Third Avenue in Chula Vista / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

The South Bay has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Local restaurants have struggled to stay open, hospitals have been overwhelmed and communities there continue to have among the highest case rates in the county.

In a new story, Brittany Cruz-Fejeran and Maya Srikrishnan spoke with a restaurant owner, a hospital worker, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas and more residents and business owners about how the pandemic has impacted their lives.

“I’m worried, but more than worried, I’m sad because everything has changed,” said one child care provider.

Although testing has been expanded as well as other efforts to help stop the spread of the virus, Cruz-Fejeran and Srikrishnan report that the local situation has revealed deep-seated disparities in race, socioeconomic status and health care that exist in the South Bay.

Weber Wants SoS Job Beyond 2022

The biggest outstanding question from Tuesday’s bombshell news that Gov. Gavin Newsom has tapped San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber to take over the job of secretary of state was whether she’d bow out in 2022, when the person in that role would run for a full term.

Multiple colleagues of Weber’s in the Legislature, including fellow San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, have already been running for the gig for some time.

But at a press event with Newsom Wednesday, Weber said she will indeed campaign for a full term. 

“I don’t take on a task just to be someone who holds down the fort while something else is going on,” Weber said, as reported by the Sacramento Bee. “I suspect we will run a very active and aggressive campaign. … There are colleagues who also have an interest in that, and I understand that and they have a right to run if they choose to, but I do plan to run in 2022.”

Sheriff Might Backtrack on Contracting Out Jail Health Services

In a memo to County Medical Services Division staff Wednesday, Undersheriff Michael Barnett wrote that in reviewing proposals from outside contractors seeking to take over providing health care in local jails, “it has become clear to me that our use of extensive and varied contracted services is problematic and does not serve to achieve optimum outcomes for the population we provide these services to.”

San Diego County jails have seen an average higher than one inmate dying per month, every month since 2009, when Sheriff Bill Gore took over, a San Diego Union-Tribune investigation found last year. That is a higher mortality rate than other large California county jail systems. Over the past decade, the county paid at least $7.9 million to families of people who died or were badly injured in jail, the U-T’s investigation found.

“What was also clear to me is any problems with providing optimum medical care to our inmates are not due to any shortcomings with our existing staff at the Medical Services Division,” Barnett wrote. 

SEIU Local 221 took credit for the move and said its advocacy led the sheriff to abandon “the reckless plan to outsource detention staff,” said David Garcias, president of SEIU Local 221. “While stopping this process prevents additional threats to lives and public health, the fight is not over. The Sheriff needs to listen to his constituents and begin to work collaboratively with other departments to create a restorative model of care under Health and Human Services.”

Smart Streetlights Are Off But Still Helping Police

Earlier this year, San Diego officials ordered staff to turn off its network of smart streetlights, but thanks to a frankly hilarious series of twists, it turns out the city can’t actually turn them off, so they’re still recording. The footage automatically deletes itself after five days.

So when El Cajon police came to the city asking for footage they wanted to review as part of an investigation, San Diego couldn’t just call up the footage. So it did the next best thing: It took the streetlight down and physically handed it over to El Cajon.

That’s not the only time outside police agencies have managed to tap into San Diego’s streetlight network, VOSD’s Jesse Marx reports. 

In addition to El Cajon police and the DA’s office, “SDPD has also shared streetlight camera footage with state and federal agencies, including the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center, a federally recognized hub of intelligence and investigative support.”

Here Are Our Favorite Stories of 2020

Perhaps the best thing we can say about this truly insane year is that it’s almost over. But amid all the heartbreak and horror, VOSD reporters produced some remarkable journalism chronicling the colliding coronavirus and racial injustice crises, the 2020 election and much more.

In our annual list compiled by contributor Randy Dotinga, VOSD reporters, editors and contributors took some time to reflect on our favorite pieces this year, what made them special and offer some updates on what’s happening with each one.

In Other News

If you liked us in 2020, help us get started for next year today. Become a member for $3/month.

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood, Maya Srikrishnan and Sara Libby.

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