San Diego County health officials amended public health orders Thursday, shutting down park and beach parking lots and mandating that people in essential industries who interact with the public must wear facial coverings, effective Friday at midnight.
These industries include pharmacies, grocery stores and gas stations. Any park or beach still open in the county must close parking lots, making the space accessible only to 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 and a recommendation that anyone who leaves their home for any essential purpose should wear a facial covering — a bandana, scarf, homemade mask, etc. — while maintaining social distancing. These coverings should not be medical-grade masks, officials said.
The number of global COVID-19 cases crossed the million-case milestone Thursday, while health officials confirmed 117 new local cases and one death related to the illness in the county.
The death of that 98-year-old woman raises the county’s illness-related mortalities to 16. There have now been 966 cases in the county, 181 of which have been hospitalized. Seventy have been sent to intensive care.
“We will clearly have over 1,000 cases tomorrow,” said Dr. Eric McDonald, the county’s medical director of epidemiology. “If you do have to go out, treat others as if they have COVID and remain socially distant. They should be treating you like you have it, too.”
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore further added to the county’s public health orders, stating that 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.
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher thanked the vast majority of San Diegans for taking the orders and closures seriously, but that a few people were necessitating the change in enforcement.
He said that 422 county residents were being sheltered in hotel rooms managed by the county and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. That figure includes 120 in isolation or awaiting test results and 302 previously unsheltered individuals now off the street.
Fletcher said the county had administered more than 1.3 million pieces of personal protective equipment, including more than 581,000 N-95 respirators and more than 213,000 surgical masks.
McDonald said that the county had confirmed seven skilled nursing facilities reporting outbreaks, responsible for 41 cases and three deaths.
San Diego County temporarily suspended animal adoptions and fostering at county animal shelters, it announced Wednesday.
“The animals in our care are safe and well, and will be ready to meet their potential new families again soon,” read a county statement on Twitter.
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 a crew member flown into San Diego due to cardiac and respiratory issues. That crew member tested negative for COVID-19, was treated and flown back to the ship.
Roughly 2,000 sailors aboard a San Diego-based nuclear aircraft carrier currently docked in Guam were moved off the ship Thursday after its captain requested more resources and “decisive action” to battle a coronavirus outbreak aboard the vessel.
The officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, was subsequently relieved of duty by the U.S. Navy after Thomas Modly, acting Navy secretary, and Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, in Washington said they had “lost confidence” in him.
Modly said 93 sailors have tested positive for COVID-19 so far among the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s crew of more than 4,000. All but seven of those 93 are exhibiting symptoms of the virus, but no one has required hospitalization.
Though most of the sailors will be moved off the ship, about 1,000 of them will remain onboard to maintain certain critical functions and security for the ship.
Modly said conversations were ongoing with the government of Guam to free up hotel space to accommodate the sailors moved off ship.
The county reported a total of 456 ventilators in 20 of its 23 hospitals — with another 88 ready to be deployed in an emergency — 57 being serviced, 600 requested from the state and 125 ordered from elsewhere.
— Oceanside moved toward implementing a $3 million small-business relief fund that will be used to issue micro-loans ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 to help local small businesses retain employees and stay afloat amid various federal, state and local public health restrictions. The program will be open to businesses that can show they have sustained economic hardship due to COVID-19, have a city business license and have been in operation for at least six months.
— The owners of the Anaheim Ducks NHL team — Henry and Susan Samueli — informed workers in Orange and San Diego counties, including part-time San Diego Gulls employees, that “all 2,100 part-time staff members will be paid for current or future rescheduled, postponed or canceled events through June 30.” The Gulls are the minor league affiliate of the Ducks.
— Chula Vista announced it would offer small business loans through San Diego’s small-business relief fund. Much like Oceanside’s fund, loans ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 are available to businesses in the city.
County officials began reporting cases by ZIP code Wednesday, but a spike in areas like Hillcrest and La Jolla were not causes for concern for Dr. Nick Yphantides, San Diego County’s chief medical officer.
Fletcher, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City Councilman Chris Ward, Regional Task Force on the Homeless CEO Tamera Kohler and San Diego Convention Center President and CEO Rip Rippetoe opened the convention center Wednesday morning to unsheltered San Diegans.
The convention center was configured to hold more than 900 physically distanced cots and more if needed — less than a month after San Diego residents voted down a hotel tax designed to expand the facility.
The first unsheltered residents were moved into the center by the Alpha Project.
A skilled nursing home in El Cajon was the site of another outbreak, including one positive case and three suspected cases. It is the latest in a series of “congregate living sites” — assisted living facilities, prisons or anywhere where large groups of people congregate in one living location — to have positive tests. Those sites were under strict health protocols and further investigation, Yphantides said.
The county also extended public health closure orders indefinitely that were set to expire. The closure applies to schools, nonessential businesses, restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, and anyone 65 or older should continue to quarantine at home.
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