Outdoor religious service restrictions lift; County reports 170 new COVID-19 cases
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Some restrictions on outdoor religious services were lifted Monday by San Diego County officials, who simultaneously reported 170 new COVID-19 cases and a related death.
The new data raises the county total to 9,610 confirmed coronavirus cases and 320 deaths, including Monday’s addition to that count: a man in his late 70s who died June 7.
Despite the new cases, outdoor religious services will be allowed without restrictions on the number of worshippers so long as social distancing is maintained.
This followed a wild weekend in which bars reopened and hundreds of people — many not wearing facial coverings — were captured on social media, seen milling around outside bars in the Gaslamp District.
“The virus is still out there,” County Supervisor Greg Cox warned. “We must continue to be vigilant.”
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said 13 California counties are struggling to keep metrics at a manageable level, and he doesn’t want San Diego County to go down that path. Arizona has seen a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases — more than 7,300 new cases in the last five days — which was on the minds of health officials.
“I can’t predict what is going to happen, but we will see increased cases as we open up,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.
The county recorded the results of 5,207 new tests Monday, 3% of which represented positive cases. The 14-day rolling average percentage of positive tests is 2.9% and the county has recorded 232,701 total tests. In the past week, the daily average number of tests has exceeded 5,200 — the county’s initial goal for daily testing.
Among those testing positive, a total of 1,530 cases in the county have required hospitalization and 429 had to be admitted to an intensive care unit.
A total of 104 outbreaks of the illness have been tracked since the pandemic reached San Diego, with 54 of those still active. Of those, 18 are in skilled nursing facilities, 22 are in other congregate facilities and 13 are outbreaks in community settings.
Health officials continue to monitor 13 potential “triggers” which could cause the county to take industry-specific actions, pause all reopening efforts, or even dial back reopenings. The county remains “green” on 12 of 13 triggers. The only one San Diego County is not meeting metrics on is the case count growth. The metric is 8% growth per week, and San Diego County has seen its cases increase by 18%, which Wooten said is attributable to increased testing.
Another of those 13 triggers would be having seven recorded community outbreaks within a week.
Wooten said Friday the county has recorded five community outbreaks of the illness in the past week. Past community outbreaks have included church meetings, parties and a wedding.
“We had only about three community outbreaks in the month of May,” she said.
One newly reported outbreak originated from a restaurant. The outbreak remains under investigation, and Wooten said she could not immediately share additional information.
The Metropolitan Transit System began increasing bus and trolley services Monday, and personal care businesses like skincare and waxing salons, tattoo parlors, massage therapists and nail salons are preparing for a Friday reopening.
Beginning Monday, the UC San Diego Blue Line trolley — which connects the San Ysidro international border to downtown San Diego — will increase its service frequency to every 7 1/2 minutes from 4:30 a.m. until 7 p.m., and keep 15-minute frequencies until 9 p.m., followed by every 30 minutes until the end of the service day.
While trolley service will be increasing to closely mirror pre-COVID- 19 levels, MTS is also making preparations to increase bus service in the coming weeks. Schedules and routes are being finalized.
MTS reduced weekday service levels by approximately 25% on April 13 to address record-low ridership while still providing critical service for essential workers and trips.
In addition to service increases, MTS says it continues to improve its already-strict safety and sanitizing protocols.
Updated schedules can be accessed on the MTS website. MTS asks that people wear face coverings and practice physical distancing at all times.
A fund to provide loans and grants to minority-owned businesses that need help recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic was announced Sunday. The Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce is seeking to raise $1 million in the next 60 days to fuel the fund.
Sanitizing and facial coverings at businesses reopening Friday will be especially important due to the physical proximity of the work, Cox said last Friday, offering a word of caution.
“We can’t let reopenings lead to a surge in cases that will ruin everything we have done in the last several months,” he said.
The county has launched a new interactive website which will allow residents to find COVID-19 testing locations near them. The website can be found at 211sandiego.org.