REGION — As San Diego County inches closer toward allowing schools to reopen, county officials announced that they would expand free testing for school staff throughout the region.
Even as the county reported 228 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths Wednesday, a case rate continuing to remain under the state’s 100 cases per 100,000 population means that schools will be able to open in the county as soon as Sept. 1. The case rate was 80.2 per 100,000 on Wednesday.
According to County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, testing for school staff — teachers, paraprofessionals and others — will be made available for free at all of the county’s 20 testing sites. Additionally, Fletcher said more will open by the end of September to increase testing accessibility.
The county still does not advise that asymptomatic children get tested, but Fletcher said parents can seek guidance through primary care physicians or seek testing through Rady Children’s Hospital, Tri-Care or Kaiser Permanente — depending on what health insurance, if any, a family has.
Paul Gothold, the county’s office of education superintendent, thanked county officials Wednesday for passing a $6.55 billion budget on Tuesday that contained many COVID-19 and education-related line items, including $2 million to make sure students from low-income families have access to the internet for distance learning during the school year.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time,” he said. “We miss our students, our teachers and our classified staff.”
The county’s office of education oversees 42 school districts, more than 80,000 staff members and has at least partial oversight of hundreds of private and charter schools.
Some districts, such as San Diego Unified, have stated that they will have much stricter guidelines before in-person learning will begin again.
The new case data on Wednesday increased the total cases in the county to 37,222, and 668 deaths. A total of 8,327 tests were reported Wednesday, with 2.7% returning positive — lowering the 14-day rolling average to 3.6%, well below the state’s 8% guideline. The seven-day average number of tests performed in the county is 7,607.
Of the total positive cases in the county, 3,022 — or 8.1% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 738 — or 2% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.
County health officials reported one new community outbreak on Wednesday, bringing the number of outbreaks in the past week to 20. The outbreak was reported in a business.
The number of community outbreaks remains well above the county’s goal of fewer 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 in the past 14 days.
The county will be placed back on the state’s monitoring list should it be flagged for exceeding any one of six different metrics for three consecutive days. Those metrics are the case rate, the percentage of positive
tests, the average number of tests a county is able to perform daily, changes in the number of hospitalized patients and the percentage of ventilators and intensive care beds available.
County health officials are still awaiting guidance from the state toward a reopening framework for businesses.
“We still have not yet received clarity,” Supervisor Greg Cox said. “We do not yet know when we will get these guidelines.”
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the county was hoping to hear from the state this week.
On Monday, the county began releasing more in-depth COVID-19 data by race, ethnicity and ZIP Code, including the number of tests administered and the number of case investigators and contact tracers.
The case investigator and contact tracing data will show the degree to which the number of employees doing the work mirror the ethnic groups that make up the local population. Currently, the county has 435 case investigators contacting San Diegans who have tested positive for COVID-19, finding out what places they visited and who their close contacts are.
Additionally, 285 contact tracers were connecting with people who were close contacts with positive cases.