Morning Report: Border Patrol Is Patrolling the Pandemic - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: Border Patrol Is Patrolling the Pandemic

A Border Patrol agent operates a checkpoint on April 14 on SR-76 entering Pala. / Photo courtesy of Alianza Comunitaria

U.S. Border Patrol has the authority to stop and search people within 100 miles of the border. That covers all of San Diego County.

Since the coronavirus stay-at-home order went into effect in March, the agency has reactivated at least one checkpoint on I-15 north between Fallbrook and Temecula. There are reports of another checkpoint operating on SR-76 and roving patrols of officers.

Federal officials declined to say whether they’ve ramped up enforcement during the pandemic and why, but known deportations have left the mostly farmworker communities of rural northeastern San Diego County alarmed.

Immigrants, advocates and school officials told Maya Srikrishnan that some have avoided leaving their home to access food, medical care and school resources. If they leave, they might never come back.

A Border Patrol spokesman said checkpoints were important to prevent not only illegal border crossings but drugs, currency, weapons and counterfeit materials, including counterfeit COVID-19 test kits.

Testing in Senior Homes Still Falling Short

Officials at the state and county are trying to induce widespread testing in congregate living facilities, which account for nearly half of the region’s COVID-19 deaths, but the effort is still slow-moving.

VOSD contributor Jared Whitlock reports that the county public health department has been sending teams to help facilitate testing at skilled nursing homes, but it’s targeting the facilities where an outbreak has already occurred.

It’s crucial, according to one medical professional, that people at skilled nursing homes who are asymptomatic received testing, so that the spread of the virus can be contained. By the time officials become aware of an outbreak, he said, “the horse is out of the barn.”

There are other obstacles: In San Diego, for instance, the county health department offers up testing kits to senior facilities that cannot otherwise obtain them, but not all facilities are equipped to administer tests.

City Attorney Blasts SDSU Sale Plan; Says Ambitious Wastewater Plans in Danger

Murphy Creek, which runs along the eastern edge of the Mission Valley stadium site before dumping into the San Diego River, would be part of a hoped-for river park. / Photo by Ry Rivard

Friday, the San Diego City Council is set to review and give final approval to the historic deal to transfer the city’s Mission Valley land to San Diego State University. But late Friday, City Attorney Mara Elliott sent around another list of concerns this time focused on the city’s long-term plans to recycle wastewater. Elliott’s deputies wrote that city would face  “dire consequences in the future” if the deal goes forward as SDSU has sketched out in its final purchase and sales agreement.

If you have some quarantine time to kill, you can read the full memo, which includes background and explanation of the dilemma. The land is largely owned by the city in its Water Utility Fund and a large groundwater aquifer that the city could use to store water in the future.

The city plans to recycle water to such an extent that someday it will make up about a third of the city’s water source. It’s called the Pure Water project. Planners don’t yet know what exactly they will need on the Mission Valley land to make that possible. But they’re concerned: “SDSU’s current design for the River Park and other improvements on the River Park Property … could either prevent the City from completing and implementing Phase II of the Pure Water Program or significantly increase the City’s overall Phase II project costs.”

“We think our offer establishes fair parameters for that,” said John Kratzer, CEO of JMI Realty and an SDSU consultant on the deal, in a previous interview about the controversy. “If they were to come in and destroy a park area we want them to return it to its original condition.”

Elliott’s rival has a take: Attorney Cory Briggs, who is running for Elliott’s job, sees this all as her effort to kill the whole deal.

Caution may be warranted: The Union-Tribune’s Jeff McDonald rounded up all the city’s (many) missteps in real estate transactions over the last several years.

San Diego’s Rape Kit Backlog Will Be Cleared in Two Years

After pushback last year by the district attorney and others, the San Diego Police Department committed to sending untested rape kits to a third-party lab.

SDPD told Andrew Keatts that it’s gonna take an estimated two years to analyze each and every one of them. The results for the first 25 kits are due by the end of May. The city is expecting another 50 results in June and 75 results a month after that.

A state audit recently revealed that SDPD had the highest number of rape kits among law enforcement agencies that participated in the survey. The state had attempted to break down kits for each department collected before and after the start of 2016, but noted in its report that the San Diego kits didn’t come with a clear collection date.

A spokesman for SDPD said the department does know when each kit was collected, but does not know who passed information about the kits to the state.

Politics Roundup: Kev for Guv?

Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts have been tracking San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s public displays of opposition to Gov. Gavin Newsom. In this week’s Politics Report, the two consider the possibility that Faulconer is trying to become Newsom’s top rival. They copied and pasted their Slack conversation. It’s an admittedly lazy trend in political punditry and soon-to-be cliche type of content in the same ballpark as putting a question mark in a headline (!!) or using sports metaphors generally. Anyhow, it’s a nuanced, thoughtful discussion that also rounds up .

And out of Sacramento: A bunch of bills we’re keeping an eye on cleared legislative hurdles last week. One of them would clean up and revise AB 5, the wildly controversial labor law limiting the use of independent contractors, by making further exemptions for musicians, journalists, photographers and other workers. It also grants local district attorneys the power to enforce the law.

And on the podcast: Keatts, Lewis and Sara Libby considered what the next round of reopenings could look like for tourism, schools and restaurants. Knowing the testing and tracing status of your network is hugely important in the fight against COVID-19 as it has been against HIV. UC San Diego epidemiologist Rebecca Fielding-Miller joined the second half of the show to explain and to discuss how to analyze risk as we start to move about more in the community.

During Pandemic, Even the Dead Are Dangerous

To protect themselves from the virus, pathologists have been donning respirators and diverting potential COVID-19 cases to a rarely used autopsy room.

VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga did a Q&A with the county’s chief deputy medical examiner to understand how he and his colleagues are adjusting to a new era. They’ve rented a pair of 53-foot refrigerated trucks to store bodies if the death toll skyrockets. Fortunately those trucks haven’t been put to use.

More than 220 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported in recent months in San Diego County and pathologists have only seen about a dozen of them so far. That’s because the medical examiner’s office only steps in when a death is unexpected or unexplained.

In Other News

  • The Union-Tribune profiled Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer whose immense powers have only now become clear to many San Diegans. Reminder: Here’s our short video on who all these people are. It’s still handy!
  • Also in the U-T: Our pals at the Voices of Our City Choir are going on the big stage tonight. NBC’s America’s Got Talent will feature them. “‘When I learned we had an opportunity to be on it, I thought, ‘This can’t be real,’’” said Juan Campbell, 56, who was living in a tent in downtown San Diego when he became one of the first members of Voices of Our City Choir in 2016.”
  • inewsource has a long story out about the city’s enforcement actions against homeless residents: “San Diego police have issued more than twice as many tickets for illegal lodging — an infraction largely directed at homeless people — compared to the same time last year, according to data inewsource obtained.”
  • KPBS had a pair of interesting stories about restaurants. One was about what some were doing to prepare (along with some of their worries) and the other was about those who decided to stay closed.

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby and Jesse Marx and edited by Scott Lewis.

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