Jim Desmond appears at Golden Hall on Election Night. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego County officials are leading the charge on the regional response to the coronavirus.

So it’s a little awkward that a county supervisor has positioned himself as the most high-profile local skeptic of the virus.

In a new story, Voice of San Diego contributor Katy Stegall writes that Supervisor Jim Desmond, who represents North County communities, has elevated personalities on his podcast who believe health authorities are overplaying the risks of COVID-19, particularly in schools.

Desmond even garnered national media attention in May when he said the county had only had six “pure” coronavirus deaths since most who have died have underlying health conditions.

Desmond’s podcast guests and commentary have put him at odds with some health experts and fellow Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who has argued that Desmond is spreading false information that undermines the county’s coronavirus response.

Miles Himmel, a Desmond spokesman, said the supervisor doesn’t endorse all the opinions shared on his podcast and gets his data from the county, though Stegall found his numbers haven’t always matched up with those provided by county officials.

County Preparing Reopening Plan

San Diego County officials are working with the state on a plan to re-open certain businesses, now that the county is off the state’s monitoring list, and could release the outline next week, the Union-Tribune reports. One detail from the U-T’s story: The county cannot land back on the state’s watch list unless it has three consecutive days exceeding state thresholds. 

Take a Ride on the Rollercoaster That Is Rideshare News

In less than 24 hours, all of these things happened: Mayor Kevin Faulconer urged an appellate court to suspend an order that would require Uber and Lyft to treat their drivers as employees, Lyft announced it would suspend operations in California starting Thursday night and the appellate court granted Faulconer’s wish and put a stay on the earlier order.

That means both companies will keep operating after all, presuming they both agree to the court’s order. There are a lot of caveats.

Both companies have five days to agree to the conditions the court laid out, including a schedule that would have arguments take place before voters weigh in on a ballot measure to exempt the companies from AB 5, and that both companies’ CEOs must submit sworn statements confirming they’ve implemented plans to make drivers employees in the event they lose the lawsuit and Prop. 22 fails.

San Diego Continues to Pursue Hotels for Homeless

State officials on Thursday revealed they have received three San Diego County applications from unspecified municipalities that hope to use state Project Homekey funds to buy hotels to house homeless people. The three applications totaled $35.7 million for 477 units, according to data obtained by CalMatters.

The San Diego Housing Commission earlier this month voted to allow staffers to apply Project Homekey funds to buy at least two unspecified hotels. The Project Homekey initiative is the second phase of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Project Roomkey initiative, which aimed to temporarily shelter thousands of vulnerable homeless Californians during the coronavirus pandemic.

A Housing Commission spokesman said he could not provide details on the commission’s applications, including whether it had submitted all three proposals to the state. This year’s Housing Commission budget includes $29 million for the hotel purchases.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other city officials are hoping hotel rooms could become permanent homes for many homeless San Diegans now staying at the Convention Center shelter, which is expected to close later this year.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher also announced Thursday that he plans to ask fellow supervisors to allocate $5.4 million to provide mental health and substance use services for those who will live in the hotel rooms.

“I believe as a county, that’s our share of the load,” Fletcher said.

County officials have previously said they were considering whether to apply for state funds.

News Roundup

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby. 

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