Carlsbad, CA –We started off the week Monday morning with the governor announcing that the regional stay at home orders would be lifted for all regions of the state, effective immediately. That is because the four-week projected ICU capacity is greater than 15%. For the Southern California region, ICU capacity is projected to be 33.3% by Feb. 21.
We now fall back to the four-tiered, color coded system of rules, with San Diego County in the purple tier, the most restrictive. In fact, 54 of the state’s 58 counties are in the purple tier, three are in red, one is in orange and no counties are in yellow, the least restrictive tier. Even though we’re in the most restrictive tier, the lifting of the stay at home order news comes as a relief to local businesses and others hoping to resume more activities, even on a limited basis. As a reminder, here is what is allowed in the purple tier. Restaurants: Outdoor dining only, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. (order by and complete dining by 11 p.m.)
- Takeout and delivery allowed anytime
- New: Live entertainment allowed outdoors
- Wineries: Outdoor only
- Bars, breweries, distilleries that serve food: Same as restaurants
- Hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, tattoo parlors: Open indoors
- Grocery stores: 50% capacity indoors
- Retail: 25% capacity indoors
- Hotels: Open for leisure travel
- Professional sports: Allowed without live audiences
- Offices: Remote work
- K-12 Schools: Distance learning if not already open for in-person instruction
- Amusement parks: Closed
- Places of worship: Outdoor only
- Gyms: Outdoor only
- Family entertainment centers: Outdoor only
- Youth and recreational adult sports: Outdoor only, low contact
- Movie theaters, museums, zoos/aquariums: Outdoor only
- Outdoor recreation, including camping: Allowed
- Gatherings up to three households allowed, outdoors, stay 6 feet apart, wear face coverings
The state is scheduled to update the list of county tier assignments today, but San Diego County is nowhere near the criteria to move up to the red tier. The unadjusted case rate reported yesterday at the county’s news conference was 67.7 cases per 100,000 in population. This number is adjusted based on the amount of testing, which brings our rate down to 49.6. We must be at 7 or below to qualify for the red tier.
Testing positivity is better. The seven-day average is 12.6% and needs to be at 8% or lower to get to the red tier. It’s been a while since testing positivity was the focus, so in case you need a refresher, this refers to the percentage of all COVID-19 tests that are positive. The county reports both the 14-day average positivity rate and the seven day, which can be confusing. The seven-day average is what triggers the state tier assignments. To see how these rates are calculated, here is a county presentation that explains it.
Vaccine updates Over the weekend the county opened up its vaccination centers to appointments for those 65 and older and opened a new vaccination center in Oceanside. Private health care providers had already started to vaccinate those 65 and older. So, now whether you rely on your own provider or a county site, if you’re 65 or older, you are eligible. Appointments are required. Here is a link to the county’s vaccine website. Below are the vaccine websites from some of the larger health systems in the region. They all have their own process for making an appointment.
The state is piloting a website where you can enter your basic information and find out if you’re eligible for a vaccine or to be notified when you are. It’s called “my turn.”
How the vaccine works The two vaccines currently approved for use in the United States use a new technology called mRNA. Unlike many vaccines, which trigger an immune response by exposing the body to a weakened or inactivated germ, mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response.
The CDC just put out this explanation of how the new vaccines work, which is an interesting read. The CDC also addresses two rumors about the vaccine 1) it cannot give you COVID. It doesn’t use a live virus, and 2) it does not affect a body’s DNA.
New variants Yesterday California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly provided an update on new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Three variants in particular are causing concern, each named for the geographic location where they were first identified. All three appear to spread more easily. The so-called U.K. variant has been detected in 90 patients statewide, with 87 of those right here in San Diego County. California has the most cases so far, followed by Florida and New York.
The CDC has said this could become the dominant strain in the United States by March. Health experts are also starting to warn that this U.K. variant is more deadly. Originally it was only thought to be more contagious. Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a briefing last week that U.S. health officials are reviewing data from the U.K. to better understand this variant.
Minnesota health officials announced yesterday that one case of the Brazil variant was discovered in their state. This variant is blamed for the recent surge in cases in Brazil. The South African variant has not yet been identified in the United States.
Dr. Ghaly said these numbers are based on what has been confirmed through genetic testing, which is very limited. This means that the spread of these new variants is likely much wider than we know, he said. Dr. Ghaly also reported on a new variant that has emerged right here in California. This strain is showing up in about a quarter of all genetic tests and is believed to be responsible for the state’s large holiday surge in cases.
Dr. Fauci reassured the media during last week’s news briefing that mutations are expected, and, so far, he believes the vaccines will still work. If that’s not the case, or if future variants don’t respond to the vaccine, the vaccine can be adjusted, which he said was common.
For now, however, this gives us more reasons than ever before to utilize the steps already in place to slow transmission:
- Maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from people not in your own household
- Cover your face when you leave home
- Limit gatherings to no more than three households, gather outdoors and follow all other health precautions (masks, distance, hand washing, etc.)
- Stay home if you have COVID-19 symptoms or if you have a reason to believe you could have been exposed
- Get vaccinated when it’s your turn
Case update At yesterday’s state news conference, officials shared stats to show how California’s rate of spread compares to other states. California currently ranks 26th in the nation for COVID-19 positivity rate. Below is our rate with other states for comparison:
- Idaho, 29.7%
- Pennsylvania, 29.2%
- Texas, 15%
- Arizona, 13.7%
- Florida, 10.3%
- California, 8%
Below are the latest case numbers locally. We’ve gone back to reporting case rates and testing positivity rates instead of ICU capacity. Let’s hope we continue to make progress toward the red tier and don’t once again need to track ICU capacity.
More Carlsbad-specific case information is available on the “North Coastal”dashboard. The county’s website also has cases by ZIP code. I’ve taken off the link to testing by ZIP code because that information is no longer being provided by the county. Here is a link to the charts and graphs shared at yesterday’s county news briefing.
Check your mail … carefully If you haven’t received your federal stimulus payment through direct deposit, check your mail for a debit card mailed from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Even if you got your last economic stimulus payment through direct deposit, you might get this one through a debit card.
Please take a look at the images below so you recognize the envelope. There have been reports of people throwing it away because they thought it was junk mail.
You can read more about this on the IRS website, including looking up the status of your payment.
Relief for businesses If you or someone you know has a Carlsbad business, please note that we will have our next business webinar this Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 3 p.m. The city is co-hosting the session with the North County Small Business Development Center to discuss available relief programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans, among others. To register for the free webinar, click here.
Today’s City Council meeting We will provide an update on the city’s COVID-19 response and cost to date at today’s City Council meeting.
Other agenda items include:
- Additional funding for a sewer line project
- Renovations to the city’s police and fire headquarters
- Annual review of City Council compensation
- Updates to the city’s municipal code sections on elected officials
- Consideration of a 2% pay increase for management and part-time city employees
- Economic and financial update for fiscal year’s second quarter
- Plans for City Council’s goal-setting workshops
- Options for renovating and replacing the Monroe Street Pool
- Informational item on Ponto property and planning for parks
- Investments in the digital transformation of city operations
- Emergency declaration covering last Wednesday’s Park Fire
- Appointing two members to the Planning Commission
The meeting starts at 3 p.m. Sign up by 2 p.m. if you want to provide live comments by phone. Otherwise, you can send your comment via email. Here’s a link to full agenda and staff reports.
Other public meetings In addition to today’s City Council meeting, we have two other public meetings this week:
Library Board of Trustees, Jan. 27, 4 p.m. Watch live online here
District 2 community meeting on civilian oversight of the Police Department, Jan. 28, 5:30 p.m.
We will be having four meetings total, one in each City Council district, on the topic of civilian oversight of the Police Department. You can see the dates and links to register on the city’s website. You can also provide feedback through an online survey.
The Great Kindness Challenge The 10th annual Great Kindness Challenge started yesterday. This week-long event is organized by Kids for Peace, a Carlsbad based nonprofit that works to create a culture of kindness, unity and respect.
The Great Kindness Challenge focuses on school children, encouraging them to complete 50 acts of kindness in a week (and, by extension making kindness a daily practice). You can find out more about this home-grown effort that has become a worldwide phenomenon on the group’s website and in the video below.
Carlsbad High School students got into the act early, creating this message Sunday using red solo cups on the school fence near the football field:
Right now, one of the kindest things you can do is following the health precautions that we know slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We have a big hill to climb to get back to the red tier, but we can do it if we all work together!
I’ll be back Thursday with a report on today’s state news conference and tomorrow’s regular county news conference on COVID. Until then, please be safe, be kind and continue to #care4carlsbad.
Scott Chadwick, City Manager
City of Carlsbad | 1200 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008