SAN DIEGO COUNTY, CA — A spike in COVID-19 cases and coronavirus-related hospitalizations in San Diego County prompted officials Monday to order all bars, breweries, and wineries to close at midnight Tuesday. Officials also paused any additional reopenings through at least Aug. 1.
As the San Diego region faces another holiday weekend with the Fourth of July on Saturday, public health officials hope scaling back what businesses can be open will help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“We simply cannot celebrate July 4 as we have in the past,” County Supervisor Greg Cox said.
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher echoed Cox‘s comments. He added that if cases continue to rise at an alarming rate, the county could head back into near-total lockdown.
“It’s certainly a possibility, but the worst-case scenario for our region,” he said. “We cannot do this alone. We can’t stop (the spread of the illness), but we want to slow it. It’s better if we can take incremental steps to dial things back.”
The closures come as officials reported a single-day record of 498 new positive COVID-19 cases, the fifth straight day of more than 400 new cases, and a new daily high for the sixth time in a week.
Of the 6,908 tests reported Monday, 7 percent returned positive. The percentage of positive tests has increased sharply over the last four days, raising the county’s rolling 14-day average to 4.1 percent of positive tests.
The county’s COVID-19 death toll remained at 361 as no new deaths were reported Monday.
The number of patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 has risen from 326 one week ago to 458 Monday, including 178 in intensive care. Of confirmed cases, 55 percent were people between the ages of 20 and 49, and 22 percent were in their 20s.
As the county ordered bars, breweries, and wineries without food licenses to close, restrictions were also placed on other businesses that serve food and alcohol. Starting Wednesday, customers purchasing alcohol onsite must also purchase food, and both drinks and food must be consumed sitting down.
Fletcher said this is because bars tend to be “purely social” environments with people from many different households mingling in close proximity to one another.
With Independence Day on Saturday, officials also reminded residents that gatherings were still against public health orders and urged people not to throw indoor or outdoor parties in celebration of the holiday.
“The pandemic is not over,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.
“The virus is still pervasive in our communities. Please don’t throw dinner or house parties.”
In the past seven days, officials identified seven community outbreaks, including two in restaurants, reported Monday. The number of community outbreaks is above the threshold set by the county, which established 13 “triggers” that could set back reopenings.
Wooten said a significant spike in cases could be traced to the periods following restaurants reopening, churches allowing services, and mass protests calling for police reform.
Wooten, suggesting how long the COVID-19 pandemic could impact the region, said it may not be safe for people to have gatherings at their homes “until sometime next year.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered all bars to close in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, and Tulare counties. He required Imperial and San Joaquin counties to keep bars closed and recommended Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties do the same, as bars had not reopened in those counties.
In addition, Newsom recommended that eight other counties with elevated rates of COVID-19 issue local orders to close bars. This included Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, and Ventura counties.
“Californians must remain vigilant against this virus,” Newsom said.
“COVID-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger. That’s why it is critical we take this step to limit the spread of the virus in the counties that are seeing the biggest increases.”