San Diego Unified workers hand out free meals outside Clark Middle School. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Padilla, who also chairs the state Coastal Commission, was in Santa Cruz for the state agency last week when he began feeling sick – so sick that he skipped a day of meetings and flew home early.

Eventually he was sick enough to go to UC San Diego’s Thornton Hospital Emergency Department in La Jolla, where he received a battery of tests, including for COVID-19. He said he believed his history of asthma and the fact that he had recently traveled through the San Jose Airport, where multiple TSA agents have tested positive, might have impacted doctors’ decision to test him. Later that day, he was informed the test came back positive.

Since Padilla’s an elected official who meets with large groups of people constantly, he figured making his announcement public was more realistic than notifying every possible individual exposed.

In a new Q-and-A, Padilla walked Andrew Keatts through his experience so far. Here’s what he said has been his main takeaway that he wants to instill in the public: “It’s so real. People need to just isolate a bit. It’s no joke. Even for a relatively healthy guy, this is not a fun experience. This is intense. My body is fighting like hell to battle this thing. My fever is constantly high. I can’t imagine how bad this would be for anybody who is vulnerable. It’s very serious. People need to take it seriously.”

The Official Response

San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten speaks at a press conference about the coronavirus pandemic. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

County and city officials issued dramatic new restrictions Monday in an attempt to protect San Diegans from coronavirus. County health officials announced Monday afternoon that they would, among other steps, bar all public and private gatherings of at least 50 people, force bars and nightclubs to shutter and ban in-person dining at local restaurants effective Tuesday.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer later held his own press conference to announce that the city would enforce bar and nightclub closures effective 11:59 p.m. and shift its focus to essential services. As part of its response, Faulconer said, city buildings will close to the public and many city staffers will work from home or take on other duties.

Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten said more draconian steps are likely in coming days and even as soon as today when the county is expected to provide another update on its coronavirus response.

As of Monday afternoon, Wooten reported that there were 55 coronavirus cases in the region.

Dr. Eric McDonald, the county’s medical director of epidemiology and immunizations services, said the county is also working with partners to increase its coronavirus testing capacity and expected it may be able to step up testing in one to two weeks. For now, health officials said, only those who require medical care should be tested.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher also noted the county is working to secure at least 2,000 motel rooms for vulnerable San Diegans – whether they are homeless, nursing home residents or simply don’t have a safe place to stay – who may be awaiting a test result or showing symptoms of coronavirus but not require hospitalization.

As of Monday, Fletcher said, the county had secured 227 rooms and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless is working to obtain more motel rooms for homeless San Diegans who are at risk of coronavirus who have not been referred by a healthcare provider. 

  • Community leaders joined Fletcher Monday morning to announce the creation of a fund to back local nonprofits’ efforts to provide food aid, rental and utility support and income assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • City Council President Georgette Gómez has called a special 2 p.m. City Council hearing today at Golden Hall to ratify Faulconer’s recent emergency declaration and act on a series of proposed policies including a temporary moratorium on evictions, potential relief for laid off or furloughed workers and more.
  • The San Diego Superior Court early Monday said most court operations would halt through at least April 3 and the Union-Tribune reports that the federal court is expected to announce that it will suspend all proceedings until at least mid-April.
  • The Sheriff’s Department also told the U-T it would release some inmates early and had begun booking fewer people into county jails.

Bry Now Ahead in Race for 2nd in Mayoral Primary

Councilwoman Barbara Bry took a nine-vote (9!) lead in the latest count released by the Registrar of Voters Monday. Bry and Councilman Scott Sherman have nearly the exact same percentage of the total 339,000 votes counted so far. But Bry has been slowly eating at the approximately 3,000-vote lead Sherman had on Election Day. 

Monday, it finally flipped. If she can hold the lead, she will face Assemblyman Todd Gloria in the November general election and the mayor’s office will be guaranteed to be occupied by a Democrat. 

Docs Show Officials Rushed to Open 101 Ash St. Despite Concerns

Legal claims filed against San Diego over 101 Ash St. are rolling in. 

The downtown high-rise was supposed to house hundreds of city workers, but it was hit last year with  notices of violation by county air pollution regulators for asbestos-related problems. In January, the city evacuated the property. Since then, multiple contractors and at least one Public Works Department employee have come forward to give their perspectives on what went wrong. 

As Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt report, many of those descriptions mirror one another and they suggest that city officials dismissed or downplayed safety concerns during an extensive remodel of the property and pressed ahead with plans to occupy the building amid public pressure. 

The Environment Report Is Back (and Meet MacKenzie!)

Welp, our new environmental reporter had an interesting first two weeks in the newsroom.

In her first spin at the Environment Report, MacKenzie Elmer introduces herself and her background pursuing climate journalism.

The climate crisis, of course, is the story she thought she’d be jumping into. Then the coronavirus hit just as she started. She’s got thoughts on both in her first newsletter.

If you’ve got any story tips or ideas you’d like to share with MacKenzie, you can reach her at mackenzie@voiceofsandiego.org.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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