SAN DIEGO — County officials Wednesday reported 1,217 new COVID-19 infections and 16 additional fatalities, raising the county’s totals to 84,638 cases and 1,035 deaths since the pandemic began in March.
The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency reported 739 coronavirus patients hospitalized as of Wednesday, with 209 of them in intensive care units. That compares to 723 reported Tuesday, with 197 of them in the ICU.
The number of people with COVID-19 in area hospitals has nearly tripled from one month ago — 288 were hospitalized on Nov. 1. The 739 is also double the previous peak in mid July.
Of the 84,638 cases logged in the county since the start of the pandemic, 4,726 — or 5.6% — have required hospitalization and 1,038 patients – – 1.2% — had to be admitted to an ICU.
The total number of people hospitalized for any reason in the county is 4,448 — fairly consistent with the past several months — but the percentage of COVID-19 patients in the region’s hospitals rose from 6% a month ago to 16.6% on Wednesday.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, also raised attention to 77% occupancy of the county’s ICU beds. Of the 696 ICU beds in the county, 538 are currently occupied — 209 by coronavirus patients, or 39%.
San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher offered a chilling reminder that statistics on COVID-19 are delayed due to the virus’ incubation period.
“We expect this to get worse before it gets better,” he said.
Supervisor Greg Cox urged county residents to take the pandemic seriously, even as we get closer to winter holidays.
“This is not the year for caroling, this is not the year for ugly sweater contests,” he said.
While an influx of cases tied to Thanksgiving gatherings has not been seen yet, both supervisors thanked the majority of families for staying safe during the holiday.
Fletcher also advised religious followers to worship in outdoors and maintain distance. Last week, the county broke its previous policy of not revealing the locations of community outbreaks by announcing Awaken Church on Balboa Avenue was the site of a community outbreak and asked those who attended in-person services from Nov. 15-22 to quarantine for 14 days and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. The church has continued to hold indoor religious services in violation of county orders.
“We recognize the role religion and faith play in people’s lives, particularly in trying times,” Fletcher said. “But the building does not constitute the faith.”
Wednesday marked the 22nd consecutive day more than 600 new cases have been reported and the 10th day of the last 13 more than 1,000 new cases were reported — including two days over the Thanksgiving weekend with more than 1,800 new infections.
A total of 21,701 tests were reported Wednesday, with 6% returning positive, raising the 14-day average to 6.3%.
Christopher Howard, the president and CEO of Sharp Healthcare was invited to speak at the news conference. He took the opportunity to say that healthcare and hospital workers were working tirelessly to help the hundreds of San Diegans who are getting sick with COVID-19, but that they were very disheartened to see members of the public who continue to refuse to take basic precautions that could help prevent the virus from spreading.
“This is a pain to wear at times. I think we’re all tired of it,” Howard said, holding up a mask. “But you know what’s more of a pain? To be a COVID patient in one of our hospitals. Or to be talking to the family member of a patient who is about to expire that they can’t be there with.That’s what a pain is.”
Howard asked the public to make a few more sacrifices to help bring the pandemic under control.
“Wear a mask. Maintain your social distance. Wash your hands. If you don’t have to go out, don’t, stay home. Do what you can to protect yourself and protect yourself from others,” he said.