County’s coronavirus death toll rises to 18

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) — The number of coronavirus cases in San Diego County has increased by 97, bringing the total number of cases to 1,209, and the death of a man in his early 70s brings the total death count to 18, health officials said Saturday.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer, also said during Saturday’s briefing that there were three new outbreaks, bringing the total number of outbreaks in the county to 16.

Meanwhile, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan vowed to go after “greedy people” who are taking advantage of the pandemic by engaging in charity scams, fake cures and price gouging.

She warned the public to never email back any organization that claims to be a charity. Instead, people should go to the charity’s website and engage with that charity online.

Stephan said the IRS, or any government entity, will never call you for personal private information.

The district attorney’s office has received 240 tips about businesses or people who are price gouging, she said. “We will not tolerate taking advantage of the public through price gouging,” Stephan said. A total of 24 businesses agreed to stop overcharging for items such as masks, milk, water, eggs and toilet paper.

Stephan also reminded people that being at home is not safe for everyone and said domestic violence is on the rise.

“Children can be caught in the crossfire,” the district attorney said. She urged San Diegans to go to the danewscenter.com website for resources on domestic violence.

Stephan also announced that although courtrooms have been shut down, the courts will be open with a new virtual remote hearing system that will start next week.

The San Diego Sheriff’s Department will be running the remote hearing system through the county’s jails. “The public safety will always be our priority,” Stephan said.

Also at Saturday’s briefing, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced a new program that allows San Diegans to pledge support in the fight against the coronavirus.

The website, coronavirus-sd.com/pledge, allows people to sign a pledge to stay home and save lives, then share their pledge on social media.

Supervisor Greg Cox also announced that the county is working with a city in China that will supply San Diego hospitals with 20,000 new surgical masks over the next few days.

“And remember,” Cox said, “when you leave your place, cover your face.”

Meanwhile, the city of Oceanside, in order to comply with public health orders, closed its beaches Friday night.

San Diego stores still open and serving the public scrambled to comply with San Diego County’s amended public health orders — requiring all employees who work in essential business and interact with the public to wear facial covering — which go into effect at midnight Saturday.

These businesses include pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations.

County health officials revised the public health orders Thursday, which also shut down park and beach parking lots throughout the region. Any park or beach still open in the county must close parking lots, making the space accessible only for local residents who can walk there. Wooten also said that all group activities such as basketball and volleyball were prohibited. Activities such as walking, hiking and bicycling will still be permitted.

Further orders include businesses remaining open that serve the public must now post social distancing and sanitization guidelines near the entrance of their business by Tuesday, and a recommendation that anyone who leaves their home for any essential purpose should wear a facial covering — bandana, scarf, homemade mask, etc. — while maintaining social distancing. These coverings should not be medical-grade masks, officials said.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore added to the county’s public health orders, saying he was informing law enforcement agencies across the county to step up enforcement of closed areas such as beaches and parks.

“The days of voluntary compliance are over,” he said. “These are not recommendations, these are orders.”

Violations are considered a misdemeanor and punishable by up to a $1,000 fine. Law enforcement agencies were largely educating violators before Thursday, Gore said.

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