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By Miriam Raftery

August 19, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego County reached an important milestone yesterday, when the state removed the county from California’ monitoring list. The County Public Health office announced the change was made after the county’s rate of new COVID-19 cases dropped below 100 cases per 100,000 people for three consecutive days. San Diego has been on the watch list since July 3, 2020.

So what does that mean?  First, if the case rate stays under 100 per 100,000 people in the population for another 14 days (until Aug. 31), K-12 schools will be allowed to reopen. Districts will have a choice and may opt for in-class instruction, continue virtual learning, or a combination of both.

Businesses, however, will not be able to resume normal activities until the county receives further guidance on the state. So for now, closed businesses must remain shut-down and those operating outdoors cannot go back inside.

While new cases have fallen, the county remains out of compliance with its own regulations regarding community outbreaks. The trigger is anything more than six community outbreaks in seven days, meaning limits should continue to be imposed on certain businesses and activities until the outbreaks are reduced below that level.

In the past seven days, 21 community outbreaks have been identified locally, including the latest two in grocery settings. The county has exceeded the trigger for community outbreaks for many weeks in a row, often at triple or more the threshold level. A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a community (not a group facility such as a nursing home or jail) among people of different households.

“Getting off the state’s County Monitoring List is a great first step, but we need to keep it up for another two weeks before all schools can open for in-person learning,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. Dr. Wooten urges San Diegans to continue to wear face coverings, keep six feet apart, avoid large gatherings, frequently wash your hands and stay home if you’re sick.

Those steps can also help accelerate reopening for businesses struggling with months-long closures and restrictions, also helping put people back to work.  The economic hardships felt by many are worsening this month, after Congress adjourned without extending $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits for workers affected by the pandemic. Those benefits expired July 31. 

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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