974 new COVID-19 cases, 42 deaths, ICU beds maxed out, Riverside County reports


RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The steady climb of coronavirus cases in Riverside County resulted in an additional 974 cases reported today, as well as increases in hospitalizations and deaths, though the double-digit jump in the latter was attributed to late documentation.
“We are reporting 42 new deaths, which is the single-highest day in terms of death reporting,” county Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors. “But those deaths are from the period Dec. 1 to Dec. 10.”
The county only reports fatalities, for any cause, after death certificates have been submitted and recorded. Saruwatari said the previous high reporting day was on Aug. 2, when 37 COVID-coded deaths were published.
The total number of deaths stemming from virus-related complications is now 1,628.
Meanwhile, the aggregate number of COVID-19 infections recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March is 120,665, compared to 119,691 on Monday, according to the Riverside University Health System.
COVID-positive hospitalizations countywide are at 972, compared to 930 on Monday, including 195 intensive care unit patients, an increase of 11.
Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton told the board that about 40% of all hospitalizations countywide are tied to COVID-19. ICU beds are the greatest concern now. Technically, the county’s general and acute care facilities are at maximum occupancy for licensed ICU beds, according to Barton.
However, he emphasized that hospitals are resorting to “surge capacity” plans to re-purpose and expand critical care space wherever possible. He did not say local medical facilities are at the point of having to transfer patients to other facilities outside the county because of overload, which has happened continuously in neighboring Imperial County.
The 11-county Southern California region’s available ICU capacity dropped to 1.7%, compared to 2.7% on Monday.
According to Saruwatari, the county’s overall COVID-positive rate is 18.5%, compared to 14.8% a week ago. Health officials have previously noted that increases in testing lead to proportionally higher case numbers, which don’t necessarily translate to medical need, except for quarantine.
Saruwatari said the testing rate countywide is now 576 per 100,000 population. Two months ago, it was less than half that figure.
The number of known active virus cases countywide is 47,988, an increase of 697 compared to Monday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 120,665 — according to the County Executive Office.
The number of verified patient recoveries is 71,049. That figure has previously been under-reported due to health officials being unable to confirm the status of patients in follow-up interviews.
The regional ICU bed metric is a key indicator for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order, which went into effect on Dec. 6. The order was triggered when ICU bed availability across Southern California fell below 15%.
The mandate is slated to remain in effect until Dec. 28, when regions may be moved out of lockdown if bed capacity has recovered.
Supervisor Chuck Washington said today that multiple counties, including Riverside, are requesting that the governor revise the regional definition and parcel counties into smaller sub-regions across Southern California.
The change, he said, could result in modification to the ICU capacity threshold, which could be more easily met.
The current stay-at-home order impacts bars, theaters, museums, hair salons, indoor recreational facilities, amusement parks and wineries — all of which are supposed to remain closed. Restaurants are confined to takeout and delivery, with capacity limitations on retail outlets.