San Diego County officials reported 233 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths Friday, even as they announced the loosening of restrictions on several recreational activities.
The new cases represent the highest daily case increase since the pandemic began, but it also coincides with the most daily tests the region has completed — 3,572.
These tests are still far below the county’s recommended 5,200 daily tests to get a complete picture of the local pandemic, but are an improvement. The county and its health care providers have completed more than 72,000 COVID-19 tests since the pandemic began, with a rolling positive test average of around 6%. Friday’s tests were about 7% positive.
The county’s total cases increased to 4,662 and deaths increased to 169. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 919 people have been hospitalized due to the illness, 289 spending at least some time in intensive care. Since the first case was confirmed in the county, 19.7% of all positive COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized, 6.2% have been sent to intensive care and 3.6% have died. All three percentages have decreased since Thursday, and hospitalizations have trended downward for more than a week.
The number of people at the San Diego Convention Center to be tested has increased to 1,126, with 1,102 testing negative, three positive and 19 “indeterminate.”
The region’s campgrounds will be allowed to open as soon as Saturday with restrictions, including having every other campsite remain empty and only members of a single household allowed to share a site. Communal areas like playgrounds will remain closed. The opening of the campgrounds applies region-wide, but campgrounds under city jurisdictions can be closed by those cities.
The county is also opening tennis and handball courts, provided participants meet social-distancing requirements. Golf carts for single riders, regardless of age, will also be permitted. Additionally, rental of outdoor equipment like bikes, kayaks and surfboards will be allowed again.
Still closed are community pools, which could be among the last places to be reopened, going by the state’s guidance.
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said that as the state moves forward with “Phase 2” of its reopening plan, businesses such as dine-in restaurants, malls and swap meets, pet grooming businesses, car washes, outdoor museums and office-based businesses are next on the agenda — with social distancing still required.
Retail stores across the region opened for curbside service Friday provided they met San Diego County’s guidelines.
The stores able to open Friday included bookstores, music stores, jewelers, shoe stores, toy stores, antique dealers, home and furnishings suppliers, sporting goods, clothing stores and florists, but those businesses will have to operate through curbside service or deliveries.
Manufacturing, warehouse and logistics businesses supporting those businesses were also able to open Friday.
All businesses opening as part of “Phase 2” must complete a safe reopening plan, found at www.sandiegocounty.gov/coronavirus.html, and post it publicly. All employees must be given copies of the plan.
Two California Department of Motor Vehicles offices — in Hillcrest and San Marcos — are among the 25 field offices reopening Friday throughout the state. The offices at 3960 Normal St. and 590 Rancheros Dr. in San Marcos will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Wednesday, when it opens at 9 a.m. They will handle appointments and transactions requiring an in-person visit, such as reinstating a suspended or revoked license, applying for a disabled person parking placard or paying registration for an impounded vehicle, among other things.
Encinitas announced it will reopen staircases providing beach access Saturday, making masks mandatory while on the staircases.
Chula Vista announced it will reopen its parks and trails Friday for recreation activities, but face coverings are still required and residents must practice social distancing. Parking lots are open, but team sporting activities, gathering in groups and picnics are still prohibited.
San Diego Community College District told students and staff Friday that it was preparing to continue its online and distance-learning classes through fall semester, with possible exceptions for labs and first-responder classes, which are difficult in an online setting.
Fletcher reported Thursday that the county was amending some of the childcare health orders it had set down in March, including raising the number of children allowed in independent childcare groups with one adult from 10 to 12, and allowing shared use of hard-surfaced areas such as kitchens and bathrooms provided those common areas saw consistent cleaning. These modifications bring San Diego County more into alignment with California’s recommendations.
For the first two months of the pandemic, the county more or less blazed its own path in an unprecedented situation, but has begun to adhere more strictly to the state’s — and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s — guidance. As a result, Fletcher said, the county would follow the state’s gradual phased opening structure.
A somewhat confusing proviso in Newsom’s reopening structure is the ability of some counties to move faster in reopening businesses like dine-in restaurants, bars and malls if those counties meet certain standards. Fletcher said this standard includes no new COVID-19-related deaths for a period of time that is highly unlikely in any of California’s large, urban counties anytime soon.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said her office has fielded numerous questions regarding non-emergency dental work. She replied the county would wait on state guidance before giving the go ahead to dentists and hygienists.
A report released Thursday by the San Diego Workforce Partnership estimated that more than 67,379 employees have been affected by COVID-19, more than 35,000 of whom work in the hospitality and restaurant industries.
Last week, 318,064 Californians filed unemployment claims — nearly the same amount as filed the previous week, and 2.8 times the pre-COVID-19 weekly record, bringing total filings to 4 million over the last six weeks. By comparison, the 79 weeks of the Great Recession saw 4.9 million filings.
The San Diego region’s estimated unemployment rate has risen to 26.8% amid the pandemic, a high not seen since the Great Depression, according to a report released Wednesday by the San Diego Association of Governments.