SAN DIEGO — In a news conference updating residents on the state of the pandemic in San Diego Wednesday, officials said they have no immediate plans to “abandon” COVID-19 precautions — such as requiring face coverings in public — seen lifted in Texas and some other areas.
Public health leaders reported 352 new COVID-19 cases and 25 additional deaths as local health care sites await more vaccines, including the one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the county should be proud of the sacrifices it had made during the pandemic and suggested a change to the “red tier” of California’s health restrictions could soon mean a return to more normal elements of daily life. But with the change nearing, said Fletcher, now was not the time to make more sweeping moves, as seen in Texas this week.
“Unlike other states, in San Diego (and) California, we will not be abandoning things like utilization of face-coverings,” the Board of Supervisors chair said. “It’s still here. We are excited about vaccinations, we are excited about descending case rates, we’re excited about schools coming back, and the prospect of fans watching baseball at the beginning of April … but now is not the time that we abandon the things that have gotten us in a strong position.”
He said that the faster people are vaccinated throughout the region, the faster precautions can be lifted. However, vaccine shortages have frustrated efforts to get doses into arms.
“It is consistently erratic and consistently unpredictable,” Fletcher said of vaccine deliveries.
The county’s largest vaccine site, Petco Park, reopened Wednesday after closing Saturday due to a Moderna vaccine shortage. It had to temporarily shutter several hours later, however, due to a winter storm bringing lightning.
“As of noon today, the Petco Vaccination Super Station has briefly paused operations due to safety concerns related to nearby lightning,” UC San Diego Health wrote on Twitter. “The site will reopen as soon as authorities determine it is safe to do so.”
After receiving their first vaccination just one month ago, a number of residents and staff at Operation Shelter to Home on Wednesday received the second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, administered by San Diego Fire- Rescue Department firefighters and lifeguards at the San Diego Convention Center.
On Feb. 3, there were 41 people experiencing homelessness and 61 shelter and outreach staff members at the convention center who were eligible according to guidelines at the time and opted to receive the vaccine.
“It has been a unique opportunity to be involved with Operation Shelter to Home over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Deputy Fire-Rescue Chief Chris Heiser, who serves as the incident commander for the operation and oversees the city’s vaccination efforts. “Being able to offer the vaccinations to this vulnerable population is an important milestone and speaks to the care and effort that the city has placed on protecting the health of our homeless population.”
Of the county’s population over the age of 16, 22.1% — or more than 594,000 people — have received at least one dose and 10.7% — or more than 287,000 people — have been fully inoculated.
Wednesday’s data increased the cumulative totals in the county to 261,353 cases while the death toll increased to 3,342.
Of 13,293 tests reported by the county, 3% returned positive. The 14- day rolling average decreased to 3.5% from Tuesday’s 3.7%.
Despite considerable improvement in handling the COVID-19 pandemic in recent weeks, the county will remain in the state’s most-restrictive purple tier for at least one more week.
Posting an adjusted case rate of 10.8 new daily cases per 100,000 people, the county still has to drop below 7 per 100,000 to enter the less- restrictive red tier in the state’s four-tiered reopening system. In the red tier, some indoor businesses such as gyms, movie theaters and indoor dining can reopen.
The county’s other metrics under the state reopening plan are also trending favorably. The seven-day positivity rate is just 4.2%, low enough to put San Diego County in the orange, or moderate, tier. The health equity quartile positivity rate — which looks at the worst-performing quarter of a county’s residents — is in the red tier with 6%. The state judges each county by its worst performing metric — in San Diego County’s case, the daily case rate.
Fletcher said despite vaccine supply issues, the county will likely move into the red tier in the next few weeks.
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