Protesters against COVID-19 mandates and vaccines rally outside of Rady Children’s Hospital. / Photo by Joe Orellana
Protesters against COVID-19 mandates and vaccines rally outside of Rady Children’s Hospital. / Photo by Joe Orellana

Late Tuesday night, San Diego Unified School District’s Board of Education unanimously approved a requirement that all employees of the district and students over the age of 16 get the COVID-19 vaccine if they’re attending in-person school.

The crew that is going from public meeting to public meeting around the region proclaiming this sort of thing the end of freedom made themselves heard but so did supporters.

Vaccine mandates are not new: Nor is the effort to get around them. Two years ago, our Will Huntsberry revealed that a single South Park doctor had written nearly one-third of all vaccination exemptions for San Diego Unified School District since mid-2015.

But there’s news about her: Huntsberry reports that the Medical Board of California has filed new charges against Dr. Tara Zandvliet, who is already on probation as a physician, related to four new cases of improper vaccine exemptions. She is charged with gross and repeated acts of negligence, as well as violating the “ethical code of the medical profession.”

The latest charges follow a previous Medical Board finding that Zandvliet committed gross negligence. At the time, Zandvliet settled with the board and agreed to three years of probation. She did not admit guilt. But she was barred for writing any new vaccine exemptions for three years.

Now the Medical Board is going after permanent vaccine exemptions that Zandvliet wrote for two young children with asthma before those original charges came down. The state concluded that those 2019 exemptions fell outside the bounds of traditionally accepted medical science, making them fair game for the state to crack down on.

Zandvliet defended the 2019 exemptions, saying the children have conditions beyond asthma and that she simply made those exemptions permanent for administrative reasons.

Read Huntsberry’s new story about her here.

Mayor stands firm on cops: Police officers for the city of San Diego have been upset by the mayor’s requirement that they and all city employees get the vaccine. The city is giving employees another month to comply but is not bending to the police officers very public campaign and threat that they would quit if he stuck with it. (Union-Tribune)

Switchfoot Frontman Turned Water Authority Spokesman

Screenshot of the San Diego County Water Authority’s video of Switchfoot singer Jon Foreman’s tour of the seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad / San Diego County Water Authority
Screenshot of the San Diego County Water Authority’s video of Switchfoot singer Jon Foreman’s tour of the seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad / San Diego County Water Authority

Dispatch from Mackenzie Elmer: During a midnight scroll through the Instaverse, an ad from San Diego County Water Authority featuring a platinum-blonde, surfer dude appearing very interested in a body of water caught my attention.

It wasn’t just any platinum-blonde, surfer dude. It was Jon Foreman, the front man for Switchfoot, the Christain-ish rock band from San Diego.

Questions swirled, “fumbling my confidence and wondering why, and how, in the world this passed me by?”

That’s one of the lines from a Switchfoot song. It fits.

Clicking the ad took me to a Water Authority web page, “On Tour with Jon Foreman,” full of videos dating back as early as 2018. There was Foreman, sporting steampunk goggles and a lab coat, swirling test tubes with Vista Irrigation District’s water distribution supervisor; Foreman at Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant; at the Olivenhain Dam; talking with Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, discussing how water is important for San Diego’s bustling biotech and agriculture industries.

In one video, Foreman strokes an acoustic and talks with guitar designer Andy Powers, who says his business in El Cajon is made possible by Water Authority’s “good, clean water supply” for the guitar-making process. “What happens if you don’t have that water supply?” Foreman asks.

“We go elsewhere,” Powers said.

But my favorite Switchfoot Water Authority promo is Foreman’s visit to the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, which turns ocean water into drinking water but is also San Diego’s most expensive water source and part of the reason why our water rates are some of the highest in the state and country. After a sip of the finished product Foreman adds, “I have been in the ocean many times and it does not taste this sweet…I’m thankful our county is doing this.”

I asked Water Authority to explain what I was seeing. The agency said the public outreach and education campaign with Foreman was born out of an effort to reach the 25- to 45-year-old demographic who, increasingly, are “influential homeowners, business professionals and community leaders.”

It’s the first time Water Authority featured a local celebrity in its public campaigns, the agency said. Water Authority got the idea after Municipal Water District of Orange County forged a partnership with surfer Rob Machado.

“We were looking to do something similar by working with a San Diegan who could speak with credibility about the importance of understanding local water issues to young and mid-career adults,” wrote Mike Lee, a Water Authority spokesman in an email.

The agency used some state Department of Water Resources grant funding via Metropolitan Water District to pay for it. The total cost of the three contracts for Foreman’s talent and various video production companies was $198,400, about 62 percent funded by state money. (Foreman apparently only took a small fee, about $5,200 from the last two contracts.)

Newsom Signs Cannabis Access Bill

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday signed Sen. Ben Hueso’s SB 311, which will allow terminally ill patients access to medical cannabis in hospitals.

Newsom vetoed an earlier version of the bill two years ago. At the time, the governor said he couldn’t allow the bill to become law because it would create a conflict for hospitals receiving federal reimbursement for the services they provide.

Since then, the politics of pot have changed, as our Jesse Marx wrote earlier this year after Hueso reintroduced the bill. 

Hueso cheered the news that governor had signed his bill late Tuesday.

“This is a simple, yet critical, move that will provide relief, compassion and dignity to terminally-ill Californians,” Hueso wrote in a statement.

Speaking of cannabis…

We hosted a great discussion Tuesday on the challenges and pathways of operating a social equity program in San Diego’s cannabis industry with freelance journalist Jackie Bryant.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher broke down the challenges that currently exist and the county’s plan moving forward, while local advocates and experts in the industry shared their experiences and thoughts on what they’d like to see in a social equity program.

“We do have the power to do this,” said Andrea St. Julian, an appellate court attorney. “What’s challenging is we have to acknowledge that there are laws and ordinances in place that we’ve got to change, or that we have to implement and put in place so that they work for social equity.”

Click here to watch the full discussion.

In Other News

  • A Wall Street Journal investigation revealed dozens of federal judges “violated U.S. law and judicial ethics” by presiding over cases involving companies they or their family members own stock in. San Diego federal Judge Janis Sammartino had the second highest number of recusal violations.
  • The Union-Tribune reports that industrial polluters will face increased fees for the first time since 1984 starting next summer.
  • A recent city audit found San Diego businesses vandalized overnight are receiving unexpected bills for hundreds of dollars from a non-city-approved contractor called to board up their windows when owners aren’t on site, 10 News reports.
  • The state Department of Corrections appeared poised to sign off on a legal settlement mandating that Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego reform its approach to staff misconduct allegations but inewsource found another legal challenge could stymie that court oversight.
  • The Union-Tribune reports that UC San Diego is expected to get the go-ahead this week to proceed with the first phase of a $2.5 billion reconstruction plan for its Hillcrest hospital campus.
  • Newly formed Forever Balboa Park, the nonprofit organization that resulted from the merger of the Balboa Park Conservancy and the Friends of Balboa Park, just kicked off a national search for a CEO. The group hopes to have its new leader at the helm early next year.

Corrections: In yesterday’s Morning Report, we discussed the percentages of people statewide and in the county who had gotten fully vaccinated. But we should have clarified they are percentages of “eligible” people. Kids under 12 are not yet eligible.

A previous version of this article referred to the city of San Diego’s requirement that city employees get vaccinated, or submit to regular COVID-19 testing. The city does not allow employees to opt out of the mandate by submitting to regular testing.

This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Megan Wood, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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