San Diego County could backslide as COVID-19 case rate rises

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SAN DIEGO — Public health leaders are warning a rising COVID-19 case rate could cause San Diego to move to a more-restrictive tier in the state monitoring system.

New COVID-19 data released Tuesday contains one of the two metrics the state monitors now flagged as “widespread,” which could lead to business restrictions and closures if it continues for another week.

San Diego County’s state-calculated, unadjusted case rate is 7.9 new daily cases per 100,000 population. The testing positivity percentage is 4.5%. Should the county have a case rate higher than 7.0 next week, it could be moved into the purple tier, and more state-imposed restrictions could be implemented on recently opened businesses. Many nonessential indoor business operations could be shuttered.

The county is currently in the red tier, along with Orange, San Francisco, Marin, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. Most of the rest of Southern California is in the purple tier. The state system has four tiers and assesses counties weekly, with reports scheduled each Tuesday.

County public health officials reported 294 new COVID-19 infections and nine new fatalities Tuesday, bringing the region’s total caseload to 43,181 and total deaths to 742.

Six men and three women died between Sept. 7 and Sept. 14, and their ages ranged from early 50s to mid-90s. All had underlying medical conditions.

Of the 5,969 tests reported Tuesday, 5% returned positive, moving the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 4.4%, well below the state’s 8% guideline. The seven-day average number of tests performed in the county is 7,254.

Of the total positive cases in the county, 3,335 — or 7.7% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 784 — or 1.8% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.

County health officials reported four new community outbreaks on Tuesday. In the previous seven days, 15 community outbreaks were confirmed. Two of the new outbreaks were in restaurant/bar settings, one was in a business and one in a grocery setting. The number of community outbreaks remains above the county’s goal of fewer than seven in a seven-day span. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases originating in the same setting and impacting people of different households in the past 14 days.

San Diego State University reported 23 more positive cases of the illness in its student body Tuesday, even as it is ramping up its COVID-19 testing protocols through a new random surveillance testing program which requires all students living on campus to be tested for the virus.

The surveillance program will begin Wednesday, with around 500 students being tested every day through Saturday, then starting again Monday. All students living in SDSU residence halls and apartments will be assigned testing slots at either the Student Health Services Calpulli Center, or the HHSA testing location at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.

San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond wants San Diego County to disregard the state’s restrictions entirely. He called for more local control of the coronavirus pandemic response Tuesday in a plea to stop enforcing statewide restrictions and allow all local industries to reopen.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he strongly disagreed with Desmond’s proposal. Supervisors nixed Desmond’s plan and voted to meet at 3 p.m. next Tuesday to discuss related issues, including the county’s role on a state task force that is focusing on the pandemic.

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