On a day the county reported its largest number of new COVID-19 cases in five months and another rise in hospitalizations, Riverside County’s public health officer stressed Tuesday that the number of people being treated in medical centers remains “far below” the level seen during the winter virus surge.
Dr. Geoffrey Leung joined Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton in providing an update to the Board of Supervisors on current COVID-19 trends, reporting a total of 222 virus-related hospitalizations countywide, up from 190 Monday. The number of people in intensive care held steady at 47, according to the Riverside University Health System.
“These numbers are far below the previous surge numbers of January,” Leung told the board.
According to Barton, in the second week of January, acute medical facilities recorded a total 1,675 COVID hospitalizations — the highest yet. The count is down almost 90% based on the current figure. Barton said there are no medical supply or personnel shortages at this point within the hospital system.
While still well below winter-surge levels, hospitalizations and case numbers have steadily risen in the county in recent weeks. The county’s seven-day average rate of new infections rose to 10.7 per 100,000 residents, while the rate of people testing positive for the virus hit 6.5%. Leung told the board those figures have increased “five-fold” over the past two months.
The county reported 1,247 new COVID cases on Tuesday, the highest single-day number since February.
The increase mirrors rises in COVID cases being seen nationally, with federal health officials blaming a highly infectious Delta strain of the virus first detected in India.
Board Chair Karen Spiegel and other supervisors asked about possible reasons for the upswing in cases, and Leung pointed to an expected jump resulting from the relaxation of lockdown measures in June.
There were also questions regarding how many vaccinated residents had been admitted to hospitals, following a trend this month in Israel, where the Jerusalem Post reported 58% of coronavirus patients requiring hospital treatment had been fully vaccinated for SARS-Cov-2.
Leung did not address the overseas data, but pointed to figures closer to home showing “99.95% of the (infected) population” requiring treatment had not received Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer SARS-Cov-2 shots.
Spiegel said it was important to note that despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new order impacting state employees and all workers at public and private health care facilities, who either have to be vaccinated or tested up to twice a week for COVID in order to continue working, “it’s your personal choice” whether to receive the shots.
The chair acknowledged she had been immunized.
The 1,247 new cases reported Tuesday lifted the county’s cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 306,836.
Officials said a total 4,659 deaths from virus-related complications have been recorded in the last 16 months. The count is up one compared to a day ago.
The number of known active virus cases was 4,154 on Tuesday, compared to 2,902 on Monday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total, according to the county Executive Office. Verified patient recoveries countywide number 298,023.
Officials said the Delta variant of COVID is highly contagious, spreading more easily from person to person. State health officials reiterated Monday that the variant is preying on the unvaccinated population, which currently has an infection rate nearly seven times higher than that of vaccinated residents.
According to RUHS, 56.6% of county residents 12 and older have received at least one COVID vaccine shot, and 49.1% have been fully vaccinated.
The RUHS coronavirus portal can be accessed at www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus .