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Revisiting San Diego’s first COVID quarantine

 February 7, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, February 7th.>>>>

Reflecting on San Diego’s first COVID quarantine

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

The Navy released the name of the SEAL Candidate who died after completing hell week training. 24 year old Kyle Mullen of New Jersey died on Friday at Sharp Coronado Hospital, hours after completing Navy Seal training. Another SEAL candidate was hospitalized and is now in stable condition at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Navy Officials say the two sailors were not actively training when they reported symptoms and were taken to the hospital to receive emergency care. The cause of Mullen’s death is still under investigation.


Santa Ana conditions are set to continue this week.

A wind advisory is in effect for many mountain and valley areas in San Diego County. It’ll remain in effect until at least 2pm today. Winds are expected between 20 to 30 miles per hour, with gusts up to 60miles per hour. Winds are expected to peak again on Tuesday through late wednesday. Later this week temperatures are expected to heat up and will be 15 to 20 degrees above seasonal averages.


The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in San Diego County continues to drop, down by another 3 people, for a total of 991. That’s according to the latest data from the state. On friday san diego county public health officials reported more than 2500 covid-19 cases and 29 additional deaths. The county does not release covid data on weekends.


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

It’s officially been two years since San Diego County’s first exposure to COVID-19.. KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman says local attention was focused on the marine corp air station Miramar –which was drafted for a unique mission.

You like the park? Yeah is it better than the hospital

Two years ago Frank Wucinski and his then three year old daughter Annabell were among those evacuated from Wuhan, China, and put into quarantine at MCAS Miramar..

It was a good thing we did that, but on the other hand there’s this feeling of guilt that I’ve left my wife during the toughest part of her life

Wucinski’s wife had to stay in China and the two week quarantine, which included a hospital visit, wasn’t easy on their daughter Annabell-

In her mind, it’s mommy not wanting to see her… Just kind of explain it as simply as you can -- mommy misses you mommy loves you

The dad and daughter were flown into San Diego on unmarked white planes, some of more than 200 Americans and their families quarantined inside base hotel rooms. For San Diegans it was their first local experience with the coronavirus. All of the evacuees came from Wuhan, where the virus was spreading rapidly and the body count was rising--

Greg Cox, Former San Diego Supervisor’s Chair

I think most people were just confused -- and trying to understand what is this all about?

Then County Supervisors board Chair Greg Cox says he wasn’t sure what to expect--


It’s one of these things you’re kinda figuring is this just a passing problem had swine flu, h1n1, ebola those were just blips on the radar screen people were kinda following what was going on -- and for the most part it never impacted their lives and now this was something that looked like it was going to be much bigger and as it turned out it certainly was --

If anyone got sick, they weren’t allowed to stay at Miramar.. The County’s Chief medical officer Dr. Eric McDonald was incharge of figuring out care locally--


We knew it was a big deal, because this was something that had not been done in 50 years, literally. Large scale federal quarantines


What I remember was when we first got the call that San Diego might be a location and I was thinking why us -- and then I was trying to think how can we get out of this but then we quickly figured out oh no this is where it’s going to be

McDonald ended up asking UC San Diego health and Rady Children’s hospital to be ready if anyone tested positive--


Really the heavy burden of what to do in terms of management fell on UCSD and Rady Childrens to figure out the infection control

Seven patients were ultimately taken to UCSD and Rady’s.. Officials remember the scene when first patients arrived -- they were given a police escort and were flanked by CDC officials.. Of those seven that developed symptoms, two tested positive.. They were the 13th and 14th cases of COVID in the U-S.


You assume the worst, that it’s the most contagious and you work down from there

UC San Diego Health’s Dr. Francesca Torriani helped coordinate care for the seven patients..


You know you could see really the worry of some of being not welcomed and of really being afraid

Torriani says they knew it was a respiratory virus, but were unclear how easily it could spread.. So the patients were put inside special negative pressure rooms developed for contagious Ebola patients..


We were at the maximum containment for all of these patients

The safety protocols worked-- no staff members ended up contracting the virus. And while one patient did have an experimental treatment, everyone left the hospital OK.. A month later, COVID was officially declared a pandemic.


Was it going to be a pandemic as we ended up having? I think we all though there was a potential, but I did not personally

There were some early issues -- tests then had to be sent to the CDC lab in Atlanta where it could take several days to get results. All the evacuees ended up leaving the base before March came and we started seeing cases among local residents.. McDonald says there were some valuable lessons learned during the federal quarantine, like how to safely transport covid positive patients.


So I got our prehospital system geared up to handle that, all the way to just the logistics of how to support a lot of people in one places who are on quarantine with food, with housing, with social services support

Torriani says for some of the patients there was a language barrier, but she was focused on making them feel welcome so far away from home.


Asking them what kind of food do they want -- that would help them. Giving them hot water and a teapot so that they could find some humanity. That was so touching and so important to make them feel less afraid

During the quarantine period, the San Diego community showed their support . Military spouses organized food, toy and book donations.. Some local schools even sent Valentine's Day cards.

This early COVID experience helped prepare San Diego officials.. When Just a few weeks later cruise ship passengers had to be quarantined, and then unsheltered residents were isolated at the convention center. MH KPBS News.


Now back to where we are currently in the pandemic…

A San Diego lawmaker is proposing a new bill to keep schools open and safe as the covid pandemic continues. KPBS education reporter m.g. Perez tells us it might surprise you to learn why the proposed legislation is needed.

Right now the California Immunization Registry does not require all cities and counties to report their COVID vaccination data. Many of them…like Los Angeles and San Diego record the information themselves. San Diego Assemblymember Dr. Weber is sponsoring new legislation to change that and make the registry much more accurate and useful. She is supported by Sacramento Senator and fellow physician Dr. Richard Pan

We’re all tired of COVID but we also have to understand the reason we’re doing all these things. COVID is taking a tremendous toll on our community including our children.”

San Diego Unified officials support the proposed legislation. They say having accurate and current vaccination records can help in preventing the COVID spread. MGP KPBS News


And looking to the future,

One jab instead of two. A flu and COVID-19 vaccine combo could be in the near future. KPBS reporter Tania Thorne tells us about a recent study.

The start of the flu season brings on the annual reminders to get a flu shot.

This could be the case for the COVID vaccine as talk of an annual booster makes way.

But a study released last week finds combining the flu and COVID vaccine may be a good idea.

the data from earlier this week really are part of that data stream and it's good news to be getting to see these sorts of things moving toward availability.

Dr. Robert Schooley with UC San Diego Health says there are many benefits to combining the two vaccines.

Being able to get them both in one injection takes care of two birds with one stone you don't have the risk of having people only getting one or not getting back for the other and and again having the pandemics come anyway, so there are a lot of potential benefits to having them put together.

The study followed over 300 people split into 3 groups.

One group received just the flu vaccine, one just the COVID booster vaccine, and the other a mixture of the two.

It found that the group who got the combo vaccine had just as much protection against COVID and the flu as the group who got the stand alone vaccines.

The study says no serious side effects were reported in any of the three groups.

Lilian Serrano with Universidad Popular is excited about the idea of a flu and COVID combo vaccine.

“Tools like having one shot that will provide two protections are definitely key and are welcome by the community because once again when you don't normally go to the doctor or normally receive vaccines being able to get one shot and be done is a very important component when making a decision to receive it or not.”

The group has been working to get more Latinos vaccinated and boosted.

While no official announcement has been made on annual COVID boosters, Moderna is already working on a combined COVID and flu vaccine.

That vaccine is expected to be ready in 20-23.


Coming up.... High rise apartment project in Banker’s Hill could pave the way for similar projects. Plus, what comes next after state energy officials decide to pump the brakes on reforming the state’s solar market? We have those stories and more, next, just after the break.

A high-rise apartment building under construction in San Diego's Bankers Hill could make it easier to build similar projects that include affordable housing. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen explains.

AB: The 20-story, 204-unit building at 6th Avenue and Olive Street made use of the state's affordable housing density bonus law. That offers developers relief from regulations like density and height limits if they include low-income housing in their projects. Neighbors seeking to block the project took their case to the state's Fourth District Court of Appeal and lost. Heather Riley is the attorney for the developer Greystar. She says the judges decided to let the case set legal precedent.

HR: "We hope it gives some backbone to local agencies who are reluctant to approve projects that comply with the state density bonus law."

AB: Opponents of the project have until March 14 to seek review by the state Supreme Court. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.


Engineers who run the earthquake shake table on the UC San Diego campus are testing newly developed bearings that can protect a building during a quake. The technology bears the weight of a building, and is mounted between the structure’s base and foundation. Gilberto Mosquera is a structural engineering professor. He says the sway and shaking of upper stories is reduced as the building moves on the bearings. He tells of an earthquake in Mexico City.

People were in a building that had this technology. The people came out of this building to chaos in the streets, and they didn’t even know there had been an earthquake because they were so isolated from the shaking.

There are Earthquake bearings in San Diego on the Coronado Bridge and the county’s emergency services building.


Last week California energy officials put their decision to reform the solar market on hold indefinitely. Meanwhile, California solar advocates are still waiting for the governor to speak publicly about efforts to change the rules governing rooftop solar. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has details.

The California Public Utilities Commission said last week it was putting an indefinite hold on a decision to revamp the state’s solar marketplace rules. A proposed decision call for slashing the cost of power generated by rooftop solar, applying steep monthly grid access charges, and creating a fund to help poor people get systems. The Solar Rights Alliance’s Seth Rosenfeld is not encouraged by the delay.

“If it’s complicated to them, that makes me worried. And so our message is, everything we’re going is just going to be let’s keep doing the same thing. I mean if they aren’t hearing what the public is saying now. Then we have to keep talking. We have to be louder. We have to be more persistent.”

Rosenfeld wants Governor Gavin Newsom to speak out on the issue. All the governor has said publicly is that there need to be changes in the existing proposal.

Erik Anderson KPBS News

Moxie Theater held the world premiere of Diana Bubano's play Sapience over the weekend. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says the play focuses on neurodiversity and offers a sensory friendly production.

“Sapience” looks to a Primatologist working with an orangutan that she hopes to train to speak a human language. Director Vanessa Duron says it’s a play about communication.

VANESSA DURON: It's about how we strive to feel heard, to feel seen, how we socialize with each other. It's about understanding and compassion.

It is also about neurodiversity and staging a sensory friendly production for audience members who might be on the autism spectrum, says inclusion specialist Samantha Ginn.

SAMANTHA GINN: This time around at Moxie, they brought me in to make sure that the show is indeed sensory friendly and accessible to those who may avoid going to the theater because of those loud noises and because maybe they need a sensory break.

The play is not only designed for those who need a sensory friendly environment but also as a means of asking audiences to show compassion for neurodiverse people. The orangutan in the play represents a different way of communicating and reveals how society creates norms that it wants people to narrowly fit into.

"Sapience" runs through Feb. 20th with select streaming dates.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

That’s it for the podcast today.. Join me back here tomorrow to keep up with your local news. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

A look back at the very first quarantine efforts in San Diego at MCAS Miramar, two years later. Meanwhile, a San Diego lawmaker is proposing a new bill to keep schools open and safe as the pandemic continues. The proposal would infuse the California Immunization Registry with COVID-19 data from across the state. Also, neighbors attempted to block construction of an apartment building next to St. Paul's Cathedral. But an unsuccessful lawsuit will likely end up easing the approval of similar projects across California.