A surfer passes a coronavirus warning sign on the beach in Oceanside. REUTERS/Mike Blake

San Diego County public health officials reported the second highest daily increase in coronavirus cases on Wednesday and pleaded with residents to follow the stay-at-home order to avoid overwhelming the health system.

There were 2,104 new cases and 15 deaths, with 8.4% of the latest tests coming back positive.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher told a media briefing that projections showed all county ICU beds would have been occupied before Christmas without the regional lockdown, which is now in its third day.

“When you have as many cases as we have, and it is spreading as fast as it is, there are very few settings that are safe,” warned Fletcher.

He said that with hospitalizations lagging infections by 21 to 24 days, “we really have to hunker down for the next three weeks.”

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said the county is hopeful that the stay-at-homer order coupled with reductions in non-COVID hospitalizations will keep the system from being overwhelmed.

There are currently 915 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID-19, with 228 of those patients in intensive care. Although 20% of ICU beds are available, there has been a 142% increase in ICU patients in the past 30 days.

Wooten said the first 28,275 doses of the new Pfizer vaccine are expected as early as the weekend and will be distributed to nurses, paramedics and other healthcare personnel; nursing home residents; and nursing home employees.

“Vaccinations are certainly on the way, but we cannot wait for the cavalry to arrive,” said Supervisor Greg Cox, who pleaded for residents to take personal responsibility to stop the spread.

Since the first local case in March, there have been 97,549 cases and 1,103 deaths.

Chris Jennewein

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