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Jose and Teresa Torres died from COVID-19 in 2020. / Photo courtesy of Diana Gimenez

The newest revelation in Voice of San Diego’s ongoing series about COVID-19’s death toll is uniquely shocking: More than half of the people who died in San Diego County were immigrants. 

Voice of San Diego created a database of death records for every person who died related to COVID during the first year of the pandemic. The county lost 4,046 people between March 22, 2020 and March 22, 2021, according to the death certificates.

There are several reasons to suspect immigrants should not have been such a large portion of the death toll. San Diego County is made up of just 23 percent immigrants, but immigrants represented more than half of all deaths. And according to the “healthy immigrant effect,” immigrants to the United States are supposed to be healthier than the native population – meaning they should have been less likely to die from COVID. 

But immigrants also face unique challenges. They are less likely to have access to medical care, public health experts said. They also face unique language challenges that may have been critical during the pandemic’s first year. If they weren’t getting good information in their home language, they wouldn’t have known how to protect against the virus. 

Immigrants are also more likely to live in poorer areas. Those poorer areas were correlated with higher death rates, as VOSD showed in an earlier story

They also were more likely to be doing essential work and live in multi-generational housing. 

Read our story about immigrant death rates here. 

Click here to see all the stories and interactive features in our Year One: COVID-19’s Death Toll series.

Ex-Faulconer Chief Also Ensnared in Battle Over Buildings

The 101 Ash St. building / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Last week, the Union-Tribune broke the news that former Mayor Kevin Faulconer is set to be deposed on Dec.15 about his role in the debacle surrounding the acquisitions of a downtown high rise that has now sat empty for almost two years and another the city has occupied for years.

Onetime Faulconer chief of staff Stephen Puetz, a Republican political consultant who has continued to advise the former mayor, is scheduled to sit down with attorneys on Dec. 13.

The initial subpoenas came from attorneys for Jason Hughes, a purported volunteer city real estate adviser who was paid a previously undisclosed $9.4 million for his work on the city’s 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza lease deals. Attorneys for the city sought to cancel both deals after the payments to Hughes went public — and the legal cases have now ensnared the former mayor and his deputy.

Hughes’ attorney Michael Attanasio has alleged that Faulconer and Puetz signed off on Hughes’ ability to be paid for his work on complex deals — and provided some receipts. Over the summer, Attanasio shared 2014 text messages between Hughes and Puetz and a letter signed by the city’s former real estate director to try to prove his point. (The former real estate chief has said she doesn’t recall signing the letter.)

“I’m hoping to get out of Mr. Puetz and the former mayor their truthful testimony regarding the fact that they both knew about and approved my client’s intent to be paid by third parties on lease-to-own transactions such as (Civic Center Plaza),” Attanasio said.

Attorney Ed Chapin, who is representing both Faulconer and Puetz, confirmed that his clients will sit for depositions but declined to say what they might offer up.

Puetz has denied that he or the former mayor authorized any arrangements to pay Hughes, as has Faulconer through spokespeople. 

“As he has consistently relayed in public statements, former Mayor Faulconer had no knowledge of payments to Mr. Hughes until it was reported in the news media,” Chapin told the U-T last week.

Related: A Superior Court judge on Tuesday declined to immediately order a lobbyist involved in potential 101 Ash St. settlement discussions between the city and its landlord to submit to a deposition. The U-T previously reported that Chris Wahl did not appear for a scheduled deposition last month.

After Wahl’s attorney promised to provide a deposition date within a few days, Judge Joel Wohlfeil said he would set a January hearing to consider whether an order would ultimately be necessary to ensure the deposition happens.

In Other News 

This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Will Huntsberry. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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