Increased testing like this walk-up operation at San Diego State University helped the county stay in the red tier. Courtesy of the university

San Diego County will remain in the red tier for COVID-19 cases, with a state-adjusted case rate of 6.7 per 100,000 residents, the county’s public health officer told the Board of Supervisors during their meeting Tuesday.

County public health officials said the unadjusted weekly case rate was above the California Department of Public Health‘s 7.0 threshold at 7.2. However, because testing levels were above the state average, the county’s case level was adjusted downward.

Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten told the supervisors that while it’s not possible to predict what the future holds, the county is exceeding the state’s current testing guidelines.

Nick Macchione, county Health and Human Services director, said that by next moth, testing capacity is on track to triple to roughly 30,000 tests a week. The number of testing sites will increase from 29 to 41 to support this.

Machionne said that along with facilitating the testing needs of schools, improved capacity will help the county stay above the state’s testing threshold. He said the county also now has seven community-based organizations working to stop virus spread, adding that “they play a vital role of reaching our hardest-hit communities.”

With the county remaining in the red tier, outdoor playgrounds in parks, campgrounds and other publicly accessible locations are slated to reopen this week. Approximately 100 county playgrounds will reopen Wednesday. Several cities will also move forward with reopening their playgrounds this week.

While the board took no new action regarding reopening policy, Supervisor Jim Desmond said the state’s colored tier system is flawed, and that every business should be afforded the same opportunity to open up safely.

“We’re not dealing with a widespread pandemic,” Desmond said, adding the county’s hospital cases are low. “If I look to Sacramento, I wonder, ‘What’s the goal?”‘

Desmond said the county should not base its economic future on a vaccine. “We need to learn to live with the virus, and win back the public’s trust,” he said.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob praised county health officials, along with residents, for their efforts to combat the spread of the virus. “Hopefully we can keep moving forward,” she added.

San Diego barely avoided the dreaded “purple” tier last week. Since then, both the number of new cases daily and positive rate have trended down.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.