, Antowain Rackley says if the job of being a truck driver changes, that’s OK with him.

“I’m always open to learning. And all new advances I’m trying to stay on top of. You either keep up or you get left behind. So if that’s the way the world changes, you gotta change with it.”

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.

Rady Children’s Hospital is seeing a record number of children testing positive for COVID-19. But most went to the hospital for a different reason. Meanwhile, some people are reporting waiting up to 13 days for COVID-19 test results. The transit testing site operator is apologizing and promising to fix turnaround times. Plus, how robotrucks could strengthen the American supply chain… and maybe threaten the livelihoods of truckers.