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By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  shopping online may be safer than in retail and grocery stores, which account for 8.8% of cases countywide since June.  Photo CC by SA

November 13, 2020 (San Diego) – After repeated pressure from media to release more information on which locations pose the highest risks of COVID, San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Department has released new data on potential exposure settings. 

The data reveals that of the locations disclosed, bars, restaurants and retail sites (including grocery stores) have been responsible for the highest numbers of cases, followed by group gatherings despite a county ban.  Hair salons, churches/places of worships, casinos and beaches have all been tied to hundreds of cases. Gyms, which have operated under stricter capacity limits than most businesses, have accounted for 152 cases, while protests were linked to potential exposure in just 47 cases, with none in the past two weeks.

The data charts both the most recent two weeks of data (10/25 – 11/7/2020) as well as cumulative data for the past five months (6/5-11/7/2020).  These settings accounted for 54.5% of all cases in the past five months and 59% of all cases in the most recent two weeks studied.

Other cases in the past five months resulted from household exposure (33.6%), travel (17.2%, and education (3.1%).

Undefined workplaces caused the largest share of cases (30.9% or 12,289 cases over five months and 34.3% or 1,314 cases over the most recent two weeks).  Another 4% in five months, or 1,593 cases, are listed as “other.” Further breakdown by the county on these types of businesses could shed additional light on where people may face higher or lower exposure risks. For instance, zoos and museums are not listed. Are such cases hidden in the “work” category, or have no cases been attributed to these places?  How safe are office workers, or those working in fields such as public transit?

Of places that are defined, those tied to the most cases, in order for the past five months, are:

Location Number of cases Percent of total cases

Bars and restaurants 3,666 9.2%

Retail 3,499 8.8%

Group gatherings 1,720 4.3%

Hair salons/barber shops   989 2.5%

Places of worship   692 1.7%

Casinos   334 0.8%

Beach   216 0.5%

Gyms   152 0.4%

Protests     47 0.1%

Two categories have additional details.  Among the 1,245 education cases, 344 were in K-12 schools, including 97 cases in the most recent two weeks. Of the 6,831 travel-related exposures, 2,691 were people who visited Mexico.

Below is a chart with full data:























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.


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