The Coast News Group
retail stores
Aerial view of empty shopping center parking lot during COVID-19 pandemic.. Coronavirus virus and panic buying concept. San Diego, USA, March 22nd, 2020

Retail stores open with limits, COVID-19 cases hit 4,429

REGION — Retail stores across the region can open for curbside service starting today provided they meet San Diego County’s guidelines, but shopping malls, dine-in restaurants, museums and offices will remain closed until the next phase of California’s emergence from the regime of restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stores able to open today include bookstores, music stores, jewelers, shoe stores, toy stores, antique dealers, home and furnishings suppliers, sporting goods, clothing stores and florists, but these businesses will have to operate through curbside service or deliveries.

Manufacturing, warehouse and logistics businesses supporting those businesses will also be able to open today.

All businesses opening as part of “Phase 2” must complete a safe reopening plan, found on the county’s website, and post it publicly. All employees must be given copies of the plan.

Two California Department of Motor Vehicles offices — in Hillcrest and San Marcos — are part of the 25 field offices also reopening today throughout the state. The offices at 3960 Normal St. and 590 Rancheros Dr. in San Marcos will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Wednesday, when it opens at 9 a.m.

They will handle appointments and transactions requiring an in-person visit, such as reinstating a suspended or revoked license, applying for a disabled person parking placard, or paying registration for an impounded vehicle, among other things.

Chula Vista announced that it will reopen its parks and trails today for recreation activities, but face coverings are still required and residents must practice social distancing.

Parking lots are open, but team sporting activities, gathering/congregating in groups and picnics are still prohibited.

These partial reopenings come after health officials reported 110 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths Thursday, raising the county’s totals to 4,429 cases and 165 deaths. The fatalities include two women and five men. The percentage of deaths among the Latino population continues to rise, up to 41.2% of all deaths, as the mortality rate among the white population has dropped below half of all deaths.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher reported the county was amending some of the childcare health orders it had set down in March, including raising the number of children allowed in independent childcare groups with one adult from 10 to 12, and allowing shared use of hard-surfaced areas such as kitchens and bathrooms — provided those common areas saw consistent cleaning.

These modifications bring San Diego County more into alignment with California’s recommendations.

For the first two months of the pandemic, the county more or less blazed its own path in an unprecedented situation, but has begun to adhere more strictly to the state’s — and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s — guidance. As a result, Fletcher said, the county would follow the state’s gradual phased opening structure.

A somewhat confusing proviso in Newsom’s reopening structure is the ability of some counties to move faster in reopening businesses like dine-in restaurants, bars and malls if those counties meet certain standards. Fletcher said this standard includes no new COVID-19 related deaths for a period of time that is highly unlikely in any of California’s large, urban counties anytime soon.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said her office has fielded numerous questions regarding non-emergency dental work. She replied the county would wait on state guidance before giving the go ahead to dentists and hygienists.

The county and its partners noted a marked increase in daily tests Thursday, with 3,325 completed, and several hundreds tests from previous days were just counted Thursday. The rate of positive tests was 3%, a significant drop from the rolling average of just over 6%.

On Thursday, 379 COVID-19 positive individuals were in the hospital, 134 in intensive care. Since the health crisis began, 904 people with coronavirus have been admitted to the hospital, 287 of whom were sent to the
ICU. The county estimates 2,478 people have recovered from the illness.

These numbers translate to 20.4% of all positive-testing individuals being hospitalized, 6.5% spending at least some time in intensive care and 3.7% dying of COVID-19.

A report released Thursday by the San Diego Workforce Partnership estimates that more than 67,379 employees have been affected by COVID-19, more than 35,000 of whom work in the hospitality and restaurant industries.

Last week, 318,064 Californians filed unemployment claims — nearly the same amount as filed the previous week, and 2.8 times the pre-COVID-19 weekly record. This brings total filings to 4 million over the last six weeks.

By comparison, the 79 weeks of the Great Recession saw 4.9 million filings.

The San Diego region’s estimated unemployment rate has risen to 26.8% amid the pandemic, a high not seen since the Great Depression, according to a report released Wednesday by the San Diego Association of Governments.