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San Diego County Reports 17 New COVID-19 Deaths, A New Daily High

Vials of coronavirus test samples at the University of San Diego testing site on July 15, 2020.
Andi Dukleth
Vials of coronavirus test samples at the University of San Diego testing site on July 15, 2020.

San Diego County public health officials reported a record 17 COVID-19-related deaths and 409 new cases as they opened a new testing site in Imperial Beach.

The data reported on Thursday raises the number of deaths to 465 and the number of cases to 21,855.

Of the deaths, 11 were men and six were women. They died between July 2 and July 15 and ranged in age from 51 to 90. All but one had underlying medical conditions.


The county recorded 10,434 tests Thursday, 4% of which were positive. The rolling 14-day average for positive tests is now 6%. The state's target is below 8% positive test rate.

To help the South Bay increase testing capability, the county Health and Human Services Agency and County Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox opened a new testing site in Imperial Beach Thursday morning.

The free, drive-up testing site is in the parking lot of Mar Vista High School, at 505 Elm Ave. The site will offer up to 185 appointments per day.

This new location brings the total number to six testing sites in South County and is part of the County's South Bay Saturation strategy. Additional testing sites are located in San Ysidro, two in Chula Vista and two in National City.

County public health officials have recorded more than 500 cases four times in the past week, with 508 on Saturday, 558 on Sunday, 539 on Tuesday and 559 Wednesday.


One new community outbreak was reported Wednesday, bringing the weekly total to 14 — well above the county's metric of no more than seven in a one-week span. The new outbreak was reported in a gym.

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

Of the total positive cases, 2,127 — or 9.7% — have been hospitalized and 558 — or 2.6% — of cases have been admitted to an intensive care unit.

A new record of 153.2 of every 100,000 San Diegans are testing positive for the illness as of Thursday's data, well above the state's criterion of 100 per 100,000.

The last metric the county has failed to maintain is the percentage of cases that have been handled by a contact investigator within 24 hours of it being reported. There are more than 500 investigators employed by the county, and although 98% of all cases had been investigated in that time frame as recently as June 25, that rate has dropped to a dismal 37%. The county metric is to reach 71% of new cases in a day's span.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County's public health officer, said in response to these flagging rates, the county is attempting to hire more contact investigators. In just a three-hour period after the job posting went online Wednesday, more than 300 applications came in.

The number of cases continues to rise in people between the ages of 20 and 49 and particularly in people in their 20s, prompting the county to make efforts at educating younger people.

San Diego residents between 20 and 29 years old account for 24.9% of the county's cases, the highest percentage of any age group, according to county data.

"While it's true that the mortality for younger people is lower, it's also true that the rate is not zero," said Dr. Scott Eisman, pulmonologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas. "The complications from this illness are far greater, much longer lasting and far more serious than the flu."

Eisman said in studies of the outbreaks of SARS and MERS — other coronaviruses — people who had the disease and showed symptoms sometimes didn't regain original lung capacity until a year or longer after the symptoms began.

"All indications lead us to expect it to be at least as serious as those diseases and much more aggressive," he said, adding that even otherwise healthy people could see months of complications from the illness.

Eisman also said heart attacks, strokes and serious blood clots were increasing among younger people confirmed to have COVID-19. A total of 58% of those confirmed to have the disease in the county were between the ages of 20 and 49.

Following Gov. Gavin Newsom's updated health order Monday, all indoor operations ceased at midnight Tuesday in gyms, houses of worship, non-critical office businesses, hair salons and barber shops, indoor malls and personal care services, such as massage businesses and tattoo parlors.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which began its racing season five days ago, canceled its racing program for the upcoming weekend on Wednesday after 15 jockeys recently tested positive for COVID-19. Racing is slated to resume July 24.