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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

San Diego County Releases Limited Coronavirus Outbreak Data

 September 4, 2020 at 9:42 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The labor day holiday weekend is here and public health officials across the state are concerned that holiday gatherings may spark new coronavirus outbreaks in San Diego County. There have been more than 240 community outbreaks since the start of the pandemic. According to new information released by the County, but San Diego County is still keeping the specific locations of an outbreak. A secret KPBS recently joined a lawsuit to make that information public and joining us now is KPBS editor, David Washburn, David, welcome to the program. Good to be here. Alison. So KBB KBS joined a public records law suit to get a better picture of where coronavirus outbreaks have taken place in our region. And the County has released some information on community outbreaks. What does this tell us? Speaker 2: 00:47 It really doesn't tell us much more than we already knew before they released this information by city. Uh, an outbreak is defined as three or more people connected to the same location who tested positive or COVID-19 what they've done. Uh, and we, we do believe this is in response largely to the lawsuit that, uh, voice of San Diego filed. And we have joined it, breaks it down by city. So before they just would give you outbreak, you know, the entire County by the County and they would break it up into sectors, such as, you know, a nursing home or a bar slash restaurant or something like that. But they were just giving it county-wide. Now they've just yesterday. They released the outbreak information by city, uh, which doesn't do much for us because, uh, the vast majority of them are in the city of San Diego because the city of San Diego is the largest by far city in the, uh, in the County. So you see a lot of outbreaks in the city of San Diego and then relatively few in other, in other cities. So I guess you could say that city of San Diego or where most of the outbreaks happening, but we knew that anyway. I mean that, that doesn't tell us a whole lot more Speaker 1: 01:56 And what information is still missing then that would help the public effort Speaker 2: 02:02 Specifically what's missing is the outbreak locations, which is what we asked for to begin with. And, you know, we still don't know w w we still don't know where the outbreaks are happening. We don't know the neighborhoods. We don't know. So, so basically most of what we ask for is still missing. Speaker 1: 02:20 Now, the County argues that releasing specific addresses could make businesses fearful of reporting outbreaks to public health officials. And also that, that individuals might be less likely to disclose their whereabouts during the contact tracing interviews, which of course are the best way to, to stop the spread of the virus. You know, they're arguing it would have a chilling effect. So why does KPBS feel that the specific data on where the outbreaks are occurring is important public information? Speaker 2: 02:47 We understand the county's position, our position is that the overall public's right to know supersedes the interests of individuals or individual businesses. And, you know, we are not interested in putting a Scarlet letter on individuals or businesses, but it is important. It's important for us to know whether they're the market down the road from us has had an outbreak or the restaurant that we're thinking of going to has an outbreak, even if it's outdoor seating. Another key point is that it's important for the public to know where their outbreaks are happening because business and individuals are violating the County health order, or if they're happening in spite of people following the order, this would help us all better understand why we had a difficult time slowing the spread. For example, we know that Boulevard fitness in university Heights has flouted the County order for months. You know, the public has a right to know if that business at an outbreak. So there are a lot of very compelling reasons for, uh, the public's overall health. Uh, it would be better served with all this information out there from our position. Speaker 1: 03:54 Is there a precedent for the County releasing location, specific data during previous infectious disease? Speaker 2: 04:01 Absolutely. One of the most high profile outbreaks before this pandemic, of course, was the hepatitis a outbreak in 2017. And during that outbreak, the County did release specific locations. They released specific locations. Um, most notably they released that world famous in Pacific beach had an outbreak. So, so they do, and with TB Alex, they will name the specific school. So there is precedent for the County to release, uh, locations of operates. Speaker 1: 04:32 How do other Kennedy's deal with this? How do they handle coronavirus outbreak data? Speaker 2: 04:36 Yeah, a lot of them do the same thing. You know, I've taken the same tack that San Diego County has a notable exception is the County of LA. They have their website includes very detailed information on specific outbreak location. They break it down by the different sectors, the congregate care facilities, nursing homes, healthcare facilities, places like that, but also individual businesses. So if you go onto the LA county's website, you will see specific outbreak information. Speaker 1: 05:05 And where does the lawsuit go from here? Speaker 2: 05:07 Well, we're going to continue to, to fight. I mean, they have a strong thing that they release this information to a large degree because of, because of our lawsuit, but it doesn't, we're not satisfied with, with simply instead of releasing it just overall by the County to break it down by city, we need it broken down further than that. So we're, we're continuing, we have no plans to, uh, to do anything, but move forward with the lawsuit. Speaker 1: 05:29 We've been speaking with KPBS editor, David Washburn, David. Thanks so much. Speaker 2: 05:33 Thank you.

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In San Diego County, there have been more than 240 community outbreaks since the start of the pandemic, according to new information released by the county. But the county is still keeping the specific location of an outbreak a secret.
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