With New Vaccine Site Opening, RS County Reports 646 COVID-19 Cases, 23 Deaths

Taylor Martinez & City News Service

With Riverside County’s newest COVID-19 vaccine site set to open Friday at the Palm Springs Convention Center, health officials are reporting 646 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 23 additional virus- related deaths.

However, virus-related case numbers and hospitalizations countywide continue to drop.

The aggregate number of COVID-19 cases recorded countywide since the pandemic began in early March is 284,814, compared to 284,168 on Wednesday, according to the Riverside University Health System.

The number of virus-related deaths is 3,477, according to RUHS data. The fatalities are trailing indicators because of delays processing death certificates and cover three- to four-week periods.

But the number of known active virus cases countywide is 37,730, down 1,336. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 284,814 — according to the county Executive Office. Verified patient recoveries countywide are at 243,607.

Coronavirus-positive hospitalizations also continue to fall, with 687 patients now under care for virus-related complications countywide, or 39 fewer than Tuesday. That figure includes 194 intensive care unit patients, one more than Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Riverside County health officials on Wednesday confirmed the county’s first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 first discovered in the United Kingdom.

The case was reported to Riverside County health officials over the weekend, county Executive Office spokeswoman Brooke Federico said. She did not specify the region in which the case originated.

B.1.1.7 is considered more contagious, but not necessarily more deadly, than the original strain of COVID-19.

Supplies of COVID-19 vaccines will be increasing in Riverside County thanks to changes to the state’s dispensation program, officials announced earlier this week.

Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that Blue Shield had reached an agreement with the California Department of Public Health to coordinate distribution efforts throughout the state, including Riverside County. A schedule for the switch wasn’t specified.

According to RUHS spokesman Dr. Geoffrey Leung, just more than 200,000 residents have received the first round of doses. But there are ongoing concerns about completing the two-dose immunization process, and that has created anxiety among recipients, many of whom don’t have a set timeline for when they can obtain their second dose, which is supposed to be received within three to six weeks of the first one.

“We are trying our best to continue making improvements,” he said.

Countywide vaccination numbers may soon get a boost thanks to the county’s newest vaccine site, which is set to open Friday at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Leung said there are also plans in the works for mobile vaccination clinics to reach remote locations.

The county is making vaccination of seniors a priority, but others who qualify under the CDPH Phase 1 guidelines include hospital workers, first responders, teachers and some agricultural workers.

The portal to make an appointment for vaccination can be accessed via http://www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine. Anyone who needs assistance may also call the county’s 211 help line.

The overall countywide COVID-19 testing positivity rate is 14.4%, down from 16.6% last week, based on state-adjusted figures.

ICU availability countywide remains at 0%, along with the 11-county Southern California region.

The county remains in the most restrictive, purple tier of the governor’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy framework, impacting bars, theaters, museums, indoor recreational facilities and wineries — all of which are supposed to remain closed. However wineries, like restaurants, can provide outdoor dining, takeout and delivery.

Most retail outlets are limited to 25% capacity, while hair salons, nail salons and barbershops can operate with safeguards in place.

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