Hospital officials talk COVID-19, 1,828 new cases, 31 deaths reported over weekend

Health care workers conduct coronavirus testing at Diamond Stadium in Lake Elsinore managed and operated by Riverside University Health System Public Health Department. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

The latest Murrieta/Wildomar Chamber of Commerce and Southwest Riverside County Healthcare update on YouTube, hosted by chamber CEO and president Patrick Ellis, featured Jared Giles, CEO of Southwest Healthcare System, and Peter Baker, senior vice president and administrator of Loma Linda University Medical Center – Murrieta.

The two hospital officials addressed issues and answered questions from Ellis regarding how the hospitals are holding up during the pandemic.

Giles said that at the time of the video recording, 11% of Southwest Healthcare System hospitals’ beds were filled with COVID-19 patients with a third of those in the ICU and a third of those on ventilators.

“We’re actually on a downward trend since mid-July and the hospitals are still fairly full,” Giles said.

Baker said his hospital was experiencing similar numbers.

“Our volume as far as the number of cover patients to our occupancy is usually in the teens, so the vast majority of our patients are non-COVID-19 patients,” he said. “Our concern during April and May is people weren’t getting treated timely. What we’re starting to see is people who weren’t getting treated timely are now starting to show up with way more acute cancers, patients with higher levels of cancer are showing up.

“That is because there was some level of fear of going to the hospital,” Baker said.

Both officials agreed that nearby hospitals are sharing information to protect patients and both said that COVID-19 patients are separated from the other patients at the facilities.

“People have this misconception of just right in the waiting room, as soon as they get in, they are going to be stuck with a bunch of people that are coughing on them,” Giles said. “Not the case whatsoever. I still get phone calls from people that know I work at the hospital that say, ‘Hey, is it OK for me to come in?’ Absolutely, do not delay the care. Come in, show up with a mask, if you don’t have one, we will provide one for you. Everyone is screened from the employees to the patients that come in.”

Ellis talked about testing and the officials tried to clarify any misconceptions.

“Come to the hospital if you have symptoms and need those to be treated in the medical fashion,” Giles said. “If you’re asymptomatic and want to be tested, don’t come to the hospital. If you’re symptomatic, but it’s a cold, or it’s not anything that you want the hospital to care for you, purely for a test, probably don’t come. That’s what the county and state testing facilities are for.”

They also talked about elective surgeries, which most hospitals put on hold when the pandemic took off.

“I think what we’re all trying to do is, you know if we don’t take care of patients now then they will likely show up later in an oftentimes worse situation,” Baker said. “We actually, really want to do our best to get elective cases in, but there are times when we see spikes and it becomes challenging to manage all of it, and occasionally we have to shuffle patients around or ask patients to come maybe the following week. But that’s few and far between.”

On Monday, Aug. 17, Riverside County Public Health officials released new numbers gathered over the weekend regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nine of the 31 deaths reported Monday by officials were local residents and the county reported 1,828 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday, bringing the total number of cases within the county to 47,490.

Day by day, the county reported 679 new cases Saturday, 409 on Sunday and 740 on Monday.

The total number of people that have died from the virus since the county began now sits at 912. On Saturday and Sunday, the county reported the total at 906, 25 more than the day before, and another six residents died on Monday.

There were 18 fewer people hospitalized with the virus since Friday, for a new total of 296 hospitalizations. The county reported 90 of those patients were in intensive care units, one less than before the weekend started.

Overall, 24,931 people have recovered from the virus, 1,242 more than the Friday before, the county has tested 462,493 residents for the virus, 22,144 more over the weekend.

The county reported that there were 341 confirmed cases in county jails and another 1,535 cases recorded in state prisons within the county. Both experienced new case growth a little more than in previous weeks.

Locally, Temecula added 30 cases (840), Murrieta added 22 (936), Wildomar added 28 (457), Lake Elsinore added 20 (977), Canyon Lake added five (76), Menifee added 31 (1,114), Hemet added 63 (1,363), and San Jacinto added 41 (927).

In local communities, Anza added no new cases (11), East Hemet added 11 (264), French Valley added one (240), Lakeland Village added one (179), Valle Vista added eight (184) and Winchester added one new case (10).

Temecula added two more deaths over the weekend and, to date, eight people have died from the virus in the city. There have been 20 deaths from Murrieta, 11 from Wildomar, 17 from Lake Elsinore, one from Canyon Lake, 16 from Menifee, 38 from Hemet, 26 from San Jacinto, none from Anza, three from East Hemet, one from French Valley, one from Lakeland Village, three from Valle Vista and none from Winchester.

The number of known active virus cases countywide is 19,265, an increase of 733 from Friday, according to figures. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the overall case – 41,983 – according to the county executive office.

The number of known active virus cases countywide is 22,889, an increase of 1,797 from Friday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total – 47,490 – according to the county executive office.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at