The city of San Diego is considering slashing funding to all but the most essential city services as the number of countywide COVID-19 cases increased to 341, and a third county resident died of the disease Thursday.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the city was facing a financial crisis, projecting that the city has lost $109 million in tax revenue during an economic slowdown resulting from the global pandemic.
“The hole being dug here is deeper than ever before,” Faulconer said. “Make no mistake, these are going to be the most significant cuts we’ve seen in San Diego in quite some time.”
According to city data, San Diego has missed out on $83 million in hotel occupancy taxes and $26 million in sales tax, the city’s third- and second-highest revenue generators. Property tax brings in the most money for the city, but less is known about that data at this time. Faulconer said the lost money represents the yearly budget of the city’s entire parks and recreation department.
Councilman Scott Sherman said the city was still recovering from budget cuts made in 2004 and 2008, and his colleagues on the council needed to make some “tough decisions” as they attempt to keep the city running.
“We are looking at the next three months of the fiscal year, but we’re looking at longer-term decisions as well,” Faulconer said. The fiscal year ends June 30.
“We can and will get through this together,” he said.
The number of coronavirus cases in San Diego County reached 341 Friday, an increase of 64 from Wednesday, the highest day-over-day increase in COVID-19 cases so far.
Of the positive-testing individuals, 69 have been hospitalized, with 31 of those patients listed as critical. County health officials stopped counting non-county residents Thursday, but there were 20 positive-testing individuals in that category Wednesday. The number of coronavirus deaths in San Diego County rose to three after a woman in her 80s died Thursday, county health officials reported.
The Hotel del Coronado temporarily suspended operations starting Thursday as a result of coronavirus.
The general manager of the historic beachfront hotel — Harold Rapoza Jr. — announced the decision Wednesday night, noting that the hotel has not had a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Navy officials announced Wednesday that 17 more sailors and civilians tested positive for COVID-19, including a civilian who had been working at the Naval Air Station North Island Child Development Center. The employee began feeling ill two weeks ago and has been absent from work since then, officials said.
The latest cases brings the total number of local military testing positive for coronavirus to 33, including 18 sailors on Navy ships and 14 shore-based sailors. Three Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and one marine at Camp Pendleton have also tested positive for the virus.
John Cox, who was a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2018, announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.
“Last week, after feeling ill with mild flu-like symptoms, and out of the abundance of caution because my wife is immuno-supressed due to a chronic condition, my physician tested me for COVID-19,” Cox said in a statement. “My symptoms were relatively mild and I am slowly feeling much better.”
Chula Vista Councilman Steve Padilla remains in a local intensive care unit on a ventilator, but is in stable condition and appears to be improving, according to a statement from his daughter Wednesday evening.
Padilla announced on March 14 that he had contracted the disease. He was initially self-isolating at home, but five days later, his daughter announced that he had been admitted to an ICU and was placed on a respirator to aid with difficulty breathing.
Dr. Eric McDonald, the county’s medical director of epidemiology, presented a bleak report at a Wednesday afternoon briefing, stating that if social distancing is not maintained by the public, and cases double every three days, the county’s hospital beds will be filled by April 14. Even if the cases double every six days, healthcare providers are likely looking at full bed capacity by mid-May, he said.
Of the 341 people in San Diego County with positive diagnoses, men testing positive outnumbered women 207-134.
Cases in patients between 20 and 59 formed the bulk of the total, 269 overall, or 79% of cases.
McDonald said that statistic probably represented a testing bias, as members of the military, first-responders and healthcare workers fall most frequently into that age group and those groups are tested at rates much higher than the general population.
Local health officials on Tuesday confirmed the second death of a county resident from the coronavirus, a person in their late 70s who had “many” underlying health issues, county Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said.
Wooten also reported the first two infant cases on Tuesday, a 6-week-old boy and a 4-month-old girl. The county confirmed a third case in children 9 or younger Thursday.
Wooten said she and other county health officials believe the crest of cases is yet to come, and reminded people who are showing symptoms that unless they are extremely ill, to stay at home and avoid going to a hospital to help save beds.
She said 81% of those who get COVID-19 have “mild to moderate symptoms” and it’s safest for them to self-quarantine and avoid leaving home until three days after the last signs of a fever or cough, and at least a week after the initial onset of symptoms.
With the number of ill San Diegans continuing to increase, the San Diego City Council Wednesday unanimously approved an immediate eviction moratorium to provide relief to residents and businesses facing financial hardship related to the pandemic.
The emergency law temporarily halting evictions in San Diego will last until May 31. It protects tenants against evictions if they can document their income has been substantially reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or if they have medical bills related to coronavirus. It will not relieve a tenant of the requirement to pay rent or restrict a landlord from recovering rent at a future time.
The new ordinance directs staff to develop a strategy to work with banks and lenders to halt mortgage payments or foreclosures for individuals and landlords who have suffered severe loss of wages and income due to the health crisis.
The council, which convened an emergency meeting, also unanimously approved a multi-million-dollar small-business relief fund proposed last week by Faulconer.
The mayor has grown the fund from about $4 million to $6 million since he announced its creation last week as part of a broader economic relief package. Financial assistance will range from $10,000 to $20,000 and will be allocated to eligible small businesses based on the availability of funds and program guidelines.
— San Diego Community College District announced it would maintain online classes through the summer, but had not yet canceled commencement plans scheduled for May and June.
— Three inmates were tested at San Diego County’s lone prison, with no positive results at present.
— The San Diego Police Department reported that calls had decreased by 11% since Gov. Gavin Newsom directed Californians to shelter in their homes.
— The San Diego City Attorney’s Office urged families with guns in the home to practice proper firearm safety while self-quarantining to keep the weapons out of the hands of children. With stay-at-home orders issued at the state and local levels, and schools closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office said gun safety is paramount.
“When you have guns and children in the home and do not practice safe storage, you are increasing the risk that someone will be accidentally shot,” Elliott said. “Children are very resourceful when it comes to locating things their parents thought they’d never find. When they find a gun, it often leads to tragedy.”
Most beaches in San Diego County remain closed in an attempt to encourage social distancing and limit the spread of the coronavirus, but beaches in Coronado and Oceanside have not yet been deemed off-limits.
Both cities shut down playgrounds and public beach parking lots Monday, but neither city has officially closed its coastline, but encourage beachgoers to maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from people not a part of their household.
Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, San Diego and Solana Beach closed their beaches, trails and parks Monday, while Imperial Beach and the Port of San Diego announced similar closures Tuesday.
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