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COVID-19 death toll in San Diego County reaches 31


Last updated 4/8/2020 at 11:13am

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - County public health officials reported 50 new cases of COVID-19 and a dozen additional deaths, raising the total death count to 31, with 1,454 confirmed cases.

The new cases that came to light Tuesday are the fewest reported in the county since March 28 and the second fewest in two weeks, but the number of deaths is by far the largest increase since the public health emergency began.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer, said while the statistics were striking, they may not represent any significant trends.

"The increase in deaths should be no cause for alarm, as the number of deaths frequently lags behind the number of cases,'' she said Tuesday. "Most of the deaths have been reported since yesterday, obviously, but have occurred in the last several days.''

Wooten said the county sees a similar lag every year in influenza season, as the process of completing a death certificate may take several days while new confirmed positive cases are more immediately reported.

Even so, the leap in deaths brings the percentage of people dying from complications related to COVID-19 to 2.1%, still below both California's mortality rate of 2.3% and the nation's 3.2% but a significant increase from Monday's local rate of 1.3% mortality.

Wooten also urged county residents to avoid experimental treatments for COVID-19, stressing that there was no known cure for the illness.

On the subject of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial medication touted multiple times in recent days by President Donald Trump, Wooten was clear.

"We are not recommending this medication,'' she said.

Dr. Eric McDonald, the county's medical director of epidemiology, agreed.

"This particular drug is not FDA indicated for this use,'' he said. "There's no evidence of any specific drug that has any specific efficacy at this time.''

He said many medical studies were underway around the world to address exactly this issue, but no scientific research confirmed efficacy.

Trump "has a small personal financial interest'' in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of

hydroxychloroquine, The New York Times reported Monday.

Since COVID-19 first arrived in San Diego County, there have been 289 hospitalizations from the respiratory illness and 109 intensive care hospitalizations.

For the first time Tuesday, the county reported the number of estimated recovered patients: 201. The county does not currently track the number of COVID-19 patients in the region's 23 hospitals, instead looking at total number of occupied beds.

Wooten reported eight new outbreaks of the novel coronavirus for a total of 25 outbreaks.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher expressed gratitude to county residents who were taking shelter-in-place orders seriously.

According to county data, local travel has dropped significantly, including a 50% drop in retail traffic, a 64% drop in public transit traffic

and 51% less traffic at parks.

Chula Vista laid off roughly 350 part-time and seasonal city employees near the end of March, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Tuesday. Most of those employees worked at the city's public libraries, parks and recreation centers.

The layoffs, which happened March 27, came as a direct response to closures of the city's nonessential services because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the newspaper.

More than 800 unsheltered individuals are transitioning to San Diego's Convention Center as a temporary homeless shelter. The San Diego City Council approved a $3.7 million state grant to help prevent the spread of COVID- 19 among homeless San Diegans.

More than 1.8 million pieces of personal protective equipment have been distributed from county supplies, including more than 748,000 N95 respirators.

The county reported 523 unused ventilators at 22 of the region's 23 hospitals.

Starting Tuesday, authorities began citing essential businesses that have not complied with the requirement to post social-distancing and sanitization guidelines near the entrance of their businesses.

All employees of grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants open for to-go orders, fast-food eateries, convenience stores and gas stations must also wear a facial covering at all times as part of a county health order that went into effect at midnight Saturday.

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 Monday.


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