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County health officials say current coronavirus cases 'tip of the iceberg'

 

Last updated 3/19/2020 at 5:13pm



SAN DIEGO (CNS) - With 80 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in San Diego County to date, health officials said today the crisis will get worse before it gets better.

"The numbers at this point are really only the tip of the iceberg,'' said Dr. Nick Yphantides, San Diego County's chief medical officer. "You might think we have 3.3 million people living here; that 80 cases is insignificant. That iceberg is increasing in size under the water. Do not have a false sense of security."

It is hoped that a series of health orders that went into effect earlier this week and this morning might be enough to slow the spread of

coronavirus, known as COVID-19, but it's impossible to tell at this point, health officials said.

"I would be careful looking at day-to-day numbers,'' said Dr. Eric McDonald, the county's head of epidemiology. "Because the incubation period is up to two weeks, there will certainly be a delay in any action we take."

The health officials asked local hospitals and laboratories to comply with county orders to report all testing results, positive or negative. A lack of reagent fluids is limiting the number of tests many facilities can complete a day, throwing off regional estimates of testing capabilities.

New public health orders took effect today in response to the increasing number of coronavirus cases, including the closure all gyms and fitness centers, a ban on gatherings of 10 or more and restriction of childcare

to "stable" groups of 10 children with one childcare provider.

The "stable" vocabulary refers to the same group of 10 children each day and the same provider each day, county Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said Wednesday. If a daycare or related business has more than 10 children, each group needs to be in separate rooms and cannot intermingle.

Social distancing is encouraged even among the subgroups.

The number of COVID-19 cases in San Diego County rose to 80 Wednesday, with 11 hospitalizations and no deaths. Of those, 67 are San Diego County residents stemming from two groups, or clusters, of infection. The county is tracking the outbreak history.

The health orders banning gatherings do not apply to public transit, airports or any other mass transportation, Wooten said. The Metropolitan Transit System said it would continue running buses and trolleys at least until March 31 with ramped-up sanitization procedures on vehicles and at stations.

Tribal casinos in San Diego County announced they would temporarily close beginning Friday. The casinos are owned by Native American tribes that are considered sovereign nations and are not subject to state and county laws.

As such, the county did not demand compliance, instead "respectfully request(ing) the cooperation of the Tribal Governments in ensuring the Public Health Officer's order regarding gathering s..."

Effective today, San Diego County's family resource centers, as well as the housing and community development services office, three of the five locations of the county clerk's office and all treasurer-tax collector offices are temporarily suspending in-person services. The closures are intended to help county residents practice social-distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Ramada hotel in Kearny Mesa announced it will be used as a quarantine site for people potentially exposed to coronavirus.

The Ramada by Wyndham San Diego North Hotel & Conference Center located near Kearny Mesa Road, north of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard near state Route 163, will be used by the federal government to house patients under quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The hotel has 151 rooms and will be closed to the public.

The patients being transferred from the base to the hotel are experiencing mild or no symptoms, federal authorities said.

Fox5 reported the hotel is being monitored by the California Highway Patrol and U.S. Marshals Service. Conditions within the hotel are being controlled to prevent exposure to the public, authorities said.

McDonald, head of the county's epidemiology division, said there were 244 people in quarantine at MCAS Miramar, including two San Diegans. Of those, one was scheduled to leave the base today and another 39 on Friday. Four of the federally quarantined people at the base were at the base hospital.

Meanwhile, the Disney cruise ship Wonder docked today in San Diego, and none of the 1,980 passengers aboard show any respiratory problems consistent with COVID-19, though one crew member has tested positive for influenza, according to McDonald. The passengers will disembark today and Friday.

The Holland America cruise ship Eurodam docked Wednesday in San Diego, and all 1,839 passengers and 61 of the more than 800 crew members disembarked. McDonald said none of the passengers were showing any symptoms of the coronavirus, but three went to a hospital for unrelated medical issues. One remained in the hospital today.

"Self-quarantine is recommended after a cruise, according to CDC guidelines,'' McDonald said.

The Eurodam was scheduled to leave San Diego and head for Ensenada, Mexico, today.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the county had increased the number of available hotel rooms for unsheltered individuals or for those who cannot shelter in place to more than 1,400. Fletcher said he and Supervisor Kristin Gaspar were writing a board letter seeking to place a moratorium on evictions in the county, including in unincorporated areas.

Fletcher, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other local elected officials spoke with the government of Baja California to work on cross-border solutions to the global problem of COVID-19.

Simon Property Group temporarily closed all its malls and outlets Wednesday and the closure will last until at least March 29. The group owns several properties in San Diego County, including the Fashion Valley mall and Carlsbad and Las Americas Premium outlets.

Students at San Diego State University and University of San Diego were instructed to move out of their dorms amid the coronavirus pandemic.

SDSU students were sent an email Tuesday morning stating the university had plans to "expedite move-out plans for students this week.'' The university said students living on campus were being asked to make arrangements to move out immediately. Most students were expected to be out by 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Exceptions include students who can't go home, those without a home to return to and those with known health and safety risks.

The University of San Diego had originally asked residential students to move by Sunday, but sent a memo Tuesday advising that all students should move out of their dorms by late Wednesday.

San Diego Community College District colleges, including City, Mesa and Miramar colleges, have officially closed their campuses. Remote operations for the schools will begin Monday.

At least one person with a connection to three La Jolla schools has tested positive for COVID-19, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten said in a statement late Tuesday.

"The schools impacted by this announcement are Bird Rock Elementary, La Jolla Elementary and La Jolla High School," Marten said.

County health officials notified school district officials of the positive test or tests Tuesday afternoon, but no information about that person or people has been disclosed.

The Encinitas Union School District reported late Sunday that a person at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School had tested presumptive positive for coronavirus. The district has not yet said whether the individual was a student, teacher or school employee.

San Diego County libraries have shiftedto curbside pickup and drop-off to encourage residents to practice social distancing while still getting books, music and movies from the library. Residents can use the library's online catalog or call their branch libraries and pick them up between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

County Supervisor Greg Cox said the county had placed more than 200 hand-washing stations around the county.

The Navy announced Tuesday it closed its Training Support Command center in San Diego on Saturday after a third sailor with ties to the school tested presumptive positive for the novel coronavirus. Two students and an instructor at the school have tested presumptive positive for the illness in the past several days, according to the Navy.

The latest sailor with ties to the school to test positive is stationed aboard the USS Essex and had been attending a course at Naval Base San Diego since Feb. 6.

"The individual is currently isolated at home and restricted in movement,'' according to a Navy statement that said personnel who came into contact with the sailor have been notified and are in self-isolation.

Two more sailors, one stationed on the USS Boxer, which is homeported in San Diego, and the other aboard the littoral combat ship Coronado based at Naval Base San Diego, also tested positive for COVID-19.

The schoolhouse where the training occurred will remain closed until further notice. Military health professionals are conducting a contact investigation to see if any additional precautionary measures need to be taken.

Three Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar have also tested positive for the virus -- one on Friday, another on Saturday and the last one on Tuesday — leading to new health protections on the base.

 

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