Riverside County reports issues with state data-collection system, low new case total



Sixteen new COVID-19 cases were reported Friday, Dec. 31 in Riverside County, a “severely under-reported” figure stemming from technical problems attributed to technical issues with the state data-collection system. “We are working to correct the issue, and the correct figures will be reported as soon as the issue is resolved,” said Jose Arballo, a spokesman for the Riverside University Health System.

Additional information about the nature of the error was not provided, but some other counties, including Orange, have reported similar issues with data from the state. The total number of COVID-19 cases recorded in the county since the pandemic began in early March reached 180,553, compared with 180,537 on Wednesday, according to the Riverside University Health System. The number of deaths stemming from virus-related complications jumped up by 34 on Thursday, bringing the total to 1,985.

The death figures are trailing indicators because of delays processing death certificates, according to officials. COVID-positive hospitalizations countywide decreased by 20 on Thursday, down to 1,464, according to RUHS. That includes 296 intensive care unit patients, one fewer than the day before.

According to Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton, the hospital figures are confirmed daily. On Tuesday, officials from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Riverside, along with Riverside Community Hospital, urged residents to take precautions to limit exposure risks to reduce the chances of hospital visits, thereby increasing demands on already scarce space and overburdened staff.

Barton said ICU beds are the greatest concern, with the county’s general and acute care facilities technically at maximum occupancy. At RCH, a shuttered cafeteria was converted to a patient care unit, officials said. Barton said hospitals have resorted to “surge capacity” plans to expand critical care space wherever possible. There are now 118,836 recovered patients. The number of known active virus cases countywide is 59,732, a decrease of 4,374.

The figure is in all likelihood inaccurate due to the reporting error affecting case totals. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 180,553 — according to the County Executive Office. The county’s overall COVID-19 testing positivity rate is 22.6%, compared to 21.3% a week ago, based on state-adjusted figures. The 11-county Southern California region’s available ICU capacity is officially at 0%. The regional ICU bed metric is a key benchmark under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order, which went into effect on Dec. 6 and has been extended indefinitely.

The order was triggered when ICU bed availability across Southern California fell below 15%. The mandate is expected to remain in effect until bed capacities recover. The current stay-at-home order impacts bars, theaters, museums, hair salons, indoor recreational facilities, amusement parks and wineries — all of which are supposed to remain closed. Restaurants are confined to takeout and delivery, with capacity limitations on retail outlets.

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