Supervisor Greg Cox speaks at press conference
Supervisor Greg Cox speaks at Saturday’s press conference. Image from livestream

San Diego County officials confirmed Saturday that a new coronavirus lockdown will begin at midnight on Sunday because of an “unsustainable” surge in cases.

“Starting Monday morning, life will change once again for all of us. These restrictions will last for a minimum of three weeks. There’s no way around it,” said Supervisor Greg Cox at an afternoon press conference.

“This surge is unsustainable and it would have driven us to this point in the very near future,” he added.

The new stay-at-home order under state rules comes as the number of available intensive-care-unit beds in an 11-county Southern California region fell below 15% for the second day in a row to 12.5% from 13.1% on Friday.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said that while ICU-capacity in both San Diego and Los Angeles counties remained above that level, other counties were below, and in any case San Diego would soon be below 15%.

Fletcher added that COVID-19 is surging across the country, with more Americans dying from the disease every day than were killed in the 9/11 attack.

“We can’t avoid COIVD; we can’t wish it away. It’s not the fault of an elected official or a public health expert. It is a deadly global pandemic that is ravaging our community,” said Fletcher.

Starting at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, the California public health order closes numerous activities, including the following:

  • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Personal care services such as nail salons
  • Movie theaters
  • Museums and amusement parks
  • Indoor recreational facilities like gyms
  • Bars, breweries and wineries
  • Live-audience sports events

Activities that remain open, but with restrictions include:

  • Restaurants: Take-out only
  • Retail: Indoor at 20% capacity
  • Outdoor recreation, including gyms: Allowed with physical distancing protocols
  • Hotels: Limited to supporting critical services
  • Offices: Closed expect for critical services
  • Places of worship: Outdoor services only
  • Schools: Those with waivers can remain open

Dr. Eric McDonald, the county’s medical director of epidemiology, said ICU cases in the county have grown by 120% over the past 30 days and will continue to increase because of the typical two-week lag between infection and hospitalization.

“The risk is higher now in the community than it has ever been,” he said.

Fletcher said he understands there will be objections to the new order, noting that “there are a lot of folks dedicated to division.”

Earlier on Saturday, Supervisor Jim Desmond said it is “absurd” to include San Diego in the Southern California region because it has sufficient ICU capacity.

“I’ll continue to fight for reasonable and fair response to COVID. Some action is warranted because cases, hospitalizations, and ICU bed use is increasing. This is not the right response,” he said.

Separately, the state has issued a ban on non-essential travel even though it is the holiday season. Asked about the ban, McDonald said, “The household that you’re in now really should be the one you’re in for the next three weeks.”

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