Riverside County COVID cases rise; vaccinations ramp up, official says


RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Coronavirus cases and virus-related deaths continued to balloon in Riverside County, but hospitalizations fell slightly in the latest reporting period, as the county’s vaccination program gained momentum, a health official told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Jan. 12.
“We have vaccinated 28,708 people countywide,” Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said. “There is a lag in reporting, so there may be more now. We are also expanding our approved providers. The number is increasing every day.”
Currently, the list of vaccine providers contains 146 entities, and Saruwatari said roughly half of those have been supplied with either the Moderna or Pfizer SARS-Cov-2 shots. She said distribution is going at a brisk pace but has not been sufficient to equip all providers.
To date, the county has received 79,875 doses. Another 114,825 should be arriving before the end of the month, the public health director said.
Supervisor Jeff Hewitt pointed out that “so many people” have declined the experimental vaccines, with reports indicating up to half of health care workers in some medical facilities countywide said no out of concern for potential risks.
“Are we making adjustments for that, taking it into consideration?” he asked, suggesting that the distribution plan might be more efficient if officials gauge what the response rate is going to be ahead of time in order to expeditiously move to the next people in line.
“We are making projections,” Saruwatari said. “We are communicating with providers, and we’ll be moving to the next phase of (mass immunization) even if everybody in the first phase (health care workers) isn’t vaccinated.”
The aggregate number of COVID-19 cases recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March is 227,827 compared to 216,275 on Monday, according to the Riverside University Health System.
The number of deaths stemming from virus-related complications stands at 2,294, up 44 from a day ago. The fatalities are trailing indicators because of delays processing death certificates can go back several weeks.
COVID-positive hospitalizations countywide are at 1,660, down 15 from Monday, according to RUHS. That includes 354 intensive care unit patients, a drop of three from a day ago.
Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton told the board about half of patients in hospitals countywide have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Barton said six facilities are at 100% of licensed bed capacity. However, all hospitals are resorting to surge plans to expand critical care space wherever possible. No patients are being transferred to facilities outside the county because of space limitations.
The number of known active virus cases countywide is 76,737, an increase of 7,592. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total, 227,827.
Verified patient recoveries countywide are at 149,296.
The county’s overall COVID-19 positive rate is 25.8%, compared to 23.1% last week, based on state-adjusted figures.
The 11-county Southern California region’s available ICU capacity officially remains at 0%.
The regional ICU bed metric is a key benchmark under 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 expected to remain in effect until bed capacities recover.
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.