The coronavirus
The coronavirus is pictured in this electron microscope image. Courtesy NIH

Another 244 coronavirus cases were confirmed in Riverside County, with seven additional deaths attributed to complications stemming from the virus, but an official told the Board of Supervisors that hospitalizations have been on a downward trend.

“We continue to see good news on hospitalizations,” Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton said Tuesday. “There has been an ongoing significant decrease from the peak.”

Although the number of individuals hospitalized for treatment of COVID-related symptoms countywide rose to 216 on Tuesday, up six from Monday, the number of intensive care unit patients dropped by five to a total of 68.

“At our peak (in July), we were at 550 hospitalizations with 170 in the ICU,” Barton told the board. “We’re down significantly.”

He did not anticipate a change in the trend anytime soon but acknowledged that the county’s 17 acute care medical facilities are preparing for a possible second wave surge of COVID-19 cases in the fall — in addition to a possible common flu outbreak similar to what occurred in 2018.

“We are working with the hospitals, but from our perspective the flu mainly attacks the emergency room,” Barton said. “It will not overwhelm hospital capacity.”

The total number of COVID-19 infections recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March was 53,153 as of Tuesday, compared to 52,909 on Monday, according to the Riverside University Health System.

Officials said the total number of deaths believed to be tied to COVID-19 stood at 1,026, up from 1,019 a day earlier.

The number of known active cases countywide is 8,103, a decline of 400 since Monday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 53,153 — according to the county Executive Office. The number of verified patient recoveries is 44,024. A recovery is defined as someone who has not manifested symptoms for 14 days.

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a four-tier, color-coded system used daily to guide counties’ in loosening regulations on the private sector.

Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the board that the county remains in the “purple, most restrictive” tier, requiring many indoor businesses to remain closed or substantially limit capacity.

“Our positivity and case rates are coming down,” Saruwatari said. “We have to make sure we’re not fluctuating up and down between tiers.”

In order for the county to move to the next level, the red tier, it has to document less than 7 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population on a rolling seven-day average, and the positivity testing rate must be less than 8% in the same period.

During a protest outside the shuttered County Administrative Center, about a dozen demonstrators called into the board meeting, all venting frustration with the governor’s and California Department of Public Health’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” formula, denouncing it as arbitrary, as well as threatening the survival of businesses.

Additional information about the formula can be found at www.covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy.

According to Saruwatari, nearly two-thirds of all deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been linked to underlying conditions, principally chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease.

The doubling time — or the number of days in which documented virus cases increase 100% — is 45 days. A doubling rate of seven days is reason for alarm, while expanding doubling times point to gradual success in virus containment, according to health officials.

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