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The Purple Tier & The Surge: What Happened in San Diego in November 2020

NBC San Diego logo NBC San Diego 12/1/2020 NBC 7 Staff
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November 2020 was a month of surges and subsequent setbacks for San Diego County as the coronavirus pandemic wore on.

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Locals experienced Election Day 2020, pandemic style, which meant lots of mail-in ballots and much quieter polling places. A surge in COVID-19 cases sent San Diego from the red into the purple tier in California’s color-coded system for the safe reopening of communities.

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A record number of daily cases in the county was a sobering reminder that the pandemic is not over. Thanksgiving came and went, and the celebrations we,re much different.

Here’s a look back at what happened this month during the coronavirus pandemic in San Diego County.

COVID-19 Patients in San Diego County

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San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) officials confirmed there have been 82,043 positive COVID-19 cases and 997 COVID-related deaths since Feb. 14, 2020.

Second Half of November 2020 in San Diego

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Nov. 30

Another Shutdown Possible: Gov. Newsom said health officials are considering tighter restrictions for counties in the purple tier that could look similar to the stay-at-home order imposed at the start of the pandemic back in the spring. Details weren't released but Secretary of Health Dr. Mark Ghaly noted lessons learned from the first shutdown would be applied -- including setting an exact time frame for how long a stay-at-home order would last.

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Newsom also said California is just weeks away from receiving their initial doses of a coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer, with other companies not far behind.

Case Data: Health officials reported a 6% daily positivity rate, with 959 new cases out of 15,348 tests. Over the last two weeks, the county's average positivity rate had been above 6% which is around double what it was at the beginning of November.

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As of Nov. 30, more than 40% of positive cases had involved patients between the ages of 20 and 40 years old, according to county data.

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Hospitalizations: COVID-19-related hospitalizations increased for the 15th time in 16 days, and the number of patients in the ICU with COVID-19 increased for the 11th straight day. County hospitals were still below their surge capacity limit of 80%.

Community Outbreaks: Seven new community outbreaks were reported, bringing the seven-day total to 79. The county's trigger threshold is seven in a week.

Contact Tracing: The county slipped one of its contact tracing goals, setting off another trigger. Health officials reported they were initiating contact tracing investigations within 24 hours for only 67% of patients (seven-day average), which is 3% below its goal of 70%.

Nov. 29

Case Data: San Diego County officials said 1,066 cases of coronavirus had been detected on Nov. 28 after administering 13,608 tests. This was an 8% positivity rate. No new deaths were reported.

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Community Outbreaks: Nine new outbreaks were reported in community settings. There had been 85 in the last seven days.

Nov. 28

Outbreak Reported at Local Church: The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency alerted the public of a COVID-19 outbreak at Awaken Church in Kearny Mesa. County health officials said they were taking the unusual step of publicly identifying an outbreak site because contact tracers had not been able to reach everyone. 

State Metric: San Diego County fell deeper into the most restrictive purple tier of

the state's four-tiered reopening plan with an unadjusted 26.5 new

COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Even with an adjusted rate of 15.6 per

100,000 due to significant testing increases by local health authorities, that

the number far exceeded the strictest tier's baseline of seven daily cases per

100,000.

Case Data: 1,859 new COVID-19 cases were reported out of 12,932 tests, for a 14% positivity rate. To date, it was the highest number of COVID-19 cases reported in a single day in San Diego County. One new death was reported, bringing the county total to 997.

Community Outbreaks: Sixteen new community outbreaks were reported.

Nov. 27

Case Data: 1,802 new COVID-19 cases were reported out of 21,671 tests, for an 8% positivity rate. Public health officials said the county's daily positivity rate is proof of increased community spread, which had been rising steadily since the beginning of November 2020. The county's two-week average positivity rate is pushing toward 6%. It was around 3% at the beginning of November. No new COVID-related deaths were reported on Nov. 27, keeping the county total at 996.

Community Outbreaks: Ten new community outbreaks were reported. There have been 82 identified in the last seven days. The county's target is to have less than seven in a week.

Hospitalizations: There were 580 coronavirus-related hospitalizations reported, the same number reported one day prior (data from Nov. 26 was released on Nov. 27 due to the Thanksgiving holiday). This figure included coronavirus-related ICU patients, which had increased for the eighth consecutive day. County hospitals still remained under 80% capacity.

Nov. 26

Case Data: San Diego County reported 1,052 new coronavirus cases on Thanksgiving Day 2020, bring the case total to 76,357. Eight additional deaths were reported, bring the county's total to 996. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the county only published updated case and death totals, and no other stats.

Nov. 25

County Relief Grants: The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan to give out $20 million worth of grants to businesses reeling from purple tier restrictions.

Case Data: San Diego County reported 944 new COVID-19 cases out of 20,738 tests, for a positivity rate of 5%.

Hospitalizations: There were 545 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, including 152 patients in the ICU as of Nov. 25. One month prior, there were less than 250 total COVID-19-related hospitalizations and fewer than 90 of them were in the ICU, health officials said. The Nov. 25 numbers marked the 11th consecutive day the county's hospitalizations had increased.

Community Outbreaks: Ten new community outbreaks were reported, pushing the seven-day total to 76. The county's target is no more than seven in a week's time.

Nov. 24State Metrics: San Diego County's case rate, one of two metrics used to determine the county's status in the state's tiered reopening plan, was measured at 13.1, well above the purple tier limit of 7. That metric is updated every Tuesday.

Case Data: The county reported 1,546 new cases out of 17.329 reported tests (9%), which is the highest ratio of positive tests to total tests since testing had been widely available to county residents. Sixteen new COVID-19 deaths were reported, pushing the county's total to 984.

Community Outbreaks: Fifteen new community outbreaks were reported, making five days in a row the county reported daily outbreaks in the double digits. The total number of outbreaks in the last seven days was 73.

Nov. 23

On Nov. 23, a judge denied a request from four San Diego County businesses seeking to resume indoor operations following the county's slide into the purple tier of the state's coronavirus reopening plan.

Also on this day: NBC 7 reported on the so-called COVID-19 Risk Assessment Planning Tool, which aims to help people easily understand the risks associated with gatherings. The tool tells you the likelihood of coming into contact with a COVID-19-positive person at a gathering based on the size and location of that gathering. Some are using the tool to weigh the risks of celebrating the upcoming holidays.

Cases Data: 1,167 coronavirus cases were reported out of 21,117 tests (5%), bringing the county's case total to 72,815.

Hospitalizations: COVID-19-related hospitalizations and COVID-19-related ICU admissions continued to trend upward, and the county was just shy of 80% hospital capacity, as of Nov. 23.

Community Outbreaks: 13 new community outbreaks were reported, bringing the county's seven-day total to 61. No new deaths were reported, keeping the county's total at 968.

Nov. 22

Case Data: San Diego County public health officials said 939 cases of coronavirus had been detected on Nov. 21 after administering 20,251 tests, for a 5% positive rate.

Community Outbreaks: 10 new outbreaks were reported in community settings on Nov. 21. There had been 55 in the last seven days. Two new deaths were reported.

Nov. 21

The Curfew: California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for purple tier counties across the state, which included San Diego County. The curfew went into effect on Nov. 21 and was set to last until Dec. 21 – or sooner, if San Diego County is able to get itself out of the purple tier.

Case Data: San Diego County officials said a record-setting 1,478 cases of coronavirus had been detected on Nov. 20 after administering 21,947 tests, for a 7% positive rate.

Community Outbreaks: 12 new outbreaks were reported in community settings. There had been 53 in the last seven days. Six new deaths were reported.

Nov. 20

El Cajon: The mayor of El Cajon, who previously told the city’s police department not to make health order violations a priority, said San Diego County’s stepped-up enforcement efforts are a “huge overreach.”

Chula Vista: Eight months into the pandemic, the city of Chula Vista said it was shifting from an education first strategy to something with a little more teeth when it comes to compliance of COVID-19 health restrictions. Now, the city will issue violation notices and even cease-and-desist letters without issuing warnings first.

Cases, Deaths: There were 1,091 new positive cases reported, continuing the upward trajectory of daily cases and bringing the county's total to 68,140. There were also eight more deaths, bringing the total to 960.

Hospitalizations: Public health officials said there had been a 15% increase in cases over the last three days compared to the three days prior, a concerning number that has caused another trigger on the county's coronavirus dashboard to turn red. Meanwhile, hospital capacity remained in the green, but was only 5% away from being in the red. Current hospital capacity was at 75%; ICU capacity was at 27%.

Community Outbreaks: There had been 43 outbreaks in the last 7 days: three in business settings; three in faith-based agency settings; two in daycare/preschool/childcare settings; one in a TK-12 school setting; one in a restaurant/bar setting; one in a fitness/gym setting, to name a few.

Nov. 19

The Curfew: California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for purple tier counties, which includes San Diego County, effective Nov. 21.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said deputies would work with county COVID-19 compliance teams and 18 local law enforcement agencies to respond to complaints and enforce the public health order. The District Attorney and City Attorney said they also had dedicated staff to help with enforcement.

The county had issued more than 5 cease-and-desist orders since Nov. 16, according to San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

Case Rates: Data published by San Diego County every Thursday shows coronavirus case rates in individual cities and ZIP codes. Click here to see the most updated numbers.

Case Data: San Diego County reported 899 new COVID-19 cases out of 12,8111 tests (7%). Seven new deaths were also reported, bringing the total to 952. The county's coronavirus cases, positivity rate, health equity rate, and hospitalizations were all showing signs of increase, according to Fletcher.

Community Outbreaks: Five new community outbreaks were confirmed, and there have been 36 confirmed over the last seven days.

Nov. 18

Cease & Desist: At least four more businesses were served with cease-and-desist orders by the County of San Diego on Nov. 18 for allegedly violating public health orders that prohibit many indoor operations, bringing the total businesses served with these types of order to at least 34 since Nov. 16.

Meanwhile, as San Diegans geared up for the holiday season, the San Diego International Airport (SAN) said it was stepping up its health safety procedures but also wanted to provide travelers some tips before they fly amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Case Data: San Diego County officials said 922 new cases were confirmed among San Diego County residents. The region’s total was now 67,241. Twelve new COVID-related deaths were reported, bringing that tally to 945.

Community Outbreaks: Seven new community outbreaks were confirmed. One was in an emergency services setting, one in a restaurant/bar setting, two in daycare settings, two in business settings, and one in a grocery setting.

State Metrics: San Diego County’s state-calculated, adjusted case rate is currently 10.7 cases per 100,000 residents and the region is in Purple Tier or Tier 1.

Nov. 17

Case Data: San Diego County officials said 718 new cases were confirmed among San Diego County residents. The region’s total was now 66,319. Seven new COVID-19 deaths were reported in the county, and that total was now 933.

Community Outbreaks: Three new community outbreaks were confirmed. One was in a business setting, one in a restaurant setting, and one in a TK-12 school setting.

State Metrics: San Diego County’s state-calculated, adjusted case rate was 10.7 cases per 100,000 residents and the region was in Purple Tier, or Tier 1.

Nov. 16

County officials met on Nov. 16 to discuss the county's rising case numbers. Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, said that there were 833 new cases reported on Nov. 15, a decrease from the all-time high of 736 on Nov. 14, but still the second-largest single-day case count, at least up to this point.

"We are in an emergency situation," Wooten said. "COVID-19 is not going away, and we must act. We must act for our own health. We must act for the health of our family, our colleagues and our friends, act for the economy and just act and act now. This is urgent."

County Board of Supervisors' chairman Greg Cox announced that the county's compliance team had identified 17 locations over the weekend that were not acting within the county's purple tier designation. These locations were all issued cease-and-desist orders, Cox said, adding late that more information about the targeted organizations would be published that night on the county's website.

The First Half of November 2020 in San Diego

Nov. 15

Case Data: San Diego County officials said 1,087 cases of coronavirus had been detected on Nov. 14 after administering 12,349 tests, for a 9% positive rate. No new COVID-related deaths were reported.

Community Outbreaks: Eight new outbreaks were reported in community settings; there had been 45 in the last seven days.

Nov. 14

Case Data: San Diego County public health officials said 736 cases of coronavirus had been detected after administering 19,799 tests, for a 4% positive rate. Five new COVID-related deaths were reported in San Diego County.

Community Outbreaks: Two new outbreaks were reported in community settings; there had been 44 outbreaks in the last seven days.

Nov. 13

County officials had no good news to report on Nov. 13 after a week of increasingly concerning COVID-19 case numbers.

The Purple Tier Looming: On Nov. 14 at 12 a.m., San Diego's steadily worsening metrics will force the county to drop back into the state's purple tier, or the most restrictive tier in California's pandemic plan for safely reopening the state.

Case Data: San Diego County officials said 611 cases of coronavirus had been detected after administering 14,663 tests, for a 4% positive rate. Thirteen San Diego County residents lost their lives over the course of a week, three on Nov. 12 alone.

Community Outbreaks: Four new outbreaks were reported in community settings, and 48 in the last seven days.

Nov. 12

Case Rate by City & ZIP Codes: San Diego County published a new dashboard showing coronavirus case rates in individual cities and ZIP codes. Case rates in some communities were as high as four times the limit for the purple tier. The dashboard will be updated every Thursday.

map: A map showing colored case rate tiers for each city in San Diego County. © Provided by NBC San Diego A map showing colored case rate tiers for each city in San Diego County.

What's Risky: NBC 7 looked at the county data to find out which settings are most linked to recent coronavirus cases.

Case Data: San Diego County reported 620 new cases out of 17,908 tests, a positivity rate of 3%. No new deaths were reported. The county's death total remained at 918.

Community Outbreaks: Seven new outbreaks were reported, bringing the county's total over the last seven days to 49.

Nov. 11

New Testing Site:

San Diego County partnered with the district and the city of Vista to open a new free COVID-19 testing site in Vista.

Cases, Deaths: 661 new cases were reported out of 13,754 tests, a positivity rate of 5%. Three new deaths were also reported, bring that total to 918. Over the span of seven days, the county had averaged 12,600 tests per day.

Community Outbreaks: Sixteen new outbreaks were reported, bringing the county's total over the last seven days to 48.

Nov. 10

County Shifts to Purple Tier: California health officials announced San Diego County was among the counties across the state that -- due to rising COVID-19 case rates -- would be shifting into the purple tier.

The purple tier is the most restrictive tier in the state's blueprint for safely reopening counties amid the pandemic. This means another wave of restrictions for local businesses, including restaurants, gyms, churches and museums, which are not allowed to offer indoor services while the county is in the purple tier.

Under the purple tier, most indoor businesses will need to close or reduce capacity. Restaurants and wineries will not be able to operate indoors; retail will be limited to 25% capacity; bars, breweries and distilleries that do not serve food cannot open, live audience sports and amusement parks must be closed, places of worship, movie theaters, museums, and gyms must operate outdoors only; and schools that were not already open for in-person instruction can no longer do so.

Case Rate: San Diego County's rising number of COVID-19 cases pushed the adjusted case rate to 8.9 -- well above the 7.0 threshold outlined by the state for the second week in a row. San Diego's positivity percentage was 2.6%. When adjusted for health equity, the rate was 6.5%

Here's what's allowed and what isn't in San Diego County under the purple tier. © Provided by NBC San Diego Here's what's allowed and what isn't in San Diego County under the purple tier.

Case Data: 483 new cases emerged, pushing San Diego County's total case number to 61,053. Seven more people died from COVID-19, a total of 915 since the pandemic reached San Diego County. San Diego County had been conducting a 7-day average of tests above12,540. There were more than 9,000 tests reported on this date.

Community Outbreaks: There were 39 community outbreaks reported in the last seven days.

Other Updates: A student at El Camino Creek Elementary school in the Encinitas Union School District tested positive for coronavirus, forcing a cohort of students and staff into quarantine.

Nov. 9

Case Data: 401 new cases were confirmed among San Diego County residents, bringing the region's total number of COVID-19 cases to 60,570. No new deaths were reported; that number stood at 908.

Community Outbreaks: Three new community outbreaks were confirmed; two in restaurant/bar settings and one in a business setting. From Nov. 2 through Nov. 8, the county confirmed 39 community outbreaks.

Nov. 8

Case Data: County officials reported 513 new positive COVID-19 cases out of 10,017 tests, for a 5% positive rate. The region’s total was now 59,656. No new deaths were reported in the county, keeping that total at 908.

Community Outbreaks: Seven new community outbreaks were confirmed; in the past seven days, there had been 36 community outbreaks.

Nov. 7

Case Data: County officials reported 540 new positive COVID-19 cases out of 13,508 tests, for a 4% positive rate. The region’s total was now 59,656. One new death was reported, bringing that total to 908.

Community Outbreaks: Six new community outbreaks were confirmed: two in restaurant settings, one in a restaurant/bar setting, one in a hair/barbershop/nail salon setting, and one in a business setting. In the past seven days, 33 community outbreaks were confirmed.

Nov. 6

Case Data: County officials reported 430 new positive COVID-19 cases out of 13,079 tests, for a 4% positive rate. The region’s total was now 59,116. Three new COVID-relate deaths were reported in San Diego County, for a total of 907.

Community Outbreaks: Five new community outbreaks were confirmed on Nov. 5: two in restaurant settings, one in a restaurant/bar setting, one in a hair/barbershop/nail salon setting, and one in a business setting. In the past seven days, 27 community outbreaks were confirmed. The number of community outbreaks remained above the trigger of seven or more in seven days.

Nov. 5

Case Data: County officials reported 530 new positive COVID-19 cases out of 15,905 tests, a 3% positive rate. The region’s total was now 58,636. No new deaths were reported, keeping the region's total at 904.

Community Outbreaks: Six new community outbreaks were confirmed: three in business settings, two in retail settings, and one in a faith-based setting. In the past seven days, 23 community outbreaks were confirmed. The number of community outbreaks remained above the trigger of seven or more in seven days.

Nov. 4

Inching Toward the Purple Tier: The California Department of Public Health reported that San Diego County's COVID-19 case rate had risen to 7.4 per 100,000 residents, pushing the county closer to the most restrictive purple tier. The county's updated case reported rate the week prior was outside the 4.0 to 7.0 range of the red tier and qualified it for the purple tier, or tier 1. While a shift to purple would mean a rollback of business reopenings for the region, official confirmation of the county's shift into purple wouldn't happen for another week.

Case Data: County officials reported 404 new positive COVID-19 cases out of 15,345 tests, for a 3% positive rate. The region’s total was now 58,106. Three new deaths were reported, raising the region's total to 904 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic reached the county 8 months ago.

Community Outbreaks: Seven community outbreaks were confirmed; two in a business setting, three in a restaurant/bar setting, one in a grocery setting, and one in a healthcare setting.  In the past seven days, 25 community outbreaks had been reported.

Testing Sites: Two new testing sites were set to open next week, one at the Lemon Grove Community Center and another at the Imperial Beach Sports Park Recreation Center.

Nov. 3

Election Day 2020: With mail-in ballots galore, San Diego County voted in the pandemic-era Election Day. Michael Vu, of the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, broke down Election Day in San Diego by the numbers, crediting early, mail-in voting for the quick turnaround on results.

Case Data: County officials reported 293 new positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the region's total to 57,702. Ten new deaths were reported, raising the region's total to 901 COVID-related deaths.

Community Outbreaks: Five new community outbreaks were confirmed; two in business settings, two in restaurant/bar settings and one in a healthcare setting. From Oct. 27 through Nov. 2, the county confirmed 31 community outbreaks.

Testing: 8,200 tests were reported to the county on Nov. 2, and the percentage of new laboratory-confirmed cases was 4%.

Nov. 2

Case Data: County health officials reported 307 new positive COVID-19 cases out of a batch of 10,248 tests, for a 3% positive rate. The region’s total was now 57,409 positive COVID-19 cases. No new deaths were reported keeping the total at 891.

Community Outbreaks: No new outbreaks were reported. In the past seven days, 28 community outbreaks were confirmed by county health officials.

Nov. 1

Cases, Deaths: County health officials reported 352 new positive COVID-19 cases out of a batch of 9,490 tests, for a 4% positive rate. The region’s total number of COVID cases was now 57,102. No new COVID-related deaths were reported, keeping that figure at 891.

Community Outbreaks: Four new outbreaks were confirmed on Oct. 31. In the past seven days, 29 community outbreaks were confirmed.

The Coronavirus Pandemic in San Diego County, Month by Month

From March until now, there have been so many developments related to the coronavirus pandemic in San Diego County. Every month, we break down what happened that month and how it impacted our region.

For a look back at what happened in San Diego County in October 2020, click here.

For a look back at what happened in San Diego County in September 2020, click here.

For day-by-day look back at everything that happened in August 2020 in San Diego County during the coronavirus pandemic, click here.

For a look back at July 2020 in San Diego County during the pandemic, click here.

To read about what happened in June 2020 in San Diego County during the coronavirus pandemic, click here.

To read what happened in May 2020, a month that county leaders called a month of "adaptation" for San Diego County in the fight against the novel coronavirus, click here.

To read what happened in April 2020, a month that county leaders called "critical" for flattening the curve, click here.

To look back at what happened in March 2020 in San Diego County during the coronavirus pandemic, click here. The breakdown of the impact as the pandemic reached San Diego County in mid-March 2020 can be found below.

Mid-March 2020: The Coronavirus Pandemic Reaches San Diego County

A lot happened in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic reached San Diego County and COVID-19 cases surged.

This included quarantine operations at a 151-room Ramada hotel in Kearny Mesa that was chosen to house quarantined patients held at MCAS Miramar (March 18).

More than 480 passengers from a coronavirus-ridden cruise ship that docked at the Port of Oakland were flown to MCAS Miramar March 10 to March 12 to complete a mandatory 14-day federal quarantine. On March 27, Dr. Eric McDonald, Medical Director with the County Epidemiology Immunization Branch said all but three of the passengers had returned home after 14-days of quarantine, including those who had been at the Ramada Hotel.

Training Support Command at Naval Base San Diego was temporarily closed on March 14 due to three Sailors testing positive for COVID-19.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the stay-at-home order and, soon, the springtime shutdown across San Diego County began.

Schools Shut DownOn March 13, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten shut down the second-largest school district in California. All other school districts in San Diego County followed suit. San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy closed all schools within the San Diego Catholic Diocese, too.

We later learned schools across the state would be closed for the remainder of the academic year.

Local colleges and universities also canceled classes and events and moved their operations online. This included: UC San Diego; San Diego State University; California State University San Marcos; Point Loma Nazarene University; University of San Diego; San Diego Community College District; Southwestern College; Palomar College; Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

Landmarks Shutter, Events CanceledSan Diego’s biggest tourist attractions, landmarks and events closed or were canceled. Local casinos followed, as well as gyms and fitness centers.

Church Services CanceledAs gatherings were banned, all daily and Sunday masses in the San Diego Catholic Diocese were canceled. Rock Church San Diego services were also canceled and moved to streaming online.

Beaches & Parks ClosedOn March 23, San Diego’s beaches, parks, boardwalks, and other open spaces across the county were ordered to close to restrict gatherings over 10 people prohibited by state and local laws.

Restaurant Dinings Rooms & Bars CloseBars and restaurant dining rooms were ordered to close in March, too. Shopping malls closed. Some retailers – like clothing stores Urban Outfitters and Brandy Melville USA – temporarily closed their stores, and more would follow.

Sports, On Hold Sports agencies – both college-level and professional – suspended their games and seasons. MLB’s Opening Day – including the San Diego Padres big Home Opener at Petco Park – were scrapped, but in June, the MLB made plans to return to the field, without fans. The 2020 MLB season will return in late July.

Text "COSD COVID19" to 468311 to receive updates and alerts from the county. Click here to find different ways to help your community during the pandemic.

San Diego County would like to remind everyone if you or someone you care about is experiencing a suicidal or mental health crisis, please call the Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240.

Pitching in During the Pandemic: Stories of San Diegans Doing Good: Read more stories about San Diegans finding creative ways to lend support. Have you heard about a story we should share? Let us know

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