COVID-19

HIGH PRICES, LOW INVENTORY PUT SQUEEZE ON LOW-INCOME AND FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYERS AMID PANDEMIC

 

By Helen Horvath

 

August 22, 2020 (San Diego) - You might think that amid the pandemic’s economic uncertainties, when many people are unemployed or living on reduced revenues, people would be hesitant to invest in buying a home. Yet real estate experts interviewed by ECM report the opposite – a frenzy of competitive bidding pushing up prices of local homes for sale. While a shortage of inventory is benefitting home sellers, the pandemic pandemonium in San Diego County’s real estate market poses daunting challenges for first-time homebuyers and those with low or moderate incomes.  

WHILE MAJOR EVENT PLANNERS RALLY TO REQUEST AID AS SHUTDOWNS CONTINUE, TRIBES RESUME EVENTS, EXEMPT FROM STATE RESTRICTIONS

By Miriam Raftery

August 24, 2020 (San Diego) – Due to state and county restrictions on gatherings of any size, most theaters, concert halls and other large event sites remained closed to prevent spread of COVID-19.  On Aug. 13, the San Diego Event Coalition held an “empty venue” rally to call not for reopening due to safety concerns, but for aid to assist the industry.  

'GREAT PLATES’ TO CONTINUE, EXPAND MEAL DELIVERY TO HELP MORE ADULTS WITH HEALTH CONDITIONS

Source: County of San Diego

August 25, 2020 (San Diego) - More than 2,000 older adults in the “Great Plates Delivered” program will continue to receive three free and healthy meals a day. Launched in mid-May, the program is a collaboration between the County and 31 local restaurants. Now the County is expanding the service, originally for seniors with health conditions, to include all adults with a disability or health condition that puts them at higher risk from COVID-19.

FREE OR REDUCED-COST SCHOOL MEALS STILL AVAILABLE DESPITE PANDEMIC IN JAMUL-DUZURA AREA

East County News Service

August 22, 2020 (Jamul-Dulzura) – The Jamul-Dulzura Union School District began its fall semester August 17 with distance learning, for now, since California has not yet authorized in-classroom learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, nutritious free or low-cost breakfast and lunch are still available daily for children in households that qualify under federal standards.

In addition to households that meet income level requirements, the meals are also available for households receiving certain benefits such as CalFresh, CalWORKS WICS, or FDPIR, as well as for foster, homeless, and migrant children, among others.

TRENDING: OUTDOOR ROLLER-SKATING

Story by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson and Miriam Raftery 

Photo by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson:  Skaters stay cool with misters at the Viejas outdoor roller rink in Alpine

August 21, 2020 (Alpine) - Looking to change up your COVID-19 outdoor exercise routine? Consider visiting the outdoor roller-skating rink at Viejas Casino Outlets to burn off some of that quarantine-15 extra weight.  Or take a skate at the San Diego Derby United outdoor rink in Encanto to roll those pounds away—and have fun. 

LA MESA APPROVES CARES AID FOR RENTERS AND BUSINESSES, HELP FOR HOMELESS AND A REPORT ON CIVIL UNREST RESPONSE

By Briana Gomez

File photo:  Mike and Linda McWilliams have laid off two-thirds of the staff at their San Pasqual Winery tasting room in the La Mesa Village, according to testimony to the City Council on August 11.

August 20, 2020 (La Mesa) - The La Mesa City Council met on August 11 via teleconference,  on hour after a trying virtual town hall the previous Thursday where notification of  Police Chief Walt Vasquez’s resignation was announced publicly.  The Council approved CARES Act funding to help local renters and businesses. Other highlights included approval to hire a consultant to prepare a report on the May 30-31 protest and riot, as well as moving forward on action to help the homeless.

PLEASE DON’T EAT THE OLEANDERS: TOXIC PLANT IS NOT A COVID CURE

By Miriam Raftery

August 19, 2020 (San Diego) – Health experts are warning the public to steer clear of deadly plant extract, Oleandrin, being touted by financial backers of President Donald Trump as a potential “cure” for COVID-19.  There is zero proof that it works beyond a test tube (in a single non-peer reviewed study) and it has never been tested on humans.  

COUNTY IS OFF STATE WATCH LIST, BUT NOT OUT OF THE WOODS FOR COVID-19

By Miriam Raftery

August 19, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego County reached an important milestone yesterday, when the state removed the county from California’ monitoring list. The County Public Health office announced the change was made after the county’s rate of new COVID-19 cases dropped below 100 cases per 100,000 people for three consecutive days. San Diego has been on the watch list since July 3, 2020.

So what does that mean?  First, if the case rate stays under 100 per 100,000 people in the population for another 14 days (until Aug. 31), K-12 schools will be allowed to reopen. Districts will have a choice and may opt for in-class instruction, continue virtual learning, or a combination of both.

Businesses, however, will not be able to resume normal activities until the county receives further guidance on the state. So for now, closed businesses must remain shut-down and those operating outdoors cannot go back inside.

NEWSOM ORDERS INVESTIGATION OF ROLLING BLACKOUTS; GRID OPERATOR BLAMES PUC

SDG&E thanks customers for reducing power usage, averting need for outages yesterday, but brief outages are possible over next several days during heat wave

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons by SA-NC via Bing

August 18, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – As triple-digit heat scorches the West, California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO), which manages California’s power grid, ordered utilities to implement rolling power outages last weekend – but only notified the Governor on Friday. Outages are particularly disruptive during the pandemic, with miilions of Californians working from home and educating children at home. Many have nowhere to go to escape the heat during an outage, with libraries and other public facilities closed due to COVID-19.

Governor Gavin Newsom voiced outrage and ordered an investigation, also signing an emergency proclamation that temporarily allows some energy users and utilities to use backup energy sources to relieve pressure on the grid during peak times in the energy emergency. Meanwhile CAISO is pointing the finger at the Public Utilities Commission, claiming it has been warning the PUC to take preventive steps for years to make utility companies assure they had emergency back-up energy sources lined up, but that the PUC ignored those warnings.

CALIFORNIA EXPECTED TO REMOVE SAN DIEGO COUNTY FROM COVID WATCH LIST TODAY

  • Aug. 17: 89.8
  • Aug. 16: 91.8
  • Aug. 15: 94.7

DEFAULTED BILLS MAILED TO OVER 28K PROPERTY TAXPAYERS, BUT PENALTIES MAY BE WAIVED FOR THOSE IMPACTED BY COVID-19

Source: San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector

August 17, 2020 (San Diego) -- San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister announced on Aug. 11 that his office is offering penalty relief for small business owners and homeowners who are among those receiving more than 28,000 defaulted bills. 

“We know many of the late bills are due to COVID-19, and we want our taxpayers to know there could be relief,” said McAllister. “They may qualify to have their penalties waived if they file for a COVID-19 cancellation request. Our customers must provide documentation as evidence to show how the pandemic impacted their ability to pay their second installment by April 10.”

LAST-CHANCE BILL TO PREVENT FORECLOSURES AND EVICTIONS SET FOR HEARING TOMORROW

UPDATE AUGUST 20, 2020:  AB 1436 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-3 vote and will next be heard by the full Senate.

“There is an urgency to this.”—Assemblymember Monique Limon, who fears many Californians may lose their homes or become homeless if AB 1436, which she coauthored, is not approved

By Miriam Raftery

File photo:  Protest to stop foreclosures during the last recession

August 17, 2020 (San Diego) – To date, efforts to save homeowners and landlords from foreclosure, as well as extend eviction protections for renters in California have failed.  With the Legislature poised to adjourn soon and federal benefits expiring, a bill being heard tomorrow morning may be the last chance to prevent a wave of evictions and foreclosures. At 9:00 a.m. Aug. 18, Assembly Bill 1436 will be heard in the state Senate Judiciary Committee. 

The bill’s coauthor, Assemblymember Monique Limon, says the banking industry has been heavily lobbying members to oppose the measure. Assemblymember Limon previously introduced AB 2501 to prevent foreclosures, but the measure was defeated due to financial industry lobbyists.

PANDEMIC ART PROJECT ADDS WHIMSICAL FLAIR TO LEMON GROVE RESTAURANT

By Miriam Raftery

August 16, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – “What have we been up to the last few months? Oh, just a pretty incredible art  project - adding a massive mural to the side of our building, as well as our very own art gallery inside,” Karina Kravalis, co-owner of Giardino Neighborhood Cucina posted on Facebook this week. “Gallery chalk art pieces include classics with a COVID twist to keep things as upbeat as possible.”

EL CAJON COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES EMERGENCY SLEEPING CABINS FOR HOMELESS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo credit:  Amikas

August 16, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon’s City Council on Tuesday approved a pilot program to allow emergency sleeping cabins as temporary housing for the homeless. Homelessness is anticipated to rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic, after federal unemployment benefits ran out July 31, putting more people at risk of eviction in the future.

The first village of six cabins, similar to structures known as “tiny homes,”  will provide short-term shelter for homeless women, especially women veterans, and their children at Meridian Baptist Church on South Third Street. 

CDC DIRECTOR ISSUES DIRE WARNING AFTER SCHOOL OUTBREAKS AND SOARING COVID-19 RATES ACROSS U.S.; COUNTY SEES DIP BUT NOT ENOUGH FOR REOPENINGS

By Miriam Raftery

August 14, 2020 (San Diego) – Over 100,000 children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks of July nationwide, after schools in some areas reopened, CNN reports.  At least three have died, including two teens and a 7-year-old with no preexisting conditions. Thousands are now quarantined due to school-related outbreaks, putting teachers and staff at risk as well as students.

With cases skyrocketing in states that have ignored CDC guidelines, yesterday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield issued a dire warning.

If recommendations are not followed by all Americans, he told WebMD, this could be the “worst fall from a public health perspective” that the U.S. has ever had, CNN reports.

RISK TO BABIES OF MOTHERS WITH COVID-19 IS LOW, PRELIMINARY EVIDENCE SUGGESTS

By Briana Gomez

Photo: Creative Commmons SA-NC

August 13, 2020 (San Diego) -- The novel coronavirus has swept the nation, leaving many including pregnant and nursing mothers in fear of the unknown.

How much of a risk does COVID-19 pose for expectant mothers, unborn infants and newborns?

MOST JULIAN BUSINESSES ARE OPEN FOR VISITORS, BUT JULIAN CARRIAGE COMPANY FALLS VICTIM TO PANDEMIC

 

Story and photos by Miriam Raftery

August 13, 2020 (Julian) – Tourists are returning to Julian, the historic gold-mining town nestled in the mountains of San Diego's East County.  According to Robin Boland at the Julian Chamber of Commerce, nearly all businesses that are allowed to be open under state and county health mandates are now open, including shops, outdoor and takeout restaurants, breweries and wineries serving food. Though a few have limited hours, Boland assures, “There is still plenty to do and plenty of places to eat.”

One long-time town fixture, however, has fallen victim to the pandemic. Julian Carriage Company posted on Facebook July 31, "I'm sorry to hhave to inform you that due to COVID-19 and other extenuating circumstances we are no longer in business. Brett and I will sure miss everyone that came to Julian and rode our carriage. Life has taken us on another journey now and we are no longer in Julian. We love all of you!!!!!!! Thank you for an amazing 7 years!!!!!!! I will never forget this chapter of our lives."

HEALTH AND SCIENCE HIGHLIGHTS

INDEX OF FACEBOOK JOURNALISM PROJECT GRANT-FUNDED ARTICLES, PROGRAMS AND RESOURCES

Updated August 11, 2020

Our Facebook Project grant has so far enabled East County Magazine to create over 150 original local news articles on COVID-19 local impacts and innovations, as well as emergency and crisis reporting. We also created and/or expanded community resource sections and guides, converted our radio show to virtual broadcasts, and launched our virtual community "Movers, Shakers and Events" series, with more virtual events including candidate forums coming soon. Our first virtual candidate forum is set for August 13 featuring Congressional and Supervisorial candidates.

Below is an index of these grant projects:

  • COVID-19 local journalism
  • Emergencies and crisis reporting
  • Community resources in the COVID-19 era
  • Virtual community forums

WATCH NOW: EAST COUNTY NEWSMAKERS, SHAKERS AND NEWSMAKERS FIRST VIRTUAL PROGRAM ON COVID-19 AND WILDFIRE SAFETY ISSUES

 

August 10, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – On Friday, August 7, East County Magazine took our “Newsmakers, Shakers and Newsmakers” community forum/webinar series virtual.  Thanks to the #FacebookJournalismProject for supporting our community news reporting and virtual events in the COVID-19 era.

Thanks to all of you who sent in questions via email and social media for Dr. William Tseng, one of San Diego’s top COVID-19 experts, who shared the latest facts on COVID-19 trends and what the medical community has learned since the pandemic beganWhy does San Diego have a lower death rate than the nation?  What are the facts and myths about this disease?  How accurate are tests?  How can you help save lives if you’ve survived COVID-19?  What will it take to end the pandemic and return life to normal in our region?  Listen in to hear Dr. Tseng's fascinating responses.

Robyn Herrick, community resiliency advisor with SDG&E, discussed their upcoming drive-through Wildfire Safety Fairs coming up in Alpine, Pine Valley and Valley Center. Get details here

Hear what you need to know to stay safe this fire season – and how you get free devices to help you stay in communication even while you’re evacuated.

LA MESA COUNCIL WEIGHS CARE ACT RELIEF FOR BUSINESSES AND RENTERS, PLUS POSSIBLE SALE OF PARKING LOT NEAR RESTAURANTS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Some businesses have been hard hit by both the pandemic shutdowns and business disruptions from looting, fires and vandalism

August 10, 2020 (La Mesa) -- On Tuesday, August 11, the La Mesa City Council will consider topics of major public interest at a 5 p.m. closed session followed by a 6 p.m. public meeting. 

At the closed session, for which the public can email comments by 4 p.m., includes potential sale of a public parking lot with meters behind the burned Randall Lamb building and behind many restaurants and businesses on La Mesa Blvd.  

Also on the closed session, council will hear details of housing planned for the former police station site being leased for development, including affordable housing units.  

At 6 p.m., Council will consider how to spend CARES Act relief funds due to the pandemic.  Staff has proposed renter relief as well as grants for small businesses and city costs. The Council majority previously voted against aid to businesses, so Councilman Kristine Alessio is urging the public to speak out if they want to see help provided for struggling small businesses in La Mesa, as other East County cities have already provided.

Below are details.

VIRTUAL COUNTY BUDGET HEARINGS BEGIN MONDAY

The recommended budget plan is part of a two-year operational plan that will help determine how the County spends its resources.

Following Monday’s budget hearing, an evening hearing will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12. Budget deliberations and formal adoption of the first year of the budget plan are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Aug. 25.

TODAY: EAST COUNTY MOVERS, SHAKERS AND MOVEMAKERS LIVE AT 1 PM: ASK AN EXPERT YOUR COVID-19 QUESTIONS AND GET WILDFIRE SAFETY TIPS

August 7, 2020 (San Diego's East County) -- Our East County Movers, Shakers and Newsmakers series is going virtual! 

Watch us on Facebook Live at 1 p.m. today here:  https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine.  We'll also post video later on at our site at https://www.EastCountyMagazine.org

We'll be interviewing Dr. William Tseng, our local version of Dr Fauci!  Got questions? Email to editor@eastcountymagazine.org

Dr. Tseng is with Kaiser Healthcare. He's a trustee for the Calif. Medical Association, serves on the San Diego Medical Society's executive board, and is a volunteer instructor at UCSD's School of Medicine, with  a masters in public health from Johns Hopkins University. Hear the latest findings on COVID-19, learn what to do if you're exposed, what treatments show promise, and what it will take to get San Diego County off the state's watch list and on the road to recovery and reopening.

We'll also interview Robyn Herrick from SDG&E on their upcoming drive-through Wildfire Safety Fairs.

COUNTY SHOWS IMPROVEMENT IN COVID-19, BUT NOT YET ENOUGH TO ALLOW REOPENINGS

By Miriam Raftery

August 4, 2020 (San Diego) – Since landing on the state’s watch list for three triggers that forced renewed shutdowns of many businesses, San Diego County is finally making progress toward reducing spread of COVID-19. But those improvements are not yet enough to ease restrictions.

Here are the triggers, the progress, and what still needs to happen to enable schools and businesses to reopen in our region.

WILL BILLS TO PROTECT AGAINST FORECLOSURE WIN PASSAGE IN TIME TO SAVE HOMES AND BUSINESSES? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY

By Miriam Raftery

August 4, 2020 (San Diego) – Five months into the COVID-19 crisis, many Americans still remain jobless, with millions of businesses shut down or operating at reduced revenues.  Unemployment benefits and stimulus check funds are running out for many who are struggling to pay their mortgages. Bills to provide long-term protection against foreclosure due to the pandemic have thus far stalled in Congress and the California Legislature, though a revised bill in Sacramento still offers hope for some. 

A measure to protect some commercial property holders is also in the works, such as hotels, retail, apartments/condominiums, industrial and commercial offices.

But will these measures win passage in time to prevent mass foreclosures, if they are enacted at all?  The federal CARES ACT in March temporarily halted foreclosures for nonpayment due to COVID-19 on federally backed home loans, an action Congress extended short term until August 31. Many other property owners have had no protections at all. On July 31, the $600 a week extra unemployment benefit also ended, putting more Americans in dire straits.

Advocates say impacted consumers and business owners should let their legislators know of their needs. Among our local legislators, some have been supportive and one is a coauthor of Congressional legislation. But others have been tone deaf, including an East County legislative representative who voted against mortgage relief for homeowners.

COUNTY CHARGES RAMONA FITNESS CENTER OWNER FOR DEFYING PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS

By East County News Service

File photo of treadmills via Bing

August 3, 2020 (Ramona) – The owner of the Ramona Fitness Center could face up to 30 months in jail or a $5,000 fine for allegedly staying open in violating of state and county public health orders.

According to a criminal complaint filed Friday by the San Diego County District Attorney, Peter San Nicolas committed the violations on June 2, 4 and 5 as well as on July 15 and 17.  Each violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine.

All gyms were ordered closed in mid-March. In mid-June, they were briefly allowed to reopen, then shut down again in mid-July for indoor activities.

CRISIS HOUSE GETS EXTENSION FROM CITY ON RELOCATION AID

Relocating will likely force Crisis House to end walk-in day services for the homeless and rely more on outreach to homeless on the streets or in parks to direct them into housing programs

By Miriam Raftery

August 2, 2020 (El Cajon) – By a unanimous vote, El Cajon’s City Council on Tuesday approved giving Crisis House until December 31st to vacate its current location on city-owned property and still qualify for $700,000 under an early lease termination agreement.  Crisis House, which provides services to the homeless and to victims of domestic violence, has been leasing city property for $1 a year for the past 26 years.

In an earlier decision, the Council had given Crisis House only three months, until September 30th, to get out and receive the maximum $700,000 amount, though a diminishing amount of funds would have been offered to aid in relocation through when the lease ends next summer.  Under the new arrangement, Crisis House will no longer receive anything if it stays past Dec. 31.

6 IN 10 ADULT SAN DIEGANS FACE SEVERE IMPACTS IF THEY CONTRACT COVID-19

That’s because about 57% of San Diego County adults have pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart and lung disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.

San Diegans with underlying chronic conditions are at increased risks of serious outcomes if they contract COVID-19, requiring to be hospitalized, placed in intensive care or worse, dying.

To date, 95% of San Diegans who died from COVID-19 had underlying medical condition(s).

“COVID-19 deaths can be prevented,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “It’s important to remember that our actions matter. We must all do all we can to prevent from contracting and spreading the virus.”

It’s true that younger San Diegans with COVID-19 typically don’t need to be hospitalized. That is not the case for older adults. Of the 2,459 people who were hospitalized due to COVID-19, about 52% were 60 years of age or older.

BUSINESSES MUST DISCLOSE COVID-19 OUTBREAKS TO WORKERS, BUT NO LONGER HAVE TO TEST MOST RETURNING EMPLOYEES

By Miriam Raftery

July 31, 2020 (San Diego) – Employers across San Diego County must now disclose to all employees if an outbreak of COVID 19, defined as three or more cases within 14 days, occurs at the workplace. The mandate was issued by Dr. Wilma Wooten, the County’s public health officer, NBC 7 reports.

THEATERS IN THE TIME OF COVID

 
By David L. Coddon
 
Photo:  House of Joy, a virtual production of San Diego Repertory Theatre, courtesy of San Diego Repertory Theatre via Zoom productions.
 
July 30, 2020 (San Diego) - Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa has been producing for 82 seasons, but no season presented the artistic and financial challenges of its proposed 83rd.
 
“We’re just trying to figure out what to do,” said Paul Ericson, president of Lamplighters’ board of directors. “It’s very difficult to plan anything.”
 
Photo, right:  Beethoven, a Zoom production by San Diego Repertory Theatre, courtesy of San Diego Repertory Theatre via Zoom productions

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