There is no doubt the last few weeks have been challenging. From elected leaders, to medical experts, to businesses, to parents, to children—we have all been impacted and we are all experiencing this pandemic together. Over the weeks, I’ve been privileged to work alongside many giving back to their communities during this unsettling health crisis. While I can’t cover them all, here’s a roundup of some of those efforts.
We continue to raise the bar with proactive measures to increase capacity in our healthcare system. Outside of the box thinking and innovation have been our best navigational tools through the pandemic. I am particularly proud of Director Jack Pellegrino and his dynamic team who quickly stood up a 350-bed alternative care site at UCSD. The goal has been to creatively think through our ability to shift lower acuity cases out of the hospital to free up space for more critical needs. We are grateful for UCSD and the opportunity to house doctors, nurses, and patients in this creative setting.
I am also thankful for our generous business community that helped make this possible. When I first learned of the need to quickly procure 350 beds, my next phone call was to Jerry Navarra of Jerome’s Furniture. Within 24 hours, Jerome’s Furniture sent a truck with 100 brand new, donated mattresses and bed frames. Mattress Firm graciously matched this contribution sending 100 additional donated beds. Lastly, we were thrilled to receive the news that Serta was sending the final 150 beds needed to complete the care center.
April 23rd, we welcomed the addition of a 202-bed Federal Medical Station at Palomar Medical Center. I am proud of the collaboration between all levels of government to secure this federal asset. A Federal Medical Station is a pop-up hospital with supplies to treat several hundred patients. The County was just in need of about 42,000 square feet to house the hospital. We are grateful that Palomar Medical Center stepped up to house this regional asset. The hospital was quickly able to accommodate this need by offering two floors of unused shell space in their new facility.
While I hope we will never need these 552 beds, alternative care settings will reserve our hospitals for the most critical patients should we near capacity. Prevention and capacity building are key to this battle and the reopening of San Diego. And please know… we’re not done yet. We continue to bring the next capacity building opportunity online all the way across the finish line.
The impact of the pandemic on small business is staggering. Yet even in the face of an uncertain future, San Diego County business owners are stepping up to help others. Despite having to close two of his three restaurants, Phil Pace, founder of Phil’s BBQ, is donating meals to the people on the front lines: healthcare workers, police and firefighters, and the San Diego Blood Bank.
Steve and Brittany Yeng, owners of Skrewball Whiskey, set out to help meet the needs of thousands of unemployed San Diego restaurant workers. To date, they have donated over $500,000 to help restaurant workers who lost their jobs because of COVID-19. In addition, this incredible couple has transformed their business to produce hand sanitizer and has distributed 5,000 care packages to San Diego restaurant workers in need.
RPP Products quickly transitioned from a motor oil manufacturer to a company that makes hand sanitizer in order to help with an item in short supply and high demand. I was proud to accept RPP’s donation of 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizer for the 800 homeless San Diegans staying at the convention center. A big thank you to RPP’s owner, Eric Zwigart.
A familiar face in San Diego County media these days is our Public Health Officer Dr. Wooten. It’s easy to miss the invisible engines that keep the wheels turning at the County. That’s why I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight two additional members of our County medical team that are unsung heroes in this battle. Dr. Nick Yphantides and Dr. Eric McDonald have steadily guided us through this crisis often from behind the scenes with empathy, compassion, intelligence, a willingness to help in whatever capacity necessary, and a commitment to professional excellence. My definition of a hero is an ordinary person willing to do something extraordinary to positively impact others. My gratitude goes out to these two capeless San Diego heroes who are doing just that.