Coronavirus cases spike after holiday weekend in Riverside County

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Temecula residents listen to speakers at the Open Temecula rally Saturday morning, May 23, in front of Temecula City Hall. The speakers wanted the city go further than the accelerated opening guidelines that Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

Riverside County announced on Memorial Day that the county had registered the highest one-day increase of COVID-19 cases since they began keeping track almost two months ago.

Health officials reported three days’ worth of data, showing 88 new cases Saturday, May 23, 180 Sunday and 272 Monday.

As of Monday night, cases countywide had passed the 7,000 mark. Two new deaths also were reported, bringing the total to 292.

To date, 4,211 people have recovered from the virus, 194 people were hospitalized with 64 in intensive care units.

Brooke Federico, a representative for the Riverside University Health System, said Mondays typically see larger bumps in cases because labs are reporting a backlog of positive tests.

She also said it was important to pay attention to the hospitalization rate, which remained stable.

“It means there’s still available capacity in our hospital system,” Federico said.

As of Monday evening, more than 104,000 Riverside County residents have been tested for the coronavirus of the county’s population of nearly 2.5 million.

Locally, the county reported Monday, May 25, that Hemet had the highest number of cases in southwest Riverside County with 252 and 19 deaths. The city of Lake Elsinore had 159 cases with eight deaths and Menifee had 158 with five deaths. Murrieta has 120 cases and Wildomar has 62 cases, both cities have suffered four deaths.

As of press time Tuesday, Temecula had 137 cases and Canyon Lake reported 12, but neither city has suffered a death caused by the virus.

The county reported number totals for unincorporated areas including French Valley at 45 cases, Anza at six, Winchester at one, Valle Vista at 19, Lakeland Village at 37 and East Hemet with 23 cases. Only Lakeland Village had reported that a resident died from the virus.

Also Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued guidance to churches and other houses of worship in California on how they can safely reopen during the pandemic.

Just a day earlier, the Rev. Tim Thompson, pastor of 412 Church Murrieta, said that his church has been holding in-person worship services against state orders since May 3.

According to Thompson, congregants were being allowed to maintain social distance and wear face coverings, though it was not a requirement.

Under the guidelines announced by Newsom Monday, places of worship must limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower, arrange for social distancing of at least 6 feet, establish and implement a prevention plan, train staff and evaluate workplaces for compliance.

The limitation will be in effect for the first 21 days of a county public health department’s approval of religious services within their jurisdictions, after which the California Department of Public Health will review the limits.

On Friday, the California Department of Public Health approved the county’s request to reopen more businesses, as part of the governor’s accelerated phase two.

It meant that many more businesses, including destination retail stores, including shopping malls and swap meets; dine-in restaurants, and schools with modifications could reopen if aligned with guidelines.

The county still has a local health order in place prohibiting primary schools for grades K-12 from reopening until June 19.

“This is a huge success for the county and our local businesses that Riverside County was approved for regional variance by the California Department of Public Health,” V. Manuel Perez, Riverside County board chair and 4th District supervisor, said. “That means that Riverside County is now in the accelerated Stage 2.5 in the state’s reopening plan, and we can safely reopen shopping centers and restaurants for dining in, all with modifications. While we are excited to move into Stage 2.5, and we look forward to the state allowing more sectors of the economy to open in the coming days and weeks, I emphasize that we can’t let our guard down when it comes to protecting ourselves and our communities from the coronavirus.”

The county opened three new walk-up coronavirus testing locations Tuesday as well, bring the total to 16 countywide.

The county added walk-in testing sites in Corona and San Jacinto and moved the Mead Valley state testing site to Temecula.

Testing at Corona Senior Citizens Center, 921 S. Belle Ave., in Corona and at 790 S. State St. in San Jacinto is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are the fourth walk-in sites operated by the county in addition to Moreno Valley and Cathedral City. Four other sites are drive-up locations in Indio, Lake Elsinore, Perris and Riverside.

A state-run testing site that previously operated at the Mead Valley Community Center has moved to the Grace Mellman Library at 41000 County Center Dr. in Temecula and is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

“I am very pleased to see more testing sites open in Western Riverside County,” Karen Spiegel, board vice chair and 2nd District supervisor, said. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms. Increased testing is an important aspect of being able to reopen our businesses and region faster.”

For a complete list of all testing locations and instructions on how to make an appointment, visit http://www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus/testing.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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