Local cases surpass the 1,000 mark, one new death

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The number of COVID-19 cases in San Diego County increased by 146 today, the largest local increase since the epidemic began and enough to have the county cross the 1,000-case milestone.

There have been 1,112 positive cases confirmed in the county, and an additional death reported today of a man in his late 70s, brings the total death count to 17.

Of those positive cases, 211 have been hospitalized and 85 placed in intensive care.

Four employees of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and an inmate in a local jail have tested positive for COVID-19, the agency announced today.

The staffers — it was not immediately clear whether they are deputies, other types of workers or both — were “doing fine” under the supervision of the sheriff’s Medical Liaison Unit, according to the agency.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher asked for patience with clarifications on public health orders, stating rapidly changing information sometimes meant messages became muddled.

“We are adapting to new information,” he said. “And we must adapt to the newest opportunities to protect each other.”

The city of Oceanside, in order to comply with public health orders, will close its beaches at midnight tonight, leaving just Coronado with open beaches.

Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said the county had 13 confirmed outbreaks in congregate living centers, which had placed positive individuals in isolation.

All San Diego stores still open and serving the public scrambled today to comply with San Diego County’s amended public health orders — requiring all employees who work in essential business and interact with the public to wear facial covering — which go into effect at midnight tonight.

These industries include pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations.

Fletcher clarified the public health order to include restaurants after a plea Thursday from Jeff Rossman, president of the San Diego County chapter of the California Restaurant Association.

The California Grocers Associated sought guidance from county officials Thursday on how grocery stores are suppose to acquire face masks for their employees ”with such short notice.”

“The safety of our employees and customers is always our first priority, and even more so during this health crisis,” Ron Fong, president and CEO of the California Grocers Association, said in a statement Thursday.

“With such short notice given by San Diego County, grocery companies will be scrambling to be in compliance by Saturday’s deadline. We look forward to hearing from the County quickly on how it will support grocers securing appropriate face coverings for all its workers by April 4,” he said.

San Diego County health officials revised the public health orders Thursday, which also shut down park and beach parking lots throughout the region. Any park or beach still open in the county must close parking lots, making the space accessible only for local residents who can walk there.

County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten also said that all group activities such as basketball and volleyball were prohibited. Activities such as walking, hiking and bicycling will still be permitted.

Further orders include businesses remaining open that serve the public must now post social distancing and sanitization guidelines near the entrance of their business by the end of the day Tuesday, April 7 and a recommendation that anyone who leaves their home for any essential purpose should wear a facial covering — bandana, scarf, homemade mask, etc. — while maintaining social distancing. These coverings should not be medical-grade masks, officials said.

The order for certain workers to wear face covering, and the recommendation that all San Diego residents wear them when leaving their home, comes after health experts revised the value of face masks. Previously, the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not recommend wearing a mask, unless a person was sick. But the CDC has reviewed this as new data showed that up to 25% of infected people may not have symptoms, but could transmit the virus.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore further added to the county’s public health orders, saying he was informing law enforcement agencies across the county to step up enforcement of closed areas such as beaches and parks.

“The days of voluntary compliance are over,” he said. “These are not recommendations, these are orders.”

Violations are considered a misdemeanor and punishable by up to a $1,000 fine. Law enforcement agencies were largely educating violators before Thursday, Gore said.

The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation released the results of a survey Thursday showing that small businesses — perhaps unsurprisingly — are the ones hit hardest by the economic slowdown associated with the novel coronavirus.

Of employers planning to furlough or cut hours, 80% are in food, hospitality or tourism industries.

“While the impacts of COVID-19 are rippling through the entire region, the survey shows that small businesses – which are responsible for a majority of our economic growth – are disproportionately impacted,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the EDC.  “It’s a long road to recovery, and I want to remind you that EDC’s staff is here to help you access loans and grants, and work one-on-one to triage issues as they arise.”

On Thursday, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer encouraged businesses to produce critical items during the pandemic, as supplies run low.

“There are certain items across the world that are in low supply and high demand,” Faulconer said. “Nurses need face shields. Hospitals need ventilators. San Diegans need more hand sanitizer, and the list goes on. San Diego has a great reputation for innovation and ingenuity, and we are uniquely positioned to help meet these needs.”

The San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon rescheduled its dates Friday, moving them from May 30 and 31 to sometime in the fall.

“The new 2020 event date, which is currently being finalized with local officials, will be communicated as soon as possible,” according to a statement from marathon organizers.

On Thursday, the city of Encinitas joined other local jurisdictions by placing a temporary moratorium on evictions. The ordinance is effective for rent due on or after March 27 and will last until the local emergency is declared over or Gov. Gavin Newsom withdraws his executive order declaring a state of emergency.

The Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship, which was scheduled to depart San Diego Wednesday morning, remains in the harbor, McDonald said. One crew member testing positive for COVID-19 had been taken off ship, evaluated and then put into isolation aboard the ship. Another cruise ship anchored off the coast, the Celebrity Millennium, had one crew member flown into San Diego due to cardiac and respiratory issues. That crew member tested negative for COVID-19 and was treated and flown back to the ship.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local San Diego News