SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego County public health officials reported 251 new COVID-19 infections and five additional deaths related to the illness Tuesday, raising the county’s total to 46,985 cases and 781 deaths.
The new data comes as the county again avoided being pushed into the “purple” tier, the most restrictive in the state’s four-tier reopening plan. The county will remain in the red tier for COVID-19 cases, with a state- adjusted case rate of 6.7 per 100,000 residents, county Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten told the Board of Supervisors during their meeting Tuesday.
California officials announced changes to the monitoring system for counties on Tuesday. County public health officials said their unadjusted case rate was above 7.0, at 7.2. However, because testing levels were above the state median testing volume, the county’s adjustment level was decreased.
Meanwhile, outdoor playgrounds in parks, campgrounds and other publicly accessible locations are slated to reopen this week. The county announced Tuesday that its 100 playgrounds will reopen Wednesday. Several cities have also moved forward with reopening their playgrounds on Wednesday or later this week, according to the county Parks and Recreation Department, which is assisting them in addressing the protocols for safe reopening.
Protocols include social distancing, all people 2 years old or older mandated to wear masks, no eating or drinking allowed in playgrounds and limiting time to 30 minutes while others are present.
Of the 8,997 tests reported Tuesday, 3% returned positive, dropping the 14-day rolling average percentage of positive cases to 3.1%. The state-set target is less than 8%. The seven-day daily average of tests was 8,555.
Of the total number of cases in the county, 3,515 — or 7.5% — have required hospitalization and 817 — or 1.7% of all cases — had to be admitted to an intensive care unit.
Three new community outbreaks were reported Tuesday, in a business setting, a recreation center and in a hotel/resort/spa setting. From Sept. 21 to Sept. 28, 20 community outbreaks were confirmed. The number of community outbreaks remains above the trigger of seven or more in seven days.
Three men and two women died Sept. 26, and their ages ranged from late 20s to mid-80s.
While it’s not possible to predict what the future holds for the state testing system, the county is exceeding testing numbers, Wooten said.
The county announced Tuesday that it will be increasing the number of COVID-19 testing sites across the region from 29 to 41 and the number of tests available to be administered by public health nurses through the county’s lab contract with Helix will nearly double to about 30,000 weekly tests.
Nick Macchione, county Health & Human Services director, said that along with facilitating the testing needs of schools, improved capacity will help the county stay above the state’s testing median. The county also now has seven community-based organizations working to stop virus spread, Macchione said.
The county’s testing positivity percentage is 3.8%.
“They play a vital role of reaching our hardest-hit communities,” he added.
While the board took no new actions regarding policy, Supervisor Jim Desmond said the colored tier system is flawed, and that every business should be afforded the same opportunity to open up safely.
“We’re not dealing with a widespread pandemic,” Desmond said, adding the county’s hospital cases are low.
“If I look to Sacramento, I wonder, `What’s the goal?”‘ Desmond said.
He said the county should not base its economic future on a vaccine.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob praised county health officials, along with residents, for their efforts to combat the spread of the virus. “Hopefully we can keep moving forward,” she added.
According to a report released Monday by the Chicano Federation, there are significant and systemic barriers preventing Latinos from receiving COVID-19 testing and participating in contact tracing efforts in San Diego County.
However, the report, “Perceptions of Contact Tracing Among San Diego Latinos,” finds that Latinos in San Diego can and will participate in testing and contact tracing if the county’s testing, tracing and treatment strategy — also known as T3 — is available in both Spanish and English, addresses privacy and financial concerns and removes isolation barriers.
Of the more than 46,000 COVID-19 cases in the county to date, Latinos account for nearly 66% and nearly half of the 776 fatalities due to the illness. The group makes up around 35% of the county’s total population.
San Diego State University reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases to 1,080 since Aug. 24, the first day of instruction for the fall semester.
These totals include 1,036 confirmed cases and 44 probable cases. None of the COVID-19 cases have been connected with instructional or research spaces since fall instruction began.
Of the students living on campus, 389 have tested positive and students living off campus totaled 669 positive cases, health services officials said. A total of eight faculty or staff members have tested positive and 14 “visitors” — people who have had exposure with an SDSU-affiliated individual — have tested positive.
The eight confirmed faculty or staff cases are from staff members associated with an auxiliary of SDSU.
The information is based on cases reported to Student Health Services by an individual or by a public health official. As more private labs are administering tests, there is a possibility that not all cases are being reported to Student Health Services.