County leaders request gyms, hotels, theme parks reopen; 7 new COVID-19 deaths reported

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SAN DIEGO — San Diego County officials are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom for more local control to move forward in the county’s COVID-19 recovery, a decision that could set the table for fitness facilities, pools and theme parks to return.

On a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the county’s Board of Supervisors approved sending a letter to Newsom which would allow more industries to return from coronavirus-related shutdowns. County Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox said Wednesday that would allow reopenings of a number of local industries, including hotels, indoor museums, wineries, breweries and charter fishing boats.

The county also has requested health guidelines be relaxed for religious facilities, allowing them to reopen beyond 25%. That requested cap for churches would be 100 people, Cox said.

The county reported 124 additional cases and seven deaths Wednesday, raising its totals to 7,798 cases and 283 deaths. The county also recorded a new daily-high COVID-19 tests with 4,940, just 3% of which returned positive.

The county’s rolling average of positive tests has hit a plateau over the last several weeks, and other numbers are “trending in the right direction,” according to Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health officer.

But with thousands taking to the streets protesting police methods after the in-custody asphyxiation death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, and with restaurants and other industries continuing to open locally, health officials revealed a backup plan Wednesday.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher identified 13 “triggers” that could cause the county to take industry-specific actions, pause all reopening efforts or even dial back reopenings. These triggers are divided into three categories: epidemiology and public health, with four triggers each — and healthcare, with five.

According to Fletcher, the county is currently in “green” in all 13 measurements.

However, if the county records seven or more community-based outbreaks in seven days, sees the intensive care bed availability come close to 20% of the total or if personal protective equipment at half the county’s hospitals drop below a 15-day supply for three consecutive days, the county will take immediate action.

“Any one of these criteria could force us to take action,” Fletcher said, saying that if the county triggers one of the guidelines in two of the three categories, it would also be forced to act.

“It’s complicated, but it gives us our best and clearest sense of where we are,” he said.

Also Wednesday, Fletcher said the county planned to move forward once it got directions from the state. Once the county gets the “how” of reopening further, local county health officials will decide the “when,” he said.

The Board of Supervisors also voted Tuesday to extend a moratorium on evictions for both residents and small businesses for another month, through June 30th.

Fletcher and Cox made the request, which was unanimously approved. The board first approved an eviction moratorium in late March.

“By extending the moratorium, we are giving families and business owners another tool to assist in their recovery from the pandemic,” Fletcher said.

Cox said, “This is not an effort to provide free rent. It’s really an encouragement for tenants, landlords, to work together on a payment plan.”

Fletcher added that people who qualify for the moratorium have to prove economic hardship caused by the pandemic.

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