Coronavirus cases in Riverside County are now increasing at a level that’s barely ahead of patient recoveries, and hospitalizations continue to “move in a positive direction,” with the lowest number of admissions in five months, Riverside County officials said Tuesday.

“I do have a bit of good news: Over 90% of those who have been diagnosed with a case have recovered,” Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors.

The number of verified patient recoveries countywide is now 51,032, compared to an aggregate of 55,986 diagnosed COVID-19 cases since the public health documentation period began in early March.

The Riverside University Health System reported 220 additional coronavirus cases since Monday. Officials noted there is a lag time for lab results to be returned, so day-to-day increases are fluctuating.

The number of known active virus cases is 3,899, a drop of 160 since Monday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 55,986 — according to the county Executive Office.

The total number of deaths believed to be tied to COVID-19 complications is 1,125, up seven from Monday.

Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton told the board that the county “continues to see a precipitous drop in hospitalizations” connected to the virus.

“We’re continuing to see the trends move in a positive direction,” he said. “We’re watching and monitoring.”

The number of patients hospitalized countywide for treatment was 155, up four from Monday. That figure includes 49 people in intensive care units. Data indicated that the last time figures were at the same or lower levels occurred in mid-April.

Barton acknowledged there may be lingering cases that fully materialize this week following Labor Day weekend gatherings, but he did not anticipate a significant jump. Flu season combined with a potential second wave of COVID-19 infections this fall remains a concern, the EMD director said. He emphasized, however, that the county’s 17 acute care facilities are prepared.

The California Department of Public Health updated the county’s current tier standing on Tuesday, and though the county remains in the most restrictive purple tier under the governor’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” guidelines, the numbers have shifted, and if case rates hold at or below current thresholds, the county will qualify for the red tier. That would mean a reduction in public health regulations keeping many businesses closed and penalizing those that open without authorization.

According to the latest data, the county has averaged 5.8 cases a day per 100,000 population in the last week, but because COVID-19 testing volumes are below the state median required for a large county, Riverside County has been given an “adjusted rate” of 6.7. That still puts the county below the 7-per-100,000 level needed for tier re-assignment. What’s more, the testing positivity rate is now 6.4%, below the 8% threshold for re-assignment.

“We must meet the metrics for the red tier for two weeks before the state will move us into the red tier,” Executive Office spokeswoman Brooke Federico told City News Service.

Additional information about the formula can be found at www.covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy.

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