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County’s coronavirus death toll ticks up by three

REGION — San Diego County public health officials have reported 308 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths, raising the county’s cumulative totals to 40,650 cases and 707 fatalities.

Two women and one man died between July 29 and Aug. 31, according to statistics released Sunday. Their ages ranged from mid-50s to mid-90s. Two of the three had underlying medical conditions.

San Diego County’s state-calculated case rate is 5.8 and the testing positivity percentage is 3.8%.

Of 4,271 tests reported as of Saturday, 7% returned positive, raising the county’s 14-day rolling positive testing rate to 4.3%, 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, 3,214 — or 7.9% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 772 — or 1.9% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.

County health officials reported two new community outbreaks as of Saturday, bringing the number of outbreaks in the past week to 20. One of the outbreaks was at a residence and one at 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.

Under the new state monitoring metrics, San Diego County is in Tier 2, also referred to as the red tier.

The county’s next scheduled media briefing is Wednesday. Because of the Labor Day holiday, there will not be an update to the county’s COVID-19 website on Monday.

San Diego State University issued a stay-at-home order for students living in on-campus residence halls on Saturday, asking them to stay in their current residences except for essential needs throughout the weekend as the school battles an outbreak of the coronavirus.

The order remains in effect through 6 a.m. Tuesday.

The school reported another 120 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases among its student population Friday, raising the university’s total caseload to 184 since fall semester began Aug. 24.

“Students should stay in their current residences, except to take care of essential needs, including medical care, accessing meals, shopping for necessities such as food/meals and medical supplies, exercising outdoors (with facial coverings), and traveling for the purposes of work,” a statement from SDSU read.

Violations of the order may result in disciplinary consequences, the college said.

Additionally, San Diego County public health officials confirmed multiple clusters of COVID-19 cases within the university community among students. This includes the previously announced off-campus outbreak on Wednesday. SDSU officials say none of the cases under investigation are related to on-campus educational activities, including classes or labs.

Luke Wood, SDSU’s vice president for student affairs and campus diversity, said the university was working with a security company to enforce public health code violations and had issued a total of 457 student violations through Friday afternoon. Wood said the most serious of these violations could result in suspension or expulsion from the university. Some organizations have been cited as well. Wood said the majority of these were fraternities or sororities, but followed up that not all were, and outbreaks impact the community at large regardless of the type of group they occurred in.

All of the university’s in-person classes — which SDSU President Adela de la Torre said comprised just 7% of all courses — were moved online Wednesday. SDSU also paused all on-campus athletics training and workouts for two weeks starting Thursday due to COVID-19.

“Only a small fraction of students have met in person,” de la Torre said. SDSU has a student body of more than 35,000. Nearly 8,000 students live on campus.

She cautioned that “testing alone and testing once” would not be enough, and a robust system to enforce health orders would continue to be needed to avoid the “plague of parties” already present near campus.

SDSU has more than 130 spaces for students to safely quarantine, according to the university, and all students who have moved into campus housing would be able to move out if they so choose.

County health officials warned that Labor Day weekend could be a spreading event for COVID-19.

“Most people won’t be working over the long holiday period, but COVID- 19 will not be taking the day off,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “The more people go out and the more they interact with people outside their household, the more likely they are to contract the virus.”

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