San Diego County public health authorities reported 332 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday -- a new daily high among days of rising case numbers this week.
The recent spikes, including 310 and 302 new cases reported on Sunday and Monday respectively, represent an above-average number of positive cases to the total number of tests being performed. A dip was reported on Tuesday with 198 cases, or a 3 percent positive rate out of tests performed.
The county has now had 11,626 cases and 347 deaths, 6 reported on Wednesday, since the county began tracking the outbreak in mid-February.
Wednesday's 332 cases made up 5% of the county's 6,981 tests. A "modest uptick" in the number of hospitalizations and ICU visits also has officials worried.
"The sense of community we brought together at the beginning of this to slow the spread is the same one we need to summon now," County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said. "It's natural to see the spread when things start to reopen. What we want to avoid is an exponential spread."
Fletcher said individual choices to do everything possible to prevent the spread will be vital in the coming weeks. Frequent hand washing, wearing facial coverings in public and maintaining social distancing would all continue to make the difference in how quickly the illness makes its way through the community, he said.
Among those who have contracted the disease in the San Diego region, 1,661 -- or 14.3% -- have required hospitalization. A total of 456 patients -- representing 3.9% of all cases, and 27.4% of hospitalized cases -- have had to be admitted to an intensive care unit.
The current number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital, 370, has increased by 40 in the last several days. Of those, 157 are in the ICU.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, said a significant spike in cases could be traced to the periods following restaurants opening, churches allowing services, and the mass protests calling for police reform.
"These could influence cases going forward for days, weeks or months,'' she said.
Another community outbreak was reported Wednesday, raising the number reported in the last week to eight, one above the threshold the county set in a set of 13 "triggers" announced earlier this month.
Community-transmitted COVID-19 outbreaks activated one of those triggers on Thursday, placing a pause on any additional openings allowed by the state.
The county could take industry-specific actions, pause all reopening efforts or even dial back reopenings if enough of the metrics rise above a certain threshold. An outbreak is defined as three or more lab-confirmed cases from different households from the same location or facility.
A correlated increase in hospital stays, ICU visits and ventilator usage has not occurred, but Fletcher said those are lagging indicators and are likely to increase if the number of positive cases continues to rise.
Dr. Eric McDonald noted that while cases were surging at most reopened industries, due to the simple nature of more interaction, what was particularly worrisome was the surge in cases among private residences.
Wooten, suggesting how long the COVID-19 pandemic could impact the region, said it may not be safe for people to have gatherings at their homes "until sometime next year."