COVID-19: San Diego County reports 291 new cases, 8 deaths

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – As San Diego County awaits guidance on the effects of its removal from the state’s coronavirus watchlist, public health officials reported 291 new COVID-19 cases and eight additional deaths Saturday, raising the region’s totals to 36,203 cases and 660 deaths.

Four women and four men died, officials said Saturday. Their ages ranged from mid-40s to mid-90s. All had underlying medical conditions.

The county was officially removed from the state’s monitoring list Tuesday, setting in motion a 14-day countdown that could see K-12 students back in the classroom as soon as Sept. 1, depending on the decisions of individual school districts.

However, 27 schools — mostly private, religious schools — have been approved for in-person learning by the county.

The schools include Calvary Christian Academy, Francis Parker School, Chabad Hebrew Academy, San Diego French American School, La Jolla Country Day School and others. They were among nearly 50 schools that applied for a waiver to the county’s public health guideline regarding in-person teaching.

Of the 8,824 tests reported Friday, 3% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average to 3.6%, well below the state’s 8% guideline. The 7- day rolling average of tests is 7,292 daily.

Of the total positive cases in the county, 2,961 — or 8.2% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 728 — or 2% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.

County health officials reported no new community outbreaks as of Friday, bringing the number of outbreaks in the past week to 17.

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.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he and other county officials were expecting to hear about the framework for reopening indoor businesses from the state next week.

“That doesn’t mean we’ll be able to open everything all at once,” he said Wednesday. “We must be mindful. We don’t want to undo the progress we’ve made so far.”

The county continued to make progress Saturday, with a case rate of 81.8 positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people, below the state’s 100 per 100,000 guideline.

The county will be placed back on the list should it be flagged for exceeding any one of six different metrics for three consecutive days. Those metrics are the case rate, the percentage of positive tests, the average number of tests a county is able to perform daily, changes in the number of hospitalized patients and the percentage of ventilators and intensive care beds available.

On Monday, county-compiled data related to race and ethnicity on testing, staffing and geographic location will be made available for the first time. Previously, data on race had been broken down by deaths, hospitalizations and case numbers only.

Latinos are still disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with that ethnic group representing 61.7% of all hospitalizations and 46% of all deaths due to the illness. Latinos make up about 35% of San Diego County’s population.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s chief health officer, revealed a five- tiered testing priority protocol Wednesday that the county has been using. In the top two tiers were symptomatic people separated by risk factors, followed by two tiers of asymptomatic people and finally by a general public health surveillance tier. The county reassessed its testing priorities in mid-July.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Tuesday that the city would begin allowing gyms, fitness businesses and places of worship to operate in city parks beginning Monday.

“There is no city better than San Diego to take advantage of the fact that COVID-19 has a harder time spreading outdoors. Using parks as part of our pandemic relief response will help the mental health and physical health of thousands of San Diegans,” Faulconer said.

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