County issues cease-and-desist orders at SDSU houses

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – As San Diego County enters Halloween weekend, public health officials issued cease-and-desist orders to eight addresses around San Diego State University Friday, warning that any parties or large gatherings in violation of public health orders could be slapped with misdemeanor citations.

“We were compelled to take this action because there is a great deal at stake,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “Let me be very clear, the region’s livelihood hangs in the balance and is directly tied to our individual and collective actions.”

“We are on the brink of moving to a more restrictive tier. Know that our place on one tier or another is not based on the state’s assessment, it is intrinsically tied to our personal and common efforts. The risk of contracting COVID-19 is increased when we come in contact with individuals outside our households. Every decision each of us makes should be guided by that knowledge.”

Several of the cease-and-desist notices were to private residences, while others were served at homes associated with fraternities Kappa Sigma, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Pi Kappa Alpha and sorority Gamma Phi Beta. Several addresses are homes next door to one another. According to the county, residents reportedly planned to tear down backyard fences to make one communal gathering area.

According to the California Department of Public Health’s Oct. 9 guidelines, gatherings are to be restricted to no more than three households. Wooten’s letter stated that failure to comply with the guidelines could result in a criminal misdemeanor citation with a $1,000 fine for each violation.

Statement from Dr. Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer:

“We were compelled to take this action because there is a great deal at stake. Let me be very clear, the region’s livelihood hangs in the balance and is directly tied to our individual and collective actions. We are on the brink of moving to a more restrictive tier. Know that our place on one tier or another is not based on the state’s assessment, it is intrinsically tied to our personal and common efforts. The risk of contracting COVID-19 is increased when we come in contact with individuals outside our households. Every decision each of us makes should be guided by that knowledge.”

All students at San Diego State University remain under a stay-at-home advisory. The advisory began at 6 p.m. Friday and will run through Monday at 6 a.m. University officials said the move was made to discourage students from participating in Halloween events in which physical distancing cannot be done. Students are advised to stay home unless they have an essential need.

San Diego County public health officials reported 471 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths Friday, raising the region’s total to 56,369 cases and 888 deaths. One woman and two men died between Oct. 25 and Oct. 28. Their ages ranged from mid-30s to mid-80s. All had underlying medical conditions.

Of the 15,013 tests reported Friday, 3% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average percentage of positive cases to 2.7%. The 7-day daily average of tests is 11,336.

One new community outbreak was confirmed Friday in a restaurant. It brings the total in the past week to 33, above the trigger of seven or more in seven days. A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.

Of all cases, 3,911 — or 6.9% — have required hospitalization. And 905 — or 1.6% — of all cases and 23.1% of hospitalized cases had to be admitted to an intensive care unit. Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said the three most common co-morbidities with COVID-19 in the region were hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

The county avoided the state’s purple tier, the most restrictive, for yet another week on Tuesday, remaining in the less restrictive “red” tier of the state’s four- tiered coronavirus monitoring system. The county’s adjusted case rate dropped to 6.5 new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the county’s unadjusted case rate is 7.4 per 100,000 — enough to be in the purple tier, which has a floor of 7 per 100,000. However, the high volume of tests the county is able to perform daily allows for an adjustment from the state. This adjustment has kept the county in the red tier for several weeks, saving it from having to shut down nearly all nonessential indoor businesses.

The state data, updated every Tuesday, reflects the previous week’s case data to determine where counties stand in the state’s four-tiered reopening system. San Diego County did show modest improvement, dropping 0.4 from last week’s unadjusted case rate of 7.8. The testing positivity rate continued an upward trend, rising 0.2% from last week to reach 3.5%, but remains low enough for this metric to remain in the orange tier. If a county reports statistics meeting metrics in a higher tier for two consecutive weeks, it will move into that more restrictive tier for a minimum of three weeks.

The state’s health equity metric, which looks at the testing positivity for areas with the lowest healthy conditions, dropped from 5.5% to 5.1% and entered the orange tier. This metric does not move counties backward to more restrictive tiers, but is required to advance.

The Escondido Union School District reported two positive cases Thursday at Mission Middle School. District officials were notified of the positive tests on Tuesday, and said the cases were separate. The new cases prompted district officials to advise 25 students, five teachers and three classroom aides to begin a 14-day quarantine.

The Vista Unified School District reported four COVID-19 cases Monday, including two Mission Vista High School students, one Roosevelt Middle School student and one Alamosa Park Elementary School student. On Tuesday, the district confirmed two additional cases — one at Mission Meadows Elementary School and one at Alamosa Park Elementary School. According to the district’s COVID-19 safety dashboard, it has recorded 13 cases since Sept. 8, with nine of those coming after Oct. 20.

The VUSD Board voted Tuesday to shut down at least one campus for two weeks starting Thursday as a result of the rising cases. At least 400 students and nearly two dozen staff members have been ordered to quarantine.

Mission Vista High School moved to distance learning for at least two weeks starting Thursday, while Alta Vista High School and Roosevelt Middle School also face potential closures.

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