County schools allowed to reopen for in-person teaching

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego County schools are allowed to reopen for in-person teaching starting Tuesday, a day after a flurry of businesses throughout the county resumed indoor operations.

Tuesday marks two weeks since San Diego County was removed from the state’s COVID-19 watch list and nearly three weeks that the county’s case rate has remained under 100 cases per 100,000 people.

Remaining below that metric has paved the way for K-12 schools to reopen for in-person teaching, but many districts are expected to take a cautious approach to reopening.

Schools that choose to reopen must follow state guidance, including mandatory face covering usage for students in third grade through high school, increased cleaning and disinfecting practices and implementing a six-foot distance requirement, where possible, in classrooms and non-classroom spaces.

On Monday, San Diego County businesses including movie theaters, gyms, museums and hair and nail salons resumed indoor operations, with modifications, under newly issued state guidance. Restaurants, places of worship and movie theaters are only allowed up to 25% occupancy or 100 people — whichever is less. Museums, zoos and aquariums are also required not to exceed 25% occupancy.

Monday night, the county implemented a new policy that restaurant patrons sitting indoors must wear masks at all times, except when eating or drinking. Outdoor patrons may still remove masks while not consuming food or beverages.

Gyms, dance studios, yoga studios and fitness centers may operate with 10% occupancy. Hair salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, piercing shops, skin care and cosmetology services and nail salons may operate indoors with normal capacity, but a new policy states they must keep an appointment book with names and contact information for customers to track potential future outbreaks.

San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox thanked San Diegans for working hard to bring the case rate down but offered a word of caution on Monday.

“This is not a green light, this is a yellow light,” he said. “We can’t gun the engine of the economy full throttle yet.”

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said the county would follow state guidelines that retail businesses are to be restricted to 50% occupancy. Wooten said she was seeking clarification on grocery stores for the same restriction.

All indoor businesses must still abide by social distancing and face- covering mandates, as well as having a detailed safe reopening plan on file with the county.

County public health officials reported 304 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, raising the county’s cumulative cases to 38,604. No new deaths were reported, keeping the county’s deaths tied to the illness at 682.

Of 5,731 tests reported Monday, 5% returned positive, raising the county’s 14-day rolling positive testing rate to 3.7%, well below the state’s 8% guideline. The seven-day average number of tests performed in the county is 6,543.

On Monday, San Diego State University reported another 13 students, some of whom live in campus housing, have tested positive for COVID-19. They join seven other students who tested positive for the illness last week. None of the students have attended any in-person classes.

An SDSU statement said the university had taken direct action with the students who live in university-owned housing.

“Three of the cases live on-campus at Zapotec, Villa Alvarado Apartments and South Campus Plaza North,” the statement said. “Two on-campus students have been moved to a designated isolation room, per SDSU’s Office of Housing Administration COVID-19 protocol. The other student was already isolating away from campus, prior to seeking testing this weekend. All are recovering well.”

A total of 31 SDSU students have contracted COVID-19 since March.

Of the total positive cases in the county, 3,111 — or 8.1% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 750 — or 1.9% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.

County health officials reported two new community outbreaks Monday, bringing the number of outbreaks in the past week to 16.

The number of community outbreaks remains well above the county’s goal of fewer than seven in a seven-day span. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households in the past 14 days.

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