temporary bridge shelter
One of the bridge shelter tents that the Lucky Duck Foundation donated is still in operation in Barrio Logan. The other now sits in storage unused in Chula Vista. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

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About 50 homeless residents staying in city-funded shelters tested positive for coronavirus last week as San Diegans prepared to celebrate New Years.

Per city and county protocols, homeless residents who contract COVID typically isolate temporarily at or near the shelter facility before moving onto a county-backed hotel room where they can safely stay for at least 10 days.

But as our Lisa Halverstadt reports, there was no room at the county-operated inns last week, leading two homeless service providers and the city’s Housing Commission to scramble to provide safe places for shelter dwellers who tested positive.

As of Wednesday, Halverstadt reports about 40 people who had been staying at four Alpha Project and Father Joe’s Villages shelters were continuing to isolate in party tents that the nonprofits fashioned into makeshift isolation spaces.

A spokesman said the county on Monday added 40 isolation hotel rooms in response to the surge in cases, though, as of Wednesday, just two homeless San Diegans isolating in tents had moved into county rooms.

Another round of test results are expected this week that could translate into another rush of shelter dwellers in need of a safe place to isolate. For now, the city has paused intakes at the Alpha Project and Father Joe’s shelters dealing with outbreaks.

City shelters have also struggled to access county hotels before. Father Joe’s reported during an August outbreak that it took as long as four days for some shelter residents who received positive test results to move from the makeshift isolation areas into county hotel rooms. Months later, the county said it expected some Alpha Project and Father Joe’s residents would complete their 10-day isolation periods in those makeshift shelters.

Click here to read Halverstadt’s full story.

COVID’s Putting a Strain On, Well, Everyone

A Bear Valley Middle School student works on a class assignment in March 2021. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Earlier this week, San Diego County released data showing that the number of COVID-positive patients in hospitals is climbing at a pace not seen since August. In addition to healthcare workers, the post-holiday surge is putting a strain on schools.

The Union-Tribune reports that Helix Charter High in La Mesa has switched to online learning for the rest of the week because of staff shortages. Helix’s director said the charter is temporarily closing its doors out of concern for students and staff who are unvaccinated.

But as the U-T also notes, most districts remained open midway through the week and were filling vacancies in the class with substitutes or central office staff.

Some seem reluctant to return to virtual learning. Bob Muller, executive director for the San Diego County Office of Education, sat down with KPBS Midday Edition to explain the hesitation. 

“The loss to children from in-person learning is just so significant,” Mueller told KPBS. “It’s just really important that we continue in-person operations as long as we’re able to.”

San Diego State also announced that instruction during the first two weeks of the spring semester — beginning Jan. 19 — “will be virtual with some minor exceptions.” The delay will provide a buffer after the recent case spike, the university said in a press release, and provide a window for those who recently received a booster shot. 

The Union-Tribune revealed that almost 200 city police employees were forced to isolate or quarantine due to COVID. Police say the absences aren’t impacting the department’s ability to respond to calls — at least for now.

At the same time, seniors are bracing for the Omicron variant. NBC 7 spoke to one resident and the staff at St. Paul’s Manor in Bankers Hill, which saw several positive tests after the holidays. Visitors have been barred except in cases of emergency. 

Meanwhile, the state has extended its indoor mask mandate an extra month. It’s now required through Feb. 15. 

Shake Up in City Council Races

Maya Srikrishnan had a few thoughts last week at the conclusion of the redistricting process. She wrote about how San Diego’s demographics are changing but the final map for city elections continues to favor the interests of coastal communities.

The U-T took a closer look Wednesday at some of the immediate changes brought about by the new boundaries. Candidates have either abandoned their campaign or shifted their efforts ahead of the June 7 primary. 

For instance, Democrat Kent Lee has emerged as the leading contender in District 6 after Nicole Crosby dropped out. Joel Day, a former city official, had been laying the groundwork there as well. But he now lives in District 2, meaning he’ll be facing off against incumbent Councilwoman Jen Campbell and others. 

We’ll be paying attention to both races, no doubt. But District 6 is particularly interesting because it’s the only seat that a Republican currently holds. Chris Cate is termed out at the end of this year and registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans there by nearly 14,000, the U-T noted. 

Lee will be competing in the primary against Democrat Tommy Hough and Republican Christina Carter Nichols. 

In Other News

  • A number of factors, including supply chain disruptions and tariff loopholes, are fueling a demand for warehouse space and workers in Tijuana. (KPBS)
  • For the one year anniversary of the attacks on the Capitol, Union-Tribune Columnist Michael Smolens detailed what that day was like for Rep. Sara Jacobs. “I was pretty terrified for my life,” Jacobs told the U-T. She also had some things to say about the way Congress is investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Heads up, this story is for subscribers only. (Union-Tribune)
  • The Junipero Serra Museum is getting a facelift thanks to a $330,000 donation from the Conrad Prebys Foundation. The 93-year-old museum sits on Kumeyaay territory in Presidio Park. The renovations are planned for the north tower and east facade of the building. (KPBS)

This Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, Lisa Halverstadt and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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