San Diego County reports 222 new COVID-19 cases, 5 deaths

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego County will remain in the red tier of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan for at least one more week, state officials said Tuesday, citing data on the two metrics California uses to adjust counties.

The county is reporting 6.9 new daily cases per 100,000 population, just 0.1 away from the dreaded purple tier, the state’s most restrictive.

San Diego County is also posting a 3.8% positive testing rate for the novel coronavirus — well within the lower orange guideline of the state’s four- tier reopening system.

This comes as the county reported 222 new COVID-19 infections and five deaths due to the illness Tuesday, raising the region’s total cases to 45,167 and the number of deaths to 765.

Of the 8,130 tests reported Tuesday, 3% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 3.6%. The seven-day daily average of tests is 8,748.

The news that San Diego will stay in the red tier comes as somewhat of a surprise after increasing COVID-19 numbers appeared to set the county on a path toward slipping into that most restrictive tier — which would shutter indoor operations for restaurants, movie theaters, houses of worship and gyms, limit retail businesses to just 25% capacity and have major impacts on indoor business for most other industries until the county can improve its numbers.

The county Board of Supervisors met multiple times in the last few days to discuss its options if that happened, including legal action.

Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected a county effort Wednesday to discount the positive tests recorded by San Diego State University since the semester began.

The data released Tuesday did factor in SDSU cases. The push to exclude them was an unlikely gambit because SDSU is located in a highly residential neighborhood in the heart of the city.

“We included the San Diego State University numbers we received in all of our calculations,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency.

“We’ve worked closely with San Diego County over the past, not just last week, but really intensely over the last week to make sure we all understood the data and that we understood where the county landed in the framework.

“There were no concessions made based on their data. And we looked closely at San Diego State, the same way we do all of the other counties across the state.”

Despite the good news about remaining in the red tier, Ghaly noted that the county is hovering on the brink of being downgraded. State rules require a county be above one of the two metrics — daily case rate by population and positive test rate — for two consecutive weeks before it can be moved.

To move down to less restrictive tiers, both of those metrics must be below state guidelines for two consecutive weeks. Should the county be placed in the purple tier, it would have to wait a minimum of three weeks before moving back to less restrictive tiers.

Ghaly said San Diego County would stay in red for this week, but he could not make any promises for the week after if case numbers rise again.

“We certainly see a county that is hovering around that threshold between red and purple, but we continue to have conversations about how we at the state can support San Diego, as well as understanding more and more what San Diego is doing around places like San Diego State University to curtail or limit transmission,” Ghaly said.

To facilitate expanded COVID-19 testing at San Diego State University, the county testing site at Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach will be temporarily closed through Friday. Testing there will resume Monday.

Testing capacity at the SDSU Alumni Center at 5250 55th St. has been expanded from 500 to 1,000 tests a day and will be open to the public, students and university staff. The no-appointment site will offer testing from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, SDSU had reported 914 confirmed or probable cases, including four reports of faculty or staff who have tested positive. Of those, 574 are off-campus cases.

Of the total positive cases reported Tuesday, 3,435 — or 7.6% — required hospitalization and 809 — or 1.8% — had to be admitted to an intensive care unit.

One new community outbreak was confirmed Monday. From Sept. 15-21, 18 community outbreaks were confirmed.

The number of community outbreaks remains above the trigger of seven or more in seven days. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.

Supervisors were hashing out their next moves Tuesday and breathing a little easier knowing businesses won’t have to shut down.

“We haven’t been given a reprieve. We as a county eared a reprieve, remember, because again, we need to follow the numbers,” Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said. 

Some supervisors are calling on the governor to give authority to local officials and let them reopen as they please. Fletcher has been the lone holdout.

“I urged a more cautious approach because I didn’t want to put our small businesses in the instability, week-by-week not knowing,” he said. 

While protests have erupted calling for businesses to open faster, the governor of California is so far staying to the plan without exceptions. 

“San Francisco, which was red the same day we were, is preparing to go down to Orange, at which point they will be ready to open up some of these indoor businesses with two tiers of cushion, so that they will have the certainty and stability to stay open,” Fletcher said.

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