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Local VA workers pleaded with their supervisors to work from home as the novel coronavirus swept through San Diego. But several employees told VOSD that VA leaders resisted telework requests, and a number of workers have now tested positive, and others are sick or awaiting test results.
Maya Srikrishnan spoke to more than a dozen VA employees from different departments who told the same story.
After asking to telework, they say they were presented with an unappealing dilemma: use their leave time or go unpaid, or come into the office.
In a statement, a VA spokesperson said they offer telework whenever possible, and they’ve instructed all employees not to come into the office if they feel ill.
Still, a March 24 email from San Diego’s VA director, obtained by Voice of San Diego, confirmed five positive tests among VA employees. And employees who spoke to us, whose names we’ve agreed to withhold because they fear retaliation from their employer, say around 20 other employees are demonstrating symptoms and about eight are awaiting test results.
Projections Show the Worst Is Yet to Come
New projections released by the county Wednesday show two troubling possibilities: The number of COVID-19 cases may not peak for at least six weeks, and even when the peak occurs we may not have enough hospital beds for the patients who need them.
Meanwhile, a local scientist says this is a critical week in San Diego for fighting the spread of coronavirus.
“If we don’t want to let this balloon out of control, we need to stop it literally right now,” said Forest Rohwer, a biology professor who studies viruses at San Diego State University.
Rohwer said this week is especially important because models suggest that cases could overwhelm hospitals two weeks from now under some scenarios. It typically takes that amount of time for patients to need to be hospitalized after they’re infected, he said, so this week is what he calls the “inflection point” that will decide whether we go down a road toward extreme sickness and death.
City Council Stops Evictions, Creates Relief Fund
The San Diego City Council Wednesday unanimously approved a temporary moratorium on evictions of residents and businesses due to financial hardship caused by the coronavirus outbreak. In effect now through May 31, tenants affected by coronavirus will be allowed up to six months to settle any unpaid rent.
The Council also voted to establish a $6.1 million relief fund to support small businesses of fewer than 100 employees. It will repurpose nearly $4 million in existing grant funding.
In a statement following the meeting, Councilman Chris Ward said “the Small Business Relief Fund is a vital step toward providing relief to our small businesses and the many San Diegans that they employ. However, this is just a first step, San Diegans will need major, systematic support at the state and federal levels that goes far beyond what we can do at the city level.”
- Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that some major banks have agreed to provide mortgage relief to homeowners who are struggling to make their monthly payments. He said 1 million Californians have applied for unemployment since March 13.
Major City Leaseholders Ask for Rent Relief
Companies that lease city-owned land in Mission Bay Park – SeaWorld, hotels and others – are begging the city to offer relief from required rent payments as the tanking economy drags down their businesses.
In a letter sent to the mayor Wednesday morning, they asked for 90 days in which they could pay monthly rent well below their minimum monthly payment in their agreement with the city. Their lease terms with the city usually establish minimum rents that increase based on the pace of business.
“The impact grows daily and is now significantly greater than that of 9/11 and the 2009 recession combined,” wrote Mission Bay hotelier Bill Evans in the letter.
He said most businesses have seen revenue declines in excess of 90 percent.
In Other News
- California’s fishing industry – including what remains of San Diego’s industry – is also getting crushed by the pandemic’s economic impacts, as they’ve lost the primary place they sell their catch: restaurants. (inewsource)
- John Cox, the former Republican nominee for governor, announced that he tested positive for the virus. (Union-Tribune)
- The Cohn Restaurant group has been forced to lay off 1,700 of the 2,000 employees in its 12 restaurants. It’s now trying to distribute Visa gift cards to up to 500 workers to cover essentials during the crisis. (Union-Tribune)
- NBC San Diego examined the numbers and found men between the ages of 20 and 39 have the highest COVID-19 infection rates in San Diego County.
The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood, and edited by Sara Libby.