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New coronavirus outbreaks may prompt tighter restrictions in San Diego County

Wilma J. Wooten, Public Health Officer County of San Diego
San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten speaks at a news conference in April.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Three new community outbreaks reported Thursday triggered possible modification of businesses and activities.

San Diego County has hit one of three COVID-19 “triggers” that require public health officials to reexamine, and probably modify, the state of businesses and activities allowed to resume operation throughout the region.

The county’s press office said in an email Thursday morning that eight community outbreaks occurred in the seven-day period from June 11 through Wednesday.

Community outbreaks — clusters of cases that occur outside congregate living facilities such as nursing homes — are one of three immediate red flags that require Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, to consider modifying her existing public health order.

The threshold that the county set for community outbreaks, which can be a sign that the novel coronavirus is beginning to spread more rapidly, is seven or more new outbreaks detected within any seven-day period.

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According to the county, three outbreaks occurred on June 11, three more on June 16 and a grouping of three more appeared Wednesday, the same day that the county said in its COVID-19 briefing that the number of community outbreaks inside the seven-day trigger window stood at six.

It appears that information on the three outbreaks on Wednesday was not yet available for that day’s news conference.

An outbreak is defined as three or more cases from different households occurring in a single location.

Wooten has said she has three general responses at her disposal when a trigger trips: make a tailored health order focused on curtailing the specific activities that are causing outbreaks to occur, pause the reopening of additional types of businesses and amenities, or revisit previous reopening decisions.

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A total of 417 cases and six deaths were attributed to the 39 community outbreaks, according to the county’s data. Of the 39 outbreaks, 16 were active as of Wednesday, while the others had been closed after two weeks without any new positive tests.

The information offers a glimpse at how the novel coronavirus has been spreading, but it does not include data for individual cases or outbreaks at the case level.

“The only identifiable commonality among most non-outbreak positives is that they have not stayed at home,” county spokesman Michael Workman said Wednesday. “We may not know where a person contracts COVID-19. At this point, with wide community spread, it can be anywhere.”

Here is the list of the number of outbreaks associated with each category of activity, according to the county.

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  • Nine outbreaks at “various health/medical service offices”
  • Five outbreaks at “manufacturing and repair facilities”
  • One outbreak at a “resort hotel”
  • Five outbreaks at “food processing facilities”
  • Two outbreaks at restaurants
  • One outbreak at a “landscape company”
  • One outbreak at an apartment building
  • Three outbreaks at “private residences,” which include a barbecue and a party
  • One outbreak at a business park
  • One outbreak at a grocery store
  • One outbreak from a ski trip
  • One outbreak at an out-of-county bachelor party

Cook and Sisson write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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