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.
Jan. 14, 2020, 1:40 p.m.
One month ago this week we welcomed the news that the first vaccine shipments had arrived in San Diego County. Since then, more than 92,000 people have received their first – and some even their second – dose of the vaccine. While this may seem like just a drop in an Olympic sized pool, it’s progress and a lifeline for many who have been treading water for almost a year.
Yesterday, more announcements were made about the next phases for vaccinations.
To increase the pace of COVID-19 vaccine distribution to those at greatest risk, the state announced that it will prioritize individuals 65 and older to receive the vaccine once demand subsides among health care workers. Here’s the full announcement.
The County of San Diego held a news conference in the afternoon, where it provided a reality check on the local vaccine situation. This included clarifying that the county will not begin vaccinating the 65+ age group until it has first completed vaccinating the 620,000 health care professionals and other priority groups in Phase 1A. It takes two doses for each person to be fully vaccinated, which means around 1.2 million doses are needed to complete the first phase. To date, about 242,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been shipped to our region.
If you’re a numbers nerd like me, you’ll appreciate the new dashboard below that gives a summary of how many doses of the vaccine have been administered to date. The totals only include vaccine doses that have been recorded in the San Diego Immunization Registry and the county said it’s likely the number is higher since reports typically lag several days between when vaccines occur and when they’re reported.
This dashboard will be updated by the county weekly going forward.
The county estimated that vaccinations for those 65 and older (Phase 1B) could begin later this month, provided there are COVID-19 doses available.
Starting in February the county will begin to open three more “vaccination super stations”, one of which will be in North County (exact location is to be determined). The first one opened at Petco Park earlier this week and is currently being used to vaccinate health care workers.
The governor also announced a new system is expected to launch next week that will let people know if they are eligible to receive a vaccine, and if not yet eligible, to register for notification via email or text when they are eligible. A second phase of the system will help counties, cities and others run mass vaccination events. This will include a way for eligible members of the public to schedule their vaccination appointments.
International travel testing
All international passengers heading to the United States will now be required to get tested for COVID-19 no more than three days before their flight departs. Passengers will need to show proof of a negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding their flight. The new order was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week and will take effect on Jan. 26, 2021.
The announcement came on the heels of news from the Japanese government Tuesday that four travelers from Brazil had imported another new variant of the virus into Japan. Two other so-called variants of concern are said to be circulating in South Africa and Brazil.
On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors voted to increase enforcement on businesses and operations that are not in compliance with the safe reopening plans. This will include bringing in additional staff to proactively look for violations and help enforce operating standards such as mask wearing and social distancing. The board also voted to ensure that enforcement efforts are being applied consistently based on scientific data around how and where COVID-19 spreads. Additionally, county staff were directed to look into whether it is possible to exclude businesses that have repeatedly violated public health orders from eligibility for COVID-19 financial assistance programs.
Next Tuesday, the Carlsbad City Council will consider a comprehensive approach to compliance with the health order, including incentives, disqualifying businesses that don’t comply with the health order from city COVID-19 assistance programs, and collaboration with other cities and the county.
The City of Carlsbad Police Department continues to respond to every report of a business or organization operating outside the health orders. When a business intentionally chooses to not comply, the Police Department works with the County of San Diego compliance team on the appropriate enforcement action. The county issues cease and desist orders, and the cases are reported to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office for review and potential prosecution.
The total number of cases countywide has now surpassed 200,000. An additional 54 deaths were reported yesterday, bringing the total just under 2,000. This was one of the highest daily totals for deaths since the pandemic began. An additional 42 cases were reported for Carlsbad yesterday and there are 598 active cases (the number of people who have COVID-19 right now).
Recent data also confirmed that sadly the City of Carlsbad has now had its first fatalities.
As someone who recently recovered from COVID-19, these numbers now have more meaning to me than ever before. I am one of them, and I’m so grateful I could recover at home and did not have a more severe case. Please remember that these are more than just numbers. These are people with families and friends. These are human lives, too many of which have been cut short.
That’s all for today. Please note that city offices will be closed Monday, Jan. 18, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A full holiday schedule for city services can be found here.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we are still in the tunnel. Each one of us has the power to slow the spread of COVID-19. Your actions really do make a difference. As more vaccines are distributed, the most vulnerable will be protected, hospitalizations will decrease, and life will start to get back to a new sense of normalcy with renewed appreciation for community.
Please continue to do your part. Only leave home only for essentials, use face coverings, wash your hands, maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others, avoid all gatherings with people outside your household and, continue to #Care4Carlsbad.
Jan. 12, 2020, 12 p.m.
Yesterday the governor held a news conference where he cautiously shared that ICUs and hospitalizations are still increasing, but at a slower rate than expected. While this is good news, we aren’t out of the woods yet. That’s because there are still several days where we could see a surge in hospitalizations from the holidays. It can take two to three weeks for cases to result in hospitalizations.
A record setting 108 cases in Carlsbad and 4,550 cases countywide were reported on Friday. This is the third time the daily total in the county has surpassed 4,000 cases in a single day since the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The ICU capacity in Southern California remains at 0%.
If you’ve been following my recent updates, you likely heard that I was out last week recovering from COVID-19. At any given hour, I felt like I experienced the spinning wheel of symptoms. The most important things I could do were to take some time off to rest and take this seriously, following all public health guidelines after a positive diagnosis. I prioritized my rest to make sure I got plenty of sleep and stayed hydrated.
With that, thank you so much to everyone who sent well wishes for my recovery. I’m grateful to report that I’m doing so much better because I know that’s not the case for everyone.
To help ensure vaccines are not going to waste, the governor announced yesterday that the state will now allow flexibility for providers to give vaccines to individuals who fall under what is called Phase 1B (see image below) if individuals in Phase 1A (health care workers and employees/residents of long-term care facilities) are not present and available. This does not mean vaccines are available to everyone now. The vaccine should only be provided to those in Phase 1B if there are extra available doses at risk of expiring.
Currently in San Diego County, everyone in all tiers of Phase 1A is eligible to get vaccinated. If you are in any of these categories and have not yet made arrangements to be vaccinated, contact your health care provider right away.
Here’s the full announcement issued by the state detailing the recommendations to accelerate safe vaccine administration.
Due to the surge in cases, the state issued an updated travel advisory. Californians should now avoid non-essential travel to any part of California more than 120 miles from one's place of residence, or to other states or countries. This is because avoiding travel reduces the risk of virus transmission and the risk that new sources of infection and, potentially, new virus strains will be introduced to California. Non-essential travelers from other states or countries are strongly discouraged from entering California, and should adhere to quarantine procedures. Anyone arriving or returning to California from other states or countries should self-quarantine for 10 days.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to stay close to home.
A few weeks ago, Congress passed a new federal relief bill that includes a second round of direct payments of up to $600 per adult and child, for individuals making up to $75,000 and couples making up to $150,000.
The IRS announced that, starting this week, approximately 8 million eligible recipients across the nation will receive their second payment via mail and in the format of a prepaid debit card. Here’s where you can get the latest updates on COVID relief payments, check your payment status and find answers to common questions about the second round of payments.
With this second round of payments, also comes the increased risk for COVID-related scams. Be on alert for unsolicited text or email scams asking for your banking information. Here’s more information on scams to be on the lookout for.
Carlsbad has a record high of 693 active cases (the number of people who have COVID-19 right now). This is up from 580 at this time last week. We calculate this number based on the date positive tests are reported and the average duration of COVID-19 infection. We are continuing to see exponential spread at all levels – city, county, state and even nationwide.
If your kids are anything like my daughter they likely have a love and inclination for animals. Sadly, the San Diego Zoo announced yesterday that two of its gorillas tested positive for COVID-19. The zoo is working to confirm the source of the infection and the strain. According to the zoo’s press release, it is suspected the gorillas acquired the infection from an asymptomatic staff member, despite following all recommended precautions including COVID-19 safety protocols and wearing PPE when near the gorillas. This is the first known instance of natural transmission to great apes and it is unknown if they will have any serious reaction. This news is a reminder that there’s still much to learn about COVID-19 and how it can be transmitted.
With incidents throughout the nation prompting new interest in the issue of police oversight, the City of Carlsbad would like feedback from our residents and business owners. By gaining a better understanding of your perspectives, the City Council can make more informed decisions about these issues.
Please sign up to attend the virtual meeting in your district. If you’re not sure which district you live in, you can check the map below or enter your address on this website. If you have a business in Carlsbad, please sign up for the district where your business is located.
District 1 Monday, Feb. 8 | 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. | Sign up here
District 2 Thursday, Jan. 28 | 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. | Sign up here
And, here is a full list of public meetings scheduled for this week:
That’s it for today. Again, thank you for all your messages of support and well wishes. I’m grateful to be a part of this community and on the uphill from COVID-19. But this is a serious virus. Please continue to follow the public health order, leave home only for essentials, use face coverings, maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others, avoid all gatherings with people outside your household and, as always, continue to #Care4Carlsbad. I’ll be back on Thursday with more updates.
Jan. 7, 2020, 1:20 p.m.
As you may have heard, at the end of Tuesday’s City Council meeting City Manager Scott Chadwick announced he would take a couple of days off to recover from COVID-19. So, the team here at the City Manager’s Office is taking over today’s edition. We have passed along all of your well wishes, which have buoyed Scott’s spirits as he rests at home.
Now, for today’s updates …
At yesterday’s county news conference officials acknowledged the frustration over the slower than anticipated vaccine distribution process, but made this point: at least we are the stage of the pandemic when we’re debating details of administering the vaccine, not waiting for a vaccine to be approved.
Progress is, in fact, being made on vaccine distribution. To date, about 51,000 San Diegans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The total only includes vaccines that have been recorded in the San Diego Immunization Registry, which typically lags several days behind. Also, some health care providers, including Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, some tribal entities and prisons do not report to the immunization registry.
Currently in San Diego County, everyone in what is called Tier 1A (see image below) is now eligible to get vaccinated. There are not enough doses to cover everyone in their tier yet, but there will be. If you are in any of these categories and have not yet made arrangements to be vaccinated, contact your health care provider right away.
You might have read that the U.K. said it would use its limited vaccine doses to give more people the first dose of the vaccine rather than giving a smaller group two doses over the recommended three-to-four-week interval. Germany has indicated it might take a similar approach. The idea behind this move is that if one dose could provide some immunity, it might be better to have more people protected a little rather than half that number protected a lot.
The problem is that the vaccine approvals were based on a very specific dosing schedule and anything other than that has not been fully vetted. The FDA put out a statement Monday warning that these changes are "premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence."
As expected, the new so called U.K. variant of the novel coronavirus is spreading, including here in San Diego. The county has identified 28 cases confirmed through genetic testing and another 12 cases of people who were in close contact with the 28. Testing for the new variant, called whole genome testing, is time and resource intensive. Right now, less than 1% of cases are able to be tested this way.
What’s important is that we know the new variant is here, and data show it spreads more easily. The same precautions that prevent the original version of the virus work on the new variant: social distance, face coverings, hand washing, etc. Now more than ever before, we all need to follow these precautions.
It’s been two weeks since Christmas Eve and one week since New Year’s Eve. Studies show that symptoms appear between two to 14 days after exposure. Hospitalizations occur two to three weeks later. This means the bulk of new cases and hospitalizations resulting from the holidays are still ahead of us.
If you think you could have been exposed, have symptoms or participated in gatherings over the holiday, the county urges you to get tested.
Southern California ICU capacity continues to be 0%. The county yesterday announced that local hospitals will be submitting their “crisis care” plans by the end of the day today, and the county will post them on its website. These plans detail how care may be adjusted to ensure the most critical needs are met if resources aren’t available to meet all needs. In addition to posting the plans for the public to review, the county said hospitals are required to notify the public if they activate their plans. To date, no San Diego County hospitals have switched to a crisis care mode.
The state Office of Emergency Services announced yesterday that California’s Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System has sent additional firefighter paramedics and emergency medical technicians on 14-day deployments to assist emergency rooms and other vital medical areas in some of California’s most impacted hospitals. The mutual aid system, which is most often used in response to wildfires, floods and other natural emergencies, is now assisting in the state’s response to COVID-19.
On Tuesday a special City Council meeting was held to discuss enforcement of the county public health order. The City Council voted to consider at a future meeting a comprehensive approach to compliance with the health order, including incentives, excluding businesses that don’t comply with the health order from city COVID-19 assistance programs, and collaboration with other cities and the county. A date has not yet been set for this meeting.
Next Tuesday, staff will provide our regular COVID-19 update to the City Council.
New CarlsbadConnects app available tomorrow
City staff continue to look for new and better ways to provide service to the community. Late last year we made a presentation to the City Council about a new app called CarlsbadConnects. We’ve been slowly releasing it to a limited number of people to make sure it was ready for prime time. Now we’re moving forward with the full launch, starting tomorrow. This app replaces a first generation app we launched a few years ago called Carlsbad @Your Service.
In addition to Public Works requests for things like street repair and street light replacements, the new app will let you report code violations, sign up for classes, pay utility bills and more.
For those who prefer to report problems by phone, we will continue to have staff available to process these requests.
To get the app, starting tomorrow, search for “CarlsbadConnects” in the iTunes or Google Play app stores or access the app on the city website at www.carlsbadca.gov/fixit.
Solid waste survey
The city contracts out its “solid waste” services, which include trash, recycling, e-waste and other similar services. As part of the contracting process, we are conducting a random survey of residents to get input on these services. You may get a text, call or email about this. If you ever have a concern about someone contacting you saying it’s on behalf of the city, feel free to call us at City Hall, 760-434-2820, to verify it’s legitimate. Do not ever provide financial information, your social security number or other sensitive data to someone you do not know. The city will never ask you for these things in a survey.
That’s it for today. We wish everyone a safe weekend. Please continue to follow the public health order, leave home only for essentials, use face coverings, maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others, avoid all gatherings with people outside your household and, as always, continue to #Care4Carlsbad.
Jan. 5, 2020, 2 p.m.
As health care workers struggle to keep up with increasing COVID-19 cases, they worry the worst is yet to come. That’s because back-to-back holidays mean those infected during Christmastime could have been contagious but not yet showing symptoms by New Year’s Eve. Generally speaking, COVID-19 patients are contagious a few days before symptoms appear, if they appear at all.
The complete picture likely won’t be known until around mid-January. It takes two to three weeks for new cases to result in hospitalizations. And, reporting tends to be skewed following holidays because of backlogs caused by worker time off and lab closures.
In other news, I have COVID-19
Since my update last Thursday, the county has reported 18,521 new COVID cases. I am one of those cases.
That’s right. I now have COVID-19. I started to feel ill late last week and received my diagnosis on Saturday. I am not sure how I got it. I have been consistently careful. I cover my face when I leave home, maintain distance from others outside my household, wash my hands often. I stayed home for the holidays, didn’t gather for New Year’s Eve. I do go to the grocery store. I take my daughter to the park. I have done all of the things I have been asking you to do. But, obviously, at some point I touched my face or was just unlucky enough to breath in airborne virus particles that can linger for hours after an infected person has been in an area, especially if that person didn’t wear a mask.
I am in isolation at home. I feel well enough to do a little work but am fatigued. Overall though, I am grateful to be at home, not in the hospital. I also know that one of the quirks of COVID-19 is that patients often become severely ill after a week of only mild symptoms or even after feeling a little better. So, I am closely following my doctor’s advice and paying close attention to symptoms and signs.
I share this with you to make the point that COVID-19 is more widespread in our region than at any time during the pandemic. To quote one of our many health officials, it’s not time to let our guards down, it’s time to double down on precautions. I feel extremely grateful that I was not at any city building while contagious. I can’t imagine if I’d gathered with older relatives over the holidays, not yet knowing I had COVID-19.
Differences in severity
One of the more curious aspects of COVID-19 is the differences in severity among those infected. I have experienced this in my own family (yep, household spread is real). Some chalk it up to the strength of the immune system, but it’s actually an overreaction of the immune system that causes inflammation of the lungs and tissue damage. It’s called a cytokine storm.
Research cited in this Harvard Health website points to interferons as one of the reasons for the difference in severity of COVID-19 illness. Interferons are proteins that signal to your body that a virus is present, triggering your immune cells to fight off or “interfere” with the invader, preventing the virus from multiplying. According to the research cited, up to 14% of people who have COVID-19 have an inadequate interferon response, either because their own antibodies mistakenly attack and neutralize their interferons or they have a genetic mutation that prevents their bodies from making enough of a certain type of interferon. I am paraphrasing, so please read the actual article for specifics. In fact, Harvard Health has an entire COVID-19 resource center with other helpful information, written in a way non-experts like me can understand.
Local case numbers
Carlsbad has a record high 580 active cases today. You’ll remember when it was noteworthy for this number to even be in the double digits, an example of the exponential spread we are seeing not just here in Carlsbad, but throughout our region, state and even nationwide.
The chart below shows how we compare to other cities in the region, still among the lowest per capita, which is good news and a sign that Carlsbad residents are doing their part to limit spread.
Yesterday the governor held a news conference, and one of the announcements was about a new state “oxygen strategy.” The state has created an oxygen team to help manage limited supplies. I mentioned in a recent update that oxygen had become a concern because COVID-19 patients typically use around 10 times as much oxygen as other patients with a need for supplemental oxygen. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been deployed to L.A. to update oxygen delivery systems at older hospitals. According to this article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego hospitals are not reporting shortages at this time, but obviously closely monitoring the situation.
Now that vaccines have been available for a few weeks, the reality of administering millions of shots is setting in. For example, the governor said yesterday that California has received 1,297,000 doses, but only 453,306 have been administered as of Jan. 3. To put this in perspective, 3 million people are in the very top tier alone, called 1A. This includes health care workers and residents and staff at nursing homes. This is not a problem only in California or even the United States. Countries all over the world are facing similar hurdles to vaccine delivery.
The state has an effort called Vaccinate all 58 (there are 58 counties in California, in case you were wondering where that name came from) to accelerate the pace of vaccine administration. Like many parts of our health care system right now, the bottleneck is trained staff. The state has engaged pharmacy techs, clinics and even dentists to help with the effort. The county announced last week an effort to engage paramedics and EMTs to help.
The governor likened the effort to a flywheel – slow to get going, but something that will pick up momentum quickly. If you can remember back to when tests were in short supply, we had a similar problem, but now they’re readily available. Let’s hope for a similar outcome for vaccines.
In my last update I reported that a San Diego man was the first in California to have the new “U.K. variant” of COVID-19. Since that time, the Union-Tribune reports that his wife has caught it and is hospitalized. In total, there are now 32 cases in San Diego County, but that number is expected to increase. Health experts are still saying the new version appears more contagious, but not more severe, and they believe vaccines will still work. However, all of these statements are coupled with warnings that more research is needed.
New lockdowns in Europe
In the U.K., where the new variant was first detected, a nationwide lockdown has been issued through mid-February, as the new strain spreads across the country. You can read more about that on the BBC website. Scotland also announced a lockdown, and Wales and Northern Ireland had already put new lockdowns in place. Italy has extended restrictions through Jan. 15, and Greece until Jan. 11. Germany is expected to decide today whether to extend restrictions further. Travel between regions in Europe has been halted except for certain essential needs. You can read more about this here.
Special City Council meeting
As a reminder, we have a special City Council meeting this afternoon to discuss increased enforcement of the public health orders, including administrative citations and fines.
Carlsbad residents are already very focused on fitness and wellness, but interest naturally increases around the new year. City staff have put together a number of virtual classes and other offerings for those looking to improve fitness and wellness. We’ve compiled this all in one place – please take a look and consider joining in.
A headline that caught my eye yesterday was this: One American dies from Covid-19 every 33 seconds. At yesterday’s state news conference, a reporter asked what else could be done to slow the spread, given the increasing numbers.
The state’s top medical official, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said something he has said many times before. It’s something echoed by our own health officials here in San Diego. We have an effective way to slow the spread. Until vaccines are more widely distributed, which will take months, the “non-pharmaceutical interventions,” as they’re called, are our best defense. If everyone does these simple things, case numbers will go down:
Wear a mask when you leave home
Keep at least 6-feet away from people not from your household
Do not gather
Leave home only for essentials
Wash your hands thoroughly and often
Don’t touch your face
Stay home and away from others if you think you could be infected, even if you don’t have symptoms
It’s time to double down.
Dec. 31, 2020, 12:05 p.m.
At 3 a.m. yesterday morning, researchers from Scripps completed genome sequencing confirming that a San Diego man had the first California case of the new U.K. COVID-19 variant. This is obviously making national headlines, although it was not the first in the nation – that case was in Colorado on Tuesday.
Health officials stressed that emergence of the new variant in the U.S. was expected. The fact that neither patient had traveled recently shows that community spread has started. Initial data from the U.K. indicate this mutated version of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is not more serious, but spreads more easily. Likewise, it appears existing vaccines will still work. Scripps researcher Kristian Andersen, who spoke at yesterday’s county news conference, said more information is needed before we will know these things for sure.
Health officials yesterday also explained that coronaviruses mutate “all the time,” and many variants have already been detected since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.K. variant just has some unusual properties, which have drawn the attention of medical experts.
Since the new strain appears to have a higher rate of transmission, it could lead to an increase in cases in the region, which is yet another reason to stay home tonight and not gather with people outside your household.
The good news is that the same precautions that prevent the original version of the virus work on the new variants:
Wash your hands
Wear a mask
Keep your distance from others and leave your household only for essential activities
If you’re sick with COVID-19, get tested, and then stay home and isolate yourself
The slight ebbing of new cases continues, which is good news. However, cases transmitted during last week’s Christmas holiday won’t be fully known for another week or so, meaning this trend, slight as it is, will likely be fleeting. Health officials yesterday warned of a surge on top of a surge if people don’t heed stay at home orders this evening.
Those ages 20 to 29 still represent the highest number of cases throughout San Diego County. I am going to take a wild guess that my core audience of readers may not fall completely in that age demographic. Please try to remind your friends and family members that we need their help to reduce the spread. (If you are, in fact, between 20 and 29 and reading this update, I am going to assume you are already very responsible and informed. Thank you!).
As you can see by the chart below, Carlsbad not only has among the lowest rates of cases, but lower rates of hospitalization, ICU admissions and deaths than surrounding areas and the county as a whole. Please don’t take this for granted. It’s because of your continued vigilance.
Special City Council meeting
We have scheduled a special City Council meeting Tuesday to discuss enforcement of the county health order. Due to the holiday, the staff report won’t be available until Monday, but you can read staff reports from previous City Council meetings on this topic for background. The meeting starts at 3 p.m. online and the city’s cable channel. Just like a regular meeting, you can sign up to provide comments live during the meeting or you can email comments in advance. Here is information about how to participate.
Getting kids back in the classroom
The governor yesterday announced $2 billion will be dedicated to getting kids back in the classroom for in person learning as soon as mid-February.
Because schools that have already opened to some in person learning, like those serving Carlsbad, can remain open, even under the regional stay at home order, it’s not immediately clear how this new package of support will affect kids here. Carlsbad Unified School District and San Dieguito Union High School District had planned to increase in person learning in early January, but both have postponed by about a month to allow more time to secure supplies and complete other preparations.
Notable in yesterday’s announcement was the acknowledgement by top state education officials that young students face a relatively low risk from COVID-19 and benefit more from in person instruction. Getting kids back into the classroom also helps identify kids who may be at risk from depression, anxiety and abuse. In other words, there is a net positive of in person instruction. Parents will still be able to choose to keep their kids in distance learning model if they prefer that.
When asked about how kids will eventually catch up with learning, the state’s top education official said learning loss has not been universal, but it has happened, especially among students without access to technology and other support. He said schools are conducting assessments and identifying ways to get students back on track.
He also stressed that the goal of preserving life must be more important than kids falling behind in school. On the positive side, he said students and teachers will benefit from having to adapt to distance learning, and kids have all learned many life lessons during this challenging year.
Each of the four public school districts serving Carlsbad has a wealth of information about current plans and available resources:
I know how challenging it has been to adapt city operations during the pandemic. I can only imagine what school superintendents have faced. I also know our families are eager to get kids back to as normal of a routine as possible, and a lot of work is taking place to make this happen.
Support for businesses
Last week, just before the Christmas holiday, the state launched its California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant website. The name is a little deceiving because grants are also available to nonprofit organizations, not just businesses. Grants are available up to $25,000. You can sign up for a free webinar to learn more. Please share this information with business owners and nonprofit managers you know.
These state grants are in addition to county grants, which are also accepting applications.
New Year’s Eve fire safety
If you’re planning to light fireworks as part of your New Year’s Eve at home festivities, please don’t. All consumer fireworks pose a fire hazard and are illegal in the County of San Diego. That includes sparklers, firecrackers, cherry bombs, bottle rockets and poppers. Wildfire danger in San Diego is real. According to the National Fire Protection Association, “Even sparklers, which are often thought of as harmless enough for children to hold, burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause significant injuries.”Here is an article from July 4th, but the same principles apply.
Boards & Commissions 2021 scheduled vacancies
Looking to get involved in city matters? The City of Carlsbad is inviting Carlsbad residents who are interested in serving on one of our boards and commissions to submit an application now. Here is a list of the scheduled vacancies for the upcoming year. Scheduled vacancies occur when someone’s term is up. We also have unplanned vacancies from time to time, when someone cannot complete a term. If you fill out an application, we keep it on file for the entire year.
You can find out more about our boards and commission in this brochure. Now that we have transitioned to electing City Council members by district, the appointment process is a little different than it used to be. Some members are appointed by district and some are still at large or citywide. If you have any questions, just get in touch with our clerk services manager. She’d be happy to walk you through the process: firstname.lastname@example.org.
New virtual class
City staff continue develop new classes and programs that can be delivered during the stay at home order the latest is for aspiring writers. Participants will observe, write, and reflect on the great outdoors in this all-ages virtual creative writing class. Inspired by Leo Carrillo’s book,The California I Love, participants will deepen their relationship to nature and identity through various types of writing and create their own book about the California they love. Join published author Marcie Colleen on Zoom on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 4:40 p.m. beginning Jan. 5. Sign up here.
This being New Year’s Eve, the end to what has been one of the most challenging years in recent history, I feel at a loss for an appropriate sign off. COVID-19 has taken so much from the lives we knew and loved, from our culture and our connections to one another. Even if we are lucky enough to not have lost someone close to us, we can still feel a sense of mourning.
Things are not going to be better all of a sudden tomorrow morning, but they will get better in 2021. Vaccinations are happening right now. A new vaccine was just approved in Great Britain (the AstraZeneca one). And more good news will come.
Finally, I want to thank you for following these updates and providing feedback. I read every single message you send. I feel like I know you better than I did when this all started, and by extension I feel closer to our entire community. After a couple of days off, I and the rest of our city staff plan to return next week more committed than ever to making Carlsbad the very best city ever. You deserve no less.
Happy New Year.
Dec. 29, 2020, 4 p.m.
I’d been thinking about how to start today’s update, following canceled or significantly curtailed holiday plans that brought fresh disappointment to an already tough year. I always want you to have the latest information so you know where things stand, how you can help and what lies ahead. I also want to provide as much comfort, hope and encouragement as I can.
With almost a year’s worth of data, we also know how the numbers work. A percentage of the high case numbers reported three to four weeks ago would have by now been hospitalized, and a percentage of those would not make it.
The week of Dec. 12, San Diego County was the deadliest on record, with 129 COVID-19 patients passing away. This is more than twice the previous high of 56 in July.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it somehow still feels shocking. And, the tragedy of it all feels new all over again.
Thanksgiving surge waning?
Many attribute the current surge to gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday. We are four-plus weeks out from Thanksgiving now, and case numbers reported Monday were much lower than in previous days. In fact, Monday’s case count of 1,751 was the lowest since Dec. 7, when 1,276 new cases were reported. Yesterday, the governor reported a similar ebb in cases statewide, except for Los Angeles County. However, Sunday’s San Diego County case count was 3,132, and it always takes several days for case number reporting to even out following weekends and holidays.
Even if case numbers remain lower than their recent peak, hospitals expect increased admissions for the next few weeks at least. Hospitalizations lag new case reporting by about two weeks, based on county data. Sunday’s COVID-19 hospital admissions broke a single day record, with 68 new patients.
The state still lists Southern California’s ICU capacity at 0%. State officials yesterday said this doesn’t mean there are, in fact, zero beds available. In fact, ICU capacity is tough to pin down because patients come and go daily. Staffing is also a factor. Of late, the number of beds is less of a problem than trained health care providers available to care for patients in the beds.
COVID-19 patients have made up more than half of the total ICU population in San Diego County since mid-December, which was the first time since this had happened since the start of the pandemic.
The state announced today that the regional stay at home order will be extended. It was originally set for three weeks, meaning it would expire today if ICU capacity projections had hit the target of 15% or more. Moving forward, the state will monitor the four-week ICU capacity projections to determine when it will end.
Yesterday the California Department of Public Health sent a letter to all health care facilities in the state reviewing the protocols for rationing care, should that be required. Some of the early strategies include shifting patients among facilities and canceling elective surgeries.
The official term is “crisis care,” and guidelines were first published in June. Doctors and medical ethicists were instrumental in creating the document, which includes this guiding philosophy: “A public health emergency compels transition from individual patient-focused clinical care to population-oriented public health approach with the goal of providing the best possible outcome for the largest number of impacted people.”
The availability of PPE has long been a main focus of reporting (I used to have to explain that PPE means personal protective equipment, but after 10 months, I think the term has become part of our pandemic lexicon). Now, oxygen supplies have become a concern. The Los Angeles Times yesterday reported that a change in treatment protocols is depleting oxygen stores. That’s because doctors have found it’s better to delay putting patients on ventilators, in favor of high-flow oxygen treatment. According to the article, a non-COVID patient may receive six liters of oxygen a minute, compared to 60 to 80 liters a minute for a COVID-19 patient, 10 times as much. In addition to the oxygen canisters, the tubes that deliver the oxygen (usually under a patient’s nose) are also in short supply.
Local case numbers
Carlsbad is once again reporting among the highest number of active COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Below is the local dashboard:
The president signed the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package Sunday. The package provides $600 checks to individuals who made up to $75,000 last year, a $1,200 payment for couples who made up to $150,000, and an additional $600 per dependent child.
Payments get smaller the more money you make and are eliminated for individuals making $87,000 or more. There are several online calculators, including this one from ABC news, that will tell you how much your payment is “likely” to be, but keep in mind, these aren’t from official government sources.
A larger direct payment of $2,000 per person passed the House of Representatives yesterday, but would need to pass the Senate to proceed, and that remains uncertain.
In addition to direct payments, the approved package includes an extension of unemployment benefits, a new round of business loans, rental and food assistance, and other relief.
Something called the Pharmacy Partnership begins today in California, with CVS and Walgreens providing vaccinations to residents and employees at long term care facilities. These will be provided in two phases. Phase one includes skilled nursing facilities, and phase two covers assisted living, residential care and other long term care facilities.
Overall, vaccine distribution in California is still in phase 1A. As a reminder, here is a chart showing which groups are covered in which phases:
At yesterday’s news conference, the governor said phase 1B could start next month. Advisory committees are still fine-tuning future phases, so some of the groups above could change phases.
Time to cancel New Year’s plans
Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, stated the obvious yesterday when he said, “There is still time to cancel New Year’s plans.” Getting together with close friends and even family members can feel safer than gathering with strangers, but it’s not. Exposing yourself to anyone outside of your immediate household creates an opportunity for transmission. And even if you’re not too worried about your own health, keep in mind that many COVID-19 patients show no symptoms. So, unless you are tested regularly, you could likely spread the disease to others without even knowing it.
Aside from the health risks to yourself and others, especially those most vulnerable in our community, increased transmission prolongs the suffering for our community. This includes the front-line workers who are risking their health to provide us with essential goods and services, the small business owners who are forced to closed down and the employees who have lost their jobs because of the economic impacts of the pandemic.
So, I think today I have met my goal of providing you with the latest information, but have fallen woefully short in the comfort and hope department. So, I will leave you with this:
Each one of us has the power to slow the spread of COVID-19. I know this because Carlsbad still has among the very lowest rates of spread in our region. Your actions really do make a difference. We knew things were going to be rough around the holidays. But, we are so close to the end of this terrible time. As more vaccines are distributed, the most vulnerable will be protected, hospitalizations will decrease, and life will start to get back to normal.
Thank you for hanging in there, just a little longer. And thank you, as always, for continuing to #Care4Carlsbad.
Dec. 24, 2020, 11:10 a.m.
Yesterday San Diego County officials and the CEO of one of our largest health care systems made a direct plea: If you’re planning a gathering during the upcoming holidays, you should cancel it.
Since the regional stay at home order was implemented Dec. 6, the situation has gotten worse. The Southern California ICU bed availability is now zero. The region’s hospitals are being overwhelmed, even after adding more ICU beds. Yesterday the National Guard activated the field hospital in Escondido to provide some relief for the Southern California region. The 202 bed temporary set up occupies unused floors at the Palomar Medical Center.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer, said “I know how difficult this time of year is for so many of us. The holidays are supposed to be a time when we get together with family and friends. This year, things must be different. We know what happens when holidays arrive, and people gather. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths increase dramatically.”
The pattern has repeated after each holiday this year, especially Halloween and Thanksgiving. For example, here’s what the region experienced in the weeks after Thanksgiving:
44% or about 59,400 of the nearly 146,000 cases since the pandemic’s start occurred after Thanksgiving.
Of the more than 5,500 hospitalizations since the pandemic’s start, about 780 or 14% took place after Thanksgiving.
Of the 1,350 deaths reported since the pandemic’s start, about 330 or 25% happened after Thanksgiving. At the pace deaths are growing, the region is on track to record 600 additional deaths by the end of January.
“We don’t want to see what happened after Thanksgiving happen again. We just had 39 deaths reported in a single day. That is a new record,” Wooten said. “We must continue to stay apart to get the spread of the virus under control. If we don’t, cases, hospitalizations and deaths will continue to soar.”
Beds vs, staffed beds
Southern California’s ICU availability is at zero, but San Diego County’s is listed as 19%, which makes some wonder if the problem is as bad as people say. Officials yesterday made the distinction between beds, which we have, and “staffed beds,” which refer to the actual capacity to care for patients. The state has already changed the required staffing ratio for ICUs, but there still simply aren’t enough personnel available. This is partially because COVID-19 cases are surging nationwide, so the strategy of calling in traveling nurses and relief from other areas is more limited (and non-existent in some cases)
Carlsbad’s active cases (the number of people who have COVID-19 right now) continue to set new records, just like most metrics in the county and the state. Yesterday San Diego County reported more deaths in a single day, 39, since the pandemic began. California just became the first state in the country to pass 2 million cases total.
More Carlsbad-specific case information is available on the “North Coastal” dashboard, including
COVID-19 rate by sex, ethnicity and age
Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths
As of yesterday, more than 1 million people in the U.S. received their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. San Diego County reported yesterday it has received 102,550 doses, including 29,250 of the Pfizer vaccine and 73,300 of the Moderna vaccine. These numbers only include doses delivered directly to the county, not federal, military and multi-county entities such as Kaiser, as well as pharmacies that are part of the Pharmacy Partnership Program, which is assisting with vaccinations at long term care facilities. The county’s health officer reiterated yesterday that people who don’t fall in the high priority groups should not expect to be vaccinated until at least spring 2021.
Santa has been vaccinated
During a televised CNN-Sesame Street town hall last weekend, a 6-year old boy asked if Santa would be able to make his rounds given the COVID-19 lockdowns. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, assured the boy and kids everywhere that he had traveled to the North Pole and personally vaccinated Santa.
"I measured his level of immunity, and he is good to go," Fauci said. "He can come down the chimney, he can leave the presents, he can leave, and you have nothing to worry about."
Support for health care workers
The county put out this video yesterday showing our local health care workers getting their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This year has been hard for all of us, but I can’t imagine what it’s been like for those on the front lines, who after 10 months are now facing the harshest conditions yet.
Yesterday a state appeals court extended the order issued last week related to restaurants, meaning restaurants (and live entertainment venues) must follow the regional stay at home order at least until the January, when the appeals court will hear the matter. Take out and drive through service area still allowed, but no sit-down dining, indoors or outside. To report a violation, contact our non-emergency line at the Police Department, and we will work with the county to address the matter with the business. That number is 760-931-2197.
Making the holiday a little brighter for our seniors
Since the beginning of the pandemic, staff at the Carlsbad Senior Center have adapted the free lunch program to a drive through format and continue to deliver meals to homebound seniors. This week, staff marked the 40,000th meal provided!
Knowing the holidays could be a particularly lonely time for those stuck at home, Senior Center staff put out a call to all city employees, asking for donations of gifts to bring to the program’s participants along with their meals this week. Resident elf and driver Scott, pictured below, had more than enough gifts to go around, thanks to the generosity of Team Carlsbad.
If you know someone who may be interested in this meal program you can find out the details on the city’s website.
Finally, as I sign off on this Christmas Eve, please enjoy this very special reading of a holiday classic by our very own Dennis Strawhun. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you know Dennis, or at least recognize his face. He is one of our longest serving city employees and one of our most creative, as you will quickly see by this video he created to bring a little holiday cheer to our community.
P.S. Dennis, I am not sure the Carlsbad Municipal Code allows reindeer in the front yard, but I assume they’ll be gone by tomorrow.
Speaking of public works, Tuesday I shared a photo of the trailer at our public works yard and the beautiful “sunset” behind it. Well, I should have realized by the angle – and knowing what time our crews show up every day – that it was, in fact, a sunrise, not a sunset. The editor (that’s me!) regrets the error.
If you smell smoke in Carlsbad today, you are not imagining it. A fire is burning northwest of Fallbrook, and the Santa Ana winds are blowing the smoke our way. This is a good reminder that we need to be so careful, especially during dry Santa Ana conditions, to avoid any activities that could cause a spark. So, if you were planning to deep fry a turkey, this is not the best day for that. Also, be careful with lawnmowers, edging and other gardening equipment. To find out about local air quality, visit this website.
I know today’s update brought some tough news and, unfortunately, models show case numbers remaining high in the coming weeks. At yesterday’s news conference, Scripps CEO Chris Van Gorder shared a letter from one of his emergency room physicians expressing frustration that people weren’t taking health precautions more seriously. While acknowledging that many have grown tired of the whole situation, he pointedly said, “We’re damn tired of it too,” referring to the hundreds of health care workers who are facing a steady stream of new patients needing care.
Please continue to do your part to stop this surge. If you have planned to gather with people outside your household, please cancel, gather via video chat or postpone. As Dr. Wooten said yesterday, it’s better to have some empty places at your holiday table this year than permanently losing your loved ones to COVID-19.
Thank you for staying home. Thank you for wearing a mask. Thank you for everything you continue to do to #Care4Carlsbad.
From my extended family here at the City of Carlsbad to yours, I wish you a happy and healthy holiday and, for those celebrating Christmas, a very merry one to you.
Dec. 22, 2020, 2:20 p.m.
Yesterday we saw the highest single day of reported COVID-19 cases in Carlsbad since the beginning of the pandemic, at 67, and the highest number of active cases at 471. The county reported 3,252 cases. But, before I get too far into the latest numbers, I will start with good news. Yesterday the county announced it had received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine, the second to be approved by the FDA for emergency use. To put the speed of vaccine distribution in perspective, my last update was Thursday, the day the FDA panel was meeting to review the data and decide whether or not to recommend emergency approval.
Obviously, the panel did recommend approval and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee gave the go ahead over the weekend. The county received 20,000 doses of the first allocation of 43,700 Moderna vaccines to the region. Some local health care systems had vaccines shipped directly to them.
These 43,700 doses of Moderna’s vaccine are in addition to the roughly 28,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine that started arriving in San Diego County last week. Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine requires two doses for each recipient. Health care providers will ensure that recipients receive both doses from the same manufacturer, appropriately spaced apart.
Moderna’s vaccines are administered 28 days apart, while Pfizer’s vaccine is given 21 days apart. The initial doses of both vaccines will be distributed based on Phase 1A – Tier 1 guidelines, starting with critical care health workers and long-term care facility residents and employees.
A CDC advisory group met on Sunday to refine recommendations for how vaccines should be allocated beyond the immediate phase. You can see the slides on the CDC website. The next group includes grocery store employees, teachers, emergency workers and other front-line workers, and those 75 and older.
You’ll see in the presentation that the committee tried to balance groups most likely to catch COVID-19 and those most likely to become severely ill or die from the disease. The former group includes about 30 million essential workers nationwide in food processing plants, grocery stores, transit and other jobs where remote work is not possible. Those 75 and older account for about a quarter of all hospitalizations.
According to federal officials, about 100 million people could be vaccinated by the end of February given the anticipated supply of vaccine doses. This is a lot, but not enough to cover all the people in the high priority groups. This is why we all need to continue to follow the health guidelines.
The CDC committee recommendations are just that. States can decide to prioritize the vaccine differently. California’s plan is available on its COVID-19 website. Finally, the county has a group of local experts to help ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine. You can read about that on its website. You will see there is broad agreement about priorities, with the county following state and federal guidelines.
Record-breaking case numbers
The availability of vaccines is great news, but it won’t help much in the short term. That’s because the level of COVID-19 spread has reached a point that is very difficult to control without equally widespread adherence to the “non-pharmaceutical” prevention methods. These are the things you and I can easily do, like staying home as much as possible, not gathering with people we don’t live with, covering our faces when we do leave home, washing hands often and staying away from others if we have symptoms or otherwise think we might have been in contact with someone contagious.
During yesterday’s state news conference, COVID-19 spread was likened to a wildfire. Small spot fires are easier to contain than a raging wildfire. Based on the numbers below from the LA Times, we are facing a wildfire:
The state is now averaging nearly 45,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week — more than seven times the comparable figure from six weeks ago.
California is now averaging 247 COVID-19 deaths every day over the past week, a new record and more than five times the comparable tally from six weeks ago.
Nearly 2,900 Californians have died from COVID-19 over the last 14 days, which accounts for 12% of the state’s total fatalities.
The state lists ICU capacity at 0% in the Southern California region. If you look only at San Diego County, the capacity is listed as 22%. Staffing, however continues to be a limiting factor. At yesterday’s state news conference, the secretary of Health and Human Services said hospitals are close to needing to use its crisis care guidelines developed back in June. This plan provides a common framework for making decisions about how to decide who gets care and who might not if there aren’t enough resources to go around.
The governor said yesterday some field hospitals have been activated and are caring for patients, 62 patients as of yesterday. The one closest to us, at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, has not been activated.
Cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and testing positivity are all increasing.
Here in Carlsbad, we have 90 more active cases than we had last Thursday and 256 more cases overall.
Another topic at yesterday’s state news conference was the new strain of COVID-19 that has been identified in the U.K. and South Africa. In California, something called the Genome Sequence Initiative samples viruses and looks for new mutations daily. So far, the new strain has not shown up here, but health experts say it’s only a matter of time.
State health officials said the new version does not appear to cause more severe illness, but it spreads more easily. Dr. Mark Ghaly, the Health and Human Services secretary described the new version as more “sticky,” meaning it binds to cells more effectively.
Federal relief bill
Yesterday the senate approved a new federal COVID relief bill and sent it to the president for signature. The governor summarized estimates on what our state can expect to get:
An extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits for 11 weeks (about $20 billion to California)
Direct payment checks of up to $600 per adult and child, depending on income ($17 billion to California). Treasury secretary said last night checks could go out as early as next week
Individuals making up to $75,000 get $600
Couples making up to $150,000 get $1,200
$600 per child
$284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans and $15 billion "in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions"
$25 billion in rental assistance ($2 billion to California)
$20 billion to buy vaccines and make "the vaccine available at no charge for anyone who needs it" and $8 billion for vaccine distribution
$82 billion for education providers like schools and colleges, including aid to help reopen classrooms safely ($8.5 billion to California)
$10 billion for childcare ($1 billion to California)
$7 billion to bolster broadband access to help Americans connect remotely during the pandemic
$45 billion for transportation services, including $2 billion for airports, $1 billion for Amtrak and $16 billion for airline employee and contractor payroll support
$26 billion for nutrition and agricultural assistance including $13 billion in increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child nutrition benefits
A tax credit "to support employers offering paid sick leave"
Restaurant court ruling
Last week I shared a court ruling that allowed restaurants (technically, “businesses that serve food”) to operate, along with strip clubs. A couple of days later, that ruling was “stayed.” That means our local restaurants must follow the regional stay at home order and not serve food (indoors or outdoors). Take out and drive through are still okay. The deadline is tomorrow at noon for the respondents in the case (the two strip clubs) to file their opposition to the stay. We are monitoring this case closely and will let you know of any updates.
I will be back with one more update on Christmas Eve, but want to share a few reminders now about how to celebrate the holidays as safely as possible. The county has great resources and tips on its website. Some of the recommendations include:
Remote games and activities to replace traditional in-person entertainment.
Driving with members of your household in your car to view holiday lights and decorations.
Participate in a winter- or holiday-themed virtual run, hike or bike ride.
Visit Santa, or other holiday figures with members of the same household, at locations that offer a touchless experience only.
Virtual gift exchanges where participants can follow personal protection measures prior to remotely giving and accepting gifts.
I know it’s not the same and not what we are used to. But, it’s also not forever, just this year.
In government we have something called mutual aid. It usually refers to public safety services, but the spirit extends beyond those essential services. For example, I have “borrowed” some tips from Santa Clara County, which I thought were very practical and helpful for those who might be facing awkward conversations about gathering later this week.
Finally, I am sharing a photo sent to me by one of our employees who works in the public works yard on Oak Avenue in the Village and Barrio area. One of the staff there is an artist and painted this beautiful mural on one of their trailers. Here it is against one of our signature winter sunsets. What a great reminder to stop and enjoy the beauty that is all around us here in Carlsbad.
I’ll be back Thursday with more updates. Until then, thank you for everything you are doing to help keep Carlsbad safe. There is light at the end of this nearly year-long tunnel. Let’s finish strong and continue to #Care4Carlsbad.
Dec. 17, 2020, 2:30 p.m.
The reality of managing hospital capacity is showing up this week in different ways. For example, a new county ambulance diversion program now allows emergency rooms to stop taking patients unless they have uncontrollable life-threatening conditions that would be quickly fatal without treatment within minutes. According to the county’s medical director, hospitals have long been able to temporarily stop taking patients from outside their areas, but stopping all patients is a new level.
A San Diego Union-Tribune article yesterday reported two cases of ambulance crews waiting five and seven hours before emergency rooms could take their patients. The same article reported that members of the National Guard are helping local nursing homes.
The availability of trained staff is driving the current shortage, rather than actual rooms and beds. The state recently loosened the intensive care nurse ratio requirement from two patients per nurse to three patients per nurse for this reason.
At his Tuesday news conference, the governor said the state has 500 medical workers ready to deploy where needed. The state has also procured 60 large cold storage units and 5,000 additional body bags, the latter of which have been prepositioned in San Diego, Los Angeles and Inyo counties.
Even though less than 5% of COVID-19 patients require hospitalization in San Diego County on average, and only around 1% require intensive care, new daily cases are now in the thousands. According to numbers released yesterday by the county, COVID-19 patients now make up the majority of ICU patients for the first time, at 301 compared to 282 in the ICU for other reasons.
County officials also made the point yesterday that diminished capacity at local hospitals could affect not just those with COVID-19 but accident victims and people needing care for other reasons. At yesterday’s county briefing, news was shared that hospitals have begun to delay organ transplants and tumor removals for cancer patients.
Court ruling affects “businesses with restaurant service”
Yesterday, in a case brought by two strip clubs in San Diego, a judge not only ruled the strip clubs could continue to operate, but so could any San Diego business with restaurant service. Specifically, the ruling prohibits any government agency or law enforcement officer from enforcing any order that prevents San Diego county businesses with restaurant service from continuing to operate, subject to protocols that are no greater than those essential to control the spread of COVID-19.
Because the ruling applies to the city and its police officers, we must also suspend enforcement activities related to restaurants while awaiting any further direction from the state, the county and the courts. Meanwhile, we will continue to educate and encourage restaurants to operate safely, including utilizing face coverings, social distancing and appropriate sanitation protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We will also be reviewing our pandemic relief permits and programs to ensure receipt of a permit and participation in a program are conditioned upon compliance with all valid federal, state and local laws, including all valid public health orders.
Many of you are tracking the number of active cases most closely since that refers to the number of people currently believed to have COVID-19 in Carlsbad right now. We calculate this number based on the date positive tests are reported and the average duration of COVID-19 infection. Keep in mind, these are only people who live in Carlsbad. When you’re out in our community, you are likely coming into contact with people who live in neighboring cities too.
The chart below shows how the number of active cases in Carlsbad has sharply increased since early November.
One bit of positive news to share – at the beginning of flu season, health experts warned of a “twindemic,” meaning two global pandemics could occur at the same time. Fortunately, some of the same health precautions to avoid COVID-19 infection seem to have also prevented influenza cases. In addition, the CDC says flu vaccines were distributed earlier than normal this year and in greater quantities. The CDC has a website called “Flu View” that tracks influenza activity if you’d like to know more about this.
So far, more than $54,000 worth of gift cards have been purchased to support local Carlsbad businesses. If you’re looking for last minute gifts, please check out the Gift Carlsbad website, where more and more businesses are joining all the time. When you purchase a gift card, you will get a bonus amount added to the total, funded by a grant from the city to aid in economic revitalization efforts.
I mentioned Tuesday that the state had just put out new guidance for sports. Now that we have had a chance to review it carefully, the only immediate change affecting Carlsbad relates to pickleball. Sports are grouped into different categories according to risk of COVID-19 spread, with guidance to reduce that risk.
Under the state’s purple tier, only singles pickleball play is allowed. Previously, neither the state nor the county had provided specific guidance related to pickleball, but we had opted to keep two of the six courts closed to allow for greater physical distancing opportunities. Starting today, we are opening the two courts at Poinsettia Park that had remained closed, so all six are now available – but for singles play only. Notification signs will be posted throughout the complex and park monitors will make sure players are aware of the new rules.
Northbound Leucadia off ramp closure
From Friday night to Monday morning, the northbound Leucadia Boulevard off ramp will be closed so crews can work on two new carpool lanes as part of the project to widen I-5. The detour will route cars to La Costa Avenue (see map below).
During the next year, weekend ramp closures will continue in Encinitas and Carlsbad as part of I-5 Carpool/HOV Lane construction between Birmingham Drive and Palomar Airport Road. Weekend ramp closures are scheduled at the following cross streets:
Santa Fe Drive
La Costa Avenue
Palomar Airport Road
You can get construction updates via email by signing up at KeepSanDiegoMoving.com/BuildNCC and to your mobile device by testing text “BuildNCC” to 313131.
More creativity from our Carlsbad kids
On Tuesday, I shared the story of a local teen who used her time at home to write a novel. Today, we have another example of how our young ones are passing their time. Neil, an adorable little boy who frequents the Monroe Street Pool with his grandfather, built a LEGO replica of the pool, complete with specific front office staff and lifeguards (many of whom are also apparently Jedi Knights). The staff were so touched they have laminated the photo so it can be on display for all to see.
Finally, I wanted to share the story below, sent to the city by a local family who was the victim of package theft. It just so happens the package in question contained a gift for their son, arriving just in time for his birthday that very day.
The family knew the package was stolen because they could see it happen through their Ring doorbell camera, but by the time they got to the door, the thief was gone. The father called the police, who responded to investigate and take a report.
Hours later, the family was surprised to see Officer Cromwell Dangca return to their home, carrying a bouquet of bright blue balloons for the birthday boy. Needless to say, this made the little boy’s day. Here’s a short video the family shared capturing the moment.
I thought this story was particularly fitting given the larger context of COVID-19. We are all experiencing losses due to the pandemic, some tangible, some emotional, some tragic. I would venture to say each of us has opportunities every day to offer a small act of kindness to someone we don’t even know. It could be letting someone with just a couple of items jump ahead of you in the line at the grocery store, or just a smile and a wave as you pass a stranger on your next walk around the neighborhood. You might be aware that the Great Kindness Challenge started right here in Carlsbad. Here’s a list of random acts of kindness given to school kids each year, in case you need a little extra inspiration (keep in mind, this list was created pre-pandemic, so things like sharing homemade food need to wait until our situation improves).
These days, the kindest thing we can all do is follow the health precautions that have been stressed for the past 10 months.
Stay home as much as possible
Don’t gather with people outside your household
Cover your face when you leave home
Wash your hands often
Keep at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with
Stay home and away from others if you have COVID-19 symptoms or otherwise think you could have been exposed
By doing these things, we will not only save lives but get things back to normal and our economy on the road to recovery more quickly.
I’ll be back next week with more updates. Please note that city offices will close at 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Thank you for continuing to #Care4Carlsbad.
Dec. 15, 2020, 1:10 p.m.
This week started with the welcome news that the first vaccine shipments have arrived in San Diego County. You can watch a short video put out by the county to see the vials being unloaded from their special packaging (surrounded by dry ice to maintain their sub-freezing storage temperature) and put into extra cold freezers. Some health care providers picked up their allotments from the county to start administering the vaccines immediately. Other hospitals are getting shipments directly from Pfizer. The military is getting its own supply, which is not counted in the county’s numbers.
The vaccine requires two doses. The plan is to give as many people the first dose as possible, following the priority categories listed below. According to the county, the 28,000 doses received so far is enough to cover about three-quarters of the health care workers in tier one (see below). A second shipment is expected in about three weeks, at which time the second dose will be given.
Another vaccine coming
The same committee that reviewed the Pfizer vaccine last Thursday is scheduled to consider emergency authorization of the Moderna vaccine this Thursday. If it is recommended for approval, we could see those doses shipped quickly too. The Moderna vaccine doesn’t require the special sub-zero temperatures for storage, making the logistics of distribution a little easier. Vaccines made by Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca are in phase three trials. This is the step right before seeking emergency use authorization from the FDA.
Record highs continue
The arrival of vaccines mark what is being described as the “end of the beginning” of this pandemic, meaning there is hope, but we still have a long road ahead of us. Today, Carlsbad has a record number of active cases being reported – 354 total. The chart below shows the spike in cases countywide:
It’s been a while since I’ve shared this dashboard – this was the original list of metrics identified by the county to help determine the level of risk in the San Diego area.
I’d like to highlight two numbers in the righthand column – the testing positivity rate has increased to 9%, and the number of case investigations started within 24 hours is down to 42%. That makes sense when you think about it – if we’re logging thousands of new cases a day, it would require a lot more staff to follow up individually with each one to begin the contact tracing process.
ICU capacity is listed at 17%, below the county’s trigger of 20%. These numbers aren’t as important now that ICU capacity is being measured on a regional basis. The capacity for our region is only 1.7%. You can always check this real-time on the state’s COVID website.
In terms of Carlsbad ICU usage, the chart below shows that Carlsbad has among the lowest rate of ICU admissions in North County as of Dec. 5 (the most recent data available). This makes sense because our overall rates are consistently among the lowest in the region too. However, like total cases and active cases, Carlsbad’s numbers are on the rise, so please don’t let your guards down.
You may have heard that several restaurants throughout the county, including some in Carlsbad, defied the regional stay at home order and opened for business over the weekend. We understand that this pandemic has been particularly hard on restaurants. Our approach has been to gain compliance through education, and that has been largely successful.
The City of Carlsbad Police Department continues to respond to every report of a business or organization operating outside the health orders. When a business intentionally chooses to not comply, the Police Department works with the County of San Diego compliance team on the appropriate enforcement action. The county issues cease and desist orders, and the cases are reported to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office for review and potential prosecution.
To date, the following Carlsbad restaurants have been issued cease and desist orders by the County of San Diego:
Barrel Republic Carlsbad
Daily News Café
Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant and Creative Catering
Gregorio’s Italian Restaurant
Mas Fina Cantina
Vigilucci’s Cucina Italiano
Vigilucci’s Seafood and Steakhouse
This is a really tough situation, I know. Please keep in mind, the quickest way to get our restaurants open again is to follow the advice of public health experts. This means wearing masks, staying home and not gathering. It won’t be forever, but it’s critical now.
For those restaurants and bars that continue to not comply with the county health order, the city may take additional action, based on our legal and regulatory authority.
Youth sports guidance
The long-awaited guidance on youth sports was released by the state yesterday. Because of our regional stay at home order, we don’t expect many changes right now. Here is a link if you want to read up on the guidelines, and I’ll share more on this Thursday.
Arrest in homicide
Yesterday, Carlsbad police arrested a 17-year-old male resident of Carlsbad in the case of Lisa Thorborg, who was killed Nov. 23 while out for a walk in Hosp Grove. I want to commend our Police Department, whose officers and detectives worked around the clock on this case, following every lead, in pursuit of justice for Lisa, the Thorborg family and the Carlsbad community.
Because the suspect is a juvenile, the law limits the information the Police Department can release. We are also limited in what details can be shared at this time about what led to this arrest.
The investigation is continuing and at this time no additional suspects are believed to be outstanding. Investigators are working with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office regarding prosecution.
The last regularly scheduled City Council meeting of the year will take place starting at 3 p.m. today. Here’s what’s on the agenda:
A report on the city’s investments, and an annual update to its investment policy
Annual financial report on capital project funds and special taxes
Contract to widen El Camino Real from Arenal Road to La Costa Avenue
Bids for drainage improvements in northwest Carlsbad
An agreement for the design of a storm drain along part of Magnolia Avenue
Additional funds for the widening of Palomar Airport Road
Developing a technical rescue team with neighboring fire agencies to serve the region
Fire Department’s work to reduce the brush that can fuel wildfires
Local Agency Formation Commission review
Results of annual financial audit for fiscal year 2019-20
Planning for City Council’s 2021 goal setting process
Filling a vacancy on the Parks & Recreation Commission
And, here is a full list of public meetings scheduled for this week:
Finally, we have been continuing to profile community members, telling stories of how they are coping with the pandemic and, I hope, providing some inspiration and a greater sense of connection among our residents.
Today, I like to introduce you to 15-year-old Sophia, who has used this time to channel her creativity into writing a fantasy adventure book.
“I’ve always been interested in fantasy and adventure, and it’s most of the books that I read. The books are really good, but I felt like I needed to do more and create my own reality. I started writing my book a couple of years ago as my own way of escaping reality but stopped because I got busy with school.
Then when quarantine hit, I didn’t have in-person school anymore. I especially needed an escape so decided to finish my book and see where it goes. My main creative hours are from 11 p.m. to about 2 or 3 in the morning so without having to get ready for school, I could stay up without worrying about being super tired the next day.
My book is called ‘Ripple’ and it’s about 310 pages long. My main character is Rose Jasen whose twin brother dies in a freak accident. She starts having these visions of a world outside of Earth, and she must defeat the main villain, Yesterday. I feel really good about finishing it and have shared it with friends and family for feedback. I’m trying to find an agent to get it published. I’d love to include a map of the world at the beginning of the book.
My brother and I are two years apart, and during quarantine I totally expected us to fight more. But we’re getting along and like playing video games together or going on bike rides. But I definitely miss my friends. I am a very social person and just met new friends in my freshman year of high school. I look forward to getting through classes so I can finish the year on a good note and eventually reconnect with all my friends in person.” – Sophia
Thanks to Sophia for sharing her story. If you or someone you know would like to share how you have coped, what has been helpful to you or how you have helped others – please email us at email@example.com.
Until Thursday, please continue to follow all health precautions and, in doing so, continue to #Care4Carlsbad.
Dec. 10, 2020, 2:10 p.m.
In the constant stream of COVID-19 news this week, one story in particular caught my eye. As reported by multiple media outlets, on Tuesday 90-year old Margaret Keenan, Maggie to her friends, became the first person in the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine following its approval for use in Great Britain. The grandmother of four and former seamstress received her shot at a hospital in Coventry, about 100 miles outside of London, to the loud and sustained cheers of health care workers.
The vaccine came the day before Maggie’s 91st birthday. She called it the very best present ever because she will soon be able to spend time with her friends and family after being alone for most of the year. Later that day the British health minister appeared to tear up during an interview about the first day of mass vaccinations in his country.
With all the talk of distribution plans, super freezers and priority lists, this story illustrates the profound impact the COVID-19 vaccine will have on the lives of not just those most vulnerable to the disease, but those who have been fighting this battle on the front lines. And our turn is coming.
Vaccine approval update
Today the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, a group that advises the FDA, is meeting to review data on the Pfizer vaccine and is expected to vote on emergency authorization by the end of the day. If approved, the first doses could ship as soon as Friday, with the first Americans receiving vaccinations by Monday.
The second vaccine, produced by Moderna, is expected to undergo the same process next week.
The county released details yesterday about how many doses we are expecting in the initial shipment and how they’ll be allocated.
Playgrounds to re-open
In another bit of good news, the state has said playgrounds can be open during the regional stay at home order after all. As a result, Carlsbad playgrounds are open once again. Staff started to remove the temporary fencing and signs this morning and that should be completed by this afternoon.
If you happen upon one of the city’s dedicated parks employees when you’re out and about, please give them a wave and a smile. They have always been ready to make changes at a moment’s notice, weekends and weekdays, morning, noon and night because they understand the importance of playgrounds to all the families with kids at home.
At yesterday’s meeting of the County Board of Supervisors, a model developed by USCD was shared showing why health officials are concerned about further increases to ICU admissions.
Cases showing up this week are from exposures that happened around Thanksgiving. Actions we take today won’t be noticeable until around two weeks from now, bringing us to the Christmas holiday, which is when models show ICU capacity in San Diego could reach 100%.
According to County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten, we have seen a 196% increase in hospital bed usage over the last 30 days, and a 142% increase in ICU usage over the same time period. Our adjusted case rate per 100,000 in population is now up to 27. Just weeks ago, we were teetering on the threshold of 7 or higher to stay out of the purple tier.
Field hospitals standing by
The CEO of Palomar Health spoke at yesterday’s county news briefing about the field hospital that has been established at their facility. There are a total of 202 beds available and 50 nurses standing by. Her concern is not the number of beds, but the staffing needed to provide sustained care. Dr. Wooten said some elective surgeries are once again being postponed to conserve resources, but that’s a decision being made by each health care system. It’s not mandated by the health order.
Some are pointing to the fact that ICU capacity has been tested before, and there have been years when temporary hospitals were needed to treat flu patients. County officials say the exponential growth projected for COVID-19 in the coming weeks, burnt out health care workers and the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 all make the current situation a greater concern than what we’ve seen in the past with seasonal influenza.
Regionally, Carlsbad’s case numbers are proportionally still very low, but that doesn’t mean we don’t all need to do just a little more.
On Tuesday the City Council approved an emergency ordinance that gives workers laid off from the city’s largest hotels the right to return to their jobs once business picks back up. When hoteliers are ready to increase staffing, they will contact the laid off workers first with an offer to return to their old jobs or another job they would be qualified to do. You can read more about this in the staff report starting on page 264.
Employer health costs decreasing
One unexpected silver lining to the pandemic is that large employers will see the smallest increase in health care costs since 1997. This means that come next year, employees will likely not see the usual large annual increases in their premiums. Health insurance companies say that many people avoided doctor offices this year due to COVID-19, decreasing overall use of the health care system. You can read the full story here.
Our staff have put together several virtual events to help you get into the holiday spirit safely at home.
Holly Jolly Fam Jam
Saturday, Dec. 12 6 to 7:30 p.m.
$25 per family based on 4 people; most supplies are included
Gather the family in holiday jammies, ugly Christmas sweaters or other festive dress and get ready for a 1 1/2-hour virtual holiday event packed with dance competitions, high-energy games, ginger bread house building, scavenger hunt BINGO and a special story time. Mimicking a game-show setting, DJ Paul hosts families competing against each other and other families throughout the event via ZOOM. Game and activity supplies are provided and can be picked up in advance. More information here.
Winter Concert Featuring Valerie Vigoda
Virtual concert available on Facebook Valerie Vigoda uplifts and connects with people through her unique combination of gorgeous vocals and electric violin, heartfelt musical storytelling and fierce buoyancy. Her epic life journey has taken her: around the world on rock tours with Cyndi Lauper, Joe Jackson, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and her own indie band GrooveLily; to the theatrical stages of New York as an award-winning writer and performer in multiple hit musicals Off-Broadway; and into the hearts of millions as a prolific Disney songwriter. Joining her on keys and vocals is her collaborator Ryan O'Connell. Watch the concert here.
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Pianist Gilbert Kalish
Streaming now through Dec. 13
‘Tis the season for music! Embracing both classical and contemporary music, pianist Gilbert Kalish, performs works by Crumb, Schubert and Brahms in this free chamber music concert from The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Watch the concert here.
A Very Ukulele Holiday with Jazzy Ash
Lessons streaming now through Dec. 23
Concert streams Dec. 16 - 20
Through the generosity of the Carlsbad Library & Arts Foundation, anyone can come along for an adventure to learn how to play the ukulele. Free streaming lessons by Jazzy Ash, a celebrated vocalist, writer and arts educator, are available now through Dec. 23. You can also enjoy the free concert which streams Dec. 16 - 20, A Very Ukulele Holiday with Jazzy Ash.
Know your w’s
The National Institutes of Health shared this graphic recently – a new take on the same precautions we’ve been promoting for months. I thought it was catchy, so I am passing it along.
By my next update I expect to share more stories like Maggie’s, but featuring residents right here in our county, as vaccines finally reach our highest priority groups. In the meantime, please continue to take care of yourselves and one another. If you can, consider buying a few gift cards through the Gift Carlsbad program and ordering take out from a local restaurant. Enjoy our local parks and playgrounds, take a walk on the beach – whatever can bring you just a little bit of joy and normalcy during this trying time.
Earlier today I joined about 380 city employees at a virtual employee recognition ceremony. Every December we like to gather to acknowledge those who have served our city, whether as police officers, tree trimmers or attorneys, planners or librarians, firefighters, utilities workers and more. There are so many different jobs that need to get done every day to provide our community with the kind of city they expect and deserve. Even though we couldn’t get together in person this year, the spirit of service was stronger than ever (and the holiday sweaters just as over the top).
Yesterday our aquatics staff sent over some photos. No occasion, they just wanted to share a slice of life as they continue to teach swimming lessons, welcome residents to the pool, keep the place clean and the like. What struck me about these photos was the joy in their eyes. They are doing what they love, helping our residents stay fit and healthy and safe.
They also shared the shot below. I mentioned the pink sunsets in my last update, and here’s what one looked like earlier this week from our Monroe Street Pool.
The news over these next few weeks will continue to be rough, but it will get better -- how quickly is up to each of us. We can do this. One more time! And we’ll do it together, because we are Carlsbad.
Dec. 8, 2020, 12:30 p.m.
According to the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly, COVID-19 infections transmitted around the Thanksgiving dinner table and during holiday travel will start to show up in the case data this week. As we grapple with increasing cases overall and decreasing capacity in our ICUs, this week will be a bit of a reality check – did we do enough to limit further spread? And, what changes do we need to make to any additional holiday plans to help get us through?
Regional stay at home order in effect
On Saturday, county officials held an unplanned news conference to confirm that we would, in fact, be subject to a new regional stay at home order starting yesterday and lasting at least until Dec. 27. The mood was somber as speakers acknowledged the dual concerns of ICU capacity and the plight of businesses that have to once again close.
Here are some of the key changes with the new order:
The County of San Diego updated its public health order to reflect the state’s new order. I like how they highlight in yellow specifically what has changed since the last health order. There have been many iterations as we have navigated these last 10 months, and this is a very handy way to keep track of what’s new.
Many have asked why playgrounds are included in the new stay at home order and other types of outdoor recreation are not. At the county’s Saturday news conference, this came up as well. County representatives said they’d requested playgrounds be removed from the state restrictions, but it’s not clear whether any changes are in the works.
I’ve mentioned before, cities can be more strict than the county but not less. Likewise, counties can be more strict than the state but not less. So, for now, we have closed our city playgrounds, but the rest of our parks remain open, as do our trails, skate parks, dog parks and swimming pools. When state officials first announced the new stay at home order they emphasized the importance of outdoor recreation for physical and mental health. I am grateful we can still provide many opportunities to enjoy these things.
Another area that has generated questions is travel. The governor sought to clarify travel restrictions at a special news conference Monday morning:
Hotels and lodging cannot accept or honor out-of-state reservations for non-essential travel, unless the reservation is for at least the minimum time period required for quarantine and the persons identified in the reservation will quarantine in the hotel or lodging entity until after that time period has expired.
When the Regional Stay Home Order is in effect in a region, hotels and lodging can only offer accommodation for COVID-19 mitigation and containment measures, treatment measures, accommodation for essential workers, or providing housing solutions, including measures to protect homeless populations.
The state’s travel advisory remains in effect, which says:
Persons arriving in California from other states or countries, including returning California residents, should practice self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. These persons should limit their interactions to their immediate household. This recommendation does not apply to individuals who cross state or country borders for essential travel.
Californians are encouraged to stay home or in their region and avoid non-essential travel to other states or countries. Avoiding travel can reduce the risk of virus transmission and bringing the virus back to California.
What’s critical infrastructure?
Critical infrastructure is a term many became familiar with in the early days of the pandemic, when nearly all sectors of the economy were temporarily shut down. It’s a federal designation for sectors “whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.” Here’s a list of categories and more information about this federal designation. And here’s a guide from the state with more details about the public health guidance for each.
New notification app
I mentioned a couple of months ago an app being used by UCSD that allows people to get automatically notified if they were in close contact with someone later found to have COVID-19. Yesterday, the governor announced the app will roll out Dec. 10 statewide.
The app is being called an added layer of protection, in addition to wearing a face covering, physically distancing and washing your hands. For it to work well, a large number of people need to enable the feature on their phones (or, for Android users, download an app). Here’s how:
iPhone users don’t need to download an app, just enable notifications directly in their settings:
Tap on the Settings app from your home screen
Scroll down to locate and tap Exposure Notifications—found in the same grouping as Emergency SOS & Battery
Tap Turn on Exposure Notifications and hit Continue
Follow prompts to select Country and State (United States, California)
Review and accept the terms and conditions
When prompted, allow Exposure Notifications to access your phone's Bluetooth
Tap Turn On to enable the notifications on your phone
On Tuesdays I often share the chart we maintain showing that we have among the lowest (lately the lowest) case rate per capita in our county. I am very proud of this, and I hope you are too.
I also don’t want us to let our guard down or think that COVID-19 is not a significant concern for Carlsbad. That’s why today before showing you the recent case data I want to take a bigger picture look at COVID-19 spread among Carlsbad residents. In October we saw almost twice the number of cases than September, and in November more than twice as many as October.
This is not visitors to Carlsbad or people coming to our shops and restaurants from other places. These are people who live right here in Carlsbad. We are affected by the recent surge in cases and need to redouble our efforts to contain the spread too.
In addition to county grant programs, the City of Carlsbad is providing no interest and low interest loans to local businesses affected by the pandemic. To date, 71 businesses have already been approved for $1.41 million in relief, and additional businesses are currently going through the process for funding. There are two loan types for Carlsbad small businesses:
Small business microloans of between $5,000 -$10,000 for businesses with $2 million or less in gross revenue or 15 or fewer employees
Small business recovery loans of between $10,000 - $25,000 for businesses with $3 million or less in gross revenue and 50 or fewer employees
We have updated our webpage that lists different kinds of support available to the Carlsbad community. In addition, to help for local businesses, we have information about finding child care, food assistance, homework help, programs for seniors, rental assistance, free legal help, resources for victims of domestic violence and more. Please share this information with your friends and neighbors too. You never know when someone might need a little extra help, and some might not know where to start. Here is the link.
Fire danger (again)
We are once again experiencing Santa Ana conditions, although winds are not expected to be as strong as last week. Nonetheless, the dry air still creates an increased fire danger, so please be careful not to do anything that could cause a spark. When it is dry and windy, the smallest fire can quickly spread.
At today’s City Council meeting we will be swearing in Keith Blackburn, who will now be representing District 2, and Teresa Acosta, who is new to the City Council and representing District 4. Normally, the swearing in is a chance to gather at City Hall with friends and family, take photos and greet community members. This is another milestone event we must forego due to COVID. However, we will proceed with an online version (yes, this is just as legally binding as one in person). Please tune in at 3 to see the brief ceremony and join me in giving a warm welcome to our newly elected City Council members.
I know this week’s news is hard – even though we saw it coming, the reality of another stay at home order, during the holidays, at the end of a long and challenging year, is a test of our reserves. I wish I could say things will look better in January, but right now, that’s not what health experts are predicting.
What I do know is that we can affect what happens in January by the actions we take today and the plans we make for the rest of this month. Vaccines are closer than ever. Soon health care workers and those most vulnerable will be protected. That is great news.
Please take advantage of any support you can find right now. And, if you’re feeling resilient, reach out to others in the community who might need help. If you are able, order take out dinner from a local restaurant and leave a generous tip. Patronize our local stores – which are still open, just at reduced capacities. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Explore local charities that have virtual and other safe volunteer activities. Or, just take a walk on your favorite trail or head down to the beach to enjoy the spectacular pink sunsets we’ve been having lately.
This photo below is from Saturday – a beautiful winter day in Carlsbad, sunny but not too hot. I never get tired of seeing all the different shades of blue that appear off our coastline, from subtle grays to vibrant blue, like last weekend. Joggers were on the sea wall. Couples sat on the sand to enjoy the view, friends greeted each other, and surfers dotted the water. In this way, it really was like any other day in Carlsbad, and that’s not too bad.
Until Thursday, please be safe, stay home and continue to #Care4Carlsbad.
Dec. 3, 2020, 6:20 p.m.
As promised, I’m sharing the highlights of this afternoon’s announcement by the state of new COVID-19 public health measures. For now, we have not gotten word that anything is immediately changing in San Diego County, but the governor said he anticipates many regions will be subject to the new restrictions in the coming days, based on ICU capacity.
Regional stay at home order
A new regional stay at home order system groups counties into regions for the purpose of determining ICU capacity. Regions where capacity falls below 15% must shut down various activities for at least three weeks.
San Diego County is in the Southern California region along with Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Imperial, Inyo and Mono counties.
Why a regional approach? The governor said it’s because regions often share health care resources so it makes sense to take a regional approach when considering ICU capacity.
What would close?
The regional stay at home order would be in effect for three weeks after the trigger and instructs Californians to stay at home as much as possible to limit the mixing with other households that can lead to COVID-19 spread. Specifically, the following must close in regions under the new stay at home order:
Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
Indoor recreational facilities
Hair salons and barbershops
Personal care services
Museums, zoos and aquariums
Wineries Bars, breweries and distilleries
Family entertainment centers
Cardrooms and satellite wagering
Live audience sports
The following sectors will have additional modifications in addition to 100% masking and physical distancing:
Outdoor recreational facilities: Allow outdoor operation only without any food, drink or alcohol sales. Additionally, overnight stays at campgrounds will not be permitted.
Retail: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
Shopping centers: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
Hotels and lodging: Allow to open for critical infrastructure support only.
Restaurants: Allow only for takeout, pickup or delivery.
Offices: Allow remote working only except for critical infrastructure sectors where remote working is not possible.
Places of worship and political expression: Allow outdoor services only.
Entertainment production including professional sports: Allow operation without live audiences. Additionally, testing protocol and “bubbles” are highly encouraged.
The following sectors are allowed to remain open when a remote option is not possible with appropriate infectious disease preventative measures including 100% masking and physical distancing:
Schools that are already open for in-person learning
Non-urgent medical and dental care
Child care and pre-K
Can you leave your house?
Yes. The regional stay at home order allows people to leave their homes even if they are not essential critical infrastructure workers. This includes:
Work at any business or other entity that is allowed to open
In-person worship and protest activities consistent with public health directives
Patronizing local businesses
Caring for friends or family members who require assistance
Leaving with or without a specific destination in mind (for example, to walk your dog, to engage in physical recreation, or simply to get some fresh air) as long as you maintain physical distancing and comply with any other applicable public health directives.
If this sounds familiar it’s because the original stay at home order had similar exceptions.
You can watch the announcement video here. It’s long (1 hour, 23 minutes), but the majority of the details are covered at the very beginning. I always like to listen to the end as well when reporters ask questions. This usually results in some additional helpful clarifications.
We will keep in close contact with our county health officials to get an idea of when our region might reach the ICU capacity trigger. You can follow updates via the city’s social media channels, and I’ll be back next week with more information.
Please stay safe, stay home and continue to #Care4Carlsbad.
Dec. 3, 2020, 11:35 a.m.
The country, state, county and our own city continue to set new COVID-19 records. I realize that it’s easy to become numb to all the data, forgetting that these numbers represent human beings with lives, who have things to contribute to the world and people who love them. My goal in sharing COVID-19 data is to provide context to the numbers so our community better understands where things are today, where they may be heading and how to help slow the spread.
The U.S. reported 2,777 coronavirus-related deaths yesterday, surpassing the previous high of 2,752 deaths reported April 15.
Nearly 205,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported yesterday, just one month after the country reported 100,000 in a single day for the first time.
Hospitalizations also topped 100,000 yesterday, the highest number to date.
I don’t normally highlight national numbers, preferring to focus on how things are going closer to home. What’s changed since the spring when numbers were spiking is the geographic distribution. Instead of being concentrated in just a few cities – the images of New York City come to mind – COVID-19 infections are up throughout the country. This means health care workers are not available to come to distant hot spots to provide relief. Supplies cannot be redistributed because they’re needed everywhere. Here is today’s case map from the Johns Hopkins website.
The County of San Diego public health officer shared the following updates yesterday:
Over the past seven days, the region has averaged more than 1,300 COVID-19 cases each day. The target to contain spread is no more than 200 cases.
739 San Diegans were hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Dec. 1, compared to 288 on Nov. 1, an increase of 451 in the hospitalized population, or 156.6%. This figure is likely to go up since hospitalizations lag behind confirmation of cases.
The number of people with COVID-19 in intensive care units has also increased. While there were 93 San Diegans in the ICU at the beginning of November, the figure has more than doubled in the past 30 days to 209.
We are also seeing record-breaking increases in COVID-19 cases in Carlsbad. We currently have 216 active cases, the highest to date.
One of the reasons for the heightened concern about the latest case numbers is that based on average incubation periods and timing for the onset of symptoms, we are not yet seeing cases that resulted from exposures that occurred during the Thanksgiving holiday. Those could start to show up in hospitalization numbers in the next week or so, followed by ICU admissions.
Local hospital and ICU capacity
The biggest concern is having enough capacity in the health care system to handle a new influx of cases. Keep in mind, only about 5.6% of COVID-19 patients in San Diego County have required hospitalization, according to information released yesterday from the county health officer. Just a little over 1% (1.2%) required ICU treatment. You can see how these numbers are progressing in the charts below:
Quarantine guideline change
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its guidelines for how long someone should be in quarantine following exposure to COVID-19. The recommended time remains 14 days, but the CDC says reducing this timeframe will increase compliance.
Quarantines are recommended when:
You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more
You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them)
You shared eating or drinking utensils
They sneezed, coughed or somehow got respiratory droplets on you
CDC now says people without symptoms can end their quarantine:
On day 10 without testing
On day 7 after receiving a negative test result (the negative test must be conducted within 48 hours of planned quarantine discontinuation)
The CDC notes that local public health authorities make the final decisions about how long quarantine should last in the communities they serve, based on local conditions and needs.
Vaccine distribution update
Yesterday the County of San Diego gave an update on vaccine distribution plans. The state anticipates getting approximately 327,000 doses in mid‐December during the first distribution round. Of those, the county expects to get about 28,000 doses. This is enough for 14,000 people since everyone needs two vaccines.
Distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will be done in phases, with the first doses going to health care personnel and nursing home residents and employees. The initial distribution will not be sufficient to vaccinate all eligible health care workers.
The state anticipates the second round of vaccines to follow about three weeks after the first round.
Supreme Court decision about religious gatherings
The Supreme Court issued a ruling last week in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, which stopped the enforcement of certain health and safety restrictions on indoor worship services in the state of New York. Those restrictions capped attendance to 10 or 25 persons in designated areas.
For now, the Supreme Court’s ruling does not affect California’s health and safety restrictions on worship services. In part, this is because last May the Supreme Court considered a similar request to halt further legal proceedings on California’s restrictions on indoor worship services and declined to do so. Even though both states put limits on these types of gatherings, the actual restrictions differ in the eyes of the courts.
The Supreme Court may choose to consider California’s restrictions anew, but for now they remain in place.
Right on cue for this time of year, we are experiencing Santa Ana conditions today through Saturday. The most severe winds are expected to the east of us, but we should still be very careful to not do anything that could cause a spark. When it is dry and windy, the smallest fire can quickly spread.
If you are not already signed up for Alert San Diego, please do so today. This is the region’s emergency notification system that will send you a message and call your mobile phone if you need to evacuate (or any other emergency alert affecting your neighborhood). Landlines are automatically registered, but you need to manually add your email and mobile phone.
You may have read about planned electrical outages, which are becoming a part of red flag conditions. These are also not scheduled to affect Carlsbad at this time, however an unplanned outage happened last night in southern Carlsbad. This site is a great resource to find out about electrical outages – I suggest saving the link on your phone since during an outage your home computer won’t have an internet connection. Or just search for “SDG&E outage map” and it should come up.
More news coming today
At Monday’s news conference the governor hinted that additional restrictions could be coming, and a noon briefing has been scheduled today on the topic. We don’t know any details yet, but I will send an update later today if significant changes are announced.
Today I’m ending not with a feel-good story, but a plea: Please continue to do everything you can to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community:
If you’re sick, stay home and isolate yourself from others.
If you need to be in public, you must use a face covering if you are close to people outside your household. The coverings help prevent asymptomatic carriers of the virus from spreading it.
Maintain physical distance from others.
Avoid crowded places to decrease your risk of exposure.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, throw it away and wash your hands.
Wash your hands properly and regularly use a hand sanitizer.
Vaccines are not going to help us with the immediate concerns about health care capacity. Only our actions have the power to do that. Thank you for staying the course. And thank you for continuing to #Care4Carlsbad.
Dec. 1, 2020, 1 p.m.
Yesterday the people behind the Merriam-Webster Dictionary announced their word of the year: pandemic. According to the announcement, words of the year are chosen based on a statistical analysis of words that are looked up in extremely high numbers in the company’s online dictionary while also showing a significant year-over-year increase in traffic.
Although the first spike in searches happened Feb. 3 (the same day the first known COVID-19 patient in the U.S. was released from the hospital), lookups had been increasing consistently starting on Jan. 20. The single largest spike occurred on March 11, when the World Health Organization officially declared that COVID-19 could be characterized as a pandemic. Unlike other popular words, searches for “pandemic” have remained at or near the top of the most-searched list for the past 10 months. Other COVID-19 related terms also made the top 10 list, including asymptomatic, quarantine and coronavirus.
So, what’s the official definition? “An outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population.”
I share this not because it’s a particularly important story, but because it’s that time of year. Year in review articles are being written, top 10 lists are coming out, the holidays are upon us, and 2020 is coming to an end. I find this still a little hard to believe.
Thanksgiving follow up, part 1
Speaking of the holidays, I hope you were able to enjoy your Thanksgiving, as different as it may have been this year. Just the practice of setting aside time to be thankful is important to our overall sense of well-being, especially now. A recent study on the topic found that grateful individuals may be inclined to see the good in people and situations, which could result in a more compassionate and less critical view of others and themselves.
That same study found that gratitude exercises really only help a little. It’s got to come from the heart and be part of your overall outlook on life.
Thanksgiving follow up, part 2
Now onto the reality of Thanksgiving 2020: If you gathered with people outside your household or traveled, the County of San Diego public health officer urges you to:
Get a COVID-19 test
Decrease unnecessary activities this week to avoid spreading the virus, in case you have contracted it and don’t know yet
The County operates more than 50 testing sites throughout the region, but the recommendation is to start with your own health care provider. All providers are required to provide diagnostic COVID-19 testing free of charge for patients. (Some clinics charge for specialized or quick-result tests.) For more information on testing, visit 211sandiego.org or call 2-1-1.
Hospitals and ICU status
Yesterday the governor and the state’s top health official held a news conference to give an update on the recent surge in cases affecting most counties in the state (including San Diego). As cases increase, state officials will be looking at hospital capacity in general and ICU beds in particular as a key measure when deciding whether or not additional health restrictions are needed. They hinted that if things don’t improve, we could see a temporary return of the stay at home order.
Statewide, hospitalizations have increased by 89% in the last two weeks. And, hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, showing up two to three weeks after cases are reported. Because on average about 12% of cases require hospitalization, the state is expecting hospitalizations to increase more still, and that’s not counting any increase in cases as a result of holiday-related gatherings. Those cases will not likely show up as reported cases for another week or two.
As predicted the news is increasingly focused on vaccine availability and distribution plans. Since my last update on vaccines, the federal government has changed how vaccines will be allocated to states. At first, the recommendation was to distribute them based on risk, but now, in an effort to simplify plans, they will be distributed based on the adult population in each state.
A CDC advisory panel is meeting today to discuss how the scarce early supplies should be allocated among groups. Everyone seems to agree that health care workers go first. After that, other high priority groups could include workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions and people age 65 and older. There also seems to be wide agreement that those who do not fall into a high-risk category will not likely have a vaccine available until at least the spring or summer.
Two of the three vaccines announced to date are on track to receive emergency approval and, if they do, be available within weeks. The third, AstraZeneca’s, announced irregularities in some of its data, which will slow down its approval process.
The county is accepting new applications for emergency rental assistance starting today and has allocated $27 million in new funding to the program. To qualify for up to $3,000 in relief, renters must demonstrate pandemic related financial hardship and meet income requirements (single person cannot make more than $48,540 and a household of four no more than $69,300). For the full list of eligibility requirements, visit the county’s website.
The funds will be available to businesses and nonprofit organizations in the following industries:
Gyms and fitness centers, including yoga studios
Zoos and aquariums
Event planners (weddings, festivals, fairs, etc.)
Businesses in these industries have had to close or stop indoor operations to limit the spread of COVID-19. The financial relief will help them to reverse some of the disproportional impact on their operations and keep some from having to close permanently.
The county’s five supervisorial district offices each has $4 million to allocate. Applications are available at the Small Business Stimulus Grant Program website. Award recipients will also be posted on the site.
Businesses that submitted a previous application do not need to reapply.
Sales tax deferral for businesses
The state announced yesterday it will allow businesses to defer making sales tax payments for up to three months. Although they will eventually have to pay, the goal is to free up the money to be used for other things to help keep businesses afloat during the restrictions and closures. More information is available on the state’s website.
Carlsbad’s case numbers are still among the lowest in the region, but they are nonetheless going up. Of particular note is the number of active cases, a new reported high of 201. Keep in mind, this only includes those cases confirmed by testing. As Dr. Mark Ghaly, the secretary of California’s Department of Public Health, said yesterday, at this point, COVID-19 is becoming so widespread you should assume that every time you enter a building, a store, someone else’s house, etc., you could be coming into contact with someone who is contagious.
The chart below shows changes in case data since my last update, on Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Here is a link to all the latest charts and graphs from San Diego County. I’ve copied some of these below:
National and state case history: CORRECTION
On Tuesday I shared two charts, side by side, showing daily case numbers for the United States and California. Eagle-eyed readers (of which there are many!) pointed out that I had the labels swapped. Below are the latest charts, with the correct labels. The editor (that’s me) regrets the error.
The news is full of inspiring and heartwarming examples of people finding new ways to connect during the pandemic. A recent example involved a wedding celebration right here in Carlsbad. Joan Jeske, an 88-year-old resident of the GlenBrook Health Center skilled nursing facility, was treated to a pre-reception celebration for her granddaughter just before Thanksgiving. The family, decked out in their wedding finery, gathered in front of GlenBrook to enjoy a champagne toast and wedding cake while chatting about plans for the day. Not only did Joan get to see her granddaughter Tamara in her gown, but the family and the staff at GlenBrook made her feel a part of this special life moment.
Tamara said, “My grandma, I love her, she’s great and she’s been a huge, huge influence. Her and my grandpa were married for 60 years, so she’s an inspiration and she’s always so positive. I couldn’t miss seeing her today.”
Even though all signs point to a tough next few weeks, we can still make a difference. Now more than ever we need to turn the corner on this recent surge. We know what to do. Let’s not get complacent or, even worse, give up. The so called non-pharmaceutical interventions work, and we can all do our part:
Stay home as much as you can
Limit gatherings to no more than three households, keep them short and only meet outdoors
Always maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from people not in your household
Cover your face when you leave home
Avoid non-essential travel
Stay home if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or believe you could have been exposed
Vaccines are coming. Hope is on the horizon.
Thank you for continuing to #Care4Carlsbad. I’ll be back Thursday with more updates.