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San Diego Still Awaiting Guidance After Falling Off State Monitoring List

Man walking out of 7-Eleven in Bay Park on Aug. 1, 2020. The business, like many others in the county, is requiring customers to wear a mask before entering the premises to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Alexander Nguyen
Man walking out of 7-Eleven in Bay Park on Aug. 1, 2020. The business, like many others in the county, is requiring customers to wear a mask before entering the premises to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he and other county officials were expecting to hear about the framework for reopening indoor businesses from the state by Monday.

As San Diego County continues to await guidance on the effects of its removal from the state's coronavirus watchlist, public health officials reported 214 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths, raising the region's totals to 35,376 cases and 638 deaths.

The county was officially removed from the state's monitoring list Tuesday, setting in motion a 14-day countdown that could see K-12 students back in the classroom as soon as Sept. 1, depending on the decisions of individual school districts. However, what that means for businesses was still unclear.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he and other county officials were expecting to hear about the framework for reopening indoor businesses from the state by Monday.

"That doesn't mean we'll be able to open everything all at once," he said Wednesday. "We must be mindful. We don't want to undo the progress we've made so far."

The county continued to make progress Wednesday, with a case rate of 84.4 positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people, below the state's 100 per 100,000 guideline.

San Diego Still Awaiting Guidance After Falling Off State Monitoring List

The county will be placed back on the list should it be flagged for exceeding any one of six different metrics for three consecutive days. Those metrics are the case rate, the percentage of positive tests, the average number of tests a county is able to perform daily, changes in the number of hospitalized patients and the percentage of ventilators and intensive care beds available.

Of the 6,781 tests reported Wednesday, 3% returned positive, lowering the 14-day rolling average to 4%, well below the state's 8% guideline. The 7- day rolling average of tests is 7,798 daily.

Of the total positive cases in the county, 2,916 — or 8.2% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 723 — or 2% — were admitted to an intensive care unit. The current number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital rose slightly to 303 Wednesday, with 104 of those in the ICU.

County health officials reported two new community outbreaks Wednesday, bringing the number of outbreaks in the past week to 15.

The new outbreaks were in a restaurant and a business. The county continues to keep the names and locations of businesses with outbreaks secret.

The number of community outbreaks remains well above the county's goal of fewer than seven in a seven-day span, although Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, thanked the public for adhering to health guidelines to significantly reduce those numbers. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households in the past 14 days.

On Monday, county-compiled data related to race and ethnicity on testing, staffing and geographic location will be made available for the first time. Previously, data on race had been broken down by deaths, hospitalizations and case numbers only.

Latinos are still disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with that ethnic group representing 61.7% of all hospitalizations and 46% of all deaths due to the illness. Latinos make up about 35% of San Diego County's population.

Wooten revealed a five-tiered testing priority protocol Wednesday that the county has been using. In the top two tiers were symptomatic people separated by risk factors, followed by two tiers of asymptomatic people and finally by a general public health surveillance tier. The county reassessed its testing priorities in mid-July.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Tuesday that the city would begin allowing gyms, fitness businesses and places of worship to operate in city parks beginning Monday.

"There is no city better than San Diego to take advantage of the fact that COVID-19 has a harder time spreading outdoors. Using parks as part of our pandemic relief response will help the mental health and physical health of thousands of San Diegans," Faulconer said.

Corrected:
Editor's' Note: A previous version of this story reported there were 212 new cases. The correct number is 214. This story has been updated to reflect the change.