County reports 1,478 new COVID-19 cases, 6 deaths as curfew takes effect

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SAN DIEGO — Public health leaders reported 1,478 new cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths Saturday as a new county-wide curfew went into effect.

The new restrictions handed down by Gov. Newsom require people who aren’t on essential errands to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. People are still allowed to shop for groceries, pick up food and walk their dogs.

According to county data, 7% of the 21,947 tests reported to the county Saturday were positive and 456 people were hospitalized for the virus with 128 in the ICU.

Saturday was the 11th consecutive day more than 600 new coronavirus cases were reported by the county, and the most in a single day. Last Saturday, 1,087 cases were reported, 922 were reported Wednesday, 899 Thursday and 1,091 Friday.

County health officials are attributing the sharp increase in cases to a general fatigue of the pandemic and are urging San Diegans to avoid gatherings and take COVID-19 seriously.

“The virus is widespread and every element of our community is impacted,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “Now more than ever it is vital that San Diegans avoid gatherings and crowds, wear a face covering when they are out in public and stay home if they are sick.”

On Nov. 11, a then-record 661 cases were reported, surpassing the 652 cases reported Aug. 7. Another 620 cases were reported Nov. 12.

A total of 34,021 tests — a new record — were reported Friday and 3% of those came back positive, dropping the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 4.7%. The number of COVID-19 cases in the hospital continues to rise.

Wooten said anyone hosting a gathering should keep it small, short and safe. Gatherings should be limited to a maximum of three stable households. Short meaning the gathering should last two hours or less. Safe meaning that people should stay outdoors as much as possible and wear a face covering when they are not eating or drinking.

Hundreds of people waited in line Saturday to be tested for COVID-19 ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Maggie Scholle is a senior at the University of San Diego. She said she waited about two hours at the testing site in Linda Vista, just down the street from the school. She’s hoping her test comes back negative before she catches a flight home to Chicago.

“I’m not seeing anyone for Thanksgiving but just to make sure to protect my family,” Scholle said.

She is one of the nearly 30,000 people expected to make their way through the San Diego International Airport for the holiday. That’s about 50,000 less than in previous years with many residents expected to travel by car instead.

Eleven new community outbreaks were confirmed Friday, three in business settings, three in faith-based settings, two in childcare settings, one in a TK-12 school setting, one in a restaurant/bar setting and one in a gym setting. 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.

County officials announced Thursday law enforcement will step up COVID-19 compliance protocols, including education and citations, amid spiking coronavirus cases.

Sheriff Bill Gore said Thursday four two-deputy teams will begin making “a full-time commitment” to the county’s 18 cities and unincorporated areas, ensuring compliance with public health orders. Several cities have already confirmed they will send officers to assist deputies in their duties, Gore said.

The county has issued 52 cease-and-desist orders since Monday, including five Thursday to Alliance MMA and Functional Republic, both in Chula Vista, Crunch Fitness in Serra Mesa, The Element Dance Center in La Mesa and IB Fitness in Imperial Beach. Residents can report egregious violations of the health order on the county complaint line at 858-694-2900 or email SafeReopeningComplianceTeam@sdcounty.ca.gov.

Gore said deputies would not be going door-to-door but, rather, follow up on complaints. Education about public health orders will be the first method used, Gore said. Citations could follow.

“The bottom line is wear those damn masks out there and social-distance,” he said.

The announcement about increased enforcement measures came on the day Gov. Gavin Newsom announced California counties in the state’s “purple” tier will be subject to the curfew prohibiting all “nonessential” activities and gatherings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The “limited Stay At Home Order” applies to all counties in the most restrictive tier of the state’s coronavirus monitoring system, purple, which includes Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. The order will take effect at 10 p.m. Saturday and remain in effect until 5 a.m. Dec. 21.

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