A patient waits to be helped at San Ysidro Health. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A crisis hits society the way it is, not the way it wishes it was, and never has that been more true than in the disproportionate impacts COVID-19 has wrought on Latino communities.

Latinos make up just 34 percent of San Diego County, yet they account for 62 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases, 61 percent of hospitalizations and 45 percent of deaths.

The pandemic has exposed the inequities that have long-plagued the region’s Latino communities, and it’s those inequities driving its disproportionate impact in those communities, as Maya Srikrishnan reveals in a new story.

Latinos are overrepresented in both high-contact jobs and among essential workers, making them more likely to be exposed to the virus than those who can stay home.

They also live in more crowded homes – 6.7 percent of the county live in households with more than one person per room, compared with 17 percent of Latinos. That means it’s harder for Latinos to isolate when a family member catches the virus, and due to incomplete data it’s unclear whether they’ve been able to take advantage of the county’s hotel room quarantine program.

And due to environmental justice and public health disparities, Latinos have already experienced elevated rates of asthma, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, making them more likely to contract COVID-19, and to experience severe symptoms.

Speaking of those impacted by the coronavirus …

We hosted a virtual town hall Wednesday to discuss what the fall will look like for students and how new private options threaten to exacerbate the achievement gaps that already exist.

We heard from Tyrone Howard, a professor of education at UCLA, who said, “if we don’t do something more urgently in this moment, not just for San Diego but for the other large counties across the state of California, there are a generation of young people who we may never, ever help catch up in this moment.”

San Diego Unified school board member Richard Barrera addressed what the district is doing to try to level the playing field and hinted at the potential to build partnerships with outside organizations. 

“I represent the schools and neighborhoods that feed into San Diego High School and Hoover High School,” he said. “So I wonder about the degree to which we as a system could potentially facilitate parents being able to come together in similar ways to what we’re hearing about now. Can we systematically help organize families into pods? Potentially partner with organizations that may be able to provide tutoring?”

We were also joined by Betzy Lynch of the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center and Alexander Stein of the company Tutors and Friends to hear more about how their programs will operate. If you missed the conversation, you can watch it on our YouTube channel here.

Despite State Orders, 1,600 Californians Evicted During Pandemic

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4, seemingly before the worst effects of the pandemic had been felt in California. He issued a shelter-in-place order and two executive orders on evictions after that, including one on March 27 that he described as an eviction moratorium. But since Newsom declared a state of emergency, 1,600 households have been evicted – including 99 in San Diego – according to a new, sprawling analysis by CALmatters. In June, the San Diego City Council extended its eviction moratorium, on both businesses and households, through the end of September.

Feinstein Wants to Put EPA in Charge of Tijuana Sewage Problem (Though it Already Kinda Is)

The millions of gallons of raw sewage that spill across the U.S.-Mexico border know no political boundary. It breaches property lines drawn by multiple local governments, different U.S. federal departments and even an underfunded international agency.

It’s produced decades of finger-pointing over who should throw real money at the problem of aging wastewater infrastructure and unfortunate topography causing beach closures along the continental coast. 

In a new op-ed, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein thinks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should finally pick up the reins. She and Rep. Juan Vargas  introduced bills to do just that late last month. 

What we need is one agency in charge, taking input from the others so decisions can be made,” Feinstein wrote

It’s not a novel idea. In fact the EPA is already named as the U.S.’s lead agency to work with Mexico on environmental improvement projects under a 1983 pact, commonly known as the La Paz Agreement. 

It’s not clear what Feinstein and Vargas’ bills would do differently as the text of the bills are not yet publicly available. The Senate sent the bill to its Environment and Public Works Committee, on which Feinstein doesn’t serve. 

San Diego’s delegation worked with Feinstein to secure more funding for the border sewage problem. Most notably, a $300 million allocation to the U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Program (the very program established under La Paz Agreement) which EPA’s leader Andrew Wheeler has basically promised to San Diego and Tijuana

That promise was enough to quell a few lawsuits filed by California groups against the federal government for failing to put a stop to the sewage-filled stormwater rolling from Mexico’s hills. 

In Other News

  • For the first time since July 3, San Diego is no longer on the state’s monitoring list for coronavirus infection rate. The county’s case rate per 100,000 residents fell to 94.2 Wednesday, below the state’s threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 residents. If the county stays below 100 for 14 straight days, schools would be allowed to open, though San Diego Unified this week set stricter standards for its re-opening. (City New Service)
  • The city of La Mesa will spend $175,000 on a Chicago-based consulting firm to review the May 30 racial justice protest. As City Councilwoman Kristine Alessio put it: “Why did this get so out of hand and who is to blame?” (Union-Tribune)
  • The La Posta Band of Digueno Mission Indians is suing the Trump administration over construction of a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall they say is desecrating sacred burial sites. (NBC7)
  • Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said he’d like to fill Sen. Kamala Harris’ shoes until 2022 should she vacate her seat to take the vice presidency, an appointment Gov. Gavin Newsom would make. (KUSI)

The Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer, Andrew Keatts and Megan Wood, and edited by Sara Libby.

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