Morning Report: Why COVID Is Coursing Through Local Jails

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Morning Report: Why COVID Is Coursing Through Local Jails

The Western Regional Detention Facility in Downtown San Diego / Photo by Megan Wood

Jails and detention centers across San Diego, despite housing different populations and being run by different companies and agencies, have experienced massive COVID-19 outbreaks. They all share some things in common. Maya Srikrishnan breaks down why jails and detention centers are prime breeding grounds for COVID-19 infection

It’s almost impossible for prisoners to take precautions free-roaming people can. Close confinement is the crème de la crème scenario for a virus spread by droplets through the air. 

“Once the virus is brought into a facility by a staff member who got it out in the community or from a transfer from another facility where there were active cases there is no question that it will spread,” writes Srikrishnan.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many inmates were released and arrest warrants dropped in order to safely quarantine at home but those numbers are creeping up again. Plus, it’s harder to obtain basic necessities like soap or masks and on-site testing is still hard to come by. Only testing inmates who have symptoms and then taking them off-site to get tested creates more risk for everyone, she writes. 

And, the public doesn’t really know the breadth of the problem because, like many government agencies, data on infection rates and confirmed cases isn’t consistent. Immigration and Customs Enforcement does it differently than the U.S. Marshals Service, which does it differently than the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.

“I think largely all of this was very predictable and avoidable,” said Anoop Prasad, a senior staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus. “All the answers were given by public health experts to policymakers even before the pandemic hit jails and prisons. They were just ignored for political reasons.”

SD Schools to Stay Closed

San Diego Unified School District announced that the district would not be moving to Phase 2 of its reopening plans as hoped on Jan. 4. The district had planned to bring elementary school students back to campuses for half time Jan. 4. High schoolers and middle school students would return later in January.

But Tuesday night the district sent parents and email.

The decision to remain online longer than we had hoped will be disappointing to the many students, teachers and others who are eager to be back in the classroom. However, the current spread of the coronavirus in our community makes it unsafe to move forward with Phase 2 of our reopening at this time. We plan to reassess the public health conditions and provide an updated timetable on Jan. 13.”

COVID Strikes Factory Workers in Tijuana

COVID is resurging in another kind of confined space — the maquiladora factory. 

Publicly run health clinics in Tijuana are reportedly “saturated” by factory workers with COVID-19 symptoms, reports El Sol de Tijuana newspaper. Many were flagged with symptoms once they got to work, which the leader of a maquiladora association in Otay Mesa said applauded, saying it meant measures are working to identify infected individuals and prevent further spread inside factories. 

Still, people with coughs and other maladies stood in long lines, where social-distancing is made more difficult, outside these clinics. One woman interviewed by the paper said she waited five hours before admission. 

City to Wind Down Convention Center Shelter

San Diego leaders announced Tuesday that by the end of the year, they will have moved more than 1,100 people from the homeless shelter at the San Diego Convention Center into secure permanent or longer-term housing. 

At a press conference, Mayor Kevin Faulconer called the project “a public health success story.” City News Service reported that only 27 residents and staff tested positive for COVID-19 out of the more than 9,300 tests administered since the shelter opened in April. Mayor-elect Todd Gloria called it “a bright spot” amid the pandemic. 

Around 400 people are expected to move into housing units the city secured through the purchase of two hotels in Mission Valley and Kearny Mesa. The converted hotels will also contain on-site supportive services.

The Union-Tribune reported that the Convention Center shelter is winding down but closing it after eight months of operation doesn’t mean the Convention Center will be returning to its intended use anytime soon.

Warning: Your Power Might Go Out

San Diego Gas and Electric warned San Diego customers on Tuesday that they might shut off power to over 88,000 customers in the coming days as another round of warm Santa Ana winds rolls through Southern California. 

The winds will start Wednesday, strengthen on Thursday and linger into the weekend, said Brian D’Agostino, director of fire science at SDG&E, during a video-recorded warning

“The time to start preparing for this approaching wind storm is now,” he said. 

Basically anyone living east Interstate 125 and Interstate 15 outside Poway are at risk of a shutoff, according to a map posted on the SDG&E website. It’s not just a San Diego event, D’Agostino said, the entire swath of the county to the desert is under a similar warning. 

It’s going to be a cooler wind than the normal hotter Santa Ana winds, D’Agostino said, but fuels have not recovered from the long hot summer so they are prone to rapidly growing wildfire. 

About the Mayor and the 49ers

On Tuesday, we reported on the bizarre tweet from the San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York, who thanked Mayor Kevin Faulconer for “immediately reaching out to see if San Diego could help @49ers during our search for a home.” This obviously indicated that Faulconer or his staff had worked to see if the 49ers could play here or work out here after Santa Clara County banned contact sports to control the spread of coronavirus. 

Aimee Faucett, the interim chief operating officer for the city of San Diego, clarified what happened. 

“John Lynch Sr. contacted the Mayor asking if there was a place the 49ers could use for practice in SD, like the old Chargers practice facility. That location is not available because it is now part of SDPD’s facilities. The Mayor said if they had any other options in SD to give him a call. That’s it,” she wrote in a message to VOSD.

John Lynch Sr. is the father of John Lynch, who is the general manager of the 49ers.

Also: Saturday, 60 cement trucks will start the pour for San Diego State’s new stadium at the old stadium site in Mission Valley.

In Other News

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

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