Riverside County is officially in the orange tier

Taylor Martinez & City News Service

Riverside County Wednesday reported a slight uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations, and 25 additional virus-related deaths, as the county officially moved into the less-restrictive orange tier of the state’s economic reopening plan.

According to the Riverside University Health System, there were 106 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in hospitals countywide on Wednesday, four more than Tuesday. That figure includes 20 intensive care unit patients with the virus, one fewer than the day before.

The bump in hospitalizations followed a one-year low reported on Monday — 97 — which was the first time the county’s total hospitalizations dipped below 100 in a year.

The aggregate number of COVID cases recorded since the public health documentation period began in March 2020 is 295,770, up 139 from Tuesday, according to RUHS data.

Officials said a total of 4,442 deaths from virus-related complications have been recorded in the last year. The fatalities are trailing indicators because of delays processing death certificates.

The number of known active virus cases countywide is 2,207, down 83. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 295,770 — according to the county Executive Office. Verified patient recoveries countywide are at 289,121.

The coronavirus positivity rate countywide is now 2%, compared to 2.3% last week. The state-adjusted case rate is 3.5 per 100,000 people, which reflects a rolling seven-day average. Last week, it was 4.1 per 100,000.

Meanwhile, some county businesses were able to open Wednesday amid loosened restrictions due to the county entering the orange tier of the state’s reopening framework.

The county has been in the red tier of the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” since March 16, after five months in the most restrictive purple tier. Updated state COVID data were released Tuesday.

According to the California Department of Public Health, under the orange tier, retail businesses have the go-ahead to fully open, while 50% attendance caps are supposed to be observed in restaurants, museums, movie theaters and zoos. The guidelines call for gyms, wineries and bars to maintain 25% caps.

Beginning April 15, receptions and conferences can be held with up to 150 attendees, on the condition that attendees be tested for the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the target date for an end to all restrictions on businesses, gatherings and recreation throughout the state is June 15 — provided there are no signs of a backward slide.

The county’s metrics are squarely in the orange qualifier, but still just outside the parameters set for the least-restrictive yellow tier status, which represents “minimal” presence of the virus.

Last week, the CDPH lowered vaccination eligibility to anyone 50 and up. Beginning Tuesday, residents as young as 16 years old were eligible for immunization at one of four county health clinics.

Only the Pfizer vaccine is available to 16-year-olds, who must have a parent or guardian provide consent for a shot.

The eligibility threshold to include everyone as young as 16 was supposed to occur statewide on April 15. Executive Office spokeswoman Brooke Federico told City News Service that because the county is now well stocked on vaccines and fewer people are making appointments at clinics, the decision was made to move forward with adjusting the eligibility criteria.

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

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