Facebook Journalism Project - COVID-19 Reporting

Facebook Journalism Project - COVID-19 Reporting

EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE RECEIVES $100,000 GRANT FROM FACEBOOK JOURNALISM PROJECT

 

COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund aids over 200 newsrooms nationwide

By Miriam Raftery

East County Magazine has been selected to receive $100,000 through the Facebook Journalism Project COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program.  Facebook announced that more than 200 news organizations will receive nearly $16 million in grants through the program as part of Facebook’s $100 million global investment in news.

Read more about our grant project here.  View an index of our grant works to date, organized by topic. 


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

LOSSES AND LESSONS LEARNED: LOCAL RESIDENTS REFLECT ON A YEAR IN QUARANTINE

By Miriam Raftery

March 23, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – A year ago, in March 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.  All of our lives changed as a result of COVID-19, which has killed over a half million Americans, caused shutdowns of schools and businesses, and forced residents to quarantine at home.

We asked our readers and followers on social media to reflect on what they learned from these historic times. What was the hardest part of the past year?  Were there any silver linings? What changes in your life do you think will be permanent?

Here are their responses.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

AFTER FDA APPROVES JOHNSON & JOHNSON COVID-19 VACCINE, BIDEN INVOKES DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT TO SPEED UP MANUFACTURING

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo via National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
 
March 2, 2021 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has approved a COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson (J&J). To expedite getting Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible, President Joe Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act.

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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

CHURCHES ADAPT FOR ASH WEDNESDAY DURING THE PANDEMIC

Story and photos by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Feb. 17, 2021 (San Diego's East County) – Some churches adapted their practices during Ash Wednesday during this time of COVID19 and during the whole course of the pandemic.

The Christian period of Lent was ushered in on Ash Wednesday, today, that witnesses the smudging of ashes on the forehead in a symbol of mortality and penance.

Santee United Methodist Church provided a COVID19 safe Ash Wednesday by offering a drive-thru event. Two times, early morning, and late afternoon were offered to the congregation.

Individuals stayed in their cars and were masked. Pastor Jaime Pangman, and his assistant, were socially distanced and masked.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: SUPERVISORS VOTE TO HONOR COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY BY PURCHASING 98 ACRES IN EL MONTE VALLEY, LAKESIDE

By Henri Migala

Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report.

Photo, left: Billy Ortiz and Bobby Wallace, co-organizers of efforts to preserve El Monte Valley

February 11, 2021 (Lakeside) – Thanks to widespread community engagement, San Diego County Supervisors yesterday voted unanimously to purchase 98 acres in El Monte Valley from Helix Water District for $2.92 million, preserving the land for public use.

The action came after the board received a petition with over 2,000 signatures and heard unanimous public testimony in support of the purchase. In addition, some 200 residents and tribal members held a march through the valley calling for the land to be protected.

Supervisor Joel Anderson, East County’s newly elected representative whose district includes Lakeside, initially voiced concerns over the cost and disrepair of facilities on the site. But after the majority of the board voiced support for the acquisition initiated by former Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Anderson ultimately not only voted for the land purchase, but also pushed his colleagues to support additional funds to restore dilapidated ball fields and other facilities on the site.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

HUNDREDS MARCH TO SAVE EL MONTE VALLEY: LAKESIDE RESIDENTS AND TRIBAL MEMBERS URGE SUPERVISORS TO VOTE YES ON LAND PURCHASE

Over 1,500 sign petition to save valley from sand mining

 

By Henri Migala

 

Photo: marchers support land purchase to protect land from sand mining

 

February 7, 2021 (Lakeside) -- San Diego County Supervisors are slated to vote this Wed., Feb. 10 on purchasing 98 acres of Lakeside’s  El Monte Valley from the Helix Water District. A petition signed by more than 1,500 people urges them to vote yes, in hopes of protecting the valley against sand mining and protecting it for posterity. (An earlier petition to stop sand mining in the valley drew more than 3,000 signatures.)

 

Former Supervisor Dianne Jacob introduced the measure to protect the land for the public and prevent it from becoming a sand mine. Jacob, who represented District 2 which includes Lakeside, was a forceful ally of the community and the Kumeyaay in their efforts to protect El Monte Valley from being mined. She secured funds and gathered support of other Supervisors to purchase the land, but term-limits ended her tenure before the issue came up for a vote. Now her replacement, Supervisor Joel Anderson, and two other newly elected Supervisors, will cast deciding votes.  

 

To make sure the new Supervisors are aware of the strong sentiments of the community, a “Save El Monte” demonstration and march was held by Kumeyaay Native Americans and people from across San Diego County on Saturday.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

STATE LIFTS STAY-HOME ORDER: SOME BUSINESSES CAN REOPEN

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons via Bing

January 25, 2021 (San Diego) – At a press conference this afternoon, San Diego County leaders announced changes to allow some businesses to reopen after the state lifted a regional stay-home order. The change comes due to a four-week regional projection that ICU capacity will rise above 15%.  Our County is now back in the purple tier, but with some modifications.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

PALOMAR NURSES PROTEST WAIVER OF NURSE-TO-PATIENT RATIOS AS COVID-19 SURGES: 1 IN 1,000 AMERICANS HAVE DIED OF THE VIRUS

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo via CHEU:  Palomar Healthcare nurses at a protest earlier this month

December 29, 2020 (Escondido) – Registered nurses and caregivers will hold a car caravan from Palomar Medical Center to Palomar Health’s administration building today to protest a blanket waiver of nurse-to-patient ratios approved by the state Department of Health Tuesday. Nurses contend that the change is dangerous for patient safety.

The action comes as the California Office of Emergency Service announced plans to activate a vacant floor of Palomar Medical Center to handle COVID-19 patients. National Guard members arrived Wednesday to complete a buildout of the surge unit begun earlier this year. Hospital ICU units across Southern California are completely full, with zero capacity, currently due to COVID cases that have increased ten-fold locally since early November. CNN reported yesterday that one of every 1,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

CA REPORTS 152 CASES OF RARE BUT SERIOUS COVID COMPLICATIONS IN CHILDREN

Cases impacting people of color disproportionately

By Miriam Raftery

December 20, 2020 (San Diego) – Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) has been reported in 152 children statewide, according to the California Department of Public Health.  The rare inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19 can damage multiple organ systems, and may be life-threatening without early diagnosis and treatment.

The news is troubling given the high number of children back in public school for in-person learning. Cajon Valley Union School District, for instance, has had 297 cases of COVID-19 in students and staff since August 8, yet schools remain open. To date, 2.34% of all students and staff have been infected.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

APPEALS COURT BLOCKS JUDGE’S RULING, ORDERS RESTAURANTS CLOSED AGAIN

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left:  Terra American Bistro, a farm to table eatery in San Diego just west of La Mesa, had moved outdoors but is now back to offering take-out taco Tuesdays and to-go Christmas dinners, among other offerings, as a result of the latest shutdown order.

December 19, 2020 (San Diego) – Beleaguered restaurant owners are once again ordered to shut down, after three justices on the Fourth District Court of Appeals on Friday issued a stay blocking an order issued Wednesday by Superior Court Judge Wohlfiel.  The Appeals Court, responding to an appeal filed by California’s Attorney General, found that Wohlfiel acted too broadly in expanding an order in a case filed by strip clubs to also include restaurants, which were not parties in the case.

The state argued that Wohlfiel’s order jeopardized the health of county residents by undermining public health orders aimed at curtailing spread of the disease at a time when the Southern California intensitve care units are full, with zero percent capacity.

Wohfiel has issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the state and county from enforcing COVID-19 shutdown orders at restaurants and strip clubs.  Many local restaurants swiftly responded by reopening for outdoor and in some cases, indoor dining.  But the reprieve proved short-lived; the Appeals Court action means that restaurants are once again ordered to shut down except for take-out and delivery services.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

5,000 BODY BAGS SENT TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA COUNTIES INCLUDING SAN DIEGO AS REGIONAL ICU CAPACITY DROPS TO JUST 1.7%

UPDATE DEC. 18, 2020:  The ICU capacity for Southern California has dropped to zero, meaning ICU beds are 100% full as some local hospitals are diverting ambulances, delaying treatment for critically ill patients.

 

Grim news offsets relief over arrival of first 28,000 vaccine doses locally

By Miriam Raftery

Photo via Governor’s office:  These medical workers are among the first in California to be vaccinated with the newly arrived COVID-19 vaccine. 

December 15, 2020 (San Diego) – With the COVID-19 death toll spiking and hospital ICU capacity dropping to just 1.7% in Southern California, the state has ordered 60 refrigerated storage units to use as makeshift morgues. In addition, 5,000 body bags have been distributed to San Diego, Los Angeles and Inyo Counties, Governor Gavin Newsom announced today.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

NO ROOM IN THE ICU FOR CENTRAL CALIFORNIANS; SOUTHERN CA ICU AVAILABILITY DROPS TO 5.3%

By Jonathan Goetz

Photo: ICU medical worker, via Bing

December 13, 2020 (California) – The San Joaquin Valley region in Central California, comprised of Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, and Tuolumne counties, had zero available ICU beds, as of Saturday, 16 days after Thanksgiving. Only one day prior, according to the California Department of Public Health, that figure had been 4.5%.

The Southern California region's ICU availability is at 5.3%, according to ECM News Partner 10News.

At this rate, San Diego and Los Angeles may have no ICU availability as early as Tuesday.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

REGION’S ICU CAPACITY DROPS TO 7.7%; SOME LOCAL HOSPITALS ARE NEARLY FULL

By Miriam Raftery

December 11, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego County reported 2,040 cases on Dec. 9, as the availability of ICU beds (ICU capacity) in the Southern California region dropped to just 7.7%.  While San Diego still has just over 20% of ICU beds available, Orange and Imperial Counties are at or near capacity, meaning patients may be turned away or diverted to hospitals in adjacent counties, further stressing San Diego’s medical care system.

Nationwide, at least 200 hospitals are at full capacity and a third are nearly out of ICU beds, with over 90% of ICU beds occupied, CNN reported Dec. 10, based on data from the  US Department of Health and Human Services.

A database now available to the public now shows capacity of all hospitals in San Diego County. Although it does not list ICU beds, it does reveal that some hospitals are filling up. Sharp Hospital in Chula Vista has 93% of its adult inpatient beds in use (just 7% available); Palomar Medical Center has 91% in use, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and UCSD Medical Center each have 85% of all beds for adult inpatients occupied.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

COVID CASES CONTINUE TO CLIMB, ICU BED AVAILIBILITY DROPS

By Miriam Raftery

December 8, 2020 (San Diego) – Nearly 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 (1,998) were reported yesterday in San Diego County, two days after an all-time record of 2,287 cases were found.  A month ago, cases hovered around 500 cases a day.  Equally concerning, the region’s ICU bed capacity has dropped to just 10.9% across all Southern California counties.

In San Diego County, intensive care unit (ICU ) bed capacity in hospitals is 24%, above the state’s 15% threshold for regions to shut down. That’s prompted objections from many San Diego County business owners and politicians over state health officials lumping our county in with others that have lower ICU availability and may be doing less to contain the virus, such as not enforcing masking and social distancing mandates.

But ICU beds aren’t the only measurement.  It takes specially trained nurses to staff an ICU unit, where critically ill patients may be placed on ventilators  and must be closely monitored.  Across the U.S., there is a shortage of medical personnel including ICU nurses, a shortfall compounded by medical personnel taking time off to quarantine or in some cases, ill after contracting COVID-19 themselves. That's resulting in some patients in critical condition from other illnesses or accidents being transferred hundreds of miles for care and has led to triaging of patients in some areas to determine who may receive ICU beds or ventilators, putting some vulnerable patients at higher risk.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

BUSINESS OWNERS, HEALTHCARE AND POLITICAL LEADERS SHARE VIEWS ON NEW COVID-19 SHUTDOWNS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Prete-a-Porter Salon & Spa in La Mesa moved outside during the last shutdown, but this time, salons are ordered to close completely. 

December 6, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Healthcare leaders, business owners and public officials are offering mixed reactions to the state’s latest stay-home order and business shutdowns prompted by Southern California dropping below 15% ICU bed availability. 


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

RACIAL DISPARITIES IN BLACK OWNERSHIP WORKSHOP DISCUSSES REDLINING, TIPS FOR BLACK HOMEOWNERS AND YOUNG HOMEOWNER HOPEFULS

 

By Briana Gomez

 

December 3, 2020 (San Diego) -- A workshop on Racial Disparities in Black Ownership took place over Zoom on December 1.

 

“When someone buys a home and they preserve that home and they stay in that home, what is the ultimate ownership?” asked Reverend Shane Harris of the People’s Alliance for Justice, who moderated and hosted the forum in collaboration with the San Diego Union Tribune. 

 

Speakers included Bishop Craig Worsham, NAREB National Director of Faith and Community Partnerships; Rod Watson of Watson Group-Keller Williams, Beverly Hills; Justin Flisher of Keller Williams, La Jolla; Sheri Jones of SAKK Realty; and Lora Washington, NAREB Civic Engagement Chair.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

STATE ORDERS CURFEW NOV. 21-DEC. 21 AS COVID SURGES; COUNTY SHERIFF CRACKS DOWN ON VIOLATIONS INCLUDING IN EL CAJON, DESPITE MAYOR'S HANDS-OFF STANCE

 

By Miriam Raftery

Chart via San Diego County: Surging COVID cases increase stress on healthcare system

November 19, 2020 (San Diego) – California’s Department of Public Health today issued a curfew Nov. 21-Dec. 21 aimed at reducing spread of COVID-19 as cases surge statewide. The County also announced beefed up enforcement efforts, with many cease and desist orders issued in East County, including El Cajon despite the Mayor's pledge not to enforce health rules.

What the curfew impacts

The limited stay home order applies in Purple Tier counties including San Diego. Between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., the order prohibits gatherings with people not in your household either on your property or elsewhere. 

Non-essential businesses must cease operations during the curfew; only activities defined as “critical infrastructure” (COVID19.ca.gov Essential Workforce) may continue.

The curfew does not prohibit individuals or people in the same household from leaving their residence, as long as they don’t interact with people from other households. You can walk your dog, exercise alone or with those in your household, ride your horse, and travel for essential purposes such as medical visits, picking up food or going to the pharmacy. The curfew also does not apply to people who are homeless.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

COUNTY CRACKS DOWN ON BUSINESSES AND CHURCHES VIOLATING HEALTH ORDERS AS LOCAL CASE RATE TRIPLES

By Miriam Raftery

November 17, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – New COVID-19 cases in San Diego have broken all-time records the past two days, at 1,087 and 833 on Nov. 14 and 15.  

The County yesterday announced that it has issued cease and desist letters to 10 businesses and churches caught in “blatant and willful” violations of purple Tier orders banning indoor operations for worship services, restaurants and gyms, according to Greg Cox, Chair of the County Board of Supervisors.  The County has also sent letters to all regional mayors urging help to enforce public health orders.

But El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells has thus far defiantly told media outlets that his police will not prioritize enforcement.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

SOME CHURCHES AND RESTAURANTS FLOUT RULES, OTHERS COMPLY AS PURPLE TIER SHUTDOWNS COMMENCE

 

Story and photos by Jake Rose

Miriam Raftery contributed to this report

 

Photos, left: Parishioners at Skyline Church flock to indoor services, many without masks

November 15, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Skyline Church in the unincorporated area of La Mesa and Shadow Mountain in El Cajon had full parking lots for Sunday morning services, despite new Purple Tier restrictions now in effect throughout the county.

Purple tier restrictions started at midnight Saturday, due to rising numbers of Covid-19 cases. Purple tier, or Tier 1, is the most restrictive level for California and comes into play when positive tests exceed 8%. Many non-essential business operations must close, places of worship, restaurants and gyms must move all activity outdoors, and retail must cut capacity to 25%.

With businesses already struggling after the initial lockdown followed by an overall slowdown due to the public’s worry about the coronavirus, this second lockdown has some businesses and places of worship around East County flouting the new restrictions.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

COUNTY RELEASE DATA ON COVID-19 EXPOSURE SETTINGS: RESTAURANTS AND RETAIL TOP LIST

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  shopping online may be safer than in retail and grocery stores, which account for 8.8% of cases countywide since June.  Photo CC by SA

November 13, 2020 (San Diego) – After repeated pressure from media to release more information on which locations pose the highest risks of COVID, San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Department has released new data on potential exposure settings. 


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

OWNERS CALL FOR AID TO MOVIE THEATERS IN LAME DUCK SESSION CONGRESS

By Miriam Raftery

November 12, 2020 (Washington D.C.) -- The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) this week called for Congress and the Trump administration to act now to save local movie theaters devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic by passing relief legislation. According to a press release issued by the organization, 96% of movie theaters have reported over 70% in losses in 2020. 


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

NEW SHUTDOWNS START SATURDAY AS STATE MOVES COUNTY INTO PURPLE TIER

Chamber of Commerce calls on Congress to pass federal stimulus aid to save jobs and businesses

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons image by SA via Bing

November 10, 2020 (San Diego) – The state has moved San Diego County into the most restrictive level, the Purple Tier, after the county’s COVID-19 case rate exceeded 7 cases per 100,000 residents for a full two weeks, soaring as high as 8.9.  To limit spread of the virus, the region must stop indoor operations at restaurants, gyms, churches and movie theaters starting Sat., Nov. 14. Retailers will need to keep customers at 25% of capacity.

“If we don’t continue to take proven, preventive precautions, we won’t be able to get out of the Purple Tier and loosen restrictions,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the County public health officer. “The key to decreasing cases is wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, avoiding gatherings and following other public health recommendations.”  She added, “We understand that people have COVID fatigue, but we have to do what we know works.”

The County will remain in the Purple Tier for at least three weeks. It won’t be able to advance to the Red Tier unless it posts a case rate below 7 cases per 100,000 residents two weeks in a row.

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Sanders, in a statement on the new shutdown orders, said, “Small businesses, which account for more than 90% of the businesses in San Diego County, have shouldered the bulk of the impact in the struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19. The toll this health crisis is having on small business is overwhelming and every day more small businesses are not able to survive the closures and changing restrictions on their operations."


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

COVID CASES SOAR AS COUNTY REMAINS IN PURPLE TIER, RISK OF CLOSURES FOR BUSINESSES AND CHURCHES GROWS

 

To report violations of county health rules call (858) 694-2900 or email SafeReopeningComplianceTeam@sdcounty.ca.gov.

By Miriam Raftery

File photo from 2019: A shutdown could hit hardest in mountain towns such as Julian, where winter weather makes it difficult for businesses to operate outdoors.

November 9, 2020 (San Diego) – Churches, restaurants, gyms, theaters and some other locations will have to end indoor operations in San Diego County if the number of cases doesn’t drop out of the state’s purple tier soon. Retailers would have to reduce capacity.The state could order shutdowns as early as tomorrow.

Winter weather will make it harder for businesses and worship services to be conducted outdoors, particularly in East County’s mountain areas, which had their first snowfall of the season last night.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

COVID-19 CASES SKYROCKET ACROSS U.S. DESPITE TRUMP CLAIM OF “TURNING CORNER”; PRESIDENT'S RALLIES SPREAD VIRUS AND CAUSED DEATHS, STUDY FINDS

Trump rallies caused over 30,000 COVID cases and 800 deaths, Stanford researchers find

By Miriam Raftery

November 1, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – On Friday, the U.S. reported 100,233 new coronavirus infections in a single day – the highest daily total ever for any nation, Reuters reports.  The spike belies President Donald Trump’s claim during last week’s debate when he stated, “We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away.” 

Every second, the U.S. is now adding a new coronavirus case, overwhelming hospitals in many cities.  USA Today reports that some hospitals are running out of beds and staffers; as a result, the situation is so dire that some hospitals report they may soon have to ration care. 

Despite surviving coronavirus himself, the President has refused to set a role model for others to avoid transmission. Shortly after leaving the hospital he resumed holding in-person rallies to large crowds,  most not wearing masks. Now, Stanford researchers have found that Trump’s rallies between June and September alone were directly responsible for 30,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 700 deaths – including deaths of people who never attended the rallies, but were exposed by Trump supporters who did attend, CNBC reports.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE WINS SEVEN AWARDS FROM SAN DIEGO PRESS CLUB

By Miriam Raftery

October 28, 2020 (San Diego) – East County Magazine writers and photographers picked up seven awards in the  San Diego Press Club’s 47th annual  Excellence in Journalism Awards. ECM’s winning entries included coverage of the May 30-31 riot and protest in La Mesa, Cajon Valley Union School District’s educational challenges during COVID-19 and controversial spending on promotional videos, the railway museum’s centennial celebration in Campo, and a column addressing health issues in local communities.

“I’m proud of our team of hard-working journalists, who went above and beyond the call of duty to report during tumultuous times,” says ECM editor Miriam Raftery. “I also want to thank the Facebook Journalism Project grant, which supports local journalism and funded our reporting on most of this year’s winning entries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This year’s Press Club awards program drew more than 1,100 entries, making it one of the largest journalism competitions in the nation. Judges for the Press Club’s entries included members of 15 journalism professional organizations from around the country, including press clubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Rochester, Florida, Cleveland, Orange County, Milwaukee, Tulsa and Alaska.

ECM's  award-winners this year are editor Miriam Raftery, photojournalists Paul Kruze, Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson, Henri Migala, and Jake Rose, as well as columnists David Shorey and Paul Levikow.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

LA MESA ADOPTS COMMUNITY POLICE OVERSIGHT BOARD

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo: Councilmember Akilah Weber led efforts to establish the police oversight body
 
October 25, 2020 (La Mesa) – By a 3-2 vote on Oct. 13, the La Mesa City Council approved creation of a Community Police Oversight Board. The board is empowered to retain an independent police auditor and to direct investigation of serious incidents involving police, such as shootings or major misconduct complaints. 

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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

NEW NATIONAL HOTLINE FOR MENTAL HEALTH CALLS APPROVED

By Miriam Raftery

October 24, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – Starting in July 2022, anyone in the U.S. will be able to dial 988 for help with a mental health emergency. President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan bill into law last week to create the three-digit number for a mental health crisis, similar to the 911 line now in use for all emergencies, on recommendation of the Federal Communications Commission.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

COVID RATES REMAIN LOW IN MOST REOPENED EAST COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Cajon Valley, first to reopen, has most cases.  Three other districts report cases; others lack transparency in disclosure.  

Update October 31:  The Cajon Valley Union School District has added a breakdown by schools of its COVID cases, which now number 15 students and 2 employees  (17 total) at 11 schools. 

By Miriam Raftery

October 21, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – How safe is it to send your child back to school amid a pandemic, or for teachers to provide instruction inside classrooms?

East County Magazine has checked out the websites of all districts in East County to determine how many cases have been reported at schools that have reopened thus far, and how transparent each district is in making this information easily available to parents, teachers and staff.

To date, the County Public Health Department has not reported any outbreaks (defined as 3 or more cases tied to a single location) at any East County elementary, middle, high school or community college district. However some school districts do have cases among both students and staff. It is unclear whether cases were contracted on campus, or how many others may have been exposed.

In some districts, information on schools with COVID cases are being publicly disclosed, but not in others. Asked about this discrepancy, County spokesman Michael Workman said, "A change in the order regarding schools is being discussed and may be in place soon. The state guidance referenced above covers school notification. It’s too early to say what our health order change may say."

Here are the results of ECM's investigation.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

HIGHLIGHTS AND VIDEOS OF ALL SIX LA MESA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES

 

 

Updated with highlights from all three participating candidates' statements during the forum, plus links to interviews with three other candidates who were not available for the forum.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: left to right: Allan Durden, Colin Parent, Mark Papenfuss, Kristine Alessio, Jack Shu, Laura Lothian

October 11, 2020 (La Mesa) -- At East County Magazine's virtual forum for La Mesa City Council candidates last month, candidates offered their ideas for addressing the compelling issues facing the city including police/racial justice/public safety issues in the wake of protests and a riot, downtown redevelopment, housing, homelessness, budget priorities, COVID-19 relief and more.

Three of the six candidates running participated in the forum: Councilman Colin Parent, as well as challengers Allan Durden and Jack Shu.

To view video of candidate forum, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH6GkbU9ayo&t=3085s

To read highlights of the forum, and more information on all candidates, scroll down.

Three other candidates were unable to participate in the forum due to schedule conflicts, but provided separate video interviews via Zoom, which are posted below, along with highlights of their statements:


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

LA MESA-SPRING VALLEY SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION, PART ONE: AREA 4

By Robin N. Kendall

Photo:  Area 4 candidates Emma Turner, Abu-Bakr Al Jafri, and Sarah Rhiley

October 7, 2020 (La Mesa-Spring Valley) -- Two out of five trustee seats will be on the ballot this year for certain residents of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District. One seat is held by current Board President Dr. Emma Turner, who is running for re-election against four opponents in Area 4. This area includes Bancroft, Sweetwater Springs and Loma Elementary Schools. Five candidates are running, and three sent in responses to our questionnaire.  Scroll down to view responses from Emma Turner, Sarah Rhiley, and Abu-Bakr Al-Jafri.

The other trustee seat was filled by Jim Long, whose term has expired. That seat will be filled by a newcomer from Area 5 which includes Avondale, Rancho, and La Presa Elementary Schools, as well as STEAM Academy and Kempton Literacy Academy. The Area 5 race will be covered in part two of this series.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

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