Board approves post-pandemic guidelines for businesses

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County health officials have reported eight coronavirus fatalities and 59 additional confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the death toll to 225 and case total to 5,248.

Of the 185 Riverside County residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 69 are being treated in intensive care units, five fewer than Monday, according to the Riverside University Health System.

RUHS officials also reported 266 more documented recoveries among county residents, bringing the total to 2,911.

More than 75,000 Riverside County residents have been tested for the coronavirus, which accounts for more than 3% of the county’s population of nearly 2.5 million.

Although residents under age 18 make up about 25% of the county’s population, that age bracket accounts for just 6.6% of the testing appointments at the county’s coronavirus testing sites, according to local officials, who are urging more members of that group, especially teenagers, to get tested.

“We would like to get a more complete picture of the illness as it has spread among young people,” county Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said earlier this week. “This will helps us better understand who in the community has the disease and how it might be moving among children and families.”

Eight new state-funded coronavirus testing sites opened last week throughout the county, with the combined capacity to test an additional 1,000 people per day. Free testing for all residents regardless of symptoms will be administered at the new locations — which include Hemet, Norco, Perris, Mecca and Desert Hot Springs — by OptumServe, a private company. To get tested at these sites, visit https://lhi.care/covidtesting.

Four drive-up testing sites run by county public health officials in Perris, Indio, Riverside and Lake Elsinore remain operational, which can be accessed if an appointment is made by calling 800-945-6171.

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a comprehensive plan for advancing the process of removing regulatory hurdles connected to the statewide coronavirus emergency and opening most sectors of the Riverside County economy faster.

“This is to make Riverside County ready for the next stage of reopening,” Transportation & Land Management Agency Director Juan Perez said.

“This will signal to the state that we’re ready to move on. It provides robust guidance for protecting public health.”

The supervisors’ 5-0 vote formally established the “Readiness & Reopening Framework” as the primary in-progress strategy for creating pathways to expand the number of sectors eligible to revive operations in the face of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-phase virus-related deregulation plan.

The 33-page document, drafted by TLMA and other agencies, mirrored some of the same proposals submitted by Supervisor Kevin Jeffries that the board signed off on Friday.

“This is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Perez said. “This provides the right level of guidance that can be supplemented with state guidance. It hits those notes well.”

The plan was broached during Friday’s nearly seven-hour hearing on the rollback of local health directives issued by county Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser. That hearing, and another one three days earlier, resulted in the bulk of Kaiser’s health orders being rescinded, and the county aligning with the state’s mandates.

The Readiness & Reopening Framework’s goal focuses on expediting the removal of closures impacting all of the county’s businesses, as well churches and other entities.

The plan underscores that the number of daily reports of influenza-like illnesses has been steadily declining over the last month, and county Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said there has been a general two-week “downward trend” of COVID-19 cases documented by hospitals countywide.

Last week, Newsom said the state is generally in phase two of his reopening format, permitting manufacturers, warehouses and some retailers to resume business, with safeguards. However, steeper requirements are preventing counties from moving into the latter stage of phase two and beyond, allowing more private sector activity.

Chief among the requirements is confirmation that no county documents a coronavirus-related death in a 14-day period. All of the supervisors agreed Friday that it was asking too much.