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San Diego County officials report 9 additional deaths bringing total to 96

There are now 2,491 cases of the novel coronavirus in San Diego County, according to officials.
Credit: KFMB

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego County officials reported an additional nine deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday bringing the total loss of life in the county to 96. They also reported an additional 57 cases bringing the total to 2,491.

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox opened the briefing by acknowledging the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and suggesting ways people can honor the day while adhering to stay-at-home orders and social distancing. 

Eric McDonald, M.D., M.P.H., the county’s medical director of epidemiology, provided a breakdown of the newest reported deaths as follows: 

  • Female, 68 years old
  • Female, 96 years old
  • Female, 99 years old
  • Male, 38 years old
  • Male, 65 years old
  • Male, 66 years old
  • Male, 78 years old 
  • Male, 83 years old
  • Male, 86 years old

Dr. McDonald said all nine of the victims has underlying health conditions and died between April 17 and April 20. McDonald also took the opportunity to remind people that deaths are a "lagging indicator" of the impact of a communicable disease.

"It takes time for someone to develop symptoms, often be diagnosed with an illness, and then it sometimes takes time for an individual's illness to progress and, unfortunately, many of those end in death," said McDonald. 

He also said it can take time for deaths to be reported as physicians have up to eight days to submit a final death certificate. 

Because of all those factors leading to deaths being a lagging indicator, McDonald said deaths are not used by the state or federal government as a factor when making decisions about phased re-openings. 

The number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 rose to 611 on Wednesday, and the number of patients being treated in intensive care units climbed to 206, representing increases of 19 and seven, respectively, from Tuesday.

The county and regional hospitals have now completed more than 36,000 tests, with a positive test rate of around 6.8%. The county estimates that 1,434 people have recovered from COVID-19, but it does not have an exact, verifiable recovery number.

Of all positive-testing coronavirus cases, 24.5% of the patients have been hospitalized and 8.3% sent to intensive care. Nearly 4% of COVID-19 patients have died, a rate higher than most jurisdictions are reporting.

"This is one of several indicators that there are undiagnosed cases in our community," McDonald said.

Of the 96 people who have died of the disease, 51 have been white, 28 Latino and nine Asian. The race of four of the deceased is unknown.

Despite the increases in positive cases and deaths, the county is preparing for a path to reopen some outdoor spaces sooner rather than later. Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox said Tuesday that he county was working in conjunction with municipalities throughout the region to create plans for parks, beaches, golf courses and other public outdoor spaces to open -- with some catches.

Any plan to reopen -- being considered only after the April "month of action" has ended -- includes gradual phases of openings including social distancing, facial coverings and a maintained ban on groups outside of the same household.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher warned that opening the county's public spaces up with no restrictions too soon would cause a second spike of cases and deaths -- and that's only if the county has reached the peak of cases and deaths, which he said is not clear.

"When we reopen, it will not be a political decision and it will not be an emotional decision," Fletcher said.

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View all News 8 coverage of coronavirus / COVID-19  
 
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We also have a Frequently Asked Questions page we will continue updating with the latest information and reports.  

Click here to watch "Facts Not Fear," a News 8 Special on coronavirus from March 26, 2020. 

BACKGROUND  

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 

Protect yourself 

  • 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 

Protect 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.