SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego County has officially been removed from the state's COVID-19 monitoring list, a county official confirmed shortly after noon Tuesday, setting in motion a 14-day countdown that could see K-12 students back in the classroom as soon as Sept. 1, depending on the guidance of individual school districts.
The announcement follows six straight days of San Diego County public health officials reporting a case rate of fewer than 100 positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that it was "very likely" the county would come off the state's monitoring list by Tuesday.
The move's effect on businesses was unclear. The county was expecting some guidance from the state in that area later Tuesday.
The county will be placed back on the list should it be flagged for exceeding any one of six different metrics for three consecutive days. Those metrics are the case rate, the percentage of positive tests, the average number of tests a county is able to perform daily, changes in the number of hospitalized patients and the percentage of ventilators and intensive care beds available.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Tuesday that the city would begin allowing gyms, fitness businesses and places of worship to operate in city parks beginning Monday.
"There is no city better than San Diego to take advantage of the fact that COVID-19 has a harder time spreading outdoors. Using parks as part of our pandemic relief response will help the mental health and physical health of thousands of San Diegans," Faulconer said.
The county reported a rate of 89.9 positive cases per 100,000 people, along with 282 new positive cases Monday, raising the region's total to 34,960 cases. No new deaths were reported and the total number of deaths remains at 626.
"Once we come off the state monitoring list, we must keep the vigilance we've been showing," County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Monday. "This is not a finish line but a mid-point in a marathon."
Last month, the county announced it was reformatting its testing priorities to focus more on vulnerable populations such as those over the age of 60, those with underlying medical conditions and first responders. It is unclear if the scope of the reported testing and rapidly declining case rates in the past several weeks were showing a true picture of the pandemic's spread, particularly as community outbreaks continue to be the only county metric still flagged as "abnormal."
County health officials reported two new community outbreaks Monday, bringing the number of outbreaks in the past week to 21 tied to 96 cases. The latest outbreaks were reported in a grocery store and a grocery/retail setting, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. The county continues to keep the names and locations of businesses with outbreaks secret.
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 has recorded 48 community outbreaks tied to 250 cases of the illness in the month of August.
Meawnhile, as a record-setting heat wave continued to roast Southern California, Supervisor Greg Cox reminded residents Monday that socially distanced county "cool zones" would be available at least through the duration of a weather advisory -- which expires at 10 p.m. Thursday. People visiting cool zones are required to wear masks when inside, and county staff will take temperatures at the door. A map of the cool zones can be found at Coolzones.org.
Of the 6,377 tests reported Monday, 4% returned positive, maintaining the 14-day positive testing rate at 4.3%, well below the state's target of 8% or fewer. The 7-day rolling average of tests is 7,890 daily.
Of the total positive cases in the county, 2,868 -- or 8.2% -- have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 716 -- or 2% -- were admitted to an intensive care unit. Just 271 people are hospitalized from COVID- 19 in San Diego County, and 97 are in intensive care, a dramatic drop-off from even a week ago.
Latinos are still disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with that ethnic group representing 62% of all hospitalizations and 45.7% of all deaths due to the illness. Latinos make up about 35% of San Diego County's population.