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County Reports 869 New COVID-19 Cases As Military Prepares For Vaccinations

A nurse helps prepare syringes with the Moderna vaccine at the Coronado Community Center, Mar. 1, 2021.
Jacob Aere
A nurse helps prepare syringes with the Moderna vaccine at the Coronado Community Center, Mar. 1, 2021.

San Diego County's public health officials reported 869 new COVID-19 cases as a surge in infections in the county continues to increase dramatically and the military prepares to require servicemembers get the vaccine.

San Diego-area members of the military who have been reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine may no longer have a choice, following U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's announcement Monday that he is seeking approval from President Joe Biden to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all service members by Sept. 15.

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Austin said Biden had consulted him about adding the vaccine to the list of those already required for servicemen and women, and following discussion with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretaries of the various military departments, service chiefs and medical professionals, decided to move forward with the vaccine requirement.

"Based on these consultations and on additional discussions with leaders of the White House COVID Task Force, I want you to know that I will seek the president's approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid- September, or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Agency licensure, whichever comes first," he said in a statement. "By way of expectation, public reporting suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could achieve full FDA licensure early next month."

San Diego County has nearly 72% of all eligible residents vaccinated — more than two million. That number does include members of the military, but excludes some vaccinations given by tribal authorities or federal detention centers.

According to the Department of Defense, there are more than 110,000 active-duty military personnel in San Diego County.

Monday's data brought the county's cumulative totals to 306,855 cases since the pandemic began, with the death toll remaining at 3,811.

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Additionally, another two people were hospitalized, according to San Diego County Public Health Services.

A total of 12,977 new tests were recorded in Monday's data, and the percentage of new positive cases over the past week was 8.7%.

Robert Smith, director and CEO of the Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System, said last week that the climbing rate of infections is also taking a toll on veterans.

"Rates have gone up fivefold in the last six weeks in San Diego, and we're seeing the same kind of an increase amongst the veterans that we serve, and those increases are being seen in those that are unvaccinated," Smith said.

"We are not seeing hospitalizations amongst those that have received the vaccine, and it just points out both the safety of the vaccine that's available, but also the effectiveness of that vaccine."