SAN DIEGO — San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten announced 57 additional cases of COVID-19 in the county at a briefing Monday bringing the total to 2,325. Dr. Wooten also reported one additional death bringing the total in the county to 71. The latest death was a woman in her mid-80s with an underlying health condition, according to Wooten.
Regarding plans to re-open business and other sectors in San Diego, Supervisor Greg Cox - who is also a chairman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer's San Diego Economic Recovery Advisory Group - outlined six indicators the state of California will use to decide when to lift or modify the stay-at-home order. The indicators as previously announced by Governor Gavin Newsom are:
- The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed
- The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19
- The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges
- The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand
- The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing
- The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary
The proportion of positive test cases has been on a downward trend for the past two weeks, said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, but she said it's too soon to tell if the region is ready to transition to life post-COVID-19.
"As we decide on what non-pharmaceutical interventions that we will dial back on, our decisions must be based on objective and data-driven information - and not what we feel or think," said Wooten.
The assessment came in the wake of a tumultuous weekend, in which protesters took to the streets in cities across the country -- including San Diego and Encinitas to demand the reopening of parks, beaches and "nonessential" workplaces. The protests -- locally about 200-strong in Encinitas and involving several hundred at the Hall of Justice in downtown San Diego -- have drawn both praise and condemnation.
Several questions were asked at the briefing regarding this weekend's rallies against the stay-at-home orders in San Diego and specifically about the lack of citations for protesters. Supervisor Cox declined to answer most of the questions saying law enforcement would be the appropriate entity to ask.
When asked if officials are concerned about protesters not following the stay-at-home order and public health orders as they attended rallies, Dr. Wooten said the following:
"We are definitely concerned about that. As everyone could see over the weekend, people were not adhering to the social-distancing strategies - six feet between individuals if they were not family members - and most individuals were not wearing any type of facial covering. So, we will see if see any change in the number of cases over the next couple of weeks. As you know, the incubation period is 14 days so we will be monitoring that closely as well."
County officials also said they understood the heavy toll the public health orders to curb the coronavirus pandemic have taken on the economy and on the public's mental health.
"We know we made the right call early," said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who warned against moving too fast to lift public health orders.
"Some out there are calling for an immediate reopening of the county because of the low case numbers," he said. "It's like throwing away your umbrella in the middle of a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."
Fletcher said the county was "ready to begin considering easing" of public health orders, including reopening beaches and parks, once there's a framework for how to phase back into recreational activities. Measures would likely include hired security at locations to ensure the use of facial coverings and social distancing, as well as halving occupancy limits at retail establishments and eateries, he said.
Businesses should begin planning now on how to reopen and maintain public health orders, Fletcher said, so they will not be caught unprepared if there is an opportunity to reopen in May.
County elected and health officials have been holding daily briefings on the coronavirus pandemic for several weeks but discontinued Saturday and Sunday updates as of this weekend.
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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, as with any other respiratory illness:
Know how it spreads
There is no vaccine
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus
It is thought to spread mainly from person-person between people in close contact
And believed to be spread by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes
Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds
If soap and water aren't available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Put distance between yourselves and others
Stay home when you are sick
Wear a facemask if you are sick
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
If you don't have tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow
Immediately wash your hands after coughing and sneezing
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
You can find information on disinfecting and cleaning on the CDC's How to Protect Yourself page.
The California Department of Public Health has issued guidance on the use of cloth face coverings to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
The County of San Diego has made face coverings mandatory for those working with the public including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and similar businesses.
While officials say these face coverings are not a substitute for practices like social distancing and handwashing, there is evidence to suggest that the use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Officials do not recommend the public use N-95 or surgical masks which are needed by health care workers and first responders.