What happens next? San Diego County eligible to fall off of California watch list

Virus Outbreak California Daily Life
Posted at 4:17 PM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-15 02:14:47-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego County avoided being on the state's monitoring list for the third consecutive day on Friday, which should allow the county to be removed from the list.

Friday, the county reported a calculated case rate of 96.3, below the state's threshold of 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over 14 days. Despite this, the county said Friday, "the state said today that it will review its data before removing San Diego County from the list."

San Diego County has remained within the necessary thresholds of California's other five monitoring metrics:

The county could be placed back on the list if it posts three straight days over the state thresholds once again.

If or when the county is removed from the list, officials say the region shouldn't expect an immediate return to normal. California is not planning on issuing any further business reopening guidance and county officials have said that no new business sectors are scheduled to reopen if the county gets off the list.

"The goal of our exercise is not to get off the state's monitoring list and get our case count below that, the goal is to have it remain below that," Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Thursday. "And we have to avoid the temptation or mindset that if tomorrow's numbers are under 100 that somehow we feel like we've made it, that we're done, we can go back to normal ... we want to avoid the seesaw of up and down, opened or closed."

But part of the uncertainty is the state hasn't clearly outlined what happens after a county falls off the watch list. Mayor Kevin Faulconer sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom requesting guidance on how counties proceed after they fulfill the requirements to get off the list.

"No process currently exists for restarting other activities, such as gyms and fitness centers, places of worship, non-essential office workplaces, personal care services, barber shops and salons, shopping malls, and higher education, all of which have been restricted to outdoor operations," Faulconer's letter read. "The lack of a consistent process for these businesses, with logical, data-driven triggers, exacerbates an increasingly difficult economic situation, and undermines the credibility of and compliance with the State's public health order."

Schools, however, would be the next sector to see some sort of reopening. In-person classes at schools 7th- through 12th-grade can resume after San Diego County stays off the state watch list for another 14 consecutive days — depending on school district plans. This could mean students are able to return to the classroom before the end of the month.

So far, 56 local elementary schools have also filed waivers with the county to return to classrooms early.

Last month, California released guidance on how schools can resume in-person this fall if approved, including measures regarding face coverings, physical and distance learning requirements, testing needs and contact tracing, and physical distancing.

Those guidelines also included when schools would be required to go back to distance learning:

  • Schools should consult public health officer first if a classroom needs to go home because of a positive case
  • A classroom goes to distance learning if there is a confirmed case
  • A school goes to distance learning if multiple classrooms have cases or more than 5% of a school is positive
  • A district goes to distance learning if 25% of a district's schools are closed within two weeks

Schools that have already reopened for in-person instruction would not be required to close again if the county is placed back on the watch list. That decision will be made on a school by school basis.

Friday, the county reported 406 new coronavirus cases out of 9,508 reported tests, bringing the region's total to 34,065 cases, and seven new deaths.

There have also been four new community outbreaks in the county: two in businesses, one in a restaurant-bar, and one in a food processing setting. The county is currently at 24 community outbreaks in the last seven days — far beyond the trigger of seven outbreaks in seven days.