Hospitalizations, death toll continues to rise in Riverside County

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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

Riverside County’s top health professional painted a grim picture of the direction the county was headed, when Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county public health officer, said the county was trending up in its COVID-19 data, during the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Nov. 10.

“As Dr. Kaiser mentioned, we are definitely trending in the wrong direction,” Kim Saruwatari, director of the Department of Public Health, said. “Our raw case rate today is 13.3, our adjusted case rate is 14 per 100,000 and our testing is 232.9 per 100,000. So, what happened over this past week is the state adjusted their median, they do that every four weeks, remember that median is what determines our adjustment on a raw case rate so you can see from the numbers our raw case rate was adjusted upward.”

The county’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate is at 6.7%, compared to 5.9% two weeks ago.

By Friday, Nov. 13, the county reported a dozen additional deaths from the coronavirus, raising the county’s virus-related death toll to 1,367, as the number of hospitalizations continued to edge up.

There were 15 additional hospitalizations reported countywide, bringing the total to 286, which includes 65 intensive care unit patients – two fewer than the day before.

Bruce Barton, director of the Emergency Management, told supervisors Tuesday, Nov. 10, that “clearly, hospitalizations continue to increase.”

Officials additionally reported Friday 639 newly confirmed cases, bringing the aggregate number of infections recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March to 74,180, compared to 73,541 Thursday, Nov. 12.

That number came a day after the county reported 1,200 new cases over the previous two days. Almost 50 residents have died since Oct. 30.

“I’m just really having a hard time without getting numbers. I am still looking for those numbers on how decisions are made,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said. “What science shows that a restaurant distanced is greater than some of the other things that are open. I know that tracing is important, but so is life.”

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries lamented the rationale of having liquor stores and cannabis shops open, but churches and restaurants remained closed.

Supervisor Chuck Washington asked about the trend in age groups that are becoming infected. Saruwatari said the age range was getting younger.

“Even though our case numbers are going up and deaths are going down as a ratio, it’s likely attributable to that fact that much younger people are the ones getting sick,” Washington said. “Are they spreading the disease?”

Kaiser explained herd immunity.

“For COVID-19, we believe that you need about 60 to 75% of the population to be immune,” he said. “That is still much higher than 20%. As far as whether young people are more likely to spread it – one of the concerns that we have had with super spreader events is that people who are more likely to tolerate a larger viral load are more likely to spread it because they’ve got more virus on board. If you’re younger and you don’t have other medical problems, you are more likely to be able to tolerate a larger level of virus.”

Spiegel asked if someone has already had COVID-19 what is the probability of them getting it again.

“The answer to that question, Supervisor, is we don’t know,” Kaiser said. “We believe that there is some level of immunity; otherwise, people would get it again the next day and that clearly doesn’t happen. Therefore, people must have some level of immunity and we believe that at least for some period of time. Probably on the order of weeks to months, but nobody’s certain of that exact period and nobody is certain of the exact amount of immunity they carry. For two reasons, No. 1 because people may have different levels of susceptibility naturally, the second reason also is that immunity may not be fully mediated by antibodies. Most of the testing we do is based on antibodies because it’s more straightforward.

“However, we believe that another form of immunity may come from another cell population called T-cells. These are much harder to measure in the laboratory, the testing is less certain on what that means,” he said.

On Thursday, Nov. 23-24, Mt. San Jacinto College’s Menifee satellite campus will host a two-day COVID-19 screening clinic, offering free tests to Riverside County residents during the week of Thanksgiving.

Campus officials will be coordinating with Riverside University Health System staff to provide the tests from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the 3000 Building, 28237 La Piedra Road, just west of Bell Mountain Middle School, according to college representative Karin Marriott.

“Testing is available for those with and without COVID-19 symptoms,” Marriott said. “Those under age 18 must have written permission from a parent or legal guardian.”

Walk-in screenings will be welcome, but appointments can also be made in advance. Those interested were encouraged to call 951-732-7970 or 800-945-6171.

Listed below are the COVID-19 numbers for each city and community in southwest Riverside County as of Friday, Nov. 13:

Temecula

Confirmed Cases: 1,403

Deaths: 18

Recovered: 1,222

Murrieta

Confirmed Cases: 1,634

Deaths: 27

Recovered: 1,382

Wildomar

Confirmed Cases: 772

Deaths: 15

Recovered: 647

Lake Elsinore

Confirmed Cases: 1,576

Deaths: 22

Recovered: 1,346

Canyon Lake

Confirmed Cases: 147

Deaths: 2

Recovered: 130

Menifee

Confirmed Cases: 1,971

Deaths: 42

Recovered: 1,643

Hemet

Confirmed Cases: 2,104

Deaths: 70

Recovered: 1,811

San Jacinto

Confirmed Cases: 1,397

Deaths: 29

Recovered: 1,221

Anza

Confirmed Cases: 21

Deaths: 0

Recovered: 16

East Hemet

Confirmed Cases: 430

Deaths: 8

Recovered: 377

French Valley

Confirmed Cases: 420

Deaths: 1

Recovered: 373

Lakeland Village

Confirmed Cases: 245

Deaths: 2

Recovered: 226

Valle Vista

Confirmed Cases: 289

Deaths: 5

Recovered: 243

Winchester

Confirmed Cases: 26

Deaths: 0

Recovered: 23

Riverside County’s latest COVID-19 news and coronavirus data is posted on weekdays at https://www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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