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Coronavirus deaths rise to 71 as protests against stay-home orders are held

'We're not there yet,' county public health officer says on lifting restrictions


Last updated 4/18/2020 at 6:30pm

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The number of COVID-19 cases in San Diego County grew by 55 to 2,213 today and a 58-year-old man with underlying health conditions died in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 71 people, county health officials said.

Positive cases requiring hospitalization was reported at 537, and 187 were placed in intensive care, the county said.

The highest number of cases, 418, was in the 50-59 age range and the second highest, 412, was 30-39 years, the county reported.

There are 1,099 women who have tested positive and 1,110 men.

Meanwhile, some San Diegans took to the streets Saturday to protest

the stay-at-home orders.

In Balboa Park, a small group of local residents gathered at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street to protest against the city and state shutdown orders.

Organized by Bankers Hill resident Roger Ogden, the event was said to be held to stand up for constitutional rights.

"We do not believe that the COVID-19 bug represents such an immediate danger to others that constitutional rights should be curtailed,'' Ogden said.

"They panicked and got us into this,'' he said, referring to state and local officials issuing stay-at-home restrictions, "and now they don't want to admit they made a mistake. My constitutional rights overrule these restrictions.''

At the Hall of Justice downtown, a much larger crowd attended a "Freedom Rally'' with hundreds of participants carrying U.S. flags and

homemade signs with such statements as ``Open Up California'' and ''Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death.''

San Diego police officers kept a watchful eye on the protesters, but officials said they would not be issuing citations on Saturday.

"We have decided not to enforce the law at this time,'' police said. "We welcome people to voice their frustrations and concerns in a peaceful way. We hope after they've done so, they'll disperse.''

Also on Saturday, California Department of Health officials released the names of 261 nursing homes across the state with COVID-19 outbreaks, including 11 located in San Diego County.

The department's website said the list was a snapshot representing 86% of the state's 1,224 skilled-nursing facilities that have reported data within the last 24 hours.

Country Hills Post Acute in El Cajon reported the county's highest number of patients, 19, who tested positive for COVID-19. Fewer than 11 staff members tested positive.

Villa Rancho, a nursing home on Bernardo Center Drive, and The Bradley Court in El Cajon both reported the second-highest number of patients who tested positive, five. Four staff members also tested positive at both locations.

All of the other nursing homes on the county list reported fewer than 11 staff members or patients who tested positive:

-- Avocado Post Acute, El Cajon, fewer than 11 patients testing positive;

-- Boulder Creek Post Acute, Poway, fewer than 11 staff members;

-- Edgemoor Hospital, Santee, fewer than 11 staff members;

-- La Mesa Healthcare Center, fewer than 11 staff members;

-- Lemon Grove Care & Rehabilitation Center, fewer than 11 staff members;

-- San Diego Post-Acute Center, El Cajon, fewer than 11 staff members;

-- The Springs at Pacific Regent, San Diego, fewer than 11 staff

members, fewer than 11 patients;

-- Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital, Escondido, fewer than 11 staff


On Sunday, the Hillcrest Farmers Market will be open with new social distancing and safety rules. The weekly market has been closed since March 15.

The market on Normal Street, between University and Lincoln avenues, will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to organizers. The first hour will be for senior citizens only and only 50 customers will be allowed at a time to shop at the market.

San Diego County officials have said efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 were working, but focus was slipping, which could undo the region's progress.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said on Friday that even with the updated numbers, members of the public were largely doing their part to avoid spreading the illness.

He cited data from a mobility tracker, which analyzes how often people travel to certain locations, and found that people are traveling more than they were a week ago. This could be an aberration or a sign that people are taking stay-at-home orders less seriously, he said.

Travel to retail grocery stores and pharmacies increased by 11% of the pre-COVID-19 baseline, which Fletcher said might be expected as people may no longer be stockpiling groceries and thus needed to shop more often. However, transit station visits jumped by 6%, retail visits by 5% and park visits by 2%.

"We're seeing this slippage,'' he said. "I encourage you to hold fast.''

County Chairman Greg Cox, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other officials from around the region will soon convene the San Diego Economic Recovery Advisory Group to lay out a plan to reopen the county post-pandemic.

"This group will focus not on the `when' but on the 'how,''' Cox said. "It will be guided by medical data.''

Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego's Public Health Officer, said any plan to reopen the region would begin by meeting a set of metrics similar to that set by the state of California, including declining test percentages — the county and local hospitals are still returning around 93% of all tests negative — and declining incidences of flu-like illnesses in local emergency departments.

"We're not there yet,'' she said. "I use the word 'yet' because if we lessen up, we could lose ground. We are not there yet, but we have made a tremendous stride and effort and we are getting there.''

Fletcher reported COVID-19 tests have begun at the San Diego Convention Center, with a trial run of 53 tests completed Thursday. Of those, 34 were negative and 19 are still pending.

On Thursday, Fletcher reported another confirmed case in a homeless individual, raising positive tests in that population to 15.

Family Health Centers of San Diego, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency and the city of San Diego will offer the free and voluntary tests to 150 people each day until everyone housed in the convention center has been tested for the respiratory illness.

"This preemptive testing will identify and contain the virus earlier if it is present, helping staff respond proactively and get people into

treatment sooner,'' Faulconer said Thursday. "Anyone experiencing homelessness who comes into the convention center will receive health monitoring and treatment that's critical to both their personal well-being and the health of the broader community."

Fletcher said the tests will be done to ensure the privacy of individuals, and positive-testing shelter residents will be quickly isolated

before being transported to a public health hotel room where they can recuperate.

Father Joe's Villages reported Thursday morning it had moved many clients to the convention center from the now-vacant Golden Hall and had reduced the number of beds at shelters it operates to increase social distancing.

Two more San Diego police officers have tested positive for COVID-19, Faulconer announced Thursday. One works in the Southern Division, which oversees areas such as San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. The other works at the department's headquarters, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Two other SDPD officers have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began.


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