Riverside County health officials Wednesday reported 131 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections to 6,184, but the death toll remained unchanged at 270.
Of the 189 county residents hospitalized with COVID-19, 69 are being treated in intensive care units, one more than Tuesday, according to the Riverside University Health System.
More than 89,000 Riverside County residents have been tested for the coronavirus, which accounts for more than 3% of the county’s population of nearly 2.5 million.
According to county officials, Riverside County boasts one of the highest per-capita testing rates in California. But the county also possesses the second-highest number of cases and deaths in the state, second only to Los Angeles County.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a relaxation of restrictions that could allow more businesses to reopen in a majority of the state’s counties, with local officials saying publicly shortly after the address they are confident Riverside will be among the counties that fit the criteria.
“This is hopeful and positive news for local businesses in Riverside County, Southern California and across our great state,” Riverside County Supervisor Manuel Perez said Monday afternoon.
“The governor listened to the input received by our counties. Riverside County was proud to demonstrate our successes in protecting essential workers and vulnerable populations, being a leader in testing, expanding contact tracing, providing for surge capacity in our health care system, and identifying triggers for modifications,” he said. “I believe it’s because we’re meeting these metrics and showing downward trends that the governor’s office is working with us and assisting our counties in advancing the economy in a safe way while we fight this pandemic.”
Riverside County teamed up with Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego counties last week to send a joint request asking Newsom to grant “variances” to his four-phase plan in order to pave the way to full restoration of private sector activity under public health executive orders.
Newsom said if current trends continue, the state may significantly ease restrictions in the next few weeks, possibly allowing professional sporting events to resume without spectators and hair salons to reopen in June.
Under the newly announced rules, Newsom said roughly 53 of the state’s 58 counties would likely qualify to move deeper into Phase Two of the state’s recovery roadmap, allowing more businesses in those counties to open faster than in other counties. Such openings, however, would be contingent on the impacts of the virus in individual counties, Newsom said.
Dr. Geoffrey Leung of the Riverside University Health System said Friday during a livestreamed news conference that cases locally “are really slowing down.”
“The positivity rate (from tests) has dropped, and compared to two or three weeks ago … the trend line is moving downward for coronavirus-related deaths,” he said.
But Leung also cautioned that while case loads have flattened, COVID-19 diagnoses are still occurring daily, although data showed hospitalizations countywide had dropped by one-fifth compared to three weeks ago.
All county residents — whether they are suffering from coronavirus symptoms or not — can get tested at a variety of locations, including eight funded by the state that opened last week. To receive exams at these sites, which include Mecca, Norco, Desert Hot Springs and Hemet, appointments must be made at lhi.care/covidtesting.
Four drive-up testing sites run by county public health officials in Perris, Indio, Riverside and Lake Elsinore remain operational and can be accessed if an appointment is made ahead of time. The appointments line is 800-945-6171.