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COVID-19: What To Consider Before Leaving Home

People walking on Ocean Beach Pier on June 9, the first day the pier reopened...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: People walking on Ocean Beach Pier on June 9, the first day the pier reopened after the COVID-19 closure.

This week, local beach parking lots and piers reopened in San Diego County and by Friday gyms, bars, museums and hotels will also open for business with some restrictions.

But the dangers of coronavirus remain. The state flagged 11 California counties, including Los Angeles, for additional monitoring due to increases in new coronavirus cases or hospitalizations. Several states have also reported increases in new coronavirus cases. On Wednesday, San Diego County public health officials urged San Diegans to remain cautious.

Dr. Francesa Torriani, medical director of Infection Prevention and Clinical Epidemiology at UC San Diego, joined Midday Edition Thursday to talk about what the public should consider about before venturing outside this summer. Her answers have been edited for clarity.

Q: How risky is going to the beach?

A: It all depends how much you interact with others. We still have an order in place which requires us to use face coverings when we are out and face-to-face with other members who are not of our close family circle. As long as you are on the beach with your family, with your household, and you use a face covering when you are doing activities with people outside of your household, then that is probably your best protection.

Q: What about indoor activities like going to the movies?

A: I'm assuming that people would be still wearing face coverings and that the businesses that are going to be opening are ensuring that the appropriate, physical distancing, in addition to wearing face covering, is going to occur. If I go to a Target, am I now taking away my mask when I'm in Target because I'm further than six feet from other people? Probably not. I still want to protect others from whatever cough I may have. And, so the same is at the movies.

Q: Is it safe to gather in a backyard with friends if everyone is wearing masks and sitting six feet apart?

A: The more exchanges, the larger the gathering, the larger the risk is. But yes, you can if you are having a gathering, even if it's with less than 10 people, people should wear a mask. Then, you decrease the probability of getting infected. Don't share food. Don't share a fork. Don't share spoons. Don't share the same glass and wash your hands. People who wash their hands frequently reduce risks of acquiring infection by 20 to 30%.

Q: Several counties have seen spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. In Sacramento, hospitalizations quadrupled the last two weeks. How concerned are you about these spikes?

A: That's a risk. We have to be very careful of monitoring this and sending out information to the population when we see that numbers are not going in the right way. I think that continued education of the population and particularly the ones who are at higher risk of complications, that they should be wearing face coverings, they should be doing social distancing, they should be allowed to get tested if they present with certain symptoms. Contact tracing by the public health departments is essential in decreasing the number of transmissions in the community. You need a very, very strong public health system and a testing strategy. We are getting better towards that in San Diego County. We have our authorities looking at the numbers, conversing with the hospitals on a weekly, if not daily basis, and really monitoring the changes very carefully.

Q: What will you be looking out for as more parts of the region begin to reopen?

A: I will be looking at the rates of positivity. The number of patients admitted to the hospitals. And clearly the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the county. So I'll be watching our numbers very carefully, our numbers south of us, our numbers east of us and how we can help these regions respond to their health needs. Because what happens in Tijuana and what happens in South Bay or what happens in east county will affect us. The more we can help them, the better everybody will be.

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