REGION — The number of San Diego County COVID-19 cases rose by 78 today, reaching a total of 1,404, but no new deaths were reported.
The number of county deaths remains at 19.
Deaths are considered a “lagging indicator” in epidemics, so the report of no new deaths doesn’t necessarily mean there haven’t not been additional fatalities, said Dr. Eric McDonald, county director of epidemiology. He said causes of death in some cases might still be under investigation.
As of Monday, the county had 537 ventilators available for use, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.
A total of 269 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized at some point, including 102 in intensive care. The total number of COVID-19 patients currently in the hospital was not immediately known, McDonald said.
“It doesn’t help us with public health management,” he said, instead referring to county-tracked numbers of total hospital patients, which he said are more useful. “It’s not our highest priority.”
Fletcher announced that — responding to public input and interest — the county will begin releasing case numbers by race/ethnicity in its evening updates. Monday’s numbers, excluding 405 positive cases in which race was not identified, showed that 49% of positive cases occurred in white individuals, 30.7% in Latinos and the remaining cases fell among Asian, black, Pacific Islander, American Indian and mixed-race San Diego County residents.
“This tracks very closely with the broader demographics of the county,” Fletcher said.
Black San Diegans had the highest rate of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, at 39.9. Hispanic or Latino residents had the fewest, with 26.7 cases per 100,000 residents.
Supervisor Greg Cox said the county has increased the services it provides to senior and homebound residents, with meals from the Aging & Independent Services agency increasing by 92% over the last three weeks.
He said seniors can access services by calling 800-339-4661, and elder- or dependent adult-abuse could be reported at that same number.
Fletcher said the shelter-at-home orders were particularly difficult for seniors.
“Reach out to senior citizens, whether they be family members or coworkers,” he said. “Give some encouragement, support and help. The burden is much greater for them. They are under a higher level of quarantine and were told to do it earlier.”
The county has now distributed more than 1.7 million pieces of personal protective equipment, Fletcher said. Rob Sills, director of medical operations, said the county’s stockpile of surgical masks and N95 respirators
was sufficient but the supplies of face shields and non-permeable gowns were “critically low.”
A survey released Monday by the Service Employees International Union Local 221 found that among 70 healthcare workers asked, nearly 90% reported they had no masks or had to reuse them to an unsafe degree.
McDonald said he had not read the report from the union, but was interested in the survey’s methodology. He said the county was triaging supplies to people who need them most.
“There are very few in county employ who need N95 respirators,” he said.
Participants in the survey appeared to disagree.
“We are healthcare professionals who live our life in service to others,” said sheriff’s detention nurse June Cuaresma. “All we ask is being provided tools we need to do our job as safely as possible.”
Although the county is not mandating that residents wear face coverings, essential businesses can deny entry to customers whose faces are not covered, Fletcher said.
“If an individual business chooses to say that you need to have a face covering to come into their business, that is a determination that those businesses can make,” he said.
All employees of grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations must wear a facial covering at all times as part of a new county health order.
Supervisor Greg Cox said Sunday that law enforcement is cracking down on people who violate the statewide “shelter in place” order by congregating in large groups and not staying six feet away from each other.
Cox noted that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department issued 25 citations over the weekend to people violating the state order.
“The warnings are over,” Cox said. “We’re now down to serious business.”
Businesses that remain open are also required to post social- distancing and sanitization guidelines near the entrance of their business by Tuesday.
All beaches throughout San Diego County remain closed as officials continue to encourage social distancing as a way to gain a handle on the coronavirus pandemic.
Oceanside and Coronado were the last two cities allowing people to walk on the sand, but both shut down access at midnight Friday.
State beaches in Cardiff, Carlsbad, San Elijo, Silver Strand, South Carlsbad and Torrey Pines also closed Friday and will remain closed until further notice.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer, said Sunday briefing there was one new outbreak — defined as a single location responsible for multiple infections —bringing the total number of outbreaks in the county to 17, including 11 in congregate living facilities responsible for 87 cases. The total number of people tested in the county was 18,490.
Fletcher said San Diegans who are struggling with things like economic despair and depression can reach out to available services, such as the Access and Crisis Line at 888-724-7240. And the county’s website has a list of behavioral health resources, he said.
Fletcher said the county has not seen an increase in the number of domestic violence cases, “and that is encouraging.”
“But we should note that we are still in the early days,” Fletcher said. “The longer this goes, it increases the risk.”
A 250-bed federal medical center will open sometime in the next two weeks at Palomar Hospital in Escondido, Fletcher said.
The facility will operate as a “hospital within a hospital” and add to the capacity of beds needed in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Fletcher said.
Cox announced a new online resource, livewell@home, that asks San Diegans to join a 30-day challenge, via video chat, to start a book club or play games together with friends and neighbors.
Fletcher announced a program Saturday that allows San Diegans to pledge support in the fight against the coronavirus. The website, coronavirus-sd.com/pledge, allows people to sign a pledge to stay home and save lives, then share their pledge on social media.
Fletcher said Sunday that the pledge has received a “wonderful response, with thousands and thousands who have taken part.”
Cox announced Saturday that the county is working with Yancheng, a city in China, that will supply San Diego hospitals with 20,000 new surgical masks over the next few days.
For more North County COVID-19 resources and information, please visit The Coast News COVID-19 Resource page.