REGION — After six straight days of San Diego County public health officials reporting a case rate of fewer than 100 positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people, Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was “very likely” the county would come off the state’s monitoring list today.
The county reported a rate of 89.9 positive cases per 100,000 people, along with 282 new positive cases Monday, raising the region’s total to 34,960 cases. No new deaths were reported and the total number of deaths remains at 626.
Of the state’s 58 counties, 42 remain on the state’s monitoring list, with Santa Cruz County falling off Friday.
“This is a dynamic list. People come on, people come off, the numbers shift every single week,” Newsom said Monday. “I anticipate this week the numbers to shift again and it looks like, all things being equal and the latest reporting period — 24-hour reporting period, which we will have later this evening — it’s very likely San Diego will join the list of those counties removed. So, likely tomorrow.”
Previously, county and state officials had said if the rate stayed below 100 per 100,000 people for three consecutive days, the county would officially be removed from that list. After an additional 14 consecutive days below that number, K-12 schools could potentially reopen for in-person teaching.
If the county is removed from the list today, and it can maintain a case rate below 100 per 100,000 for those 14 days, students could theoretically be back in school by as early as Sept. 1, depending on individual school district metrics.
Some 48 elementary schools have filed waivers with the county to return to school early.
“Once we come off the state monitoring list, we must keep the vigilance we’ve been showing,” said County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “This is not a finish line but a mid-point in a marathon.”
Last month, the county announced it was reformatting its testing priorities to focus more on vulnerable populations such as those over the age of 60, those with underlying medical conditions and first responders.
It is unclear if the scope of the reported testing and rapidly declining case rates in the past several weeks is showing a true picture of the pandemic’s spread throughout the community, particularly as community outbreaks continue to be the only county metric still flagged as “abnormal.”
County health officials reported two new community outbreaks on Monday, bringing the number of outbreaks in the past week to 21 tied to 96 cases.
The latest outbreaks were reported in a grocery store and a grocery/retail setting, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. The county continues to keep the names and locations of businesses with outbreaks secret.
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 has recorded 48 community outbreaks tied to 250 cases of the illness in the month of August.
As a record-setting heatwave continues to roast Southern California, County Supervisor Greg Cox reminded residents Monday that socially distanced county “cool zones” would be available at least through the duration of a weather advisory — set through Thursday at 10 p.m. People visiting cool zones are required to wear masks when inside, and county staff will take temperatures at the door. A map of the cool zones can be found at Coolzones.org.
Of the 6,377 tests reported Monday, 4% returned positive, maintaining the 14-day positive testing rate at 4.3%, well below the state’s target of 8% or fewer. The 7-day rolling average of tests is 7,890 daily.
Of the total positive cases in the county, 2,868 — or 8.2% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 716 — or 2% — were admitted to an intensive care unit. Just 271 people are hospitalized from COVID-19, and 97 are in intensive care, a dramatic drop-off from even a week ago.
Latinos are still disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with that ethnic group representing 62% of all hospitalizations and 45.7% of all deaths due to the illness. Latinos make up about 35% of San Diego County’s population.
A new COVID-19 testing site began operating last week at the San Ysidro Port of Entry PedEast crossing, and County Supervisor Greg Cox cited its immediate success and demand for it.
The free testing site will operate from 6:30 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and will focus on testing essential workers and American citizens who live in Tijuana, according to San Diego County health officials.
No appointments are necessary at the walk-up site, which aims to offer about 200 tests daily. People getting tested will not be asked about their immigration status or who lives with them, health officials said.
“We know that communities in South Bay have been hit the hardest by COVID-19,” said Wooten. “The location was selected because of the increase in cases in the region and the number of people, especially essential workers who cross daily.”