Pacific Beach has become a coronavirus hot spot. So much so that San Diego County opened a COVID-19 testing site in the beach community due to the increasing number of cases there.
“It’s important to remember that our actions matter. We must all do all we can to prevent contracting and spreading the virus,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer.
“Some San Diegans think they’re not going to get sick and therefore are not following the public health guidance,” said Wooten. “What they don’t realize is that they could get infected and pass the virus to others who are vulnerable.”
The new drive-up site will offer free COVID-19 testing Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pacific Beach Library at 4275 Cass St. Appointments are required and can be made five days in advance. They can be made at 211sandiego.org or by calling 2-1-1. For a complete list of other testing sites, visit coronavirus-sd.com.
“We have looked at this over and over, short of looking at confidential medical files,” said Michael Workman, director of San Diego County News Center.
Concerning why Pacific Beach has seen a spike in COVID cases, Workman said: “Bottom line, lots of higher-risk activity a few weeks ago. That has of course diminished indoors. But not outdoors. We hope to see the numbers drop over the next few weeks. But with additional testing, you never know.”
Added Workman: “Of course we cannot ignore the number of tourists who visit the area. But if a group comes in and gets sick, if they don’t live there, they don’t get counted there. We don’t currently have Pacific Beach- or Mission Beach-only charts. The only trend is that those positive in the area appear to have contracted it there in PB.”
Workman also pointed out that: “Anecdotally, lots of young people frequenting the popular spots are the No. 1 general class of positives. Next up are folks who work at those places mixing away from work at other establishments. Also know, if you test positive and live in Phoenix, you are not counted in our local numbers.”
Civic leaders in PB responded to the news of escalating COVID-19 cases in their community.
"It is not surprising to see the surge in PB as we are a summer destination and despite stay-at-home orders, Pacific Beach has still been busy with an influx of people,” said Sara Berns, executive director of Discover PB, the community’s business improvement district.
“Our businesses have made significant investments in changing business practices to ensure social distancing and safe environments. We hope people that come out to our business district adhere to public health orders by wearing their masks, social distancing, and practicing good hygiene."
Brian White, Pacific Beach Town Council president, attributed the rise in local cases largely to beaches being open locally and not elsewhere.
"While state and county beaches in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange counties were all closed to the public for the busy July 4 weekend, our local beaches remained open and thus became one of the top destinations for Southern Californians over the busy holiday weekend,” White said. “With an incubation period of 2-14 days for the virus, it's not shocking that our ZIP Code (92109) is currently surging with COVID cases.”
Added White, “It's ever-more important that people follow public health guidelines by consistently sanitizing their hands, avoiding large gatherings, and respecting our service-industry workers by wearing masks when entering their establishments."
PB resident Nicole Turner noted some short-term vacation rentals in the community serving significant numbers of out-of-towners have high turnover rates. She added some short-term rental guests are also disposed to partying in groups, which may or may not be observing proper health protocols.
“The renters all seem to be in their 20s,” said Turner. “Sometimes they’re going nuts outside until 2 a.m. It’s essentially a business opening up on a residential street. It just opens up a can of worms.”
Added Turner: “Short-term rental parties can go over maximum capacity and people can be loud, intoxicated, and fighting. On top of that is the fact that we’re trying to stop people from gathering during COVID-19. Short-term rentals are essentially bringing the bars into everybody’s neighborhood. It’s crazy.”
Additionally, San Diego County officials confirmed recently there was an outbreak of COVID-19 tied to a popular Pacific Beach gym operating in violation of the county's public health order. The Gym, at 2949 Garnet Ave., remained open despite the public health order, and was cited for doing so. The county said at least three people affiliated with that fitness facility have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The county would not confirm exactly how many people connected with the gym in question had tested positive. A community outbreak occurs when three or more people from different households are linked to the same setting or location, and they all test positive for COVID-19.
It was also not clear if the infections occurred while the business was allegedly operating illegally or before the public health order was modified on July 6. It was also uncertain if the individuals who tested positive were employees or patrons of that fitness facility.
Venus Molina, chief of staff for District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell, who represents Pacific and Mission beaches, said overlapping governmental jurisdictions make it hard to track down and contain COVID hotspots like the gym reported in PB.
“That [hotspot] falls under the purview of the county,” Molina said. “There’s a delineation between what [the city] can enforce, and what the county enforces.”
Added Molina: “We were having a lot of those issues in PB with bars and certain restaurants, which weren’t abiding by the health rules. [Campbell] is very conflicted because there are a lot of small businesses calling us and wanting help and support, while at the same time we realize a lot of people are bypassing the health regulations.”
As one example, Molina noted: “We’ve seen a huge spike in COVID cases since we’ve opened the beaches, and within 24 hours of opening up the parks. It was crazy, like over at Sunset Cliffs. A lot of people follow the rules, but a lot of people don’t. We see that everywhere.”
PB TESTING SITE
The County is opening a COVID-19 testing site in Pacific Beach due to the increasing number of cases in the area. The drive-up site will offer free testing Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pacific Beach Branch Library, located at 4275 Cass St. Appointments are required and can be made five days in advance. They can be made online at 211sandiego.org or by calling 2-1-1. For a complete list of other testing sites, visit coronavirus-sd.com.
Four new outbreaks were identified on Aug. 2: one in a higher education setting, one in a government setting and two in business settings.
In the past seven days, 39 community outbreaks were identified.
The number of community outbreaks remains above the trigger of seven or more in seven days.
A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households.