Riverside County COVID hospitalizations lower, but case rate `just slightly’ higher

Riverside County COVID hospitalizations lower, but case rate `just slightly’ higher

Taylor Martinez & City News Service

COVID-positive hospitalizations in Riverside County dropped again Tuesday, but the overall case rate inched up, which officials said is not unexpected given increased activity amid the rollback in public health restrictions.

“Our numbers have ticked up just slightly,” Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors. “We’ll keep an eye on that.”

The county’s coronavirus positivity rate is now at 2.3%, compared to 2% last week, and the state-adjusted case rate is 4.5 per 100,000 people, which reflects a rolling seven-day average. Last week, it was 3.6 per 100,000.

“That is to be expected because of the reopenings, and then you have spring break and other things,” Saruwatari said.

County CEO Jeff Van Wagenen told the board that, next month, it will receive an extensive report on the building momentum toward private sector recovery in the wake of the public health lockdowns.

According to the Riverside University Health System, 82 people are hospitalized for coronavirus countywide, three less than Monday, and that includes 14 intensive care unit patients diagnosed with the virus — one less than a day ago.

RUHS officials also reported another 19 deaths, bringing the number of fatalities from virus-related complications recorded in the last 13 months to 4,547.

Tthe aggregate number of COVID cases recorded since the public health documentation period began in March 2020 increased to 297,620, up 301 from Monday.

The number of known active virus cases countywide is 2,051, up 241. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 297,620 — according to the county Executive Office. Verified patient recoveries countywide are at 291,022.

More county businesses opened two weeks ago amid lighter restrictions due to the county entering the orange tier. The county had been in the red tier of the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” framework since March 16, after five months in the most restrictive purple tier.

According to the California Department of Public Health, orange criteria permit retail businesses 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.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced earlier this month 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 for yellow tier status, which represents “minimal” presence of the virus.

County Public Health Officer Dr. Geoffrey Leung told the board that the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains shelved over concerns that it could lead to deadly blood clots, based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention findings. However, later this week, the federal government is expected to announce the outcome of additional research, Leung said.

He said the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer shots remain widely available.

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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