San Diego County removed from state COVID-19 watchlist

San Diego County opens a COVID-19 test site near the U.S. Mexico border.
Debbi Hinderliter gives instructions on how to take a self administered COVID-19 test last week at a new testing center near the U.S.-Mexico border. California’s top health official removed San Diego County from the state’s COVID-19 watchlist Tuesday.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Removal starts 14-day waiting period before K-12 schools can resume in-person instruction


California’s top health official removed San Diego County from the state’s COVID-19 watchlist Tuesday, Aug. 18, a county official confirmed in a noon email.

Telegraphed during the county health department’s regular coronavirus briefing Monday, Aug. 17, the move starts a 14-day countdown during which the region must not cross any of six thresholds before K-12 schools may resume in-person instruction at the discretion of local school boards.

Officials with the California Department of Public Health said Tuesday morning, Aug. 18, that the region would end up back on the list if any of those six items shoot up a fresh red flag, but only after a number was abnormal for three consecutive days.

The triggering metrics include the average number of tests a region is able to perform per day, the case rate per 100,000 residents, the percentage of positive tests, significant changes in the number of patients hospitalized with novel coronavirus infections, the percentage of intensive care unit beds available and the percentage of mechanical ventilators available.

So far, San Diego County has only ever crossed the case rate threshold, but that number dropped below 100 per 100,000 residents Saturday, Aug. 15, according to the state’s calculations, and has remained below 100 Sunday, Aug. 16, and Monday, Aug. 17.

California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said during a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 18, that many counties are doing well in some efforts to control the spread of the virus, such as increasing use of face coverings, increasing disease investigations and supporting people who are sick to help them isolate.

“Santa Cruz, San Diego, some others that are nearing coming off the county data monitoring list, they have likely been at some of these efforts potentially a little longer,” Ghaly said. “They have been able to work with skilled nursing facilities, jails and prisons and other congregate facilities, their essential workplaces in the agricultural and the textile and the poultry and meat packing areas, in different ways. So all of those strategies are additive and together can help a specific county improve its trajectory.”

— Paul Sisson and Morgan Cook are reporters for The San Diego Union-Tribune