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No new COVID-19 deaths as protest held in Encinitas against shutdown


Last updated 4/19/2020 at 7:11pm

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The number of COVID-19 cases in San Diego County grew by 55 to 2,268 but no new deaths were reported today, keeping the death toll at 71 people, county health officials said.

Of the total positive cases, about 24% have required hospitalization and about 8% have needed intensive care, officials said.

Sunday in Encinitas, a group of about 200 people marched along South Coast Highway 101 to protest the closure of beaches, parks and trails in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The protest march, promoted by Free Encinitas, a public Facebook group, began at 10 a.m. in front of Swamis Seaside Park and headed south until about noon, when the protest disbanded, according to San Diego County Sheriff's Department officials.

Deputies kept watch to make sure marchers were practicing safe distancing measures, and no citations were issued, officials said.

The group carried U.S. flags and signs of protest against state and local stay-at-home orders. Some of the signs read ``Surfing is not a crime'' and ``This is punishment not protection.''

The group stopped at Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear's house, with some carrying signs that said ``Recall Blakespear.''

San Diegans also took to the streets downtown Saturday to protest 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.

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 issue any citations.

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

The Hillcrest Farmers Market opened Sunday 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, was open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to organizers. The first hour was reserved for senior citizens only, and only 60 customers were supposed to shop at a given time.

California Department of Health officials on Saturday released the names of 261 nursing homes across the state with COVID-19 outbreaks, including some 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 past 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.

As COVID-19 continues to take its heaviest toll in the health-care industry, a San Diego nurse attorney, author and veteran of the AIDS crisis is offering nurses a free video series to help them survive the new pandemic.

Lorie Brown put together the video series to provide tips for nurses on the front line of the coronavirus fight. It features 18 experts who provide advice such as keeping up immunity, getting better sleep, practicing mindfulness and understanding nurses' rights.

``I wanted to bring them the best experts that I can,'' Brown said.

``Being a nurse myself, as well as an attorney, I know what it's like to deal with the stress of exposure to illness while still wanting to provide the best care possible to patients. I was a nurse at St. John's Hospital (in Santa Monica) at the height of the AIDS crisis. Multiply that times a thousand, and you can only begin to understand what nurses across the globe are going through right now. I wanted to do something to help nurses get through their day, armed with a new perspective, an enlightened opinion, or maybe just a fresh glimmer of hope before entering into the front lines of COVID healthcare once again.''

Brown is the author of three books and is president-elect of the American Association of Nurse Attorneys. She founded in 2012 to help nurses protect their licenses while learning ``to speak their mind, stand in their power and be a change agent to improve health care.''

The video series is called ``COVID-19 Video Survival Guide for Nurses and Healthcare Practitioners'' and is available by going on the website.

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 those 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 for the homeless being housed 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.

He reported Thursday 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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