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LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

New Daily High Of 332 COVID-19 Cases Reported As Spike Continues

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Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, said a significant spike in cases could be traced to the periods following restaurants opening, churches allowing services, and the mass protests calling for police reform.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Governor Gavin Newsome used his COVID-19 update to outline the increases of positive tests and hospitalizations in California. Over the last two weeks on Wednesday, California registered its highest number of COVID positive tasks. Add more than 7,000 and the positivity rate has increased to 5.6%. Governor Newsome announced a new interactive COVID-19 modeling project to allow the public to back up the decision making of the state's health officials.

Speaker 2: 00:31 We're. Now we're opening up to all of you. We're opening up to mathematicians. We're opening up to people that are experts in AI and opening up to our researchers and our scientists and our Nobel laureates and our partners across the spectrum, including again, citizens that just have an expertise that hasn't been tapped that haven't been asked.

Speaker 1: 00:52 He says, it's an effort at transparency to allow the public, to get the same kind of information that County health officers are getting the address of the new California covert assessment tool can be found at Cal cat dot COVID-19 dot ca.gov. San Diego is also seeing a spike in positive tests for the virus County officials reported 332 COVID-19 cases yesterday. That's a new high in daily positivity tests. More importantly, it brought the daily percentage of cases up to 5%. So another jump from last week's average of 2.8 San Diego was also seeing a small increase in hospitalizations and ICU patients, but like the governor County officials say the uptick can be brought down. If Californians are strict about social distancing and wearing face masks. Joining me is Paul Sisson who covers healthcare for the San Diego union Tribune. Paul, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. Is there any concern yet that this uptick threatens our healthcare or hospital capacity?

Speaker 3: 01:57 I think it's more about the trend than the raw numbers coming in at the moment. I think that's probably what our, uh, local epidemiologists would say. Uh, you know, we're seeing over the last four days over 300 cases that certainly higher than the numbers that were coming in daily, say a month or more ago when it was kind of closer to a hundred cases per day, uh, you know, any one day alone does not a trend make. Uh, but you know, if we've ran at 300 cases per day for weeks, um, that could perhaps, uh, begin to keep beds full for longer and, and shrink the, uh, the amount of available capacity in the system. Uh, the County epidemiology department really hasn't quantified exactly what level of, um, cases per day would cause an inundation situation. But my sense is that we're probably a ways from that yet.

Speaker 3: 02:56 I don't, I'm not, I'm not quite sure that 300 cases day would quite be enough to put us in that situation. And that's especially true because it seems like the number of people getting sick, uh, these days, uh, are skewing toward, uh, younger people who are less likely to be hospitalized or put in an ICU bed. But this uptick seems to be enough to cause a delay in reopening the campus of UC San Diego as planned. Can you tell us about that? That's right. Uh, one of our, uh, one of our good reporters, Gary Robbins just had a story up, uh, uh, in the evening last night, talking about how you CSD is rethinking their plans to reopen and do a massive amount of testing of their faculty and student body. Um, I think they're more concerned about the trend, uh, that this trend would continue into the future and where might it be by the time we get to the fall semester?

Speaker 3: 03:54 Uh, you know, I think that they, uh, want to be confident that this thing isn't going to be twice as big as it is now, by the time the fall rolls around. Now, according to local health officials, one of the biggest factors leading to the increase in cases, what public health folks are telling us is that more and more people are going out and about now that so much has been reopened. Now that bars are reopened. Now that restaurants are reopened, you know, obviously the beaches have, uh, have been reopened for some time now, um, casinos as well. Uh, you know, they just fear that as people are getting out and about and contacting people outside of their individual households, uh, that they're not doing enough to keep at least six feet of distance from others, that they're not doing enough mask wearing face covering, wearing, uh, uh, as they should.

Speaker 3: 04:45 And so that just increases the odds that you're going to see transmission from person to person. What about outbreaks? Cause that's another trigger for the County as well. I just recently dr. Wilma Wooten, who is our public health officer said it may not be safe for people to have gatherings at their homes until sometime next year, but apparently a lot of people are not taking heat of that. Yeah, that's something that's really hard for, for any government to regulate. Um, you know, it's not as if they have enough personnel, uh, nor would they want to follow everybody around all the time and see where they're going. Uh, so, so this is kind of an honor system that we have going here about, uh, gatherings in people's homes. Um, and, and yesterday, uh, dr. Eric McDonald, the county's epidemiology director, uh, indicated that, uh, that he is most concerned about, uh, transmission in people's homes.

Speaker 3: 05:40 He was saying that, uh, you know, people just tend to relax when they're around friends and family and their own homes and, and it's that relaxing and getting together and not wearing masks that presents kind of a ripe opportunity, uh, for, for this kind of transmission happen. You know, they say that if you're in a room and close to somebody for more than 15 minutes, your likelihood of transmission increases and especially if you're indoors. Uh, so, so they're saying, you know, if you guys, if you're going to do this, please at least do it outside as much as you can and try to maintain that distancing, uh, as much as possible, uh, you know, uh, it's difficult because you, you see a countervailing that a lot of protests where a lot of strangers are gathering all over the place and many of them, uh, often aren't wearing master keeping their distance. So it's, it's puts the public health message, uh, you know, in a difficult place where they're telling people, you can go ahead and go out with strangers and protests, but you can't have your friends over for a barbecue.

Speaker 1: 06:41 Now when health officials identify a potential outbreak, do they have enough contact tracers to track it down?

Speaker 3: 06:48 Uh, it seems like they, they do, uh, they, they have gradually been hiring folks to make these phone calls. Uh, when it, when a positive case notification comes into the County, their goal is to call that person who's tested positive and interview them within 24 hours, uh, build a list of all of the people that they've been in close contact with, and then call those folks within 24 hours as well. Uh, they said that, uh, they would need about 450 of these folks that do this work. If they had a, an average of about 400 cases coming in per day, uh, the last numbers that the County shared with us on their total number of contact tracers, I think was over 470. So it looks like they, they do have enough folks to make these calls in a timely manner. Uh, we haven't really received a report on exactly what the metrics are there in terms of what percentage of calls, uh, are meeting their thresholds. Uh, a few weeks ago, when we asked about that, I think they said it was something like 90% of those calls where we're landing within the prescribed timeframes.

Speaker 1: 07:54 Well, I've been speaking with Paul Sisson who covers healthcare for the San Diego union Tribune. And Paul, thank you very much.

Speaker 3: 08:01 Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.