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County officials are preparing to loosen business restrictions on some retail stores in conjunction with the state on Friday. Courtesy photo
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COVID-19 cases surpass 4,000, retail prepares to open

REGION — San Diego County health officials reported 93 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths today as it prepares to enter “Phase 2” of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen the state.

The county’s coronavirus totals now stand at 4,020 confirmed cases and 144 deaths, but officials said numbers were trending in the right direction and thanked San Diegans for behaving responsibly this weekend as beaches opened — allaying fears of overcrowding and subsequent state-mandated closures.

County Supervisors Greg Cox and Nathan Fletcher announced they are planning to introduce a framework to reopen nonessential businesses at Tuesday’s board morning, and the county is preparing to loosen business restrictions on some retail stores in conjunction with the state on Friday.

Newsom acknowledged the cooperation of the majority of the state’s residents so far.

“Millions of Californians answered the call to stay home and thanks to them, we are in a position to begin moving into our next stage of modifying our stay at home order,” he said at a midday televised briefing. “But make no mistake — this virus isn’t gone. It’s still dangerous and poses a significant public health risk.”

San Diego Republicans claimed a victory with Newsom’s loosening of restrictions.

“After several weeks of inaction, the governor, seemingly rattled at today’s press conference, finally acknowledged that Californians can be trusted to be responsible,” said Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County.

Democrats also claimed the move as a win.

“Moving to stage two signals another step in the gradual reopening of California,” said Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego. “Under state guidance and with ratification by county leaders, retail stores will be able to open with modifications, as well as the associated manufacturing and supply chains. This means more small businesses will get to open and more Californians will be able to get back to work.”

Even with a future course charted for reopening the state, officials reminded residents to be diligent about social distancing and facial coverings.

“Keep in mind we haven’t crossed a finish line,” Fletcher said. “This is not the beginning of the end, rather the end of the beginning. We will not truly be out of the weeds until we have a vaccine of therapeutic treatments.”

Cox agreed. The public’s compliance has “pulled us away from the edge,” but the county is still in the “danger zone,” he said.

State public health authorities are opening testing locations in partnership with the county’s health agency starting Tuesday.

The initial locations will be at Grossmont College, the former Sears building in Chula
Vista and the county’s North Inland Live Well Center in Escondido. Testing will be by appointment only. To secure a spot, visit Lhi.care/covidtesting or call 888-634-1123 weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The facilities could boost the county’s testing numbers by 800 daily. The county is working toward a goal of 5,200 tests per day, according to Fletcher.

“While state and federal guidelines call for ‘robust testing,’ there is no hard and fast rule for the exact number,” he said Sunday. “We’ve chosen to use a Harvard study to identify our goal: 5,200 tests per day in San Diego County. We’re working with our new testing task force to meet that goal.”

The county and its health partners reported the results of 1,293 tests Monday, around 7% of which were positive. A total of 61,171 tests have been completed in the region since the pandemic began.

Case tracking staff have completed a cumulative 4,903 contact investigations, and 552 people have been housed in public health hotel rooms after being exposed to the virus.

The latest deaths involved three women in their 70s and 80s and two men in their 60s and 80s, according to Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.

The county estimates 2,181 people have recovered from COVID-19, 842 have been hospitalized and 271 have spent at least some time in intensive care.

Of all 4,020 positive-testing individuals, 20.9% have been hospitalized, 6.7% have been admitted to the ICU and 3.6% have died.

Regional hospitals reported 3,372 beds in use Monday, and Fletcher said that number is expected to rise as people who have been putting off medical care begin returning to emergency rooms and hospitals begin scheduling elective procedures again.

Meanwhile, city beaches in Solana Beach, Del Mar and Carlsbad reopened in limited fashion today, along with state beaches in Torrey Pines and Carlsbad.

Beachgoers will be allowed to run and walk on the sand, as well as surf, swim, kayak and paddleboard in the ocean. Group gatherings, parking in lots and lying down on the beach are still prohibited.

Parks and trails in the city of Carlsbad also reopened today for walking, running and sitting on the grass. Parking lots at the parks will be open at half-capacity.

The Lake Poway Recreation Area opened to the public Sunday and resumed regular hours of 6 a.m. to sunset today, city officials said.

Parking lots at Lake Poway will open to half capacity and boating is not allowed. The playground will remain closed and active sports are limited to people within the same household.

Mandatory face-covering health orders are now in effect countywide, with several transportation agencies following suit by mandating face coverings in all vehicles and public transit locations.

Any employee or passenger at San Diego International Airport or aboard Metropolitan Transit System or North County Transit District vehicles are required to wear face coverings at all times — regardless of social
distancing.

People are not required to wear coverings at home or in their yard, car, while jogging or surfing or if they have a medical condition preventing them from wearing a facial covering.

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