Coronavirus hospitalizations in Riverside County dropped for a third consecutive day Friday, while another 23 virus-related deaths were reported.

According to the Riverside University Health System, 104 people diagnosed with coronavirus were being treated in hospitals countywide, down five from Thursday. The number includes 25 intensive care unit patients, also down five from a day ago.

The aggregate number of COVID cases recorded since the public health documentation period began in March 2020 is 294,736, up 119 from Thursday, and the number of recorded deaths from virus-related complications rose to 4,362. The fatalities are trailing indicators because of delays in processing death certificates.

The number of known active virus cases countywide totaled 2,538, down 46. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 294,736 — according to the county Executive Office.

The California Department of Public Health lowered vaccination eligibility to anyone 50 and up beginning Thursday.

The previous Phase 1 parameters had limited vaccines to those over 65, as well as individuals in defined work classifications, such as first responders, teachers and agricultural workers. People with certain underlying health conditions or disabilities have also been eligible for the last month.

“As eligibility widens and more of our residents become protected, we’ll continue to see declining COVID numbers and an ongoing focus on community recovery,” Board of Supervisors Chair Karen Spiegel said Tuesday.

Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the board this week that because the “numbers are looking good,” the CDPH is poised to change the county’s designation to orange from red under the governor’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” framework.

The 2.3% coronavirus positivity rate in testing represents a six-month low and is down from 2.7% last week. The daily state-adjusted case rate of 4.1 per 100,000 residents, which reflects a rolling seven-day average, is down from 4.8 per 100,000 just over a week ago.

Saruwatari said the county will likely qualify for orange-tier classification as early as next week.

The county has been in the red tier since March 16, and in the five months prior to that was in the most restrictive purple tier. The lowering of the regulatory bar meant many businesses could resume operations at 25% capacity. The orange designation raises the cap to 50% for many entities, though some, such as gyms and amusement parks, would be required to remain at 25%, according to the CDPH.

More information is available at covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/.

The portal to make an appointment for vaccination at county-run and other sites can be accessed via www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine. Anyone who needs assistance may also call the county’s 211 help line.

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