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As San Diego County coronavirus cases rise to 55, health officials close bars, limit gatherings

The public health order prohibits gatherings of 50+ people, closes bars/businesses that only serve alcohol, and prohibits restaurants from serving food on site.

SAN DIEGO — In a sweeping public health order, San Diego County officials Monday banned gatherings larger than 50 people, closed all bars and restricted restaurants to take-out and drive-through services only, among other orders and recommendations. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer along with several other city officials also spoke Monday issuing the same directives to those throughout the city.

The orders came as the number of COVID-19 cases in the county rose by 22 cases overnight to a total of 55 positive cases among residents and non- residents alike.

"Everything we have developed follows guidelines from the CDC, California Public Health and our own local health experts," County Supervisor Greg Cox said. "We are trying to do the most good for the most people."

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At midnight, the following orders will go into effect:

-- All public and private gatherings of 50 or more people are legally prohibited, and all nonessential gatherings of any size are strongly discouraged.

-- All bars, adult entertainment businesses and any business which serves alcohol and not food are to close.

-- All restaurants must prohibit dine-in service and restrict services to drive-through, take-out and delivery. Restaurants and employees are urged to follow social distancing guidelines during this time.

-- Businesses that require a doctor's note for a leave of absence must suspend those policies until the public health crisis is over.

-- All public schools must cancel all classes, gatherings, and events.

-- Nonessential personnel are prohibited from entering hospitals and long-term care facilities, and all essential personnel displaying symptoms of COVID-19 are prohibited.

-- Hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 must report such cases immediately to county health officials.

-- All people traveling to San Diego County from China, Iran, South Korea, Italy or any other country at extreme contagion risk must self- quarantine in their homes for 14 days, regardless if they show symptoms or not.

-- All people showing symptoms of COVID-19 must self isolate in their homes.

Additionally, county health officials strongly urged people over the age of 65, with underlying medical conditions or a suppressed immune system to self-isolate. Hospitals were urged to delay elective procedures.

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More than 180,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported around the world with more than 7,000 deaths. The United States has seen nearly 4,200 cases and 71 deaths so far.

"This virus does not discriminate," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "Cases range in age from the early 20s to late 80s. We know that more cases will occur. We know that deaths will occur."

Dr. Wooten indicated that additional guidance was forthcoming for childcare providers. 

"This is not optional," San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said of the public health order and directives from his office. 

He said the city and police will be aggressive in enforcement because the priority is on keeping San Diegans safe and healthy. 

Faulconer also said public buildings in San Diego will be closed to the public but that the city will maintain essential city services. 

"If you can stay home, do it," the mayor said. 

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said officers from his department will be visiting bars Monday night and, as the bans go into place, issuing notices of violation as needed. He also noted that SDPD has not seen an increase in crime in recent weeks. 

"These mandates are here to keep San Diegans safe," Nisleit said. 

San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez said she will convene an emergency meeting with the council Tuesday to call for relief and protections as San Diegans face financial hardships as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 



Eric McDonald, county medical director of epidemiology and immunization, stressed that testing is improving but said the San Diego County health infrastructure needs the public's assistance.

"Only those who need medical attention need testing," he said. "If you have no symptoms, you don't need testing. If you have mild symptoms, you don't need testing. Just self-isolate at home."

The county's public health lab can process 120 tests a day. McDonald said he hoped over the next week or two that number would increase to a daily 500 ceiling.

The county has secured 237 motel rooms for people without homes or who cannot return to homes to isolate should they show symptoms. County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the county would attempt to reach more than 2,000 rooms for unsheltered people.

Cox said the county had placed more than 180 handwashing stations around the county and would install another 58 by the end of the day.  

BACKGROUND:

View all coverage of coronavirus / COVID-19.

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

The CDC also says facemasks should only be used by people who show symptoms of the virus. If you’re not sick, you do not have to wear a facemask. The CDC says the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low.