County stays in red tier as virus case rate rises

Coronavirus

SAN DIEGO — San Diego stayed in the red tier Tuesday while data released by the state showed a rising case rate could land the county in the purple tier.

The state website initially listed the county’s new adjusted case rate for tier assignment at 7.1 — which would have put San Diego County in purple tier territory. Health leaders said the rate was further adjusted to 7.0.

“The adjusted case rate actually has been adjusted down,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Ghaly said Tuesday. “They did meet thresholds, so they do not have one week in the purple tier. Although, as I’ve said, they are hovering between that fine line.”

The unadjusted case rate was 7.8 new COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 residents. The score was reduced by nearly 10 percent because San Diego County tested at higher levels than the state’s median. The region performed 298 coronavirus tests per 100,000 residents, significantly higher than the statewide median rate of 239, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

If a county’s adjusted case rate of positive COVID-19 tests is above 7.0 for two consecutive weeks, it would move to the purple tier, according to state guidance. The purple tier would force nearly all non-essential indoor businesses to close.

The county’s unadjusted case rate for the week of Oct. 4 through Oct. 10 increased from 7.2 to 7.8 per every 100,000 residents.

Updated tier data for San Diego County. Source: covid19.ca.gov

For the first six months of the pandemic, Public Square Coffee House owner Aaron Henderson laid low, waiting for the right opportunity to reopen his shop.

“Our management team met every single week trying to think how we can reinvent what we do,” Henderson said.

In that time, they retrofit an outdoor patio in front of the shop, added another in the back, built a new website and app and launched a new delivery system to reach their customers.

“We saw this coming,” he said of long-lasting pandemic restrictions.

But soon, more restrictions could be on the way for some local businesses. San Diego County public health officials reported 380 new COVID-19 infections Monday, raising the region’s total case count to 52,735. No new deaths were reported Monday, and the death toll remains at 853.

Officials are imploring San Diegans to maintain vigilance as positive case rates for the coronavirus continue to increase in the region.

“We are now concerned about the trends and we are concerned about the likelihood we could tip back to purple,” Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said on Twitter Sunday. The county is now in the red tier and the limit for the purple tier — the state’s most restrictive tier — is 7.0 cases per 100,000 residents.

Fletcher pointed to positive unadjusted case rates over six days (Oct. 11-16): 6.9 out of 100,000 residents, to 7.2 to 7.3 to 7.4 to 7.7 and 7.8, respectively.

Fletcher and Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten held an emergency meeting Friday to “sound the alarm” as the future case rate appears to cross into the purple tier of the state’s four-tier reopening system.

The adjusted case rate of positive COVID-19 tests last week was 6.8 per 100,000 residents, up from 6.5 in the previous assessment.

“We are still in the red tier, but it is too close for comfort,” Wooten said.

Of the 8,850 tests reported Monday, 4% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average percentage of positive cases to 2.7%, far below the state-set target of less than 8%

Of the total cases, 3,770 or 7.1% have been hospitalized, with 872 — or 1.7% — spending at least some time in an intensive care unit.

No new community outbreaks were reported Monday. In the past seven days, 31 community outbreaks were confirmed, well above the trigger of seven or more in a week’s time.

A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.

The county uses community outbreaks to get a larger sense of the pandemic locally, but the state does not include the statistic in its weekly report.

Wooten said 95% of the county’s cases were not related to a marked community outbreak, a clear indicator the illness has spread throughout the county.

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