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Staff shortages at hospitals

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Wednesday January 5th>>>>

surging daily covid-19 cases

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

More school districts returned to in-person classes on Tuesday but absences and COVID-19 cases returned as well. At the San Diego Unified school district, attendance dropped to 84-percent–that’s down 10,000 students as compared to the week before Christmas. District officials say some parents are keeping their children home after testing positive for COVID-19 using test kits sent home before winter break.

Here’s San Diego Unified Board Trustee Richard Barrera.

“It’s the spread of the virus and the continuation of the virus which puts us on this roller coaster and that’s what makes it difficult to do the job we need to do for our students.”

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Former Chabad of Poway Head Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was sentenced on TUESDAY to 14 months in prison for orchestrating a donation fraud scheme. He was also ordered to pay 2.8 million dollars in restitution to victims. Goldstein was ordered to surrender to authorities by February 23rd to begin his sentence.

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In Poway a number of city staff have tested positive for covid-19. City Hall is closed to the public until January 17th but Staff are still available to help the public remotely, by phone or email. Recreational activities are not affected by the closure, and critical care services like fire, police, and public works are operating normally. The next city council meeting is set for the day after reopening, on the 18th.

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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.

San Diego County is seeing a huge jump in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado says some hospitals are already canceling elective surgeries.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY IS HAVING THE BIGGEST COVID SURGE SINCE LAST SUMMER. IN THREE DAYS, THE COUNTY CONFIRMED MORE THAN 17,000 NEW CASES … AND HOSPITALIZATIONS ARE UP TOO, OVER 700 PEOPLE ARE HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID. CHRIS VAN GORDER, THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF SCRIPPS HEALTH SAYS THEIR HOSPITALS ARE FILLING UP FAST.

Oh we’re seeing a significant increase in cases on Christmas Eve we had 80 COVID patients hospitalized at Scripps Facilities, today we have 210 so that’s an increase of 130 patients just in 11 days.

BUT THIS SURGE IS DIFFERENT.

In fact my employee health department told me this morning that they’re getting calls between 6 and 8 employees are calling telling our employee health that they tested positive per hour,

AND NOW THEY’RE CANCELING ELECTIVE SURGERIES.

I had 5 medical surgical beds available in the entire health-care system but I had 19 patients waiting for beds in just one of my hospitals

AND THEY’RE NOT THE ONLY HOSPITAL OVERWHELMED BY COVID. ON MONDAY SO MANY HOSPITALS ASKED TO BE PUT ON EMERGENCY DIVERSION THE COUNTY REMOVED THAT OPTION ALTOGETHER

so that means that all those ambulances that would normally bypass us because we don’t have the staff are coming to our hospitals and dropping off the patients anyway

DR SCOTT HERSKOVITZ, THE CLINICAL DIRECTOR OF THE ER AT RADY CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL SAYS PARENTS SHOULD CALL THEIR PEDIATRICIAN OR THEIR HOTLINE TO PRESCREEN THEM BEFORE THEY GO TO THE ER

A lot of the kids who are coming to the emergency department are having mild to moderate illness and aren’t necessarily needing to be admitted to the hospital for any significant care it’s just the sheer volume of patients that we’re seeing is causing strain on the system itself

AND THAT’S THE MESSAGE FOR EVERYONE … CALL YOUR DOCTOR AND DON’T GO TO THE ER FOR A COVID TEST OR IF IT’S NOT AN EMERGENCY.

but if you’re coming in for something that is a less priority you’re probably going to have to wait a long time and if you need admission you may be waiting in the emergency room for potentially hours to days.

AND IF YOU DO PLEASE BE PATIENT WITH THOSE WHO ARE CARING FOR YOU.

And people are literally attacking and yelling and screaming at the people that are trying to help them. So we literally had to start de escalation classes for our doctors and nurses to teach them how to de escalate people that are hostile when those people came in to get care from us, so it’s a very, very difficult time for people in healthcare

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Nine service members drowned when their amphibious landing craft sank off the coast of San Diego in july of 2020.

KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says hearings are now underway at Camp Pendleton to determine whether their leaders will be kicked out of the corps.

Beginning Tuesday, Lt. Col. Michael Regner - who was in charge of the battalion - faces either being kicked out of the Marines or potentially retired at a lower rank. The platoon sergeant for Bravo company and two other Marines are expected to go through a similar hearing process at Pendleton. Aleta Bath is the mother of one of the Marines who died - and one of three mothers in the hearing Tuesday.

“I don’t think they have been as open as they could be. I not think they are handling it properly.”

The board is reviewing reports that show the crafts used that day had a history of mechanical breakdowns. Marines had not passed their swim test. To remain in the Corps, Regner and the others will have to show they acted properly when they pressed ahead with the exercise that killed 9 troops. Steve Walsh KPBS News.

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San Diego county schools are reporting a drop in homeless students. But advocates say the new numbers are no cause for celebration, as the pandemic has caused many students to drop out of school entirely. inewsource investigative reporter Chloe Wynne has more.

When the pandemic forced learning online, teachers noticed that some students were missing from Zoom rooms.

Digital learning was especially hard for kids living in cars or in homeless shelters.

When schools reopened, advocates say some who struggled with online coursework never returned.

Barbara Duffield heads SchoolHouse Connection, a nonprofit based in DC.

DUFFIELD: There's a tremendous amount of attention on single adults who are homeless, but we know that at least 20% of that population were first homeless as children.

Duffield says students who don’t finish high school are the most likely to end up as homeless adults.

For KPBS, I’m inewsource investigative reporter Chloe Wynne.

That was inewsource investigative reporter Chloe Wynne. inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of kpbs.

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While the pandemic has ravaged much of the cross-border economy, Tijuana’s maquiladora industry has flourished. KPBS Border reporter Gustavo Solis tells us what’s behind this boom.

This is the sound of Tijuana’s booming maquiladora industry.

The daily thunder from thousands of cargo trucks shipping goods into the U.S. through the Otay Mesa border crossing.

Those trucks carry everything from Topo Chico hard seltzer to Toyota Tacomas assembled outside Tecate.

Each one is a sign of what is shaping up to be a new roaring 20s in Tijuana’s maquiladoras, which are manufacturing and warehousing facilities along the U.S. Mexico border.

“This is undoubtedly the most exciting and the most dynamic time period we’ve had in the maquiladora industry for decades.”

This is Ernesto Bravo. He works for Tecma. A company that helps foreign businesses move to Mexico. They’ve been doing it since the 1980s.

That makes Bravo our resident historian of the bustling border town’s maquiladora industry.

“The industry was born in the 70s, it grew significantly in the 80s and the 2000s was a bit of a challenging period with China coming into the WTO – the World Trade Organization – and enjoying certain benefits in terms of international trade with customs and duties and that type of thing. A lot of manufactures migrated to China.”

But over the last few years, the companies that left are coming back.

“We have seen reverse migration if you want to say, from Asia to Mexico as companies realize that they need to be closer to their clients. And with the U.S. being the number one market in the world for everything – virtually – the closest place you can be.”

The pandemic made it abundantly clear that saving money by shifting manufacturing away from North America is a bad bet.

Marucio Tortolero leads the real estate division of the TP Legal law firm in Tijuana.

He witnessed first-hand what happened to businesses that expanded supply chains before the pandemic.

One of his clients thought they could save by opening a manufacturing facility in South America.

But…

“When the COVID situation started that product wasn’t able to arrive here in Mexico or the U.S. on time. So, all of their operation got delayed and it was a big problem for the company.”

The fastest-growing sector in Tijuana’s maquiladora industry is fulfillment centers.

These are essentially repackaging and shipping warehouses that take advantage of a little known section of the U.S. tariff code to legally avoid paying fees on certain imports.

It’s called Section 321. And it allows companies to avoid paying tariffs as long as they ship items worth $800 or less directly to customers. So instead of shipping items in bulk directly to the U.S., companies set up fulfillment centers just south of the border.

That’s why we’re in the middle of a fulfilment center building boom in Tijuana.

Adriana Eguia works for Vesta, one of the biggest industrial developers in the region.

She says compared to just a year ago, the growth is …

“Ten times, ten times at least and we know probably it is going to grow more.”

Experts who follow Tijuana’s maquiladora industry are bullish on the market. Demand is high and the underlying conditions behind this boom don’t seem to be going away.

“Unless there is a change or unless there is a specific – something catastrophic happens I think we will continue to see growth in this sector.”

But there is at least one big potential roadblock. Tijuana’s infrastructure.

Businesses need stable sources of water and power to run warehouses. They need roads to transport goods across the border. And they need a reliable transit systems for their employees.

Historically, Tijuana has not invested in its infrastructure. And that could come back to haunt the city.

“ What needs to happen now is a lot of will from governments and business people to invest in infrastructure of the cities. Because if we keep on growing and there are no more roads or security or lighting and everything the city needs for growth, it’s probably going to collapse.”

But for now, expect trucks to keep lining up at Otay Mesa.

Gustavo Solis, KPBS News

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Coming up.... With over 7,000 military veterans serving time in California prisons, the state is trying to better serve them by housing them together.

“It is not so much we want to see murals and we want to see flag poles. That is just the surface level. We are trying to get deeper than that and really prepare people to get out of here”

More on that next. Just after the break.

Nearly 7,000 military veterans are in prison in California - spread out across 34 different institutions. Now, the state is trying to better serve them by housing them together. It's opened what state leaders say will be the nation's largest prison yard just for incarcerated veterans.

Lucy Copp reports for the American Homefront Project.

LUCY: In 2014, Ron Self, a decorated marine corps veteran, was serving a life sentence at San Quentin State Prison for attempted murder, when he attended a self-help class.

RON: I was in a program called victim-offender education.

This program offered participants a chance to share their traumas as a way of healing their past. When it was Self’s turn, an experience from combat came to mind first.

I shared Probably my most significant traumatic you've been that culminated in me putting a bullet in one of my man's head who just got blown up with an RPG...

When Self finished sharing his experience to the circle, it was crickets...

People just didn't know how to respond. They were all civilians. They've had other huge, big traumas, but nobody knew how to deal with that.

This was one of many instances that led Self to a firm conclusion...

RON: We need our own program

Self envisioned a prison yard dedicated to veterans...and he later founded an advocacy group to lobby for it.

This past May, his vision became reality - as California prison officials cut the ribbon at the state's Correctional Training Facility -- the first prison in California to designate a yard just for veterans.

More than a dozen states have separate prison dorms for military veterans. But the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says this will be the largest veterans hub in the nation - eventually housing up to 12-hundred incarcerated veterans.

CAPTAIN ORTEGA: getting the whole state to acknowledge that we're going to be the veteran's hub is what we're going through now. And we're in the final stages of it.

That’s Captain José Ortega. He oversees the hub and says the goal is to provide veterans inside the system with everything they’d be able to get outside.

CAPTAIN ORTEGA: job trainings, vocations, higher education, their benefits.

The hub also looks different from most prisons. A mural on the yard depicts the famous World War II scene of Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. Sergeant Matt Dyer - who works on the yard - isn’t a veteran, but has an American flag tattooed across his forearm. He says the mural - and the daily rituals - are designed to restore a sense of patriotism and duty.

SEARGANT: We do raise the flag and lower it every evening. Play taps and reveille in the morning and at night inside our housing unit.

Still, the purpose of the hub is much bigger than just restoring military tradition.

Mark Wade is an incarcerated veteran at the hub and the Veteran Liaison, responsible for communicating between his peers on the yard and prison officials.

MARK It wasn’t so much. We want to see murals and we want to see flag poles. That's just, that's just the surface level. We were trying to get deeper than that and really prepare people to get out of here.

Part of preparing people to get out is connecting them to their V-A benefits. In order for vets to qualify, they need a medical exam. And with so few V-A providers trying to get an appointment can take years. Wade hopes the hub will change that.

MARK: With a centralized location now the VA doesn't have to travel to 34 prisons. They could come to one.

As V-A logistics are finalized, Wade and the 145 veterans on the yard have begun setting a tone of unity, starting with adopting the logo of the Black Sheep squadron.

MARK: There's a Marine fighter squadron and world war II that was made up of all the pilots that from the Marines that nobody else wanted. But then it turned out to be the most successful combat squadron in world war II.

Wade says veterans at the hub can relate.

MARK: Society didn’t want us, we’re in prison. But we’re going to band together to serve, overcome our pasts, and live honorable lives now.

There's little data on whether housing incarcerated veterans together makes it less likely they'll end up back in prison after they're released. But California Corrections officials say they'll begin tracking that. And Wade says that will be the true test of whether the veteran’s hub is a success.

I’m Lucy Copp in Los Angeles.

That was Lucy Copp reporting from Los Angeles. 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 County is seeing a big jump in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and some hospitals are already canceling elective surgeries as staff call in sick. Meanwhile, hearings are underway regarding one of the deadliest Marine training accidents in decades - the July 2020 sinking of an amphibious assault vehicle. Plus, a story about how Tijuana’s maquiladora industry has flourished during the pandemic.