REGION — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a framework for safely reopening businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, county health officials reported 140 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths on Tuesday, raising the county’s totals to 4,160 cases and 150 deaths. The six deaths were three women and three men, ranging in age from 62 to 95, according to San Diego Health Services officials.
As part of the framework plan, the county will send a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom requesting “total local control” on COVID-19 decisions.
The framework also offers guidelines on employee and customer safety, sanitation, physical distancing, and general business practices and communications. Recommendations were based on input from the Responsible COVID-19 Economic Reopening Advisory Group, which includes county supervisors, San
Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, small business owners and construction industry associations.
Faulconer said the group is bipartisan, bi-national and features a diverse membership. He also thanked business groups and organizations “who jumped in with both feet” to offer input.
“We are not out of the woods yet, but what we are doing in San Diego is working,” the mayor added.
Board Chairman Greg Cox said it has not been easy for businesses to adapt, but the framework allows them to reopen smoothly and safely.
During Tuesday’s meeting, some residents expressed frustrations with Newsom’s orders shuttering non-essential businesses, along with the county’s rule requiring residents to wear masks.
Timothy Ryan, an attorney based in Coronado, said the notion that a public official can determine whether a business is essential is offensive.
“This shutdown is no longer about public health, but politics,” he added.
Others told board members they have taken all the necessary steps to ensure their businesses are safe for customers.
After the vote, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said it’s important to “start the difficult work of rebuilding our economy, but it is vital that it be done right.”
Supervisor Jim Desmond said the county should consider an ombudsman to help answer questions about the business guidelines.
Tuesday’s meeting was the fourth held via teleconference since the pandemic began, with supervisors voting remotely.
Approval of the business guidelines was just one of several COVID-19 related actions the board tackled during its regular meeting.
Supervisors also unanimously approved $5 million in emergency childcare vouchers available to essential front-line workers and families. The money will come from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Supervisor Diane Jacob made an amendment to make the funds contingent on the city of San Diego also contributing $5 million from its CARES Act funding, for a total of $10 million.
The board also unanimously approved a six-month waiver of fees for inspections associated with environmental health, agriculture weights and measures, plan checks for tenant improvements, and air pollution control permit renewals.
Andy Pease, Health and Human Services Administration finance director, told supervisors the county will receive $334 million from the CARES Act to cover costs between March 1 and Dec. 30.
He said the money will not cover revenue losses or shortfalls, and added the county is now on track to spend $100 million on efforts to combat the virus, and costs will continue to rise.
Tracy Sandoval, county finance and general government manager, said her office estimates a total revenue shortfall of between $265 million and $395 million, and said it will be imperative for governments to develop long-term strategies to weather the downturn.
Fletcher said three state-run testing sites dealt with significant logistical and staffing issues Monday but successfully completed hundreds of coronavirus tests Tuesday, when the county and its health partners completed 2,306 tests, raising the cumulative tests to 63,477.
As of Tuesday, 354 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital, and 135 of them were in intensive care.
Of positive-testing COVID-19 patients, 20.8% have been hospitalized, 6.6% have been treated in intensive care and 3.6% have died, officials said.
Natasha Martin, a UC San Diego professor and infectious disease economic modeler, told the board Tuesday that the county’s swift actions to promote social distancing may have saved thousands of lives, asserting that — were the disease left unchecked and health orders not put in place — more than
12,790 people in San Diego would have died of COVID-19 by May 5.