Worst COVID-19 week on record for Riverside County, southwest county

Healthcare workers conduct testing for COVID-19 at the drive-thru testing site at Diamond Stadium in Lake Elsinore managed and operated by Riverside University Health System Public Health Department. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

Jeff Pack
Staff Writer

In the weeklong tracking of COVID-19 pandemic data, Riverside County set records across the board, but none of them were positive when it came to the spread of the virus, with new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations continuing to climb. 

From Friday, Dec. 11 to Friday, Dec. 18, Riverside County reported 28,112 new coronavirus cases and 171 deaths. Since the county began recording data associated with the virus, 141,062 have become infected and 1,744 residents have died from COVID-19. 

As of Friday, there were 1,092 people in Riverside County hospitals being treated for the virus and 224 in intensive care units. That made 283 more in the hospital and 54 more in the ICU than the Friday before. 

The county had performed 136,447 coronavirus tests over the past week and 1,968 people had reportedly recovered from the virus. 

The case rate per 100,000 residents as reported by the state grew from 47.8% to 92.2% over the course of the week, and the positivity rate also increased from 14.8% to 18.5%. 

As of Friday, there was 0% ICU bed availability in both Riverside County and the rest of the Southern California region. 

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.

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. 

When it came to record-breaking coronavirus data, the cities and communities of Southwest Riverside County were not spared either. 

In all, there were 6,614 new coronavirus cases and 45 deaths reported in the span of the week. 

Temecula suffered 571 new cases and one death, Murrieta 712 and 6 deaths, Wildomar 287 and 2 deaths, Lake Elsinore 702 and 1 death, Canyon Lake 91 and no deaths, Menifee 825 and 7 deaths, Hemet 831 and 19 deaths, and San Jacinto reported 626 and 5 deaths. 

The community of Anza reported 17 new cases, East Hemet 179 and two deaths, French Valley 214 and no deaths, Lakeland Village 101 and no deaths, Valle Vista 162 and 2 deaths, and Winchester recorded 13 new cases. 

In a message relayed by the City of Murrieta on Thursday, Dec. 17, Senior Vice President of Loma Linda University Medical Center – Murrieta J. Peter Baker said that the hospital was nearing capacity and asked the community to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We are using every bed, resource, and staff member that we have available, but these levels are completely unsustainable for any period of time,” Baker said. “We are asking for the public’s help to ensure that we can provide care to those in need by helping to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

Baker said it would be important for the public to socially distance, wear masks, and practice proper hygiene especially considering the holiday season is upon the community.

On Friday, frontline health care workers at Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley lined up Friday, Dec. 18 to be among the first to receive Pfizer coronavirus vaccines in the county. 

None reported negative reactions to the vaccine and most shared the same feeling of relief, according to a report by City News Service.

“I felt like 30 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders, knowing I had been vaccinated,” Dr. Nikki Mittal, a pulmonary specialist, said during a briefing outside the hospital. “This has been very hard on us. We know the vaccine is a first step but not the end.”

The medical center received a total of 1,900 doses, and according to spokeswoman Heather Jackson, the vaccination program for staff got underway in the early morning hours.

Local hospitals are expecting to receive and administer the vaccine to frontline staff and hospital workers on Monday or Tuesday of next week, according to local hospital officials. 

Listed below are the number of confirmed cases and deaths attributed to COVID-19 since Riverside began recording data back in March: 

Confirmed Cases: 2,860
Deaths: 22

Confirmed Cases: 3,431
Deaths: 40

Confirmed Cases: 1,424
Deaths: 17

Lake Elsinore
Confirmed Cases: 3,046
Deaths: 24

Canyon Lake
Confirmed Cases: 402
Deaths: 4

Confirmed Cases: 4,038
Deaths: 53

Confirmed Cases: 4,042
Deaths: 103

San Jacinto
Confirmed Cases: 2,814
Deaths: 36

Confirmed Cases: 51
Deaths: 0

East Hemet
Confirmed Cases: 835
Deaths: 12

French Valley
Confirmed Cases: 884
Deaths: 4

Lakeland Village
Confirmed Cases: 467
Deaths: 3

Valle Vista
Confirmed Cases: 654
Deaths: 7

Confirmed Cases: 72
Deaths: 0

The COVID-19 data recorded by Riverside County can be located at www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus.

City News Service contributed to this report. 

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com