Nearly one-third of the patients currently hospitalized for coronavirus in Riverside County are from neighboring Imperial County, local health officials said Thursday.

Of the 207 people undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at medical facilities countywide as of Wednesday, 63 came from Imperial County, Riverside University Health System spokesman Jose Arballo told City News Service.

The hospitalization metric is among the indicators the California Department of Public Health and governor’s office consider in deciding whether to continue to advance counties in the multi-stage de-regulation plan announced by the governor in April.

Riverside County is more than halfway through the framework, with retailers, restaurants and other businesses reopening over the weekend.

Imperial County has only two hospitals, and they ran out of space to facilitate additional coronavirus patients in the last month, according to the Emergency Management Department. EMD officials notified the Board of Supervisors earlier this month that Imperial County’s excess numbers would be transferred to hospitals in the Coachella Valley and elsewhere for treatment. However, some patients from Imperial have also gone to San Diego County facilities.

Fifty-one patients were transferred, and another 12 came to Riverside County facilities on their own, EMD Director Bruce Barton said.

As of Thursday, 60% of the county’s hospital bed capacity was full, and 80% of the county’s ICU beds were also taken, Arballo said. Sixty-eight patients are in intensive care units, although it was unclear how many of those ICU beds are occupied by patients from Imperial County.

Riverside County’s total hospital bed capacity is currently 3,560, and 385 of those are ICU beds.

Barton said that, while the transfers had impacted Riverside County’s hospitals, “the increase remains within the capacity of the health system.”

“The goal of the state’s regional distribution plan is to assure these patients receive needed care and are appropriately distributed across Southern California hospitals so that no single county is disproportionately impacted,” he said.

County Executive Office spokeswoman Brooke Federico said the two overburdened hospitals in Imperial County had initiated the transfers after conferring with the CDPH.

“As the number of more severe patients increased in Imperial County, as well as the need for patient movement, the state became involved in the transfers,” she said. “The state now coordinates with … the Emergency Management Department, the county then coordinates with our 17 acute care hospitals.”

Excluding Imperial’s numbers, Riverside University Health System data suggest the county’s COVID-19 patient load has remained relatively consistent since county officials began releasing those figures almost two months ago, with the often referenced “surge” never materializing.

The current 207-patient number is the same as April 16, when county officials were estimating that by May 1, as many as 13,000 COVID-19 cases could swamp the local healthcare system. Just under one-third of that estimate was documented, and only a sliver of those patients required hospitalization.

In a statement on Wednesday, Board of Supervisors Chairman Manuel Perez lauded the positive relationship between Riverside County and its neighbor to the south.

“Riverside County and Imperial County have a long history of working together on the Salton Sea, agriculture, education, and we are partners in the fight against this pandemic,” he said. “It is fortunate that we have the hospital space to assist our neighbors in Imperial County.”

As of figures updated Wednesday, 7,252 confirmed coronavirus cases have been documented in Riverside County, along with 306 deaths associated with COVID-19, while Imperial County has 1,443 confirmed cases and 26 deaths.

Imperial County’s population of 181,000 people is less than one-tenth of Riverside County’s at roughly 2.5 million.

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