By Miriam Raftery
June 29, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency today ordered bars, wineries and breweries to shut down starting July 1 to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The county also halted reopening of any additional businesses until at least August 1, due to a spike in cases locally.
Although Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this week ordered bars in six counties to close and recommended closures in eight other counties, San Diego was not on those lists. However local officials made the decision to shut down the alcohol establishments after nearly 500 new cases were reported yesterday, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. Also, 7% of test results reported yesterday were positive, up sharply from the 4.1% rate over the prior two weeks.
Concerns are also rising over hospital capacity, since San Diego has taken some patients from neighboring Imperial County, where 23% of tests have come back positive in recent days prompting the state to order a return to a full lockdown there.
Today, Riverside County’s hospital ICU units hit 99% capacity, forcing hospitals to resort to surge mode, converting other hospital bed areas into ICU units to accommodate COVID-19 patients. San Diego could be asked to accept yet more patients from its neighbor to the north if Riverside's surge in cases continues.
Current and recent local outbreaks in San Diego County include cases linked to bars, restaurants and gatherings at private homes, prompting officials to caution against backyard barbecues or other July 4th festivities with non-household members.
The shutdown of alcohol businesses locally exempts those with a food license, which can only serve alcohol with food to customers seated at a table.
A growing number of cases are being identified in young people, especially those between the ages of 20 and 29. At the end of April, 15% of all cases reported were in people in that age range. Now, that percentage has increased to 22%.
“It’s obvious that more young people are going out and not following the public health guidance. That’s why we’re seeing more community outbreaks,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “They are going to bars, restaurants and having house parties and not wearing a mask or maintaining physical distance.”
Another group showing increasing percentages are those 10 to 19 years old. That percentage has risen from 2.4% in late April to almost 6% currently.
For people in their 30s, the percentage of positive cases has remained steady, and in older demographics the percentage has been steadily decreasing. “Older people are heeding the public health advice and staying away from crowded places to avoid getting the virus,” Wooten said.
Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.
East County Magazine gratefully thanks the Facebook Journalism Project for support through its COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program to help make this reporting possible. #FacebookJournalismProject. You can donate to support our local journalism efforts during the pandemic at https://www.EastCountyMedia.