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County COVID-19 total nears 24K cases

REGION — The San Diego County COVID-19 total sits short of the 24,000 mark after county public health officials reported 1,193 cases over the weekend.

Health officials reported 568 new cases Sunday but no new deaths, raising the county total to 23,682 cases while the death count remained at 478. The county reported 625 new cases on Saturday.

Of the 8,943 tests reported Sunday, 6% were positive new cases. The 14-day rolling average is now 6%. The state’s target is below 8% positive test rate.

Three new community outbreaks were identified on Saturday. In the past seven days, 16 community outbreaks were identified. The number of community outbreaks remains more than double the trigger of seven or more in seven days.

A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households.

Of the total positive cases, 2,180 — or 9.4% — have been hospitalized and 567 — or 2.5% — of cases have been admitted to an intensive care unit.

A new record of 157.2 of every 100,000 San Diegans are testing positive for the illness as of Sunday’s data, well above the state’s criterion of 100 per 100,000.

The last metric the county has failed to maintain is the percentage of cases that have been handled by a contact investigator within 24 hours of it being reported.

There are more than 500 investigators employed by the county, and although 98% of all cases had been investigated in that time frame as recently as June 25, that rate dropped to a dismal 7% as of Saturday. The county metric is to reach 71% of new cases in a day’s span.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health officer, said in response to these flagging rates, the county is attempting to hire more contact investigators. In just a three-hour period after the job posting went online Wednesday, more than 300 applications came in.

The number of cases continues to rise in people between the ages of 20 and 49 and particularly in people in their 20s, prompting the county to make efforts at educating younger people.

Residents between 20 and 29 years old account for 25% of the county’s cases, the highest percentage of any age group, according to county data. The next highest group are residents between 30 and 39 years old, representing 19.1% of cases.

“While it’s true that the mortality for younger people is lower, it’s also true that the rate is not zero,” said Dr. Scott Eisman, a pulmonologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas. “The complications from this illness are far greater, much longer-lasting and far more serious than the flu.”

Eisman said in studies of the outbreaks of SARS and MERS — other coronaviruses — people who had the disease and showed symptoms sometimes didn’t regain original lung capacity until a year or longer after the symptoms began.

“All indications lead us to expect it to be at least as serious as those diseases and much more aggressive,” he said, adding that even otherwise healthy people could see months of complications from the illness.

Eisman also said heart attacks, strokes and serious blood clots were increasing among younger people confirmed to have COVID-19.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club canceled its racing program for Saturday and Sunday after 15 jockeys recently tested positive for COVID-19. Racing is slated to resume July 24.