A Dozen UC San Diego Doctors Tell County to Slow Down Reopenings

by on September 2, 2020 · 1 comment

in Health, San Diego

In a letter to San Diego County officials, a dozen University of California San Diego doctors urged them to slow down the reopenings of businesses and facilities out of concern of potential spikes in coronavirus cases.

“If you have a situation where 8 or 10 or 12 percent of a population is infected and you get together with 10 people, there’s a good chance one of them is going to get infected,” said Dr. Robert Schooley, who was among the dozen of doctors who penned the letter.

In the letter, the medical professionals expressed their “deep concern” of Monday, August 31’s reopenings. Restaurants, places of worship and movie theaters are among the establishments that are permitted to offer indoor services at 25% capacity. Meanwhile, salons, tattoo parlors and other personal care establishments are allowed to offer indoor services under some modifications.

“We firmly believe the County is on the right path, as evidenced by the decreasing incidence of COVID-19 in recent weeks,” the letter stated. “However, broadly re-opening activities immediately before the Labor Day holiday weekend and while K-12 schools are resuming instruction puts the county at risk of a resurgence, especially because we have only recently moved into the red phase and have not yet fully contained the outbreak.”

The doctors asked county leaders to consider delaying the openings until Oct. 1, citing their anticipation of an increase in case numbers due to the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Schooley, a Distinguished Professor of Medicine at UCSD and infectious disease specialist who studied COVID-19, told NBC 7 that it’s not a good idea to permit indoor operations for certain businesses, especially in zip codes that are considered coronavirus hot spots.

Here is the letter:

We are writing to express our deep concern regarding the recently announced plan to re-open a wide array of businesses in San Diego County starting on August 31, and to suggest that this move be delayed until October 1, 2020. We firmly believe the County is on the right path, as evidenced by the decreasing incidence of COVID-19 in recent weeks. However, broadly re-opening activities immediately before the Labor Day holiday weekend and while K-12 schools are resuming instruction puts the county at risk of a resurgence, especially because we have only recently moved into the red phase and have not yet fully contained the outbreak. We anticipate a rapid increase in case numbers (as happened after the Memorial Day and 4th of July holidays), and the subsequent re-closing of businesses and schools.

While the County as a whole has done a commendable job of mitigating the pandemic, the improvement has not been evenly distributed across the region. Residents of approximately two dozen historically underprivileged zip codes, primarily concentrated in South and East Counties, shoulder significantly higher incidence rates. For example, San Ysidro currently reports an average of approximately 35 new cases per 100,000 residents per day – 5 times higher than the prescribed 7 new cases to move from “widespread” to “substantial” risk, while Lemon Grove and La Mesa both consistently report over 10 new cases per 100,000 residents per day.

It is now recognized that COVID-19 is an airborne infection (https://tinyurl.com/y2royhnz). Thus, the highest risk of transmission occurs in crowded indoor locations, those with poor ventilation, and among individuals who are talking, singing, or speaking loudly and not wearing masks (https://tinyurl.com/FAQ-aerosols). Much of the spread is occurring in aerosols produced in the breath and speech of people who do not know they are sick (https://t.co/T2Dd9mFKfO?amp=1). Consistent with this, most outbreaks in San Diego County have been linked to clusters in indoor businesses, restaurants, gyms, and bars.

For the sake of the San Diego economy and the health of our community, we ask you to consider delaying the re-opening until after Labor Day, or if this is not possible, stepping up enforcement of masking requirements over the holiday weekend, and to develop a staged reopening plan that takes into account the relative risks of various activities due to the airborne nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that reopening many of these businesses is critically important but we would urge that a priority be placed on providing more opportunities for outdoor operation than on reinitiating indoor unmasked operations.

UCSD is finalizing plans to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff while working closely with the San Diego Unified School District so that they can reopen safely, and parents can go back to work. We urge you to consider prioritizing education in your reopening plans, to help mitigate the demographic disparities in both the health and educational impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community, while allowing San Diego county to safely re-open and remain open.

Sincerely,

Robert Schooley (Distinguished Professor of Medicine, MD, UCSD)

Kimberly Prather (Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry, PhD, UCSD)

Kit Pogliano (Dean, Division of Biological Sciences, PhD, UCSD)

Jennifer MacKinnon (Professor, SIO, PhD, SDUSD parent, UCSD)

Rebecca Fielding-Miller (Assistant Professor, Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity, MSPH PhD, UCSD)

Steffanie Strathdee (Harold Simon Professor of Medicine, Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences, PhD, UCSD)

Thomas Patterson (Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, PhD, UCSD)

Helen Amanda Fricker (Professor, SIO, PhD, SDUSD parent, UCSD)

Jennifer MacKinnon (Professor, SIO, PhD, SDUSD parent, UCSD)

Matthew Alford (Professor, SIO, PhD, SDUSD parent, UCSD)

Ian Eisenman ((Professor, SIO, PhD, SDUSD parent, UCSD)

Fiamma Straneo (Professor, PhD, SDUSD parent, UCSD)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sealintheSelkirks sealintheSelkirks September 4, 2020 at 7:44 pm

I’m really surprised and delighted that there hasn’t been a rash of anti-science ignorance posted on this article. Maybe they all got sick and couldn’t type? One can only…never mind. I really don’t want anybody to die of this crap. Even idiots.

sealintheSelkirks

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