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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.

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.

MAN ARRESTED FOR BATTERY OF PROTESTERS IN LA MESA; ECM PHOTOGRAPHER ALSO ATTACKED

View video of first attack on ECM photographer 

View video of second attack on ECM photographer

 

Help us identify the attackers. If you recognize either of these assailants, please contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org

 

Story and photos by Henri Migala

 

August 2, 2020 (La Mesa) -- La Mesa was once again the setting of a demonstration in support of racial justice and against police brutality on Saturday, August 1. Ironically, both protesters and counter-protesters aggressively sought to prevent media coverage by multiple outlets, raising the question of why many on both sides wanted to demonstrate their views without press coverage. 

OUR 2020 JOURNALISM TEAM

Reflecting the diverse voices in our communities

 

East County Magazine has significantly expanded our reporting and production team in 2020, thanks to our Facebook Journalism Grant. 

Here is our lineup of talent for our award-winning online news coverage, radio show, and new in 2020, virtual productions on issues that matter in San Diego’s East County during the pandemic--when timely and accurate news is more important than ever.

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.

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

INNOVATION AND COVID-19: LATEST RESEARCH FINDINGS ON TREATMENTS, VACCINES AND ANTIBODIES TESTING



In this ongoing series about impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic,  ECM explores innovations in research and advances in the innovation community toward finding treatments, vaccines, and a test for antibodies.

 

By Helen Horvath

 

July 30, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- We all probably know of someone who has had COVID-19. This virus hit home earlier this month, when my 30-year-old nephew was diagnosed with COVID-19 after working as a contractor in Bakersfield at an Amazon facility, where employees reportedly had COVID-19.  Contrary to the typical media images of people ill with COVID-19 who are hospitalized and on ventilators, my nephew was one of the approximately 75% of people who have been able to manage their coronavirus symptoms at home through doctor’s guidance and a 14-day quarantine. Everyone in my nephew’s home is now quarantined. 

SYRIAN FAMILY STRUGGLES TO COPE WITH COVID-19

By Kendra Sitton

Photo by Henri Migala:  Asim Al-Abdullah worries about his family’s future
 
July 30, 2020 (El Cajon) - Everyone faces different struggles during the pandemic, such as health, financial or isolation. For a Syrian family of seven living in El Cajon, their primary struggle is psychological. 

YMCA PROVIDES COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND AFFORDABLE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN A COVID-19 WORLD

By Dr. Helen Horvath

 

ECM interviewed Krysta Esquivel, Executive Director for YMCA Youth & Family Services, and Brittany Villarino Vetter, Associate Director in part II of our series on mental health services

 

July 30, 2020 (San Diego) -- COVID-19 has impacted our communities in so many ways. Divorce filings have gone up; domestic violence has increased and people have lost jobs, and insurance.  Key to these losses are our community’s sense of fear and anxiety of what will happen next.                                                                                                                 

MENTAL HEALTH IN A COVID-19 WORLD: HOW TO GET HELP

 
Part I in a two-part series
 
By Dr. Helen Horvath
 
Photo, left: isolation during COVID-19 has increased stress, anxiety and depression (Creative Commons image via Bing)
 
July 29, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – COVID-19 has substantially changed our world, along with our relationships. Isolation due to quarantine and lockdowns, stress over loss of a job or loved one, has further exacerbated mental health conditions ranging from depression to anxiety. 

MOVING PAST INNOVATION: THE DRIVE TO CREATE THERAPIES AND VACCINES FOR COVID-19

By Helen Horvath

 

July 29, 2020 (San Diego) -- Tired of wearing masks and social distancing?  Hoping for a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic?  Confused over what the correct information about COVID-19 may be?  Need money for a life science project for your unique idea?  BIOCOM is the place to go to obtain some solutions as a life science industry association.  In San Diego there are multiple scientific studies through the federal government agencies.   

ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE SAN DIEGO AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY: PART TWO

 

ECM interviews Dr. Rodney G. Hood, CEO and Managing Partner at Careview Medical Group, Inc. and president of the Multicultural Health Foundation, on health disparities impacting African Americans locally and nationally 

By Angela de Joseph

July 29, 2020 (San Diego) -- California is known for sunshine and earthquakes. Today, in the middle of summer, we are being shaken to our core by a global pandemic that is showing no signs of subsiding. Our state recently recorded the highest number of deaths from the novel Coronavirus in a single day,158, bringing the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in our 58 counties to over 8,000. 

FEEDING THE HUNGRY AMID A PANDEMIC

By Helen Horvath

 

July 27, 2020 (San Diego) -- In an interview with Jim Floros, president and CEO of the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, ECM discusses the push to end hunger in San Diego during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PLANS FOR EMERGENCY SLEEPING CABINS FOR HOMELESS WOMEN AND CHILDREN MOVES FORWARD IN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Amikas demonstration village in City Heights

July 26, 2020 (El Cajon) – A proposal to allow construction of emergency sleeping cabins on property owned by Meridian Baptist Church has been approved by the El Cajon Planning Commission and will next be considered by the El Cajon City Council, potentially as early as August 11.

COUNTY STARTS CRACKDOWN ON BUSINESSES NOT COMPLYING WITH COVID-19 RULES, RAMPS UP TESTING AS CASES CLIMB LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY

By Miriam Raftery

July 26, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego County health officials reported 603 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths yesterday. Total cases locally have exceeded 26,000 while total deaths have reached 533.

The county remains on the state watch list.  In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the county this week announced that a Safe Reopening Compliance Team of county staff will be investigating complaints about “businesses that are flagrantly not complying with the local health order,” according to County News Service.

 Residents are encouraged to report businesses defying public health rules by calling their local police or Sheriff department’s non-emergency line.

CALIFORNIA TO HOLD DELAYED BAR EXAM ONLINE, LOWER SCORE FOR PASSAGE, AND ISSUE PROVISIONAL LICENSURE PROGRAM

By Miriam Raftery

July 23, 2020 (San Diego) – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time, the California Bar Association will be conducting the California Bar Exam online. The test required for licensing attorneys will be postponed from September 9-10 until October 5-6. The deadline to register is tomorrow, July 24.

HOW SAFE ARE CHILD CARE CENTERS AND SCHOOLS DURING THE PANDEMIC? EDUCATORS AND PARENTS GRAPPLE WITH UNCERTAINTIES

By Miriam Raftery

July 21, 2020 (San Diego)  - Should you send your child back to school this fall, if facilities are allowed to open? How much risk does in-school learning pose for children, teachers, staff and families amid the COVID-19 pandemic? Is distance-only learning really an acceptable substittute for in-person instruction?

These are questions every parent and educator is now confronting. A look at childcare facilities, which have remained open throughout the pandemic, as well as checking up on schools around the world in places that have reopened, can provide some lessons learned.

As of today, 90 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in child care facilities in San Diego, according to data updated daily by the California Department of Social Services. Statewide, the number of coronavirus cases reported by childcare facilities rose five-fold in just over a month, Ed Source reported last week. 

SURVIVORS OF TORTURE VULNERABLE DURING PANDEMIC

 

By Kendra Sitton

 

July 21, 2020 (San Diego) - An estimated 35,000 torture survivors reside in San Diego County. Only one torture treatment agency is accredited to serve this vulnerable population in our county: Survivors of Torture, International. East County Magazine spoke with Survivors’ Community Relations Manager, Katrina Pimental, about their clients’ experiences during the pandemic. 

 

Many are facing job loss without access to government help. Mental health issues such as PTSD are triggered by lockdown measures which remind them of house arrest.  Many don’t qualify for CARES Act benefits and are struggling financially. Some have gone without food for days. Their asylum claims are in limbo. 

 

Our interview delved into these issues, as well as how the nonprofit is responding. 

HOW WILL THE YMCA SURVIVE THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?

 

 

By Dr. Helen Horvath 

 

July 19, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- In this ongoing series about impacts of COVID-19 to our families and vital community nonprofit services, ECM explores  the pandemic’s effects on operations at the YMCA of East County and San Diego County through an exclusive interview with Courtney Pendleton, Association Director of Public Relations and Communications, San Diego YMCA. 

 

The YMCA of San Diego County has served our region for 138 years with a dedication to strengthening our communities through physical activities that feed the mind, body, and spirit of our communities. The Y, as most people affectionately call the YMCA, has become one of the most diverse organizations serving our areaThrough the years, for many, the 18 YMCAs in San Diego County have become places of diversity and inclusion to meet up, exercise, socialize, and meet new and old friends while potentially learning new skills.  

But shutdowns of facilities, programs and fundraising events have posed daunting challenges for the YMCA to work out.  

SCHOOLS IN SAN DIEGO AND OTHER COUNTIES ON WATCH LIST CANNOT REOPEN UNTIL VIRUS RATES DROP FOR TWO WEEKS, STATE ORDERS

By Miriam Raftery

July 17, 2020 (Sacramento)  -- Today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a five-point plan for reopening public and private schools. But 30 counties currently on the state’s COVID-19 are prohibited from reopening schools this fall – including San Diego County, unless major changes happen fast to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

A five-point plan issued by the state’s Department of Public Health will allow a district to reopen for live classes only after its county has a two week decline in COVID-19 cases.

The news deals a blow to districts such as Cajon Valley Union School District, which just resumed some summer school classes and had announced a blended learning model that gave parents options for in school, online, or a combination of learning options for students. Some other districts, however, such as San Diego Unified had already rolled back reopening plans due to high numbers of COVID-19 outbreaks locally.

ANTHONY'S EXPANDS OUTDOOR DINING AMID TROPICAL MOTIF

By Miriam Raftery

July 17, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Just a few weeks ago, Anthony's Fish Grotto had announced its intent to close permanently due to the COVID-19 shutdown's devastating impact on restaurants. Then an outpouring of support from customers persuaded owner Craig Ghio to keep the doors open until dine-in resumed.  The state reopened dine-in only briefly. Now, with only outdoor dining allowed, Anthony's has substantially expanded its socially-distanced seating alongside a private lake, provided probably the most delightful outdoor dining experience in East County.

Tropical music added ambience when I visited this week, sipping a signature Tropical Cruise with rum, pineapple juice and peach Schnapps.  Homemade clam chowder in a sourdough breadbowl provided a hearty and affordable meal. My dining companion, an ECM reporter, chose a  healthy salad topped with fresh fruits; you can opt to top it off with shrimp, salmon, or chicken. The menu also includes an array of fresh seafoods, sandwiches and more.

Lush landscaping and fountains with the sound of running water, creating an illusion evocative of beaches in some far-away enclave.

CHURCHES DEFY GOVERNOR’S SHUTDOWN OF INDOOR SERVICES; LAWSUIT ALSO FILED CHALLENGING BAN ON SINGING

By Miriam Raftery

July 16, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Across San Diego County, several churches appear poised to openly defy state health orders that temporarily prohibit indoor worship services. In addition, a lawsuit has been filed challenging a state ban on singing during services.

Some churches have shifted to online worship services, services broadcast over TV or radio,  or outdoor services including drive-up versions. But others are planning returns to indoor services for their parishioners despite health risks, state and local bans.

On the reopening website for Skyline Church, parishioners are encouraged to RSVP for Sunday services at the megachurch’s facilities in Rancho San Diego and Lakeside.  The website makes clear that the services will not be outdoors (which is allowed) but instead will be indoors:  “Due to the attendance limitations and in an effort to create a safe, clean, and healthy worship environment, we will be limiting the number of people allowed in the main auditoriums.  Fortunately, we will also be opening the Chapel and Gym at the Rancho Campus for overflow, allowing more of our church family to gather on our campus.”  Sunday school classes for children will not be held.

AFTER ECM INQUIRY, COUNTY REVISES FLAWED RELIEF PLAN FOR RESTAURANTS, SMALL BUSINESSES AND NONPROFITS DUE TO COVID-19

By Miriam Raftery

Update July 13, 2020: The County has changed these rules as a direct result of East County Magazine's investigation, after our editor made inquiries to Supervisor Dianne Jacob's staff and alerted La Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Mary England, who immediately made calls as well.

A business license is no longer required of businesses in unincorporated areas. Proof of employees is no longer required for all-volunteer nonprofits.

July 10, 2020 (San Diego)-- Local small businesses, restaurants and nonprofits suffering financial losses due to COVID-19 can now apply for a grant from the County of San Diego. Supervisors approved the new Small Business Stimulus Program  on July 7, which will be funded with $17 million in federal CARES Act funding. 

However, East County Magazine has alerted Supervisor Dianne Jacob that documents required in the application will preclude most businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county from applying, as well as nonprofits that are volunteer run.

The applicaton requires that a business license be attached. However, the county no longer issues business licenses to businesses in the unincorporated areas, so only businesses with a license in an incorporated city can apply. A spokesperson for Supervisor Dianne Jacob has told ECM that in response to our inquiry, the County is considering eliminating that requirement, but as of last night, the application still required a business license.

The application also requries multiple documents to prove employment and payroll deductions, which nonprofits that rely only on volunteers do not have. Yet these nonprofits have lost significant revenues due to being unable to host fundraising events and donations down due to the pandemic, limiting their ability to fund needed programs and services. The application also requires complex monthly accounting documentation that some small nonprofits may lack.

Businesses and nonprofits able to qualify are urged to apply early.  Applications will be accepted through October 16, provided funds are still available. See below for details.

POWAY MAYOR VAUS PROPOSES PLAN TO LET FITNESS ACTIVITIES AND WORSHIP SERVICES USE PARKS DURING COVID-SHUTDOWN

 

Update July 15, 2020: The Poway City Council today unanimously approved this plan.

By Miriam Raftery

July 14, 2020 (Poway) –  Poway Mayor Steve Vaus has proposed a “Sharing Outdoor Spaces” plan to “allow local fitness biz & houses of worship to use areas in our parks until indoor restrictions lifted.” Vaus announced the plan on Twitter, which the Poway City Council will vote on tomorrow during an 11:15 a.m. meeting. View agenda.

The action comes after the state on Monday issued a order required all houses of worship, gyms, yoga, dance and other fitness organizations to cease all indoor activities until further notice in order to mitigate the further spread of COVID-19.

“Similar to how we recently assisted Poway restaurants by providing picnic tables, I propose we help houses of worship and fitness-oriented businesses (yoga, Pilates, dance class, gyms, etc.) by providing space for their activities in our parks,” the Mayor’s proposal states, noting that the state has not banned such activities from taking place outdoors. Outdoor activities are considered less risky by health officials since the virus dissipates more quickly in sunshine and since people are not breathing recirculated air.

EL CAJON STARTS SMALL BUSINESS GRANT PROGRAM, ALLOWS BUSINESSES SUCH AS BARBERS, SALONS AND RETAILERS TO MOVE OUTDOORS

City also weighs possibility of allowing city parks, such as Prescott Promenade (photo) downtown, to be used for outdoor faith services and business operations

By Kendra Sitton

July 14, 2020 (El Cajon) -- El Cajon City Council today unanimously approved a plan to allocate almost $2.5 million for a Business Grant Program benefitting primarily nonessential businesses forced to close during the pandemic.

The city also took action to help many businesses and activities move outdoors, after the state shut down many indoor operations due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

NATIONAL EDUCATORS, DOCTORS AND TEACHERS FORMALLY OPPOSE TRUMP THREAT TO FORCE SCHOOLS TO REOPEN

By Miriam Raftery 

 

Photo: Student in mask and face shield; Creative Commons-NC via Bing 

 

July 12, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – The nation’s largest organizations representing teachers, principals, children’s doctors and parents have issued statements strongly criticizing President Donald Trump’s push to reopen schools and his threat to defund schools that don’t fully reopen or rely on online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Trump fueled the controversy when he tweeted“Virtual Learning has proven to be TERRIBLE compared to In School, or On Campus, Learning. Not even close! Schools must be open in the Fall. If not open, why would the Federal Government give Funding? It won’t!!!” The President’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, during news shows today, backed the president’s call to financially punish schools that don’t fully reopen.   

 

On Friday, the American Academy of Pediatrics responded by issuing a joint statement with the American Association of Teachers, the National Education Association and the School Superintendents Association.  Withholding funding from schools that do not open in person fulltime would be a misguided approach, putting already financially strapped schools in an impossible position that would threaten the health of students and teachers.  

2-1-1 SAN DIEGO OFFERS HELP WITH FOOD, HOUSING, UTILITY BILLS AND MORE DURING PANDEMIC

ECM interviews Meg Storer, Vice President, community and government relations at 2-1-1 San Diego, on programs and services available

By Helen Horvath

 

July 11, 2020 (San Diego) -- The answer to resolving many COVID-19 roadblocks faced by our community members can be found at 2-1-1 San Diego through its Community Information Exchange (CIE) ecosystem.

LA MESA AUTHORIZES RESTAURANTS TO SET UP OUTDOOR DINING AREAS

By Miriam Raftery

File photo, taken prior to the pandemic: Curbside, one of La Mesa's newest eateries, was designed for only limited outside seating. The new executive order could enable restaurants such as Curbside to expand onto sidewalks or streets, with permission of the City Manager and adherance to other laws.

July 9, 2020 (La Mesa)  -- The La Mesa City Manager today issued an executive order under emergency powers granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order temporarily allows use of public and private outdoor areas by eating establishments for dining, after county health officials banned indoor dining for three weeks starting July 6 due to a growing number of coronavirus cases including some tied to restaurants and bars.

Restaurants must obtain written authorization from the Director of Community Development and comply with all social distancing and other COVID-19 related health orders, as well as all other laws. This includes city and county emergency orders, state laws such as Alcoholic Beverage Control rules, and federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Per the executive order, there is no City fee charged or permit required for businesses that receive authorization to use public and private outdoor areas for dining.  Businesses interested in obtaining written authorization for temporary use of public and private outdoor areas should contact Allyson Kinnard, Senior Planner at akinnard@cityoflamesa.us.

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