Riverside County health officials have reported 14 fatalities connected to COVID-19, the largest one-day spike in deaths in 2 1/2 weeks, bringing the county’s death toll to 284.

Officials on Thursday also reported 159 new infections, bringing the case total to 6,343.

Of the 183 county residents hospitalized with COVID-19, 67 are being treated in intensive care units, two fewer than Wednesday, 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 RUHS figures, the number of documented recoveries stands at 4,016.

County officials say Riverside County boasts one of the highest per-capita testing rates in California. But the county also has generated 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 58 counties, with local officials saying publicly shortly after the address they are confident Riverside will be among the counties that fit the criteria.

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, he said.

Dr. Geoffrey Leung of the Riverside University Health System said a week ago Friday during a livestreamed news conference that cases locally “are really slowing down.” But he 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 several weeks ago.

All county residents — whether they are suffering from coronavirus symptoms or not — can get tested at a variety of locations, including eight that opened last week with state funding. To be tested 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.

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