North County Report: Supes React to Coronavirus - Voice of San Diego

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North County Report: Supes React to Coronavirus

County Supervisors Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar have expressed concerns about what countywide guidance to close businesses and encourage social distancing will mean for North County businesses, school children and seniors.

San Diego County Supervisors Kristin Gaspar and Jim Desmond / Photos by Megan Wood and Jamie Scott Lytle

As public health officials issued stricter rules this week to contain the spread of coronavirus, County Supervisors Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar, who represent District 5 and District 3, respectively, expressed their concern for what those rules would mean for North County businesses, school children and seniors.

“Senior citizens are the No. 1 growing population in North County and all of San Diego county and we must do what we can to help them in this difficult time,” Desmond said Tuesday at a virtual live conference hosted by the North San Diego Business Chamber.

Miles Himmel, a spokesperson for Desmond’s office, said they are focused on supporting senior citizens in North County following the county’s recommendation that all people 65 or older self-quarantine.

Himmel said 10,000 low-income seniors already receive nutrition assistance through the county. He said San Diego County’s Aging and Independent Services call center is also helping low-income seniors connect with community resources and access food delivery services.

He encouraged seniors who are having trouble getting groceries to call 211, and for neighbors to step up and run errands for those in need.

Desmond also said he’s been flying back and forth to Hawaii in his other role as pilot for Delta Airlines, and has noticed changes to ridership.

“The airport’s about half full here lately,” Desmond said. He expected that Delta would decrease flights by about 40 percent next month and that other airlines will do the same.

“Be safe, be clean, bring your baby wipes,” he said. “We’re going to get through this; we’re going to get through it together; we all gotta play our part.”

To help reduce the risk of the virus spreading, Gaspar urged parents to continue educating their kids, who are now out of school, and to avoid congregating.

“Some of the information that went out by the school districts was less than ideal, some of it was really wonderful,” Gaspar said. “I want to make sure our parents understand that this is not an early summer vacation. I know there’s been some mixed messages with the kids and they’re all excited to learn that they have a couple of weeks off of school, but it’s important we communicate the right messages at home. It’s important that you understand this isn’t an extended break. This is a public health crisis that we are trying to deal with.”

She said she was shocked to come home recently and find 10 middle-schoolers in her house.

“Ten kids had been dropped off by their parents, not with permission by me to do so,” Gaspar said. “It’s really tough for the middle school, high school population … Please don’t send your middle-schoolers, your high-schoolers out to shopping centers to loiter and hang out together. Please keep them home too.”

Gaspar, a business owner, said she’s also concerned for local businesses as the county demands closures, and said the goal now is to get them reopened once “we get through this public health crisis. We’re going to need to come together not only within our business community; we’re going to need to lean on one another, we’re going to need to ask a lot of questions of one another.”

Going forward, she said, she’s available to talk to local business owners about their individual industry concerns.

In an email, Gaspar wrote that she is advocating for medical professionals, not politicians, to take a lead on this.

“I will always put public health first, but we also need be very cognizant of the impacts these decisions have on our community,” she said.

North County Leaders Declare Local Emergencies in Response to COVID-19

As San Diego County leaders move to inform the county on what to do in response to the coronavirus, local leaders in cities including Carlsbad, Encinitas and Escondido have declared local emergencies. As a result, those cities will be able to enact emergency powers, as well as potentially gain access to federal and state relief funds.

Carlsbad, for instance, temporarily suspended all in-person services on guidance from the county’s top public health officer and declared a local emergency at a special City Council meeting Tuesday.

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, whose city staff also signed a local emergency declaration, acknowledged two cases of coronavirus in Encinitas in an email Tuesday and said there is a coronavirus testing tent at the Scripps Hospital there.

“The city of Encinitas knows of two coronavirus cases in our city,” Blakespear wrote in the email. “The first is a male patient in his 50s at Scripps Hospital … The second is someone who works at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School and whose positive test was identified yesterday.”

Encinitas Union School District Superintendent Andree Grey wrote in a letter to staff and families on Sunday that the San Diego County Department of Health and Human Services is currently in the process of investigating the case. The individual is in home isolation and is being monitored. “EUSD is notifying individuals who may have been exposed and asking them to self-quarantine,” the letter reads.

Escondido City Manager Jeffrey Epp also signed an emergency declaration, and it’s expected to be ratified by the Escondido City Council on Wednesday, according to an update on the city’s website.

Diaz Concedes in Supes Race; Lawson-Remer and Gaspar to Face Off in November

Escondido City Councilwoman Olga Diaz conceded that she will not make the runoff election in the race to take on incumbent County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar. Democrat Terra Lawson-Remer will face Gaspar in November for the Board of Supervisors District 3 seat. The rivalry between Diaz and Lawson-Remer had divided Democrats and labor groups.

Diaz was fairly quiet on the results of the election until she bowed out of the race on Twitter on March 10.

“A week has passed since the primary election and unfortunately we will not advance to the general election,” she wrote. “Everything happens for a reason and I accept the outcome … Democracy is messy and imperfect but together we can overcome any challenge.”

Diaz previously told VOSD she won’t run again for her seat on the Escondido City Council. She tweeted she’ll serve the remainder of her term and continue supporting students and higher education as a college dean.

“You know me, I’ll always work hard and find opportunities to fight for what’s right,” she wrote.

What We’re Working On

  • My colleagues and I are working tirelessly (at home and in the field!) to answer all your questions about the impacts the coronavirus pandemic will have in San Diego County. Maya Srikrishran and Lisa Halverstadt answered your latest county-related questions about the coronavirus in an FAQ. In the meantime, VOSD’s team continues to update our guide on local leaders’ guidance as the county moves closer to a major lockdown.
  • The North County Transit District has maintained service levels for now, but the Sprinter commuter line has gone to one car at a time, from its standard two cars, reports Andrew Keatts.
  • I talked to citizens and officials at the Central Public Library in downtown San Diego, the county’s homeless navigation center and non-profit Serving Seniors’ flagship location over the weekend and broke down how officials and non-profits are scrambling to protect vulnerable communities like seniors, families and the homeless from impacts of those public facility closures.
  • Jesse Marx reports that the Fair Political Practices Commission, California’s political watchdog, is looking for leads after someone produced anti-Cori Schumacher ads in Carlsbad but didn’t disclose who paid for them, as required by state law.
  • Ashly McGlone reports that school districts like the Escondido Union School District and Poway Unified School District with losing bond measures plan to try again in November. McGlone also reports two 4S Ranch residents are suing the Poway Unified School District over $27.7 million in Prop. 51 state grant money the district received last year as a partial reimbursement for the cost of building the K-8 Design 39 Campus, which opened in 2014.
  • Superintendents countywide are bracing for AB5’s impact in schools. Will Huntsberry talked to Maritza Koeppen, superintendent of Vallecitos School District, which operates one K-8 school in rural North County, before the recent school closures. Koeoppen said she isn’t worried about arts instructors or coaches. Instead, she’s worried about her ability to provide special education services and health care.

In Other News

  • Escondido City Councilman John Masson, who represented District 2, died after a long battle with cancer on March 10. Escondido City Manager Jeff Epp said in a press release that Masson was a much loved and respected member of the city administration. (Union-Tribune)
  • People who have been referred can be tested for coronavirus outside Scripps Hospital in La Jolla at the “COVID Cabana” drive-up testing site. (Union-Tribune)
  • The New York Times interviewed Bob McElroy, head of one of San Diego’s homeless shelters, about how epidemics can turn deadly for people living on the streets. Doctors say the country’s more than half-million homeless people are at a higher risk of catching and dying from the virus, the New York Times reports.
  • TheUnion-Tribune published a list of where you can find free meals for children during the ongoing school closures. Pacific Magazine compiled a list of restaurants — including some in Carlsbad and Oceanside — offering take-out and delivery options now following the county’s order to close local restaurants and bars.
  • Planned events at the Del Mar fairgrounds — like many other events and gatherings across the county —  were canceled or moved to a future date last week to comply with the county’s guidelines demanding a reduction of large groups. (Union-Tribune)
  • Encinitas has asked the court to weigh in on a conflict over Proposition A with the state Housing and Community Development Department, which is considering revoking the city’s recently achieved housing compliance status. (Union-Tribune)
  • St. Patrick’s Day may have been overlooked this year due to the pandemic, but as the Union-Tribune reports, about 70,000 shamrock plants were grown this year at Fallbrook’s Sunlet Nursery. (Union-Tribune)

Do you have questions about the impacts of coronavirus in North County San Diego? Fill out our form here and our reporters will do our best to answer your questions.

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