San Diego County

County Data Shows San Diego Govt. Agencies, Big Box Stores Reported Outbreaks

County leaders say closures stop the spread, but data published by KPBS shows that the virus is also spreading at a lot of places allowed to stay open

NBC Universal, Inc.

It's information County health leaders and public officials didn't want you to see: the names of businesses and addresses where the county traced COVID-19 outbreaks. Now, thanks to a KPBS report, the outbreak locations are known.

“Through no fault of my own I’ve been deemed unsafe, and it’s wrecked me,” said Sara Kencicki, owner of Lash Lift San Diego.

Kencicki said that, normally, this time of year she's booking 60 clients a week. Now she does 10 a week, even though she is supposed to be closed due to public health restrictions.

"We closed March 16,” says Jim Kidrick, president and CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “We reopened June 12, closed July 7, reopened again Aug. 31, and now closed about a month."

The San Diego museum that tests the limits of our imagination is now facing its own test: surviving the pandemic.

Even after the state's regional shutdown, museums and many businesses will remain closed in the Purple Tier. This, even though not one COVID-19 outbreak has been linked back to a museum in San Diego County.

KPBS published county records showing what county leaders have long preached: that restaurants have eported a good chunk of outbreaks. But those same records also showed a lot of outbreaks at places allowed to stay open.

For example, big box retailers: 16 outbreaks were traced back to Costco locations, 14 at Walmarts, and 10 at Targets. Remember: this is in San Diego County alone.

Walmart and Target both sent NBC 7 a statement. Neither would confirm the number of workers who tested positive, but they did say they worked with local health officials and shared any case or outbreak information with their employees.

Another interesting sector responsible for outbreaks: the government. Entities reporting outbreaks include the San Diego City Administration Building, the County Registrar of Voters, MTS, the Airport, DMV, police, fire rescue and the office of education.

Keep in mind, the county, a government agency, went to court to keep the identity of outbreak sites a secret. In fact, KPBS reported that County Supervisor Greg Cox tried to stop it from publishing the data. The county also refused to comment on this report.

“We haven’t always made good decisions about executing a process to safely reopen,” Kidrick said.

“This has turned into something that is no longer about the virus,” Krencicki said.

It's important to keep the county's definition of an outbreak in mind: at least three people who visited the same location over a two-week period. It doesn't mean the virus was necessarily transmitted there.

While the county didn't trace any outbreaks back to museums, it did link several outbreaks back to attractions, including the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld.

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