Live Blog: Faster, Streamlined Access to Unemployment Benefits Is Two Weeks Away, Newsom Says

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Faster, Streamlined Access to Unemployment Benefits Is Two Weeks Away, Newsom Says

– 3:35 p.m., Monday, Sept. 21, 2020

Gov. Gavin Newsom reassured Californians that a faster, streamlined process to file for unemployment is on the way, acknowledging that the Employment Development Department’s (EDD) out-of-date technology and infrastructure have contributed to a massive backlog of claims.

The EDD released a report on Saturday announcing it would dedicate the next two weeks to an agency-wide reset to make it easier for eligible Californians to apply for and receive unemployment benefits. The department will pause accepting new claims until Oct. 5.

Newsom said that significant delays in processing claims are not a problem unique to California, and outdated technology is in no small part responsible for the trouble. “As a nation, we have a huge IT problem,” he said.

The agency plans to launch a system called ID.me to automatically verify the identity of a claimant. The hope is the changes will make it easier for newcomers to file claims, mitigate fraud and help the department work through a backlog of some 1.6 million cases.

Meanwhile, Newsom said California’s COVID-19 numbers continue to drop. The current seven-day average positivity rate has fallen to 2.8% even as the state continues to expand testing. The number of tests performed dropped significantly during the heat waves, smoke and fires earlier in September, but they have since rebounded.

Newsom expects to see the number of tests increase as the state works towards building out a testing lab and reaching the goal of delivering test results in 24 to 48 hours. California has also seen a fourteen-day average 23% drop in hospitalizations and a 25% drop in ICU admissions. — Nina Sparling /KQED

COVID-19 Outbreak At SDSU Pushes San Diego To Brink Of Another Shutdown

– 3:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 21, 2020

A coronavirus outbreak at a college has pushed one of California’s largest counties to the brink of more business shutdowns.

It’s a dizzying and discouraging turn of events for San Diego County and its 3.3 million residents.

Less than a month ago, San Diego was the only county in Southern California to advance to a second tier in the state’s four-tiered reopening template for counties. But more than 800 cases at San Diego State University changed the outlook.

On Tuesday, the state will update the state’s reopening situation and it’s expected San Diego will fall back to the most restrictive tier. Among other things, that means restaurants couldn’t offer indoor dining. — Associated Press

SD County Reports 284 New COVID-19 Cases As It Considers Suing State

– 2:47 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020

San Diego County health officials reported 284 new COVID-19 infections and no new deaths Sunday, raising the region’s totals to 44,577 cases with the death toll remaining at 760.

Of the 9,097 tests reported through Saturday, 3% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 3.6% — potentially a good sign as San Diego County appears poised to regress into the state’s most restrictive public health tier due to increasing COVID-19 numbers, a decision that could be made Tuesday, when state data is released.

The seven-day daily average of tests is 8,375.

Of the total positive cases reported as of Sunday, 3,404 — or 7.6% — required hospitalization and 800 — or 1.8% — had to be admitted to an intensive care unit.

One new community outbreak in a grocery business was confirmed this weekend. From Sept. 13-19, 21 community outbreaks were confirmed. – City News Service

SD County Reports 286 New COVID-19 Cases As It Considers Suing State

– 9:12 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020

San Diego County health officials have reported 286 new COVID-19 infections and three deaths tied to the illness, raising the region’s totals to 44,293 cases and 760 deaths as the county considers taking legal action against the state should reopenings for some still-closed businesses be rolled back this week.

The three additional deaths occurred from Sept. 12 to Sept. 16 and ranged in age from 47 to 77. Two of the three people who died had underlying health conditions, but the 47-year-old, a man from East County, had no underlying health problems.

Of the 9,263 tests reported Saturday, 3% returned positive, bringing the rolling 14-day average of positive tests to 3.8% — potentially a good sign as San Diego County appears poised to regress into the state’s most restrictive public health tier due to increasing COVID-19 numbers, a decision that could be made Tuesday, when state data is released. – City News Service

Some San Diego Schools May Be Affected By Return To Purple Tier

– 4:17 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020

Schools that haven’t resumed in-person instruction will not be allowed to do so if San Diego moves to a more restrictive tier due to rising coronavirus cases, state officials said.

The state’s Department of Public Health said late Thursday that K-12 schools can reopen in a county once it has been moved out of the most restrictive purple tier — which signals widespread virus transmission — for two weeks.

But if schools haven’t resumed in-class instruction and the county returns to the most restrictive tier, they can’t do so, the agency said in an email.

That could happen in San Diego, which has seen a recent rise in coronavirus cases tied to San Diego State University. The infections could push California’s second-most-populous county to the most restrictive tier when the state’s color-coded system for business reopenings is updated next week. – Joe Hong, KPBS Education Reporter, Associated Press

San Diego County Considers Suing State Over Possible Slide Back Into Purple Tier

– 5:15 p.m., Friday, Sept. 18, 2020

San Diego County health officials reported 388 new COVID-19 infections and three deaths tied to the illness Friday, raising the region’s totals to 44,007 cases and 757 deaths as the county considers taking legal action against the state should reopenings for some still-closed businesses be rolled back next week.

Of the 10,235 tests reported Friday, 4% returned positive, bringing the rolling 14-day average of positive tests to 4% — potentially a good sign as San Diego County appears poised to regress into the state’s most restrictive public health tier due to increasing COVID-19 numbers by Tuesday, when state data is released.

On Thursday night, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors met in a closed session to discuss taking legal action against the state to prevent that slide back into that most restrictive tier after Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected a county effort Wednesday to discount the more than 700 positive tests recorded by San Diego State University since the semester began.

The county will find out Tuesday if it will slip back to the “purple” tier of the state’s coronavirus reopening roadmap. If so, it would likely shutter indoor operations for restaurants, houses of worship and gyms, limit retail businesses to just 25% capacity and have major impacts on indoor business for most other industries until the county can improve its numbers.

Ultimately the supervisors did not make a decision on taking legal action against the state in their meeting Thursday, but Supervisor Greg Cox said the board will meet in closed-session Monday after receiving more information, “to consider any further actions.” — City News Service

San Diego Leaders Ask Gov. Newsom To Approve Convention Center Reopenings

– 3:38 p.m., Friday, Sept. 18, 2020

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Councilman Chris Cate sent a letter Friday to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to approve safe reopening guidelines for convention centers across the state, which were ordered closed in mid-March along with other large venues such as amusement parks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The San Diego Convention Center has been home to more than 1,000 San Diegans experiencing homelessness since April 1, but has otherwise been closed to events which would normally fill the venue.

In Fiscal Year 2019, the convention center hosted 143 events and 836,695 attendees, accounting for 822,528 hotel room nights, $755.3 million in direct attendee spending and $29 million in hotel and sales tax revenue, for an overall regional impact of $1.3 billion, according to Faulconer and Cate. — City News Service

San Diego County Reports 174 New COVID-19 Cases, Six Deaths

– 5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020

San Diego County health officials reported 174 new COVID-19 infections and six deaths tied to the illness Thursday, raising the region’s totals to 43,619 cases and 754 deaths as the county waits to see if it will have to roll back business openings next week.

Of the 9,495 tests reported Thursday, just 2% returned positive — potentially a good sign as San Diego County appears poised to regress into the state’s most restrictive public health tier due to increasing COVID-19 numbers by Tuesday, when state data is released. However, as the data runs on a seven- day lag, it may be too little, too late to prevent moving to a more restrictive tier with Gov. Gavin Newsom rejecting a county effort Wednesday to discount the more than 700 positive tests recorded by San Diego State University since the semester began.

The county will find out Tuesday if it will slip back to the “purple” tier of the state’s coronavirus reopening roadmap. If so, it would likely shutter indoor operations for restaurants, houses of worship and gyms, limit retail businesses to just 25% capacity and have major impacts on indoor business for most other industries until the county can improve its numbers.

Should the county be placed in that tier, it would have to wait a minimum of three weeks before moving back to less restrictive tiers. — City News Service

San Diego Community College District Announces Online Classes Through 2021

– 3:00 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020

The San Diego Community College District announced Thursday it will continue online instruction through the remainder of the academic year, including the January 2021 intersession and Spring 2021 semester.

SDCCD Chancellor Constance M. Carroll emailed district employees Wednesday informing them of the decision. With exceptions for a few programs that are difficult to offer virtually, all district classes have been online and all operations conducted remotely since March 23 to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Hybrid exceptions include various science and clinical laboratory sections, career classes with technical components and classes for first responders, which are offered on campus with all health protocols required. Carroll said more hybrid classes and on campus support services will be offered in the spring if the situation allows, but that the district’s highest priority is the health and safety of its students and employees.

“It seems incredible that we are now in our sixth month of dealing with the coronavirus COVID-19,” Carroll said. “I do not believe anyone could have predicted the longevity of this crisis.”– City News Service

Average Rents In College-Adjacent Areas Drop Significantly During COVID-19

– 2:46 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020

A report released Thursday by real estate company Zillow found that as more college students stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the price of rents in neighborhoods surrounding the colleges has decreased.

According to Zillow, markets across the county are already relatively soft due to the pandemic, with just 2.6% increase in rents over a year ago, but ZIP codes typically home to many college students are actually showing a decrease in rents of .5%.

In the 92122 ZIP code, near UC San Diego — which has a 27.3% share of college students in normal years — rents were rising 4.8% year over year in February. Now, they’re falling 5.1%. They’ve dropped $84 a month in that time.

Data from The Chronicle of Higher Education and Davidson College shows 44% of U.S. colleges and universities are mostly offering classes online this fall, a big hit to rental demand in college areas, with two million more college-age Americans living with their parents in August than a year earlier.

According to Zillow’s data, the reduced demand in this largely remote higher-education environment is having a noticeable impact on rents in ZIP codes in which at least 20% of the population is college students, who make up about 8% of the U.S. rental market in a typical year. – City News Service

Unemployment Drops To Lowest Rate Since Early April, SANDAG Report Finds

– 2:43 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020

The estimated unemployment rate in San Diego County fell to 13.3%, nearly 12 points lower than the region’s peak in May, a report released Thursday by the San Diego Association of Governments found.

Unemployment has slowly declined from the high of 25% the week of May 9, with a noticeable spike from 15.1% to 17.4% in early July due in part to the closure of indoor businesses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since that second spike, the unemployment rate bounced between 15% and 16% before dropping below 14% in the latter part of August and early weeks of September.

While the region has recovered somewhat from those closure orders, the 13.3% figure SANDAG reported Thursday is still 2.5 points higher than at the height of the Great Recession in 2009-10.

“The new statewide guidelines make it challenging for many businesses to resume full operations,” said SANDAG Chief Economist Ray Major. “This has resulted in continued high levels of unemployed workers and dramatic declines in economic activity and consumer spending for the foreseeable future.” – City News Service

San Diego County Reports 264 New COVID-19 Cases, 6 Deaths

– 5:05 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020

San Diego County public health officials reported 264 new COVID-19 infections and six deaths from the illness Wednesday, raising the region’s totals to 43,445 cases and 784 deaths.

Of the 8,644 tests reported Wednesday, 3% returned positive, moving the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 4.4%, well below the state’s 8% guideline. The seven-day average number of tests performed in the county is 7,838.

Of the total positive cases in the county, 3,349 — or 7.7% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 787 — or 1.8% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.

County health officials reported five new community outbreaks on Tuesday. In the previous seven days, 17 community outbreaks were confirmed. Two of the new outbreaks were in businesses, and one each in a residence, grocery store and faith-based setting. – City News Service

Governor Won’t Exclude SDSU COVID-19 Cases From County Figures

– 5:05 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020

California officials said Wednesday the state would not consider removing college students’ virus cases from a county’s data because they are part of the broader community and can contribute to the spread of the illness.

“You can’t isolate as if it’s on an island, a campus community that is part of a larger community,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. He spoke hours before Greg Cox, chairman of the San Diego County board of supervisors, wrote the governor asking that he seriously consider excluding San Diego State University from the county’s count.

The issue arose as San Diego County — the state’s second-most populous — has seen hundreds of cases among college students that have helped drive up infections.

San Diego State University has reported more than 700 cases, prompting the university to move classes online and, on Tuesday, mandate testing for students living on campus. – Associated Press

County In Danger Of More COVID-19 Restrictions

– 4:55 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020

The clock is now ticking for San Diego County, as new COVID-19 data released Tuesday contains one of the two metrics the state monitors now flagged as “widespread,” which could lead to business restrictions and closures if it continues for another week.

San Diego County’s state-calculated, unadjusted case rate is 7.9 new daily cases per 100,000 population. The testing positivity percentage is 4.5%. Should the county have a case rate higher than 7.0 next week, it could be moved into the purple tier, and more state-imposed restrictions could be implemented on recently opened businesses. Many nonessential indoor business operations could be shuttered.

The county is currently in the red tier, along with Orange, San Francisco, Marin, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. Most of the rest of Southern California is in the purple tier. The state system has four tiers and assesses counties weekly, with reports scheduled each Tuesday.

County public health officials reported 294 new COVID-19 infections and nine new fatalities Tuesday, bringing the region’s total caseload to 43,181 and total deaths to 742.

Six men and three women died between Sept. 7 and Sept. 14, and their ages ranged from early 50s to mid-90s. All had underlying medical conditions.

Of the 5,969 tests reported Tuesday, 5% returned positive, moving the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 4.4%, well below the state’s 8% guideline. The seven-day average number of tests performed in the county is 7,254.

Of the total positive cases in the county, 3,335 — or 7.7% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 784 — or 1.8% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.

County health officials reported four new community outbreaks on Tuesday. In the previous seven days, 15 community outbreaks were confirmed. Two of the new outbreaks were in restaurant/bar settings, one was in a business and one in a grocery setting. The number of community outbreaks remains above the county’s goal of fewer than seven in a seven-day span. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases originating in the same setting and impacting people of different households in the past 14 days. — City News Service

San Diego State Requires Testing Of All Student Dorming On-Campus

– 4:15 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020

San Diego State University announced Tuesday it is ramping up its COVID-19 testing protocols through a new random surveillance testing program which requires all students living on campus to be tested for the virus.

The program will begin Wednesday, with around 500 students being tested every day through Saturday, then starting again Monday. All students living in SDSU residence halls and apartments will be assigned testing slots at either the Student Health Services Calpulli Center, or the HHSA testing location at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center. Students will be notified of their assigned testing window, along with instructions on what to do, through their SDSU email address.

Off-campus students are encouraged to get tested, as well. All students continue to have access to testing at Student Health Services and at both San Diego County and Imperial County locations. Faculty and staff continue to have access to county testing site locations, including the location at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center. —City News Service

San Diego County Reports 208 New COVID-19 Cases, No Deaths

– 4:03 p.m., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020

San Diego County public health officials reported 208 new COVID-19 infections and no new deaths Monday, bringing the region’s total caseload to 42,887, while the number of deaths related to the illness remained at 734.

Of the 5,921 tests reported Monday, 4% returned positive, moving the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 4.2%, well below the state’s 8% guideline. The seven-day average number of tests performed in the county is 7,076.

Of the total positive cases in the county, 3,306 — or 7.7% — have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, and 781 — or 1.8% — were admitted to an intensive care unit.

On Monday, county health officials reported no new community outbreaks. In the past seven days, 14 community outbreaks were confirmed. The number of community outbreaks remains above the county’s goal of fewer than seven in a seven-day span. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases originating in the same setting and impacting people of different households in the past 14 days.

Under the new state monitoring metrics, San Diego County is currently in Tier 2, also called the Red Tier. San Diego’s state-calculated unadjusted case rate was 6.9 per 100,000 residents and the testing positivity percentage was 4.2%. – City News Service

Scripps Health Forms Vaccine Committee For Future COVID-19 Treatment

– 12:21 p.m., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020

Scripps Health announced today it has established a COVID-19 Vaccine Committee to recommend which coronavirus vaccine or vaccines to consider offering for patients, employees and physicians.

The team of Scripps’ medical, pharmaceutical and vaccine experts will begin meeting this week. They will review and analyze the leading COVID-19 vaccines from an evidence-based perspective.

“It’s our responsibility as a health care provider to be the voice of science and truth,” said Scripps Health President and CEO Chris Van Gorder.

“There is a strong potential for public opinion to differ on which COVID-19 vaccine is best, with some people lacking faith in any of them. Our goal, through this committee, is to provide recommendations on a vaccine or vaccines based on an objective review of the available medical data and clinical information.”

Researchers worldwide are testing 48 COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials on humans, and at least 93 pre-clinical vaccines are under active investigation in animals. Nine COVID-19 vaccines are in Phase 3 large-scale efficacy testing. According to Scripps, expectations are that the Food and Drug Administration could approve a vaccine by the end of the year. – City News Service

Supervisor Fletcher To Preview $2.5 Million In Coronavirus Business Grants

– 11:21 p.m., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020

Supervisor Fletcher To Preview $2.5 Million In Grants

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San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher will visit Grandma Tofu Korean BBQ in the Kearny Mesa area, one of the business that could receive grant money if approved by the Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday meeting.

Contact says Fletcher will tour the business and discuss the importance of funding businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. – City News Service

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