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COVID rates stay below 10 per 100K residents as more businesses reopen

REGION – As restaurants, movie theaters, fitness centers and other businesses resumed indoor activities today with San Diego County’s advance into the less-restrictive red tier of the state’s COVID-19 reopening blueprint, county officials reported 439 new infections and eight additional deaths.

The state confirmed the move Tuesday, when it reported the county’s new daily COVID case rate was 6.8 per 100,000 residents, the second consecutive week the county registered a sub-10 per 100,000 number – allowing for the shift to the red tier.

At the beginning of this year, the rate of daily positive tests was as high as 67.7 per 100,000.

The latest statistics from the county Health and Human Services Agency bring the cumulative number of coronavirus cases to 266,756 and the death count to 3,478.

The HHSA also reported 258 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in San Diego County, down from 284 on Wednesday. Of that number, 84 were being treated in intensive care units, unchanged from the previous day.

The California Department of Public Health updates its county rankings weekly in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which governs business restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The red tier allows for indoor dining and movie theaters at 25% capacity or 100 diners – whichever is fewer, as well as gyms operating at 10% capacity indoors, and museums, zoos and aquariums at 25% indoors. Retail businesses in shopping centers can increase capacity from 25% to 50% in the red tier.

School districts may reopen without seeking a waiver. Higher education institutions can also reopen to in-person, indoors instruction at 25% capacity or 100 people – whichever is fewer.

Also, live outdoor events will be allowed at 20% capacity – meaning fans are expected to be in the stands for the San Diego Padres’ opening day game April 1.

A full list of what changes between tiers can be found at covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said more vaccines are on the way – 10% more next week than this week, in this case – but the supply still is not keeping up with demand. Nevertheless, the 30 vaccinations sites in the county had room to expand.

“We are well positioned,” Fletcher said. “We can do significantly more doses each day than we are doing.”

The county’s first and largest vaccination super site will close Saturday. The Petco Park site, which has provided more than 200,000 Moderna vaccines, has closed multiple times due to lack of vaccines, but with the Padres preparing for opening day, its closure was inevitable.

The county, UC San Diego, the city and Padres opened the superstation on Jan. 11. Five other superstations are operating in La Jolla, Chula Vista, La Mesa, San Marcos and Del Mar, even as the last one faces supply issues of its own.

Fletcher said the county would like to cooperate with UCSD on vaccine sites in the future, indicating a future one is “expected” at the San Diego Convention Center once the supply of vaccines increase and occupancy at the other several dozen sites begins to fill.

More than 754,000 – or 27.7% of San Diego County residents over the age of 16 – have received at least one dose of the two-shot vaccines and more than 471,000 people – or 17.5% – have been fully vaccinated.

According to county Supervisor Nora Vargas, 95.3% of seniors in the county’s south region have received at least one dose, part of a concerted effort to inoculate the county’s most vulnerable residents.

Of 15,929 tests reported Thursday, 3% returned positive. The 14-day rolling average is 2.8%.