San Diego Unified School District announced that it will close schools beginning on Monday, March 16 amid the coronavirus epidemic. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Wednesday was an interesting day. It seems like a day we’ll all remember – the one where we decided to collectively start to shut down this massive, vibrant economy and culture we have built. We practiced how to not handshake. We let people work from home.

We had canceled our live podcast and had our guests – San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey and Democratic political consultant Eva Posner – come into the office studio instead.

The discussion went quite well. Kersey knows a bit about the threat. He lost his brother to influenza. He was a young, healthy man. And Kersey talked about that before we went through all the elections and politics we wanted to discuss.

During the hour we recorded it, the NBA suspended its season and revealed that a player had tested positive for the new coronavirus and actor Tom Hanks revealed that he had gotten it too. We stopped the conversation and looked at our phones in disbelief.

The world was one way when we went into the studio, and another way when we emerged.

And even Wednesday seems like a distant memory. Now schools are closed. The YMCA canceled day camps. Even San Diego Zoo, which put out a forceful statement Thursday that it would stay open because, as its CEO Paul A. Baribault wrote in an open letter: “We recognize that visiting the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is much more than experiencing wildlife up close but also represents important family time, an escape from daily lives, an opportunity to enjoy rich educational experiences, a chance to get outdoors and enjoy fresh air and exercise and an uparalleled opportunity to share the wonder of the natural world with family and friends.”

The next day, he announced they were going to close the zoo, actually.

Life comes at you fast.

But more devastating for families was the announcement school was closing. Some year-round schools will be closed now until mid-April at least. San Diego Unified School District will be closed until April 6 – again, at least. As Will Huntsberry noted in this quick round-up of all the truly shocking news from schools, the decision to re-open schools will likely be very difficult.

I would add that we hope it will be a difficult decision. Because that means that things haven’t gotten so obviously bad that it really is an open question about whether kids should go back to school. At this time, difficult decisions are a luxury we should continue to desire.

Closing schools is like turning one of the last lights off in the economy. Hundreds of thousands of parents will now struggle to care for the kids while trying to keep their educational momentum going. Parents won’t be able to work, and they will lose money, their employers’ productivity will flatten or fall. Spending will plunge.

Andy put together a rundown of the numbers we are watching in the local economy, and it is already scary.

What’s worse is we’re only at the dawn of this. We can’t even picture when it will end. We’re preparing as though a hurricane is coming. But we don’t know when it’s going to hit. We don’t know where or how hard.

There’s a good chance, though, that like Italy, it will hit hard and thousands of people will need hospital beds – thousands more than we may have available.

There is something reassuring, though, in what is happening. We can listen to scientists and mobilize for a cause. We are capable of marshaling resources to protect hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable neighbors.

That’s what all this is for. We are doing all of this on the hope that when the virus really spreads, we will have contained it enough to make sure we have enough resources to help those who need it and all the other people who get sick or have heart attacks or get in accidents at the same time.

Yes, there’s a good chance we’ll look back and think we overreacted. Let’s hope we do.

Will Barbara Bry Make It?

Councilwoman Barbara Bry and Councilman Scott Sherman on election night. / Photos by Megan Wood

The Registrar of Voters took on the longest of its post-election slogs this week trying to, one by one, count and verify the validity of every single provisional ballot cast in the March 3 election. These are the ballots that people cast when they show up at the wrong polling station or for whatever reason don’t have their mail-in ballot with them.

And this year was the first time they could also register to vote in person on Election Day. So all these ballots have to be individually scrutinized.

In short, it’s so slow.

For those of us glued to the mayor’s race, it is just grueling.

Why we’re obsessed with it: Friday, Councilwoman Barbara Bry closed the gap between her and Councilman Scott Sherman for the second spot in the runoff for mayor to just 337 votes out of more than 332,000 counted. Assemblyman Todd Gloria has now reached almost 42 percent of the vote and secured the first spot in the runoff.

The registrar’s website says there are 60,000 votes left to count throughout the county but he has also indicated that he was prioritizing the areas with close races.

And there’s the rub: If Bry holds the pace she has, she will overtake Sherman and make it to the runoff.

Her campaign consultant, Tom Shepard, is not overconfident.

“There are two pieces of info we don’t have that would make it possible to have definitive analysis,” he told the Politics Report Friday. “First, the number of ballots remaining in the city of San Diego. There may be more of those in the batch counted today. And then we don’t know what’s left of those in the city – from which areas.”

He said the trend is obviously good.

I asked if there was anything he would have done differently now that we have seen how close it was.

“We did what we could, given the resources we had. Barbara grew as a candidate and was coming on strong at the end and we hope that was enough,” he said.

Kersey Had Some Things to Say

Yes, we did that podcast and it was good. Here are a couple standout moments. We were excited to finally get a chance to talk to Kersey – the first time since he left the Republican Party to become an independent.

Mark Kersey was kind of stunned how mean the Democratic Party was to Barbara Bry: “I mean, obviously they’ve endorsed Todd, we all know that, but, they’re very, very hostile, particularly [Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, chairman of the San Diego Democratic Party]. But I think the leadership generally is just very hostile towards Barbara and I just find that interesting because if she does make the runoff, you kind of wonder what the relationship there is going to look like.”

Previously, Rodriguez-Kennedy had told us that Bry making it to the mayor’s office would not be a good outcome and they would work hard not to let it happen.

Posner thinks having two Democrats in the mayoral runoff would be great: “I think that does have the potential to be complicated in the future, but we’ll deal with that when we get there. I think it’s OK to have a conversation about what kind of party you want to have. There’s no question that the race becomes more complicated, more nuanced and more expensive if Councilmember Bry makes it through. Because all of those organizations like the Democratic Party that have endorsed, Assemblymember Gloria are going to have to put more resources behind explaining what makes him different and why he should be mayor.”

Kersey on his district: He represents Council District 5, long seen as the most conservative district within the city of San Diego. We asked if he could imagine it going to a Democrat.

“Well, the district which used to be solidly red as you said, uh, is decidedly purple now. There’s no doubt about it. And there’s a lot of folks who have switched from Republican to independent something I know something about.

Kersey on why he left the GOP: “Well, I think if you look at my voting record, it’s not terribly different now than it was six, seven, eight years ago. I’m still pretty fiscally conservative. I’m still pretty socially moderate. I think that like the district that the party nationally has shifted in a way that I just don’t particularly approve of. And a lot of people in my district don’t approve of.”

He went on: “The Republican Party brand is, is obviously not in a good place right now in California and San Diego specifically. And it’s hard to see that changing as long as Trump’s in office, whether he gets re-elected or not, I think is going to determine whether the party’s overall fortunes improve locally anytime soon. If he doesn’t, I think there’s a shot two years from now, four years from now. If he does get re-elected, I think people are going to be suffering for, for a little while carrying that banner, especially in the city.”

If you have any ideas or feedback for the Politics Report, send an email to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org. 

Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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