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Health

San Diego Coronavirus Deaths Increase By 12, County Advises No Experimental Treatments

A police officer stands in front of a closed beach Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in San Diego. San Diego tightened restrictions on beach access Monday, March 23, 2020, as the city reacts to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gregory Bull / AP Photo
A police officer stands in front of a closed beach Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in San Diego. San Diego tightened restrictions on beach access Monday, March 23, 2020, as the city reacts to the coronavirus pandemic.

San Diego County public health officials reported 50 new cases of COVID-19 and a dozen deaths Tuesday, raising the total death count to 31, with 1,454 confirmed cases.

The new cases are the fewest reported in the county since March 28 and the second-fewest in two weeks, but the number of deaths is by far the largest increase since the public health emergency began.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer, said while the statistics were striking, they may not represent any significant trends.

"The increase in deaths should be no cause for alarm, as the number of deaths frequently lags behind the number of cases," she said. "Most of the deaths have been reported since yesterday, obviously, but have occurred in the last several days."

VIDEO: San Diego Coronavirus Deaths Increase By 12; Newsom Says California Curve Appears To Be Flattening

Wooten said the county sees a similar lag every year in influenza season, as the process of completing a death certificate may take several days while new confirmed positive cases are more immediately reported. Even so, the leap in deaths brings the percentage of people dying from complications related to COVID-19 to 2.1%, still below both California's mortality rate of 2.3% and the nation's 3.2% but a significant increase from Monday's local rate of 1.3% mortality.

Wooten also urged county residents to avoid experimental treatments for COVID-19, stressing that there was no known cure for the illness.

Of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial medication touted multiple times in recent days by President Donald Trump, Wooten was clear.

"We are not recommending this medication," she said.

Dr. Eric McDonald, the county's medical director of epidemiology, agreed.

"This particular drug is not FDA indicated for this use," he said. "There's no evidence of any specific drug that has any specific efficacy at this time."

He said many medical studies were underway around the world to address exactly this issue, but no scientific research confirmed efficacy.

Trump "has a small personal financial interest" in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine, The New York Times reported Monday.

Since COVID-19 first arrived in San Diego County, there have been 289 hospitalizations from the respiratory illness and 109 intensive care hospitalizations.

For the first time Tuesday, the county reported the number of estimated recovered patients, at 201. The county does not currently track the number of COVID-19 patients in the region's 23 hospitals, instead of looking at the total number of occupied beds.

Wooten reported eight new outbreaks of the novel coronavirus for a total of 25 outbreaks,