Supervisor Greg Cox pleased with residents to avoid gatherings over the Christmas holiday. Image from livestream

San Diego County public health officials reported 2,598 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday and a record 39 more deaths from the pandemic disease.

The highest previous daily death total from COVID-19 in the county was 32 reported on Dec. 15.

Wednesday marked the 23rd consecutive day with more than 1,000 cases. It was also the 16th day overall with more than 2,000 new cases

“We are in a bad place right now with the COVID-19 cases continuing to rise,” said Supervisor Greg Cox during a briefing for media.

He pleaded with county residents to avoid gatherings with people from outside their immediate family during the holidays.

“We ask for your cooperation this one time for this one year,” said Cox. “Getting together for the holidays is simply too risky this year.”

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, echoed that warning, noting that 44% of all coronavirus cases in the county have been confirmed since the last holiday.

“We don’t want to see what happened after the Thanksgiving holiday happening after Christmas,” she said.

San Diego County’s ICU bed numbers reflect a little space, with 19% availability, though the overall average across Southern California is effectively zero.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher warned that the 19% figure is only indicative of beds, not the staffing required to handle patients in them. Mental and physical attrition among frontline doctors and nurses means staffing levels have declined.

“A bed by itself does not treat you, it needs to be staffed,” he said. “Staff are tired, sick and burning out.”

Since the first local case in March, there have been 2,546,343 tests administered in San Diego County, resulting in 134,696 cases and 1,350 deaths.

Cox said testing locations at the University of San Diego, in San Marcos and in Southeastern San Diego will open on Christmas day. He urged anyone concerned about symptoms to call 211 to schedule a test appointment.

Updated at 6:20 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020

Chris Jennewein

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