In March 2021, community volunteer Marcela Mercado leaves a Logan Heights resident a flier with information on scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz
In March 2021, community volunteer Marcela Mercado leaves a Logan Heights resident a flier with information on scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

White San Diegans were much less likely to die with Covid-19 than their Black and Latino counterparts at the start of the pandemic. But that gap closed significantly during the second year, thanks in large part to targeted public health campaigns.

An estimated 94 percent of South County residents are vaccinated today. Groups like San Ysidro Health, a nonprofit, helped organize town halls to get the word out, set up mobile units in parking lots and trained promotoras to become ambassadors in their own communities.

But while health disparities shrank among some racial groups between years one and two, they stayed virtually the same by another important metric: income.

After analyzing thousands of death certificates, Will Huntsberry and Jesse Marx write in a new story that class was still a powerful predictor of a person’s likelihood to die even after the vaccines became widely available.

There’s a caveat, of course. Vaccine participation tends to rise with education levels, but the likelihood of death also increased for one group in particular — those who graduated high school yet didn’t complete a bachelor’s. Though it’s not immediately clear why that happened. 

As one public health specialist put it: “This might be the population that’s more susceptible to misinformation.”

Read the story here.

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Our story published on Tuesday is the second in a series that we’ll be rolling out over the next few weeks. To even get to this point took a considerable amount of time and energy, the cooperation of nearly everyone in the organization, plus a few freelancers.

It all began with a lawsuit.

In an effort to independently vet the information coming from public health officials in 2020, we sued after they declined to make Covid-related death certificates available. We won that case, but soon encountered another obstacle. Rather than pay upwards of $80,000 for physical copies, we chose instead to view the records in person in Santee. 

Our reporters spent months logging and analyzing records for the first year of the pandemic. All five of those stories can be found here

Our current effort is focused on the period between March 2021 and March 2022, which included the wide distribution of vaccines. In our first piece on Monday, we concluded that while the total number of Covid-related deaths went down, the median age of death also dropped — meaning the virus wiped out younger people as time went on.

Public health professionals say vaccine hesitancy, changing attitudes as society opened up again, a lack of insurance, and disruptions in the healthcare industry were all contributing factors. 

This second series is supported by the Data-Driven Reporting Project

Read more stories in our series here.

Ikhrata Says the Time for Him to Leave San Diego Could be Coming

Hasan Ikhrata
Hasan Ikhrata / File photo by Megan Wood

Hasan Ikhrata, the director of the San Diego Association of Governments, told the Union-Tribune’s Joshua Emerson Smith in a weekend feature that it may soon be time for him to leave the region’s transportation agency.

It’s been nearly a year since SANDAG’s board approved a new, long-term transportation plan for the region, and then immediately voted to tell Ikhrata and his staff to remove its most controversial element – a fee for driving meant to combat climate change and fund transit projects, which Ikhrata has championed since coming to town. Ikhrata and SANDAG’s staff asked the board months later if they were sure that they wanted to remove the fee – leading Mayor Todd Gloria and the board to reiterate the direction – and he then told state regulators he had no intention of complying with the request. The board then voted a third time to remove the fee, which is still part of the plan.

Ikhrata told Emerson Smith he will be on his way out if leaders can’t reach “a common vision for expanding transit.”

“I want to make sure the board, regardless if they’re Republican or Democrat, doesn’t spend every single meeting asking for me to be fired or fighting with each other,” he said. “I want to see civility and feel that we’re making a difference.”

Partisan fighting at SANDAG, though, was less common in 2022 than it had been in previous years, after Republicans and Democrats on the board reached the common vision that they did not support a driving fee to expand transit. 

Environment Report: When San Diego Will Start Charging Everyone for Trash

trash pick up san diego
A city of San Diego sanitation worker collects yard waste in a residential area in North Park on Dec. 23, 2021. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Now that San Diegans agreed the city should be able to charge everyone for trash collection, when it will actually impose that fee is up in the air.

The city could jumpstart and fast-track that process as soon as Dec. 9 when midterm election results are certified. 

But Councilman Joe La Cava said there’s no mandate to get this done as soon as possible. The City Council, it appears, will take its time to gather public feedback on the waste collection system as a whole and find a consultant to do a mandatory study before new fees can be imposed on residents. 

In the meantime, San Diego’s landfills are, well, filling up and emitting greenhouse gases. And climate activists hope the city will act as quickly as possible. 

Read the Environment Report here.

In Other News 

  • Peter Callstrom, the CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership went on unexpected leave last week. Shannon Moran, the COO, has taken over as acting CEO. She passed along this written statement: “The Workforce Partnership’s more than 130 staff remain focused on empowering job seekers to meet the current and future workforce needs of employers in San Diego County during this time.”
  • The Union-Tribune reviewed years-worth of data detailing arrests and calls for service at the seven El Cajon hotels that the city tried to fine for housing high numbers of homeless people – the city argued that crime was increasing because of the increased amount of hotel vouchers being given to homeless individuals. The data, however, showed that there wasn’t an exact correlation between crime and the use of hotel vouchers. (Union-Tribune)
  • The San Diego City Attorney’s office has obtained its 1,000th gun violence restraining order, a process that allows authorities to temporarily seize guns from people who pose a credible threat of violence. The City Attorney’s office won its first gun violence restraining order in 2018 and now leads the state in their use. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego is releasing 250 million gallons of water from Hodges Reservoir in a two-day process that started Monday. The water release will reduce the reservoir’s elevation back to 275 feet – its current cap set by the California Division of Safety of Dams. (NBC 7)

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, Andrew Keatts, MacKenzie Elmer and Tigist Layne. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

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1 Comment

  1. “… a fee for driving meant to combat climate change and fund transit projects…”
    as our reliance on fossil fuel decreases we will need this type of funding to merely maintain the state’s driving infrastructure (roads, etc.) whether or not the funding is intended for transit projects. it is misleading to conflate the two items. sooner or later a per-mile driving tax MUST be implemented.

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