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Dr. Eric McDonald, a public health officer, speaks at a press conference about the coronavirus pandemic. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Before San Diegans can break the chains of alienation and go skipping back into the sunlight — by which we mean, you know, ease up on social distancing — hospitalization rates will need to flatten and testing will need to become widespread. 

We’re not there yet. 

But once that happens, the task of restarting life and the economy will depend on how effectively public health officials can reconstruct the steps of people who test positive for COVID-19 to get a sense of who else might be infected. 

This concept is known as contact tracing, and in San Diego County it’s done the old-fashioned way: Officials interview the sick. 

In a new piece, Jesse Marx explains the ways that contact tracing could play out locally going forward and how it is playing out elsewhere with the aid of technology. California is looking to hire more contact tracers and is evaluating various apps to help digitize and scale up the process. 

Researchers and activists are uneasy about the prospect about opening a backdoor to surveillance. There’s no immediate plan in place in San Diego to recommend everyone download an app and voluntarily give up their location or contact history. 

At least one of the region’s largest employers, SDG&E, has started digital contact tracing on its own. 

As for testing: County officials announced a new regional task force to figure out ways to expand testing capacity with an emphasis on vulnerable populations. Will Huntsberry reported last week that the region’s coronavirus testing is stagnant

Fewer Domestic Violence Calls May Not Be a Good Thing

Police departments have seen a drop in domestic violence-related calls in recent weeks. That sounds like a positive development, but there may be a darker explanation. 

Service providers who work with survivors told Maya Srikrishnan that they’re getting more calls and hearing stories not just about injuries but abusers withholding things like hand sanitizer and access to health care. 

“Any free time that a victim had to reach out to anyone — when the abuser is at work, when they drop their kids off at school — are diminished,” said the CEO of one nonprofit. “An abuser has abilities to maintain higher levels of control.” 

There are other unique challenges during the pandemic. Programs meant to prevent domestic violence must be re-worked for online, and it’s becoming harder to place survivors in permanent housing or get a restraining order. 

Pols and Residents Ratchet Up Calls to Reopen Public Space

San Diego is one of few places to completely prohibit the public from open spaces, and as Scott Lewis noted in the Politics Report, an increasing number of people are pushing back

San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry called on the city to reopen parks and beaches as soon as the first week of May. Outdoor space was particularly important for residents who live in dense neighborhoods, she said. In an op-ed for KUSI, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey argued that surfing should not be a crime

Then this happened: A couple hundred people gathered downtown Saturday in defiance of public health experts and in opposition to city and state shelter-in-place orders, including the closure of Balboa Park. City News Services described Ronald Ogden as the event organizer — he’s the same guy who helped orchestrate the flag and mural protests in Chicano Park a couple years ago. 

Ogden and others were quoted downplaying the seriousness of COVID-19 and demanding that life just go back to normal. They’ve been encouraged by the president of the United States. 

San Diego police monitored the rally, but a spokesman said officers did not want to cite anyone and hoped the protesters would disperse after voicing their frustrations

Politics Roundup

What Distance Learning Looks Like in North County

School officials have made sudden and critical decisions over the last month about what distance learning looks like in individual communities. Kayla Jimenez surveyed three North County school districts on how they’re supporting families who can’t afford electronic devices or lack access to the internet

Escondido Union School District, for instance, has opened up six parking lots on weekdays so that families and community members can use the internet. They’re also allowing families to choose the option of old-fashioned paper packets of school work if it’s too difficult for them to access the internet.

Parents are getting a fair amount of guidance on setting up classrooms in their homes, but there are lingering questions about what student success looks like now. 

In a new podcast, our friends at NBC San Diego also heard from parents about what is and isn’t working for distance learning and keeping their children’s grades on track. 

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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