Fletcher: County ‘highly likely’ to enter less-restrictive tier next week

Coronavirus
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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify the county’s adjusted COVID-19 case rate and how it relates to the state’s threshold for entering the red tier.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego County is “highly likely” to enter the state’s less-restrictive red tier for COVID-19 protocols next week, Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said Wednesday.

The news comes as California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state will likely meet its immediate goal of vaccinating 2 million people in its most vulnerable communities by Friday, a milestone he said would come with relaxing rules across the state.

By current standards, San Diego County’s adjusted COVID-19 case rate of 8.8 per 100,000 residents this week is too high to enter the red tier. But with state health officials now expected to raise that threshold to 10 per 100,000 next week, the region would qualify to drop into a lower level of restrictions.

“This has been a lot of hard work of San Diegans in lowering the case count, a lot of hard work getting vaccines into arms, but all of these have combined and come together to put us on the cusp of being able to achieve this next tier,” Fletcher said.

The red tier will feature limited amounts of indoor service at restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and other businesses and services.

“San Diegans should be proud of the way we’ve responded,” Fletcher said at Wednesday’s news conference, noting that one year ago this week was the first reported COVID-19 case in the county. “We are making substantial progress.”

Also Wednesday, county leaders reported 349 new coronavirus infections and eight additional deaths. The total number of cases rose to 264,097 and the death toll edged up to 3,413. Of 13,386 tests reported by the county Wednesday, 3% returned positive.

More relief is on the way in the county in the form of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which is expected to be signed Friday by President Biden. Fletcher said supervisors will vote how to distribute funds and possibly fill funding gaps brought on by the pandemic.

“We estimate that the County of San Diego could be around $600 million that would come in that we could obviously use for the public health-related expenses we’ve accrued,” he said. “We’ve accrued tremendous costs around vaccinations, continued costs around testing and all of the efforts around public health response.”

The county says another vaccination super station is expected to open at the San Diego Convention Center.

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