San Diego County Enters Purple Tier As COVID-19 Cases Increase
Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego got the announcement. It was dreading from the state today because of a rising number of Corona virus infections. The County has been moved from the red tier into the purple. The purple tear is the most restrictive of the state's COVID tears. And it indicates the virus is widespread in the County. The ramifications of falling back into the purple are profound for business schools and everyday life. Johnnie Mae is KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Welcome. Hey Maureen, what are the numbers that got us to fall into the purple tier? Speaker 2: 00:35 Yeah, Maureen, we know that County health officials have been warning us for the last week that we were, you know, coming up on this precipice of potentially going from the red tier to the more restrictive purple tier. Basically they're saying, look, we've been seeing a case count a daily case count in the three hundreds. So we need to be in the two hundreds, uh, to stay in the red tier, um, basically to go to purple. We have to have at a state adjusted case rate of 7.0 or higher, uh, last week we saw that clock in at 7.4, which puts us in purple. Now we need two weeks to change tiers. Um, and this week we just got the numbers moments ago, 8.9 is our adjusted case rates. So really high over purple and that's, what's bringing on these restrictions. Speaker 1: 01:10 Now, San Diego County though also has an overall test positivity rate of 3.3 that would qualify us for actually even a lower tier. So doesn't that count? Speaker 2: 01:21 Yeah. Maureen, I think one thing to keep in mind, you know, I just said the quote unquote adjusted case rates. So the state looks at a number of factors, you know, it's not just looking at testing, it's looking at a number of factors when it comes up with this decision. And that's why we see some of those metrics, like the equity metrics that are designed to make sure that these rates are fair. Um, and the County, you know, we heard dr. Wooten say last week, look, you know, the state tiers are there and we know that this is happening because of an increase in cases. Speaker 1: 01:45 Does, does the County have any say in protesting its placement in the purple team? Speaker 2: 01:50 You know, there is a process that the state has a very official process. And now it's my understanding that a lot of that usually happens, um, sort of in, in the wee hours before, like the announcements that we have on Tuesdays when that new data comes out, but something to keep in mind for people, uh, restrictions will sort of detail those in a minute. Um, but those restrictions don't hit until Saturday morning. So Saturday at midnight is when those restrictions will go into effect. So it's sort of unclear if the County can go back to the state and sort of negotiate, see if they can get us back, knocked down to the red tier between now and then Speaker 1: 02:17 What will lending, what is landing in the purple tier mean for businesses? Speaker 2: 02:23 It basically clamps down on indoor operations. So for restaurants, churches, movie, theaters, museums, um, and gyms, they can only operate outdoors. So that means, you know, if you've been going to eat inside of restaurants, that's not allowed anymore, no longer gyms. We'll have to see them moving some of their equipment outside, uh, for zoos and aquarium outdoors. Only retail used to be 50% capacity for indoors. That's been reduced to 25% also for schools. Now, if your kid is already going to school in person, not going to affect you, but schools that are planning to preparing for distance opening, that's going to put a pause on this and keep in mind, we have to stay in this tier for at least three weeks. So any schools that were planning to reopen the next three weeks, those are now plans are going to be put on hold. Speaker 1: 03:01 And you know, one of the reasons for these tears is so that the cases of COVID don't swamp, our hospitals and ICU capacity. So how is the County doing on being able to care for COVID patients? What is our hospitalization and ICU capacity? Speaker 2: 03:18 Yeah, I'm referencing numbers from yesterday here, but our hospital capacity is good. It's within the County metrics, 72%, uh, hospital capacity, um, and an ICU capacity. We're sitting at 31%, which is according to the County, a good metrics there. Now we know statewide to just 4% of hospital patients are COVID-19 patients where the governor talked about that yesterday. So statewide, we know we're doing okay. We also heard the governor say we have 20,000 plus ventilators, uh, available here in the state. Speaker 1: 03:46 Now you were listening to the announcement of us falling back into the purple tier. Did the public health officials say anything that could give us any guidance as to what we can do or what or what we've been doing wrong? Speaker 2: 03:59 Right. Well, I think that the good news for businesses here and people who are worrying about these, these looming restrictions is that there's a few days for them to prepare. We know already talking to some businesses out there today, talking to the general manager of hoedads that they're preparing, you know, they've been doing their indoor operations. Now they're getting ready to shift back to outdoor. Only. Now you talk to a lot of those business owners. They say, look, you know, I built a restaurant here in the community. It's built on an indoor operation business and outdoor by itself is just not sustainable. Speaker 1: 04:25 Okay. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman and Matt. Thank you so much. Thanks Maureen. As the nation tops, 10 million coronavirus cases and San Diego falls into the state's most restrictive COVID tier. Finally, we may have a glimmer of good news about the virus. The pharmaceutical company, Pfizer has announced its vaccine is showing to be over 90% effective in preventing coronavirus infection. The company is hoping to submit its results for FDA approval of the vaccine. By the end of this month. Now joining me is dr. Mark Sawyer and infectious disease specialist with Rady children's hospital and a member of California's COVID-19 scientific safety review work group, and dr. Soria, welcome to the program. Great to join you. Now, we just found out that San Diego has been moved into the purple tier. That's the state's most restricted COVID tier. What's the main reason that COVID rates are going up in San Diego. Are we getting lax or is it inevitable this time of year? Speaker 3: 05:33 I don't really know the answer to that. I accept that. I think we are still too lax in general, as a community. We're doing better than many, but the fact that the buyer is still circulates. So bigger honestly, is an indication that we're not distancing ourselves well enough and we're not wearing masks well enough. And of course we're not alone. The virus is going up in many parts of the country. Uh, in the last few weeks, Speaker 1: 06:00 Many people believe shutting down the economy is only gonna make things far worse for more people than having a few people get sick. I wonder how you answer that. Speaker 3: 06:11 That's a tough equation for sure, but I wouldn't characterize it as a few people get sick. We are seeing a lot of people get sick and we're of course seeing lots of deaths from COVID. So this is a very serious infection. Uh, I do think we need to try to get back as close to business as usual as we can, but that requires that everybody wear a mask and try and socially distance as much as possible. That doesn't mean businesses have to be shut down and restaurants have to be closed, but if people continue to disregard the guidance, we're going to keep seeing infections. Speaker 1: 06:46 What's your take on this information released by Pfizer? Is this really cause for celebration? Speaker 3: 06:52 Yes. I think this is very positive information. Uh, I was actually just on a meeting this morning, uh, hearing a little bit more about that and it looks very encouraging so far. There hasn't been any significant safety concern, but we need to gather a little more data to be sure that their vaccine is safe. But this early announcement of effectiveness is better than many people predicted. We would see Speaker 1: 07:16 How do researchers know that it's more than 90% effective? How are these tests conducted? Speaker 3: 07:24 Well, that's the whole point of the clinical trials that everybody has been hearing about for the last several months. Uh, so they take a group of people and half of the people get the vaccine and the other half don't and you don't know which cause they get an, an injection of just saline. So they're still getting a shot, but they're not getting the real thing. And then you follow those people for a period of time and see who gets COVID and who doesn't. So what happened in the, in the trial from Pfizer? Is that a significant number? I think it was 90 or more people got COVID and they were all almost all in the group who did not get the real vaccine. And everybody who got the real vaccine was protected. That's how you calculate a 90% effectiveness. Speaker 1: 08:09 And this vaccine requires two injections. Isn't that? Right? Speaker 3: 08:13 Right. So, so they didn't even start gathering data until people had received two doses. So this is, this is the effectiveness where you would predict if we started to use this vaccine widely now in two doses of people. Now it is still preliminary. The number may change some, but it is quite encouraging that it's as high as it, as it is. Speaker 1: 08:35 When will we know if there are any side effects? Speaker 3: 08:39 Well, we already have some information on side effects. Even before the large trial, there were smaller trials that looked specifically at safety. Uh, but that's what we're waiting for primarily now, I think before the FDA decides to release Pfizer vaccine or any other is to gather enough safety data, to be confident that the benefit from the vaccine outweighs any risk from side effects. Speaker 1: 09:05 And does Pfizer know how long the vaccines immunity will last? Speaker 3: 09:10 No, that's one of the things that we're not going to know until time goes by. And, uh, so we're gonna cross our fingers and hope that it lasts for a long period of time. There are some animal models, studies that suggest it does last at least months, but we won't really know in people until it's used Speaker 1: 09:29 Now, if and when this vaccine is approved by the FDA, what will your scientific safety review group begin to do? Speaker 3: 09:37 Well, we're going to have access to the same kind of information that the FDA looks at to decide whether to release the vaccine. And we're just going to take an independent look at that same data and, and look at it in the context of California and make sure it makes sense for us as a state to move ahead with the dissemination of the vaccine through public health. And, uh, you know, this is meant primarily to reassure people that, that, uh, group outside of the FDA group is looking at the same information and reaching the same conclusion. Speaker 1: 10:12 Aren't there. Other vaccines also in the pipeline, also in development, Speaker 3: 10:18 There are many vaccines in development. There are actually six that have been targeted for major development efforts. And two of them are well along the way. And we may see, uh, several more come out and be considered for licensure in 2021. So I think the horizon is bright. There were out of all of these vaccines, we're going to find some that work quite well and are safe. And those are the ones that we're going to disseminate white. Speaker 1: 10:45 Now, how long do you think it will be before most people have access to a vaccine from a medical standpoint? Speaker 3: 10:53 Well, I think it's going to be months before there is enough vaccine manufactured for a large percent of the population to receive it. Speaker 1: 11:01 Holes that have been taken on the subject about half the people surveyed say they won't get a vaccine against COVID, they're not going to take it. If that number holes, how will that impact the effectiveness of the vaccine? Speaker 3: 11:13 Well, it's a great question. I mean, we certainly need a large percent of the population to get backs unaided. If we want to get back to business as usual and reopen restaurants and stores and schools, I do think that the public's attitude may change once they see the real product and can be reassured by groups like the California safety group, that the vaccine really is safe. Speaker 1: 11:38 What kind of help would you be expecting from the federal government in, uh, rolling out this vaccine as the months go by? Speaker 3: 11:48 Well, the federal government has already put together some guidelines for distribution, vaccine and prioritization of vaccine. The group at CDC called the advisory committee on immunization practices is an independent advisory group of non CDC. People who meet with CDC and give them recommendations, which are then disseminated around the country. So those groups are already doing work to prepare us for first evaluating a vaccine and then distributing it once we have it. Speaker 1: 12:21 Okay. I've been speaking with dr. Mark Sawyer and infectious disease specialist with Rady children's hospital and a member of California's COVID-19 scientific safety review work group, dr. Sawyer as always. Thank you so much. Speaker 3: 12:35 Thank you, Maureen.