County expands COVID-19 testing resources for students and school personnel

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – San Diego County public health officials reported 195 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths today, raising the county’s totals to 47,180 cases and 783 fatalities.

The new cases come as county playgrounds reopened to the public Wednesday morning, and while county schools are not yet open for in-person learning, that appears poised to change in the near future.

Paul Gothold, San Diego County’s superintendent of schools, said schedules for the county’s many districts and charter schools have not been built yet, but they were coming.

To help deal with the incoming school populations, the county will run four testing sites for school staff only, with locations in Chula Vista and San Diego on Thursday, one in Del Mar on Friday and one in El Cajon on Monday.

The details and locations for these new free, drop-in testing sites were being finalized, Gothold said.

Additionally, the county has expanded its total testing sites to 41 locations, and school staff, including teachers, cafeteria workers, janitors and bus drivers, can be tested for free at any one of those sites.

A rotating rural testing program with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection was in the works for schools in the backcountry of the county.

There are no state testing requirements for children, but all school staff who interact with children must be tested every two months. Were schools to open before San Diego County headed to a more restrictive tier in the state’s monitoring system, they would not be affected.

However, if a move to a different tier happened before schools opened, it would change the game plan, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.

If parents do want to test their children for the illness, they have options, including Rady Children’s Hospital, through Kaiser Permanente or through the 41 sites the county manages. Children as young as 6 months can be tested at the county-run sites.

Of the 10,709 tests reported Wednesday, 2% returned positive, dropping the 14-day rolling average percentage of positive cases to 3%. The state-set target is less than 8%. The seven-day daily average of tests was 9,357.

Of the total number of cases in the county, 3,525 — or 7.5% — have required hospitalization and 822 — or 1.7% of all cases — had to be admitted to an intensive care unit. The current COVID-19 hospital population is 250, with 74 in ICUs.

On Tuesday, the county again avoided being pushed into the “purple” tier, the most restrictive in the state’s four-tier reopening plan. The county will remain in the red tier for COVID-19 cases, with a state-adjusted case rate of 6.7 per 100,000 residents. The county’s testing positivity percentage is3.8%.

California officials announced changes to the monitoring system for counties on Tuesday. County public health officials said their unadjusted case rate was above 7.0, at 7.2. However, because testing levels were above the state median testing volume, the county’s adjustment level was decreased.

According to state guidance, outdoor playgrounds in parks, campgrounds and other publicly accessible locations are allowed to reopen this week, depending on individual cities and counties. The county reopened its 100 playgrounds Wednesday.

Protocols for safe reopening include social distancing, all people 2 years old or older mandated to wear masks, no eating or drinking allowed in playgrounds and limiting time to 30 minutes while others are present.

San Diego State University announced Wednesday it was extending a pause on in-person courses — initially put in place through Monday — one week further, through Monday, Oct. 12. Effective that day a limited number of courses will resume in-person.

Most of these courses are upper-division or graduate level, and have been “determined by faculty and academic leaders to be essential to student degree completion, licensure, and career preparation,” a statement from the university said.

Approximately 2,100 students will be enrolled in an in-person course. Prior to the in-person pause, 6,200 students were enrolled in an in-person course.

Researchers at SDSU also announced Wednesday they are using a $5 million federal grant to increase testing and curb the disparity at which Latino residents in San Diego County suffer from COVID-19 and its impacts.

As part of the grant, from the National Institutes of Health, SDSU public health faculty are partnering with community organizations to deploy rapid COVID-19 testing throughout the San Diego region.

The effort, “Communities Fighting COVID!,” aims to test 42,000 people in 14 months. The university reported one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 1,081 since Aug. 24, the first day of instruction for the fall semester.

These totals include 1,036 confirmed cases and 45 probable cases. None of the COVID-19 cases have been connected with instructional or research spaces since fall instruction began.

Of the students living on campus, 390 have tested positive and students living off campus totaled 669 positive cases, health services officials said. A total of eight faculty or staff members have tested positive and 14 “visitors” — people who have had exposure with an SDSU-affiliated individual — have tested positive.

The eight confirmed faculty or staff cases are from staff members associated with an auxiliary of SDSU.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local San Diego News