San Diego County Will Remain In Red COVID-19 Tier
San Diego County will remain in the red tier of the state's COVID-19 reopening plan for at least one more week, according to state officials.
The county is reporting 6.9 new daily cases per 100,000 population, just 0.1 away from the dreaded purple tier, the state's most restrictive.
San Diego County is also posting a 3.8% positive testing rate for the novel coronavirus — well within the lower orange guideline of the state's four- tier reopening system.
This comes as the county reported 222 new COVID-19 infections and five deaths due to the illness Tuesday, raising the region's total cases to 45,167 and the number of deaths to 765.
Of the 8,130 tests reported Tuesday, 3% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 3.6%. The seven-day daily average of tests is 8,748.
The news Tuesday that San Diego will stay in the red tier comes as somewhat of a surprise after increasing COVID-19 numbers appeared to set the county on a path toward slipping into that most restrictive tier — which would shutter indoor operations for restaurants, movie theaters, houses of worship and gyms, limit retail businesses to just 25% capacity and have major impacts on indoor business for most other industries until the county can improve its numbers.
In related events, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 4-1 to support efforts by Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer, "for the adjudication and revised reopening criteria to accurately reflect the dynamics of the pandemic in San Diego County."
Supervisor Jim Desmond made the proposal toward the end of a special meeting — which included a COVID-19 update from Wooten — on possible options to state policy.
Desmond first proposed sending a formal letter from the board to Gov. Gavin Newsom to once again ask for local control. Supervisor Dianne Jacob said she didn't know what good another letter would do.
Jacob said she learned that COVID is the seventh-leading cause of death in San Diego County, and "that's not a good thing. This is not going away."
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher cast the lone no vote, saying the county "ought to just focus on tackling COVID."
Before voting, the board also heard from members of the public, most of whom urged caution about opening up the county too quickly.
Desmond on Monday held a rally in favor of opening up all businesses. On the same day, Fletcher held a public event encouraging county residents to continue the fight against the virus.
The board has met multiple times in the last few days to discuss its options.
Newsom rejected a county effort Wednesday to discount the positive tests recorded by San Diego State University since the semester began.
The data released Tuesday did factor in SDSU cases. The push to exclude them was an unlikely gambit because SDSU is located in a highly residential neighborhood in the heart of the city.
Despite the good news about remaining in the red tier, the county is hovering on the brink of being downgraded. State rules require a county be above one of the two metrics — daily case rate by population and positive test rate — for two consecutive weeks before it can be moved.
To move down to less restrictive tiers, both of those metrics must be below state guidelines for two consecutive weeks. Should the county be placed in the purple tier, it would have to wait a minimum of three weeks before moving back to less restrictive tiers.
To facilitate expanded COVID-19 testing at San Diego State University, the county testing site at Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach will be temporarily closed through Friday. Testing there will resume Monday.
Testing capacity at the SDSU Alumni Center at 5250 55th St. has been expanded from 500 to 1,000 tests a day and will be open to the public, students and university staff. The no-appointment site will offer testing from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, SDSU had reported 914 confirmed or probable cases, including four reports of faculty or staff who have tested positive. Of those, 574 are off-campus cases.
Of the total positive cases reported Tuesday, 3,435 — or 7.6% — required hospitalization and 809 — or 1.8% — had to be admitted to an intensive care unit.
One new community outbreak was confirmed Monday. From Sept. 15-21, 18 community outbreaks were confirmed.
The number of community outbreaks remains above the trigger of seven or more in seven days. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.