The Coast News Group
Palomar Health
According to the hospital, it has seen a 45% to 50% decrease in overall patient visits since the coronavirus outbreak began. Courtesy photo

Palomar Health to lay off 317 employees due to decline in patient visits

REGION — Palomar Health is laying off 317 employees effective today, citing significant patient visit declines and loss of revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the hospital, it has seen a 45% to 50% decrease in overall patient visits since the coronavirus outbreak began, absorbing a $5.7 million operating loss in March, “with losses in April expected to be worse, yet hard to estimate given the uncertainty of the virus.”

The 317 positions represent 5% of Palomar’s workforce and the majority are part-time workers. The number includes 50 clinical RNs. The remaining 267 positions are spread across the organization, ranging from clerical staff to technicians.

San Diego County health officials, meanwhile, reported 173 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths on Tuesday, raising the county totals to 3,314 cases and 118 deaths.

The 173 cases are the second-highest reported since the pandemic began, but could correspond with the significant increase in daily test results, officials said. More than 2,500 test results were reported, the third-highest since San Diego’s first case of the novel coronavirus.

The percentage of positive tests Tuesday was around 7%, slightly higher than the county’s rolling average of nearly 6.5%, according to San Diego County Public Health.

The five deaths were two women, in their mid-50s and mid-80s, and three men — one in his early 70s and two in their late 80s. All had underlying health conditions according to Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.

Since the beginning of the public health crisis, 713 people have been hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 and 238 have been sent to intensive care. These represent 22.1% and 7.2% of all positive cases, respectively. The rate of mortality from the illness in the county is 3.6%.

The county continues to move forward on its plan to require facial coverings in public by Friday, and agencies are rushing to adapt. The Metropolitan Transit System announced Tuesday it would require all passengers and employees to wear facial coverings while in vehicles or at transit centers or bus stops.

Dr. Nick Yphantides, the county’s chief medical officer, displayed data at a Tuesday media briefing that suggests even a homemade cotton mask can dramatically reduce the number of water droplets and aerosolized drops from the respiratory system of a person positive for COVID- 19. He then implored the
public to continue to wear facial coverings and prepare for Friday’s public health order.

“Folks, it’s not that big of a deal,” he said Tuesday. “If it had a chance of helping prevent the spread of this illness, I’d wear a dirty sock on my face.”

Three more San Diego police officers have tested positive for COVID- 19, bringing the total to 10 since the pandemic began, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Tuesday.

At the San Diego Convention Center, the two people sheltering there who tested positive for COVID-19 have been removed to public health rooms. County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Tuesday that 767 people at the center have been tested for COVID-19, with 664 returning negative, 17 returning indeterminate and 104 pending. Of those tested, 530 are residents and 237 are staff.

Testing began April 16 at the emergency homeless shelter in the convention center as part of a proactive effort to detect anyone who may have COVID-19 but has not shown symptoms.

Beaches in San Diego, Oceanside, Encinitas, Coronado and Imperial Beach reopened for recreation activities on Monday, but numerous beaches in San Diego County remain closed.

Group gatherings, parking in lots and lying down on the beach are not allowed. Those activities could be lifted in Phase 2 of reopening plans.

Beaches in Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach remain closed. Solana Beach city officials announced Sunday that they are working to reopen city beaches the week of May 4. Del Mar announced that it will reopen its beaches Thursday morning for recreation activities.

Supervisor Greg Cox said Tuesday that San Diego County and the federal government were looking at the best way to provide mutual virus-related aid to northern Mexico.

County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence last week and said she received a response indicating assistance was on the way, Cox said. Further details have not been revealed.