San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox attends at a press conference about the coronavirus pandemic. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

City and county workers are grappling with how to comply with directives their own governments have given out to everyone else.

Maya Srikrishnan found government workers are experiencing challenges working remotely.

San Diego County is letting some non-essential workers telecommute but the implementation has been slow and uneven, leading some employees to use sick time. Meanwhile, some cut employees are continuing to report to work.

Michael Zucchet of the city’s union for white-collar workers told Srikrishnan that’s led to lots of discussions about who should be allowed to work from home as the realities of the coronavirus outbreak and various directives change daily.

“Trust me, this is, like, all we’ve been working on,” Zucchet said.

Also: Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced a $4 million relief package for small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus, City News Service reports. The mayor said he expects the fund, which will provide zero-interest micro loans, to grow as other partners join the city. 

MTS Mulling Service Cuts

The Metropolitan Transit System may significantly pare back its service as ridership plummets.

Andrew Keatts reports that ridership has fallen by as much as 30 percent on the trolley and 90 percent on some bus routes amid increased government directives, leading MTS CEO Paul Jablonski to reveal that the agency may be forced to cut back in the face of declining revenues.

Keatts notes that MTS’s announcement could foreshadow other tough local government decisions as various agencies and municipalities see revenues they rely on plunge. 

MTS announced late Wednesday that the agency would keep service where it was until at least March 31.

“Regardless of service levels, we will continue to sanitize our system daily using cleaners recommended by the CDC,” said MTS CEO Paul Jablonski.  

County Issues New COVID-19 Directives

The county public health officer announced new restrictions Wednesday forcing the closure of gyms and fitness centers and barring gatherings of more than 10 people effective today.

Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten said those limits on gatherings apply to childcare facilities but not to airports, transit systems or other spaces where social distancing is feasible.

Wooten said she was set to discuss potentially more draconian steps such as the shelter in place orders issued in Bay Area Counties with other Southern California public health officers on Wednesday evening.

Dr. Eric McDonald, the county’s medical director of epidemiology and immunizations services, urged San Diegans to prepare themselves for that potential outcome by obtaining needed medications and food.

“It should not be surprising if that happens in the future,” McDonald said.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher also announced that the county has now secured 1,472 motel rooms for people who have tested positive for coronavirus or are exhibiting symptoms but do not have a safe place to stay. This can include homeless San Diegans, seniors who now live in congregant settings or others who don’t have a safe place to recover.

Fletcher said the Regional Task Force on the Homeless would operate 100 of those rooms for homeless San Diegans considered most at risk including those over 65 and those with chronic medical conditions.

Games Folded: Leaders of five Native American tribes announced their San Diego County casinos will close by noon Friday through the end of the month in response to the global pandemic. Wooten’s order extended to casinos.

Here’s the Deal About Going Outdoors

Wooten also told the public Wednesday that the county’s ban on large gatherings at facilities includes outdoor spaces. 

For days, city and county agencies have been closing recreation centers and pools, but trails, beaches and parks mostly remain open. They are a source of refuge in these weird, tense and potentially deadly times.

We asked Jesse Marx to explain what exactly officials want us to do when we’re outside. There doesn’t appear to be a problem with the outdoors generally. But that could soon change.

Marx went to Balboa Park for himself Wednesday. He found a retiree who said he’d isolated the day before and that was all he could stand. 

“One day is enough,” he said. “You need air.”


Supes Give Advice: Feed Seniors, Keep Kids Indoors and Rally Around Business

Kayla Jimenez checked in on supervisors Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar and reports that the North County politicians are putting the spotlight on businesses, school kids and seniors as the coronavirus spreads and governments react.

The county has recommended that all people 65 or older self-quarantine, and there are resources available connecting seniors with food delivery services. Gaspar said she’s also available to talk to local business owners about their individual industry concerns.

Also in the North County Report: Escondido City Councilwoman Olga Diaz conceded her bid for the county’s District 3 seat on the Board of Supervisors. She’ll serve out the rest of her current term in Escondido and step down. 

Gaspar will face Democrat Terra Lawson-Remer in November. 

School Budget Cuts Take Toll on At-Risk Students

Students, teachers and families say the Sweetwater Union High School District’s decision to close learning centers is going to hurt at-risk students who do not fit in a traditional classroom.

KPBS interviewed an 18-year-old who’s unable to attend school during normal hours because of her physical and learning disabilities. For her and her family, the learning centers have been a “blessing.” The district has said little about how it intends to transition her and other learning center students into different programs.

To close a $30 million budget deficit, Sweetwater is also laying off teachers, librarians and other staff

In Other News

This Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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