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San Diego County Crosses 15K COVID-19 Cases, Will Be On State Watchlist Friday

People sunbathing and lounging on the beach at La Jolla Children's Pool beach...

Photo by Alexander Nguyen

Above: People sunbathing and lounging on the beach at La Jolla Children's Pool beach on May 23, 2020.

A record 584 new COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday in San Diego County heading into a holiday weekend and California has notified the county it will be placed on the state's monitoring list Friday, meaning local officials are likely to close or place new restrictions on businesses.

The number of cases has now reached 15,207, and the 584 cases reported Thursday is the sixth time in a week the number of daily cases has been more than 400. Of the 8,510 tests reported Thursday, 7% returned positive. The 14-day rolling average of positive tests is 4.9%.

An additional five people have died from COVID-19, raising the county's total to 377. These people — three men and two women — died between June 26 and July 1 and ranged in age from 51 to 93. All had underlying health conditions.

A record 10 community outbreaks were reported Thursday, raising the one-week count to 22, well over the limit of seven San Diego County set for itself, with a series of 13 triggers. Eight of the new outbreaks — defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households — were reported in restaurants and bars. One was traced to a grocery store and one in a business. Of the week's 22 outbreaks, 14 were traced to restaurants or bars.

The spike in COVID-19 cases comes at a later date than San Diego's neighboring counties, but the end result is likely to be the same.

According to the state's metrics, San Diego County is officially "flagged" for recording positive COVID-19 cases at a rate of more than 100 per 100,000 people. The county reported a rate of 1112.8 positive cases per 100,000 Thursday, a number that has increased from 103.8 per 100,000 just three days ago.

If the numbers don't improve, several businesses could be forced to change the way they do business indoors by as early as Tuesday, and restrictions would remain in place for a minimum of three weeks. Businesses affected include restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, cardrooms, family entertainment centers, museums and zoos.

While cases have spiked in San Diego County, it was the sole county in Southern California not named as on the monitoring list by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday. The 19 counties on Newsom's list were ordered to halt much of their indoor business activity for at least three weeks.

"We're the only Southern California county not forced to take action by the governor," County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Wednesday. "I think that is partly because of proactive steps we took before other counties."

Fletcher's colleague on the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, voiced her opposition Thursday to the dialed-back reopenings.

"On Day 109 of this pandemic, I think it is time for a new strategy," she said in a statement. "We have made significant changes to the world around us, we have built capacity in our healthcare system, adapted to masks and with some exceptions, done everything that has been asked of us and the virus rages on. We need to protect the most vulnerable in our population, but we also cannot continue to `toggle' our economy. These do not and cannot continue to be mutually exclusive. We can no more turn our economy on and off, than we can turn this virus on and off. We need to figure out a way to live with both. That is the new normal."

As of Wednesday, restaurants countywide are now required to close at 10 p.m. each day. That followed action earlier this week to halt all reopenings until at least Aug. 1 and to shutter all bars, breweries and wineries not licensed to serve food.

County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said patrons already inside eateries by 10 p.m. may stay inside until 11 p.m., but those locations must be closed from then until 5 a.m. each day. Staff required to clean those facilities may remain inside after closing hours.

According to County Supervisor Greg Cox, the longer people stay at restaurants, particularly if they are drinking alcohol, the more relaxed they get with social distancing, face coverings and other public health orders.

Other businesses that serve food and alcohol now have restrictions in place as well. Customers purchasing alcohol on-site must also purchase food, and both drinks and food must be consumed sitting down.

Oceanside announced Wednesday that it will close beach parking lots over the July Fourth weekend to minimize crowds, increase physical distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19.

City officials said beach parking lots west of the train tracks, with the exception of certain harbor lots near the Harbor Village, will be closed from 8 a.m. Friday until 8 a.m. Monday.

Newsom also announced Wednesday that all state beach parking lots will be closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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