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UC San Diego Health Hillcrest Medical Center / Photo by Adriana HeldizUC

The most important factor to re-opening society is widespread coronavirus testing, yet San Diego is performing far fewer tests than it’s capable of.

San Diego has the capacity to test at least 4,000 people per day for COVID-19. During the last seven days, however, only 1,125 tests were completed each day, on average.

The county is in charge of managing the local response, which means providing guidance and even orders that local hospitals must follow. But when asked why testing is still so low, county officials and hospital officials gave differing explanations, reports Will Huntsberry. 

A public health officer suggested that a lack of personal protective equipment could be the cause, while several hospitals indicated that they have enough equipment and simply lack a wider testing strategy. A spokesman for Sharp HealthCare, for example, said Sharp’s hospitals could perform 950 tests per day, but are not because they’re following the county’s guidelines to only test the most ill or at-risk patients.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that California is not yet at a point that it can loosen the stay-at-home order that’s buckled economic activity, but said the state’s newfound testing capacity could hasten a return to something resembling normalcy. (Union-Tribune)

Homeless Veteran Denied Shelter at Convention Center

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has said the effort to move homeless San Diegans into the Convention Center is “a centerpiece of our fight against the coronavirus.” But one veteran’s experience shows that the need for shelter is still greater than the capacity.

Homeless veteran Steven Spittle was discharged from a local hospital Sunday afternoon after he said he was assaulted over the weekend. Hospital staff paid for a cab ride to get him to the temporary shelter at the Convention Shelter, but when he got there, there wasn’t a bed available for him. Lacking other options, an officer from the Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team turned to local activists for help.

“The situation captures the desperation playing out as homeless San Diegans seek shelter that’s in limited supply during the coronavirus pandemic and local governments and activists scramble to respond,” reports Lisa Halverstadt.

While the Convention Center has started taking in unsheltered homeless San Diegans in the past week, more than three-quarters of the 975 people staying there as of Tuesday had moved in from other shelters, not directly off the streets. The city says it limits the number of people moving in each day to ensure ample resources for those who are staying there.

Coastal Mayors Detail Beach Opening Plan (But Not When Beaches Will Open)

A group of mayors who represent coastal San Diego County cities announced what a gradual reopening of beaches will look like when public health officials determine doing so is allowable.

The first phase includes limited uses that includes ocean activities like surfing and swimming, boating and single-paddling. In that phase, parking lots, piers, boardwalks and possibly stairways will remain closed and gatherings will be prohibited.

In the second phase, Fiesta Island, boardwalks and parking lots will be open, but gatherings must still comply with physical distancing guidelines.

“This is a region-wide approach developed by lifeguards, not politicians, for the safe reopening of beaches and bays under public health directives. It’s a plan focused on how we will open our beaches, not when,” Faulconer said in a statement. “The goal is to reopen access to the sand and water at the same time in coordination with all coastal cities, the port district, state and county. It would only take effect when county public health officials have the COVID-19 data to determine it’s a safe step to take.”

Another Major Convention Canceled

Esri announced Wednesday that its convention, which had been scheduled for July 13-15, would be moving online. Last year, about 18,000 people attended the geographic information system-focused convention, which has been held annually in San Diego for more than two decades.

The cancellation represents a significant economic blow to the city and the region.

The Convention Center Corp. projected this July’s event would draw $1.1 million in hotel and sales tax revenue. Last year, the Convention Center Corp. estimated the event pumped nearly $60 million into the regional economy.

The Esri announcement follows the cancellation or postponement of more than 40 Convention Center events that the Convention Center Corp. estimates will represent an $11.4 million reduction in forecasted tax revenues and a $572.6 million hit to the regional economy.

In Other News

  • In an explosive VOSD op-ed, Carlsbad City Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel details how some of her colleagues urged her to keep quiet about abuse she experienced and knowingly worked with perpetrators for political gain. She argues that immediate policy changes are needed to reduce barriers in the legal system for victims and survivors.
  • The San Diego Housing Commission and Mayor Kevin Faulconer are pushing forward with a plan to strike lease-to-own deals for hotels in dire financial straits over the coronavirus epidemic. But six of the 10 properties the city is looking at have histories of nuisance violations, and City Attorney Mara Elliott once called the owner of one of them a “slumlord.” (inewsource)
  • The agency in charge of California’s high-speed rail project has confirmed it brought in an outside legal firm to investigate an ethics complaint against a major project contractor. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Some San Diego businesses were left in the cold when the federal government’s payroll protection program ran out of money, and they’re wondering if another lifeline is coming. (Union-Tribune)
  • Chula Vista is providing wireless hotspot devices for students who don’t have WiFi and need it to complete their school work. (10News)
  • Newsom said Wednesday that hospitals can resume scheduling essential surgeries that had been delayed to prepare for a surge of coronavirus cases. (Times of San Diego)

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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