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San Diego County Reports 2,532 New COVID-19 Infections

Medical staff administer COVID-19 swab tests at the drive-through Aquatica Sa...

Photo by Jacob Aere

Above: Medical staff administer COVID-19 swab tests at the drive-through Aquatica San Diego testing location, Dec. 8, 2020.

San Diego County public health officials reported 2,532 new COVID-19 infections and 31 additional deaths due to the illness Tuesday, as the state extended regional stay-at-home orders.

The new cases mark the 29th consecutive day with more than 1,000 new infections, and the 20th overall day with more than 2,000 new cases. The 3,000 mark has been crossed five times.

The state's regional order, which covers an 11-county Southern California area, took effect at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 6 and was set to expire Monday. But with the region's intensive-care unit capacity at hospitals still officially listed at 0%, the order was extended indefinitely.

What's driving coronavirus surge? Check out the KPBS Trigger Tracker

The state's Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said four-week projections indicate incoming COVID-19 patients are expected to continue exceeding ICU capacity in the region. Ghaly said the four-week projections are evaluated daily, and the region can emerge from the stay-at- home order whenever the projection indicates a region's ICU capacity will rise above 15%.

The four-week projections are based on four factors: current ICU capacity, the region's seven-day average daily new case rate, the transmission rate and the rate of ICU admissions.

With the Southern California region's current ICU capacity still listed at 0% — and health officials anticipating case numbers and hospitalizations to rise throughout January based on gatherings that likely occurred for Christmas and will again for New Year's Eve despite warnings — the region is expected to remain under the order for weeks to come.

The state also extended the stay-at-home order for the San Joaquin Valley. Four of the five regions carved out by the state are under stay-at-home orders, covering 98% of the state's population. Only far northern California is not under a stay-at-home order.

The Southern California region covers Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, Inyo, Mono, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Most broadly, the order bars gatherings of people from different households.

The 2,532 cases reported by San Diego County Tuesday crossed the 150,000 cumulative cases milestone. The county's totals now measure 150,064 cases and 1,435 deaths.

Another 44 people with coronavirus were hospitalized Tuesday and 11 sent to ICUs. The 1,562 people hospitalized from the virus is a record, while the 388 in ICUs is the second-most after only Monday's reported 393.

The county is reporting 19% of its existing ICU beds as available, but San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said last week many of those beds lack staffing. The real number of available, staffed beds is likely much lower.

Several hospitals and healthcare groups in the region have applied for ratio waivers — effectively allowing medical staff to take on a heavier patient burden.

RELATED: Nurses Stage Caravan To Protest Possible Changes To Nurse-To-Patient Ratios At Palomar Health

COVID-19 patients make up a little less than two-thirds of all ICU patients in the area, with just 228 non-COVID-19 patients compared to the 388 coronavirus patients in the ICU.

The county has reported a 130% increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the past 30 days and a 121% increase in ICU patients in the same time period.

Of 16,944 tests reported Monday, 15% returned positive, bringing the 14-day average down to 10.8%. Sunday saw a record positivity rate of 27%.

Three new community outbreaks were confirmed Tuesday — 57 have been confirmed in the last seven days with 233 cases associated with those outbreaks. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.

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Stay-at-home orders in the Southern California region have been extended. Meanwhile, nurses and other caregivers are not pleased with a waiver that could increase nurses’ patient loads. Also, we have an interview with the CEOs of Sharp Grossmont and Scripps Health on how it is handling the COVID-19 surge.

Aired: December 30, 2020 | Transcript

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