County leaders strive for lower COVID-19 “Health Equity” score

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – San Diego County public health officials reported 354 new COVID-19 infections and seven deaths from the illness today, raising the region’s totals to 49,175 cases of the coronavirus and 813 deaths.

This comes a day after the state told the county it will remain in the second, or red, tier of the state’s four-tier COVID-19 reopening plan for at least another week.

However, a new wrinkle in how the state looks at county data was announced Wednesday. A health equity metric will now be used to determine how quickly a county may advance through the reopening plan, San Diego Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said.

A community can only be as well as its unhealthiest quartile, she said, and while counties with a large disparity between the least- and most-sick members of a community will not be punished for the disparity by sliding back into more restrictive tiers, such a disparity will stop counties from advancing to less-restrictive tiers.

According to the state guidelines, the health equity will measure socially determined health circumstances, such as a community’s transportation, housing, access to health care and testing, access to healthy food and parks.

Neighborhoods are grouped and scored by census tracts on the Healthy Places Index, https://healthyplacesindex.org/.

Some of the unhealthiest neighborhoods include Logan Heights, Valencia Park, downtown El Cajon and National City.

The complicated metric will be explained further on Monday, Wooten said, when the state releases an official “playbook” of how it is calculated and what it means to communities throughout the state as they attempt to reopen.

The county’s state-calculated, adjusted case rate is 6.5 new daily infections per 100,000 people, down from last week’s 6.7. The unadjusted case rate is down to 7 from last week’s 7.2. Because San Diego County testing levels were above the state median testing volume, the county’s adjustment level was decreased.

On the last two Tuesdays, the county narrowly avoided being pushed back into the purple tier, the most strict in the state’s reopening plan. The state-set threshold of case rate to avoid the purple tier is below 7 per 100,000 people.

To move into the less-restrictive orange tier, a county must have a rate below 3.9 per 100,000 people.

Of the 10,615 tests reported Wednesday, 3% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average percentage of positive cases to 2.9%. The seven-day daily average of tests was 9,264.

Of the total number of cases in the county, 3,602 — or 7.4% — have required hospitalization and 833 — or 1.7% of all cases — had to be admitted to an intensive care unit. The current number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital was 286, with 73 of those in the ICU.

Nine new community outbreaks were reported Wednesday, with three in businesses, two in restaurants/bars, and one each in a restaurant, barbershop, grocery store and food processing setting.

In the past seven days, 15 community outbreaks were confirmed, well above the trigger of seven or more in seven days. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases
in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher commended San Diegans for being diligent in fighting the illness, and denounced “distracting” national news regarding the virus. He said San Diego County would continue to take the virus seriously, even if some in the federal government put out an “erratic and inconsistent message.”

A COVID-19 testing site opened this week in Chula Vista, offering 200 daily tests, five days per week.

The drive-up site will provide free, no-appointment diagnostic tests from 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday at the South Chula Vista Library at 389 Orange Ave. The COVID-19 tests take about 5-10 minutes and the results come back in about three days.

County Supervisor Greg Cox said the county expected around 50 people a day at the site, but have been dealing with hundreds each day.

The county has expanded its total testing sites to 41 locations, and school staff can be tested for free at any one of those sites. A rotating testing program with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is in the works for schools in the county’s rural areas.

There are no state testing requirements for children, but all school staff who interact with children must be tested every two months.

If schools were to open before San Diego County headed to a more restrictive tier in the state’s monitoring system, they would not be affected.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local San Diego News