San Diego

STATE APPROVES SAN DIEGO PLAN TO REOPEN DINE-IN RESTAURANTS AND IN-STORE RETAIL SHOPPING

County still awaits word on proposed pilot program to accelerate some stage 3 openings including salons, gyms, pools, outdoor worship and youth sports practices

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons via Bing

May 20, 2020 (San Diego) – “Great news for restaurants and retailers! The state just approved our plan to allow dine-in service and in-person retail sales,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob announced moments ago on Facebook. These businesses now need to complete and post a safe reopening plan to comply with social distancing and other requirements. View: Guidelines for restaurants; guidelines for retailers.

On Tuesday, Supervisors approved two measures to accelerate reopening of the economy countywide. The first sent recommendations to the state to reopen our county’s restaurants and retailers within days. The Governor and California’s Dept. of Public Health approved those recommendations today. The measure does not include bars, breweries, distilleries or wineries.

The second measure passed by supervisors is still awaiting a decision by state officials. That measure calls for a pilot program that if approved, would allow San Diego County to move partially into stage 3 by reopening hair and nail salons, gym and fitness facilities, pools at apartment complexes, outdoor religious services, and research labs. In addition, youth sports could start up for practices only, no games, in groups of 12 or less. Therapeutic and peer support groups could also resume meeting in groups of up to 12 people.

TWO MORE LOCAL CASINOS ANNOUNCE REOPENING PLANS, BUT COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICER OPPOSES ACTIONS

By Miriam Raftery

File photo: Sycuan Casino

Updated May 14 with additional information from County Public Health Officer Wilima Wooten

May 13, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Following Viejas’ announced plans to reopen its casino on May 18, Sycuan and Valley View casinos have unveiled plans to reopen on May 19 and 21. All are on Native American reservations, and each has detailed plans for modifications aimed at protecting safety of the public and guests including face masks, sanitation procedures and social distancing.

However in a press conference today,  San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten voiced concerns and indicated that the county does not agree with the casinos’ reopening plans.  “If. they do open and ignore our request not to open, then we would definitely have to ensure that they put stringent practices in place to help protect the public health. But opening up casinos will cause a risk to our public health. That is very clear; it creates gatherings of individuals,” she stated.

Later she indicated the county has reached out to the federal government to potentially block the casinos from reopening, NPR reports. 

Tribal reservations are considered sovereign nations that make their own laws, however state and federal officials do have some powers to intervene if public health is at risk. It remains to be seen whether authorities will allow the casino openings to proceed, or take steps to require modifications or prevent openings.

STATE SETS GUIDELINES FOR RESTAURANTS TO REOPEN, ALLOWS DINE-IN SERVICE TO RESUME IN SOME COUNTIES WITH LOW RATES OF COVID-19

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Anthony's Fish Grotto in La Mesa has reversed plans to close down, rehiring some employees after an outpouring of public support.  Owner Craig Ghio has expanded the take-out menu and hopes to survive--with social distancing--once the lakefront restaurant  with seafood market is allowed to reopen for dine-in customers.

May 13, 2020 (San Diego) – Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday released guidelines for restaurants in areas with low rates of COVID-19 to reopen their dining rooms, with changes to protect diners and staff.

But bars, brew pubs, wineries and craft distilleries must remain closed, unless they offer sit-down meals with any alcohol served.

Once the state allows a region’s restaurants to reopen, the County must also grant approval. Each restaurant must submit a COVID-19 prevention plan that includes requirements for cleaning and disinfecting, keeping six feet between tables, using disposable menus and partitionsa at cash registers and host stands. Windows and doors to outside should be kept open and patio seating can be expanded.

SHOPPING MALLS CAN REOPEN FOR PICKUPS: OTHER BUSINESSES TO REOPEN INCLUDE CAR WASHES, PET GROOMERS, GARDENERS AND OFFICES

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine is among the local malls eligible to reopen for curbside pickups.

May 13, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego County officials yesterday announced several more types of businesses that can reopen, with modifications, ranging from shopping centers to landscapers. All must prepare and post a safe reopening plan to protect employees and customers.

Shopping malls, including outlet malls and strip malls, can offer pickup service with clearly marked curbside outdoor pickup locations, but customers are not allowed inside stores.  In East County, malls eligible to begin offering curbside sales include Grossmont Center in La Mesa, Parkway Plaza in El Cajon, and the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine as well as smaller retail centers.

Other businesses allowed to reopen are car washes, pet grooming services, landscaping and gardening businesses, outdoor museums and offices, though telework is still strongly encouraged.

EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: LOCAL AND STATEWIDE NEWS

May 11, 2020 (San Diego) -- East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego's inland regions, published in other media.  This week's round-up stories include:  

LOCAL

STATE

For excerpts and links to full stories, click “read more” and scroll down.

COVID-19 CASES IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY RISE TO 3,141; HUNDREDS OF CASES IN EAST COUNTY

By Miriam Raftery

April 28, 2020 (San Diego) – Over the weekend, 98 new cases of COVID-19 were reported by the San Diego County Health and Human Services department. The jump follows the trend in several cities where rallies were held to end shutdowns. The Sheriff arrested several local protesters over the weekend for violating stay-home orders.

The disease has spread rapidly in East County, where El Cajon now has 181 cases, La Mesa 71, Santee 29, Lemon Grove 28, Lakeside 22, Ramona 14, Jamul 6, and Alpine 4.  The communities of Ranchita, Boulevard, Potrero, Julian and Pala each have 2 cases; Borrego Springs, Descanso, and Tecate each have at least 1 case. View an interactive map with the latest updates on local cases by community.

EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: LOCAL AND STATEWIDE NEWS

April 26, 2020 (San Diego) -- East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego's inland regions, published in other media.  This week's round-up stories include:  

LOCAL

STATE

For excerpts and links to full stories, click “read more” and scroll down.

LOAN PROGRAM TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES IN UNINCORPORATED AREA AFTER SBA FUND RUNS OUT OF MONEY

By Miriam Raftery

April 24, 2020 (San Diego) -- The County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $5 million loan program to help small businesses in the unincorporated area that have suffered losses because of COVID-19.

After more than a month of mandatory shut-downs, promised relief has not arrived for many businesses and individuals.  Pam Garcia owns a hair salon in the unincorporated area of El Cajon.  “None of my self-employed people have gotten unemployment. I filled for small business help and have received not even a letter,” she posted on Facebook. “ I also have not received my stimulus.”

LIFE ON THE STREETS IN EAST COUNTY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Story and photos by Jake Zawlacki

Photo, left:  Homeless man Mike in downtown La Mesa, April 21, 2020

April 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- “Things are different,” said Mike, a local homeless man, as I spoke with him in downtown La Mesa yesterday. “Everyone’s afraid of the homeless.”

Mike typifies many homeless individuals living across East County with nowhere to go. The recent halt of new intakes at the East County Transitional Living Center  in El Cajon is only one example of doors closing to homeless people. Just a block from the closed Wells Park in El Cajon, you can see almost 20 migrated homeless individuals now camped in the parking lot outside of the Neighborhood Healthcare Facility.

“We can’t really take showers anymore,” Mike said.

42 NURSING HOME PATIENTS IN EL CAJON DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19: VIRUS HAS CAUSED 7,000 DEATHS TIED TO NURSING HOMES NATIONWIDE

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons via Bing

April 18, 2020 (El Cajon) – COVID-19 is having a devasting impact on nursing home patients. Nationwide, over 7,000 nursing home-related deaths have occurred, the New York Times reported on Friday in a headline that referred to the facilities as “death pits.”

Today, the California Health Department for the first time released statistics on coronavirus cases in nursing facilities. Locally, the hardest hit area is El Cajon, where 42 patients have been diagnosed with the virus in three nursing homes:  Country Hills Post Acute (19), Bradley Court (12), and Avocado Post Acute (11).

SAN DIEGO FUND LAUNCHES TO HELP ARTS AND CULTURE NONPROFITS AND ARTISTS IMPACTED BY CORONAVIRUS

By Miriam Raftery

April 17, 2020 (San Diego) – Arts and cultural organizations across our region have been forced to shut down due to the COVID-19 crisis. That’s eliminated major revenue sources for everything from small community theater groups to large organizations such as art museums, the San Diego Symphony and the San Diego Opera. Many artists have been laid off and are struggling to make ends meet.

Yesterday, the San Diego Arts + Culture Challenge Fund launched with $1.25 million in aid to help arts and culture nonprofits and creative individuals across San Diego County. Grant guidelines and applications will be available in late April at sandiegoracc.org. Donations are sought to increase the fund. You can donate at sandiegoracc.org/challenge.

EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: LOCAL AND STATEWIDE NEWS

PUBLIC RELATIONS PROS OFFER FREE STRATEGY SESSIONS TO HELP BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

San Diego-based Falcon Valley Group joins Gray Public Relations in launching “Back to Business” initiative with complimentary strategy sessions

East County News Service

April 15, 2020 (San Diego) -- The disruption to businesses from the coronavirus pandemic is staggering. According to a Goldman Sachs survey of 1,500 business owners, 96 percent say they have been impacted by the outbreak. Only 13 percent feel confident about their contingency plans to maintain business. Fifty-three percent say their employees do not have the ability to telecommute, and 51 percent say their business cannot operate beyond three months.

Public relations and communications professionals from across the U.S. including San Diego have joined forces to offer support through a new initiative, “Back to Business.” Business owners will be matched with an agency volunteering a complimentary strategy session to assist them in addressing their most pressing challenges both during and after the pandemic.

Among the participants is San Diego base strategic communication consultant Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA, owner of Falcon Valley Group. “This is not the time for businesses and organizations to run silent,” said Falkenthal. “This is the time to work on new ways to communicate with customers and reposition their organization for a comeback in the post COVID-19 era. Only the prepared will survive. A smart communication strategy is a must.”

SDG&E POWER SHUTOFF IN DESCANSO DURING COVID-19 CRISIS LEAVES RESIDENTS STUCK HOME IN THE COLD

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Jill Sawyer

April 14, 2020 (Descanso) – SDG&E has shut-off power to 22 households in Descanso for 10 hours today in order to replace wood poles with steel for wildfire prevention. The action has sparked anger among residents under county orders to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some left in the cold despite medical conditions, working and teaching children at home There are no shelters or any public space open, with temperatures forecast to dip to a chilly 42 degrees by this evening.

After ECM’s editor called SDG&E last night to advise the utility of  concerns raised by many residents online, the utility discovered it had mistakenly called many households who were not slated to have power shut down.  “They were all called shortly before 10 p.m. apologizing for this evening’s call, advising it was made by mistake,” SDG&E media spokesperson Zoraya Griffin informed ECM.

For those without power, however, the outage puts safety of medically vulnerable and elderly residents at risk, also causing major inconveniences for those working or teaching children at home.

ACLU DISMISSES LAWSUIT AFTER ICE RELEASES 4 IMMIGRANT DETAINEES VULNERABLE TO COVID-19

Otay Mesa ICE facility has at least 16 COVID-19 cases, highest of any  U.S. detention site

Story and photo by Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine

April 13, 2020 (San Diego) – After the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed lawsuits in 13 states demanding release of detained immigrants at high risk due to COVID-19, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sent a letter to Congress on April 7 announcing it had identified 600 medically vulnerable detainees and to date, had released 160 of them.

Today, local ACLU representatives asked the court to dismiss a suit filed earlier this month on behalf of four medically vulnerable people detained at the ICE Otay Mesa Detention Center and Imperial Regional Detention Facility, after ICE released all four  plaintiffs.

“Our clients, Yusuf Ozdemir and Jane Doe, were released Thursday night; and Miguel Angel Benitez and Issis Yoselin Zelaya Sagastume were released Friday night,” states a press release issued today by  the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, ACLU Foundation Immigrants' Rights Project, ACLU Foundation National Prison Project and ACLU Foundation Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & HIV Project.

COUNTY BANS ALL GATHERINGS; DEATH TOLL RISES TO 36 LOCALLY

By Miriam Raftery

April 9, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego County officials yesterday expanded a prior health order to prohibit gatherings of any type, effective today. That means gatherings of 10 people or less are no longer allowed in San Diego County, unless they live in same household.

San Diego County health officials  also urged local residents to avoid experimental treatments for COVID-19, stressing that there is no known cure yet for the illness.

In a briefing on Tuesday, two county medical officials specifically warned against hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial medication touted multiple times in recent days by President Trump. “We are not recommending this medication,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s chief health officer. 

COUNTY RELEASES RACIAL BREAKDOWN ON COVID-19 AS TOTAL CASES REACH 1,404

By Miriam Raftery

April 7, 2020 (San Diego) – Following news reports this about high rates of COVID-19 cases among African-Americans in Chicago, civil rights activists have called on the U.S., cities and counties to release racial data on coronavirus cases. Yesterday, San Diego County health official released available data, which indicates that of the 71% of cases for which racial data was reported, the breakdown is consistent with the County's racial and ethnic demographics.

Of 1,404 confirmed case to date, 405 (29%) did not include an ethnic background.

Of the 999 (71%) of cases that did report ethnic background, 49% are white, 31% Hispanic,10% Asian, 6% African American, and 4% other. 

That tracks closely to the county’s ethnic composition based on the last census, which reported 45% white, 34% Hispanic or Latino, 12% Asian, 5% African-American, with the remainder multiple races or other ethnicities.

WORKERS ON BORDER WALL AT TECATE NOT WEARING MASKS OR MAINTAINING SOCIAL DISTANCING

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 3, 2020 (Tecate) – Along the California-Mexico border at Tecate in San Diego’s East County, construction of the border wall is being done by workers not maintaining social distancing or wearing masks—despite national, state and county emergency declarations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Construction is deemed an essential business under California’s emergency order and the Trump administration has specifically deemed building the border wall essential.  But why are no precautions being taken to protect the health of workers and the public?

COVID-19 OUTBREAK LINKED TO PHARMACY IN EL CAJON; COUNTY DEATH TOLL RISES TO 15

By Miriam Raftery

April 2, 2020 (San Diego) – Over 849 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in San Diego County. Of those, 1.4%, or 15 people have died, according to  County health officials. The county has identified several cluster outbreaks, including an outbreak in East County linked to the PalmCare Pharmacy in El Cajon,  NBC-7 reports.

A 25-year-old pharmacy tech who worked there , and who  had hoped to become a doctor, died last week at his family’s home in Riverside County. The pharmacy’s customers included many in East County’s Iraqi Chaldean community.

SUPERVISOR DIANNE JACOB WILL HOLD VIRTUAL TOWN HALL ON COVID 19 THURSDAY

East County News Service

San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob will hold  an East County Virtual Town Hall on Thursday to discuss the novel coronavirus, and she is encouraging residents in her district to submit questions.

County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten will take part in the meeting, which will take place at 4 p.m.

EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: LOCAL AND STATEWIDE NEWS

March 31, 2020 (San Diego) -- East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego's inland regions, published in other media.  This week's round-up stories include:  

LOCAL

STATE

For excerpts and links to full stories, click “read more” and scroll down.

LOCAL COVID-CASES REACH 603: COUNTY RESTRICTS CRUISE SHIPS

Source: County News Service

By José A. Álvarez, County of San Diego Communications Office

March 30, 2020 (San Diego) – Through March 30, a total of 603 COVID-19 cases have been reported in San Diego County, including 84 new cases today.

Of San Diego County’s cases, 345 (57%) were men and 256 (43%) were women. Of the known cases, 118 (19%) have required hospitalization, 51 (8%) had to be placed in intensive care and 7 (1.2%) have died.

Health officials today announced the County is restricting the acceptance of cruise ships with COVID-19 cases and has instituted new rules for the unloading of passengers and crew members off cruise ships arriving in San Diego.

MORE PUBLIC PLACES SHUT DOWN DUE TO VISITORS CROWDING ATTRACTIONS, IGNORING SOCIAL DISTANCING

By Miriam Raftery

March 24, 2020 (San Diego) – As COVID-19 continues its rapid spread in San Diego and people eager to exercise or socialize crowd into outdoor public spaces, more are shutting down including most local beaches as well as many parks and trails.

Here’s the latest on what’s open and closed.

While it's best to stay home if you have space to exercise and get fresh air there, if you do venture out to public spaces, be sure to maintain social distance of six feet from anyone not in your famliy and so that the few remaining places to enjoy nature won’t be shut down, too. No groups of 10 or more are allowed anywhere in the state.  The Sheriff has said that those violating social distancing rules may be arrested, fined, and jailed.

SOME BEACHES, PARKS AND TRAILS SHUT DOWN AS CROWDS DEFY ORDERS, 205 LOCAL COVID-19 CASES CONFIRMED

By Miriam Raftery

March 22, 2020 (San Diego) – This weekend, crowds of mostly young people defied orders by the Governor and San Diego County banning groups of 10 or more and requiring social distancing of six feet.  As a result, police shut down parking lots at city beaches, some parks were ordered closed, and Cleveland National Forest closed down trails to Cedar Creek and Three Sisters Falls in East County.

Tonight County health officials announce that 205 people in San Diego County have tested positive for COVID-19, including 178 county residents and 16 non-residents. The first death of a San Diego resident from the new coronavirus occurred after the man, who was in his 70s, traveled to Hawaii and was being treated in Santa Clara County.

Cases have been confirmed in the cities of Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Del Mar, El Cajon, Encinitas, Escondido, La Mesa, National City, Oceanside, Poway, San Diego, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach and Vista, as well as the unincorporated areas of Fallbrook, Lakeside, Ramona and Rancho Santa Fe.

REPAIRSMITH DONATES $100K IN FREE 'NO-CONTACT CAR REPAIR' SERVICES TO SUPPORT PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HARDSHIP DURING PANDEMIC

At-Home Service Company Launches Free Car Repair Program for Car Owners in Need; Ramps Up Technician Hiring and Fleet Service for Businesses

Source: PR Newswire/Repair Smith

March 20, 2020 (San Diego)--Today, RepairSmith announces it will donate $100,000 in free, 'No-Contact Car Repair' to the communities it serves. The company is introducing a series of initiatives to support members within the community who are facing hardship because of the coronavirus.  

Starting today, in California and Las Vegas, free car repairs are available to car owners who are severely impacted by COVID-19, either via loss of employment or acting as a frontline worker to their community.

This includes government workers, service workers, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, employees of grocery stores and pharmacies, volunteers and others who require the use of a functioning car, in locations where RepairSmith currently operates, including San Diego County.

U.S., MEXICO WILL RESTRICT NON-ESSENTIAL TRAFFIC ACROSS BORDER STARTING AT 9 PM TONIGHT

 


Completed port of entry at San Ysidro

By Chris Jennewein, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo: San Ysidro border crossing, via San Diego Mayor Falconer's office

March 20, 20202 (San Diego) -- The Trump administration announced Friday that closure of non-essential movement across the Canadian border will be accompanied by similar limits on the Mexican border.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: A SNOWY SPRING SUNRISE

East County News Service

March 20, 2020 (Laguna Mountain) – Amid the fears and uncertainties we are facing right now, there is a healing power in nature.  This inspirational sunrise photo was taken this morning by UCSD’s HP Wren camera atop Laguna Mountain in San Diego’s East County, which is covered in snow on this official first day of springtime.

EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: LOCAL AND STATEWIDE NEWS

SDGE SUSPENDS ELECTRIC AND GAS SERVICE DISRUPTIONS DUE TO NON-PAYMENT AMID COVID-19 ECONOMIC DISRUPTIONS

Helix Water assures customers water is safe from COVID-19

By Paul Kruze

March 15, 2020 (San Diego)-- In an unprecedented move, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) announced on Friday that it will be suspending disconnections of service for non-payment.

In a news release published on its website, the utility announced, in part, “With the coronavirus pandemic causing significant impact on the economy and people’s livelihoods, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) announced today that it will temporarily suspend service disconnections. The disconnection moratorium will remain in place until further notice.”

The company also has urged customers who are struggling to pay their utility bill due to financial hardships stemming from the coronavirus to call its Customer Contact Center at 1-800-411-7343 to make payment arrangements.

WHAT TO DO DURING CORONAVIRUS SHUTDOWN? CHECK OUT THESE ACTIVITY IDEAS

By Miriam Raftery

March 14, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – If you’re healthy and under 65, but trying to avoid crowds and maintain social distancing (authorities recommended six feet from others), here are a few options to consider, from hiking and fishing at local forests, parks and lakes to homebound activities such as gardening, games, cooking and virtual tours.

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