SAN DIEGO — San Diego County elected and health officials announced the latest numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths Wednesday. There are now 1,530 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the county and there have been 36 deaths.
San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten provided a breakdown of COVID-19 deaths by race/ethnicity, a new metric introduced to the county figures this week.
Of the 36 deaths in the county, 10 have been Hispanic or Latino, 15 have been white, two were Asian and nine cases are unknown.
San Diego County has been publishing the number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and deaths since the first known infection in San Diego County. Patients are roughly described by gender and their general age group, but not exact age. For example, Wooten may refer to a local patient as "a man in his 50s." The county doesn't give specific patient information out in order to respect patients' privacy and abide by HIPAA laws.
Some people have inquired about patients' racial backgrounds. It was announced Monday that starting this week, the county would also release patient data broken down by race, in addition to age group and gender.
Race, as it relates to coronavirus, has been a hot topic nationwide. Some in San Diego, like Reverend Shane Harris, argue the number of people within the black community is disproportionate.
Harris said it's a common problem when it comes to public health.
“In a crisis like this, it's all about who has the best public health and who gets priority in our health care system," Harris said. When African Americans are going in, is there discrimination taking place in the hospital system? Are there African Americans being looked at as, 'you just have a cold...go home and deal with it,' or are they being taken seriously?"
Wednesday's numbers, excluding 379 positive cases in which race was not identified showed that 46.8% of positive cases occurred in white individuals, 33.4% in Hispanic or Latinos and the remaining cases fell among Asian, black, Pacific Islander, American Indian and mixed-race San Diego County residents.
As of Wednesday, black county residents had the highest rate of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, at 45.4. Asian residents had the fewest, with 32.7 cases per 100,000 residents.
Also at Wednesday's briefing, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher reiterated that daily numbers should not be read into and trends over longer periods of time will provide more worthwhile information. He also warned against people looking at geographic information about cases and drawing conclusions.
The information by zip code and city only indicates where a person listed as their place of residence when diagnosed. It may not reflect where a person contracted the virus nor where they are currently recovering, according to Fletcher.
Fletcher also noted that a previous public health order limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people has been amended as no mass gatherings are allowed at all in the county at this time.
Another statistic given Tuesday was the number of "recovered' COVID-19 patients. The number is 247 however that is a statistical estimation. Fletcher said the number is calculated by taking cases over 14 days old and subtracting any deaths. Johns Hopkins University of Medicine uses the same methodology when reporting "recovered" cases.
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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.