The number of COVID-positive hospitalizations continues to drop in Riverside County, where health officials reported 228 new cases and no additional virus-related deaths.

The Riverside University Health System said 66 people countywide were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Friday, nine fewer than Thursday. That number includes 15 intensive care unit patients, three fewer than a day ago.

The agency does not provide updated COVID-19 statistics on weekends.

RUHS said that as of Friday, the aggregate number of COVID cases recorded since the public health documentation period began in March 2020 ticked up to 299,565, while the number of deaths due to virus-related complications remained unchanged at 4,594.

The number of known active virus cases countywide was 1,395 on Friday, down 64 from Thursday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 299,793 — according to the county Executive Office. Verified patient recoveries countywide are at 293,804.

Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that 62% of county residents 65 years and older — those considered most vulnerable to virus-related hospitalization or death — have been fully vaccinated.

The county Thursday opened vaccination options to children as young as 12 years old, who are eligible for the Pfizer SAR-Cov-2 immunization only.

Despite U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention statistics showing those under 16 to be the least susceptible to coronavirus exposure risks, county Public Health Officer Geoffrey Leung said vaccination of minors should be considered to help bring the county population “closer to the goal of herd immunity.”

Parental consent is required for inoculation of anyone under 18 years old.

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.

The coronavirus positivity is now 1.6%, down from 1.9% last week, while the state-adjusted case rate is 2.7 per 100,000, based on a rolling seven- day average, compared to 3.4 per 100,000 last week.

Despite improving metrics, the county last week did not meet the threshold required under the governor’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” framework to move into the yellow tier. The county’s positivity rate now meets that criteria, but the ongoing case rate is required to be 2 per 100,000 or less.

The issue may be moot if restrictions are universally lifted statewide, as planned by the governor barring unforeseen circumstances, on June 15.

The yellow tier designation raises capacity limits for most businesses.

The county entered the orange tier four weeks ago, removing some operational barriers for private and public entities. The county had been in the red tier 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.

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