Virus caseloads, hospitalizations continue higher in Riverside County

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The upward trajectory of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations throughout Riverside County showed no signs of leveling off Thursday, Dec. 17, with another 8,205 additional infections confirmed, and more than 1,050 COVID-positive patients receiving medical care at a time when hospital beds are becoming increasingly scarce.
The aggregate number of COVID-19 cases recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March is 132,818, compared to 124,613 on Wednesday, according to the Riverside University Health System.
The number of deaths stemming from complications attributed to COVID-19 is at 1,708, an increase of 42, RUHS said.
The case rate and death figures are lagging indicators because of delays in processing laboratory test results and death certificates that are coded as COVID-19, officials said earlier this week. The updated death reporting period goes back to the end of November. The county is experiencing difficulty reporting exactly how many people died from COVID-19 on a daily basis.
COVID-positive hospitalizations countywide are at 1,054, up from 1,000 a day ago, according to RUHS. That figure includes 216 intensive care unit patients, four more than Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton told the Board of Supervisors that about 40% of all hospitalizations countywide are tied to COVID-19. ICU beds are the greatest concern now, he said, with the county’s general and acute-care facilities technically at maximum occupancy for licensed ICU beds.
Barton said 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 number of known active virus cases countywide is 59,571, an increase of 7,904 compared to Wednesday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 132,818 — according to the County Executive Office.
The number of verified patient recoveries is 71,539. That figure has increased less than 10% in the last four weeks and has previously been under-reported due to health officials being unable to confirm the status of patients in follow-up interviews.
The county’s overall COVID-19 positive rate is 18.5%, compared to 14.8% a week ago. Health officials have noted that increases in testing lead to proportionally higher case numbers, which don’t necessarily translate to medical need, except for quarantine. Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said Tuesday that the testing rate countywide is now 576 per 100,000 population. Two months ago, it was less than half that amount.
The 11-county Southern California region’s available ICU capacity officially plummeted to 0% today, compared to 0.5% on Wednesday.
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 at least Dec. 28, when regions may be moved out of lockdown, if bed capacity has recovered.
Supervisor Chuck Washington said Tuesday that multiple counties, including Riverside, are requesting that the governor revise the regional definition and parcel counties into smaller sub-regions across Southern California, with the goal of modifying the ICU capacity threshold, so it 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.