Riverside County coronavirus deaths now at 228, while cases hit 5,343

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County health officials today reported three new fatalities and 95 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the county’s death toll to 228 and the case total to 5,343.

Of the 206 Riverside County residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 67 are being treated in intensive care units, two fewer than Tuesday, according to the Riverside University Health System.

More than 400 documented recoveries among county residents were reported since Sunday, including 119 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 3,030.

Just over 76,000 Riverside County residents have been tested for the coronavirus, which accounts for more than 3% of the county’s population of nearly 2.5 million.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a comprehensive plan for advancing the process of removing regulatory hurdles connected to the statewide coronavirus emergency and opening most sectors of the Riverside County economy faster.

“This is to make Riverside County ready for the next stage of reopening,” Transportation & Land Management Agency Director Juan Perez said.

“This will signal to the state that we’re ready to move on. It provides robust guidance for protecting public health.”

The supervisors’ 5-0 vote formally established the “Readiness & Reopening Framework” as the primary in-progress strategy for creating pathways to expand the number of sectors eligible to restart operations in the face of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-phase deregulation plan.

The 33-page document, drafted by TLMA and other agencies, mirrored some of the same proposals submitted by Supervisor Kevin Jeffries that the board signed off on Friday.

“This is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Perez said. “This provides the right level of guidance that can be supplemented with state guidance. It hits those notes well.”

The plan was broached during Friday’s nearly seven-hour hearing on the rollback of local health directives issued by county Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser. That hearing, and another one three days earlier, resulted in the bulk of Kaiser’s health orders being rescinded, and the county aligning with the state’s mandates.

The Readiness & Reopening Framework’s goal focuses on expediting the removal of closures impacting all of the county’s businesses, as well as churches and other entities.

The plan underscores that the number of daily reports of influenza-like illnesses has been steadily declining over the last month, and Health Director Kim Saruwatari said there has been a general two-week “downward trend” of COVID-19 cases documented by hospitals countywide.

Last week, Newsom said the state is generally in phase two of his reopening format, permitting manufacturers, warehouses and some retailers to resume business, with safeguards. However, steeper requirements are preventing counties from moving into the latter stage of phase two and beyond, allowing more private sector activity.

Chief among the requirements is confirmation that no county documents a coronavirus-related death in a 14-day period. All of the supervisors agreed Friday that such a requirement was asking too much.

Although residents under age 18 make up about 25% of the county’s population, that age bracket accounts for just 6.6% of the testing appointments at the county’s coronavirus testing sites, local officials said earlier this week. They are urging more members of that group, especially teenagers, to get tested.

Eight new state-funded coronavirus testing sites opened last week throughout the county, with the combined capacity to test an additional 1,000 people per day. Free testing for all residents regardless of symptoms will be administered at the new locations — which include Hemet, Norco, Perris, Mecca and Desert Hot Springs — by OptumServe, a private company. To get tested at these sites, visit https://lhi.care/covidtesting.

Four drive-up testing sites run by county public health officials in Perris, Indio, Riverside and Lake Elsinore remain operational, which can be accessed if an appointment is made by calling 800-945-6171.