The Coast News Group
Del Mar
As a result of numbers trending in the right direction, the county would allow beaches to open for passive recreation. File photo

County to reopen beaches for ‘passive use’ on Tuesday

REGION — San Diego County’s beaches can reopen Tuesday for passive uses like sitting in a beach chair and sunbathing, it was announced today, continuing the county’s gradual reopening even as public health officials reported 117 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths.

The newest data increases the county cumulative totals to 7,100 and 260 deaths. County health officials recorded 3,699 tests Thursday, raising the cumulative total number of tests to 147,286.

The five deceased ranged in age from 64 to 97 and all had underlying medical issues.

The 117 tests Thursday comprise 3% of the total number of tests, and the 14-day rolling average testing positive is just 3.1%, giving officials like Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, reason to believe the region’s cases have “peaked.”

As a result of numbers trending in the right direction, Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors Greg Cox said Thursday the county would allow beaches across the county to open for passive recreation and would allow individual jurisdictions to decide if they wanted to open the beaches for those purposes as well.

A few restrictions remain, however, as the county still has a ban on team sports like football and volleyball. Additionally, beach parking lots and piers remain closed. The reopening of boardwalks is up to each coastal city, and as always, social distancing and facial coverings are the rule when near people who aren’t a member of the household.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher thanked San Diegans for sacrificing so much already, but made a plea to give a little more. He said the San Diego Blood Bank is down to just a two-day supply of blood and is seeking convalescent plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19.

A single dose of the plasma could provide some therapeutic relief to three or four people currently suffering from the illness, said Fletcher.

David Wellis, CEO of the San Diego Blood Bank, said the convalescent plasma has proven so popular as a treatment that even though the blood bank has delivered 377 doses, “We are not meeting the demand.”

Also Thursday, Wooten reminded San Diego County residents that wearing a mask was an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19, as they “disrupted the trajectory” of a cough or sneeze and significantly reduce the spread of respiratory droplets.

Representatives from SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California, the U.S.S. Midway Museum and other large tourist attractions had a phone meeting with San Diego County officials on Wednesday to seek permission to reopen by July 1.

The theme parks, which also include the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park and the SeaWorld-owned Aquatica water park, are taking steps to open for Stage 3 of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-stage plan, and while the meeting with county officials was private, the parks announced they have moved onto an official reopening request with the state.

That plan calls for temperature and wellness checks for employees, masks for everyone entering the parks, reduced capacity inside the parks, plastic shields at food stations, a six-foot separation for entry and ride lines and regularly disinfecting common touchpoints.

All of the theme parks shut down mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barona Resort and Casino reopened Wednesday, as well as houses of worship, hair salons and barbershops.

Under the guidelines, places of worship must limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or 100 attendees, whichever total is smaller. This limitation will be in effect for the first 21 days of each county public health department’s approval of religious services within their jurisdictions, after which the California Department of Public Health will review the limits.

They must also arrange for social distancing of at least six feet between people, establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance. Other local restrictions include no singing, no touching and no passing of items.

Churches and other houses of worship were ordered closed to the public on March 19. Since then, many have adjusted by holding virtual services, while a few recently resumed in-person services in violation of the order.

Hair salons and barbershops are permitted to open as soon as ready, but only for services that can be completed while a customer keeps their mask on the entire time, meaning eyebrow threading, eyelash work and face shaves remain prohibited.

All employees must have their temperatures checked at the beginning and end of their shifts, the same as other essential and nonessential businesses open in the county. All businesses must provide face masks for all employees and customers — who are welcome to bring masks from home.

Nail salons are absent from the state and county’s guidelines, but Newsom suggested Tuesday that they might be in the next wave of modified reopenings.

Additionally, Fletcher said one-on-one sports training are now permitted, so long as the instructor and student could maintain social distancing. This will allow for golf and tennis, as well as individual soccer, baseball, volleyball and other coaching sessions.