Dr. Wilma Wooten
Dr. Wilma Wooten speaks at Friday’s press conference. Image from livestream

San Diego County public health officials warned Friday that coronavirus infections are creeping up and the county could enter the widespread, or purple, tier in state rankings.

“Today we are here to sound the alarm,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, at an unscheduled press conference. “We are hovering just below 400 cases a day. We need those numbers to be consistently lower.”

Wooten said the high number of community outbreaks — 40 over the past week — is also “a clear indication that COVID-19 is everywhere.”

The warning was issued before officials released the latest infection statistics. There were 311 new cases of coronavirus reported Friday as well as three more deaths from COVID-19.

The county has been able to remain in the red tier because of an adjustment for extensive testing. But Wooten released a chart showing that this adjustment may not be enough to offset a higher infection rate.

Trend in case rates
Chart shows the trend in adjusted and unadjusted case rates for San Diego County. Image from livestream

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said that if the case rate does go above the threshold in the next California Department of Public Health ranking on Tuesday, the county would still have another week to potentially bring it down to stay out of the higher tier.

He warned that moving into the purple tier would require the county to reimpose restrictions on indoor operations, something he said would especially hurt smaller businesses.

“Right now we’re fighting to stay where we are,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher and Wooten urged residents to wear face masks in public, avoid gatherings and work from home. They said doing so over the next week is crucial to keeping the county out of the purple tier.

The latest batch of tests totaled 6,724, with 4.6% coming back positive and the 14-day rolling average of positive tests remaining at 3.0%.

The latest victims of COVID-19 were two men and one woman aged from their early 60s to early 90s. All had underlying conditions.

Since the first local case in March, there have been 1,262,363 tests performed in San Diego County, resulting in 51,781 cases and 850 deaths.

Updated at 7:45 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16, 2020

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