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San Diego County Reports 263 COVID-19 Cases, Six Deaths

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 have reported 263 new COVID-19 infections and six additional deaths, raising the region's cumulative totals to 53,263 cases and 863 fatalities.

The numbers came as officials reminded county residents the region is "too close for comfort" to the most-restrictive tier in the state's four-tier coronavirus monitoring system. On Tuesday, despite an unadjusted daily COVID-19 case rate of 7.8 per 100,000 population, the county was again able to avoid being pushed into the purple tier, which would have placed indoor activities at restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and a number of other locations in jeopardy.

The state adjusted the data for the week of Oct. 4-10 down to 7 per 100,000 — the highest it can be without heading into purple — due to the county's high rates of testing. The data are reported on a one-week delay.

"Yesterday we dodged a bullet. We could not have gotten any closer without tripping into the purple tier," County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Wednesday. "But we don't want to live or die on the tiers by how many tests we've done."

Of the 10,449 tests reported Wednesday, 3% returned positive, keeping the 14-day rolling average percentage of positive cases at 2.8%, far below the state-set target of less than 8%.

Reported by Tarryn Mento

Of the total COVID-19 cases in the county, 3,800 or 7.1% have been hospitalized, with 879 — or 1.7% — spending at least some time in an intensive care unit. The number of current COVID-19 hospital patients in the region is 234, with 77 of those in the ICU.

The state reported that the testing positivity percentage for the region increased from 3% to 3.3%, but it still remains low enough for this metric to remain in the orange tier. If a county reports statistics meeting metrics in a higher tier for two consecutive weeks, it will move into that more restrictive tier for a minimum of three weeks.

The state's health equity metric, which looks at the testing positivity for areas with the lowest healthy conditions, dropped from 5.7 to 5.5% and remained in the red tier. This metric does not move counties backward to more restrictive tiers, but is required to advance.

Six new community outbreaks were reported Wednesday, two in businesses, two in restaurants, one in a restaurant/bar setting and one in a healthcare setting. In the past seven days, 32 community outbreaks were confirmed, well above the trigger of seven or more in a week's time.

A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.

The rising case rates are concerning on their own, but as the Nov. 3 election is just 13 days away, concerns of long lines and possible spread of the virus at polling locations are now in play.

San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu spoke at the county's weekly COVID-19 update Wednesday to remind voters to vote early, vote by mail if possible and to bring masks and lots of patience to the 235 polling locations open on Oct. 31, Nov. 1, 2 and 3.

The 235 polling places have been consolidated from more than 600 originally planned locations.

"I do not want to be standing here 14 days later with Dr. [Wilma] Wooten talking about election day as a statistic," Vu said, referring to the county's public health officer.

He said all 4,500 election workers will undergo two days of training before the election so they can handle sanitization procedures and how to direct crowds. Each worker is screened for COVID-19 daily.

People who are emphatic about voting in person — or who need to for various reasons — will be welcomed, but offered masks if they are not wearing one, Vu said.

According to Vu, more than 562,000 ballots have already been received by the county, nearly 30% of the 1.9 million ballots sent to every registered voter in the county. He said if the early voting trend continues, the crowds on the four days the polls are open — including election day — could be minimal.

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