Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Vaccinations and holiday surges

 December 14, 2021 at 8:42 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday, December 14th.

What public officials are looking at over the holiday break

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

Indoor masking will once again be required in California.

That was one of three new covid-19 mandates announced Monday by the state’s health and human services secretary. The other new rules include a tighter time-line for covid tests and mandatory testing for people visiting or returning to california.

Dr. Mark Ghaly is California's health and human services secretary.

since thanksgiving, over the past 2 ½ weeks we have seen a 47 percent increase in case rates across california from roughly … and we see this in greater percentage in communities and countries where vaccine rates are low and frankly hospital capacity is still pressed

The mandates will be in effect until january 15th.


The San Diego Unified Board of Education is ready to name finalists in it’s search for a new Superintendent. A search advisory committee has been interviewing candidates since October and the 3 final candidates will be named at tonight’s last board meeting of the year. The “state of the district” address is scheduled for january 18th when the permanent superintendent will be named.


A powerful winter storm is expected in San Diego county today… bringing rain, snow and even gale force winds.

Cal Fire San Diego Capt. Frank LoCoco says they have two swift-water rescue teams on stand-by and people need to take this weather system seriously.

“When you couple that high level of precipitation with a strong wind, the potential for trees, even healthy trees being toppled over, you know power poles being toppled over, that increases as well as the ground gets saturated.”


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

During the holidays COVID-19 cases are expected to increase, but with millions vaccinated this is a different winter than a year ago. KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman sat down with the county officials leading our pandemic response to see where we are at and what else is on their radar.

While we’ve been at this for almost two years we’re still in the thick of things

This pandemic winter is nothing like the last where hospitals were nearly overwhelmed. Since then, cases and hospitalizations have fallen-- thanks in large part to 75 percent of county residents, some 2.3 million people getting vaccinated--

Which is higher than the state which is higher than the nation. And actually for southern california we are the leaders

County Public Health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten and Health and Human Services Director Nick Maccione have been leading pandemic efforts here.

I think the biggest gift you can give someone this holiday season coming up if you love someone you care about them is to get vaccinated

There have been upticks in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since thanksgiving.. And officials are asking people to celebrate responsibly this holiday season.

If people continue to be careful about their actions, their behavior we can get through the winter months as well. But the anticipation of cases going up over the winter months is a concern

This winter there’s no large vaccination super stations.. And recently the focus has been on delivering COVID boosters and shots for younger kids.

Access is not a problem, what is the primary issue is those people who are not vaccinated making the decision to become vaccinated

The pandemic revealed disparities in the way people have access to resources and health care.. The state identified zip codes in underserved areas that needed extra attention--

We’ve just maintained that approach and in fact -- not just for COVID this is the work that’s informing what we’re doing more broadly be it for homeless be it for mental health, housing or children and families in need

With the help of a new board of supervisors the county has been investing millions in homeless resources. At existing shelters staff provide mental health services, public health nurses and work to connect people to assistance programs. Now county officials are looking to open their own shelter in the east county and some in partnership with other cities--

It’s about sanitation, it’s about providing people with the elements of daily living that we all expect and actually deserve

Health officials say the drug crisis is almost equally a pandemic. They report 1 one 13 San Diegans have a substance abuse disorder and say more resources are desperately needed--

We have built the most wonderful hospitals and clinics and maybe public health we’re catching up on infrastructure, but alcohol and drug treatment has not been -- it’s always been stigmatized as well and it’s not an area that has been invested in

County staff are working to overhaul the existing behavioral health system. Maccione says mental health, addiction, even homelessness can be interconnected and should be treated as such--

How do you build a truly behavior health continuum of care. That is the tentacles that touch not only the homeless, the opioid/fentanyl pandemic but also the rising number of mental of health challenges we’ve been saying.It is a massive undertaking it’s not just bricks and mortar and assessment centers

Another focus for health officials are aging San Diegans.

We’re not going to quite be the new miami or florida but let me give you an idea. In 2010 we had about 600,000 san diegans 60 and older, but 2030 it will be pushing about 850,000 -- that’s a significant increase it’s one of the fast growing age groups

The county wants to make sure they are prepared -- and that means more investments in elderly care.. And some good news for prevention efforts.. After historically being underfunded, public health departments should be getting a boost from the next state budget.

Don’t know how much that will be -- that’s what we’re hearing is happening and I think it will go a long way to shore up the infrastructure

Wooten says a priority will be updating IT systems to make sure public health efforts are as efficient as possible. MH KPBS News.


The sailor charged with setting the 2020 fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard was in court Monday for the first time. KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh has been following the case.

20 year old Seaman Apprentice Ryan Sawyer Mays is charged with Hazarding a vessel and arson in the July 2020 fire.

Most of the day was spent with ATF arson investigator Matt Beals. AFT determined the fire started in the lower vehicle deck, where rows of cardboard boxes were stacked two deep, nearly to the ceiling. Beals said the fire required some sort of outside fuel to spread so quickly.

It’s clear that most of the case will turn on eyewitness testimony. Prosecutors plan to call several witnesses over the next couple days. The problem is everyone was wearing masks.

We also learned Monday that the investigation centered on another sailor for a time. That sailor was eventually kicked out of the Navy for misconduct.

The hearing officer will recommend whether there is enough evidence to send Mays to a Court Martial. Steve Walsh KPBS News


On Monday, many state and local officials were on site for the san diego international airport’s new terminal one groundbreaking ceremony.

kpbs reporter Melissa Mae was also there for the celebration.

M: After years of planning, construction for the new terminal one at San Diego International Airport has begun.

MM: 30 new gates will be added to the airport for a total of 62 gates. Along with new shopping and dining facilities and even an outdoor patio that has views that overlook the bay.

MM: Kimberly Becker is the airport authority president and CEO and says this project will incorporate energy and water conservation and clear air initiatives.

KB (:11) “Our airfield improvements will create more efficiency and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We have expanded the stormwater capture and reuse system.”

MM: The new T1, along with the rest of the airport, will be powered by 100% renewable, carbon-free electricity. Space is also set aside to accommodate future public transportation directly to the airport. Melissa Mae KPBS News.


Coming up.... It’s a familiar story for businesses along the U.S. Mexico Border: financial devastation due to the pandemic and border closures. We'll hear about one chamber of commerce that's trying to help store owners recover.




For businesses along the U.S. Mexico Border the pandemic and associated border closures were huge financial blows. But a regional Chamber of Commerce in the Imperial Valley is trying to help struggling store owners.

KPBS reporter Alexandra Rangel has more.


David Dahdoul, Kasa Imports Store owner

“It’s not even 50% I can say it’s 90% down.”

Downtown calexico is a string of small retail stores just north of the US Mexico port of entry.

These small businesses are owned and operated by local families. They rely heavily on customers coming up from Mexicali.

But since border crossing restrictions were put in place business has been incredibly slow.

That’s how David Dahdoul, the store owner of Kasa Imports, describes this past year.

He says the lifting of restrictions on November 8-th hasn’t brought back many of his old customers.

David Dahdoul, Kasa Imports Store owner

“I sit here all day to make one sale you know 10 dollars 20 dollar sale. You know i used to do 1,000 dollars, my worst day was 500 dollars and I complained about it and now i’m down to one sale.”

He isn’t exaggerating. Dahdoul keeps track of every single item he sells, and today

David Dahdoul, Kasa Imports Store owner

“I haven't made a sale , opened up at 8 O’clock, I opened up at 8 oclock tuesday, november 23, 2021, no sale.”

From the pandemic, border closures, supply chain issues, and an increase in gas prices, Dahdoul has taken hit after hit.

David Dahdoul, Kasa Imports Store owner

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve been here for 10 years eleven years this is the worst.”

He says about 70-80 percent of his customers come from south of the border in Mexicali.

He believes long wait times and vaccine requirements haven’t enticed many to cross the border and shop like they used to.

Just a block down from Dahdoul is Francisco Beltran’s store, Lulu’s Moda.

Francisco Beltran, Lulu’s Moda Store Owner

“Esperabamos mas ventas, esperabamos mas gente que viniera pero todavía no nos llega la gente que esperabamos.”

We were hoping for more sales and more people to come but we still haven't received the people we were waiting for, he says.

About 80 percent of his clients are also from Mexicali and 20 percent are local shoppers.

Francisco Beltran, Lulu’s Moda Store Owner

“Si la gente de por aquí los esperamos pero lamentablemente no viene la gente local de aquí. La gente que viene aquí es la gente de Mexicali, nosotros vivimos de la gente de Mexicali.”

Regrettably locals don’t shop here. The people who come here are people from Mexicali, we make a living from the people in Mexicali, Betran says.

Walking through the streets of Downtown Calexico, you see stores that have gone out of business during the pandemic.

Bari Smith Bean, Imperial Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce

“You would see empty parking lots often and that’s heartbreaking. Those are businesses of people that are trying to be successful.”

Bari Smith Bean is the Vice President of the new Imperial Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, in El Centro.

The chamber opened in September, but had been in the works for nearly 2 years.

The regional chamber combined the El Centro, Imperial, and Westmorland chambers of commerce.

United as one, Bean says they’ll be able to make a bigger impact in Imperial County and they’re hoping to reach neighboring cities like Calexico.

Bari Smith Bean, Imperial Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce

“Now more than ever the businesses just need our support.”

Calexico’s chamber of commerce closed down during the pandemic leaving Calexico businesses to fend for themselves and find outside help.

Bari Smith Bean, Imperial Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce

“I think we really launch into this new year with the chamber, we want to launch some of those initiatives where we can really say show us what we are doing and let us help you evolve because there are ways were you can reach more people.”

The regional chamber represents about 300 businesses in the county.

Although some business owners like Dahdoul and Beltran haven't seen an uptick like they wanted, Bean says overall they’re has been an increase of traffic flow coming into the county.

And as some businesses have closed others have thrived.

Bari Smith Bean, Imperial Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce

“There’s been success stories as well during the pandemic but I think the biggest thing we have to do is support our local businesses.”

According to the National Retail Federation sales are still down compared to prepandeic levels but stores saw an increase in foot traffic compared to last year.

During Thanksgiving week, Beltran didn’t see many customers , but he says he remains hopeful that things will pick up during the holiday season.

Francisco Beltran, Lulu’s Moda Store Owner

“Pues esperamos de Thanksgiving que llegue más gente de black Friday.”

Alexandra Rangel, KPBS News.

That was reporting from KPBS’ Alexandra Rangel. This story was made possible with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.


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.

With 75 percent of residents vaccinated, San Diego has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. But county public health officials here still anticipate a surge in coronavirus cases over the holidays. Meanwhile, Navy prosecutors weigh their evidence against a sailor charged with arson in the fire that burned the USS Bonhomme Richard. Plus, for businesses along the U.S. Mexico Border, it's a familiar story–financial hardship as a result of the pandemic and border closures.