8 Community Outbreaks ‘Trigger' San Diego County to Re-Evaluate Reopening Plan

Three of the eight outbreaks reported over the last seven days would drop off the tally on Friday but it still forced officials to take action

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In the last seven days, San Diego County has seen eight outbreaks of COVID-19 in community settings, a metric that has prompted health officials to re-evaluate the county's reopening plan.

The eight outbreaks occurred between June 11 and June 17 at two restaurants, three businesses, a campground, a social club and a private residence where gatherings may have occurred, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.

Any number of outbreaks seven or larger in a seven-day period forces Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten to look more closely at the existing health order to make modifications, if necessary.

This data is not a full representation of cases. Totals are based on patients' resident zip code, and are not a representation of where someone contracted COVID-19. Because not every single resident is tested regularly, officials with the County Health and Human Services Agency say the number of people infected with COVID-19 in the county is likely much higher than the reported total.

Three of the eight outbreaks would drop off the tally on Friday but it still forced officials to take action, Fletcher said. None of the outbreaks appeared to be linked to one another.

"One individual day can't make a trend but one individual day can hit a trigger," Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.

In response to the triggering of the outbreak metric, the county will halt any future reopenings, even if approved by the state, Fletcher said.

The county will not halt any previously announced reopenings -- including those of nail salons, tattoo parlors and other personal care facilities scheduled to occur as soon as this Friday -- or scale back any previous reopenings.

Fletcher said the county will also step up enforcement for certain entities that refuse to comply with the current Public Health Order, which requires that face mask be worn within businesses and the majority of the time within restaurants as well as any time physical distancing can not be ensured outdoors.

"We continue to implore the public to please adhere to the Public Health Orders. Please do not have gatherings at your house. We have a number of outbreaks of private residences of individuals who decided to have house parties,” Fletcher said.

Wooten added that it may not be safe for people to have gatherings at their homes "until sometime next year."

"With the reopenings, people think we can go back to the pre-COVID
existence, and we cannot," she said.

Health officials cited studies and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on the importance of utilizing face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19 and said the measure was vital to our safe reopening plan.

"If an ICU nurse can wear a mask for a 16-hour shift, I've got to believe we can wear one for 16 minutes when we go to the grocery store," Fletcher said.

The best ways to prevent community outbreaks, Wooten said, are with facial coverings, hand washing, cleaning of commonly touched surfaces, social distancing and temperature checks.

Community outbreaks are one of 13 metrics being monitored by the county to track the COVID-19's spread among residents as health orders are scaled back to allow for a slow reopening. Others include a rise in the case count, an increase in hospitalizations and a decrease in the county's personal protective equipment (PPE) supply. Track where the county stands at the Triggers Dashboard.

San Diego County has seen 39 outbreaks in community settings since the coronavirus outbreak hit the region in mid-February, 16 of which are still active.

Community outbreaks are defined as three or more cases in a setting that is not a congregant living or senior living facility. Those have included medical service offices, manufacturing facilities, restaurants, places of worship, private residences, businesses and grocery stores.

San Diego County's community outbreaks have accounted for 417 of nearly 10,000 cases and for 6 of 327 deaths.

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