Riverside County COVID-19 hospitalizations surge by more than 250%

As the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to affirm the recent health order banning outdoor dining for the time being, in Riverside County, no such ban exists. But public officials are urging residents to celebrate the holiday responsibly as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

"If you're going to get together for the holiday, please make your Thanksgiving smaller, shorter and safer," said Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chairman V. Manuel Perez.

Hospitalizations have surged by more than 250% over the past month, and the COVID-19 testing positivity rate has climbed more than 150%.

"I don't share these numbers to scare you, but to provide an accurate assessment of where we are in Riverside County at this moment," said Riverside County Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari. "And that is before the holiday season even starts."

IE businesses react to curfew as Riverside County sheriff says department will not enforce
EMBED More News Videos

As a state-ordered curfew for counties in the purple tier goes into effect this weekend, covering all of Southern California, some Inland Empire businesses already struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic are anticipating even more losses.

Saruwatari said there has also been a surge in the number of residents showing up at their drive-through centers to get tested for COVID-19. She is concerned that people who get tested before Thanksgiving will use negative test results as a reason to let their guard down.

"Please understand that when you test for COVID-19, it just tells you where you are at that particular moment when you're tested. If you were recently exposed and don't have enough viral load, it might not be detected."

While Saruwatari said there have been some outbreaks tied to restaurants, it's the private gatherings during the holidays that concern her the most.

"There was a substantial rise in cases following Memorial Day and after the 4th of July. There was an uptick several weeks after Labor Day, and after Halloween. These are simple facts, they're not meant to scare people ... We believe one of the biggest factors in these increases was household gatherings."
Copyright © 2021 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.