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LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

COVID-19 Deaths Cross 400 As San Diego Officials Consider How To Go Back To School

Customers dining on the sidewalk in front of Guava Beach Bar and Grill in Mis...

Credit: Courtesy of Eric Christiansen

Above: Customers dining on the sidewalk in front of Guava Beach Bar and Grill in Mission Beach on July 8, 2020. The city of San Diego waived permit requirements for outdoor dining after the state ordered restaurants to close indoor dining to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The San Diego County COVID-19 case total is nearing the 18,000 mark and deaths from the virus have eclipsed 400.

County health officials reported 264 new COVID-19 cases and seven additional deaths on Wednesday, raising the county's totals to 17,842 cases and 406 deaths.

Of the 7,607 tests reported Wednesday, 3% returned positive. A total of 402,494 tests have been completed in the county, along with 20,691 contact tracing investigations.

Wednesday's results come a day after a record-high 578 cases, a 10% positive test rate and 12 deaths were reported Tuesday.

Despite the lower numbers, other signs show the pandemic is far from easing. A new daily high of 38 COVID-19 positive patients were hospitalized in Wednesday's data, and about 136 of every 100,000 San Diegans are testing positive for the illness, well above the state's criterion of 100 per 100,000. Total COVID-19 hospitalizations have inched up over the last several weeks, said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer.

RELATED: More Layoffs Expected After Restrictions Targeting Indoor Activities Hit San Diego

"The pandemic is not over," she said. "The disease is still widespread in our community, as evidenced by the rising cases."

Additionally, five new community-based outbreaks were reported Wednesday — in a bar, gym, daycare center, grocery store and health care facility. The number of community outbreaks over the last week is now at 24, well over the county metric of seven outbreaks in seven days. A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting from different households.

More than 75% of the community outbreaks have been traced to restaurants and bars, and 44 community outbreaks remain active, tied to 137 cases of COVID-19.

An additional 23 outbreaks have been traced to skilled nursing facilities and 27 to other nursing facilities.

San Diego Harbor Police announced Wednesday that three of its patrol officers recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Two officers tested positive Tuesday and one Wednesday. All three officers, whose identity's were not released, are in isolation at home.

As the county continues grappling with the current health crisis, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher reminded the public that officials are also looking toward the future.

On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors approved several COVID-19 relief programs, including a $17 million business stimulus package and more federal CARES Act support for essential employee childcare. The board also considered COVID-19 testing in schools, a situation that may become pivotal as the beginning of the school year approaches. Fletcher said that since March, more than 600 childcare businesses have shut their doors.

"Are we tackling a health crisis or an economic crisis? The reality is that you have to do both," he said Wednesday. "If there is no childcare and no school, there's no reasonable expectation that people can go back to work."

For the new public health order restrictions put in place Tuesday, outdoor dining will still be permitted for restaurants, as will delivery and takeout. The restrictions will be in place for at least three weeks.

Indoor operations were also halted Tuesday in breweries, wineries, distilleries, museums, zoos, cardrooms, theaters and family entertainment centers.

The decision to nix indoor operations at restaurants, bars and breweries is in line with restrictions imposed last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom on counties on the state's coronavirus monitoring list, which now includes 23 counties. San Diego County was added to that list Friday.

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