The Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Attorneys, inmates and even one staff member at the Donovan state prison in southern San Diego County say the practices inside the facility make it a potential powder keg for the spread of the novel coronavirus, a reality that could be devastating given that it houses some of the state’s medically fragile patients.

“Some people feel like they’ve been given a possible death sentence,” one attorney with clients in the prison told VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan. 

“An inability to social distance, inadequate hygiene in shared areas like showers and inconsistency in how different parts of the prison implement measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus are among the concerns highlighted,” Srikrishnan reports.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the agency has restricted inmate movement and taken other precautions to prevent the potential spread of the virus.

One staff member said they don’t believe enough is being done to protect inmates, and expressed concern about personal protective equipment and the fact that the facility has continued to accept transfers from other facilities that have reported outbreaks.

So far Donovan hasn’t reported any positive cases of the virus.

Neighborhood Parks Set to Reopen

Pepper Grove Playground near Balboa Park is one of many parks closed by the city of San Diego in an effort to encourage social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Facing pressure to give residents more options to get outside, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced neighborhood parks will reopen beginning Tuesday with restrictions.

Gathering in groups and participating in sports will still be banned. Parking lots, recreation centers, play structures and sporting areas will also remain closed,” the U-T reports.

Regional parks like Mission Bay Park and Balboa Park will remain closed. Beaches, boardwalks and dog parks will also stay closed. But if you can walk to a small park near your home, it’s likely going to be open. Playgrounds and other equipment is still off limits and city officials emphasized the public must stay separated and should be wearing masks.

County health officials, meanwhile, detailed what criteria they’ll use to make decisions about reopening beaches, businesses and more.

“[Dr. Wilma] Wooten said the two key metrics for reopening are 14-day downward trends in both the percentage of positive tests and the number of new hospitalizations,” Times of San Diego reported.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Monday officials are working with leaders of coastal cities to discuss when to lift restrictions on beach access. 

Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey has begun circulating a petition to relax other recreational restrictions like the one on boating. He called county health directives “arbitrary” and an “abuse of power.” County Supervisor Greg Cox, who’s district includes Coronado, said he disagreed.

Law Enforcement Handled Protesters Differently

On Twitter, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez asked the Sheriff’s Department to explain why demonstrators who remained in their cars while protesting conditions in the Otay Mesa Detention Facility last week were issued citations, while Encinitas residents who did not adhere to social distancing guidelines while protesting stay-at-home orders over the weekend were not. County officials in their press conference on Monday directed a reporter who asked about the enforcement disparity to the Sheriff’s Department.

SDPD and the Sheriff’s Department issued a joint statement about enforcement efforts on Monday but didn’t directly address the disparity Gonzalez highlighted: “While no citations were issued at [this weekend’s] protests, that does not mean prosecution will not be sought, especially to the organizers of these events,” the statement said, according to the Union-Tribune.

School Officials Work to Track Down Homeless Students

As San Diego Unified continues to work out the “soft” launch of its online learning program (graded work officially begins April 27), district officials and individual teachers are scrambling to track down and connect with homeless students who haven’t logged in to the system yet.

As of last year, the district had more than 8,000 homeless students.

The district connected with homeless shelter Father Joe’s Villages to ensure families staying there could pick up devices on which to complete online work, but even then, challenges remain.

“But 25 San Diego Unified students living in Father Joe’s shelter were unable to connect to the internet on the devices using the two-month free Cox program suggested by the district because it required a residential address. Computer labs onsite are currently closed,” Ashly McGlone reports. “After speaking with San Diego Unified officials, the district agreed to provide Wi-Fi hotspots at the shelter so students could connect.”

The shelter said it also is housing families with students who attend other districts throughout the county.

One homeless services provider in North County said education isn’t the first priority for many of the families he works with; they’re focused on ensuring they have food and a place to sleep.

Officials Worry Tijuana’s Struggles Could Cross the Border

San Diego and Tijuana are in much different places when it comes to the coronavirus: While San Diego’s curve appears to be flattening, Tijuana hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.

It’s not clear whether Tijuana’s experience with the virus is tied to a higher percentage of positive tests in San Diego’s South Bay than in the rest of the county, but officials are watching the situation closely.

“Border crossings have fallen significantly since the federal government restricted recreational and tourist border crossings in March but crossing for medical visits is still considered ‘essential’ and is allowed, Maya Srikrishnan reports in the latest Border Report.

In Other News

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

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