A sixth novel coronavirus case was confirmed Thursday in Riverside County, and like the other five, the patient is from the Coachella Valley, according to health officials.
County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser said the patient is in home isolation, and he verified that the infection was “locally acquired” and not the result of overseas travel.
On Wednesday evening, Kaiser said a fifth Coachella Valley resident had been identified as viral. However, the status of that person was not disclosed.
At their meeting Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors formally ratified a local public health emergency declaration stemming from the coronavirus cases, directing key agencies to initiate efforts to mitigate potential impacts of the virus. The action also empowered Kaiser to issue directives intended to promote the health and welfare of residents.
One of his first acts was to order cancellation of the highly popular Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival, both of which have been moved to October.
“This decision was not taken lightly or without consideration of many factors,” Kaiser said. “No doubt it will impact many people, but my top priority is to protect the health of the entire community.”
The rescheduling of the music festivals, which annually attract thousands of attendees to the Coachella Valley, followed the cancellation of the BNP Paribas tennis Open at Indian Wells, which was scheduled to begin this week.
In Riverside, UC Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox announced Tuesday that all in-person classes on campus will be suspended until at least April 3 based on mounting concerns over potential coronavirus exposure, leaving teachers and students to interact via the internet or other remote means.
“As local, national and global public health recommendations shift to include mitigation of transmission, we are proactively taking steps that will help protect the community,” Wilcox said. “(Our) measures will allow us greater flexibility as we work to prevent … spread of COVID-19.”
The campus resembled a ghost town Thursday, with most parking lots on the south edge of campus empty.
The chancellor advised students in campus housing to return to their permanent residences for the next three weeks, if they desired, and continue their studies at home.
UCR will not permit gatherings of 150 people or more, and even gatherings of 15 or less attendees are discouraged under the new protocol. If a gathering is essential and cannot feasibly be moved to an electronic platform, it may be considered for special dispensation, according Wilcox.
Athletic events will go ahead as planned but will have to be “fan-less,” with no general attendance permitted.
UCR officials noted that anyone displaying any flu-like symptoms or illness that could be viral should stay home and avoid contacts anywhere in the community.
On Sunday and Monday, four county residents were identified as coronavirus patients, likely the result of local exposure to the pathogen and not because of overseas travel, Kaiser said.
“It is now considered a case of `community spread,”’ according to a Riverside University Health System statement. “Community spread involves transmission of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. It indicates that the virus was not contracted through relevant travel history, or contact to a known case of COVID-19, and suggests that the virus is present in the community.”
Two county residents were infected while on a cruise ship that later docked in San Francisco Bay. They were not infected locally, according to health officials.
Frequent hand washing, social distancing and basic hygiene were emphasized as good precautionary practices against infection.