Many people have questions and concerns about the current state of COVID-19 in San Diego County. It can be hard to separate fact from fiction with this virus, as we’re learning new things about it every day. With all the overwhelming information coming in daily, what does it mean specifically for the communities of Imperial Beach and Coronado?

The San Diego County website has a section specifically dedicated to information about COVID-19. As of Monday, July 13, San Diego County has seen a total of 19,929 positive cases, an increase of over 1500 cases since Friday, July 10. Currently, (as of July 13,) there are 2,036 hospitalizations, and 422 deaths. According to the data provided in this section, Coronado has had a total of 77 cases since the start of the outbreak, Imperial Beach has had 260.

Out of all the positive cases in San Diego County at present, the age group of 20-29 makes up the highest percentage of total cases at 24.6%, the second highest age group is 30-39 at 19%. The data also shows that the racial/ethnic group being affected the most is Hispanic or Latino, at 61.9% of total positive cases.

All of this data can make it difficult to understand the reality of the situation. That’s why I interviewed Dr. Matthew Dickson from South Bay Urgent Care in Imperial Beach, and Dr. Susan Stone, the CEO of Sharp Hospital in Coronado, to find out more information about how COVID-19 is really affecting the two communities.

Dickson at South Bay Urgent Care said that they haven’t been seeing a lot of COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks, compared to the past few months. The positive patients they have been seeing have generally been doing well, and they haven’t had any hospitalizations. He also confirmed the data from the San Diego County website, explaining that they have been seeing younger people affected (in the age group 20-40), which explains the lack of severe cases.

Dickson went on to say, “The biggest thing people can do [to avoid getting COVID-19] is to wash your hands, all day, before you touch something and after you touch something.”

South Bay Urgent Care is no longer providing testing, but they recommend calling 211 to find places that are.

Stone explained that despite seeing more cases recently on an outpatient basis, Sharp Coronado Hospital has returned to pre-COVID volume for inpatient care. She also seconded Dickson’s statement, explaining that at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak they were seeing patients mainly in the 40-65 age group, but recently they’ve been seeing more cases in the 20-40 age group that have not required hospitalization. In response to why that might be happening, she replied, “It’s not unexpected that we would see this after the reopening efforts, some people may not be taking the face masks and social distancing seriously.”

When it comes to slowing the spread of this virus, testing is important. Stone said, “Testing informs us, and the public health officials, of the community’s COVID-19 spread trends and patterns. So once you know there is a trend or a pattern, you can intervene to stop the spread of the virus. Testing helps us learn what is going on with the virus so we can do what we can in response to mitigate its spread.”

On a similar note, I asked about the chances of tests resulting in false positives or negatives, and what we can do to ensure we’re getting reliable testing. She replied, “It’s important to use a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) certified lab. [These labs] will ensure that testing standards and test results are valid and reliable. If you seek out a CLIA licensed lab, they will have gone through the appropriate vetting process to ensure that the tests and equipment they are using will give valid and reliable results.”

Stone explained that at their facility, they’re averaging less than 24 hours for inpatient test results, and between 48-72 hours for outpatient.

Both Stone and Dickson strongly emphasized the importance of wearing a mask to slow the spread of the virus. Stone explained, “What we’ve learned is that the virus is spread through droplets, and when you wear a face covering you’re protecting people from your droplets.”

She also explained that masks are most effective when both parties speaking are wearing one. “I know that [wearing face masks] has become debatable, but when you look at the research and you look at how droplets flow from the mouth, it’s logical, common sense to me when you think about it that a face covering would help.”

Both Coronado Sharp Hospital and South Bay Urgent Care have placed patient safety at the utmost level of importance. Stone and Dickson assured that they are keeping their COVID-19 positive patients separate from patients afflicted with other illnesses. South Bay Urgent Care sees patients who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 from their car, and Coronado Sharp Hospital has a separate area designated for COVID-19 positive patients. Both doctors made it very clear that it is completely safe, and highly recommended, to seek care for other illnesses right now.

Dickson said, “When this all started, a lot of people neglected their chronic medical problems, so by the time they actually came in we were seeing a lot sicker patients that could’ve been prevented.” He emphasized that this can be very dangerous, and it’s important that patients who need medical care know that it’s safe to be treated.

Overall, the most important thing we can do right now is protect one another as best we can. That means observing CDC and San Diego Health Department guidelines by washing our hands, social distancing, and wearing face coverings. Remember, despite having relatively little hospitalizations, the risk is still prevalent, especially for high risk groups, such as the elder and the immunocompromised.

Stone provided a list of precautions we can take to ensure the health and safety of ourselves and others, she said, “Wash your hands often, avoid close contact, cover your mouth and nose with a face covering when you’re around others, cover your coughs and sneezes, clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched often, and then monitor your health daily. Be alert to changes in your symptoms, if you aren’t feeling well monitor your temperature, and just be aware of the changes in your own health.”

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