As the Board of Supervisors continues hearing testimony from residents both for and against lifting local public health orders Friday, Riverside County reported a dozen COVID-19 deaths and 61 new confirmed cases, bringing the death toll to 204 and case total to 4,817.

Riverside County continues to have the second-highest number of confirmed cases and deaths in the state, behind only Los Angeles County.

Of the 193 Riverside County residents hospitalized with the disease, 79 are being treated in intensive care units, two fewer than Thursday, according to the Riverside University Health System.

The number of documented recoveries stands at 2,217, up 263 from Wednesday.

More than 66,000 Riverside County residents have been tested for the virus, which accounts for slightly more than 2% of the county’s population of nearly 2.5 million.

The Board of Supervisors convened a special meeting Friday afternoon to reassess whether ongoing restrictions imposed by the Riverside County public health officer based on the coronavirus pandemic are still necessary on the heels of standards announced by the governor’s office.

On Thursday, Newsom and the California Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, broadly outlined the changes under Phase 2 of the governor’s multi-point plan for reducing regulations and restarting the state’s economy, while stressing the virus is no less dangerous.

The changes do not add to the state mandates in place for residents conducting everyday affairs, but they do call for workplace adjustments as businesses reopen. The county’s restrictions are still stricter, and several supervisors previously signaled a desire to end the elevated regulations in favor of complying solely with the state’s requirements.

Eight new state-funded coronavirus testing sites opened this 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 by OptumServe, a private company.

Four drive-up testing sites run by county public health officials in Perris, Indio, Riverside and Lake Elsinore remain operational.

In another coronavirus-related development, the Desert Healthcare District on Friday began donating 2,000 protective face shields to health care workers around the Coachella Valley working on the front lines of the pandemic.

Regional facilities set to receive the equipment include a coronavirus testing site at 85365 Dillon Road run by Borrego Health, which operates on property owned by the Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians near Spotlight Casino in Coachella.

Other facilities set to receive equipment donated by the district are the three area hospitals: Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage and JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio, the district said, along with Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs, Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo and Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine in Indio.

Riverside Public Utilities, meanwhile, unveiled a program under which Riverside residents financially impacted by the public health orders that stopped some workforce activity amid the coronavirus emergency may be eligible for credits on their utility bills. The Riverside City Council on Tuesday voted to allow Riverside Public Utilities to develop a relief pathway for residents, and the result is the COVID-19 Emergency Recovery Assistance Program, or ERAP.

Under the program, $5 million in the city’s budget will be designated for credits on customers’ bills. Officials said a one-time $250 reduction per qualifying customer will be available. Outright bill forgiveness is not permitted under state law, officials said.

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