RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County health officials reported 20 more coronavirus deaths today, bringing the total to 181, a day before the county Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss lifting local public health orders.
The number of cases in the county rose to 4,354 Monday, with 174 new infections reported, according to the Riverside University Health System.
Of the 217 county residents who are hospitalized with COVID-19 — the disease caused by the virus — 78 are being treated in intensive care units, the same as Sunday.
Riverside County has the second-highest number of confirmed cases and deaths in the state, behind Los Angeles County.
The number of documented recoveries is 1,971, up by 11 from Sunday, officials said.
County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser extended the county’s emergency health order mandating social-distancing practices and requiring face coverings for residents when outside their homes on Wednesday, saying during a news conference, “For the immediate future, this is the new normal in Riverside County.”
The following day, Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chairman Manuel Perez said he plans to ask the board to terminate the local public health orders this week, claiming evidence shows the threat is receding and the need for economic recovery is growing.
“This is the democratic process, and I welcome all points of view,” he said over Facebook Live on Monday.
“It’s important we hold this forum tomorrow, even if potentially there may not even be a vote … it’s agendized for us to have this discussion, and up and until now we have not been able to have a space for the public to voice their concerns.”
Perez initially argued the county has been long prepared for a surge in cases that never materialized, but on Monday Perez offered a more conciliatory message, pledging his support for continued social distancing and mandatory face covering.
“I feel that because of us being consistent on that message of social distancing, washing your hands, covering your face, only going out for necessities, I think that’s the reason why we are in a better position today,” Perez said.
Perez said he and Supervisor Karen Spiegel will jointly present a motion Tuesday to nullify the four active local health orders, signaling a potential end to restrictions that in some cases are more aggressive than those at the state level.
County orders still in effect include requiring face coverings be worn outside the home at all times, under penalty of misdemeanor charges and fines; banning short-term rentals except in the case of providing emergency shelter for vulnerable people; a limit on playing golf; school closures; and mandated social distancing.
If a majority of the board votes to rescind the local orders, the county will revert to alignment with only mandates issued by the state, which call on people to remain home as much as possible and allow only so-called “essential” businesses to remain open.
Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, an emergency-room doctor, voiced caution on Monday to rescinding the remaining health orders in Riverside County too quickly.
“Removing precautions too early and without safeguards will only harm individuals and the economy in our community further,” Ruiz wrote in a Facebook post.
“We haven’t yet hit our coronavirus peak, our Valley hospital COVID-19 occupancy rates are going up again, and we don’t have the safeguards like enough rapid testing, contact tracing, isolation systems, business and worker safety measures, or enforcement mechanisms in place to prevent or contain new flare ups.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he will relax some statewide restrictions this week, allowing more retail businesses to open but with
operating restrictions, such as mandating only curbside pickup of goods.
Newsom said the relaxed order would allow shops such as book stores, florists, sporting goods stores and clothing stores to reopen, at least on a limited basis.
Newsom said as more businesses are allowed to open, officials will be monitoring for possible spikes in cases that might put pressure on hospitals.
There have been 56,251 people tested for the coronavirus in Riverside County.
The county is seeking to expand screening facilities, with new sites potentially opening in the San Gorgonio Pass and the San Jacinto Valley, joining sites in operation in Indio, Lake Elsinore, Perris and Riverside.