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County officials announced plans Wednesday for a phased re-opening of the county beaches and bays once the region meets certain county public health goals regarding COVID-19. Courtesy photo
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County prepares to reopen beaches as COVID-19 deaths near 100

REGION — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in San Diego County currently sits just shy of 2,500, with nearly 100 deaths reported thus far.

County health officials reported 57 new COVID-19 cases and nine additional deaths on Wednesday, raising the county’s totals to 2,491 confirmed cases and 96 deaths.

The nine deceased — three women and six men, ranging in age from 38 to 99 — all had underlying health issues, said Dr. Eric McDonald, the county’s director of epidemiology and immunizations.

The county has reported 24 deaths from the respiratory illness over a two-day period ending Wednesday, the deadliest two-day stretch since the coronavirus outbreak began.

McDonald said the seeming uptick in deaths may not indicate much about the direction the pandemic is taking locally. Calling deaths a “lagging indicator,” he noted that physicians have eight days to file death
certificates and the nine deaths reported Wednesday occurred over a four-day period from last Friday through Monday.

Deaths are not being used as an indicator to make decisions such as when to loosen or lift public health orders, McDonald said.

The number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 rose to 611 on Wednesday, and the number of patients being treated in intensive care units climbed to 206, representing increases of 19 and seven, respectively, from Tuesday.

The county and regional hospitals have now completed more than 36,000 tests, with a positive test rate of around 6.8%. The county estimates that 1,434 people have recovered from COVID-19, but it does not have an exact, verifiable recovery number.

Of all positive-testing coronavirus cases, 24.5% of the patients have been hospitalized and 8.3% sent to intensive care. Nearly 4% of COVID-19 patients have died, a rate higher than most jurisdictions are reporting.

Despite the increases in positive cases and deaths, the county is preparing for a path to reopen some outdoor spaces sooner rather than later.

County officials announced plans Wednesday for a phased re-opening of the county beaches and bays once the region meets certain county public health goals regarding COVID-19.

The region-wide plan calls for a two-phase reopening across all coastal cities in the county, which would begin with beaches and bays open initially to walking and running only, according to San Diego Mayor Kevin
Faulconer.

Physical distancing would be required, and face coverings strongly recommended.

Gatherings would be prohibited under Phase 1 of the plan, and piers, boardwalks and parking lots would remain closed.

The ocean would be open to all recreational uses, while San Diego Bay and Mission Bay would be open to boating and single-person paddling only.

Under Phase 2, all activities that allow for physical distancing would be allowed at the beaches, bays, piers, boardwalks and parking lots.

The city of Vista announced that its city parks will reopen for “passive use” starting Friday.

Parkgoers will be required to practice physical distancing and will be limited to individual or household unit activities, such as walking, jogging or running. Dogs on leashes will be permitted.

Group activities and active sports will not be allowed, meaning athletic fields, skate parks, playgrounds, and all other areas related to group activities would remain closed until further notice.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said Tuesday the county would measure five metrics when deciding whether to lift public health orders.

Those metrics, designed by the federal government, are:

— a downward trend in influenza-like illnesses;
— a downward trend in COVID-like illnesses;
— a downward trend in percentage of total tests turning up positive for COVID-19;
— treating patients with a normal level of staff and resources and not using emergency resources;
— robust testing in place for at-risk health care workers.

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