The record-breaking rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations continued Wednesday in Riverside County, where health officials also reported 1,072 new coronavirus infections and one additional death.
The addition of 28 new patients since Tuesday brought the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations countywide to 628, up from 600 the previous day, according to the Riverside University Health System. That number includes 126 patients being treated in intensive care units — one less than Tuesday.
It was the fourth coronavirus hospitalization record set this week. On Sunday, health officials reported 573 total hospitalizations in county hospitals, RUHS spokesman Jose Arballo said. Prior to this week, the previous record high of 550 hospitalizations was set in July.
The aggregate number of infections recorded countywide since the public health documentation period began in early March is 85,896, compared to 84,824 on Tuesday. The number of deaths stemming from complications related to COVID-19 stands at 1,444.
The number of known active virus cases countywide is 16,718, an increase of 819 compared to Tuesday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 85,896 — according to the county Executive Office. The number of verified patient recoveries is 67,734.
In a pre-Thanksgiving briefing last week, RUHS Dr. Geoffrey Leung said hospitals throughout the region were “starting to feel the strain” but stand prepared for an influx of patients.
“I think this (surge) will be a little different,” Leung said, referring to the amount of preparation that occurred over the summer to ensure facilities have the resources on hand to address greater patient counts.
That sentiment has been echoed by county Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton, who recently assured the Board of Supervisors 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 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.
Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley, the largest treatment facility in western Riverside County, is in a position to handle whatever challenges may be ahead, according to CEO Jennifer Cruikshank.
“The difference this time around is we are more prepared and ready to handle the surge,” she told City News Service on Wednesday. “In the summer, we were prepared, as well, but there were still lessons to learn that have made this go-around more fluid.”
She acknowledged that there are ongoing concerns about the potential for staff becoming infected or having to drop shifts to “care for ill family members.”
“RUHS, just like many hospitals across the county, does not have as many staff as we had in the summer surge because today, we are competing with hospitals nationally for those same resources that were not in such high demand across the country during the summer surge,” the CEO told CNS.
On the upside, protocols have been amplified “to reduce hospitalized length of stay,” moving people out of patient beds and back home to recover, according to Cruikshank.
The county’s state-adjusted COVID-19 case rate, updated Tuesday, is 21.2 per 100,000 residents, compared to 27.2 per 100,000 reported last week. The overall state-calculated positivity rate is 7.7%, compared to 9.9% last week, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
Last month, the agency 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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