San Diego County hits milestone to get off state watch list, but approval is pending

Medical assistant Jennifer Quinlan collects a sample for COVID-19 testing at the San Elijo campus of MiraCosta College.
Medical assistant Jennifer Quinlan collects a sample for COVID-19 testing at the San Elijo campus of MiraCosta College in Cardiff, Calif.
(Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Local officials on Friday said San Diego County has reached the metric that allows it to be removed from the state watch list, though confirmation of those numbers are pending state approval.

For the third consecutive day, the county recorded a 14-day average rate of fewer than 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents. The county reported a rate of 96.3 on Friday, 98.3 on Thursday and 94.1 on Wednesday.

It’s an important milestone, one that signals that renewed efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus are paying off. The county must maintain its new status for 14 more consecutive days for the state to allow K-12 schools to reopen. No other businesses can reopen until the state provides further guidance, county officials said Friday.


A spokeswoman for the county told the San Diego Union-Tribune that health officials hope to hear from the state about a timeline by the end of the weekend.

The lower case rate was not the only achievement for the county. Officials reported 299 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Thursday, the first time in more than a month that it has reported fewer than 300.

While Friday’s numbers were encouraging overall, community outbreaks remained much higher than the county’s own threshold for loosening certain health restrictions. Four new community outbreaks were reported Friday, bringing the seven-day total to 24. Two of the new outbreaks were at businesses: one a restaurant with a bar; another in a food processing facility. The county has not released the names of the sites.

The 24 outbreaks were more than three times the number the county has set as a “trigger” for tighter public health restrictions: seven or more outbreaks in a seven-day period.

It was not clear Friday how the county would adjust restrictions if it is removed from the state’s monitoring list while still reporting more community outbreaks than it considers acceptable.

Another potentially problematic number reported Friday was new cases. The county reported 406, far exceeding the average 240 new cases it would need to report to avoid a new warning signal with the state.

The county reported that 4% of total tests on Thursday were positive. The 14-day average of positive cases was 4.6% — far below the county’s target of less than 8%.

The county reported seven deaths on Friday, bringing its total for the pandemic to 622. The people died between Aug. 6 and Aug. 14. Four were women and three were men, with ages ranging from 49 to 94. All but one had an underlying medical condition.


Cook writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Staff writer Paul Sisson contributed to this report.