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City Manager's Update

I'm posting recaps here on Tuesdays and Thursdays of COVID-19 information for Carlsbad residents. If you'd like to receive these updates via email, sign up for the City Enews email list. You can also follow us on social media and visit the city's special COVID-19 webpage for the latest information.

April 15, 2021, 1:25 p.m.

Tax Day may have been postponed until May 17, but April 15 is still a significant day for two very important reasons:

  • Starting today, everyone 16 and older is eligible to be vaccinated
  • Gatherings are once again allowed

Vaccine update

Even though the county has paused the use of the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, at yesterday’s news conference officials said they don’t expect that to have a significant effect on the availability of appointments. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine made up a very small percentage of the vaccines available in San Diego County (less than 3%).

What will affect appointment availability is the large number of newly eligible residents. The best advice is to be patient – we’ve seen a surge of appointment demand right after each new group has become eligible, but it eventually subsides.

The city has links to many vaccine sites on our website, including the county’s site, which, in turn, has many links to the sites it runs. Even though a lot of providers have been centralized under the My Turn scheduling website, many have their own scheduling websites. So, the good news is there are lots of options; the bad news is it can be time consuming to regularly check all these sites, hoping to hit it just right to find an opening.

County officials did not provide an estimate of how many people would be newly eligible today, given that many have qualified under other criteria already.

New guidance for gatherings

One of the main mantras during the pandemic has been to avoid gathering with people outside your own household. Well, today under new state guidance, outdoor activities of up to 50 people are now permitted. Indoor gatherings are strongly discouraged but are allowed with modifications and if they do not exceed 25 people.

Private outdoor events are permitted for up to 100 people; 300 persons if all guests show proof of a recent COVID-19 test or full vaccination. A maximum of 150 are allowed at an indoor event if everyone has been tested or shows proof of complete vaccination.

Events and performances

You can also attend indoor, seated, live events or performances. For venues with a capacity of up to 1,500, a maximum of 15% or 200 people can attend; 35% if all guests have tested negative or have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Here’s a complete list of activities that can take place under the orange tier and additional gathering guidance.

Vaccination progress

The widespread availability of the COVID-19 vaccine today comes exactly four months after the first vaccinations were given here in San Diego County. Progress has been steady, but the fact that just over a quarter of San Diego County residents are fully vaccinated speaks to how monumental a task mass vaccination really is.

Yesterday the county updated the way it’s calculating vaccination progress to reflect the goal of vaccinating 75% of those eligible. Before the county reported the percentage of the total population. Below are the latest numbers:

  • Almost 2.28 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to the region, and about 2.16 million have been logged as administered. This number includes both county residents and those who work in San Diego County.
  • Of those vaccinated to date, more than 757,000 county residents, or 28.2% of San Diegans 16 and older, are fully immunized.
  • Overall, nearly 1.22 million county residents have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccine. That’s 45.2% of those eligible.

Johnson & Johnson “pause”

Yesterday a group that advises the CDC on vaccine safety said it wanted more information before making recommendations on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci said he expects the pause on the vaccine’s use to last days or weeks rather than months. The CDC updated its website with the latest information, including what to look for if you have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last two weeks.

Health officials stress that this step is being taken out of an abundance of caution, given that six people have had problems with blood clots out of almost 7 million who have received this vaccine in the United States.

Updated metrics

Sadly, a large number of deaths was reported yesterday in San Diego County. However, this doesn’t represent a spike; instead, it’s due to deaths that occurred in December and January that needed additional review before being classified as COVID-19 related. Nonetheless, this is a reminder that even as things start to look up, COVID-19 is still something to be taken seriously. And, even though we can celebrate how far we’ve come, we should not forget the 3,648 lives lost here in San Diego County – mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers and friends who were taken from us too soon.

Additional stats are linked below:
County charts and graphs updated yesterday
Cases by ZIP code
North County dashboard

Going back to red?

When the case numbers came out Tuesday, it caused some to wonder if we might be headed back to the more restrictive red tier, after having just finally made it to orange. At yesterday’s news conference, county officials explained that with the latest state system for calculating COVID-19 risk in a community, they do not think we are in danger of going back to red next week.

This is because even though our adjusted case rate is 0.1 over the red tier threshold, the other measures are looking good. This includes a testing positivity rate of only 2.5%. Officials also said a small uptick in cases was expected as more things open and activities resume.

As always, however, we should not take anything for granted. Please help keep us on this good path by:

  • Wearing a mask when you leave home
  • Maintaining distance from others
  • Closely following safety precautions if you are going to gather with people outside your household
  • Getting vaccinated as soon as you can

Say goodbye to the middle seat?

In news that will be welcome to anyone who has shared an armrest on a long flight, a new study was released yesterday showing that leaving middle seats on airplanes vacant significantly reduces the spread of COVID-19, by as much as 50%.

Here is all the latest guidance on travel from the CDC.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’ll be back next Tuesday with more updates. In the meantime, please continue to follow health precautions even as restrictions ease. We have come so far and at this rate are on track to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends and family, as close to the before times as ever. Let’s keep our eyes on that prize!

 

April 13, 2021, 3:15 p.m.

This morning, the CDC announced new guidelines to temporarily halt the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine “out of an abundance of caution” because six women developed blood clots in the days and weeks following vaccination. San Diego County announced it will follow this guidance and stop issuing the vaccine until additional information is available.

About 7 million people in the United States have gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so far. Six cases out of 7 million would make this occurrence “extremely rare” according to a joint statement from the CDC and FDA, and that is if a causal relationship can be established.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. One reason for the pause, which is expected to be as short as a couple of days, is to ensure health care providers are aware of this potential side effect so they can plan for how to recognize and treat it.

If you or someone you know has received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in recent weeks, the joint statement recommends paying attention to symptoms of blood clots, such as severe headaches, leg pain or shortness of breath. The six patients who experienced blood clots developed symptoms from six to 13 days following their vaccination.

Vaccination progress

It’s too early to know what effect this pause will have on availability of vaccine appointments, especially with eligibility opening Thursday for everyone 16 and older. But the county continues to make solid progress in administering vaccines:

  • Almost 2.23 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to the region, and about 2.1 million have been administered.
  • Of those vaccinated to date, nearly 720,000 county residents, or 26.8% of San Diegans 16 and older, are fully immunized.
  • Overall, nearly 1.2 million county residents have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccine. That’s 44% of those eligible.

In looking at the county’s vaccine dashboard, I thought it was interesting that coastal North County has a lower vaccination rate than communities in the northeast and central north. I don’t have any insight as to why, but thought it was worth noting. Remember, one of the best ways to ensure we continue on a good path to resuming normal activities is to get vaccinated when it’s your turn.

Updated metrics

Last Tuesday San Diego County squeaked by on our case count, 5.8, barely qualifying us to move to the orange tier. Today’s report from the state shows we’ve ticked up to 6 cases per 100,000. This is back in the red tier range, but according to the state, decisions about moving counties back to more restrictive tiers will now be made based on more than just the case rate and testing positivity.

Here are some excerpts from the state’s website that explain the process:

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as low rate of vaccine take up, a county will only move to a more restrictive tier if hospitalizations are increasing significantly among vulnerable individuals, especially among vaccinated individuals, and both test positivity and adjusted case rates show a concerning increase in transmission.

  1. During the weekly assessment, if a county's adjusted case rate and test positivity has fallen within a more restrictive tier for two consecutive weekly periods, the state will review the most recent 10 days of data, including hospitalization data, and if CDPH determines there are objective signs of stability or improvement the county may remain in the tier. If the county’s most recent 10 days data does not show objective signs of stability or improvement the county must revert to the more restrictive tier. For subsequent weekly assessments, the above rules apply.
  2. At any time, state and county public health officials may work together to determine targeted interventions or county wide modifications necessary to address impacted hospital capacity and drivers of disease transmission, as needed, including movement across more than one tier. Key considerations will also include the rate of increase in new cases and/or test positivity, more recent data as noted above, public health capacity, and other epidemiological factors.

I expect the County of San Diego will address this at its weekly news conference, which I’ll report out on Thursday. In the meantime, this just goes to show that we do need to continue to follow health precautions and not get lulled into a false sense of security.

Additional stats are linked below:

County charts and graphs updated yesterday
Cases by ZIP code
North County dashboard

Keeping an eye out for signs of a surge

Elsewhere in the United States, case numbers are starting to increase once again. In Canada, Ontario’s school system is switching back to online learning.

California meanwhile has maintained one of the lowest daily cases of COVID-19 over the past week. Michigan has the highest in the nation for that same time period – 12 times higher than California’s.

Increasing cases in the Midwest are being attributed to the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant, first called the British variant. Again, here in California, we are not seeing that strain become as prevalent as in other areas (or as once predicted here).

This story in The San Diego Union-Tribune points to the “West Coast variant” as one explanation. Even though it’s more contagious than the original, it’s less contagious than the B.1.1.7 variant.  Nonetheless, more people in California are getting the West Coast variant than the B.1.1.7 one.

Another factor that could explain why California’s numbers aren’t increasing like those in other states is that we have had a large number of people who have already had COVID-19 and therefore having built up natural immunity. If you add those getting vaccinated to those who have natural antibodies, California could reach herd immunity by mid-June, according to the article.

That doesn’t mean we can let our guards down. If cases can surge elsewhere they can surge here too. So, please stay the course by following recommended health precautions:

  • Avoid crowds
  • Wear a mask
  • If you gather with others, do it outdoors
  • Get vaccinated when it’s your turn

Reopening and recovery

In the emergency preparedness world, a common refrain is that you start planning for recovery on the very first day of emergency response. This is because recovering from an emergency can be far more complex and lengthier than the incident itself.

I thought of this when I saw that the court system has gotten another extension on deadlines for holding arraignment hearings. According to this article, there have been 19 criminal jury trials in the nine weeks since jury trials resumed Feb. 8. To put this in perspective, during the last full year before the pandemic, the court held 435 criminal jury trials.

So, while everyone is very happy to see business slowly returning to normal, we should keep in mind that it will take quite some time to make up for lost time and for things to actually be back to normal.

Update on city services

We are entering week three of the city’s gradual shift to more in person services. Starting today, you can make an appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays to have an in-person meeting with our building and planning permits staff at our Faraday Center. You can also come to the Faraday lobby to pay your water bill, a parking ticket or other city bills in person.

Our facilities staff have put up Plexiglass barriers, marked off the floor, put up signs and retrofitted the heating and air conditioning systems with advanced filtration. All reopened city facilities have completed and posted a safe reopening plan and trained staff on new protocols and procedures.

We have already expanded in person services at the library, reopened the Cannon Art Gallery for limited days and hours, and reopened our large community centers on a limited basis. A full list of in person services is on the city’s website, including hours of operation and how to make an appointment, if that is required.

I expect we will further expand in person services as we approach the state’s June 15 date for fully reopening all businesses, assuming case numbers and other metrics remain within targeted ranges. Our goal is to remain thoughtful about our reopening plans, with the health of our community and city employees the top priority.

I also have a feeling many people have gotten used to accessing city services remotely and might even prefer it. We want to be as flexible as we can in meeting everyone’s needs, which will likely include some of the newer online options remaining available.

Time to grieve

At this stage of the pandemic, I am starting to see more and more articles trying to make sense of what we have all experienced over the past year. Two had to do with grief. One described the long-term effects of losing a loved one. Researchers at Penn State created something called the COVID-19 Bereavement Multiplier, which found that, on average, every person who has died from COVID-19 has left behind nine loved ones who will experience significant grief for years to come. Symptoms of grief, such as trouble sleeping, depression and anxiety, can interfere with daily activities, causing a wave of physical and emotional aftereffects, lasting far beyond the pandemic.

Another study, this one published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, calculated that nearly 40,000 children in the United states have lost a parent to COVID. This study also points to long-lasting consequences. In this case, losing a parent is correlated with lower grades and increased use of drugs and alcohol.

Finally, there is the grief of missing out on life’s moments and milestones. Missed vacations, time with grandparents, weddings, holiday celebrations, sports championships – they are also losses, but ones that many people feel guilty acknowledging. When some are losing loved ones, it doesn’t feel right to grieve something so much smaller by comparison. According to psychologists, however, it’s important to acknowledge these losses too and allow ourselves time to grieve.

Kids helping kids

I know that last part was a bit heavy. So, I’ll end today with two stories, both uplifting examples of Carlsbad at its best.

This Coast News article highlights the Carlsbad Unified School District’s “Champions” program, which creates opportunities for high school seniors to serve as role models for younger members of our community.

These “senior ambassadors” visit elementary schools to share how they’ve found their paths, stayed true to themselves, lived with integrity and made positive choices. Since they couldn’t do in person visits this school year, they created inspirational videos and interactive activities elementary school students could do during the stay-at-home order.  The seniors even have trading cards with their photos and lists of accomplishments that the younger students collect, confirming that to the younger students, seniors really are like celebrities.

Volunteers needed

Proving you’re never too young to get involved in your community, the Carlsbad Unified School District is looking for help with its Community Friends Preschool Program.

Community friends – also known as “reverse mainstreamers” – are children 3 to 4 years old who display developmentally appropriate skills, including self-help, social skills, and speech and language skills. These kids are paired with students with special needs so they can help model these skills.

Requirements for Community Friends:

  • 3-4 years old
  • Age-appropriate speech language skills (i.e., makes verbal greetings, participants in conversation by asking questions or making comments with adults and peers, speech is clear and understandable by an unfamiliar person)
  • Age-appropriate play skills (i.e., initiates play, demonstrates pretend play, demonstrates partner play and follows directions)
  • Age-appropriate cognitive skills (i.e., independent self-help skills, follows a classroom routine with minimal prompting, able to help peers, follows through with a plan)

Volunteers are being recruited now for the school year that starts this fall.  Here is more information, including a link for the application.

I’ll be back Thursday with more updates.

 

April 8, 2021, 3:30 p.m.

Yesterday we officially entered the orange tier, with businesses able to expand their operations and more activities resuming.

San Diego County qualified to move to the orange tier under adjusted thresholds because the state reached its goal of administering 4 million vaccines to highest risk communities. Now, to stay in the orange tier, we must keep our case rate per 100,000 between 2 and 5.9. The county’s case rate now is 5.8.

We also have an important date to work toward – June 15 – when the state could fully reopen, putting the color-tier system behind us. This, of course, will depend on whether we have enough vaccine supply and keep hospitalization rates low. The mask mandate won’t be going away anytime soon though. But still, we are getting closer to the light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel.

In case you missed it, here is the summary of the changes that come with moving to the orange tier, based on the state's guidance.

Variants update
The race between getting enough people vaccinated and emerging COVID-19 variants continues. Yesterday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in Britain, is now the source of most new COVID infections in the U.S. The news comes as officials and scientists warn of a possible fourth surge of cases.

The CDC warned back in January that the B.1.1.7 variant could become the dominant source of COVID-19 infections. According to this New York Times article, California is one of the states where the variant is most widespread. Here in San Diego County, B.1.1.7 is currently the most widespread variant, with 410 cases confirmed to date.

Here’s the latest report on the COVID-19 variants published by the county yesterday.

With the increase of this more transmissible strain, we can’t let our guard down yet. Please continue practicing the health precautions to keep case rates down and keep us in the orange tier, or better yet, beyond it:

  • Wear masks when you go out
  • Avoid crowds
  • Stay 6-feet away from people you don’t live with
  • Wash your hands often
  • Limit gatherings to no more than three households and stay outdoors (in addition to following all the other precautions)
  • Get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn

Travel guidance for fully vaccinated
Got the travel bug and fully vaccinated? New guidance from the CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people can now travel within the U.S. and do not need COVID-19 testing or quarantining post-travel as long as they continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling – wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, social distancing and washing hands frequently.

If you're considering international travel, here's the guidance the CDC has provided:

  • Fully vaccinated people can travel internationally without getting a COVID-19 test before travel unless it is required by the international destination.
  • Fully vaccinated people do not need to self-quarantine after returning to the U.S. unless required by a state or local jurisdiction.
  • Fully vaccinated people must still have a negative COVID-19 test result before they board a flight to the U.S. and get a COVID-19 test three to five days after returning from international travel.
  • Fully vaccinated people should continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling internationally.

Remember, you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last recommended dose of vaccine.

Non-essential domestic travel is still discouraged for those who have not been vaccinated. If you’re unvaccinated and need to travel, you should still get tested one to three days before domestic travel and again three to five days after travel. You should also stay home and self-quarantine for seven days after travel or 10 days if you don’t get tested after travel.

Vaccine update


The county released the following numbers yesterday:
  • More than 2 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered to the region, and nearly 1.9 million have been logged as administered. This number includes both county residents and those who work in San Diego County.
  • Of those vaccinated to date, more than 625,000 county residents, or 23.3% of San Diegans 16 and older, are fully vaccinated.
  • Overall, nearly 1.07 million people have received at least one shot. That’s 39.7% of those eligible.

Update on local metrics

Additional stats are linked below:

County charts and graphsupdated yesterday
Cases by ZIP code
North County dashboard

Carlsbad once again has the lowest rate of COVID-19 cases in the region, among cities with 50,000 in population and larger. As you can see in the chart below, we are starting to flatten the curve. A lot has had to go right to maintain this low case rate, and it starts with you.

More students returning to college campuses
Following the move to the orange tier, UC San Diego announced plans to resume operations at nearly full capacity when the fall quarter begins in September. Most students will take in-person classes, with remote learning options being made available to some. Under the plan, campus resident halls will be near full occupancy, with no more than two students per room.

The university announced its plans are based on the expectation that about 90% of the students and 85% of on-site faculty will be fully vaccinated by the fall quarter.

Face coverings will still be required in public spaces and students will be required to test for COVID-19 upon arrival to campus. Read the full announcement from UCSD.

SDSU also announced plans yesterday for instruction and activities to be held primarily in-person this fall, along with plans to move forward with hosting outdoor commencement ceremonies in May at Petco Park.


Theater among flowers

If you’re a resident or frequent visitor of Carlsbad, chances are you have a love for the arts or our well-known Flower Fields. If both are up your alley, you’ll want to check out Carlsbad’s New Village Arts six-month outdoor residency at the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch.

The residency will begin with small socially distant concerts, with hopes to expand to theatrical performances as COVID health guidelines allow. Policies and procedures are in place to ensure the safety of all in attendance, including digital-only programs and tickets, mandatory mask rules and social distancing guidelines. 

The residency kicks off tonight with a trio of small-scale cabaret concerts at the 55-acre floral attraction. You can learn more and get tickets on the New Village Arts website and read the recent Union-Tribune article about the unique partnership.

The city’s cultural arts programs are also in full bloom this spring. Learn about our programming for both local artists and art lovers.

I’ll be back next Tuesday. As we enter our first weekend in the orange tier, the future is looking bright. Let’s work together to stay the course and continue to #Care4Carlsbad.

 

April 6, 2021, 3 p.m.

Today we received the good news we'd been hoping for. We will be officially moving into the orange tier starting tomorrow.

With a few exceptions, moving from the red to orange tier mainly means that occupancy levels can increase at most places that have already been open. Here are some of the changes you can expect:

  • Indoor dining and movie theaters can increase capacity to 50% or 200 people (whichever is fewer)
  • Bars that don’t serve food can reopen outdoors with modifications
  • Breweries, wineries and distilleries that don’t serve food can reopen indoors with capacity at 25% or 100 people (whichever is fewer)
  • Capacity restrictions can be lifted at retail stores, but modifications still apply
  • Gyms and yoga studios can increase indoor capacity to 25%
  • Indoor pools can reopen at gyms and hotels to 25% capacity Indoor museums and places of worship can increase capacity to 50%
  • Offices can reopen indoors with modifications, although teleworking is still encouraged
  • Indoor family entertainment centers (bowling alleys) can reopen to 25% capacity

Moving beyond the tiers

Today the state announced we surpassed a major milestone, with more than 20 million vaccine doses administered, including 4 million in communities at highest risk, and hospitalization rates continuing to steadily decline. Based on all this, the governor outlined the state’s next steps for fully reopening the economy and moving beyond what has been called the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” – or the colored tiered system – that has guided counties for 31 weeks.

On June 15, California will fully open its economy if two criteria are met:

  • If vaccine supply is sufficient for Californians 16 years and older who wish to be inoculated; and
  • If hospitalization rates are stable and low

If these two criteria are met, the color-tiered system will end and everyday activities will be allowed and businesses can open with common-sense risk reduction measures, which include still encouraging all Californians to get vaccinated and still mandating masks. The entire state would move into this new phase together.

While this is big news, this is all dependent on keeping cases low and vaccine supply up. The state will closely monitor hospitalization rates, vaccine access and vaccine effectiveness against variants, with the option to revisit the June 15 date if needed.

Read the governor’s full announcement for more details.

New guidance for gatherings

There is also new guidance from the state on gatherings, private events and indoor seated live events that take effect on April 15.

  • Informal outdoor gatherings can have up to 50 people
  • Private events like meetings, receptions and conferences can have up to 100 people outdoors or if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination, up to 300 people
    - Indoor private events can have a max of 150 people if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination
  • For indoor venues that seat up to 1,500, seated live events can have up to 15% capacity or 200 people, and increase up to 35% capacity if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination

We've put together a complete summary of the changes that come with moving to the orange tier, based on the state's guidance. Click on the link to see the full document:

New thresholds

The reason San Diego County can move to the orange tier is because the state reached its goal of administering 4 million vaccines in communities at highest risk. Below are the new thresholds that determine tiers.

Vaccination milestone

The number of San Diego County residents who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine passed 1 million on Sunday. To date, about 23% of San Diego County residents have been fully vaccinated. This is great progress, but still far from herd immunity status – when enough people are vaccinated or have naturally acquired antibodies to effectively contain the spread. According to the county, the state’s goal is to vaccinate 75% of people 16 and older to achieve herd immunity. That’s about 2.02 million San Diegans.

 

Here are some additional vaccine stats from the county:

  • About 1.99 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered to the region, and nearly 1.85 million have been logged as administered. This number includes both county residents and those who work in San Diego County.
  • Of those vaccinated to date, more than 611,000 county residents, or 22.7% of San Diegans 16 and older, are fully vaccinated.
  • Overall, more than 1 million people have received at least one shot. That’s 38.5% of those eligible.

Eligibility vs. supply

More San Diegans will be able to get vaccinated now that the state and county have expanded eligibility to include all people 50 and older. While more people now qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine, there is still a shortage of doses.

That’s why the main message from health experts right now is to “be patient,” meaning continue to follow health precautions, including:

  • Wear masks when you go out
  • Avoid crowds
  • Stay 6-feet away from people you don’t live with
  • Wash your hands often
  • Limit gatherings to no more than three households and stay outdoors (in addition to following all the other precautions)
  • Get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn

We have links to the various vaccination appointment sites on the city's website. If you or someone you know is 50 or older and wants help scheduling an appointment, call 2-1-1.

In-person city services

Last week I shared an update on the gradual phased approach the city is taking to adapt our operations based on recent changes in health restrictions. Here's a reminder of the in-person services reopening this week.

  • Community centers (10% occupancy, not to include Senior Center or Harding Community Center)
  • Leo Carrillo Ranch Park’s historic structures and visitor center (25% occupancy)
  • Libraries (browsing materials and self-serve checkout, limited days and hours)
  • Cannon Art Gallery (25% occupancy, limited days and hours)

We created a dashboard where you can quickly find out what is open for in-person services and when.

Local metrics

Additional stats are linked below:

County charts and graphs
Cases by ZIP code
North County dashboard

Business revitalization survey

With optimism that the worst of the pandemic is behind us and an eye on recovery, we’re working to understand the full impacts of COVID-19 on Carlsbad's economy, evaluate the interventions the city put forth, and understand expected challenges across industries, business types and ownership structures.

If you’re a business owner, or know someone who is, please complete or pass along this short survey by April 14.

It’s our goal to build support programs that serve all businesses in need. Feedback gathered will help us understand how businesses were impacted, the support they utilized and their expectations for the future. It’ll also help shape how the city supports recovery and revitalization going forward.

Updated Earth Month event information 

After a year of canceled events, we’re excited to bring back Earth Month events and activities to help you reduce your impact on the environment and live more sustainably. This includes working with a local household hazardous waste collection facility to schedule several dates when residents could drop off hazardous waste for free with proof of residency.

Unfortunately, we were notified late last week that the facility would be canceling the drop-off event scheduled for this past Saturday, April 3. We tried to notify residents of the cancellation via our website, social media channels and weekly citywide e-newsletter, but we couldn’t reach everyone. I heard from several residents who took the time to pack up their hazardous waste and drive all the way over to the facility to find out it was closed. Additionally, it was brought to my attention that an incorrect address was included on our Earth Month mailer for the e-waste drop off location. If you are planning to drop off e-waste at an upcoming event, please note the corrected address is:

Waste Management Buyback Center
5960 El Camino Real

Thank you for pointing out these errors so we could quickly address them where possible. I know how valuable your time is and can only imagine how frustrating these mistakes must have been. Our mission is to provide top quality, efficient services and we really missed the mark on this. I assure you we will make changes in the future to make sure the same mistakes do not happen again.

You can find all the latest details on upcoming Earth Month events and activities on the city website and learn how you can safely dispose of your items throughout the year as a Carlsbad resident in this recycling and trash services residential guide.

Today’s City Council meeting

The City Council meets today and will cover the following topics:

  • An update on the city's investments
  • Hiring design firm for a project to repair the roofs of the historic Leo Carrillo Ranch buildings
  • Amending city laws on elections, campaign disclosures and campaign contributions
  • Updating the General Plan's Housing Element, which guides city housing policies
  • Update on the city's COVID-19 response and its cost
  • Awarding franchise for city's trash disposal, including green waste and organics
  • Discussing a change to the regular agenda statement on public comments 

The meeting starts at 3 p.m. Here are the links to the full agenda and staff reports and city livestream where you can watch.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back on Thursday with more updates. Thank you for staying the course and helping us get to the orange tier. Please continue to do everything you can to keep us moving in the right direction and #Care4Carlsbad.

April 1, 2021, 2 p.m.

Today is a day of many changes on the COVID-19 front. Starting April 1:

  • Everyone 50 and older is now eligible to be vaccinated (appointment links here)
  • Theme parks can reopen for the first time in over a year
  • Sports stadiums can reopen (just in time for opening day, go Padres!)
  • Outdoor live entertainment with audiences is now allowed

Of course, all of these things come with caveats that will sound familiar – limited capacity, reservations required, keep up usual health precautions, etc. You can see the details here. Even with all the restrictions, these are big steps forward for our region!

Update on in-person city services

Like many organizations, the city is in the process of adapting our operations based on recent changes in health restrictions, including expanding our in-person services. I have been so proud of the city workforce for adapting quickly to different ways of working during the pandemic. I am particularly proud of the fact that we have been able to maintain all essential city services since day one.

When it comes to resuming more in-person services, we will be taking a phased approach starting with our public safety offices.

Opening April 1

Police and Fire Headquarters front lobby services

Opening week of April 5

Community centers (10% occupancy, not to include Senior Center or Harding Community Center)
Leo Carrillo Ranch Park’s historic structures and visitor center (25% occupancy)
Libraries (browsing materials and self-serve checkout, limited days and hours)
Cannon Art Gallery (50% occupancy, limited days and hours)

Opening week of April 12

Building, planning and engineering counter, by appointment only, 2 days a week
Faraday cashier, 2 days a week

Don’t worry about having to keep track of all this. We created a dashboard where you can quickly find out what is open for in-person services and when.

I appreciate your patience as we take this phased approach. As you probably know by now, I would rather err on the side of caution when it comes to health and safety than open everything all at once and risk an outbreak. Your safety and the safety of our employees continue to be the city’s top priorities. For example, in deciding to reopen community centers, we are not including the Senior Center just yet. That’s because seniors remain among the most vulnerable populations.

Safe reopening plans

The city is not just meeting the requirements of the county’s Safe Reopening Plans for all of our facilities, we are in many cases going above and beyond to make sure everyone feels comfortable. For example:

  • All buildings and work areas are being inspected by a third-party health and safety expert prior to opening
  • Staff are undergoing training on new protocols and procedures
  • You will be required to wear a mask when you enter a city building, and our staff will be masked up too
  • Signs will direct you where to stand to create enough social distance
  • Surfaces will be disinfected frequently, and hand sanitizer will be widely available

We created the video below showing how our facilities staff has upgraded our heating and cooling systems to provide more advanced air filtration – called a MERV rating. Bonus points if you already know what this stands for – if not, you can learn about it in the video.

The bottom line is this – we are here to serve you, our community. We are committed to delivering the high level of service you expect and deserve. I feel strongly that the quickest way we can add back more in-person services is to ensure we are being thoughtful and thorough. In other words, we are going to “go slow to go fast” as we welcome you back to city buildings.

Real-world vaccine research

Now that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been in “real world” use – rather than just clinical trials – more research has been completed about their effectiveness. The CDC released a new study Monday that shows they reduce the risk of infection by 80% two weeks after the first shot. Two weeks after the second shot – what is considered “full vaccination” – they were 90% effective at preventing infections.

Vaccines for teens

Clinical trials have started for those under 16 and, so far, the results are very promising. It’s still early, but yesterday Pfizer announced that those 12 to 15 years old showed a strong antibody response to the vaccine, even more than in adults. Moderna is conducting a similar study, the results of which are expected in the coming weeks.

According to this Associated Press story, both companies have started trials in kids younger than 12, and those results could be available by mid-year. With almost a quarter of the U.S. population under 18, achieving herd immunity won’t be possible without a vaccine for children, and making it safe for kids to gather, go to school in person and resume other activities is so critical to returning to normal life. Plus, younger kids have a harder time following the basic health precautions, like hand washing, not touching their faces, maintaining distance and keeping their masks on.

Variant watch

As usual, good news about vaccines is paired with new information about COVID-19 variants. Prevalence of the B.1.1.7 variant – originally called the “British variant” is doubling about every week and is expected to be the dominant strain in the United States by May, according to a new study by San Diego-based researchers.

The increase of this more easily transmissible strain coincides with the reopening of many more activities, resulting in increased case numbers. That’s why the main message from health experts right now is “keep it up,” meaning continue to follow health precautions, including:

  • Wear masks when you go out
  • Avoid crowds
  • Stay 6-feet away from people you don’t live with
  • Wash your hands often
  • Limit gatherings to no more than three households and stay outdoors (in addition to following all the other precautions)
  • Get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn

Update on local metrics

San Diego County’s case numbers are so far holding steady. Let’s keep up the good work, especially as more things open up!

Consumer confidence increases

The COVID pandemic has been described not only as a health crisis but an economic crisis. As the city puts together next fiscal year’s budget, I can tell you the concern is real. Decreases in spending and travel mean less tax revenue, which local governments depend on to fund basic services.

The Conference Board announced Tuesday that the consumer confidence index just logged its highest numbers since last March, something economists attribute to increased vaccinations and more government economic support. The trend is expected to continue, leading to what an economist at Oxford Economics described as a “mini-boom in economic activity this spring and summer.”

You can read more about this on the Conference Board’s website. (In case you’re wondering, the Conference Board is a nonprofit founded in 1916 that is most well-known for its research on economic indicators.)

Hope springs eternal

I mentioned earlier that today is opening day for the Padres. Even with all the restrictions in place, the fact that fans are once again allowed to cheer on our local team in person is, for me, one of the more tangible symbols of recovery we have seen so far.

Maybe it’s because baseball is America’s pastime. Maybe it’s because of my own family traditions around attending baseball games. And maybe it’s because given the talent on this year’s roster there is already hushed talk of going all the way to the World Series. All I know is this: I am proudly decked out in classic brown and gold today. And I am filled with optimism for the future.

I’ll be back next Tuesday. Thank you for staying the course. Thank you for continuing to #Care4Carlsbad.

 

March 30, 3021, 11 a.m.

“Hold on a little while longer,” was the plea yesterday from the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as public health experts around the country fear a fourth wave could be developing in the United States. You can see her full briefing here.

It sounds grim, but really all we need to do is continue with the same public health advice we have been following all along:

  • Wear masks
  • Avoid crowds
  • Wash your hands often
  • Get vaccinated when it’s your turn

Caution is being urged because of case trends, first in Europe and now starting in the United States. You can see the worldwide trends in the chart below (which, by the way, is from a very interesting website called World of Data). Here is a link if you’d like to take a look.

Case trends

Here in California, we had the second lowest case rate in the country last week. However, based on Johns Hopkins University data, 34 states have seen increases in cases over the past week. Nationwide, there has been a 12% week-over-week increase in cases, according to an analysis completed by The New York Times.

That same analysis showed cases have increased by more than 40% in nine states over the past two weeks: Michigan (133% increase), Connecticut (62% increase), New York and Pennsylvania (both with a 40% increase).

Local updates

Additional stats are linked below:

County charts and graphs updated yesterday
Cases by ZIP code
North County dashboard

Vaccine progress

With so much news coverage of vaccines, seeing case rates start to increase again seems counterintuitive. However, health experts have warned all along just how daunting a task they face in vaccinating millions of people in a short amount of time. Here is what the country looks like in terms of vaccination progress:

And below is the latest county dashboard. To date, about 21% of county residents are fully vaccinated. This is great progress, but nowhere near the so-called herd immunity status – when enough people are vaccinated or have naturally acquired antibodies to effectively contain the spread. We don’t know yet what level of vaccination is needed to reach herd immunity with COVID-19 – the percentage varies depending on the disease. For measles, it’s 95%. This is one of the reasons why we still need to continue to follow basic health precautions for a while longer.

Here are some other vaccine stats from the county:

  • Almost 1.74 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to the region, and nearly 1.65 million have been logged as administered. This number includes both county residents and those who work in San Diego County.
  • Of those vaccinated to date, nearly 555,000 county residents, or 20.6% of San Diegans 16 and older, are fully immunized.
  • Overall, more than 909,000 county residents have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccine. That’s 33.8% of those eligible.

Expanded eligibility

With last week’s announcement by the state that starting April 1 those 50 and older can get vaccinated, providers are getting their appointment systems ready for the new influx of requests. MyTurn, the state’s system, likely won’t let those newly eligible make an appointment until Thursday, according to the California Department of Public Health. The county has not yet updated its eligibility tiers, so it is not clear if the state’s eligibility groups and dates will apply in San Diego County. Counties have leeway to adjust eligibility based on their supplies and other factors. The Union-Tribune reports that the county’s superstations in La Mesa and Chula Vista, which are run by Sharp Health Care, will let those 50 to 64 years old make an appointment now as long as the appointment date is Thursday or after.

Even before April 1, nearly half of all Californians are eligible to be vaccinated due to age, occupation or health conditions. For those between 16 and 50 who otherwise don’t qualify to be vaccinated, your day is coming soon – April 15 to be specific.

Vaccine supply

What seems like a simple transaction – show up at a location and get a shot in the arm – requires a logistical operation unlike anything we have seen in recent history. To break it down, vaccinations require.

  • A location that can efficiently move large numbers of people through
  • Qualified vaccinators
  • Vaccine supply

The first two can be controlled locally, and San Diego County is in great shape. For supply, we are totally dependent on the state and federal governments, which, in turn, depend on the speed of manufacturing. The CDC tracks vaccine delivery on its website (when viewing the chart below, keep in mind that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose, and the others require two).

About 11 million Johnson & Johnson doses should be available soon, which is more than double the amount already produced. We don’t know yet how many of those will reach California or San Diego County, but for perspective, as of Monday morning, 623,400 Johnson & Johnson doses had been delivered to California.

Progress on 4 million vaccine goal

We are closely watching the state’s progress on reaching its goal of administering 4 million vaccines to those living in communities most at risk. The number currently stands at about 3.4 million. Once the 4 million mark is reached, the thresholds for moving tiers become easier to attain. In fact, our current case rate of 5.5 per 100,000 puts us in the orange tier range, using the future thresholds. We would still need to stay within the orange tier range for two consecutive weeks, but the county has said it’s possible we could move to the orange tier as early as next Wednesday. The new state numbers will come out today, and I’ll provide an update Thursday.

Guidance on religious holidays

The CDC has released guidance for religious holidays coming in April, when families and communities tend to gather. The recommendations will sound familiar:

  • Enjoy traditional meals with those who live with you.
  • Practice religious holiday customs at home.
  • Watch virtual religious and cultural performances.
  • Attend religious ceremonies virtually.
  • If you plan to celebrate with others, outdoors is safer than indoors.
  • Travel may increase your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. CDC continues to recommend postponing travel and staying home, as this is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.
  • As much as possible, avoid crowds and indoors spaces that do not offer fresh air from the outdoors. If indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors.

In other words, don’t let your guards down. If you have been vaccinated, the CDC has guidance that applies to you and your family members, but even that is not a free pass to go back to normal … yet.

So, I’ll end where I started – we are making good progress, but it’s too soon to go back to normal. Please help us stay on a good path. Let us learn from what is happening in Europe and even states in our country that loosened restrictions before us.

We can look forward to warm weather this week, although drier than we might like. However, as we approach our annual May-gray and June-gloom, let’s enjoy it while it lasts, including the spectacular sunsets brought on by offshore winds.

I’ll be back Thursday with more updates.

 

March 25, 2021, 3 p.m.

This stage of the COVID-19 pandemic has been likened to a race – between the emergence of new variants and getting enough people vaccinated to reach herd immunity. This morning, the governor announced that vaccine eligibility will be expanded in the coming weeks to the following age groups:

  • April 1 – individuals ages 50 and older
  • April 15 – individuals ages 16 and older

The governor shared this decision is based on expected vaccine supply increases in the coming weeks. The state expects to be allocated approximately 2.5 million first and second doses per week in the first half of April, and more than 3 million doses per week in the second half of April.

While this is very exciting news, we don’t know how many of these doses will be provided to San Diego County and when. This means the timing for when those age groups can realistically get vaccinated in San Diego County could vary depending on supplies. We’ll be sure to share additional information from the county once we know more. Even with expanded vaccine supplies, it’s expected to take several months for willing Californians to be vaccinated. In San Diego County, 1.5 million vaccines have been administered to date. View the full details of the governor’s announcement here.

Variants update

A San Diego woman in her late 40s is the first San Diego County case of the COVID-19 variant first identified in Brazil (officially called the P.1 variant), the County Health and Human Services Agency announced yesterday. The woman’s sample was collected on March 5 and went through genome sequencing, which is not available until two to four weeks after testing.

The woman had not been vaccinated, was not hospitalized and, since she had no known travel history, is believed to have been exposed to someone in the community. The case investigation identified six close contacts outside the woman’s household.

A second case of the P.1 variant was detected in the county, but the person is not a San Diego County resident. Through March 23, a total of 336 cases of the B.1.1.7, known as the U.K. variant, had been identified in the region. No cases of the variant first identified in South Africa have been reported in the region.

Tracking variants

The California Department of Public Health is tracking variants and reports that four cases of the P.1 variant have been reported in California through March 19.

More serious?

According to the county public health officer, there is some evidence that the P.1 and other new variants are more easily spread, but the P.1 variant is not believed to cause more severe illness or increase the risk of death. The good news is that the same precautions that guard against the original virus that causes COVID-19 are also effective to prevent the spread of variants:

  • Wear a mask
  • Watch your distance from others
  • Wash your hands
  • When it’s your turn, get vaccinated

Vaccine progress

  • Nearly 1.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to the region, and more than 1.5 million have been administered. This number includes both residents and those who work in San Diego County.
  • Of those vaccinated to date, more than 510,000 county residents, or 19% of San Diegans 16 and older, are fully immunized.
  • Overall, almost 840,000 county residents have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccines. That’s 31.2% of those eligible.

Vaccine distribution 

The county also announced it was preparing for more vaccine doses to be made available.

The new Viejas Arena site at SDSU can administer 1,500 doses per day. The combined 27 county sites can provide up to 35,000 doses each day. So far, they are averaging 12,000 doses per day due to supply.

The county announced good progress on vaccinating seniors. Sharp Health Care is administering vaccines to 25 to 30 homebound seniors per day. Operation Collaboration, the partnership between the county and local fire agencies, is focusing on harder to reach communities and rural areas.

At this time:

  • 100% of those in skilled nursing have had their second dose
  • 94% of those in long term care facilities have had their second dose

Life after vaccination

As more people are getting vaccinated, questions are coming up about how guidelines will change post-vaccination. The World Health Organization and CDC have put out some initial guidance, but nothing new in the last couple of weeks.

Here are the CDC guidelines (the county has not issued guidance in this area so the current health order still applies when it comes to gathering and other precautions) for those who have been fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Aside from this guidance, health experts recommend continuing with all health precautions, such as avoiding crowds, wearing masks, etc. This is because too much is still unknown about how well vaccines protect against new and future variants, how long immunity lasts and other questions.

Key metrics update

Additional stats are linked below:

County charts and graphs updated yesterday
Cases by ZIP code
North County dashboard

Tier update

Yesterday the county said the soonest we could get to the orange tier would be April 7. This would require the state to meet its goal of administering 4 million vaccines to communities most at risk. So far, the state has administered about 3 million. We would also need to keep our case rate per 100,000 at less than 6 for two weeks in a row. Our current case rate is 5.5.

We have seen case rates start to increase in other areas, which should remind us all that continued vigilance is essential. With spring break upon us, we could easily slide backward if we don’t all keep up health precautions. Travel is still discouraged, as is gathering.

We are on a good path. Let’s stay the course!

 

March 23, 2021, 1:30 p.m.

This week the County of San Diego opened two new vaccination clinics, one at SDSU’s Viejas Arena and one at the Mexican Consulate in Little Italy, near downtown San Diego. Even though neither is close to Carlsbad, it’s still good news for Carlsbad because the more people that can get vaccinated overall, the better for our entire region. Plus, the more people the county can vaccinate in communities at the highest risk, the closer we will get to the latest goal of 4 million vaccines administered to people who live in areas hardest hit by COVID.

When that goal is reached, the state will adjust the thresholds to move tiers, meaning we could move into the orange tier when our case rate dips below 6 per 100,000. Today, the threshold for the orange tier is less than 4 cases per 100,000. Our case rate last week was 6.8, and as of today’s numbers released by the state, we are still at 6.8.

I am focusing on case rates because our testing positivity percentage has been well within the orange tier for several weeks already. A county needs to meet both thresholds for a tier for two consecutive weeks before being officially moved to that tier.

Orange tier look-ahead

The biggest changes when we move into the orange tier are increases in how many people can be in stores, restaurants, gyms, museums and other indoor locations. Family entertainment centers and bars can reopen in the orange tier too, but only outdoors. Offices can also reopen in the orange tier but telework is still encouraged. You can see the details of what’s allowed in the different tiers on the state’s website.

Vaccine update

The county released the following numbers yesterday:

  • Over 1.52 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to the region, and more than 1.42 million have been logged as administered.
  • Of those vaccinated to date, almost 502,000 County residents, or 18.7% of San Diegans 16 and older, are fully immunized.
  • Overall, over 811,000 County residents have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccine. That’s 30.2% of those eligible.

Supply update

According to a story in The San Diego Union-Tribune, the county expects to receive 10% more vaccines this week compared to last week, bringing the expected shipments to just under 100,000 doses this week. These will all be the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. More of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected next week.

Update on new vaccine

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been in the news a lot lately. Some European countries have stopped using it due to concerns about blood clots. However, the company’s data show no safety concerns with blood clots in large U.S. trials. Just today, it was reported that some are concerned that the company’s data was from February, and more recent data haven’t been made available yet.

The FDA’s advisory committee will hash all this out when they consider emergency use authorization sometime in April. If emergency use is ultimately authorized, the company says it can deliver 50 million doses in the first month. This is also a two-shot vaccine, but it does not require the same level of special handling and temperature control as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. You can read more in this AP article.

Vaccine rollout approaches analyzed

Now that some time has passed since vaccines were first made available, different rollout strategies can be compared. An analysis reported by The Associated Press yesterday showed that states that offered wider eligibility early on vaccinated fewer people overall than states like California that took a more measured approach.

The findings showed that big surges in demand often overwhelmed computer systems and vaccine distribution sites, leading to confusion and frustration among people trying to get vaccinated. This speaks to the importance of having a solid infrastructure in place.

Misinformation about vaccine safety, lack of communication and erratic shipments also contributed to challenges faced by all states trying to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Learning and documenting these lessons will be invaluable should such a large-scale effort like this be needed again in the future.

How to get vaccinated

Eligibility hasn’t changed since my last update – in fact, as of now, the next phase to be eligible is everyone 16 and older. No word yet on when we might reach that phase. The President has set a goal of May 1 nationwide, and some states have already opened up vaccines to everyone 16 and older. We have links to various appointment sites on the city’s website. If you or someone you know is 65 or older and wants help scheduling an appointment, call 2-1-1.

CDC eases school COVID rules

Last Friday the CDC updated its guidance for schools, recommending a 3-foot distance between students rather than 4 feet. Even though the difference is just 1 foot, it should allow schools much more flexibility in how classrooms are configured and pave the way for schools to open more days a week.

In related news, a San Diego judge’s recent ruling easing school restrictions will now apply statewide. The changes include getting rid of the 4-foot distance requirement that the CDC just changed anyway. The judge also said the state cannot have different rules for elementary schools than middle and high schools. Another hearing is scheduled for April 1 to provide the state an opportunity to defend its rules.

According to an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Carlsbad Unified School District is expected to discuss at its board meeting tomorrow moving middle and high schools from two days a week of in person instruction to five days a week on April 12. San Dieguito Union High School District just expanded in-person learning from one day a week to two days a week. San Marcos Unified School District hasn’t announced changes to its two-day a week in person schedule. These are the three public school districts serving Carlsbad that have middle and high schools.

Case updates

Today we are reporting 53 active cases in Carlsbad, the lowest number of active cases this year.

Additional stats are linked below:

County charts and graphs updated yesterday
Cases by ZIP code
North County dashboard

One-year mark continued

The county put out this year in review timeline noting the major milestones in the COVID pandemic here locally. One year ago yesterday, San Diego County reported its first COVID-19 related death. To date we have had 3,494 deaths. That’s an average of almost 10 a day, every day, for an entire year.

I think it’s worth stopping to consider all we have been through over the past year – so many numbers and stats and tragedies and lessons learned. And so many lives lost, leaving behind families who will experience fresh pain with every holiday and special occasion to come this year ahead, the first without their loved ones.

Those who have followed the COVID-19 coverage in The San Diego Union-Tribune or watched the county news conferences will recognize the name Paul Sisson. He wrote a poignant recap of his experiences reporting on COVID over the past year, focusing on the small acts of teamwork and heroism he witnessed among our health care workers.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves in celebrating the reopening of businesses and schools and the resumption of some normal activities, let’s not forget about those who have sacrificed so much. The very best way we can honor them is to continue to follow the advice of health experts:

  • Avoid crowds
  • Maintain a 6-foot distance from others
  • Wear a mask when around people not from your own household
  • Stay home if you have COVID symptoms or think you may have been exposed
  • Consider skipping spring break travel this year
  • Get vaccinated when it’s your turn

It’s our collective actions that have gotten us to this point, and it’s our continued vigilance that will help make sure we stay on this good course.

 

March 18, 2021, 3:30 p.m.

Yesterday was a big day, as we officially entered the red tier, with businesses able to expand their operations and more activities resuming, albeit still with significant limits and required modifications. After months in the purple tier and the regional stay at home order over the holidays, this change is being met not just with a collective sigh of relief, but renewed hope for what’s to come.

Sure, we only just qualified for the red tier, but with our testing positivity rate solidly in the orange tier and case rates continuing to decline, there is already talk of when we might reach the next milestone.

Just as the state set a goal of 2 million vaccine doses administered in communities most at risk statewide to increase eligibility for the red tier, it has now set a goal of 4 million to move the bar once again. I’ve made some notes on the state’s chart below to try to explain this:

It may seem complicated, but the premise is simple – the state wants to incentivize vaccinations in the communities that have had the highest case rates. When those most at risk are vaccinated, the risk for the community as a whole is greatly reduced.

Now the bad news

News reports yesterday highlighted the fact that cases in 14 states across the country increased by more than 10% this week compared to last. The affected states are mostly in the upper Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions. Michigan has had the largest increase at 50% week over week.

This just goes to show that COVID-19 is still a highly infectious disease and letting our guards down too soon can wipe out all the progress that has been made.

Red tier details

We put together a summary of the changes now that we’re in the red tier, based on the state’s guidance. Click on the link to see the full document:

Case numbers

Additional stats are linked below:

County charts and graphs updated yesterday
Cases by ZIP code
North County dashboard

Vaccine update

  • More than 1.41 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to the region, and nearly 1.3 million have been logged as administered. This number includes both county residents and those who work in San Diego County.
  • Of those vaccinated to date, over 461,000 County residents, or 17.1% of San Diegans 16 and older, are fully immunized.
  • Overall, over 731,000 County residents have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccine. That’s 27.2% of those eligible.

If you are eligible, we have links to various appointment sites on the city’s website. If you or someone you know is 65 or older and wants help scheduling an appointment, call 2-1-1.

Pay particular attention to the Operation Collaboration sites, run through a partnership between local fire departments and the county. You can look for those sites here. Operation Collaboration sites are deployed by the county strategically, often for specific populations, but I have noticed they also make vaccines available to the public based on availability. Unfortunately, it requires checking the website often because they often don’t know what their supplies will be until the last minute. When we find out about availability, we also share the details through social media. If you aren’t on social media, you can still see our Twitter feed on the city website.

More supply is expected, so it won’t always be like this.

Tax deadlines extended

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced yesterday that the federal income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year will be automatically extended from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021. The IRS will be providing formal guidance in the coming days, but here is some of what the news release reported:

"Even with the new deadline, we urge taxpayers to consider filing as soon as possible, especially those who are owed refunds. Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds, and it can help some taxpayers more quickly receive any remaining stimulus payments they may be entitled to."

Individual taxpayers can also postpone federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year due on April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This postponement applies to individual taxpayers, including individuals who pay self-employment tax. Penalties, interest and additions to tax will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances as of May 17, 2021. Individual taxpayers will automatically avoid interest and penalties on the taxes paid by May 17.

The state also put out a short announcement saying the same deadline would apply to state income tax, and details would be coming soon.

More Carlsbad innovation in the news

In my last update I shared news of a Carlsbad-based life sciences company that developed a quick turnaround COVID-19 test. Yesterday I saw news of the latest XPRIZE competition, also having to do with COVID-19 testing. XPRIZE is a nonprofit that hosts competitions for innovation in several areas, including space exploration, climate change and, most recently, COVID-19 research.

Two of the five winners for the $6 million rapid COVID-19 testing competition are located right here in Carlsbad, and a third is in San Diego. Each winner created high-quality, affordable COVID-19 testing to help society safely reopen and return to everyday activities. Affordability was a key criterion, as was a turnaround time of 12 hours from sample to result. The winners were:

Part of the city’s economic development strategy is “talent attraction,” meaning that we want to be a place where talented, entrepreneurial people want to come to launch businesses, especially in our key industries, such as life sciences. A natural synergy exists when like-companies are located near each other. In addition to bragging rights, having these kinds of innovative companies right in our own backyards creates high paying jobs and even internship opportunities for those looking to get into these fields.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. By the way, as we were looking back on the past year of our COVID-19 response, we counted 150 City Manager Updates (or, as of today, 151). Whether you started to follow these just recently or have been reading them all along, I would like to thank you for keeping current on how COVID-19 is affecting Carlsbad and how you can help.

I often share the chart below:

Carlsbad once again has the lowest rate of COVID-19 cases in the region, among cities with 50,000 in population and larger. A lot has had to go right to maintain this low case rate, and it starts with you. We should feel proud of our collective efforts and be more motivated than ever to keep up the precautions that got us here:

  • Avoid crowds
  • Maintain a 6-foot distance from others
  • Wear a mask when around people not from your own household
  • Stay home if you have COVID symptoms or think you may have been exposed
  • Consider skipping spring break travel this year
  • Get vaccinated when it’s your turn

I’ll be back next week. Until then, please stay the course and continue to #Care4Carlsbad.

 

March 16, 2021, 1:30 p.m.

It’s official! As of tomorrow, we will once again be in the red tier. We’ve been here before, but not since Nov. 10, 2020. Here are some of the changes you can expect:

  • Indoor museums can reopen
  • Stores can increase capacity to 50%
  • Indoor dining is allowed again
  • Gyms can open
  • Indoor movie theaters can open
  • Outdoor live events (including sports) are allowed (starting April 1)
  • Amusement parks can open (starting April 1)
  • Overnight sleep away camps are allowed

All activities are subject to several restrictions and conditions. You can see details and more activities in this updated at a glance chart developed by the state.

Case numbers

Additional stats are linked below:

County charts and graphs updated yesterday
Cases by ZIP code
North County dashboard

New thresholds

The reason San Diego County can move to the red tier is because the state reached its goal of administering 2 million vaccines in communities at highest risk. Below are the new thresholds that determine tiers.

New vaccine eligibility

Yesterday, anyone 16 to 64 years old at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications became eligible to be vaccinated. The county also updated its list of conditions that would qualify, including being overweight or obese (previously it was only for people who are severely obese).

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
  • Obese (BMI > 30 kg/m2, but < 40 kg/m2)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder

You can see the full list of conditions on the county’s website.

New vaccine clinic in Oceanside

A new COVID-19 vaccine clinic in the North Coastal Health and Human Services Agency building, 1701 Mission Ave., in Oceanside began administering COVID-19 vaccines today. This clinic will replace the previous Oceanside location on Ocean Ranch Boulevard and be able to administer 200 more doses a day, 700 total.

A crew of 13 National Guard medics and administrators will run the clinic with assistance from the county. Appointments are required at the new clinic, and some doses will be set aside for residents living in the 92058 ZIP code. You can make an appointment at www.vaccinationsuperstationsd.com.

Appointment scheduling

Even though more and more vaccination sites are up and running, we are still dependent on vaccine supplies being available. A lot of patience and some luck are required to get an appointment. A large group just became eligible Monday, but as they get vaccinated, the rush will subside, and it will hopefully get easier. In fact, experts are predicting the United States will soon have a glut of vaccines, more than enough for the entire U.S. population. Plans are already underway to make surplus supplies available to other countries.

In the meantime, my best advice is to try all the different locations – many use the centralized myturn.gov scheduling system, but health care providers and some pharmacies have their own systems. We’ve compiled these on the city’s website. If you or someone you know is 65 or older and wants help scheduling an appointment, call 2-1-1.

New appointments are added as vaccines become available, so checking back often helps. For example, Operation Collaboration sites, run through a partnership between local fire departments and the county, often post small numbers of new appointments in the afternoons and evenings for the following day. You can look for those sites here.

Next groups to be eligible

The president called for all Americans to be eligible for vaccination by May 1, which is only six weeks away. San Diego County is now vaccinating all tiers in phase one, and phase two includes everyone 16 and older. No word yet on whether the county might add more subgroups before opening eligibility or when we might get to phase two.

Today, Mississippi became the second state to open COVID-19 vaccinations to all of its adult residents. Alaska made this move last week. So, widespread availability is coming.

Which vaccine?

Now that three vaccines are available in the United States, people are starting to wonder which is best. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, all are effective, and he recommends people get whichever one is available when it’s their turn. Some vaccine sites list which vaccines are being provided when you make an appointment. The CDC has information about all three, as well as two more in late-stage trials. They also have a lot of general information that addresses some of the common questions about vaccines.

Vaccination progress

According to the county, nearly 1.34 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to the San Diego region, and over 1.25 million have been administered. This number includes county residents and those who work in San Diego County.

  • Of those vaccinated to date, over 439,000 County residents, or 16.3% of San Diegans 16 and older, are fully immunized.
  • Overall, over 715,000 County residents have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccine. That’s 26.6% of those eligible.
  • Those receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are being added to the total of fully vaccinated San Diegans.

Stimulus funds

San Diego County is anticipating nearly $650 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, the latest COVID-19 federal stimulus package. Cities in San Diego County will receive a total of about $600 million, bringing the total funding for our region to over a billion dollars. Carlsbad expects to receive about $13.4 million of the funding for cities.

According to an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, the county has said a significant portion of the new funding will be directed to public health costs, including testing and vaccinations. About $30 million will help small businesses affected by the pandemic.

The county will hold virtual public meetings in each of the five supervisor districts to get input on how the money should be used. We are in district five, and that meeting is:

Thursday, March 18, 4 to 5:30 p.m.

The county already has many types of assistance available from previous federal funding, including emergency rental and utility assistance. The deadline to apply is March 31. Households may qualify if they are experiencing a hardship related to COVID-19, are at or below 80% of the area median income and aren’t receiving any other housing subsidy.

Individual payments

You can now check the status of your individual “economic impact payment,” also approved as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. According to this IRS news release, no action is needed by most taxpayers because the payments will be automatic and, in many cases, similar to how people received the first and second round of Economic Impact Payments in 2020 (direct deposit, check or debit card). You can check the  Get My Payment tool on IRS.gov to see your payment status.

The third stimulus payment will be larger than the first two for most people. Most families will get $1,400 per person, including all dependents claimed on their tax return. Typically, this means a single person with no dependents will get $1,400, while a family of four (married couple with two dependents) will get $5,600.

Unlike the first two payments, the third stimulus payment is not restricted to children under 17. Eligible families will get a payment based on all of their qualifying dependents claimed on their return, including older relatives like college students, adults with disabilities, parents and grandparents.

Payments will begin to be reduced for individuals making $75,000 or above in Adjusted Gross Income ($150,000 for married filing jointly). The reduced payments end at $80,000 for individuals ($160,000); people above these levels are ineligible for a payment. More details are available on IRS.gov.

More students returning to campus

It’s been a roller coaster the past few weeks, with schools making plans to bring more students back to campus only to put those plans on hold again after the state rejected their applications. Parent groups sued the state, and then a judge ruled that schools could in fact reopen (this is a very high-level summary).

Now that we are entering the red tier, schools have more leeway to bring students back anyway, but either way, I know many parents are relieved to finally get their kids back on campus, even just a couple of days a week. We have four public school districts serving Carlsbad, depending on where you live. Links to recent updates from each are below.

Carlsbad Unified School District (3/13)
Encinitas Union School District (3/9)

San Dieguito Union High School District (3/14)
San Marcos School District (3/10)

Summer camps are happening!

I am very happy to report that the city plans to offer its full array of summer camps this year. Our staff has been working hard to ensure we are ready to create a safe environment that follows all current health precautions. We already have experience providing in-person camps during COVID, with some limited camps offered last year. You can watch a video about these first camps on the city’s YouTube channel.

The full schedule of camps is on the city’s website. Sign up starts tomorrow. If you think you might be interested, I recommend signing up early because capacity is limited due to COVID restrictions. Our city staff can’t wait to welcome back our Carlsbad campers!

Today’s City Council meeting

The City Council meets today, covering the following topics:

  • Bids for next phase of swapping out street signs to meet new safety/reflectivity requirements
  • Adjusting an agreement for Sheraton hotel expansion due to pandemic impacts 
  • Ordinance approving La Costa Town Square residential development 
  • Homeowner’s request for a permit for already-built retaining wall 
  • The North County Transit District’s plans to reconfigure train station parking lots so they can be utilized for housing or other needs 
  • Report on the latest internal audit of city operations. This one covers use of city credit cards and collection of transient occupancy tax (hotel room tax)
  • An update on the city’s plans to modernize our IT infrastructure and better utilize technology overall
  • Updating the city's legislative policies and positions for 2021
  • Contract to outfit city’s hybrid-powered police vehicles
  • Expanding the options for memorials in city parks  
  • Appointing two members to the Arts Commission

The meeting starts at 3 p.m. Sign up by 2 p.m. if you want to provide live comments by phone. Otherwise, you can send your comment via email. Here’s a link to full agenda and staff reports.

Another life sciences success story

Many residents don’t realize that Carlsbad is home to some of the most innovative and well-known companies in the life sciences industry. This is mostly because our main business parks are tucked away around the airport and out of sight for most of us on our daily travels.

One of those companies, GenMark Diagnostics, is in the news following yesterday’s announcement that Roche Diagnostics purchased the company for $1.8 billion cash. GenMark made news last year when it received emergency use authorization from the FDA for a rapid result COVID-19 test. We are very proud of the innovation coming from this important industry right here in Carlsbad.

One year, many anniversaries

Last Thursday was heralded as the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. I would contend that the days our world changed the most here in Carlsbad were one year ago today, when Carlsbad schools began to close, and March 19, which is when the statewide stay at home order was declared. The city officially declared a local emergency one year ago tomorrow.

Regardless of which day stands out most for you, it’s been a long year for us all. Our staff put together this video highlighting some of the sights and sounds of the past year. As you watch it, I hope you can get an appreciation for how far we have come as a community and how many changes we have seen over the past year. I think the video also shows that one very important thing will never change in Carlsbad – and that’s the care we show one another.

To quote something Dr. Fauci said on the Sunday talk shows this week, let’s not spike the ball at the five-yard line. We are so close to permanently putting the worst of COVID behind us. At the same time, we are seeing surges come back in parts of Europe, which is instituting lockdowns once again. So, yes, just a little while longer please:

  • Avoid crowds
  • Maintain a 6-foot distance from others
  • Wear a mask when around people not from your own household
  • Stay home if you have COVID symptoms or think you may have been exposed
  • Consider skipping spring break travel this year
  • Get vaccinated when it’s your turn

Thank you for helping to get us to this point. And thank you for continuing to #Care4Carlsbad.

 

March 11, 2021, 9:45 a.m.

At yesterday’s weekly news conference, county officials said they expect we could be in the red tier as soon as next Tuesday. Even though our current case rate is 8.8 per 100,000, when the state meets its goal of administering 2 million vaccines to communities at higher risk, the threshold for the red tier will change to less than 10. It’s currently less than seven. Health officials predict the state could meet this vaccination goal at any time, having already administered 1.9 million doses.

There was some question about whether we would get credit for being under 10 cases per 100,000 this week if the criteria didn’t change until later in the week. According to this story in The San Diego Union-Tribune, state officials said the tier assignments could, in fact, be retroactive. If this is the case, we could move into the red tier as soon as next Tuesday. But, as we have learned by now, we need to wait for official word from the California Department of Health to know for certain. Either way, we are getting very close, and that is great news.

Relief bill passes Congress

I have not been sharing updates on the COVID relief bill working its way through the legislative process in Washington because those types of bills tend to go through many changes along the way to approval.

Yesterday, Congress passed the final bill, and the president is scheduled to sign it on Friday.  The Associated Press has a good summary of what’s included, from direct payments to individuals, extended unemployment benefits, aid for schools and business, plus a lot more. This will be welcome news to everyone who has been impacted by this year-long pandemic.

Vaccine update

San Diego County continues to make progress on vaccinations. Here are the latest numbers shared yesterday by the county:

  • 1,255,335 total doses received
  • 1,128,915 vaccines administered in San Diego County
  • 24.7% San Diego County residents (665,364 people) have had at least one dose
  • 13.7% are fully vaccinated

Supply shortages are still a concern. Priority is being given to those who need a second shot. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one shot, which will greatly expedite the process.  However, that is in short supply too. For now.

Timing for second dose

Due to the supply problems, more and more people who have gotten their first shot are worried about missing the window for their second. The county said yesterday that the ideal time for the second dose is three to four weeks, but people should not be worried if it’s longer. You will not have to repeat your first dose. It might even work better to wait longer for the second dose, according to health experts. This is currently being studied.

Expanded eligibility

On Tuesday, Alaska became the first state to remove all eligibility requirements, meaning anyone 16 or older living or working in Alaska can get vaccinated now. Next Tuesday, anyone 55 or older in Texas can get a vaccine. This trend is continuing throughout the country.

Here in San Diego County, starting Monday, those ages 16 to 64 at a higher risk from COVID-19 infection will be eligible for vaccines. You can see the criteria for those conditions below, and the county plans to list the documentation needed on its website.

Teens could be vaccinated by the fall

Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week that by the fall, children ages 12 to 17 could become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Children under 12 could become eligible in early 2022. Children have not been affected by COVID-19 as much as adults, but more widespread vaccination will help with the overall containment of the virus.

Case numbers

Our county’s case rate at the beginning of the year was 100, and today it is 8.8. In addition to falling case rates, our county’s testing positivity percentage is now in the orange tier range, at 3.1%. This doesn’t mean we can skip ahead to the orange tier, but it does show how much progress is being made.

Latest county charts and graphs
North coastal dashboard
Cases by ZIP code

Economic recovery news

The UCLA Anderson School of Management has put out its latest economic outlook, predicting that the U.S. and California economies will see near record-breaking growth this year because of progress being made on vaccines and the new relief available from the state and federal governments.

The report states, “A waning pandemic combined with fiscal relief means a strong year of growth in 2021 — one of the strongest years of growth in the last 60 years — followed by sustained higher growth rates in 2022 and 2023.”

What’s more, California is expected to recover at a faster rate than the U.S. as a whole because of the percentage of high earning technology and professional jobs that were able to shift to at-home work. This faster recovery is predicted in spite of the state’s heavy dependence on tourism, which has been among the hardest hit industries.

Why rain does not equal water

I know it’s hard to think about a drought when we’re in the middle of a rainstorm, but state water officials recently completed their annual assessment of the snowpack, which portends a critically dry year ahead. So, please be sure to turn off your sprinkler systems, if you have them, and leave them off at least two weeks following this week’s storm.

And, don’t forget that we spring forward this weekend, providing a little extra daylight in the evenings as we approach the longer days of summer. And with COVID cases continuing to decrease, and vaccinations increasing, we can all look forward to enjoying these long summer days with friends and family, once again. This statement, by the way, comes today, March 11, exactly one year since the World Health Organization declared the global pandemic.

I do need to end with my usual caution: COVID-19 is still widespread in our community. People are still losing their lives. The worst thing we could do is let our guards down too soon.  Please continue to follow all health recommendations:

  • Wear your mask
  • Avoid crowds
  • Wash your hands often
  • Stay home if you have symptoms
  • Get vaccinated when it’s your turn
  • #Care4Carlsbad

Okay, I added that last one … and I know you do.  Thank you.

P.S. Keep an eye out on Fridays for our week in review newsletter with other (mostly) non COVID related news from the city.

 

March 9, 2021, 2 p.m.

More vaccines are arriving, and the CDC issued new guidance yesterday listing activities that can be safely resumed once someone is fully vaccinated.

Coming just days before the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, this news is being met with a sigh of relief that finally some things can potentially start to get back to normal soon.

In fact, it’s hard to believe, but this week last year was the last “normal” week before the stay at home order and other restrictions were put in place. We were already closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and getting ready (the City of Carlsbad began preparing in earnest by late January). But this time last year everything was open, kids were in school and masks wouldn’t become commonplace for months to come.

So, what does getting back to normal look like? Read on.

When is someone “fully vaccinated?”

According to the CDC, people are considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine

If it has been less than two weeks since your shot, or if you still need to get your second dose, you are NOT fully protected.

What changes?

Health experts are still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the CDC says you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more.

Counties and states can, of course, be stricter than the CDC guidance, so we will continue to follow the provisions of the county health order (the state and county have not yet weighed in on these new CDC guidelines, which only came out yesterday). But here’s what the CDC guidance says is safe for people who are fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • You should still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Take these precautions whenever you are:
  • You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
  • You should still delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

Tier status

Today the governor announced the latest data affecting which counties can move tiers. San Diego County’s most recent case rate is 8.8, which is higher than the red tier threshold of seven.

However, the state is very close to changing the threshold to less than 10 cases per 100,000 people. To address inequities in vaccine distribution, a couple of weeks ago the state began targeting 40% of the state’s supply to communities at the highest risk. When 2 million vaccine doses have been administered in these communities, the state said it would change the red tier case threshold. 

Yesterday that number was reported at 1.88 million doses, meaning it’s likely the state will hit the 2 million mark within days. Counties still need to be within the red tier threshold for two weeks in a row to officially move to the less restrictive tier. So, we’re not there yet, but we are getting close.

Live entertainment and amusement parks

Another benefit of moving to the red tier is that amusement parks and some live entertainment could resume starting April 1, under new state rules released last Friday. This includes activities at outdoor stadiums, ballparks and performance arenas. Capacities would be significantly restricted, and other health precautions would need to be in place.

This updated chart has an at-a-glance summary of what’s allowed in the different tiers.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine has arrived

The county announced yesterday that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in the region and is being distributed the same way as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The county health officer said in an announcement yesterday that some people have shown hesitancy in getting the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine given that it was 72% effective in research trials in the United States, compared to about 94% for Moderna and 95% for Pfizer.

However, health officials say the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just as effective as its counterparts at preventing serious illness from COVID-19 and was tested against virus variants. Also, all currently available vaccines were 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths during trials.

Local vaccination sites are currently providing vaccines to San Diegans in Phase 1A and Phase 1B. Supplies remain limited, but progress is being made:

  • More than 1.15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to the region, and over 1.04 million have been logged as administered. Of those vaccinated to date, nearly 342,000 people, or 12.7% of San Diegans 16 and older, are fully immunized.
  • Overall, more than 643,000 County residents have received at least one shot of a two-dose vaccine. That’s 23.9% of those eligible.

More information about vaccine distribution can be found on the county’s vaccination dashboard. For details on groups currently eligible and vaccination opportunities, visit vaccinationsuperstations.com.

Case numbers

Latest county charts and graphs
North coastal dashboard
Cases by ZIP code

Schools update

Two school districts serving Carlsbad got bad news Sunday evening, when the state denied their applications to reopen for in-person instruction. The Carlsbad Unified School District and the San Dieguito Union High School District had applied to reopen, even though we’re still in the purple tier, under the state’s exception process.

The county reviewed the school districts’ plans and found them to meet safety guidelines, but the state disagreed. To be eligible, schools had to have been partially open already. The state told Carlsbad Unified it didn’t qualify as partially reopened because too small a percentage of students were on campus. Carlsbad Unified was also docked because the state said it didn’t have a routine asymptomatic COVID-19 testing plan up and running yet. Details of why San Dieguito’s application was denied have not been shared in any of the news reports to date.

Reactions of disappointment have been pretty universal, from the county, district officials and especially parents. Once we are in the red tier this will be a moot point, so let’s all do everything we can to keep our case numbers low and get to that next tier.

Indoor sports allowed

Late last week the state updated its sports guidance to allow indoor youth sports teams to practice and resume competitions, as long as they adhere to the same requirements as college athletic programs. The state had already updated guidance to allow outdoor sports under these same rules, which require a county to have 14 or fewer cases per 100,000 in population.

The state made the change as part of a settlement of a lawsuit by a group called Let Them Play, which advocates for allowing youth sports to resume.

Here is the guidance updated last Thursday, which also addresses adult sports.

Mental health resources for teens

The pandemic has been especially hard for kids, who have been cut off from their normal routines, their friends and so much more. The County Office of Education put together this list of resources for parents and teens who might need support:

Additional resources are available on school district websites, such as this one from Carlsbad Unified School District. If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis that requires immediate attention, call 911 or the San Diego Access & Crisis Line at 888-724-7240. 

Please save these resource links and share them within your own networks, so that everyone has these resources top of mind if they are ever needed.

City Council agenda

We will be providing our regular COVID-19 update at today’s City Council meeting. Other topics include:

  • A report on city investments
  • A declaration that natural habitat used as mitigation for a drainage project will remain in its natural state in perpetuity
  • A public hearing on new townhomes and affordable condominiums at La Costa Town Square
  • Discussion of upcoming process for adjusting City Council district boundaries due to changes in population
  • Establish what kind of power supply the Clean Energy Alliance (a Community Choice Energy joint powers authority) will provide to customers as a default and the rates
  • Consider adopting a resolution declaring a climate emergency

That’s it for today. I’ll be back Thursday with more updates. Until then, please continue to do everything you can to help get us to the red tier. Please continue to do everything you can to #Care4Carlsbad.

 

March 4, 2021, 2:15 p.m.

So close. That’s the prevailing sentiment this week as San Diego County missed the chance to move to the less restrictive red tier due to a case per 100,000 rate of 10.8. The threshold is 7 or fewer.

In updating the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, the public health officer hinted that changes could be coming to the state tier system now that vaccines are here. Sure enough, last night the Sacramento Bee reported that the California Department of Public Health plans to lower the case rate threshold for the red tier to 10 per 100,000 once 2 million vaccines have been administered in the state’s most disadvantaged ZIP codes.

According to the article in the Bee, the change will be based on the “Healthy Places Index,” which takes into account poverty, housing status, education level and other risk factors. To help vaccinate these vulnerable areas, the state will prioritize 40% of vaccine doses to people who live in these ZIP codes. The state could reach the 2 million mark in the next one to two weeks, according to a state official who provided a briefing to reporters.

Vaccine equity

As more information becomes available about vaccine distribution, the demographics of the people who have gotten vaccinated so far do not match the demographics of the population as a whole in terms of income level and ethnicity. This is partly due to the early eligibility of health care workers, but it’s also because more affluent people have had an easier time navigating the online appointment systems and tend to have better access to health care overall. This is a concern not only due to equity issues but also because COVID-19 cases are higher among the same groups whose vaccination rates are the lowest.

County efforts

At yesterday’s weekly news briefing, county officials gave an update on local efforts to get more vaccines to those most vulnerable. The county has increased staffing levels at 2-1-1, a regional call center where people can get linked with many types of services, including vaccine appointments. There is a specific focus on homebound seniors who cannot easily make online appointments. Other county efforts are actively reaching out to underserved communities to promote vaccine availability.

Tracking vaccine progress

The county provided the following updates yesterday on vaccine distribution efforts to date:

  • 100% of those in skilled nursing facilities have been given first and second doses of vaccine
  • 93% of those in long term care facilities have been given at least first dose
  • The county is approaching its 1 millionth dose administered. 1,067,675 total doses have been received, and 945,859 have been administered
  • Capacity now exists to administer 33,000 vaccines a day, as soon as enough supply is available
  • 22% of San Diego County residents (594,618 people) have had first dose – more than 10% have had second dose

Concerns about second shots

The unpredictability of vaccine supply is causing people who already had their first shot to worry about the timing of their second. The recommended interval for the second dose is 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine. Both have identified a maximum of 42 days. However, the CDC has said that waiting longer should not be a significant concern. The identified time frames are based on what has been tested, and vaccine makers focused on the shortest interval possible to speed the rate at which the population could get fully immunized.

Appointment tips

If you are eligible to be vaccinated and having trouble finding an appointment, hang in there. Vaccine supply is coming in very sporadically, which makes planning ahead difficult. My best advice is to keep checking provider websites (including the county’s). We have a list of providers with direct links to their appointment systems on the city’s website.

Local COVID data

Active cases in Carlsbad are under 100 for the first time this year. For the last four days in a row, new cases in Carlsbad have been in the single digits. All good news.

Latest county charts and graphs
North coastal dashboard
Cases by ZIP code

Red tier reminder

Since it looks like we could be moving into the red tier in the next few weeks, here is a recap of what that will mean:

  • Restaurants can open indoors up to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums can open to 25% capacity
  • Retail can open to 50% capacity
  • Gyms can open indoors up to 10% capacity
  • Movie theaters can operate indoors up to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less 

In terms of city services, we won’t see a significant change in the red tier. Under the guidelines, office workers will continue to work remotely when possible in the red tier. However, libraries and community centers may open at a limited capacity. Here is a link to the full list of what is allowed in the different tiers.

Outdoor sports update

Even though we missed the mark for getting to the red tier this week, our case rate did dip below the 14 cases per 100,000 trigger, which allows some organized adult and youth outdoor sports. Here is a link to the guidelines, which categorize spots according to risk level.

Court upholds restaurant and gym restrictions

It may become a moot point soon, but yesterday a San Diego Superior Court judge upheld restrictions on restaurants and gyms. A group of these businesses had argued that they should be allowed to operate indoors at 25% capacity in the purple tier.

Heath precautions work (for the flu too)

A silver lining to the health precautions we have all adopted to slow the spread of COVID-19 is that they are equally effective against other contagious diseases.

Health experts are finding that the spread of influenza and other common viruses has decreased dramatically over the past year. Nationally, according to the CDC, only about 0.1 percent of flu tests are coming back positive, compared with 20 to 30 percent at this time in other years. Adults are also experiencing a dramatic drop in influenza deaths, with about 450 so far this season, compared with roughly 22,000 last year.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

Did you know Carlsbad had its first female mayor in 1960?

Jane C. Sonneman served as a member of City Council from April 1958 to April 1962. She was appointed mayor in April 1960. Prior to 1966, mayors were appointed by the City Council rather than being elected to that position. Sonneman was known as an advocate for slow and limited development of our young city. Prior to serving on the City Council, she was a member of the Planning Commission and the only commissioner to vote against the Carlsbad Raceway, which would later become a major attraction for Carlsbad (and an annoyance to its neighbors as development got closer to the site). In addition to her civic duties, she was a German teacher, real estate broker and co-owner with her husband of a bakery and the Carlsbad Theater on State Street.

Keep an eye out on the city’s social media all month for more celebrations of significant women in Carlsbad, including our elected leaders and staff!

I’ll wrap up this week’s updates with a refrain that is I am sure all too familiar by now, yet never more important. We are so, so close to putting the worst of COVID-19 permanently in the rearview mirror. I know it’s hard to stay the course, but we all need to just a little while longer. We saw last year what happened when normal activities started to resume too quickly.

Vaccinations are coming, but only 10% of our county is fully vaccinated so far, a number we expect to increase significantly in the coming weeks.

We are in store for a great summer – maybe not “normal” but certainly better than last year – IF we can keep up the precautions we have promoted all along:

  • Avoid crowds
  • Wear a mask
  • Wash your hands often
  • Don’t touch your face
  • If you have symptoms or think you have been exposed, stay home and away from others
  • When it’s your turn, get vaccinated

Thank you for your help. Thank you for continuing to #Care4Carlsbad.