Riverside County has reported another five deaths attributed to the coronavirus, along with a slight increase in new infections and active virus cases.
The aggregate number of fatalities from virus-related complications recorded over the past year increased to 4,519, according to numbers released Thursday by the Riverside University Health System. The RUHS also reported another 170 virus cases Thursday for a cumulative total of 297,078.
RUHS figures show 97 coronavirus patients in hospitals countywide, three more than Wednesday. That figure includes 22 intensive care unit patients, one fewer than a day ago.
The number of known active virus cases countywide is 2,203, up 37. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 297,078 — according to the county Executive Office.
County health officials told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that Riverside County is making gains toward the goal of “herd immunity” against coronavirus, as reflected by data, while reiterating that the virus remains a threat.
“We are in a better place today than we were several months ago,” county Public Health Officer Dr. Geoffrey Leung told the board. “We do believe many people have had COVID, and they now have some natural immunity.”
Leung said Riverside County residents should still get inoculated, saying that a person who gets infected — even after being immunized — is “less likely to pass that on to somebody else.”
More than 1.3 million COVID vaccines have been administered in Riverside County, according to county data. That has resulted in roughly 70% of residents 65 and older — who are at the highest risk for hospitalization or death from COVID-19 — being immunized, according to Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari.
According to Saruwatari, the county’s coronavirus positivity rate is unchanged this week at 2%, and the state-adjusted case rate is 3.6 per 100,000 people, which reflects a rolling seven-day average. Last week, it was 3.5 per 100,000.
More county businesses were able to open last Wednesday amid lighter restrictions due to the county entering the orange tier of the state’s public health regulatory system. The county had been in the red tier of the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” framework since March 16, after five months in the most-restrictive purple tier.
According to the California Department of Public Health, orange criteria permit retail businesses to fully open, while 50% attendance caps are supposed to be observed in restaurants, museums, movie theaters and zoos. The guidelines call for gyms, wineries and bars to maintain 25% caps.
Receptions and conferences can now be held with up to 150 attendees, on the condition that they, at minimum, be tested for COVID-19.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last Tuesday that the target date for an end to all restrictions on businesses, gatherings and recreation throughout the state is June 15 — provided there are no signs of a backward slide.
The county’s metrics are squarely in the orange qualifier, but still just outside the parameters set for yellow tier status, which represents “minimal” presence of the virus.
Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require two doses several weeks apart, are currently available countywide. Use of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been suspended following reports of six women across the country developing potentially dangerous blood clots within two weeks of being vaccinated. One of the women died.
Federal health officials Tuesday recommended a pause in the use of the J&J vaccine while they investigate. Nearly 7 million people nationwide have received the vaccine.
Leung told the Board of Supervisors that RUHS will await further federal guidance before deciding whether to lift the suspension.
The portal to make an appointment for vaccinations at county-run and other sites can be accessed via www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine. Anyone who needs assistance may also call the county’s 211 help line.