Coronavirus-related hospitalizations dropped further Tuesday in Riverside County, but the number of virus-related deaths increased by just over 100, as efforts to expand the countywide vaccination program continued.

“Our (hospital) numbers are going down. We’re cautiously optimistic about that,” Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors.

She said that even though the governor had lifted the stay-at-home order declared last month, “we can’t let our guard down” and disregard health safety protocols

According to Saruwatari, the county has received 180,275 Pfizer and Moderna SARS-Cov-2 vaccine doses to date. However, because each dispensation regimen requires two shots within a 30-day period, the immunization program has been limited.

“The vaccine supply slows us down,” she said.

Just over 101,000 doses have been given to people throughout the county. Those who are 65 years and older, along with hospital workers, first responders and teachers, are in the current qualifying tiers under the California Department of Public Health’s vaccination guidance.

According to Saruwatari, based on current criteria, about 800,000 residents are eligible to receive shots.

The reservation portal to make an appointment for vaccination can be accessed via www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine.

The aggregate number of coronavirus cases recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March is 266,849, compared to 264,363 Monday, according to the Riverside University Health System.

Officials said a total of 2,970 deaths stemming from virus-related complications have been recorded, compared to 2,857 reported Monday. The fatalities are trailing indicators because of delays processing death certificates, and cover three- to four-week periods.

The number of coronavirus hospitalizations countywide was at 1,265, a one-day decline of 39. The ICU bed count for COVID-19 patients is 319, 15 fewer than Monday.

County Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton told the board the county’s available ICU space remains at 0%, along with the 11-county Southern California region. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Dec. 6 stay-at-home order was based on areas sliding below a threshold of 15% available ICU space. He justified cancellation of the order Monday by citing projections from the CDPH showing ICU availability recovering in the next month.

Barton said hospitals in general are gaining ground, with patient counts taking up about 83% of licensed capacity, compared to just over 90% during the holidays.

The number of known active virus cases countywide was 75,824, up 437 from Monday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 266,849 — according to the county Executive Office.

Verified patient recoveries countywide were at 188,055, according to RUHS.

The county is still in the most restrictive purple tier of the governor’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy framework.

The county’s overall COVID-19 positive rate is 20%, down from 23.5% last week, based on state-adjusted figures.

The purple tier impacts bars, theaters, museums, indoor recreational facilities, amusement parks and wineries — all of which are supposed to remain closed. However, wineries, like restaurants, can provide outdoor dining, takeout and delivery.

Retail outlets are limited to 25% capacity, while hair salons, nail salons and barbershops can operate with safeguards in place.

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

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