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The city of San Diego is temporarily housing homeless residents at the Convention Center in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego quickly moved hundreds of homeless into the Convention Center this month. Regional leaders would like to get those same people into permanent housing but they’re grappling with the next step.

Lisa Halverstadt reports that it’ll be a herculean effort.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer is proposing that the city, county and nonprofits work together to identify the barriers preventing every single individual from getting a place of their own.

“Let’s put an army to it,” he said, “and let’s change the dynamic.”

Nineteen homeless San Diegans in the Convention Center have secured permanent or longer-term homes so far, according to city officials. More than 1,000 are still in need.

A lack of available low-income housing has long crippled the region’s efforts to reduce homelessness, but the pandemic may offer an opportunity. The board of the San Diego Housing Commission just gave its staff permission to begin negotiating with owners of 10 small hotels in hopes of the city one day purchasing them for the homeless.

The City Council, as Andrew Keatts reported last week, is not yet sold on the idea

That’s not the only challenge …

Two homeless San Diegans staying at the Convention Center shelter have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The mayor’s office announced that the two positive cases were discovered Saturday after more than 660 shelter residents, staffers and volunteers were tested for the virus.

Both of the residents who tested positive were moved to county-funded hotel rooms for patients with COVID-19 though one initially refused aid after learning of the positive result, leading to a public health order mandating the person to isolate.

Mayor’s office spokeswoman Ashley Bailey said county investigators were working to determine if there had been “significant exposures” that might require retesting or other steps.

Bailey said the two people who tested positive were considered asymptomatic, meaning they did not exhibit signs of the virus. Their cots were immediately sanitized.

Family Health Centers of San Diego began conducting COVID-19 tests at the Convention Center earlier this month. Father Joe’s Villages, which is partnering with UC San Diego Health, is set to begin conducting tests at the Convention Center on Monday.

The large-scale testing in San Diego now required for those staying at the temporary shelter follows dozens of positive tests in homeless shelters in cities including Boston and San Francisco. In those two cities, many who tested positive had not shown symptoms of coronavirus.

Federal Relief Money Probably Won’t Save San Diego Budgets

San Diego County has spent $30 million on COVID-19 response efforts to date and that amount is expected to rise to $60 million by June 30. Considering those numbers you’d figure officials would be excited to receive $334 million from the federal stimulus CARES Act last week, but the reaction was meh

That’s because the money is intended as one-time funding for immediate response efforts. It can’t be used to make up for tax revenue losses and other indirect costs stemming from the virus. 

The county’s general manager estimates that the indirect impacts will result in a shortfall of $260 million to $395 million for the coming fiscal year. Ashly McGlone has a breakdown of the county’s monthly COVID-19 tab. 

The city of San Diego also got $248 million from the feds, and it is faced with the same question of what qualifies as COVID-19-related expenses and what doesn’t. 

Get to Know Your Pandemic Power-Brokers

There’s not much precedent for the state of emergency that we’re experiencing and navigating through it certainly isn’t easy. Will Huntsberry and Adriana Heldiz put together this handy video to help you understand who’s making these very high-level decisions

From Gov. Gavin Newsom down to Faulconer, each has a specific role to play. We spoke to Faulconer for this week’s podcast about what the last couple weeks have been like. There are also numerous county public health officials — arguably the most important people overseeing the pandemic response — who coordinate the region’s testing and contact tracing strategy, and give guidance on when, for instance, to close restaurants and bars.  

Next, they’ll have to decide exactly when to start easing those same restrictions. Those decisions could be more consequential than the ones they’ve already made. 

Which reminds us …

Brah, the Ocean’s, Like, Legal Again

San Diego County lifted its prohibition against people recreating in the water. But because many of the beaches are managed by cities, it’s now up to local leaders to decide when to actually open up the access points. 

City of San Diego beaches are reopening at sunrise Monday, but officials are warning that social distancing requirements remain. As NBC San Diego noted, running and walking are cool, but you can’t sit or lie on the sand. You can swim, surf, kayak and paddleboard in the water, but you can’t boat yet. 

Coronado is also reopening some beaches Monday — Mayor Richard Bailey said the dog park will remain closed — but not all cities are rushing to open back up. Del Mar, Solana Beach, Carlsbad and Encinitas all signaled that they needed more time to prepare. 

“Unfortunately, the cities were anticipating an opening around May 1 or later, and weren’t given much advance notice of the county’s prohibition being lifted,” Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear wrote in her newsletter. Staffing, signage and monitoring are a concern. 

Encinitas was the site of another protest this weekend. City News Service reports that between 75 and 100 people showed up. The Sheriff’s Department arrested three for allegedly violating health orders. Protesters also gathered in Pacific Beach

Politics Roundup

  • Supervisor Nathan Fletcher has become the de facto narrator of the county’s coronavirus response even though he doesn’t wield any more power than his Republican colleagues. We explain how this came to be in the Politics Report and also point to an interesting new poll by the Progressive Labor Alliance, which is testing the waters on a new hotel tax increase. 
  • Normally, Sacramento would be in full swing right now. In the absence of regular hearings, legislators have tried to flex their oversight muscles. Some have expressed criticism that the governor isn’t releasing enough information, but Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins is not one of them. She said she’d satisfied Gavin Newsom’s communications. 

In Other News

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

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