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New COVID-19 Testing Site Opens At San Ysidro PedEast Border Crossing

COVID-19 testing signs are placed at the PedEast crossing in San Ysidro, Augu...

Photo by Andi Dukleth

Above: COVID-19 testing signs are placed at the PedEast crossing in San Ysidro, August 12, 2020.

A new COVID-19 testing site will begin operating this morning at the San Ysidro Port of Entry PedEast crossing.

The free testing site will operate from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and will focus on testing essential workers and American citizens who live in Tijuana, according to San Diego County health officials.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

No appointments are necessary at the walk-up site, which aims to offer about 200 tests daily. People getting tested will not be asked about their immigration status or who lives with them, health officials said.

"We know that communities in South Bay have been hit the hardest by COVID-19," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "The location was selected because of the increase in cases in the region and the number of people, especially essential workers who cross daily."

People tested at the new site included Oceanside resident Grisel Barrios, who went down to Tijuana on Wednesday morning to do some shopping.

"When I saw that they had the free COVID testing I decided to take advantage of it because I have grandkids I have to babysit," she told KPBS. She says she'll be teaching her grandchildren this fall, because of the pandemic.

She said the test process took less than five minutes and she should be getting results in 3-4 days. She had wanted to get a test before, but was discouraged by the wait times.

"I know everywhere you have to make an appointment, and it’s weeks before you do it, and it’s not as convenient and walking across and seeing it here."

San Diego County health officials reported 182 new COVID-19 infections Tuesday, the first time that fewer than 200 new cases have been reported since June 22.

However, eight coronavirus fatalities were also reported Tuesday, raising the death toll to 602. Of the deaths reported thus far during the pandemic, 96% had some underlying medical condition. The total case count for COVID-19 climbed to 33,157 Tuesday.

RELATED: County To Open Border Covid Test Site Without Additional State, Fed Support

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the county's partnerships with its 18 incorporated communities were allowing law enforcement to step up efforts to punish egregious violators of public health orders.

A visit from county staff is the first action used, followed by a cease-and-desist order and then an order to close. If an entity refuses to close after that order, it will be cited and fined $1,000 — as University Heights gym Boulevard Fitness was Tuesday, Fletcher said.

"The selfish defiance of the public health orders only hurts those acting in good faith," he said. "This is not out of a desire to be punitive."

County health officials also reported six community outbreaks, bringing the number of outbreaks in the past week to 29.

The latest outbreaks were reported in a restaurant/bar setting, a gym, two in government offices and two in businesses, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency.

The number of community outbreaks remains well above the county's goal of fewer than seven in a seven-day span. An outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households in the past 14 days.

The number of patients hospitalized for treatment for coronavirus totaled 333 as of Monday, with 112 of those patients in intensive care units. Sunday saw the fewest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since June.

Of the total positive cases in the county, 2,771 — or 8.4% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 694 — or 2.1% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.

The county's case rate per 100,000 residents as of Monday was 101.2, while the state's reported rate was 105.3. Wooten said this discrepancy might be related to the state using a different time frame than the county data or the fact that the state does not count inmates in correctional facilities in its countywide total.

The state's goal is fewer than 100 per 100,000. The case rate is a 14- day average and is based on the date of the actual onset of the illness in each patient, not the date the illness was first reported by the county. Lags in reporting often lead to delays in new confirmed cases being reported to and announced by health officials.

The county reported 5,669 tests Tuesday, 3% of which returned positive. The 14-day rolling average percentage of positive cases is 4.8%. The state's target is fewer than 8.0% testing positive. The seven-day daily average of tests is 8,362.

The next scheduled media briefing by county health officials will be Thursday. No briefing will be held Wednesday due to a county budget hearing.

Fletcher said problems with the state's electronic reporting system — which has led to a backlog in test results — have mostly been resolved, but a few additional cases might be retroactively added to both local and statewide case totals in coming weeks.

The percentage of people testing positive for the illness who have been contacted by a county contact tracer in the first 48 hours increased from 7% on July 18 to 97% Tuesday. The county's target for this metric is more than 90%.

Of all the people hospitalized due to the illness, 71% have been 50 or older. But county residents ages 20-29 have accounted for 25.5% of COVID-19 cases, the highest of any age group, according to county data. That age group is also least likely to take precautionary measures to avoid spreading the illness, officials said.

"Some San Diegans think they're not going to get sick and therefore are not following the public health guidance," Wooten said last week. "What they don't realize is that they could get infected and pass the virus to others who are vulnerable."

The age group with the second-highest number of infections — residents ages 30-39 — represents 19% of the county's COVID-19 cases.

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