San Diego County exceeds community outbreak trigger, forcing pause on future reopenings

Virus Outbreak California
Virus Outbreak California
Posted at 2:33 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 21:24:52-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — County supervisors and health officials say the region's number of community outbreaks has exceeded its threshold prompting a pause on future business reopenings.

Thursday, community outbreaks rose to eight from June 11-17. A community outbreak is considered three or more confirmed cases from the same place.

The community outbreaks were linked to three businesses, two restaurants, one private residence, one campground, and one social club, according to Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten.

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"People are gathering and not using facial coverings," Wooten said. "When people come together and are within 6 feet of each other without facial coverings it's bound to happen.

"As things open up and people think that they can go back to the pre-COVID-19 existence, we cannot."

Three of the eight outbreaks could fall off the county's metrics on Friday and bring the county below the threshold once again.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the following actions would be taken in response:

  • The county will pause implementing statewide guidance on additional reopenings, not including Friday's planned reopenings of nail salons and other personal care services; and
  • The county would begin targeted enforcement on entities that are not following health orders.

The locations of the county's eight outbreaks were not detailed. Fletcher said revealing which businesses had outbreaks could jeopardize contact tracing reporting and businesses cooperating. He added that the county is working with those businesses on their precautions and if there is a great enough risk, further details — including locations — could be released to the public.

Fletcher said that the outbreaks were spread around the county, not directly linked to one another, and no deaths have been associated with them.

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Referencing photos captured last weekend in downtown San Diego showing many visitors at bars not wearing masks or distancing, Fletcher said the county is counting on businesses to help enforce local orders.

"There is significantly less concern about individuals outdoors than indoors," Fletcher said. "We are really dependent on business owners to enforce the protocols in their businesses."

Officials encouraged facial coverings, washing hands frequently, avoiding large private or public gatherings, and staying home when sick to fight future community outbreaks.

The county monitors 13 triggers covering surveillance, hospital capacity, and response to determine how it phases in business reopenings.

According to the county, the health officer's order can be modified when community outbreaks, PPE supply, or ICU capacity thresholds are met; or when one or more of the remaining triggers in at least two of three categories are met.

Wednesday, PPE supply stood at 82% (≤ 50% of hospitals have at least a 15-day supply of PPE), while ICU bed capacity stood at 36% (<20% availability of ICU beds).

A San Diego doctor's perspective

Dr. David Pride, an infectious disease specialist at UCSD Health, said the community outbreaks do not come as a surprise to those in the medical field.

“There are people out there who have the disease, do not realize they have the disease and are overconfident, so they don’t wear a mask, and thus they end up spreading it to other people around them who are also overconfident because they don’t have symptoms,” he said.

Pride explained he had seen a rise in the number of asymptomatic people carrying the virus in the last several weeks.

RELATED: New UCSD study: Wearing masks significantly curbs spread of COVID-19

“It’s a concern as you get mixing of people from different parts of the county,” he said. “As we continue to see more outbreaks, we expect hospitals to fill up more.”

Although he acknowledges temperature checks outside of establishments are great for identifying people who have a fever, they don’t mean much if someone is asymptomatic.

“The temperature checks may make people think if they don’t have a fever, they don’t have the disease,” he said.

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There are simple steps people can take to keep themselves and those around them healthy.

“We need to continue to adhere to our social distancing, our hand washing, and our utilization of face masks,” he said. “There have been several outstanding studies that have demonstrated that mask-wearing can significantly decrease the potential of transmitting that virus.”

Pride also explained that staying home as much as possible is still highly recommended.

“If you can work from home, it is definitely best that you work from home,” he said.