San Diego County officials working to modify COVID-19 restrictions
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – With pressure growing to lift coronavirus restrictions, San Diego County health officials urged patience from the public Monday as they announced 98 more COVID-19 cases and two deaths from the illness, raising the county’s totals to 3,141 cases and 113 deaths.
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said county staff is working with cities on plans to gradually open parks and businesses, but such moves would be made incrementally and cautiously. He said any city wishing to reopen will have to have specific plans detailing how they would implement social distancing and post signs notifying the public of the restrictions.
Additionally, the county public health order going into effect Friday mandating facial coverings in public will have to be factored into any plan.
“We believe face coverings are going to be part of our life for the foreseeable future,” Fletcher said.
How long it will last remains unknown, but he said the development of widespread vaccinations or other treatments for COVID-19 would play a major role in when the county goes back to “normal.”
The county and regional hospitals reported 823 test results Monday, with 12% returning positive. This represents a considerably higher rate than the rolling average — around 6% since the pandemic began. There are 1,734 COVID-19 positive individuals who have recovered from the illness, San Diego County health officials estimate, and 363 coronavirus patients were hospitalized as of Monday.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 706 people have been hospitalized due to the illness and 230 have been sent to intensive care units. Around 22.5% of all positive-testing individuals have been hospitalized, 7.3% have entered the ICU at some point and 3.6% have died.
Beaches in San Diego and Encinitas reopened for recreation activities Monday, but numerous beaches in San Diego County remain closed.
Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach opened at sunrise, allowing surfers, swimmers, kayakers and paddleboarders in the ocean, as well as runners and walkers on the sand. Imperial Beach will allow access to the beach, but not the ocean, which is too polluted to allow people in the water because of the ongoing issue of runoff from the Tijuana River.
But group gatherings, parking in lots and lying down on the beach are not allowed. Those activities could be lifted in Phase 2 of the reopening plans.
“The only way beaches can reopen and stay open is if the regulations developed by public health officials and regional lifeguards are followed,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “Public health concerns from overcrowding led to the closure of beaches in the first place back in March, and decisions will continue to be made with the goal of protecting the well- being of every San Diegan. Please stay classy, San Diego.”
Mayor Faulconer congratulated San Diegans for following beach guidelines Monday afternoon during his daily coronavirus press briefing.
Moonlight Beach in Encinitas also reopened Monday for walking, running and all water activities except for boating, Encinitas city spokesman Patrick Platt said. Beachgoers must continue to practice social distancing and are asked to wear face coverings. If those orders are violated, the beach may be closed again.
Because the county surprised so many beach cities on Friday with the sudden lifting of a ban on ocean activity, not all beaches opened Monday.
Beaches in Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach remained closed. Officials in those cities will consider opening at a later date.
The beach openings came as Gov. Gavin Newsom lashed out at large crowds that gathered over the weekend in Orange County, notably Newport Beach. He said social-distancing mandates need to be followed to continue slowing the spread of the virus. Newport Beach officials will hold a special meeting Tuesday to consider closing the city’s beaches for the next three weekends.
Two additional drive-thru testing facilities opened Monday in the San Diego area. However, the sites at the North Inland Live Well Center in Escondido and the Public Health Center in Chula Vista are only available for residents with doctor referrals.
Protesters gathered near a Pacific Beach lifeguard station Sunday to protest stay-at-home orders and beach closures. About 100 people rallied with U.S. flags and signs next to the PB Shore Club at 4343 Ocean Blvd., with most not following social-distancing orders or wearing facial coverings.
Protesters carried signs such as “COVID is a LIE” and “PB IS OPEN.” The protest lasted about 30 minutes, with San Diego police officers looking on, and the crowd leaving the area before congregating again at the corner of Mission Boulevard and Grand Avenue.
Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, represents Pacific Beach and expressed his disappointment with the protests.
“While I understand the frustration with the stay at-home orders, the fact remains that positive COVID-19 cases are still increasing in San Diego County and people are dying,” he said. “There is no immunity to this disease, and the protesters’ blatant ignoring of public health guidelines potentially put hundreds of people at-risk. That’s not okay.”
“All of us want to return to normal. However, the longer we protest and needlessly leave our homes, the longer we will stay under these circumstances. The progress we have made is because of San Diegans who have stayed at home, practiced physical distancing, and covered their face in public. We can’t let all of that progress be for nothing.”
Elsewhere, at the San Diego Convention Center, two people sheltering there have tested positive for COVID-19, city officials said Sunday.
One patient was moved to a motel room and the other refused quarantine and left, according to Ashley Bailey of the city of San Diego. The second person was later located and moved to a hotel room for isolation.
The two people who tested positive are the only positive tests to date after 663 tests have been given to shelter residents, staff and volunteers. There have been 644 negative tests and 17 pending.
Testing began April 16 at the emergency homeless shelter in the convention center as part of a proactive effort to detect anyone who may have COVID-19 but has not shown symptoms.
In Encinitas Saturday, three people were arrested and cited during a rally at Moonlight Beach, organized to protest beach closures and stay-at-home orders.
The three were cited for violating the stay-at-home order and congregating on a closed beach, according to Lt. Amber Baggs of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
“Several protesters walked onto the beach and sat as deputies began speaking to them regarding the county public health order,” Baggs said Saturday. “The people were given multiple opportunities to comply with the state and county orders. Three attendees refused and were arrested.”