Riverside County reports 50% jump in COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations

The county had been in the red tier for a month, permitting many businesses to reopen with limited capacities.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CNS) -- Riverside County heath officials Tuesday reported a more than 50% jump in coronavirus-related intensive care unit hospitalizations over the weekend.

The Riverside University Health System reported 60 COVID-positive ICU hospitalizations countywide, up 21 from Friday's figures. The total number of coronavirus patients being treated in county hospitals increased by three over the weekend, to 164.

Officials additionally reported 975 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 16 additional virus-related deaths since Friday, bringing total figures recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March to 66,732 infections and 1,295 deaths.

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The deaths reported Monday date as far back as July 10, according to RUHS spokesman Jose Arballo.

The number of known active cases countywide is 5,921, an increase of 295 since Friday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total -- 66,732 -- according to the county Executive Office. The number of verified patient recoveries is 59,516.

The California Department of Public Health last week downgraded Riverside County from the "red tier'' under the governor's color-coded coronavirus regulatory scheme back to the most restrictive "purple tier,'' meaning some businesses that had reopened in recent weeks were required to close again. The designation impacts gyms, restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship.

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According to county staff, CDPH administrators decided that, based largely on low testing volumes, the county should be reduced from the red tier to the purple tier for at least three weeks. The county had been in the red tier for a month, permitting many businesses to reopen with limited capacities.

Kim Saruwatari, director of the county's public health department, said during last Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting that the county's testing rate is currently 195.5 per 100,000 population. The state's threshold for large counties is 239.1 per 100,000.

The other criterion for red tier status is a daily COVID-19 case rate of 7 per 100,000 or less. The county is at 8.4 per 100,000, with an adjusted rate of 9.1 per 100,000, which was applied because the county testing threshold was deemed unsatisfactory.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's recently announced equity metric, which requires addressing testing and positivity rates in specific communities, is also weighing on the tier designation.

The county's overall testing positivity rate is 5.2%, which is well within red tier criteria.

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The board approved a self-directed reopening plan on Oct. 6, but the timetable originally included with the plan for allowing businesses to fully open was removed on a 4-1 vote because it would have conflicted with state mandates.

County CEO George Johnson was authorized to implement reopening policies outside of the state's schedule, but Johnson said more than $100 million in relief grants from the state would be at risk if the county moved independently.
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