SD County to allow some indoor businesses to open Monday


Last updated 8/29/2020 at 4:01am

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Hours after Gov. Gavin Newsom released a new system for the state that sorts counties into one of four tiers based on the extent of the area's COVID-19 outbreak, San Diego County officials announced Friday, Aug. 28 some local businesses would be able to operate indoors in a limited capacity starting Monday.

On Aug. 31, restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters and museums will be allowed to maintain up to 25% occupancy or 100 people -- whichever is less. Gyms may operate with 10% occupancy. Hair salons, barbershops and nail salons may operate indoors with normal capacity. The impact to retail spaces currently open for indoor operations is unclear, although Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, alluded that they might be restricted to 50% occupancy.

All indoor businesses must still abide by social distancing- and face-covering mandates, as well as having a detailed safe reopening plan on file with the county.

Wooten said San Diego County had made it to ``tier 2,'' the only county in Southern California to earn that designation. The county still has a ``substantial'' COVID-19 presence, but unlike Orange, Riverside, Los Angeles and Imperial counties it is not considered ``widespread.''

The two metrics the state was monitoring in that tier list include an old one -- the percentage of positive tests -- and a new one -- the number of daily new cases per 100,000 people. San Diego County is at 3.8% and 5.8 per 100,000 respectively. To make it to the next tier, the county must show rates of between 2% and 4.9% positive tests and between 1 and 3.9 new daily cases per 100,000 population.

Because the county currently exceeds one of those numbers, it cannot start its path to the next tier.

According to Wooten, there is a 21-day mandatory wait time before any county can move between tiers, and a county must meet the metrics for the next tier for two straight weeks. Also, a county may only move one tier at a time.

These moves all appear to be in the interest of moving counties down the tier list toward full reopening. There does not appear to be any provision for a large, quickly spreading outbreak moving a county more rapidly back up the list.

The timeline for schools being able to open for in-person instruction on Sept. 1 is not affected by this new system of tiers, Wooten said. The state will monitor the data weekly, with results announced Tuesdays.

San Diego County public health officials reported 277 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths from the illness Thursday, raising the region's totals to 37,499 cases and 673 deaths.

Three women and two men died between July 28 and Aug. 26, ranging in age from the early 40s to the early 90s.

Of the 5,235 tests reported Thursday, 5% returned positive, raising the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 3.7%, well below the state's 8% guideline. The seven-day average number of tests performed in the county is 6,946.

Of the total positive cases in the county, 3,040 -- or 8.1% -- have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 738 -- or 2% -- were admitted to an intensive care unit.

The case rate for the county remains under the state's 100 cases per 100,000 population, at 80.6 per 100,000, which means that schools are still on track to be able to open as soon as Sept. 1.

County health officials reported three new community outbreaks on Thursday, bringing the number of outbreaks in the past week to 20. Two outbreaks were reported in businesses and the third was in a restaurant.

The number of community outbreaks remains well above the county's goal of fewer than seven in a seven-day span. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households in the past 14 days.

The county will be placed back on the state's monitoring list should it be flagged for exceeding any one of six metrics for three consecutive days. Those metrics are the case rate, percentage of positive tests, average number of tests a county is able to perform daily, changes in the number of hospitalized patients and percentage of ventilators and intensive care beds available.

County officials announced Wednesday that they would expand free testing for school staff throughout the region.

According to County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, testing for school staff -- teachers, paraprofessionals and others -- will be made available for free at all of the county's 20 testing sites. Additionally, Fletcher said more will open by the end of September to increase testing accessibility.

The county still does not advise that asymptomatic children get tested, but Fletcher said parents can seek guidance through primary care physicians or seek testing through Rady Children's Hospital, Tri-Care or Kaiser Permanente -- depending on what health insurance, if any, a family has.

San Diego State University announced Thursday that two more students tested positive for COVID-19, a day after reporting two positive tests among


University officials said the two new cases were unrelated to the previous cases and all four students had only been to the campus for testing at Student Health Services.

Fifteen SDSU students have contracted COVID-19 since March.


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