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San Diego Citizens Must Continue to Follow COVID-19 Safety Guidelines

More San Diegans need to continue to social distance and wear masks in public as the county experienced the largest spikes of COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks after the Thanksgiving weekend.

With more than 126,400 cases and nearly 1,300 deaths as of Dec. 20, we are likely to see exponential growth in the next two months. This is quite a contrast to March 28 with 488 confirmed cases and nine deaths.

In the past 30 days, there has been in increase of 164% of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and 115% of ICU patients (non-COVID-19 related). The majority of the cases are Latino (58%), younger adults in their twenties to thirties (43% total) and are concentrated in the Greater San Diego area (42%), followed by Chula Vista, Escondido and El Cajon.

While the number of deaths is the highest among those aged 70 and up (67%), Latinos make up the most deaths at 49%, followed by Whites (35%), Asians (10%) and Blacks (4.6%). Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and other ethnic groups make up about 2% of the deaths.

This bleak outlook may get brighter this week when front-line health workers and essential workers receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine created by Pfizer and BioNTech. This plan will be guided by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Prevention from the Center for Disease and Control (CDC), which includes three phases of vaccination.

Healthcare workers will be vaccinated first, followed by long-term care workers and workers at such places in the first part of phase one. Parts two and three of phase one will include essential workers like firefighters, police and correctional officers, food and agricultural professionals, and public transportation workers.

Once phase one is completed, next in line are children, teenagers and adults under age 30. Finally, everyone else who did not receive the vaccine will be in phase three.

Even if nearly everyone gets vaccinated, we all still have to maintain the same precautions we take today for another year or two – like social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask in public. However, given the severity of COVID-19 and how most societies in Asia adapted to their previous flu outbreaks (e.g. SARS in 2003), it is likely that we will see a significant number of people in the U.S. continue to wear masks, social distance and work from home for the rest of this decade.

However, not everyone in San Diego is taking precautions. Besides the typical right-wing rallies and protests that defy stay-at-home orders, some restaurants in Carlsbad refuse to do takeouts only and continue to allow customers to eat indoors. While it is understandable that some businesses cannot afford to close without some kind of financial aid, this behavior and trend only extends the lockdown and limits our freedom to go anywhere as we please.

If similar trends spread throughout the county and the state, we will likely see further spikes and growth of COVID-19 in the many months to come and extend the lockdown—vaccine or no vaccine.

Wearing a mask while in public, maintaining social distancing and avoiding large gatherings can help us get through this sooner as vaccines are distributed in phases over the next four to six months. Not abiding these precautions only limits your own personal “freedoms” and others’ as well.

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