COVID-19 struck the region about three-quarters of the way into the fiscal year and upended the way San Diego County does business.  

The public health crisis and ensuing economic crisis forced a dramatic shift in lifestyle for everyone, from wearing masks and adhering to the stay-at-home orders to filing for unemployment and teaching kids how to do their schoolwork at the kitchen table. 

The County was forced to pivot from the year’s well-laid plans into emergency response mode to manage the pandemic’s all-encompassing impact. At the same time, the County had to maintain the services it provided to the public before COVID-19.

Unquestionably, public health had to be the number one priority.

The County activated its Emergency Operations Center, declared a local health emergency, set up testing sites all over the region and conducted its own lab work.  

The County coordinated the distribution of scarce personal protective equipment supplies to hospitals and stood up an alternative care center at the University of California San Diego in case COVID-19 patients overwhelmed medical facilities.

The County began investing $100 million into fighting the pandemic and launched the T3 strategy – test, trace and treat – to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and allow for responsible reopening. As part of T3, Human Resources hired hundreds of contact tracers.

The most vulnerable among us were at risk of becoming more so. Outreach teams provided over 10,000 hygiene kits and education to homeless individuals.

The County worked with partners to provide homeless shelter and care at the San Diego Convention Center and provided hotel rooms for more than 1,200 people without a safe place to isolate from others.

The  Great Plates programs helped thousands of at-risk seniors and adults with health conditions or disablities avoid leaving the house. The partnership between the State, County and local restaurants provided healthy meals for free.   

Throughout the months-long pandemic, shutdowns and reopenings, Public Health monitored the case, hospitalization and death rates in addition to reams of other data, and kept the public informed via numerous charts and graphs.

“We are very sensitive to the tremendous sacrifices being made by the community, and I would like to commend the public for staying the course.”

- Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer

Virtual news briefings were posted to social media and aired on local television stations. A new County website offered daily updated numbers, testing locations, information for various sectors of the community and other resources.

The County also went virtual with Board of Supervisors and planning meetings, department meetings and more. The demand for telehealth services skyrocketed to more than 50,000 sessions. County mental health experts offered tips on how to cope with the pandemic and economic crisis.

To maintain County services, online permit processing increased, virtual inspections became available for water heaters and roof-mounted solar systems, the Library expanded digital services, and Parks and Recreation offered virtual park tours.

An outdoor kiosk was transformed into a marriage hut that provided couples with small outdoor weddings at the Waterfront Park. Thousands of County employees teleworked to help maintain a wide variety of services.

The Registrar of Voters began working with public health officials to ensure a safe voting process for the Nov. 3 Presidential General Election. The Registrar launched a  Vote Safer San Diego campaign and notified voters of the governor’s decision to send mail ballots to all of California’s registered voters. 

The County already sends mail ballots to about 75% of its 1.8 million registered voters but is now preparing for the remaining 25%. Those who need to vote in person can still do so and cast their ballot at polling places that will be open for four days instead of one. 



Specimens Tested

Almost 1,000

Case Investigator and Contact Tracer Positions Filled


Investigations Conducted

(Data as of 9/28/20)


(Data as of 9/28/20)


Total Doses of Donated Convalescent Plasma


Hygiene Kits and Education Given to Homeless Individuals


Average Daily Tests Since T3 Launch on April 28


Individuals Provided a Safe Place to Stay in Local Hotel Rooms


Meals Served to Those Sheltered