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Questions about COVID-19 in Carlsbad

Last updated 07/21/20, 4:09 p.m.

The following are answers to frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 public health emergency.

San Diego County frequently asked questions
State of California frequently asked questions
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention frequently asked questions

Carlsbad-specific questions are answered below. If you have a question not covered here, please email us at communications@carlsbadca.gov.

What is open in Carlsbad?
The list of what is currently open with modifications and what is closed is changing often. The latest information can be found here.

Who’s in charge?
Here’s a quick overview of how public health order decisions get made:

  • Cities take their lead from counties because counties have responsibility for public health.
  • Counties are technically branches of the state government, so they take their lead from the state.
  • The federal government has put out “guidance” for reopening, but made it clear that states will make the ultimate decisions.
  • The state has said it will give counties “latitude” when it comes to some aspects of reopening.
  • The county has, in turn, provided some latitude to cities as well.
  • Most cities in San Diego County, like the City of Carlsbad, have a council-manager form of government, where policy decisions require a majority vote of the City Council. A further nuance is that the Carlsbad municipal code designates the City Manager as the director of emergency services. This means that the City Manager has the authority to take immediate steps to protect health and safety, and then the City Council subsequently votes on those actions. (The City of San Diego has a “strong mayor” form a government, which means the mayor can make certain decisions independent of the City Council).

What this means for Carlsbad?

  • We must follow all federal, state and county health orders and other laws.
  • We are not experts in public health; that is the role of the county.
  • Where discretion exists on policies, the Carlsbad City Council will make those decisions.

If you want to know more, you can review the California Government Code and the Carlsbad Municipal Code.

Why are some things open in another city and not in Carlsbad?
Cities can be more restrictive than county and state public health orders, but not less. In some cases, the City of Carlsbad has decided to relax restrictions more slowly than what is allowed, or we might just need a little more time to put all the safety precautions in place. 

When will more things reopen?
The county is closely monitoring a set of 13 triggers to determine when more things can reopen (or if reopening needs to slow down).

Why do the public health orders allow some things and not others even when the risk seems comparable?
Many people have asked why some things are allowed and not others, especially when it seems like the risks are comparable. What sometimes seems comparable is different from an enforcement perspective or even just operationally in terms of what it would take to reopen. County health officials are trying their best to keep us safe while recognizing the unintended consequences of the restrictions in place. Most decisions are made by public health experts at the county and state based on current health data and their best judgement. As conditions change, rules evolve with the goal of maintaining public health and safety.

What’s does a “community outbreak” mean?
A community setting outbreak is when three or more people are confirmed for COVID-19 at one location who are from different households. Community outbreaks are one of the 13 triggers the county is closely monitoring to determine whether additional measures are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

Why can’t you let the public know where the community outbreaks have occurred?
The county does not report the names of businesses or facilities associated with outbreaks unless they determine a public health need to do so. During the course of their investigation and contact tracing, if they are able to identity and notify all close contacts, and the business is in compliance with all of the follow-up, then there is no risk to the public to go to that business. If there were additional steps needed to protect the public at a particular business, then the county would take them, including notifying the public.

Why don’t you report more information on the Carlsbad cases (deaths, underlying conditions, etc)?
The county does not provide that information city-by-city. We have breakouts by ZIP code for total number of cases, but otherwise all of the other statistics are reported on a countywide basis.

What does the “watch list” mean?
The state has six triggers or criteria it’s monitoring to flag counties where additional health precautions may be needed:

  1. Average case rate of more than 150 per 100,000 in population, based on a seven-day average. 
  2. Average case rate of more than 100 per 100,000 in population, based on a 14-day average.  
  3. Average of more than 25 new cases per 100,000 in population and an 8% or higher rolling seven-day average of cases compared to number of tests.
  4. Increase in hospitalizations of 10% or more (this is calculated by taking the average of the past three days and comparting it to the average of the three days before that). 
  5. Less than 20% of staffed ICU beds are available. 
  6. Less than 25% of ventilators are available. 

On June 30, San Diego County was flagged because it surpassed the 2nd trigger - no more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 population. On July 3, San Diego County was officially put on the watch list. 

When will HOA swimming pools allowed to be open?
The county advised that swimming pools owned or operated by a homeowners’ association, condominium or apartment complex can reopen starting June 12 if they follow the safe reopening guidelines. If an HOA swimming pool is still closed, it may be due to needing more time to put all the operational guidance and safety precautions in place.

When will the playgrounds be able to open?
Playgrounds are still closed based on the state public health order. The most up-to-date list of what’s open and what’s not can be found here.

Why are the park lights not turned on during the evening?
Park hours, including at skate parks, tennis courts and basketball courts, are currently 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Since it is still light during those hours, park lights are not turned on.

Is it okay to get together with friends as long as you're outside, maintain distance and wear masks?
No. Gatherings of any kind are still not allowed under the current public health order, unless it is with people from your immediate household.

How is the city enforcing the health orders?
Enforcement in Carlsbad is the responsibility of the Police Department. The Police Department is taking an education first approach, meaning people will be first informed about the new rules and given an opportunity to comply. If needed, police can issue citations for non-compliance. The city also has monitors at parks and beaches to help inform people about the rules and is distributing free face coverings at public locations to increase compliance.

What should I do if I see someone not complying?
Take care of your own health and safety first. If you observe someone not complying, keep in mind the following:

  • People with illnesses and mental health conditions that prevent them from wearing facial coverings are exempt
  • People who live together do not need to stay 6-feet apart

It’s not always possible to discern these things. However, if you have a significant concern, you can call 760-931-2197 and the Police Department will assess the situation and take the appropriate actions.

What if a business is not complying?
The county has a web page to report violations.

Where can I get tested?
Those with symptoms are urged to contact their health care providers or call 2-1-1 for a referral to a testing site. The county also has testing sites that require no referral. Appointments can be made online or by calling 888-634-1123.

How does contact tracing work?
When a person or “case” is confirmed, a case investigator from the county talks to the person who tested positive to find out about close contacts during the time the person was considered infectious. This infectious time frame is considered to be two days before symptoms appeared until the person was isolated at home. The people identified through this case investigation are known as the “contacts.”

The contact tracers focus on “close contacts.” That means having 15 minutes or more of close contact (within 6 feet) with someone known to have COVID-19. This may include:

  • Household members
  • Intimate partners
  • People who had unprotected (without a face cover) direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case, for instance, someone who was coughed or sneezed on.
  • People who have been in a small, enclosed environment (such as a home, classroom, meeting room, restaurant, hospital waiting room, etc.) with the infected person.
  • Healthcare workers and others providing care to individuals with COVID-19 may be considered contacts as well if they were not using the recommended personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, or goggles or following proper cleaning recommendations for handwashing and disinfection of objects and surfaces

Once contacts are identified, a contact tracer will reach out to contacts to notify them of their potential exposure to a COVID-19 case. The contact tracer will ask the contacts about COVID-19 related symptoms they may be experiencing and if they have any underlying medical conditions. You can read more about contact tracing here.

How can businesses apply for a permit for temporary use of public sidewalk or private parking lot for outdoor dining or expanded retail space?
The Community Development Department has made it quick and easy to apply for a permit. Here is the dedicated city webpage with background information and permit applications specific to each use.

How can I access city services?
All essential city services are available, but some only online or by phone. See the full list here.