Morning Report: County Limiting Access to Officials Managing COVID-19 Crisis - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: County Limiting Access to Officials Managing COVID-19 Crisis

Dr. Nick Yphantides, San Diego County’s chief medical officer, attends a press conference about the coronavirus pandemic. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Until recently, reporters had reasonably unfettered access to the local public health officials managing the novel coronavirus outbreak in daily press briefings.

But that access has now been sharply curtailed, reports Will Huntsberry.

The county’s press conferences have now gone online-only, but that change means reporters are no longer able to have in-depth back-and-forths with officials, as they did in the past. County officials had previously answered questions about the scope of the outbreak and how much supplies they have in stock only during the in-depth portion of the press briefings – which have been eliminated.

“Getting timely information in this fast-moving crisis is critically important for the citizens of San Diego. Going forward, it will be more difficult and county officials know it,” writes Huntsberry.

Coronavirus Is Hitting Dem Party Members Hard

The coronavirus appears to be taking a rough toll on the close-knit San Diego Democratic Party community, Andrew Keatts reports in a new story.

Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Padilla, Democratic Party Chairman Will Rodriguez-Kennedy and City Council candidate Kelvin Barrios have all tested positive for the virus, and the former two have been hospitalized. Andrea Cardenas, a political consultant and party organizer who is a Chula Vista City Council candidate, thinks she’s got it, too, but hasn’t received her test results yet.

“The apparent spread within the Democratic community has rattled many activists and campaign workers who frequent those circles. Many have announced on social media that they too have been sick, though some have tested negative or didn’t seek testing,” Keatts reports.

“It’s just such a tight-knit community where we don’t know how far it’s reached,” Cardenas said. “We don’t really know how it got introduced, but the reality is it did affect our community really closely, and it hit home for a lot of people.”

  • San Diego Theatres, the nonprofit that runs downtown’s San Diego Civic Theatre and the Balboa Theatre, has laid off nearly half of its staff in the wake of coronavirus closures.
  • San Diego Unified School District announced that by April 27 it will be able to deliver remote learning services to all its students. It will start the transition April 6: “At that point, teachers will begin receiving training for the move to online instruction, will work remotely with students who are able to participate, and will identify those students who are unable to take part.”

Schools Are Still Striking Secret Deals With Teachers Accused of Misconduct

A task force created by the San Diego County district attorney in response to Voice of San Diego’s school misconduct reporting over the last two years has filed against an El Centro teacher. Monique Garcia pleaded not guilty to two felony and three misdemeanor charges at her arraignment. 

She’s accused of providing marijuana and alcohol to students on a school camping trip in February 2019. 

Central Union High School District paid Garcia about $20,000 to resign last June and agreed to tell future employers that she voluntarily resigned. She agreed in turn not to file any complaints or lawsuits against the district. 

Ashly McGlone writes that such deals are “common in cases of teacher misconduct, and the secrecy clauses sometimes allow employees to go on working in other schools that are unaware of their past misconduct. School district officials often say they cut such deals to avoid the cost and time required to fire teachers.” 

California Shutting Down Some State Beach Parking Lots

After seeing large numbers of outdoor visitors this weekend, California has begun working with local county and public health officials to make changes and help stop the spread of coronavirus. State parks and beaches remain open, but officials are closing the parking lots at select places to deter large crowds.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the list of San Diego County parking lots that are inaccessible to vehicles included Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, Carlsbad State Beach and South Carlsbad State Beach. State authorities are expected to continue patrolling those and other places to disburse any large gatherings.

San Diego closed its parks, trails and beaches Monday for a similar reason (although not everyone got the memo) and police have started warning people to stay away. The closures include boardwalks and bays. Imperial Beach followed suit Tuesday. As did the Port of San Diego. 

Coronado is keeping its beach spots open, but sending some pretty strong signals in the meantime that it doesn’t appreciate all the news about how its … beach spots are open. Per the city’s website: “Some regional news outlets have told people that they can go to the beach and take walks. However, the city is encouraging people to stay at home.” 

Tell Us About Your Business

If you own — or are part of — a business that’s struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, we want to hear from you. We’re trying to learn more about how San Diego businesses are working to survive.

There’s two ways you can do this. Fill out this simple form, or send us a short video answering the following questions: 

  • How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business? What changes have you had to make (or have been made for you)?
  • Have you tried to get help from the government or nonprofit organizations? What was that experience like?
  • What other concerns do you have? What does your business need to continue operating?

Email your video file to our engagement editor at megan@vosd.org. Also reach out to her if you have any questions. Videos may be shared on our website and social media channels.

Chula Vista Police: We’re Using Drones Responsibly

The Chula Vista Police Department issued an interesting statement Tuesday in response to a recent Financial Times report suggesting that the city, like others in California, wants to expand its drone program for law enforcement purposes following the coronavirus pandemic. 

CVPD said its drones are used in response to emergencies and could be particularly helpful when trying to contact the homeless in canyons and other hard-to-reach places with the aid of a loudspeaker.

But at the same time, CVPD said it has policies in place respecting civil liberties and noted that there are things the drones will not be used for: “Specifically, police drones will not be used for random patrol, to follow or surveil residents going about their daily routines, or other invasive tactics which would hinder the freedoms we all enjoy in our community.”

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx and Will Huntsberry, and edited by Sara Libby.

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