County reports 96 new virus cases,15 new deaths

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SAN DIEGO — San Diego County approved the opening of another round of businesses and services Tuesday, following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s guidance toward reopening California’s economy, as county officials reported 96 new COVID-19 cases and 15 additional deaths.

The new deaths happened between May 7 and May 11, county public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said. The victims ranged in age from 56 to 92 and all had underlying medical conditions that contributed to their deaths, she said.

Since the virus began being tracked in San Diego County, a total of 190 people have died and 5,161 people have tested positive for coronavirus, Wooten said.

The county reported 2,440 tests Tuesday and has completed a total of 84,556. Among those tests are 1,126 at the San Diego Convention Center among staff, volunteers and residents.

Of the tests reported Tuesday, 4% were positive, bringing the rolling total to under 5%.

Office-based businesses are permitted to reopen, although Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said county health officials still “strongly encourage telework.”

Malls — indoor, outdoor and strip malls — are also allowed to reopen for curbside pickup and delivery only.

Other businesses or services able to open Tuesday included car washes, pet grooming businesses, landscaping businesses and outdoor museums and gathering places.

These businesses can open as soon as ready, but must first fill out the safe reopening plan located on the county’s website.

Newsom also released guidelines for the state’s restaurant industry to reopen safely. While there is no timeline attached to opening restaurants, the guidelines allow business owners to prepare for that day.

“We are moving consistently as a state,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said the biggest challenge going forward for local governments was to build up testing and tracing capabilities, something he said would continue long after businesses reopen.

San Diego County brought a few more contact tracer employees onboard since Monday, raising the total to 170, and has completed 6,294 contact investigations. The county has a goal of hiring 450 total contact tracers.

As of Tuesday, 400 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, with 144 in intensive care units.

Since the pandemic began, 996 people have been hospitalized in the county, with 309 spending some time in intensive care. There have been an estimated 3,124 recoveries from the illness in the region.

“The metrics are all trending in the right direction,” Wooten said.

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