Coronavirus: Local doctor warns of over 4,000 deaths in Coachella Valley as 3rd Riverside County death reported

COACHELLA VALLEY, Calif. (KABC) -- As the coronavirus death toll rose in Riverside County, an area doctor predicted a drastic jump in deaths in the area, which is home to a substantial senior population.

A third death was confirmed in the Coachella Valley, the same area where the first two deaths were reported.

Dr. Richard Loftus told the Riverside County Board of Supervisors at a meeting Tuesday that the situation in the area could become dire.

"This is a once in 500-year event," Loftus said.

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He predicted 4,000 deaths of people over the age of 60 in the Coachella Valley, in addition to 200 deaths of people under 40 years old.

The population of the Coachella Valley is nearly 190,000 people.

Riverside County Public Health opened a local lab for testing, with a capacity of about 60 people per day. Officials are still exploring the possibility of drive-thru testing.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Riverside County officials ordered all gatherings of 10 or more people be canceled through April 30. This change - down from the 250-people ban announced last week - includes schools and restaurants. There are exceptions for essential operations like grocery stores as long as other protective measures are in place.

University of California, Riverside announced last week that all in-person classes on campus will be suspended until at least April 3 based on mounting concerns over potential coronavirus exposure, shifting classes to online-only instruction.

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On March 8, Riverside County's health chief declared a local health emergency following the disclosure of two new novel coronavirus cases in the county. Two days later, Kaiser announced Riverside County's first "locally acquired" coronavirus case.

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak was first recognized in Wuhan, China in December 2019, there have been nearly 200,000 cases worldwide, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 80,000 of those cases are in mainland China. The United States has more than 5,700 cases. Total deaths worldwide has reached more than 7,800 with 48 deaths in the United States.

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