The aggregate number of COVID-19 cases recorded in Riverside County since the public health documentation period began in early March is 141,062, with an overall death toll of 1,744, officials said..

The Riverside University Health System does not provide updated COVID-19 statistics on weekends

On Friday, the Riverside County reported 8,244 newly confirmed coronavirus cases, the second-highest daily total since the pandemic began, along with three dozen virus-related deaths and an uptick in hospitalizations.

Health officials attributed the size of Friday’s increase to a backlog in testing results, which they also said was the case when reporting 10,949 cases — the highest daily total — on Dec. 8, according to Jose Arballo, a spokesman for RUHS.

Three of the deaths date back to November, with the rest occurring since Dec. 4, Arballo said.

The case rate and death figures continue to be lagging indicators because of delays in processing laboratory test results and death certificates that are coded as COVID-19, officials said earlier this week.

COVID-positive hospitalizations increased countywide Friday to 1,092, up 38 from the day before. That figure includes 224 intensive care unit patients, eight more than Thursday.

On Tuesday, Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton told the Board of Supervisors that about 40% of all hospitalizations countywide are tied to COVID-19. ICU beds are the greatest concern now, he said, with the county’s general and acute care facilities technically at maximum occupancy for licensed ICU beds.

Barton said hospitals are resorting to “surge capacity” plans to re-purpose and expand critical care space wherever possible. He did not say local medical facilities are at the point of having to transfer patients to other facilities outside the county because of overload, which has happened continuously in neighboring Imperial County.

The number of known active virus cases countywide is 67,316, an increase of 7,739 compared to Thursday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 141,062 — according to the county Executive Office.

The number of verified patient recoveries is 72,008. That figure has increased less than 10% in the last four weeks and has previously been under-reported due to health officials being unable to confirm the status of patients in follow-up interviews.

The county’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate is 18.5%, compared to 14.8% a week ago. Health officials have noted that increases in testing lead to proportionally higher case numbers, which don’t necessarily translate to medical need, except for quarantine. Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said Tuesday that the testing rate countywide is now 576 per 100,000 population. Two months ago, it was less than half that amount.

The 11-county Southern California region’s available ICU capacity remained at 0% Friday, compared to 6.2% the Friday before.

The regional ICU bed metric is a key indicator for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order, which went into effect on Dec. 6. The order was triggered when ICU bed availability across Southern California fell below 15%.

The mandate is slated to remain in effect until at least Dec. 28, when regions may be moved out of lockdown, if bed capacity has recovered.

Supervisor Chuck Washington said Tuesday that multiple counties, including Riverside, are requesting that the governor revise the regional definition and parcel counties into smaller sub-regions across Southern California, with the goal of modifying the ICU capacity threshold, so it could be more easily met.

The current stay-at-home order impacts bars, theaters, museums, hair salons, indoor recreational facilities, amusement parks and wineries — all of which are supposed to remain closed.

Restaurants are confined to takeout and delivery, with capacity limitations on retail outlets.

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