No new virus deaths for 2 days as county cautiously lifts restrictions


SAN DIEGO (CNS) — The COVID-19 death toll in San Diego County is nearing the 250 mark as statewide stay-at-home orders begin to loosen, but no new virus deaths were recorded on Memorial Day or the day before.

County health officials reported 96 cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths on Monday, bringing the county’s total to 6,797 cases and 249 deaths.

So far, 1,244 cases have required hospitalization and 370 have required intensive care, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported. Of the 3,700 tests reported to the county Sunday, 96 were positive cases.

Angela Gaines (R) watches from outside as her mother, COVID-19 patient Martha Gonzalez, is cared for by nurse Jacqueline Fisher-Lopez at the Acute Care COVID Unit at Sharp Coronado Hospital amidst the coronavirus pandemic on May 7, 2020. COVID-19 patients are not allowed to have visitors for safety reasons but family members are able to view and communicate with Gonzalez from outside the window. Sharp HealthCare is the largest health system in San Diego County. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The 14-day rolling average of new positive cases among county residents is 3.2%.

In the meantime, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued guidance Monday to churches and other houses of worship in California on how they can safely reopen amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the guidelines, places of worship must limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower. This limitation will be in effect for the first 21 days of each county public health department’s approval of religious services within their jurisdictions, after which the California Department of Public Health will review the limits.

They must also arrange for social distancing of at least 6 feet between people, establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance.

Churches and other houses of worship were ordered closed to the public on March 19. Since then, many have adjusted by holding virtual services, while a few have recently resumed in-person services in violation of the order.

A woman holds up a sign depicting a church as hundreds of people gather to protest the stay-at-home orders outside the state capitol building in Sacramento, California on May 01, 2020. – Some people intentionally jammed roads while honking and holding out signs while others disrespected social distancing rules by gathering in close proximity, causing police to form skirmish lines to push back protesters. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

In the meantime, Barona Resort and Casino also announced plans to reopen on Wednesday.

Other tribal casinos began reopening their doors last week, despite disapproval from county officials. Tribal casinos are on federally regulated land, outside the county’s jurisdiction. Barona Resort and Casino is the eighth tribal casino to restart operation in San Diego County.

Barona’s first phase of re-opening will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Table games will be limited to a maximum of three players per table and every other slot machine will be turned off to further encourage space between players.

Patrons and staff will be screened for high temperatures and symptoms of the novel coronavirus before entry, a casino report said. All will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing.

One of the casino’s restaurants will run at half capacity and its hotel will maintain a 35% capacity, casino officials said. The buffet will remain closed as will the casino’s bussing service and wedding chapel.

The California Department of Public Health also announced Monday the statewide reopening of in-store retail shopping, a major step in California’s emergence from shutdown orders issued in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The retail guidance for in-person shopping that is already in place for certain counties, including San Diego County, now applies statewide, officials said.

Retail does not include personal services such as hair salons, nail salons and barbershops.

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