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Remain in Mexico returns

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Friday December 3rd.>>>>

Tijuana is not ready for Remain in mexico’s return

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

On Thursday, a judge denied an emergency request from the group “Let Them Choose” to block the covid-19 vaccine mandate for San Diego Unified School District. A full hearing on the case is scheduled for December 20th. The mandate requires Students who want to continue learning in person at San Diego Unified schools to be fully vaccinated by January 4th.

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The independent redistricting commission is redrawing the supervisorial districts in San Diego county. One local community-based organization is calling for changes that will allow better representation for latinx people living in the north county.

Lilian Serrano is co-director of “universidad popular”. She says escondido, currently in district 3 which is made up mainly of coastal areas, should be put into district 5 with other inland communities..

“what we are asking is really for them to keep us under one district. we want to have escondido, san marcos, vista, oceanside, fallbrook, pauma valley, valley center all under one district that will really allow us to come together as a latinx community.”

A decision from the commission will be announced on december 15th.

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The upcoming baseball season is in question and it’s not because of the pandemic. Major league baseball owners have locked out the players after their collective bargaining agreement with the player’s association expired at midnight Wednesday. .

Lee Hacksaw Hamilton is a sports radio broadcaster in San diego.

and now we’ll just have to wait and see as they stare down each other. that being sad they have three months before we really bump up against the next important deadline which is spring training that is really a money maker teams

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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 biden administration will bring back the controversial remain in mexico program that forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration cases to be adjudicated.

KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis explores how this will impact Tijuana's already delicate migrant situation.

There are barely enough beds for people already living in Tijuana’s migrant shelters. And now that Remain in Mexico is coming back, Tijuana Mayor Monserrat Caballero says the city isn’t ready for more.

Monserrat Caballero

Preparados, realmente no. Ninguna ciudad y yo creo que ningún país esta preparado para éxodos masivos, pero necesitamos hacerle frente a las decisiones que tomemos como gobierno. Y respetar lo que Estados Unidos decida como gobierno.

Caballero doesn’t think any city or state along the border is prepared for a mass influx of people.

Tijuana currently takes in 200 deportees on a daily basis. And Caballero is being pressured by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clear a makeshift migrant camp at the San Ysidro border crossing.

She says the city has no plans to clear the camp.

Caballero

Y nos piden las autoridades del CBP si podemos abrir para repatriar por medio del Chaparral pero consideramos que no.

President Joe Biden tried to end the Remain in Mexico program, which was implemented by former President Donald Trump. But a court order forced him to restart it. Gustavo Solis, KPBS News.

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During the first year of the Covid pandemic, the catch phrase “we’re all in this together” was everywhere. But it soon became clear that some of us were much more “in this” than others. Statistics revealed wide disparities in who was getting sick, where most people were catching the virus and what activities put people most at risk.

Now, in an in-depth investigative report by Voice of San Diego, looking at more than 4-thousand death certificates of San Diegans who died from Covid- those disparities are clearer than ever.

Voice of San Diego reporter Will Huntsberry, who with fellow reporters Jesse Marx and Bella Ross, examined San Diego deaths in the first year of Covid. He spoke with KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Kavanaugh. Here’s that interview….

The headline in your report is, is startling. It says a college degree was an insurance policy against death. Can you explain what that means?

Speaker 2: (00:56)

We don't know exactly why it is, but literally having a bachelor's degree meant you are much less likely to die from COVID-19 in San Diego and quite possibly across the United States. You know, um, people with a bachelor's degree, for whatever reason were super insulated from the worst effects and partially maybe that's because they weren't doing essential work, let's say, but then again, you know, we know that most people who died were retired age, so that's not totally it. Maybe it's also telling us something about poverty and that people who have more education tend to make more money. But, you know, if you had a bachelor's degree, you were were more than half as less likely to die as someone who didn't. And like you said, I just think that's really startling. And, and we didn't have a handle on that level of detail about the disparity until now

Speaker 1: (01:51)

We start out examining COVID deaths through the lens of education levels.

Speaker 2: (01:56)

We didn't necessarily start there. Um, we made a public records request for every death certificate during the first year, um, of the pandemic for all COVID related deaths, because we really, you know, we thought it was going to be, we thought we knew something was going to come of it. And we thought it was important to bear witness to this terrible death toll, you know, 4,000 people in a year in San Diego county. And then we discovered that those death certificates were really rich with information about education level, about the job a person had about, um, where they were born, whether it was in the United States or not. And so once we started crunching those numbers, you know, we just found some really, uh, uniquely shocking and, and even terrifying stuff.

Speaker 1: (02:45)

Now, in your report, you profile a few of the people who died of COVID last year. Can you tell us a story of Gregory Denny of humble

Speaker 2: (02:55)

Gregory Denny? He was a 48 year old security at Taylor guitars in alcohol, but he was not your average, 48 year old. Um, he was actually working on finishing his bachelor's degree. He was married. He had a couple of kids. He he'd served in the Gulf wars and in the summer of 2020, he wasn't finished with that bachelor's degree yet. And he came down with COVID. He was hospitalized and put in the ICU. And unfortunately like so many people, he was killed by this virus. And with Mr. Denny, the university he was studying at, they actually awarded him his bachelors posthumously because he hadn't finished it. And so he was a member of the graduating class of 2021. And you know, his story is really powerful. I'm certainly not saying that had he finish that bachelor's degree? He, he would have, um, you know, not died from COVID, but this was the working age man. He was 48 years old. And you know, people with bachelor's degrees were much more likely to be able to stay at home. And when other people were at home, he was working his security guard job. And, and that is where his wife thinks he, he contracted COVID

Speaker 1: (04:09)

Then many ways to frame the difference in COVID death rates among populations. Another one is in the second part of your report, finding that more than half of the San Diego ones who died were immigrants. Tell us about that.

Speaker 2: (04:23)

Yeah. We found so many disparities in these statistics that were big and scary, and I think we all knew there were these disparities, but we just didn't understand what a fine point was on it. I mean, in San Diego county, 23% of people are immigrants, but among those who died from COVID 52% were immigrants. So there's this really huge disparity just like with bachelor's degrees. And we don't totally understand it. There could be a lot of reasons that immigrants were more at risk. They were more likely to live in multi-generational housing. They're more likely to speak a different language and maybe they weren't getting good information about COVID in their native language. The other statistic that was really shocking was people without a high school diploma, you know, among immigrants who died 50% did not have a high school diploma among non-immigrants just 10% did not have a high school diploma. So, you know, education again seems to be a really important variable here.

Speaker 1: (05:22)

The biggest risk factor of death though remains among the elderly population. Doesn't it

Speaker 2: (05:28)

That's right. The median age was 76. You know, we know that COVID-19 hits old people much harder than young people and our database shows that too, but, but out of 4,000 deaths, you know, we also see in our database that a thousand people were working age, they were 65 or younger. So, you know, I don't think most people think of dying before they're finished with their working age. And that's what happened to 25% of the people in our database.

Speaker 1: (05:58)

Now you hinted, uh, that's one of the reasons that could account for this education level disparity, even though many of the people who died were already retired is a chronic disparity in health results. For people who are rich and poor and white and people of color. Can you tell us how that might have contributed to the higher death toll?

Speaker 2: (06:21)

You know, we've heard of a couple really COVID specific things, right? Maybe you're more, you were more likely to work in essential labor. You're more likely to ride the bus and that put you more in harm's way, but there's even like deeper issues at play about chronic illnesses like diabetes and, um, hypertension and heart disease in the poorest neighborhoods in San Diego. It's very hard to find a healthy grocery store. There's no Vons, there's no trader Joe's, there's definitely not a whole foods. And so it's harder to eat well, and that means you're more likely to get diabetes. And what's also true about those areas is they're less walkable. It's harder to get exercise. There's less parks. That means you're more likely to be obese. You know, all of these chronic conditions made it much more likely for a person to die from COVID in our database, 80% of the people who died had a chronic health condition, but even just one layer deeper Maureen, just the stress of poverty itself seems to put people at risk. We know that poor children have higher blood pressures than their peers and, you know, high blood pressure leads to hypertension. And that can cause heart attack and stroke and hypertension itself puts you more at risk with COVID. And so, you know, the layers of how poverty interacts with this disease are, are deeply interwoven.

Speaker 1: (07:42)

Now, you know, I suppose if you ask, most people eat on the street, they'd readily tell you that wealthier people get better medical care and are more protected from contagious disease, then poor people. So that in and of itself is not a shocking revelation. So what significance do you think this report has about the disparities and COVID deaths between rich and poor? Yeah,

Speaker 2: (08:06)

I'm really glad you asked that question actually. And I think you're right. I think people are aware that there have been disparities with COVID, but I think we were hearing a lot of that information over and over again during the height of the pandemic. And I think people were really overwhelmed, you know, um, and burnt out even on news at a certain point, you know, they were all personally going through something different. We were difficult. We were globally going through something difficult and awful. And I think now is a good time to revisit the impact of, of the, you know, the worst part of the pandemic we saw in that first year at a time when people can actually like absorb those disparities and think about their own communities, look around them and say, you know, wow, people in certain zip codes did really well.

Speaker 2: (09:00)

You know, and people in other ones did really badly. And, and, and not just by a little bit. And I think that has the potential to drive decision-making in the future about public policy, around health decisions, you know, where to put testing centers for, for, uh, in a pandemic where to put vaccine centers, we should be putting them in the poorest areas. Uh, and we should be unequivocal about that because I think our data shows that, you know, you don't need those support things nearly as much in the richer neighborhoods. And so I think, um, I think it's a good time for us to re-look at this and absorb it and, you know, hopefully it can drive public policy in the future.

And that was Voice of San Diego reporter Will Huntsberry speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Kavanaugh.

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The marines are celebrating 100 years in San Diego this week. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says the Marine Corps Recruit Depot has become a city landmark.

COVID protocols have limited the public celebration, but San Diego’s original permanent Marine base celebrated 100 years this week. Marine Historian Joanie Schwarzwetter says Marine Corp Recruiting Depot San Diego was part of a vision for the city.MRCDANNIVERSARY 2A TRT :14“As the years went on since recruit training first moved here in 1923, more and more focus was paid to recruit training. It was 1948, though, when the base was officially redesignated as Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Prior to that, it was Marine Base San Diego.”

The base now trains all male recruits west of the Mississippi. After a long delay, this year they began training female recruits. Several of the original buildings are on the national register of historic places. Steve Walsh KPBS News.

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During the holiday season many people donate money to charities…. but California's attorney general is warning about scams.

KPBS reporter Melissa Mae says he shared some tips to protect your generosity.

MM: As the season of giving begins, many charitable organizations come together to support their communities. Unfortunately, scammers are also on the prowl for people’s holiday donations.

MM: California Attorney General Rob Bonta stopped by the Logan Heights Community Development Corporation to share tips and resources on how to avoid scams while donating this holiday season.

MM: Bonta says to be cautious of social network fundraising.

RB “If you see a solicitation in your newsfeed make sure the charity you are donating to is legitimate. If it is, find out whether you will be charged a fee for donating and what percentage of your donation will go the social media platform.”

MM: To learn about all nine tips to avoid charitable scams to go o-a-g dot c-a dot gov slash donations. Melissa Mae KPBS News.

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Coming up.... We have part two of an investigation into protecting outdoor workers from wildfire smoke. California already has rules in place to do so, but they’re rarely enforced, and recent efforts to bolster enforcement were blocked. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

And now, for part two of an investigation we brought you yesterday.

KQED’s Farida Jhabvala Romero has been investigating the state’s failure to enforce regulations meant to protect farm workers and others exposed to wildfire smoke. …

She found that earlier this year lawmakers tried to boost enforcement, but Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration stepped in and blocked their efforts.

At a food bank in the town of Biola in Fresno County, volunteers help Alejandra Beltran load groceries into cardboard boxes, and carry them to her pickup truck.

AMBI: Esta, what else you need?

Beltran is a farmworker. This fall she worked in the fields harvesting grapes for raisins, she says, including shifts in thick wildfire smoke.

Personally, it affects me on my, you know, my chest, and I get very, like a hoarsey voice, and it produces a lot of cough.

Tiny particles in wildfire smoke can trigger asthma attacks, strokes and other serious health problems.

Since 20-19, California employers have been required to protect workers when smoke levels become unhealthy -- by offering them N95 masks, for example, or moving them indoors.

But farmworkers like Beltran told us they’d never heard about those regulations. She says she never got an N95, nor the training employers are supposed to give workers about the health hazards of smoke.

BELTRAN: As far as my knowledge, we weren’t told anything.

An estimated 4 million Californians work outdoors.

But data obtained by KQED and The California Newsroom show that over the more than two years the smoke regulations have been in place, the state dispatched inspectors to only 26 employers.

That led to just 11 citations for violations of the wildfire smoke standard.

RIVAS: Eleven violations obviously is a very low number

California Assemblyman Robert Rivas chairs the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee. He introduced a bill that would have required the government to send “strike teams” of inspectors to the fields whenever smoke levels become dangerous.

Rivas: Having a mechanism of enforcement is incredibly important.

But the provision was deleted last summer, after opposition from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration. That’s according to internal documents we viewed and interviews with people close to the negotiations.

Rivas: You know, my effort here was not trying to penalize growers in any way or the agricultural industry but it was to, you know, achieve a level of accountability.

Governor Newsom’s press office did not respond to multiple requests for comment -- and neither did his Labor & Workforce Development Agency, which documents show wanted the strike teams removed.

Dan Lucido did talk to us. As acting chief of Cal/OSHA, she’s in charge of enforcing the smoke rules. She also didn’t want to comment on the changes to the bill.

LUCIDO: To the extent that any amendments were made, it would have been the author's decision to amend the bill, not ours.

Lucido says her agency is a leader in providing worker protections, including against wildfire smoke. She says Cal/OSHA is not opposed to sending strike teams out on smoky days.

She acknowledged they’ve been short on outreach and blamed the pandemic. But now, shey says the agency is trying to get the word out about the smoke regulations…like through this video in English and Spanish, posted on their website:

En California el humo de los incendios puede afectar a los lugares de trabajo…

But many farmworkers say they still don’t know about the protections, so the rule’s not working, says Nayamin Martinez. She directs the Central California Environmental Justice Network.

MARTINEZ: I always find it very ironic when the agencies brag ‘Oh we have more stringent rules in the entire nation.’ Well, those rules are out there. But if you don’t enforce them, then there's nothing good out of them.

Martinez’s organization surveyed more than 300 farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley earlier this year. Nearly 60% reported their employers did not provide N95 masks or that they did not know what N95s were.

For the California Report, I’m Farida Jhabvala Romero.

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.

Tijuana City officials and advocates for asylum seekers say the restart of the controversial Trump-era program will make an already inhumane situation at the border worse. Meanwhile, Voice of San Diego reporters looked back on the first year of the pandemic and discovered that people with lower levels of education in San Diego were much more likely to die from the virus. Plus, when state lawmakers tried to bolster enforcement for regulations meant to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke, the Newsom administration blocked those efforts.