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COVID-19 Milestone: 1 Million San Diegans Tested, 45,000-Plus Infected

Nurse practitioner Debbi Hinderliter, left, collects a sample from a woman at a coronavirus testing site near the nation's busiest pedestrian border crossing in San Diego. Aug. 13, 2020
Gregory Bull / Associated Press
Nurse practitioner Debbi Hinderliter, left, collects a sample from a woman at a coronavirus testing site near the nation's busiest pedestrian border crossing in San Diego. Aug. 13, 2020

San Diego County public health officials have reported 278 new COVID-19 infections and two additional deaths related to the illness, raising the region's totals to 45,425 cases and 767 deaths.

The county's total cases crossed the 45,000 mark Tuesday, and on Wednesday another milestone was reached when the total number of tests reported topped one million.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, thanked agencies and businesses contributing to testing numbers and said the county would maintain its priority testing for those showing symptoms of the illness.

VIDEO: COVID-19 Milestone: 1 Million San Diegans Tested, 45,000-Plus Infected

"Our goal is to test the right people that need to be tested in San Diego County," she said.

With an average of 8,241 daily tests over the past week, the number of tests returning positive is 3.6% of the total over the last 14 days. The county narrowly avoided being dropped to the dreaded "purple" tier of COVID- 19 reopening Tuesday, with 6.9 new daily cases per 100,000 population, just 0.1 away from the state's most restrictive tier.

San Diego County will remain in the red tier at least until next Tuesday, according to state officials.

Of the total COVID-19 cases in the county, 3,450 have been hospitalized with another 813 spending some time in an intensive care unit.

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According to county data, 61.5% of those hospitalized with the illness have been Hispanic or Latino, even as that ethnic group represents around 35% of the county's population. By comparison, 23.3% of those hospitalized have been white, 7.2% Asian and 5.8% Black.

No new community outbreaks were reported Wednesday, bringing the number over the past week to 13, tied to 73 cases.

The number of community outbreaks remains above the trigger of seven or more in seven days. 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.

Even as San Diego County grapples with COVID-19, Wooten warned residents to be prepared for another health threat: influenza.

Last flu season the county reported 108 deaths from the illness. Health officials are concerned that a combination of flu season and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could place stress on the health care system. Wooten encouraged residents to be safe, but to get a flu vaccine.

"The same strategies to avoid COVID-19 work for the flu," she said. "The difference is that we do not have a vaccine for the coronavirus, but we do for the flu."

The news Tuesday that San Diego will stay in the red tier came as somewhat of a surprise after increasing COVID-19 numbers appeared to set the county on a path toward slipping into that most restrictive tier — which would shutter indoor operations for restaurants, movie theaters, houses of worship and gyms, limit retail businesses to just 25% capacity and have major impacts on indoor business for most other industries until the county can improve its numbers.

Despite the good news about remaining in the red tier, the county is hovering on the brink of being downgraded. State rules require a county be above one of the two metrics — daily case rate by population and positive test rate — for two consecutive weeks before it can be moved.

To move down to less restrictive tiers, both of those metrics must be below state guidelines for two consecutive weeks. Should the county be placed in the purple tier, it would have to wait a minimum of three weeks before moving back to less restrictive tiers.

Testing capacity at the SDSU Alumni Center at 5250 55th St. has been expanded from 500 to 1,000 tests a day and will be open to the public, students and university staff. The no-appointment site will offer testing from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday.

SDSU reported 19 additional confirmed or probable cases on Wednesday, raising the total to 933 cases since the fall semester began, including four reports of faculty or staff who have tested positive. Of those, 580 are off- campus cases.