RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County health officials report 188 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the countywide total to 1,619 while the county’s death toll remained at 41.

The number of people who recovered from the virus also grew by 38 to 194, while no additional deaths were reported.

The uptick in cases amounts to a 13% increase over Saturday’s numbers, more than double the growth rate of the previous day.

Although the county’s COVID-19 growth rate is keeping pace with predictions, with other parts of the nation documenting a decline in the rise of case counts, there’s a chance the county’s rate of increase might soften in the next several weeks, local health officials said.

“Many of you in the small-business community are losing tremendous amounts of money while we’re keeping the community safe,” Riverside University Health System Dr. Michael Mesisca said Friday during a media briefing livestreamed from the County Administrative Center in Riverside.

“We hope to see some progress, but our modeling is still playing out,” he said. “We hear of other places where the positive (infection) rates are coming down, such as New York. We hope to see that here.”

Mesisca said the so-called “doubling rate,” in which COVID-19 cases increase 100% every five days, is proving accurate countywide, and he maintained the county’s position that a “surge” may yet max out the available hospital bed capacity — roughly 1,500 beds — before the end of the month. However, the doctor stressed that “a million small decisions” by residents would save lives and help arrest the spread of the virus.

“The message this Good Friday and Easter is one of tremendous sacrifice,” he said. “But it’s with purpose. The sacrifice we make today means there’s hope coming tomorrow.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Victor Manuel Perez was vehement about the need for ongoing precautions by the public, but stressed that he was aware of the need to “get people back to work.”

“We’re all in this together, and there’s nothing more we want than to make sure we’re taking care of the public health of our communities. We need to do our part,” Perez said. “We want to get people back to work. We’re not at peak yet. The numbers are still growing. We will get you back to work, and we will get there soon.”

The 1,619 COVID-19 cases countywide currently compares to 799 one week ago — a 103% jump. There have been 194 documented recoveries, which are defined as patients who have completed their period of isolation and are no longer symptomatic, according to county spokeswoman Brooke Federico.

Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told reporters that about 18,000 county residents have been tested for COVID-19, though that figure does not incorporate private testing at doctors’ offices and other locations.

She said the newest public testing site will be at the Perris Fairgrounds, starting Tuesday. The operation will be staffed Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will be the fourth county drive-thru screening service. The others are at the Southwest Church in Indian Wells, The Diamond in Lake Elsinore and Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside.
Appointments to visit any of the sites must be made in advance at 800-945-6171.

“Our goal is to continue to expand testing to determine the number of people impacted by the disease,” Saruwatari said.

Workers are needed at the second federal field hospital to open in the county, this one inside the shuttered Sears store at Arlington and Streeter avenues in Riverside.

National Guard personnel are working with a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services team to prepare the 125-bed facility for opening in the next several weeks. It will be reserved for sub-acute patients only, according to Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton.

He pointed out that the county is making headway with placing at-risk homeless individuals, with 300 dispossessed persons so far situated in rooms paid for with county tax revenue.