Is San Diego Meeting Reopening Criteria?

A look at regional data that shows whether or not the county is meeting state and federal criteria that guides local reopening

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The coronavirus pandemic has reduced our lives to essential activity and stripped us of some everyday joys that make us who we are, like spending time with loved ones, enjoying San Diego's bar and restaurant scene, or eating tacos on the beach.

We're all waiting for the day life as we knew it returns, but that reality depends on vaccine development. In the meantime, San Diego County public health officials are paying close attention to regional data that will help guide the way toward modifying the stay-at-home order and peeling back commercial restrictions.

The county is adhering to criteria based on federal and state recommendations and will only start easing public restrictions when that criteria is satisfied.


San Diego County needs to see a downward trajectory of confirmed cases as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period. This percentage is able to better track how COVID-19 is spreading across San Diego County, according to Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten.

Public health officials say we are currently meeting that criteria.


San Diego County needs to see a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period, and a downward trajectory of COVID-19-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period. The county says we are currently meeting those two criteria.

The county publishes that data every Tuesday on page 6 of its COVID-19 Watch report.


Regions must have a robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing, according to the federal reopening plan.

The county has a goal of performing 5,200 COVID-19 tests per day, according to Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. The county is working to expand its testing capacity but is not yet meeting that goal.

The county has a goal of employing 450 contact tracers to investigate positive patients, and so far has hired less than 200.


Can San Diego handle a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations?
Regions lastly need to be able to treat all patients without using a crisis care model, which is initiated when hospitals are beyond capacity.

According to the county's daily hospital bed capacity census (page 14), there is a capacity of around 6,000 hospital beds available each day. Since April 4, the county has never used more than 4,000 beds in a day, and has consistently needed between 350 and 400 beds daily for COVID-19-related patients. The county says we are meeting this criteria.

Other San Diego and California Data

Should Your State Reopen?

For states considering lifting quarantine measures, the official guidelines propose either a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases within two weeks or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests.

As shown below, when you compare yesterday’s new case count with that of two weeks ago, the number is often lower, simply because the counts fluctuate. Critics call the measures vague and ultimately because they aren’t binding, some states are choosing to reopen whether they meet the criteria or not.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Coronavirus Deaths in Your City and State — and Across the US

These charts use daily coronavirus death data from Johns Hopkins University to show the seven-day moving average of deaths at the city, state and country level.

The impact of coronavirus varies enormously in the United States from one place to another.

Source: Johns Hopkins University. Data for San Diego also includes Imperial County.
Credit: Visuals by Amy O’Kruk/NBC, data analysis by Ron Campbell/NBC

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