Morning Report: What Do You Do With 4,000 COVID-19 Death Certificates?
Back in May, we faced a difficult decision. We had requested all COVID-related death certificates from San Diego County. There were thousands. To get anything out of them, we would have to log each one by hand. Was it worth it?
It wasn’t clear whether the records would produce any consequential findings. What was clear: the work would take hundreds of hours of grueling data entry. We were swayed by the idea that it felt inherently important to record each death in our community — no matter the outcome.
As it turned out, the death records provided new and rich information about the communities that COVID tore through. The virus didn’t impact San Diego equally. It was like a twister, cutting a path through poorer communities, less educated communities and immigrant communities.
Everyone had heard, during the height of the pandemic, that COVID disproportionately impacted certain vulnerable people. But the death certificates revealed that the disproportionate impacts were not small in San Diego. They were large.
More than 30 percent of people who died did not have a high school diploma, even though the same is true for just 10 percent of San Diego County.
Of those who died, a shocking 52 percent were immigrants. Countywide, only 23 percent of residents are immigrants.
Jesse Marx spoke to Will Huntsberry about the Voice of San Diego lawsuit that allowed us access to the death certificates, the challenges of finding families who had lost loved ones and why it’s important to take stock of the first year of the pandemic now.
A Portland Loo Has Suddenly Reappeared Downtown
One of the city-owned Portland Loo restrooms previously removed from downtown is set to reopen today in East Village.
Years ago, developers behind the Park and Market project pledged to include a public restroom as part of the UC San Diego downtown office and residential tower development spanning a full city block. This spring, city officials brought forward – and abruptly pulled – a proposal set to be presented to a City Council committee suggesting that the developer and UC San Diego be let off the hook due to plans for a nearby park set to open by the end of 2023 that would supply new restrooms.
City spokeswoman Ashley Bailey told VOSD that the city and the developer have spent the months since the April committee hearing “exploring possible locations to meet the city’s desire to provide access to public restrooms in downtown.”
They eventually settled on installing the prefabricated, single-stall metal restroom on a Park Boulevard sidewalk.
Bailey said the Portland Loo, which was installed at no cost to the city, will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and operated and maintained by the Park & Market Condominium Master Association.
The stumble over public restroom plans this spring – which was met with dissatisfaction from advocates and Council members Raul Campillo, Vivian Moreno and Sean Elo-Rivera – was the latest chapter in the city’s years-long struggle to provide adequate restroom access. VOSD contributor Bella Ross did a deep dive on the city’s public restroom problem as well its recent efforts to install port-a-potties in three locations including downtown in response to a shigella outbreak that has affected homeless residents.
In Use of Force Cases, Punishment for Police Is Rare
As part of its series on police use of force in San Diego, KPBS reports that a sheriff’s detective was reassigned and suspended in 2016 after firing five bullets into the windshield of a car. He and others had been out drinking at the time and alleged that the driver fleeing the scene of a fight had tried to hit them.
What’s exceptional about the case is that the detective was punished at all. KPBS reporter Claire Trageser reviewed more than 300 internal police investigations — made available thanks to a state transparency law — and found that only five had resulted in any punishment for the officer.
An attorney for the officer said the investigation was fair and appropriate. But transcripts of the interviews suggest the officer got better treatment than the person he shot, and one defense attorney said there’s a double standard in use of force cases.
From the vault: In 2019 we got our hands on a list of police officers convicted of crimes in San Diego County and found that some were still on the job after pleading down to lesser offenses. Judges often took a defendant’s law enforcement background into consideration before deciding how to rule.
In Other News
- U-T columnist Michael Smolens writes about the difference in “tone and dynamics” when it comes to homelessness in San Diego and Los Angeles, where a Democratic city councilman is proposing a ballot measure to step up enforcement.
- The trial has begun for an ex-La Mesa police officer charged with filing a false report. (City News Service)
- A Black job applicant has filed a discrimination suit against an event production company, alleging he was denied employment over his hairstyle. His legal claim could be the first of its kind in California, stemming from a relatively new law barring grooming policies that ban locks and afros. (Union-Tribune)
- The first U.S. case of the Omicron variant was confirmed in San Francisco Wednesday. (Times of San Diego)
- Wednesday was the deadline for city of San Diego employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or risk losing their jobs. NBC 7 collected the latest data on vaccination rates from local governments as well as police and fire departments.
This Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt. It was edited by Megan Wood.