The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Riverside County has seen a slight increase, while an additional seven virus-related deaths have been reported.

According to the Riverside University Health System, the number of COVID hospitalizations countywide Wednesday was 669, up five from Tuesday, while the number of intensive care unit patients being treated for the virus remained at 146.

The aggregate number of COVID cases recorded in Riverside County since the pandemic began in March 2020 is 337,075, an increase of 1,022 from Tuesday.

A total of 4,738 deaths from virus-related complications have been recorded in the last 18 months in the county. The fatalities are trailing indicators because of delays processing death certificates, according to health officials.

Since March 2020, there have been a total of three COVID-19-related deaths involving residents under 18 years old, translating to 0.000634% of all documented SARS-CoV-2 fatalities across the county.

The number of known active virus cases in the county was 8,240 on Wednesday, down 715 from Tuesday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 337,075 — according to the county Executive Office. Verified patient recoveries countywide total 324,097.

Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors last week that 17% of the county’s COVID infections in July were among fully vaccinated people, while this month, 15.4% of COVID patients were fully vaccinated.

Saruwatari said hospitalization data has been consistent, with roughly 10% of fully vaccinated people, and 90% unvaccinated, receiving in-patient care for COVID at medical facilities countywide.

Altogether, the county has tabulated nearly 3,500 cases of fully vaccinated people this year requiring post-vaccination treatment for the virus, according to Saruwatari. She added that 23 virus-related deaths have been documented among the vaccinated.

Supervisor Jeff Hewitt said the infection data underscored the growing conundrum of “breakthrough cases” in which fully vaccinated individuals are facing COVID exposure risks as if they had never received the shots.

Hewitt wondered about the justification of promoting the vaccine for those who have already endured a bout of coronavirus, noting those who have been exposed have “built up some natural immunity.”

County Public Health Officer Dr. Geoffrey Leung acknowledged natural immunity can mitigate exposure risks, but he said the duration of viral resistance is probably half of what the shots provide and noted that vaccinated people tend to avoid severe illness and hospitalization.

The doctor said the county is already establishing plans for widespread availability of COVID booster shots.

Earlier this month, federal health officials recommended that all vaccinated Americans get a booster eight months after they become fully vaccinated. That amounts to a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — and “likely” an additional dose for people who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot. The shots could begin the week of Sept. 20.

Information on vaccination is available via www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus.

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