REGION — San Diego County public health officials reported 529 coronavirus-related hospitalizations — a high for the month of July — and expressed concern about a weekend outdoor church service that attracted scores of unmasked worshippers.
The county also reported 523 positive new cases Monday to raise the region’s cumulative coronavirus case total to 27,507, but the death toll was unchanged at 533.
During a Monday afternoon briefing, San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said the church service held Sunday evening on Cardiff State Beach drew more than 1,000 worshipers.
“It really was a massive group of people gathering together without social distancing and without wearing facial coverings,” Wooten said. “We will continue to address this egregious violation as we have the others that have been brought to our attention.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the re-closure of churches in much of the state about two weeks ago amid a spike in the number of coronavirus cases. Outdoor worship services are still permitted, though attendees are required to wear face coverings and stay six feet apart.
Wooten also noted that San Diego County has been on the state’s monitoring list for around three weeks and in order to get off the list, the county would need to lower its 14-day case rate to below 100 cases per 100,000 population. San Diego’s 14-day case rate is at 144 per 100,000 as of Monday.
“If people continue to show or implement behavior in terms of gathering and not wearing face coverings and not social distancing, it is quite possible we will not get off the list,” Wooten said.
In order to get off the state’s monitoring list, San Diego County would have to report 234 or fewer new cases per day for two weeks straight, according to the county’s public health officer.
The county reported 6,456 diagnostic tests Sunday, 8% of which returned positive. The 14-day rolling average of positive tests is 5.7%. The target set by California is less than 8%.
The seven-day daily average of tests is 8,997 in San Diego County. Of the total positive cases, 2,405 — or 8.7% — required hospitalization and 618 — or 2.3% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.
Two new community setting outbreaks were reported Sunday — in a restaurant/bar and a retail business. In the past seven days, 13 community outbreaks have been confirmed.
The number of community outbreaks is above the county’s goal of less than seven in a seven-day span. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households.
As a result of numbers that continue to rise, Supervisor Greg Cox announced last Wednesday that San Diego County was initiating a Safe Reopening Compliance Team that will focus on businesses and residents not in compliance with public health orders.
“This is a carrot approach, not a stick,” Cox said. “But we still have the stick and other tools to ensure compliance.”
Cox said on Monday that city officials hope to have a plan approved by next Tuesday with specifics on how the Safe Reopening Compliance Team will operate.
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the team would enable the county to step up enforcement against “egregious violations,” but details regarding that enforcement were not immediately available. Officials were reaching out to the various cities and communities in the county to collaborate on solutions.
“This is out of an effort to keep our businesses open, not to close them,” Fletcher said.