Riverside County updates COVID-19 numbers after backlog

Carmela Karcher

On Tuesday, Riverside County Public Health came out with updated numbers on the spread of COVID-19 within the county.

In one day, the department reported over 110,000 new cases, but that’s because the county had a deep backlog beginning in the last week of December.

“About 8% of those cases were from December,” Riverside County Public Health Program Chief of Epidemiology Wendy Hetherington explained. “91% of those cases were from January with the majority of those being the first couple weeks in January. And about 1% were in February.”

But, this isn’t the first time this has happened within the county.

During last winter’s surge, the county had another backlog.

As Hetherington explained, the Omicron surge was much worse, making the backlog even bigger.

“I think part of the issue this time is that we didn’t realize how long it would have taken,” she continued. “We could have thrown more staff into the manual confirmation. We did add more staff, but we didn’t add enough to go through the backlog on our own. We thought auto-confirmation would be set soon, but we just didn’t realize it was going to take so long.”

Since other counties within California were seeing the same surge, the state was bombarded with requests for assistance, making the wait time for results even longer for Riverside County.

“Last winter, we had a little bit of a backlog but nothing like this,” Hetherington said. “This is a unique experience because Omicron was so transmissible and the cases rose so quickly that all our systems couldn’t catch up.”

With the indoor mask mandate coming to a close next week, Hetherington said it shouldn’t be a concern since the case rate is on track with the California Department of Public Health’s recommendations.

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