Cluster of Coronavirus Cases Confirmed in East County

A county source confirms the cluster is connected to a popular pharmacy in El Cajon

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San Diego County public health officials have confirmed a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the East County, which includes a death, but would not confirm the actual number of cases included in the cluster.

A county spokesperson confirmed with NBC 7 San Diego the cluster occurred at the PalmCare Pharmacy in El Cajon.

NBC 7 San Diego has also learned the 25-year-old pharmacy tech who died last week in Riverside County, worked at the pharmacy. The information was posted on his Facebook page.

The employee's family released this statement:

“Our beloved, 25 year old nephew was a good loving healthy young man who had his whole life ahead of him.  Working towards graduating and working as a Pharmacy Technician in the front line like many others with dreams and aspirations to attend Medical School and become a Doctor.  He was so loved, full of life and touched so many lives.  He loved his family and his friends. Family was important to him and he was so dedicated to always being there, especially to any important event. He loved good food, good times and his motorcycle, although EVERYONE gave him a hard time about riding his bike, his reply was always, but I'm selling it any day now.   He was a good son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend who loved life. He was so caring towards the needs of others, he would always take the time to check up on you since he was a little boy and until the very end. Today we are heartbroken and suffering in isolation but, we are comforted knowing he's with his dad and our other family members in heaven, in a better place. He will forever be in our hearts.  May everyone know his vocation and devotion to help others exposed him to this virus that unexpectedly took him to soon from us, but he was not alone, his mother took care of him through the very end, thinking he was going to get better soon, making plans on where he wanted to have dinner as soon as he would get better. Now, she asked for this young generation to take this situation seriously and make a difference in protecting themselves and others.  He will always be missed, but he's passing will hope bring awareness and make a difference.”

The PalmCare Pharmacy is popular with El Cajon’s Chaldean community, according to the president of the city’s Chaldean League.

“I was trying to make a big deal out if because I felt something was wrong,” said Dr. Noori Barka, Ph.D.

Dr. Barka said he heard from community members 10 days earlier and tried to alert local authorities to no avail.

“I was telling them, 'This is going to happen. Do something. Act on it. This pharmacy is going to infect other people,” Dr. Barka said.

County health officials continue to stress that they are bound by confidentiality and privacy rules, and will only provide specific details of a case if there’s a need for the public to take action to protect themselves.

“We ensure that those businesses have done appropriate cleaning, that anyone who is working at that business has no sign and symptoms of illness,” said Dr. Eric McDonald, M.D., M.P.H., Public Health Officer.

NBC 7 San Diego reached out to the PalmCare Pharmacy. A worker confirmed the pharmacy was open for business but hung up on a reporter when asked about the cluster.

Dr. Barka says the pharmacy was closed for several days for cleaning and disinfecting. He said he will work with management of the pharmacy to send out a letter to customers advising them of what has happened for the good of the community.

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