Riverside County’s COVID-19 positivity and case rates have both dropped, signaling moves toward wider virus mitigation, local health officials told the Board of Supervisors.
“Our numbers have come down. For four consecutive days, they’ve been coming down,” Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said Tuesday during the supervisors’ weekly board meeting. “They’re changing incrementally.”
The coronavirus positivity rate is now 2.1%, compared to 2.3% last week. The state-adjusted case rate is 3.9 per 100,000, based on a rolling seven-day average. Last week, it was 4.5 per 100,000.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we’re very encouraged,” county Public Health Officer Dr. Geoffrey Leung told the board. “We’re in a better place than a month ago.”
He reiterated the announcement Monday that the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was available again in the county, based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Administration of the vaccine was paused nationwide earlier this month to allow the agencies to investigate an extremely rare blood-clotting disorder found in six women between the ages of 18 and 49 who had gotten the shot. They concluded Friday that the benefits of the single-dose vaccine outweigh its risks.
“There are common side effects people don’t need to worry about in the first one or two days after receiving the vaccine — headaches, fever. flu-like symptoms,” Leung said. “However, after one to two weeks, if you have severe chest pain, leg swelling, trouble breathing — those could be signs of blood clots, and you should contact your doctor.”
He said that since December, the county has administered a total of 1,574,641 doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and J&J vaccines.
Board Chair Karen Spiegel complained to the health officer about schools requiring masking of children, particularly those participating in outdoor athletics. Spiegel said the requirement “is absurd,” particularly given that professional athletes, who are in an age range that’s higher risk for infection, aren’t wearing masks.
Leung said he could not answer for each school district’s policies, but acknowledged “there are inconsistencies” in how masking requirements are imposed. He anticipated a “gradual loosening of restrictions going forward,” but he admitted looking to the CDC and California Department of Public Health for direction.
The Riverside University Health System reported that 78 people countywide are hospitalized with COVID, two more than Monday, and that includes 21 intensive care unit patients diagnosed with the virus, four more than a day ago.
The aggregate number of COVID cases recorded since the public health documentation period began in March 2020 is 298,259, up 258 from Monday, according to RUHS data.
The RUHS logged four additional virus-related fatalities, bringing the coronavirus death toll in the region to 4,563.
The number of known active virus cases countywide is 1,948, up 245 from Monday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 298,259 — according to the county Executive Office. Verified patient recoveries countywide are at 291,748.
More county businesses opened just over two weeks ago amid lighter restrictions due to the county entering the orange tier. 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 CDPH, 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.
The county’s metrics are squarely in the orange qualifier, but still just outside the parameters for yellow tier status, which represents “minimal” presence of the virus.
The portal to make an appointment for a vaccine 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.