Riverside County is at risk of being moved back into the purple tier of the state’s coronavirus regulation framework because of an upturn in positive cases, but local officials convinced the California Department of Public Health to leave the county as-is per a review, it was announced Tuesday.
“We appreciate the Department of Public Health for working with Riverside County and granting us this one-week extension in order to make progress on our metrics,” Board of Supervisors Chair Manuel Perez said. “Many people have been laid off, lost their jobs or have had to close their businesses, especially in Riverside County. I ask that we all do our part and continue to adhere to safety precautions.”
CDPH Chief Dr. Mark Ghaly said during Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing that the agency is “working with Riverside County, looking at their data, making sure we understand it well and that we have a good conversation with them to make sure it’s accurate before making any further decisions.”
He said analysis will be conducted throughout the week to see what, if any, adjustments are needed to the current data streams.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s color-coded tier system relies on testing thresholds, case positivity rates and so-called “equity” metrics to determine how a county should be classified. Riverside County moved out of the most restrictive purple tier and into the less restrictive red tier last month. Last week, the board voted for a self-directed plan to deregulate the local economy, but it largely follows state guidelines.
The red tier allows for some indoor businesses to resume operations with limited capacities. More information is available at covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/.
According to the CDPH, the county now has a COVID-19 per-day case count of 8.1 per 100,000 people, but that has been adjusted to 9.2 per 100,000 because testing thresholds are below what the state prefers. Generally, a jurisdiction must fall below a daily count of 7 per 100,000 to qualify for the red tier.
On the other hand, the county’s testing positivity rate is 5.9%, which is well within the red tier criteria.
Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said last week that the state would place the county in an untenable situation and likely cause residents and businesses to go “crazy” if there were a re-designation backward in the tier scheme, mainly because the holiday shopping season is near, and the purple tier might force businesses currently open to close again.
The aggregate number of COVID-19 infections recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March is 62,553, compared to 61,824 on Friday, according to the Riverside University Health System.
No data was supplied Monday due to the Columbus Day holiday.
The agency said the number of deaths believed to be tied to COVID-19 stands at 1,258, compared to 1,256 on Friday.
Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton told the board last week that virus-related hospitalizations had “stabled off” over the previous month, with the patient count ebbing and flowing between 120 and 140. The EMD says 146 are now hospitalized, one more than Friday. That figures includes 42 intensive care unit patients, three more than the end of last week.
All COVID-19 hospitalization counts are currently at or below levels reported in April.
The number of known active cases countywide is 4,336, down 202 since Friday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 62,553 — according to the county Executive Office. The number of verified patient recoveries is 56,659.
The board’s vote last week on a self-directed plan sought a modified approach to reopening economic sectors, adhering to CDPH health safety guidelines, but giving county CEO George Johnson authority to relax public health regulations impacting businesses and other entities on a schedule that falls outside the state’s mandates, if he chooses.
Johnson expressed a desire to follow state directives because the county stood to lose more than $100 million in relief grants.