RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County’s coronavirus toll stood today at 2,638 cases and 75 deaths after health officials over the weekend reported 36 new COVID-19 cases — a significant drop from the triple-digit increases seen in recent days — but one new death.
Of the 223 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 71 are in intensive care, according to the Riverside University Health System. Additionally, the number of people who have recovered from the virus is up by 32 over Saturday’s numbers, for a total of 642.
Though the infection rate has “plummeted precipitously” compared to earlier projections, the county’s public health officer said it’s too early to tell when the process of relaxing mitigation measures might begin.
“The majority of the population is doing what we asked,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser said Friday.
“People are taking appropriate precautions and following the orders that were issued. But we could still go back in the wrong direction. We need to know where our weak points are.”
Two weeks ago, the county was indicating that statistical modeling showed the possibility of 65,000 infections and 1,000 deaths by the first week of May. Those predictions were altered Wednesday, with both the infection count and death rate predicted to be one-fifth of the original estimates.
The so-called “doubling rate,” a key metric RUHS officials have pointed to as an indication of unchecked viral spread, has also fallen. With 1,350 cases confirmed a week ago, the rate would have had to have jumped 100% by Wednesday — a five-day period — for a finding of possible surge activity.
The figure had not been reached as of Sunday, nine days later.
“Cases have plummeted precipitously,” Kaiser said. “But it’s too soon to lift our foot from the gas pedal. We’re getting close. As the situation changes … we will be looking at recommendations for many things. But we don’t have enough understanding of our case load to put us past the (emergency) order.”
The doctor acknowledged that the county could soon fall into the phase one “gating criteria” announced Thursday by President Donald Trump under the administration’s “Opening Up America Again” plan. The criteria calls for permitting groups of 10 or less to socialize with appropriate precautionary steps and providing guidelines for employers to bring workers back on the job in phases, with safeguards in place.
Kaiser said he’s concerned about the lack of youth COVID-19 infections, fearing an unknown number of children may be dormant carriers of the virus, raising the potential of renewed spread.
“We don’t know how many are out there,” he said. “We will need time to find out and right-size our response.”
County Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said the broadening of testing for county residents — making tests available to anyone, not just those presenting symptoms — will aid in gaining a handle on when containment measures can be eased at the state and county levels.
About 32,779 people have been tested countywide at the four RUHS-run sites — in Indio, Lake Elsinore, Perris and Riverside. A new site will come online Wednesday in Blythe.
According to Saruwatari, the county has the capacity to test up to 10,000 people per week.
Find your latest news here at the Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle
Search: Riverside County Reports