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San Diego will end the COVID-19 emergency despite outbreaks

A patient receives a bivalent Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Otay Mesa Medical Offices. Nov. 4, 2022.
KPBS staff
A patient receives a bivalent Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Otay Mesa Medical Offices. Nov. 4, 2022.

Even though San Diego officials have voted to end the state of emergency surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts say the pandemic is far from over.

“While cases, hospitalizations and deaths are decreasing, these events are still occurring in San Diego County,” County Public Health Officer Wilma J. Wooten said in a statement. “COVID-19 virus variants are still widespread in our county.”

As of Feb. 2, San Diego County public health officials counted more than 1,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19, nearly 300 hospitalizations related to the disease and 12 deaths from the last week.


The case number is much lower than what it was at the height of the winter outbreak, but public officials continue to urge caution.

Variants XBB and XBB.1.5 have taken up an increasing share of COVID-19 strains in regional wastewater, County data shows. This new mutation, which is a descendant of the Omicron variant, has pushed officials to continue calling on residents to seek out vaccines — especially bivalent boosters. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already shown that the booster can provide more protection to individuals who have already received the first series of vaccines.

San Diego City Council members were unmoved.

“We find ourselves in this improved state because, by and large, San Diegans did their part in the fight against the pandemic by getting vaccinated and following public health guidance," Mayor Todd Gloria, City Attorney Mara Elliott and City Councilmember Marni von Wilpert said in a statement last week. San Diego’s state of emergency will end at the end of February.

Citing a reduction in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and that “91% of city employees have been vaccinated,” the council members also expressed support for eliminating the city government’s mandatory vaccination policy, adopted in November 2021. That policy pushed employees without a religious or medical exemption to get a full regimen of COVID-19 vaccines or, until September 2022, face a weekly testing requirement. Failing that, employees could have expected to be fired.


“We will continue to treat COVID-19 with the seriousness it demands, but for now, we are pleased by the success of our efforts to protect the health and safety of our employees and the public,” the joint statement continued.

San Diego city council members are following the State of California’s lead in lifting COVID-19-related emergency members. Last October, Governor Gavin Newsom moved to end the state of emergency on Feb. 28 of this year. The federal government will sunset its public health emergency on May 11.

Walk-in clinic locations and appointment information for the COVID-19 and flu vaccines are available on the state’s MyTurn website. RiteAid, CVS and other major pharmacies can also provide vaccines. More information can be found on the county’s website.

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