SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Mandatory face-covering health orders are now in effect countywide, with several transportation agencies following suit by mandating face coverings on all vehicles and public transit locations.
Any employee or passenger at the San Diego International Airport or aboard Metropolitan Transit System or North County Transit District vehicles are required to wear face coverings at all times — regardless of social distancing. People are not required to wear coverings at home or in their yard, their car, while jogging or surfing or if they have a medical condition preventing them from wearing a facial covering.
Coverings include a mask, bandanna, scarf or even a T-shirt. On Friday, however, San Diego County gave law enforcement agencies 10,000 masks and directed the agencies to distribute them to residents in public without facial coverings. County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said there will be more masks as the crisis continues. The directive is designed not to punish violators of the face-covering law, but to stymie the spread of COVID-19.
This led to questions about mass protests of county public health orders throughout the state Friday, as well as in downtown San Diego. Fletcher said he understood the huge toll stay-at-home orders have taken on the economy and on people’s lives, but reminded protesters of the other costs of the pandemic.
“We’ve seen 64,000 Americans who have died in the last two months,” he said, noting this weekend was the first with open beaches since they were shuttered in March. “Please be responsible and exercise restraint.”
He said San Diego didn’t want to befall the same fate as Orange County, which had beaches closed indefinitely after a weekend in which social distancing was not practiced there.
County Chairman Greg Cox and Fletcher gave some positive signs for protesters, announcing they would bring a business safety framework in front of the Board of Supervisors, aiming for a timeline and plan to reopen nonessential businesses.
County officials reported 147 new COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths Friday, raising the county ‘s case total to 3,711 cases and the death toll to 134.
Efforts to track the spread have included increased testing. The number of tests in the county reported Friday topped 2,625 — significantly fewer than the county needs to consider testing at an adequate level to further loosen restrictions. According to Fletcher, a study from Harvard and backed by the White House indicates jurisdictions should be performing 152 tests per 100,000 population on a daily basis. For San Diego County, that means approximately 5,200 daily tests.
Help is coming, first in state assistance coming May 5, which can increase daily tests by 782. Additionally, Nick Macchione, director of the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, announced the county was in the process of hiring 200 public health nurses to help with any surge and testing. The county has a goal of 450 employees to be directly involved in contact tracing, making 1,200 investigations a day to track to progression of the illness. It currently has 128 on staff.
The county has completed 4,331 contact tracing investigations to date.
Area hospitals have 364 COVID-19 patients in their care, 141 of whom are in intensive care. A total of 3,308 patients are in area hospitals.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, has reported 54 outbreaks of the illness, 36 in congregate living facilities connected to 882 cases and 64 deaths and 18 community-based outbreaks traced to 149 cases and five deaths.
Carlsbad’s city council approved plans to reopen the city’s stretch of beach no earlier than Monday morning in conjunction with the state beaches in the city.
“In Carlsbad, the city controls only about three-quarters-of-a-mile of beach, north of Oak Avenue to the Oceanside border. State Parks owns and manages the other six miles of Carlsbad’s coastline. City and State Parks staff have been working together to coordinate the opening at the same time, although the state has not formally announced its timing,” a city release stated.
Golf courses and parks across San Diego County opened Friday in limited fashion.
The new guidelines offer both a loosening of some health orders and tightening of others, as stay-at-home orders will be extended indefinitely in accordance with the state’s guidance.
Parks began to open Friday, with individual cities making the decision on which to open and when. The county is allowing for parking lots to be opened at half capacity, and cities must post social-distancing protocols near the entrances to parks.
Additionally, members of the same household can now lawfully engage in team sports like baseball, soccer or Frisbee, Fletcher said. However, cities that fail to enforce social-distancing and facial-covering protocols could see parks forcibly shuttered by the county again.
Golf courses opened Friday with similar restrictions — no personal golf instruction, no golf carts, no sit-down food and no congregating — and the courses are required to take temperature checks of employees and customers.
San Diego County officials gave the green light for recreational boating as well on the county’s lakes, bays and ocean, as long as members of a boating party were restricted to members of the same household.
“No party boats, no party barges,” Fletcher said.