Riverside County Monday reported a record number of coronavirus patients being treated in area hospitals.
The addition of 87 new patients over the weekend brought the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations countywide to 585, up from 498 on Friday, according to the Riverside University Health System. That number includes 129 patients being treated in intensive care units — up 14 from Friday.
The previous record high of 550 hospitalizations was set in July, according to RUHS data.
With 2,126 additional cases reported Monday — the agency does not release updated figures on weekends — the aggregate number of infections recorded countywide since the public health documentation period began in early March is 84,412, compared to 82,286 on Friday.
Health officials also reported five additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,442.
The number of known active virus cases countywide was 15,665, an increase of 1,518 from Friday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 84,412 — according to the county Executive Office. The number of verified patient recoveries is 67,305.
With case totals rising across the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday warned that a stay-at-home order could possibly be issued soon unless the trend reverses course.
In Riverside County last week, a briefing from public health officials focused on the surge in infections. RUHS Dr. Geoffrey Leung said hospitals throughout the region “are starting to feel the strain,” but added hospitals stand prepared for an influx of patients.
“I think this (surge) will be a little different,” said Leung, referring to the amount of preparation that occurred over the summer to ensure facilities have the resources on hand to address heavier caseloads.
That sentiment has been echoed by county Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton, who recently assured the Board of Supervisors last Tuesdsay that facilities have access to sufficient personal, protective equipment and have made arrangements for excess capacity if and when it’s required.
Leung said residents who have any type of critical medical need should not delay care because facilities are following protocols to separate the contagious from the non-contagious.
The county’s previous peak in hospitalizations occurred in mid-July. RUHS officials said if current trends continue, that number will be exceeded in December.
The county has more than 1,000 general and ICU beds available, but that doesn’t include emergency capacity, in which hospital floors are converted to critical care space, adding more beds as required.
Last week, Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said the county’s state-adjusted COVID-19 case rate was 27.2 per 100,000 residents, compared to 22 per 100,000 three weeks ago, and an overall state-calculated positivity rate of 9.9%, up from 8.9%.
The county’s testing level is at 300 per 100,000. The revised state threshold for large counties is 272 per 100,000.
Last month, the California Department of Public Health reclassified the county in the purple tier, the most restrictive under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy regulatory framework. For roughly a month, the county had been in the slightly less stringent red tier. Some entities that had reopened were required to close again, including gyms, restaurants, movie theaters and churches.
Two weeks ago, Newsom placed 28 counties in the purple tier, predicated on a 50% statewide upswing in coronavirus cases, which the governor said was “the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet.”
He then went a step further, issuing a revised executive order mandating a nightly curfew, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., which began Nov. 21 in counties in the purple tier, as part of a virus mitigation strategy. The order remains in effect until Dec. 21. However, many law enforcement agencies have declared they have no intention of enforcing it.
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