Health officials reported the lowest daily coronavirus cases in more than a month Thursday amid worries San Diego County will return to the “widespread” infection category with renewed restrictions.
The Health and Human Services Agency reported 174 new cases of COVID-19 and six deaths from the pandemic disease.
Out of 9,495 test results received in the past day, 1.8% were positive, and the 14-day rolling average of positive cases ticked down to 4.2%.
The weekly case rate calculated by the California Department of Public Health on Tuesday was 7.9 per 100,000 population, up from 6.9 a week before. If the rate stays above 7.0 next Tuesday, then San Diego County goes back to Tier 1, the “purple” or widespread infection classification.
If that happens, the county would have to close indoor operations at restaurants, houses of worship and gyms, while limiting retail businesses to just 25% capacity.
The recent jump in cases has been driven by an outbreak among returning San Diego State University students. However, the university has imposed health restrictions and ended remaining in-person classes. On Thursday, just 17 of the new cases involved San Diego State students.
County Supervisor Greg Cox said earlier this week he was writing a letter to Newsom to ask for considerations in excluding SDSU cases or for other alternatives to avoid rolling back business openings.
But Newsom said he isn’t inclined to overlook the SDSU cases. The governor said the county can’t separate cases at a university because it goes to “what a community by definition is — and that is integrated individuals, and as a consequence, you can’t isolate as if it’s on an island, a campus community that is part of the larger community. So the answer is ‘No.”‘
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said it was a difficult decision by Newsom, but the county had to do the best it could from here on out.
“I believe we should be fighting COVID-19 and not the state of California,” said Fletcher. “We do not yet know what our case rate will be next Tuesday and will have to evaluate that number in order to understand any possible impact.”
According to Dr. Eric McDonald, the county’s epidemiology expert, the vast majority of those students live in the 92115 ZIP Code around the university — many just a few blocks off campus. He said that while it is true they are technically in the community at large, they are close enough to campus to make the county’s request to exclude those positive tests from the countywide number a realistic endeavor.
The university has not received any reports of faculty or staff who have tested positive, SDSU health officials said, nor have any cases been traced to classroom or research settings.
The latest victims of COVID-19 were four women and two men ranging in age from the early 60s to mid-90s. All had underlying medical conditions.
Six new community outbreaks were reported Thursday for a total of 20 over the past week. The latest outbreaks were at two businesses, a restaurant, a food processing facility, a private residence and a grocery.
Since the first local case in March, there have been 953,964 tests performed in San Diego County, resulting in 43,619 cases and 754 deaths.
Updated at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020
— Staff and City News Service reports.
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