Coronavirus: San Diego County surpasses 25K COVID-19 cases; 18 more deaths reported

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SAN DIEGO – San Diego County public health officials reported 587 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 more deaths on Wednesday, surging the county past milestone figures of 25,000 total cases and 500 total deaths.

County officials announced 8,280 tests were reported to the county and its health partners on Tuesday. Of those, 7% were positive cases. The county’s seven-day rolling average of positive tests is now 6%.

Following a recent spike in cases, county officials announced the formation of a new safe reopening compliance team. County Supervisor Greg Cox said the team will “help businesses, establishments and people across the region comply with our public health order and to help us slow down the spread of the virus.”

“We know a lot of businesses, places and people already do that and we’re certainly grateful and very thankful for their compliance,” Cox said. “But we are seeing continued outbreaks at businesses and places people gather. We need to curtail those outbreaks.”

Cox added the new team is the county’s “carrot approach,” but he noted, “We still have the stick and other tools available to us and we will use them if necessary.”

The county wants to seek compliance with state and local health orders, Cox said. It comes in light of recent violations, including last week at a church in Kearny Mesa, which held a worship event hours after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered indoor operations at places of worship to cease.

That church now is in compliance, Cox said, but county officials said they’re interested in working with local municipalities to share information and better enforce existing guidelines.

“If you look at this like an iceberg, what we have been dealing with (is) the very egregious cases,” Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the team would enable the county to step up enforcement on “egregious violations” — but the details on that enforcement were also unclear. Officials were also reaching out to the various cities and communities in the county to collaborate on solutions.

“This is out of an effort to keep our businesses open, not to close them,” Fletcher said.

After three days with a downward trend in cases, the 587 reported Wednesday marked a swing back in the other direction. The 18 deaths were also one of the largest daily numbers of the pandemic in San Diego County.

According to Wooten, the county’s public health officer, 95% of the county’s COVID-19 deaths had underlying medical conditions.

Two new community outbreaks were identified Wednesday, bringing the total in the past seven days to 12. The number of community outbreaks — defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households — remains higher than the state threshold of seven or more in seven days.

The new outbreaks were reported in a business and a health care setting.

Of the total positive cases, 2,279 — or 9.1% — have been hospitalized and 592 — or 2.4% — have been admitted to an intensive care unit. As of Wednesday, 485 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized, 166 of them in intensive care units.

From July 13 to July 19, the county also reported the most hospitalizations, 163, and the most deaths, 56, in any one-week span since COVID-19 began spreading in the United States in March.

“We implore you to not wait for someone you care about to lose the fight against COVID-19 before you take action,” Wooten said Monday. She said the recent spike in cases began to occur after bars, hotels and gyms reopened June 12.

The percentage of San Diegans testing positive rose to 154.8 per 100,000 residents, well above the state’s criterion of 100 per 100,000.

Wooten said that to fall below that metric, the county would have to record 234 positive COVID-19 cases or fewer for 14 consecutive days.

The last metric the county has failed to maintain is the percentage of cases that have been handled by a contact investigator within 24 hours of being reported. There are more than 500 investigators employed by the county, and although 98% of all cases had been investigated in that time frame as recently as June 25, that rate had dropped to 9% as of Wednesday.

Wooten said that in response, the county is attempting to hire more contact investigators, with 97 set to come on board Friday and another 212 in the hiring process.

The number of cases continues to rise in people between the ages of 20 and 49 and particularly in people in their 20s, prompting the county to aim efforts at educating younger people.

Residents in their 20s account for 25.1% of the county’s cases, the highest percentage of any age group, according to county data. The next highest group are residents in their 30s, representing 19.1% of cases.

“While it’s true that the mortality for younger people is lower, it’s also true that the rate is not zero,” said Dr. Scott Eisman, a pulmonologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas. “The complications from this illness are far greater, much longer lasting and far more serious than the flu.”

Eisman also said heart attacks, strokes and serious blood clots are increasing among younger people confirmed to have COVID-19.

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