This week marked several milestones in the fight against COVID-19. The first is quite sobering: COVID-19 has now claimed more than 200,000 lives in the United States. In San Diego County, COVID-19 has become the sixth leading cause of death, and yesterday county health officials said they expect it could move to the number four spot, overtaking accidents, by the end of this year.
On a positive note, San Diego County this week administered its one millionth COVID-19 test. Remembering just six months ago when COVID-19 tests were in scare supply, this is a huge accomplishment. Rapid and plentiful testing is still considered a key tool in slowing the spread.
The final bit of news is from the state, which announced its lowest testing positivity rate since the start of the pandemic at 2.8%. This also marks the first time that number has fallen below 3%.
Case numbers Since my update last Tuesday, 12 more cases have been reported in Carlsbad for a total of 691. We estimate that 32 of those cases are currently active.
Someone asked this week what the term active cases means. Based on what is known about the average amount of time someone with COVID-19 has symptoms and is contagious, we calculate the figure starting with when test results are reported for people who live in the City of Carlsbad. This is not an exact science because people don’t always get tested right away, and the time it takes for test results to come back is getting shorter, but still varies quite a bit. However, the active case count can still give you some idea of how prevalent known cases are among our residents.
Another important caveat to keep in mind – cases are reported based on where a person lives not where they are believed to have contracted the virus (if that is even known). My ongoing advice – based on that of health experts – is to simply assume everyone you see could be contagious with COVID-19. That may sound extreme, but it’s the best way to maintain vigilance with the everyday health precautions that have proven to be effective:
- Maintain a minimum 6 foot distance from people not in your own household
- Cover your face when you leave home (technically the rule is to wear a face covering when you can’t maintain distance and when entering businesses, but it’s better to err on the side of caution when in doubt)
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Use hand sanitizer when you can’t easily wash your hands
- Don’t get together with people outside your own household. Yesterday health officials stressed that the outbreaks at SDSU are mostly from people gathering, not just a big college parties, but at small dinners among friends at someone’s house.
County numbersSadly, seven more people have lost their lives countywide to COVID-19 since my Tuesday report for a new total of 767.
There have been 500 new cases reported countywide since my update Tuesday, for a new total of 45,425.
- Percentage of positive tests compared to total tests: 3.6%. Trigger is more than 8%. This measure is looking very good.
- New COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in population: 6.9. Trigger is more than 7%.
Here is a link to the latest charts and graphs.
Tier statusTuesday we were relieved to find out that San Diego County would remain in the red tier, allowing all current health order provisions to remain the same for at least the next two weeks. Last week Orange County was moved from purple to red. This week Riverside County was also moved to red. It’s helpful to have our adjacent counties in sync in terms of not just the rate of spread but what is allowed to be open.
Case numbers continue to be the area of biggest concern or San Diego County because we are very close to the trigger. The rules for changing tiers are different depending on whether a county is poised to move up or down:
- To move up to a less restrictive tier, a county has to have case numbers and testing positivity percentages in the better tier for two consecutive one week periods.
- To move to a more restrictive tier, a county has to miss the mark on just one of the two criteria for two consecutive one week periods.
Since San Diego County case numbers were good for the last reporting period, we now are in the clear for at least two weeks. We will find out next Tuesday if our case numbers stayed at seven or fewer for the last reporting period.
Ongoing discussions about criteriaAt this week’s county news conference, the health officer said she and other county health officers are in ongoing discussions with the state about potentially adding criteria, beyond case numbers per 100,000 and testing positivity.
Three specific measures mentioned include:
- 1. Hospital capacity
- 2. Contact tracing
- 3. Access to testing with vulnerable populations
This is part of the ongoing and challenging task of figuring out the best way to asses COVID-19 transmission risk among 58 counties that have so many different characteristics and conditions.
Labor Day surge? The county also reported yesterday that cases spread during the Labor Day holiday should have, for the most part, already shown up in our numbers. The incubation period for COVID-19 is about 14 days. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your efforts to slow the spread and help avoid a repeat of Memorial Day and July 4th.
The City of Carlsbad also implemented a pretty comprehensive plan for Labor Day weekend that included handing out masks, putting out more patrols, an information campaign targeting younger people and a big push on educating visitors about local health rules. It’s hard to know if these measures made the difference or if people are getting used to taking more precautions on their own – it’s probably a little of both.
Increased patrols On Tuesday the City Council authorized additional police patrols during peak times in areas along our coastline where sidewalks and stairs make maintaining a 6 foot distance more difficult. The goal is to use these extra patrols strategically to maintain compliance with the county health order.
University cases SDSU-related cases are now at 933, but the rate of increase is slowing a little. Here is a link to more information about these cases. Naturally, all eyes are on UCSD, which returned to classes Monday. The school is doing massive testing, using an app that alerts people to potential exposure and even looking for traces of virus in sewage coming from campus. As of yesterday, the county reported that 2,000 tests had been completed (20,000 still to go!), but so far the county has not seen anything of concern.
There’s (also) an app for that I mentioned the app that tracks potential exposures to COVID-19, but another app is making headlines related to UCSD. An article in today’s Union-Tribune reports that a UCSD graduate developed an app called Occuspace, which uses sensors plugged into wall sockets to monitor crowds. The sensors use Bluetooth signals to estimate the number of people in a space, while an algorithm calculates total potential occupancy.
The guy who came up with the idea was just trying to avoid crowds so he could find a quiet place to study. Now, of course, with COVID, the startup is inundated with requests and has already been installed in other California universities. Here’s what it looks like:
Fourth U.S. vaccine enters phase three trialsAlso in the news today, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate has now entered the final stage of clinical trials. What’s interesting about this one is that it only requires one dose, which makes administering it a lot simpler. Here is the company’s announcement.
Library computers available starting 9/28All three City of Carlsbad library locations will offer access to computers and printing starting Tuesday, Sept. 29, on a first come, first served basis, at the following times:
- Georgina Cole LibraryMonday & Wednesday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
- Carlsbad City Library on Dove LaneTuesday & Thursday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Library Learning CenterTuesday & Thursday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Computer use will be limited to one hour per person per day. In addition to the computers, staff will be available to issue library cards and collect fines that may have accrued prior to March 15 (no fines are currently being accrued for items due between March 15 – Dec. 31, 2020). Black and white printing is available for $.20 a page, payable in cash.
Other parts of the library will remain closed. Curbside pickup will continue Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. Books may be returned in outdoor collection bins at any time.
The library has put health precautions in place for the new computer hours to comply with the county health order and help ensure the safety of library patrons. These include:
- No in-and-out privileges, once a session has started.
- Patrons are asked to wash or sanitize their hands before using a computer or printer.
- No browsing or sitting in other parts of the library.
- Wear face covering at all times.
- Maintain 6 foot distance. Certain computers will not be available to allow for proper distance between stations.