Dr. Wilma Wooten briefs San Diego media on Tuesday. Image from video

San Diego County on Tuesday ordered restaurants and brewpubs to close at 11 p.m. nightly as public health officials reported 317 new coronavirus cases and four deaths.

On Monday, the county ordered bars and breweries that don’t serve food to close indefinitely at midnight Tuesday, and the latest order prevents people from lingering at restaurants and brewpubs while continuing to drink. Establishments that serve food and alcohol can’t take new customers after 10 p.m. and must close between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., according to the county health order.

“The later people stay at an establishment, and the more people drink, the less likely they are about social distancing,” said Supervisor Greg Cox at a media briefing.

The new rules will be in effect through the month of July. However, the county relaxed rules on wineries that have outdoor tasting, allowing them to continue to operate.

Cox acknowledged this is a “frustrating setback” but necessary to slow the recent surge in cases.

The county Health and Human Service Agency reported 7,382 tests and 317 new cases over the past day, for a positive rate of 4.3%. This is down from recent days, but higher than the 14-day rolling average of 4.2%. As recently as two weeks ago, the rolling average was below 3%.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, noted that most of the new cases now are among people aged 20 to 29. She said that age group now accounts for 22% of all cases in the county.

“This population may represent the largest number of those going to bars and restaurants and having house parties, or parties in general, while concurrently not wearing a mask or maintaining physical distancing,” she said.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said hospitalizations from COVID-19 are nearing a record 500 and public health officials are worried about having sufficient capacity if the surge in cases continues.

“The no. 1 source of community outbreaks is bars and restaurants,” said Fletcher. “To date, we have not seen any outbreaks associated with outdoor settings.”

Officials also reported a total of 10 community outbreaks over the past seven days, which is over the “trigger” level of seven outbreaks. Community outbreaks are defined as three or more people not from the same household contracting the virus at a specific location.

Since the first local case in March, the county has received 342,632 tests resulting in 14,149 cases and 365 deaths.

Across the state of California there have been 223,982 cases and 5,988 deaths.

Updated at 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 30, 2020

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Chris Jennewein

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