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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

San Diego County Reports Additional 1,066 COVID-19 Cases, No New Deaths

Speaker 1: 00:00 Our top story today, as COVID-19 cases continue to soar in San Diego County, a church in Kearny Mesa, where an outbreak occurred earlier this month held in-person services again yesterday. Meanwhile, busy hospitals are wary of even more cases as the holidays are upon us. Joining us for the latest on the COVID-19 crisis is San Diego County supervisor Nathan Fletcher. Welcome back to the program. Speaker 2: 00:24 Thank you, Mark. I appreciate you having me. Well, Speaker 1: 00:26 The awaken church was in the news again this weekend, according to a union Tribune story, more than a hundred people attended services indoors, most not wearing masks. Start with why the County decided to cite a COVID 19 outbreak there when businesses and other places have not been specifically named Speaker 2: 00:43 Well as it relates to outbreaks. Uh, we've often said, we've said consistently from the beginning that when there is a concern or a danger to the public, uh, where there's an entity that is not cooperating, uh, in the case investigation or contact tracing, uh, then we will release that and make that public, uh, overwhelmingly the number of incidents that are not outbreaks have fully cooperated. They've notified people who might be infected. They have worked with us. Uh, the awakened church refused to do any of those actions and steps. And so our only possible recourse to let people know that they may have been exposed with the publicly released the information. Um, and you know, this church in particular continues to have a very defiant spirit, um, that I believe is, is not only contributing to the spread of COVID-19, but it's certainly inconsistent with the general thought or approach of protecting say the least among us. Speaker 1: 01:31 And, uh, the response from awaken church then has been pretty much the same even after being notified of the outbreak by the County. Speaker 2: 01:38 Well, it is. And, and, and I know Mark, I know that in times of, of difficulty in crisis, uh, the important role that faith plays in our community and in individual lives, uh, is more important than ever for my, my own faith. In my own church. We, we are a group of individuals of shared faith. We have a building, but the building is not the church. Um, and, and so the, the ability, uh, for religion and faith to continue remains, um, my wife and I this weekend went to a safe, physically distanced outdoor mass, and, and were able to, to participate in our faith, uh, without doing it in a dangerous or reckless way. And all anyone has to do is Google COVID church service and read the litany of horrific stories of super spreading events of significant outbreaks and the loss of life. And, and so that is why we're taking the actions we're taking, not out of it does not desire to impede religious expression or belief, but out of a desire to protect life, uh, from one of the highest risk settings. And I think the overwhelming majority of our faith communities and understand that and have been wonderful partners, uh, you know, this particular church has chosen a very defiant posture. And unfortunately now, uh, you know, a large number of the members of their church had been infected with COVID. Speaker 1: 02:49 Do we know how many are connected to the awaken church? Speaker 2: 02:52 Um, I believe the initial, uh, list is well over a dozen. I'm not sure of the latest total. Um, and then, you know, again, we're also having communication challenges where they're refusing to share information with members of their congregation and really be cooperative as we try to do the case investigation and contact tracing aspect of this. So we, we don't know that the total number of, of individuals Speaker 1: 03:13 Is there enforcement that could be done with this, or any church considering the us Supreme court's decision last week siding with so-called religious Liberty regarding restrictions on services at places of origin. Speaker 2: 03:24 Yeah, the U S Supreme court decision really has no bearing on California. The ruling was a very strict guidance from New York that has subsequently been changed. It doesn't really have much impact on what New York is doing today. And so at this point, uh, that ruling, uh, while symbolic, and it could have, uh, impacts down the road, doesn't have any direct application of what we're doing here in the state of California. But again, no one is doing this out of a desire to impede anyone's ability to, to, uh, gather and express their, their religion. You just can't do it endorse. Um, you know, we know that this is one of the highest risk settings, and, you know, I think the overwhelming majority of, of, of the faith community cares deeply about the most vulnerable and they care deeply about protecting seniors and they care deeply about protecting folks with underlying health conditions, which is why the overwhelming majority are doing it responsibly and physically distanced outdoor settings, uh, or virtually. Speaker 2: 04:16 Uh, and, and again, I think faith for, for folks who that's a part of their life, it is even, uh, a greater part of their life in times of difficulty and adversity and struggle, but there's always going to be a few that choose to go a different path. And so it's, it's been very frustrating, uh, to, uh, continue to, uh, to have these struggles, uh, with the awakened church. And we're going to continue to do everything we can to both protect people's rights together, responsibly for their religious beliefs, but also to enforce the public health orders designed to protect life. Speaker 1: 04:45 Do you anticipate the County taking further actions to force awaken church to stop holding indoor surfaces Speaker 2: 04:51 From a public health standpoint? We've, we've done what we can do, which is issuing the cease and desist order. I know there are ongoing, uh, meetings including many today, uh, with law enforcement and the district attorney's office about what next steps they might take. Um, and, you know, again, our message to the public is there are a lot of ways to safely and responsibly engage, uh, in religion and faith services, uh, absent doing it in an indoor setting. And so we strongly encourage the public to not attend indoor religious services. For the same reason, we don't attend, uh, indoor dining or indoor gym operations or other things like that at this time with the number of cases and the increase in hospitalizations and everything we're seeing in our region, Speaker 1: 05:30 Let's turn to the surge of COVID-19 cases in the County. We continue to see record-breaking numbers of cases each day. What are these numbers telling us now? Speaker 2: 05:39 Well, they tell us the dangers of exponential growth. You know, if you run 300 cases a day, uh, in each of those individuals say transmits it to one other person that would be 300 more when you start getting into days, when you have 1500 plus cases, you look at the rate of transmission between that, and you understand how you can get an, a very dire situation. Uh, we're very concerned not only about where we are today, but about what is coming, uh, in the coming weeks. As we come out of the Thanksgiving holiday at a time when, despite all the public health guidance, we suspect a large number of folks traveled, uh, perhaps areas of the country that are in a worse situation than us and the number of people who gathered indoors. And so we're, we're very concerned about where we are, but, you know, Mark, we're very concerned about where we will be in two to three weeks, both with the number of cases, but also with the increase in hospitalizations. Speaker 2: 06:25 We have to remember that cases tend to lag about seven to 10 days after the exposure and hospitalizations tend to lag about 21 to 24 days after the cases. And so we are expecting, continued to increase both in cases and hospitalizations, which is why each and every San Diego, and, uh, has to make the individual decision and choice, uh, that we're going to come together. One more time, uh, to slow the spread, get this under control. Uh, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Here we are in preparation for vaccines, but it is going to take some time. But the first thing we have to do, uh, is really focused between now and the end of the year to get the spread under Speaker 1: 07:01 Control. I've been speaking with San Diego County supervisor, Nathan Fletcher. Thanks very much. Thank you, Mark.

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San Diego County health officials have reported 1,066 new COVID-19 infections, raising the region's total to 80,084 cases, while the death toll remained at 997.
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