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San Diego Nears 50,000 Coronavirus Cases Mark, 8 More Community Outbreaks Reported

A sign warns people to practice social distancing and to wear a mask at the I...

Photo by Alexander Nguyen

Above: A sign warns people to practice social distancing and to wear a mask at the Imperial Beach pier, Sept. 14, 2020.

San Diego County public health officials reported 357 new COVID-19 infections and two more deaths from the illness Friday, raising the county's totals to 49,823 cases of the coronavirus and 821 fatalities.

The number of cases will likely cross 50,000 on Saturday, a milestone for the region, which experienced its first case in February.

One woman and one man died, and their ages ranged from early 60s to late 90s. Both had underlying medical conditions.

Of the 13,829 tests reported Friday, 3% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average percentage of positive cases to 2.9%. The seven-day daily average of tests was 9,809.

In addition to the tests reported Friday, the county received a batch of 41,520 tests from labs covering several months, with positive cases previously reported and investigated.

Of the total number of cases in the county, 3,652 — or 7.3% — have required hospitalization and 848 — or 1.7% of all cases — had to be admitted to an intensive care unit.

A total of eight community outbreaks were reported Friday, five in businesses and three in restaurant/bar settings.

In the past seven days, 37 community outbreaks were confirmed, well above the trigger of seven or more in a week's time. 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.

On Tuesday, the county found out it will remain in the second — or red — tier of the state's four-tier COVID-19 reopening plan for at least another week.

However, a new wrinkle in how the state looks at county data was announced Wednesday. A health equity metric will now be used to determine how quickly a county may advance through the reopening plan, San Diego Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said.

A community can only be as well as its unhealthiest quartile, she said, and while counties with a large disparity between the least and most sick members of a community will not be punished for the disparity by sliding back into more restrictive tiers, such a disparity will stop counties from advancing to less-restrictive tiers.

According to the state guidelines, the health equity will measure socially determined health circumstances, such as a community's transportation, housing, access to health care and testing, access to healthy food and parks.

Neighborhoods are grouped and scored by census tracts on the Healthy Places Index, https://healthyplacesindex.org/. Some of the unhealthiest neighborhoods include Logan Heights, Valencia Park, downtown El Cajon and National City. According to county data, the county's health equity testing positivity percentage is 6.2 and is in the red tier.

Wooten said the complicated metric will be explained further on Monday, when the state releases an official "playbook" of how it is calculated and what it means to communities throughout the state as they attempt to reopen.

The county's state-calculated, adjusted case rate is 6.5 new daily infections per 100,000 people, down from last week's 6.7. The unadjusted case rate is down to 7 from last week's 7.2. Because San Diego County testing levels were above the state median testing volume, the county's adjustment level was decreased.

On the last two Tuesdays, the county narrowly avoided being pushed back into the purple tier, the most strict in the state's reopening plan. The state-set threshold of case rate to avoid the purple tier is below 7 per 100,000 people. To move into the less-restrictive orange tier, a county must have a rate below 3.9 per 100,000 people.

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