The Coast News Group
San Diego public health officer Wilma Wooten say officials have recorded eight community outbreaks of coronavirus tied to gatherings such as church meetings, parties and a wedding enough to trigger a pause in further planned reopenings of businesses and public facilities. Courtesy photo

Rise in community outbreaks put pause on future reopening plans for county

REGION — As San Diego County prepares to reopen another wave of businesses tomorrow, an influx of community-transmitted COVID-19 outbreaks reported today has activated one of the county’s public health triggers, placing a pause on any additional openings coming from the state.

The county also reported 238 new cases of the illness, a new daily high and one that moved the total number of cases in the county over the 10,000 milestone to 10,092. Another four deaths were reported Thursday, raising the total deaths related to COVID-19 to 331.

These new cases comprise 2% of a new daily high of tests reported, 10,070, for a cumulative total of 254,391 tests since the pandemic began.

The businesses scheduled to open Friday, including personal care businesses like skin care and waxing salons, tattoo parlors, massage therapists and nail salons — will still be allowed to open, but San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said any further openings allowed by Gov. Gavin Newsom wouldn’t be implemented until numbers go down.

“We continue to implore the public to wear facial coverings and avoid having gatherings at your home,” Fletcher said.

The culprit of the county’s pause action is the eight community-transmitted outbreaks San Diego County has recorded in the last week.

As part of the 13 public health triggers announced earlier this month, the county could take industry-specific actions, pause all reopening efforts or even dial back reopenings if enough of the metrics rise above a certain threshold. The threshold for community outbreaks — defined as three or more lab-confirmed cases from different households — was seven or fewer in a week’s span.

The eight outbreaks from June 11-17 is the most in a one-week span since the pandemic began, eclipsing the previous high of six during the week of April 29-May 5.

However, if no new outbreaks are reported Friday, three of those outbreaks will fall off the rolling seven-day period the county is monitoring, bringing the metric back to “green.”

The two outbreaks reported Thursday were at a campground and a social club. Fletcher did not report where exactly those were, or the previous outbreaks, saying doing so would “undermine” the county’s cooperation from
self-reporting businesses and other locations.

Nolita Hall posted on its Facebook page that an asymptomatic employee had tested positive for COVID-19 and that Little Italy restaurant would close until June 30 for deep cleaning. It was unclear as of Thursday if that restaurant was one of the community outbreaks reported, but Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said the outbreaks reported at restaurants were only among staff.

Fletcher said the county would increase “targeted enforcement” of businesses in violation of public health orders.

Newsom announced Thursday that Californians would be required to wear masks in public. San Diego County as well, as eight other counties in the state, already had such orders in place.

Exemptions include children under the age of 2, those with hearing disabilities or who work with those with hearing disabilities who need to see mouths to communicate, and those who otherwise have a medical reason that masks
pose a danger to their wellbeing.

Masks are not needed in private transportation, at work when not interacting with the public or while exercising so long as a person can maintain social distancing.

Wooten, with a nod to how long the COVID-19 pandemic could impact the region, said it may not be safe for people to have gatherings at their homes “until sometime next year,” a far cry from the mid-March hopes of flattening the curve and ending the pandemic.

“With the reopenings, people think we can go back to the pre-COVID existence, and we cannot,” she said.

A proposal from Faulconer was announced Thursday aimed at creating more outdoor dining and retail space for San Diego businesses, which he says will help make up for revenues lost due to indoor restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. It would have the city waive fees and fast-track permitting needed to expand businesses outdoors into parking lots, sidewalks and on-street parking spaces.

New testing sites at the Spring Valley Library on Kempton Road and the Mira Mesa Senior Center on Mira Mesa Boulevard join nearly a dozen other sites where county residents can get tested for free.

The county launched an interactive website earlier this week that allows residents to find COVID-19 testing locations near them. The website can be found at

“We’ve seen and heard comments from people who are tired of wearing facial coverings,” County Supervisor Greg Cox said Wednesday. “Covering your face is one of the easiest things we can do right now.”

Fletcher echoed Cox’s sentiments, citing “spikes and surges” in other states as well as hospitalization rates jumping in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

“It’s a powerful reminder to us that the danger is still here,” he said. “Masks don’t take any freedom away from you, masks give you the freedom to get back out there doing things. They are a temporary, minor inconvenience.”

“If an ICU nurse can wear a mask for a 16-hour shift, I’ve got to believe we can wear one for 16 minutes when we go to the grocery store,” Fletcher said.

Wooten reported several new community outbreaks Wednesday, and the last seven days have seen six such outbreaks, one shy of “triggering” a setback in the county’s reopening plans.

A total of 106 outbreaks of the illness have been tracked since the pandemic reached San Diego, with more than half currently inactive. Past community outbreaks have included church meetings, parties and a wedding.