Falling coronavirus case rates and other metrics moving in the right direction in Riverside County opened the way Tuesday for contact sports to resume with safeguards in place.
The state-adjusted infection rate of 11.3 per 100,000 residents prompted a removal of prohibitions against youth and adult sports, including baseball, football, soccer and water polo. The threshold is 14 per 100,000 residents. Last week, the county was at 16.6 per 100,000.
“Today’s news is extremely welcomed, considering the closure of sports has been very difficult for our students, especially for high school athletes in their senior year,” Board of Supervisors Chair Karen Spiegel said. “As the county’s case rate and positivity rate decline, remember that getting tested will help us contain this virus and meet the state metrics to continue reopening and moving forward.”
Weekly testing for players and coaches is one of the provisions established by the California Department of Public Health for participation in contact sports. More information is available at www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus.
The Riverside University Health System said the countywide COVID-19 positivity rate is now 5.8%, down from 7.6% last week.
On Monday, the Corona-Norco Unified School District re-commenced in-person classes for students in transitional kindergarten to sixth grade under a waiver authorized by the county and state, based on moderating infection rates. Other school districts are expected to follow in the coming days.
COVID-positive hospitalizations in the county dropped to 301, six fewer than Monday, and that includes 73 intensive care unit patients, 10 fewer than the previous day.
ICU bed availability countywide is at 12%, still below the 15% threshold that prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Dec. 6 regional stay-at-home order, which was canceled in January. Most ICU patients in the county are not infected with COVID-19, according to RUHS.
The agency said the aggregate number of COVID-19 cases recorded since the public health documentation period began in March is 290,325, 552 more than reported on Monday.
Officials said there have been a total 3,829 deaths from virus-related complications in the last year, up 37 from Monday. The fatalities are trailing indicators because of delays processing death certificates.
The number of known active virus cases countywide is 10,587, down 438 compared to Monday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 290,325 — according to the county Executive Office. Verified patient recoveries countywide are now at 275,909.
County Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the board that the state has yet to announce a “definitive timeline when the switch will be flipped” and Blue Shield will take over management from the CDPH of the provider network responsible for handling vaccination efforts in Riverside County and 10 other locations. The process has been underway for a month.
Vaccination of seniors is a priority, but others who qualify under the CDPH Phase 1 guidelines include hospital workers, first responders, food service workers, teachers and some agricultural workers. Dr. Geoffrey Leung of RUHS said the guidelines will soon be adjusted to include “those who are 18 to 64 with underlying medical conditions.”
The portal to make an appointment for vaccination can be accessed via www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine. Anyone who needs assistance may also call the county’s 211 help line.
The county is still in the most restrictive purple tier of the governor’s reopening framework, impacting bars, theaters, museums, indoor recreational facilities and wineries — all of which are supposed to remain closed. However wineries, like restaurants, can provide outdoor dining, takeout and delivery.