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County reports 277 new COVID-19 cases, five deaths

REGION — San Diego County public health officials reported 277 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths from the illness, raising the region’s totals to 37,499 cases and 673 deaths.

Three women and two men died between July 28 and Aug. 26, ranging in age from the early 40s to the early 90s.

Of the 5,235 tests reported Thursday, 5% returned positive, raising the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 3.7%, well below the state’s 8% guideline. The seven-day average number of tests performed in the county is 6,946.

Of the total positive cases in the county, 3,040 — or 8.1% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 738 — or 2% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.

The case rate for the county remains under the state’s 100 cases per 100,000 population, at 80.6 per 100,000, which means that schools are still on track to be able to open as soon as Sept. 1.

County health officials reported three new community outbreaks on Thursday, bringing the number of outbreaks in the past week to 20. Two outbreaks were reported in businesses and the third was in a restaurant.

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 metrics for three consecutive days. Those metrics are the case rate, percentage of positive tests, average number of tests a county is able to perform daily, changes in the number of hospitalized patients and percentage of ventilators and intensive care beds available.

County officials announced Wednesday that they would expand free testing for school staff throughout the region.

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.

San Diego State University announced Thursday that two more students tested positive for COVID-19, a day after reporting two positive tests among students.

University officials said the two new cases were unrelated to the previous cases and all four students had only been to the campus for testing at Student Health Services.

Fifteen SDSU students have contracted COVID-19 since March.

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.”

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 identified as close contacts with positive cases.