COVID-19 testing expands, as some restrictions loosen

medical worker
A health care worker administers a COVID-19 test at the drive-thru testing facility in Lake Elsinore. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

Dr. Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County, announced Thursday, April 16, that the county would be expanding testing for coronavirus to residents that have not shown symptoms in an effort to get more information about the virus.

“We’re testing people already when they’re sick, but we need to understand how COVID-19 is affecting people who may generally feel well, including kids,” Kaiser said. “That’s going to be a key indicator for understanding how it spreads and knowing where our areas of concern are when we think about if and how much to open things again.”

A fifth drive-thru testing site in Blythe was added recently with others located at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio Tuesdays through Saturdays, at The Diamond Stadium in Lake Elsinore Sundays through Thursdays, the parking lot at Harvest Christian Fellowship Church in Riverside Tuesdays through Saturdays and the Perris Fairgrounds Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Those who want to be tested must call 800-945-6171 for an appointment. Drive-ups without appointments cannot be accommodated.

On Tuesday, Riverside County health officials reported 209 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 10 more fatalities, bringing the county totals to 2,847 cases and 85 deaths.

Of the 236 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 76 are in intensive care units, which is an increase from a day earlier. The number of people who have recovered from the virus had increased by 58 over Sunday, for a total of 700.

According to RUHS, roughly 32,779 people have been tested countywide, and the county announced it can test up to 10,000 people per week.

Locally, the county reported Monday night, April 20, that Hemet had the highest number of cases in southwest Riverside County with 138 and four deaths. The previous week, the county had reported 46 cases and no deaths in the city. Only Riverside at 477, Moreno Valley at 303 and Corona at 141 had more confirmed cases, and each of those cities had more deaths with Riverside suffering the highest number of deaths at 16.

As of press time Tuesday, Temecula had 85 cases and Canyon Lake reported 8. Both cities are reporting no deaths.

In Menifee 85 cases were reported, while Lake Elsinore had 78, Murrieta had 77 and Wildomar had 31. Each of those cities are reporting two deaths, putting the number of people who have died as a result of the coronavirus at a dozen in southwest Riverside County cities.

San Jacinto had 36 cases with one death.

The county reported number totals for unincorporated areas including French Valley at 26 cases, Anza at five, Winchester at one, Valle Vista at 6, Lakeland Village at 14, and East Hemet with four cases. None of these unincorporated communities reported deaths as of press time.

Also Monday, Kaiser ordered that golf courses in Riverside County were permitted to resume operations under an amended health order that had closed and in another reversal, the county revised an April 6 order forbidding church services as a result of an executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom that accommodated “drive-in” worship.

“We’re pleased Riverside County made the decision it did based on the governor’s order,” attorney Robert Tyler, representing the Rev. Tim Thompson of Murrieta, told City News Service. “We’re looking forward to seeing further lifting of restrictions in the future.”

According to a report by The Associated Press over the weekend, an estimated 320,000 adults in Los Angeles County may have been infected with coronavirus, according to preliminary results of a University of Southern California study that suggests the illness is far more widespread than current testing shows and the death rate is much lower.

In another AP story, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 25% of infected people might not have symptoms. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten said it may be as high as 60% to 70% among military personnel.

“While that’s clearly good news, it also means it’s impossible to know who around you may be contagious,” according to the AP. “That complicates decisions about returning to work, school and normal life.”

Expressing a desire to return to normal and get back to work, hundreds of protesters lobbying to ease Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders rallied around the California Capitol Monday, April 20.

Protests took place in Orange and San Diego counties as well, sparking debate on social media channels all weekend long with strong opinions on both sides.

Newsom reiterated that the worst thing state leaders could do is “make a decision that’s based on politics and frustration.”

City News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Jeff Pack can be reached by email at