Riverside County health officials urge residents to get COVID-19 tests

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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 took a big step back Tuesday, Oct. 20, when the California Department of Public Health reclassified the county into the purple tier, the most restrictive under the state’s color-coded coronavirus regulatory scheme, meaning some businesses that had reopened in recent weeks were required to close again.

According to county staff, CDPH administrators decided that, based largely on low testing volumes, the county should be reduced from the red tier to the purple tier for at least three weeks.

That move prompted Riverside County leaders to issue a news release urging residents to get tested with PCR swab tests for active infections. According to the county, they help to slow the spread of the disease by identifying infected individuals who can then be isolated as well as their close contacts. This process disrupts the virus and slows its spread.

“Besides the benefit to our businesses, there’s a payoff for you,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer, said. “If you’re medically vulnerable, detecting the infection early might reduce your risk of complications, and even if you’re well, it means you can take precautions sooner to avoid spreading it to your family or workplace. If we can get less spread, fewer people will be at risk, and that’s the most important goal.”

Riverside County’s state-evaluated metrics include a 5.2 positivity rate and 9.1 case rate. While the positivity rate is within the red tier range, the case rate – cases per 100,000 people – is within the purple tier.

Riverside County’s case rate is also worsened by the state’s upward adjustment for not reaching the statewide median of PCR swab tests. More Riverside County residents this week are getting tested for the virus at approximately 200 people a day per 100,000 residents, up from 139 in early September.

The statewide testing median is 239 people a day per 100,000 residents.

Based on the state’s criteria, if Riverside County tests a higher rate than the statewide median, the case rate will be adjusted down, instead of up.

Testing is free at a county or state-run site and available for anyone.

There are also mobile teams that support testing in specific communities, businesses or organizations by testing for one or two days.

There are 12 testing sites spread throughout Riverside County, both walk-in and drive-up services.

To find county and state-run locations and make an appointment, go online to http://gettested.ruhealth.org. For a list of other COVID-19 test sites in your area, visit https://covid19.ca.gov/get-tested/.

“We have been through this situation before, and we have the tools to get back into the red tier,” V. Manuel Perez, county board chair and 4th District supervisor, said.

On Friday, Oct. 23, the county reported no new deaths connected to the virus, but the overall confirmed COVID-19 case count increased by 371.

The number of known active cases countywide is 5,626, up 121 since Thursday, Oct. 22. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total – 65,757 – according to the county executive office. The number of verified patient recoveries is 58,852.

Overnight, the county said hospitalizations dropped by 15 and stood at 161 heading into the weekend. There were two fewer people in intensive care units than the day before as well, 39 in total.

The number of deaths tied to COVID-19 remained at 1,279.

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