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Coronavirus outbreak confirmed at Pacific Beach gym operating illegally

A community coronavirus outbreak has been linked to The Gym in Pacific Beach.
San Diego County officials confirmed that a community coronavirus outbreak had been linked to The Gym in Pacific Beach. The fitness center had been ordered closed in July and did not comply.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

County announces plans to step up compliance efforts and enforcement of the public health order.

San Diego County on July 29 confirmed a coronavirus outbreak at a Pacific Beach gym that had been operating in defiance of the county’s public health order, and announced that it would step up efforts to protect workers and improve enforcement and contact tracing.

County officials had ordered the fitness business, The Gym at 2949 Garnet Ave., to immediately close July 23, according to Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. The gym continued operating but is now closed.

“This was a perfect storm where we had to require the business to close, and then yesterday they were on our outbreak list,” Wooten said July 29. “Last week, when we were trying to get them to close, we didn’t know they were on the outbreak list.”

The owner of The Gym did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

To improve the speed and effectiveness with which the county can trace contacts amid an increase in cases and outbreaks, staff will ask the county Board of Supervisors at its meeting next week to consider hiring more people for its coronavirus tracing, compliance and enforcement efforts, officials said. The county said it also is working to diversify the backgrounds of those it hires to better match the communities hardest hit.

Officials also announced that the county is updating its public health order, effective Thursday, July 30, to require employers to notify all their employees if there is an outbreak in the workplace.

Supervisor Greg Cox said the county is working with cities throughout the region and hammering out the details of how to form teams with local law enforcement agencies that would work to ensure compliance with the public health order. Cox said staff expected to present a proposal to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Meanwhile, the county is setting up a new hotline — separate from 211 — and an email address that would enable county employees to engage with residents to better assess the severity of issues being raised and collect more accurate, timely information, said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

Fletcher said the county is doing what enforcement it can, but the increased numbers of cases and outbreaks require more resources. So far, it has issued three orders to close businesses and three cease-and-desist letters, he said.

“We recognize that we have to do more, we have to step up what we’re doing a little better, and we’re responding accordingly,” Fletcher said.

The new efforts come as the county confronts an increase in coronavirus cases and community outbreaks, such as outbreaks at businesses and private homes.

County officials have had a policy of not disclosing the names of businesses where there was an outbreak, which is defined as at least three laboratory-confirmed cases among non-household members who were in the same place at the same time.

County officials said they did not announce the identity of the gym but confirmed it after NBC7 asked if there had been an outbreak at that facility. Officials did not disclose how many cases were associated with the outbreak, the dates of the cases or whether the cases were among employees or customers or both.

“We can confirm that there is an outbreak at that location, but that is the only information we will be able to share with you,” Wooten said.

Wooten said that when the county confirms an outbreak, it may have started three or four weeks earlier with the first case. The county then contacts people with whom that sick person had close contact, and if it identifies three confirmed cases among non-household members, it deploys outbreak teams.

Morgan Cook writes for The San Diego Union-Tribune. U-T staff writer Lyndsay Winkley contributed to this report.


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