County to allow sitting, sunbathing at beaches starting next week

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SAN DIEGO — San Diego County officials announced Thursday an easing of COVID-19 restrictions at local beaches, allowing passive activities such as sunbathing to resume early next week.

Starting Tuesday, beachgoers again will be able to resume sitting and sunbathing at local beaches, many of which have been at least partially reopen for the past several weeks. Thursday’s decision allows area beach communities to determine if passive activities for individual households return along with other permissible actions including walking, running and cycling.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the county worked with coastal mayors, managers and lifeguards to lift countywide restrictions, but left specific reopening decisions to individual jurisdictions to decide.

Beach parking lots will remain closed and beachgoers are being encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines within small groups, Fletcher said.

On Thursday, the county reported 117 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths, bringing countywide totals to 7,100 cases and 260 deaths, according to the county’s Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten. The five additional deaths occurred between May 14-25.

Ages for the five new reported deaths are between 64 and 97, and all had underlying medical conditions, Wooten said. Of the county’s total deaths, only eight have been reported as not having prior health conditions.

Roughly 18 percent of the county’s total cases or 1,285 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 with another 355 — about 5 percent of the total — admitted to the ICU.

The county and its health partners plan to open up three new COVID testing sites on Friday. They include a drive-up testing site at Aquatica San Diego in Chula Vista, which opens Friday and typically will run Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. That site is expected to have the capacity to take up to 180 appointments per day, County Chairman Greg Cox said.

“No, the big wave pool will not be available and the water slides won’t be open, but this is a great way to use a closed facility to help address our public health needs,” Cox said.

The other two sites are at North Coastal Live Well Health Center in Oceanside, which will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Friday, and a parking lot at the University of San Diego at 5998 Alcala Park, open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

Fletcher thanked San Diegans for sacrificing so much already, but made a plea to give a little more. He said the San Diego Blood Bank is down to just a two-day supply of blood and is seeking convalescent plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19.

A single dose of the plasma could provide some therapeutic relief to three or four people currently suffering from the illness, said Fletcher.

David Wellis, CEO of the San Diego Blood Bank, said the convalescent plasma has proven so popular as a treatment that even though the blood bank has delivered 377 doses, “We are not meeting the demand.”

Also Thursday, Wooten reminded San Diego County residents that wearing a mask was an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19, as they “disrupted the trajectory” of a cough or sneeze and significantly reduce the spread of respiratory droplets.

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