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County COVID-19 Cases Rise to 849, As Five More Die From the Illness

A chart showing 115 new cases of COVID-19 in San Diego as reported on April 1, 2020.
County of San Diego
A chart showing 115 new cases of COVID-19 in San Diego as reported on April 1, 2020.

San Diego County health officials Wednesday announced five COVID-19 deaths — the deadliest day locally since the global pandemic began — and 115 new cases, bringing the total to 849 confirmed cases and 15 fatalities.

The latest deaths related to COVID-19 involved a 90-year-old woman and men aged 83, 74, 73 and 71.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the month of April "will determine our trajectory as a region. Will San Diego be another Italy or New York? This will be a month of aggressive, intentional action. I believe we can avoid scenes we have seen elsewhere in our country."

The county reported a total of 533 ventilators in its 23 hospitals — with another 80 ready to be deployed in an emergency — 695 being serviced, 600 requested from the state and 125 ordered from elsewhere.

RELATED: County Releases Home ZIP Codes Of COVID-19 Cases, But Does That Tell Us Anything?

County officials began reporting cases by ZIP code Wednesday, but a spike in areas like Hillcrest and La Jolla were not causes for concern for Dr. Nick Yphantides, San Diego County's chief medical officer.

"It's important to note that just because they live in those ZIP codes, they may not have gotten the illness there," he said. "If you want my honest opinion, it doesn't make that big of a difference."

Fletcher agreed, stating that the best course of action, whether a ZIP code has a high number of cases or none at all, was to stay home.

"We believe there are positive cases in every ZIP code in the county," he said.

Fletcher also reported that the first homeless residents of San Diego County had tested positive for the illness, but the county did not usually break down health updates by occupation or state of housing.

One occupation Yphantides was able to pinpoint was law enforcement. He reported an outbreak at the San Diego Police Department. An officer and that person's partner were confirmed to have the illness and an investigation was underway.

RELATED: California Orders Nursing Homes To Accept People With Coronavirus

A skilled nursing home in El Cajon was also the site of another outbreak, including one positive case and three suspected case. It is the latest in a series of "congregate living sites" — which can be assisted living facilities, prisons or anywhere where large groups of people congregate in one living location — to have positive tests. Those sites were under strict health protocols and under further investigation, Yphantides said.

San Diego County health officials are working with UC San Diego to secure an empty dormitory for coronavirus patients too sick to go home, but not sick enough to remain in the hospital.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Tuesday that the 200 to 250 beds the dorm will provide will "raise the bar" on the number of beds available for any surge in COVID-19 cases. The "alternative care center" will open in the near future, he said.

Fletcher said county health teams monitor their ability to respond to the crisis with three S's — stuff, staff and structure. The state has responded by sending a 250-bed mobile field hospital and a 225-bed hospital unit, which Fletcher said comes with staff.