Half of county’s coronavirus deaths linked to assisted living, nursing homes

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) — The number of coronavirus cases in San Diego County rose to 1,693 and deaths increased to 44 Friday, county health officials said.

Half of those deaths, which rose by four Friday, have occurred in congregate living facilities such as assisted living homes and nursing homes, said Dr. Eric McDonald, the county’s medical director of epidemiology.

According to McDonald, there have been 19 outbreaks in congregate living facilities, which can be traced to 180 cases and 22 deaths. The other eight outbreaks in “community” settings could be traced to 38 cases and one death.

The county reported 65 new cases Friday, and said there are 374 hospitalizations, 140 intensive-care hospitalizations and an estimated 373 people who have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the county estimated the recoveries by taking the last known positive tests for the illness, waiting two weeks and subtracting any loss of life. It is a rough estimate, but does give some semblance of the county’s picture, he said, noting it was similar to how Johns Hopkins University tracked cases and recovery worldwide.

The county’s total numbers largely reflect the nation’s rate of hospitalization and death, with 21% of positive-testing individuals hospitalized, 8.3% sent to the ICU and 2.6% dying from the illness.

Fletcher said social distancing procedures were working, citing a mobility-tracking algorithm which found that traffic to parks was down 70% from baseline, transit stations down 69%, retail down 54%, workplace down 43% and grocery store traffic down 28%. The only measured location with increased to- and-fro traffic was near residences, which had increased by 16%.

Even with San Diegans taking the public health orders seriously, Fletcher encouraged people celebrating Passover and Easter this weekend to continue to celebrate in person only with members of their immediate households.

“We know this is a weekend of particular significance for many,” he said. “This weekend would be a great time to reach out to someone; call them, Zoom them, yell out a window — as long as you’re six feet away.”

Several churches and synagogues have planned online services for the weekend to allow worshippers to practice social distancing.

A “social-distancing scoreboard” revealed that most of Southern California was earning a “C+” grade, including San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties.

“I know we say `Beat L.A.’ a lot in San Diego, but it looks like we have some work to do to pass our neighbors to the north,” Fletcher said.

In the same scoreboard, developed by a third-party software developer, Santa Barbara County earned top marks with an “A-” while California averaged a “B” grade.

The county and the 23 hospitals in the region have administered 23,353 COVID-19 tests, around 93% of which have returned negative. San Diego County has distributed 1.95 million pieces of personal protective equipment, including 797,000 N95 respirators, 716,000 pairs of gloves and 364,000 surgical masks.

Fletcher said that despite the response, the county was waiting on state and federal help, as “a number of entities are beginning to run low” on supplies.

He reported the county’s hospitals had 554 ventilators, not including 93 in the county supply ready to deploy when and where necessary.

Five Scripps Health hospital campuses in San Diego County are now equipped with a point-of-care test that can detect coronavirus in as little as five minutes.

The test, which will be used to screen for COVID-19 in hospitalized patients requiring quick diagnostic turnaround, can deliver a positive result in as little as five minutes and a negative result in 13 minutes, a hospital statement said Thursday. The diagnostic tool received emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on March 27.

San Diego County officials have expanded a public health order requiring facial coverings for additional essential employees.

Fletcher announced Thursday that bank employees, public transportation workers and childcare providers who serve food must now wear non-medical grade facial coverings at work. Public transportation includes public employees such as those working for the Metropolitan Transit System, but also includes drivers for Uber and Lyft and cab drivers.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Thursday that a dozen of the downtown library’s 3D printers are being used to print face shields for local hospitals.

The printers can collectively produce about 50 face shields per day at a time when they are at a premium.

While the library remains closed to the public per local public health orders, its infrastructure is being utilized as part of Faulconer’s order issued last week making all city properties available for COVID-19-related uses.

The city of San Diego on Thursday night rescinded furloughs it ordered last week for 800 city workers and agreed to continue paying those employees their full salaries while finding them other city tasks during the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Most of the employees had been working at city libraries and recreation centers before those facilities closed, while others worked for the city’s Transportation and Stormwater Department, according to the newspaper.

The reversal comes after the labor union representing most of the workers, the Municipal Employees Association, filed a grievance Saturday.

A sailor assigned to the San Diego-based aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt was in intensive care as of Thursday afternoon after being found in his room on the ship docked in Guam, the Navy said Thursday.

The sailor tested positive for COVID-19 March 30 and was found unresponsive on Thursday, Navy officials said.

Former USS Theodore Roosevelt Capt. Brett Crozier was relieved of his duties April 2, three days after a letter he wrote asking for a stronger response to the coronavirus outbreak on the ship was published in the San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets.

Crozier has since tested positive for COVID-19, as have 416 sailors on the vessel, as of Thursday.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who fired Crozier, submitted his resignation Monday after a recording surfaced of him addressing the crew over the ship’s PA system, in which he called Crozier’s actions “a betrayal” and said he believed the captain either purposefully sent the letter to unauthorized parties or must have been “too naive or too stupid” to realize the import of his actions.

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