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COVID-19 Cases Dip, County Increases Protections For Employees In Health Order

Cars lining up for drive-thru COVID-19 testing at a CVS Pharmacy in Chula Vis...

Photo by Alexander Nguyen

Above: Cars lining up for drive-thru COVID-19 testing at a CVS Pharmacy in Chula Vista on June 12, 2020.

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The amendment to the county's public health order, which went into effect Thursday morning, will require all employers to inform employees of any COVID-19 outbreaks or cases at a place of business. Previously, the county recommended employers disclose outbreak information but did not require it.

Aired: July 30, 2020 | Transcript

San Diego County public health officials have amended the public health order to increase protection for employees working during the pandemic.

The amendment to the county's public health order, which went into effect this morning, will require all employers to inform employees of any COVID-19 outbreaks or cases at a place of business. Previously, the county recommended employers disclose outbreak information but did not require it.

"We are continually adjusting and making refinements," said county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. "We believe most entities are acting responsibly, but this will ensure employers inform their employees."

County health officials reported 282 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths on Wednesday, raising the cumulative caseload to 28,287 and the death toll to 522.

Of the 6,899 tests reported Wednesday, 4% returned positive, lower than the 14-day average of around 6%. Of the total positive cases, 2,459 — or 8.7% — required hospitalization and 632 — or 2.2% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.

According to Fletcher, the lower numbers could reflect the county's "realignment" to try to test more vulnerable populations who have been harder hit by the virus.

The head of the Chicano Federation of San Diego County was critical of the county's response, saying it had not taken actions to reflect its demographics in contact tracers — an inaction which could be exacerbating cases and reporting in the county's Latino population.

"We were told repeatedly that the county was working diligently to hire people from the community to serve as contact tracers, and that they were being intentional about making sure contract tracers and investigators were representative of the community. They lied," Chicano Federation CEO Nancy Maldonado said in a statement Wednesday.

"The County of San Diego has failed Latinos at every step of this pandemic," she said. "Lives have been destroyed because of failed leadership. The response from the county has been irresponsible — and San Diego County's Latino community is paying the price."

Speaking at the county's daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Fletcher and county Supervisor Greg Cox said the county is rapidly attempting to recruit more Spanish-speaking contact tracers and investigators and increase testing in the South Bay, where communities are reporting the highest rates of COVID-19 in the county. The percentage of Latino contact tracers and investigators hired by the county is currently 25%.

Latinos make up 61% of those hospitalized in the county from the virus and 45% of the deaths. They comprise around 35% of the county's population.

Cox and Fletcher also said they would be bringing a plan for a safe reopening compliance team before the full Board of Supervisors. The team would supplement health order enforcement, including investigating egregious violations, outbreaks and conducting regular checks of the county's more than 7,500 food facilities.

New enforcement could include a compliance hotline for tips, additional staff for investigations and outbreaks, and coordination with cities to send a team to conduct investigations.

A half-dozen new community setting outbreaks were reported Wednesday — three in restaurant/bar settings, two in businesses and one in a healthcare facility. In the past seven days, 24 community outbreaks have been confirmed.

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

A total of 73 outbreaks have been reported in July, more than double the number reported in June and almost equal to the number reported from March through June.

San Diego County's 14-day case rate stands at 139.4 per 100,000 population. To get taken off the state's monitoring list, the county would need to lower its 14-day case rate to below 100 cases per 100,000.

As of Wednesday, there were 502 people in the county hospitalized with COVID-19, and 149 of those patients are in intensive care units.

On Monday, the county reported 529 people were hospitalized for the virus— a high for the month of July.

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