San Diego County reports 264 new COVID-19 cases, 7 more deaths

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego County health officials reported 264 new COVID-19 cases and seven additional deaths Wednesday, raising the county’s totals to 17,842 cases and 406 deaths.

Of the 7,607 tests reported Wednesday, 3% returned positive. A total of 402,494 tests have been completed in the county, along with 20,691 contact tracing investigations.

Wednesday’s results come a day after a record-high 578 cases, a 10% positive test rate and 12 deaths were reported Tuesday.

Despite the lower numbers, other signs show the pandemic is far from easing. A new daily high of 38 COVID-19 positive patients were hospitalized in Wednesday’s data, and about 136 of every 100,000 San Diegans are testing positive for the illness, well above the state’s preferred target of 100 per 100,000. Total COVID-19 hospitalizations have inched up over the last several weeks, said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.

“The pandemic is not over,” she said. “The disease is still widespread in our community, as evidenced by the rising cases.”

Additionally, five new community-based outbreaks were reported Wednesday — in a bar, gym, daycare center, grocery store and health care facility. The number of community outbreaks over the last week is now at 24, well over the county metric of seven outbreaks in seven days. A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting from different households.

More than 75% of the community outbreaks have been traced to restaurants and bars, and 44 community outbreaks remain active, tied to 137 cases of COVID-19.

An additional 23 outbreaks have been traced to skilled nursing facilities and 27 to other nursing facilities.

As the county continues grappling with the current health crisis, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher reminded the public that officials are also looking toward the future.

On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors approved several COVID-19 relief programs, including a $17 million business stimulus package and more federal CARES Act support for essential employee childcare. The board also considered COVID-19 testing in schools, a situation that may become pivotal as the beginning of the school year approaches. Fletcher said that since March, more than 600 childcare businesses have shut their doors.

“Are we tackling a health crisis or an economic crisis? The reality is that you have to do both,” he said. “If there is no childcare and no school, there’s no reasonable expectation that people can go back to work.”

For the new public health order restrictions put in place Tuesday, outdoor dining will still be permitted for restaurants, as will delivery and takeout. The restrictions will be in place for at least three weeks.

Indoor operations were also halted Tuesday in museums, zoos, cardrooms, theaters and family entertainment centers.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed an emergency executive order Tuesday waiving permits and other regulatory requirements to allow restaurants to expand their services onto outdoor dining spaces such as sidewalks and private parking lots.

The San Diego City Council is expected to consider a proposed ordinance next week that will expand on Faulconer’s order. If approved, the ordinance will reduce permit fees, waive and streamline permit reviews, allow for outdoor dining plazas and outdoor operations in on-street parking areas, Faulconer said.

The decision to nix indoor operations at restaurants, bars and breweries is in line with restrictions imposed last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom on counties on the state’s coronavirus monitoring list, which now includes 23 counties. San Diego County was added to that list Friday.

Wooten said Monday that more bad news is likely coming.

“Deaths lag behind hospitalizations, which lag behind cases,” she said, comparing the pattern to what health officials see with seasonal influenza.

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