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S.D. County Reports More Than 600 COVID-19 Cases For Second Time

A playground in San Diego County closed to reduce the spread of coronavirus in this undated photo.
Alexander Nguyen
A playground in San Diego County closed to reduce the spread of coronavirus in this undated photo.

The number of daily COVID-19 cases in San Diego County has crossed 600 for the second time as the number of total cases rose to 23,114, officials said.

County public health officials reported 625 new cases Saturday and six additional deaths, raising the death count to 478.

Of the six deaths, four were women and two were men. They died between July 8 and 16 and ranged in age from 60 to mid-90s. All had underlying health conditions.


The county recorded 10,290 tests Saturday, 6% of which returned positive. Saturday's test numbers were the second-highest reported during the pandemic, trailing only Friday's figures. The 14-day rolling average is now 6%. The state's target is below 8% positive test rate.

One new community outbreak was identified, in a healthcare setting on July 10. In the past seven days, 17 community outbreaks were identified. The number of community outbreaks remains more than double the trigger of seven or more in seven days.

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, 2,180 — or 9.4% — have been hospitalized and 567 — or 2.5% — 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.

San Diego County COVID-19 Data July 18, 2020
San Diego County COVID-19 data from July 18, 2020
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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.

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.

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 25% 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 canceled its racing program for Saturday and today after 15 jockeys recently tested positive for COVID-19. Racing is slated to resume July 24.