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News Nuggets: 11 La Jolla parks reopen; council member seeks to reopen San Diego beaches in May

City Councilmember Barbara Bry looks to re-open beaches in May
The Coast Walk Trail is one of 11 La Jolla neighborhood parks that reopened Tuesday for limited use.
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Although beaches, boardwalks and shoreline parks remain closed, 11 La Jolla neighborhood parks reopened Tuesday for what San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer calls “limited use.”

The following parks are open: Bird Rock Neighborhood Park, Cliffridge Park and Athletic Area, Doyle Community Park, La Jolla Community Park (next to La Jolla Rec Center), La Jolla Heights Open Space, Coast Walk Trail, Laureate Mini Park (also known as Mata Park), Mt. Soledad Nature Park, Mt. Soledad Open Space, Starkey Mini Park and Villa La Jolla Neighborhood Park, as well as parks in the University City area.

Activities such as walking, jogging and bicycling will be allowed. No active sports, organized activities or groups will be authorized. Physical distancing rules must be followed and face coverings are strongly recommended in accordance with County of San Diego directives. Parking lots will remain closed, and San Diegans are encouraged to visit the parks closest to them.

The Mayor said future decisions, including whether these limited park reopenings remain in effect or whether additional recreational facilities will be opened in a phased approach will be dependent upon how closely physical distancing rules are followed and the ongoing monitoring of COVID-19 cases.

Read more: sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/park-status.pdf.

Council member Bry looks to open beaches in May

San Diego City Council member Barbara Bry says she would like local beaches and parks to reopen in the first week of May.
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District 1 San Diego City Council member and La Jolla resident Barbara Bry has set the goal — pending approval from health officials — to reopen La Jolla’s parks and beaches in the first week of May.

“San Diegans have done a tremendous job of adapting quickly to working remotely, following social distancing requirements and wearing face coverings. Because we have been proactive, it appears we have slowed the spread of COVID-19,” she said in a statement. “Now it is time for the City to work with our scientific community and County health officials to develop a plan to reopen parks and beaches as soon as the first week of May, a plan that should include social distancing and face covering requirements. … As always, such decisions must be based on science and the advice of public health experts, but I believe it will be possible to develop prudent plans to reopen our beaches and parks by early next month.”

She cited outdoor spaces as “irreplaceable and are an important component of our physical and mental health.”

Learn more and follow Bry’s regular coronavirus updates at sandiego.gov/cd1.

DMV extends validity of expiring licenses

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is extending driver licenses expiring during the COVID-19 pandemic. Licenses for drivers younger than 70 that expire between March and May 2020 are now valid through May 31, 2020.

The DMV encourages drivers who are eligible to renew their license online to do so.

The extensions require no individual action on the part of drivers. These drivers will not receive a new card or an extension in the mail. As an option, these drivers can request a free temporary paper extension online through DMV’s Virtual Field Office to document their extension: virtual.dmv.ca.gov.

La Jolla community planning meetings moving online

To comply with statewide shelter-in-place requirements, La Jolla’s community planning groups are moving their meetings to online platforms.

After testing online meetings in April, several boards are planning to host meetings using the Zoom platform next month. Agendas will continue to be posted 72 hours in advance at lajollacpa.org under the “2020 Agendas” tab.

San Diego Foundation grants more than $2.7M to non-profit organizations


The San Diego Foundation announced $1 million in additional rapid response grants to local nonprofit organizations providing food security and financial assistance to seniors, children, restaurant workers and other vulnerable populations through the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

To date, the Fund has granted $2.7 million to San Diego organizations working on the frontline to support individuals, families and communities impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The latest round of rapid response grants include: San Diego Hunger Coalition, Restaurant Works Relief Initiative (via Mission Edge San Diego), Meals on Wheels, Father Joe’s Village, American Red Cross, Serving Seniors, Elder Help of San Diego and 2-1-1 San Diego.

Businesses, individuals and organizations can donate and find additional information about the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund at SDFoundation.org/COVID19, where nonprofit organizations can also find information about how to request grant funding or an interest-free loan.

Loss of smell and taste validated as COVID-19 symptoms

In a study published April 8, 2020 in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology, researchers at UC San Diego Health report the first empirical findings that strongly associate loss of sense of smell and taste with COVID-19.

“Based on our study, if you have smell and taste loss, you are more than 10 times more likely to have COVID-19 infection than other causes of infection. The most common first sign of a COVID-19 infection remains fever, but fatigue and loss of smell and taste follow as other very common initial symptoms,” said Carol Yan, MD, an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon at UC San Diego Health.

“We know COVID-19 is an extremely contagious virus. This study supports the need to be aware of smell and taste loss as early signs of COVID-19.”

Yan and colleagues surveyed 1,480 patients with flu-like symptoms and concerns regarding potential COVID-19 infection who underwent testing at UC San Diego Health from March 3 through March 29, 2020. Within that total, 102 patients tested positive for the virus and 1,378 tested negative. The study included responses from 59 COVID-19-positive patients and 203 COVID-19-negative patients.

Yan said the study demonstrated the high prevalence and unique presentation of certain sensory impairments in patients positive with COVID-19. Of those who reported loss of smell and taste, the loss was typically profound, not mild. But encouragingly, the rate of recovery of smell and taste was high and occurred usually within two to four weeks of infection.

La Jolla Immunology study shows Parkinson’s may be autoimmune disease

A new study co-led by scientists at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) adds increasing evidence that Parkinson’s disease is partly an autoimmune disease. In fact, the researchers report that signs of autoimmunity can appear in Parkinson’s disease patients years before their official diagnosis.

The research could make it possible to someday detect Parkinson’s disease before the onset of debilitating motor symptoms—and potentially intervene with therapies to slow the disease progression.

The study, published in the April 20, 2020, issue of Nature Communications, was co-led by LJI professor Alessandro Sette, Dr. Biol. Sci, and Professor David Sulzer, Ph.D., of the Columbia University Medical Center.

Scientists have long known that clumps of a damaged protein called alpha-synuclein build up in the dopamine-producing brain cells of patients with Parkinson’s disease. These clumps eventually lead to cell death, causing motor symptoms and cognitive decline.

“Once these cells are gone, they’re gone. So if you are able to diagnose the disease as early as possible, it could make a huge difference,” says LJI research assistant professor Cecilia Lindestam Arlehamn, Ph.D., who served as first author of the new study.

A 2017 study led by Sette and Sulzer was the first to show that alpha-synuclein can act as a beacon for certain T cells, causing them to mistakenly attack brain cells and potentially contribute to the progression of Parkinson’s. This was the first direct evidence that autoimmunity could play a role in Parkinson’s disease.

The new findings shed light on the timeline of T cell reactivity and disease progression. The researchers looked at blood samples from a large group of Parkinson’s disease patients and compared their T cells to a healthy, age-matched control group. They found that the T cells that react to alpha-synuclein are most abundant when patients are first diagnosed with the disease. These T cells tend to disappear as the disease progresses, and few patients still have them ten years after diagnosis.

The researchers hope to study more Parkinson’s patients and follow them over longer time periods to better understand how T cell reactivity changes as the disease progresses.

UCSD study finds injured brains revert to ‘embryonic state’ to heal

When adult brain cells are injured, they revert to an embryonic state, according to new findings published in the April 15 issue of Nature by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues elsewhere.

The scientists report that in their newly adopted immature state, the cells become capable of re-growing new connections that, under the right conditions, can help to restore lost function.

Using a mouse model, senior author and professor of neuroscience and director of the Translational Neuroscience Institute at UCSD School of Medicine Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD (and colleagues) discovered that after injury, mature neurons in adult brains revert back to an embryonic state.

“When an adult brain cell of the cortex is injured, it reverts (at a transcriptional level) to an embryonic cortical neuron,” he said. “And in this reverted, far less mature state, it can now regrow axons if it is provided an environment to grow into. In my view, this is the most notable feature of the study and is downright shocking.”

Compiled by Ashley Mackin-Solomon