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tv   ABC7 News Getting Answers  ABC  May 17, 2022 3:00pm-3:30pm PDT

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>> building a better bay area, moving forward, finding solutions this is abc7 news. >> hello we are watching getting answers live on abc seven. we asked experts or questions everyday at 3:00 to give you answers in real-time. the san francisco mayor will be joining us to talk about the city's covid search, one of the highest in the state, as well as the cities decreasing homeless count and the struggle to keep the hospital open as patients are hit with mass eviction notices. also, amid calls to reform inequitable traffic stops in san francisco, the city is set to pay $375,000 to settle one man's excessive force lawsuit. our media partners will discuss the impact of this case. first, a tale of two countries.
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the u.s. and australia. the countries have very similar demographic profiles yet, are covid casualty cannot be more opposite. the u.s. death rate in the pandemic is about 300 per 100,000 people. while australia's, 30 or 100,000 people. our death rate is 10 times higher. joining us now is someone who knows both countries very well. jeremy howard, former machine learning researcher at the university of san francisco, now honorary professor at the university of queensland in australia. good to see you. >> it is so nice to see you. should i say mate. now that you are in australia. before we look at the wide a vastly different results, let us reintroduce you to our audience. we have the video for that. >> awesome. >> it is famous or infamous, however you want to look at it. you demonstrated to us how to
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make masks early on when it was really hard to get. folks cannot just i n95 or surgical and here you were showing me how to cut my t-shirt. you really emphasize the science and masking early. i want to ask you because it is relevant as bay area officials are urging people to mask, is that important, looking at the numbers in db area? -- bay area? >> i looked into the numbers closely. i lead the world's first scientific evidence review for masks for covid. it was published in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences. we found that masks are pretty helpful to produce transmission -- reduce transmission. that is great for the health and economy. transmission has gone through the roof, since we publish that. at the time it seemed like an
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uncontroversial suggestion to put a bit of appropriate something over your face to help you not get sick and help your community and stay at work and keep the economy going but it turned out to be very controversial. at least, it is important now as it was back when we first suggested this idea in march of 2020. >> you were pushing it there for sure. i want to take a look at the differences between the u.s. and australia were you now live. when the pandemic started you were here in san francisco. let us compare. there is a reason, in the new york times article chose australia as the country to compare the u.s. to because we have similarities. what are the similarities? >> we are very similar. we are countries that to a large degree came from english colonists. we share a lot of the same kind of values and language and so
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forth. but i think underneath the surface there are some stark differences. those differences led to a 10 times lower death rate from covid in australia. also, a much on the whole a higher level of freedom here. so when we arrived to about a year ago there were no restrictions of any kind. so, we went to restaurants and sports events and we did it safely because there was literally zero covid in our state. >> how did they manage that? i know you said the time when you arrived, there were not mandates in place because they were not warranted. right now i believe you're seeing cases increasing. our mandates necessary and are people fighting it -- our mandates necessary and are people fighting them? >> what happened in australia the very start of the pandemic, there was a bipartisan decision
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to focus on. the science so that was a fantastic step back in -- that was a fantastic step back in 2020. they could hit economies hard, the pandemic, it could hurt this country. so we said let's stop it coming and so they close the borders. this had a significant effect on things like tourism. but it meant the country could continue to function and australians could continue to live normal lives. that was the key thing that happened, this very big call that happened early on. we know with this pandemic it is all about speed. this was done very fast. what happened then was that gave us time to get vaccinated. the government here botched the actual vaccine appointment, -- deployment but it got out to people. over here, i noticed there is a lot more trust in science and
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medicine. by far among the people -- the people said we like vaccines and reason for our kids and ourselves. the vaccine is 95% over here. so, it is everybody. look in any country there is going to be a few extremists and conspiracy theorists or whatever. but. >> we are at 70%-ish. one thing i thought was interesting was there is a poll that showed the percentage of people who said they trust the health care system. in the u.s. it is 34%. in australia it is 76%. that trust in the institution and science, how important do you think that is? >> i think it is important. particularly, because in the u.s. there are communities with
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particularly low vaccination rates. to a large degree, that is often based on an entirely understandable and reasonable distrust of the medical system that has failed. groups of people. in america, black americans have many terrible things in their history of handling of the u.s. health care system. there is a skepticism and caution. but unfortunately, that has led to high death rates in these communities where there are lower vaccination rates. i noticed here, one of the things i thought was really interesting, when we arrived in australia, things were taken very seriously. not in an authoritarian way, but in a friendly and helpful way. when we arrived there were people who immediately did their health tests and make sure we got on the right bus, and quarantined. from time to time, here in
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queensland, there would be one case. they would be like, oh no there is one case, so it would go into a two day lockdown. two days of mass mandates, just to make sure that that person did not of -- infect others. everyone went along with it. there was a very high level of compliance with these brief mandates. because we knew that once it was done, we could get back to our life, a couple of days later. that worked well. >> are you saying that people trust each other there more, from what you've have seen, having lived here? >> i certainly noticed a much lower level of antagonistic aggression. in the media, he did not see people yelling at each other so much. yeah. there's a strong cultural value of mate ship and giving everyone a fair go. which i like.
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one of the things it has resulted in there is a strong suit -- social safety net here. you do not have the same levels of desperation, that can lead to significant societal problems. so, i think it is part of the culture here. it's part of how we are set up. it's something i really like about being back here. >> jeremy, given that it is hard to change culture, what could we do, what advice would you give us, moving forward here in the bay area as we maneuver more surges to come? >> the bay area is closer to australia than any other part of america i have been to. you can see that in the call vote -- covid outcomes. the bay area has done an exceptional job by the standard of large cities in america. there is a much higher level of understanding of trust and science. one thing i have seen in every western jurisdiction is, us
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westerners tend to respond to mandates than to recommendations. we are more individualistic than some other areas. so, we have seen in the data that it is not until you actually put in place a mask mandate, either in australia or the u.s., people tend to stick to it. one of the big problems is not just domestic mandates have almost entirely gone away in both countries -- just the mask mandates have almost entirely gone away in both countries, but there is little messaging on using effective masks. these newer variants are so transmissible, i would never go out in public without an and 95. -- n95, because that is the minimum you need to have some level of safety. >> it is not just the quantity of the mask but the fit, something you've emphasized. thank you so much. really great talking with you. i know you are at an ocean away but we hope to have you back on
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again soon. >> it's a pleasure. >> we will be right back and we will talk at the san francisco
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kristen: if bay area was the poster child i was doing well during the first two years of the pandemic. our region has some of the highest covid rates in the state right now. san francisco seven-day average is up to 949%. the case rate is 40 out of 100,000. experts believe that is a gross undercount due to optional testing these days. joining us to talk about this and other big issues facing the city is he san francisco mayor, london breed. -- the san francisco mayor, london breed. health officers are strongly
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urging people to mask up indoors. if the numbers do not have downward -- head downward, tcs scenario in which the city will have 8 -- do you see a scenario in which the city will have a mask mandate again? >> the fact is we are at nine people in our hospitals right now. in our i see you in particular. we continue, even though the numbers are going up we are not seeing the hospitalization rates go up. there announcing the death rate go up. so the biggest thing that we want to do is prevent the loss of life. we are doing a good job at that. as long as we are in a good place we will continue to push for vaccinations. we will continue to try and help educate people in everything we can and encourage masking. at this time, does not look like they're going back to any requirements. kristen: we are at a place where people are assessing the risk in each individual situation. are there situations where you are personally going back to masking in indoor spaces.
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>> indefinitely dispense -- depends -- it definitely depends. if i go to a hospital with vulnerable patients, a closed area, people where there is not a lot of ventilation or circulation. it definitely depends. i noticed there are a lot of people who are doing a lot more outdoors. there are a lot of events, people are really excited. i definitely have tone back on shaking hands and a couple of other things. i do think, we are doing a lot better, but we want people to be cautious, especially those with underlying health conditions and we want to continue to encourage people to get a vaccine. kristen: speaking of events, i know in march, i know the city held events to welcome office workers back in town and now we are seeing the tech companies delay bringing people back in person. paypal is closing its san francisco offices. what can you do to bring the economy back and quickly?
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>> one of the things i am doing is reaching out to ceos. i have visited a number of these places that have come back. some of these places are deciding to make san francisco their headquarters, even though they have somewhat of a work from home plan. i am going to continue to push and encourage people to come back to work. as much as i know that people are concerned, we have this knowledge that we did not have before, when the pandemic first hit, we know that masking is very helpful, we know to wash her hands and keeping some level of this -- distance can be helpful, but kobane is still here, -- covid is still here, it is not as problematic because of the vaccine. i would continue to push companies to bring their workers back to work, many of them have done so including some of our financial institutions which have required people return to work five days a week. i'm at the office every single
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day. my hope is that the excitement of all of the great things that are happening at the city, including the war years in the playoffs, the giants are playing -- the war years -- warriors in the playoffs, the giants are playing, i'm going to encourage people to come back. kristen: you and me are working both in our office. it was really nice. i want to shift gears. i know this is big for you, patients at laguna honda hospital got eviction notices yesterday, as the city fights to keep funds in operations going after those two nonfatal patient overdoses last year. where would they go? you must be worried this would worsen homelessness. >> i have to tell you, this has been a difficult time for us, especially the patients at laguna honda. we are working with the cms which is our federal partners to try and deal with some of the
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violations that occurred at laguna honda. let us take it back a bit. we are talking about one of our largest living assisted living facilities in the country. when covid first hit, you saw a number of elderly patients, who died in many institutions like this all over the country. at laguna honda throughout the entire time of this pandemic, only six patients died from covid. we are a great facility, it is a safe facility, it is not without its challenges, because there are a lot of patients, we are hopeful the cms will work with us on the recertification process which we expect to take four months. we are required under the law, as we do this recertification, in order to continue getting funding for medi-cal and medicaid to do these letters for the patients to make them aware of some of the transitions we have to do. we are going to fight like heck to keep the facility open and work with our federal partners
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to do so. it has been a challenging and somewhat frustrating process. my hope, with all of the improvements and changes we are already correcting, under the guidelines that are required to do so, that they would be open to making sure that once we recertify, we are able to maintain operations at laguna honda hospital, it has been frustrating and complicating -- complicated. we have been working with patients directly and we know that we are still running and receiving funding, we are going through this process, we expect to receive funding for the next four months as we go through the recertification process. my hope is that that is going to give us the time we need in order to get through this process, address all of the issues, and concerns and keep laguna honda open, for the people that need it the most. kristen: we only have about 30 seconds, but i want to point out that yesterday the city released a preliminary results of the first homeless count since 2019.
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you are pleased about it, what did it show an how can we keep trending in that direction? >> it showed that unsheltered homelessness declined by about 15%. overall, homelessness declined by 3.5% when other counties saw increases, i think this has a lot to do with our investments, our resources that we are using to provide services in addition to housing, to make sure people do not end up back on the streets. one of the problems that we have had in the past, people feel as if homeless people were pushed from one neighborhood to the next, our goal is to get people housed, and to keep them housed. a lot of the work we are investing in has a lot to do with that, i am hopeful about the future in light of the numbers we have seen. we also know, this is far from being over. we have a lot more work to do, building more housing, purchasing more buildings and some of the great work we have
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been doing to shelter more people has been tremendous. the day before yesterday, i was at a location where we opened up 106 units for people who were formally homeless, they're are getting wraparound services and have their own affordable safe place to call home. that is what it is about and we are going to keep working hard to keep those numbers down. kristen: mayor breed thank you so much. we w
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kristen: we reported last week that the san francisco police commission is discussing banning police officers from making traffic stops with minor offenses, often with the goal of investigating the occupants for something else. now comes where the city is preparing to pay a $375,000 sentiment -- settlement in connection to one such start -- stop. our media partner with the san francisco standard, michael, nice to have you on. explain what a pretext op is and why chris wanted to and.
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>> a pretext stop is a police practice where officers pull over someone, often for a minor traffic offense. they end up, -- they do that because they want to investigate them for another unrelated crime. the reason why advocates want that practice to end is because they say these traffic stops too often impact people of cover -- color and black people in particular and can needlessly lead to situations where officers use force. kristen: a prime example of that is this case we are talking about, lawsuit brought back by mn name arthur higgins -- by a man named arthur higgins. tell us what happened to higgins? >> higgins was sitting in the backseat of a car, when the vehicle was pulled over for sitting in a bus zone in north beach. an officer grabbed higgins by the wrist without warning and
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the incident basically spiraled out of control form there -- from there he was struck with a baton, pepper sprayed and he ended up on the sidewalk, being punched and needed by several officers. -- kneed by several officers. kristen: did he tell you about the impact of the stop on him? >> he feels fortunate to be alive, he realized that in that moment how quickly a situation can escalate even when he felt like he was not doing anything, on the incident happened, he was smoking a cigarette in the backseat of a car, with his friends. kristen: i want to show folks some numbers that you have in your story. shows the racial disparities, they are ipo opening -- eye-opening. for blacks, the stops per 10,000 residents is much higher. talk about this new proposal, to change these kinds of figures. what does the new proposal entail? what a band minor traffic stops
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together or does it spell out luminous circumstances that would allow them? >> the proposals goal is to ban. but because the stops themselves ar bit of a gray area in determining which incident is a textual stop, what it would do is ban minor traffic stops altogether. it picks a subset of minor traffic stops and list them. those would just be off limits for police officers to pull someone over for. an officer was still be able to enforce a traffic violation, by sending a ticket later but would not be able to pull someone over for those certain violations. the second part of the policy is there would be limitations on questions. the officers would not be able to ask people questions afterwards once they have pull someone over in the first place unless they had significant reason to. kristen: we have about 20 seconds, but i want to ask you if there has been pushed back police officials that argue
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banning stops would interfere with their investigations. >> yes. the police union says this is a useful tool. they have not taken a formal position on the policy, but, they believe that pretextual stops and traffic stops help remove guns and drugs from the streets. at the police chief is supportive of the idea that banning the stops, is off the table. the devil is in the details in terms of how this will all shake out. kristen: michael, thank you for keeping us us put -- keeping us posted. we have links to the standards on abc7news.com.
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every weekday at 3:00, world news tonight is coming up next. i will see you again at 4:00. tonight, president biden in buffalo, paying his respects to the victims of the deadly mass shooting. condemning what he called a racist rampage, calling white supremacy a poison allowed to fester and grow in this country. the president and the first lady paying tribute to the ten victims killed and the three people wounded in the deadly mass shooting at the tops market. all of the victims killed were black. the president honoring them, going name by name, sharing their stories one by one. calling the racist attack an act of domestic terrorism, promising evil will not win. and he called out those in media and politics who he says are fueling some of this for profit. mary bruce standing by at the white house. the fast-moving investigation. authorities tonight revealing disturbing new details about this

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