For the second day in a row, Riverside County reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths Friday, with the total exceeding 100 for the first time in the pandemic, while residents scrambled to get vaccinated, quickly filling all available appointments at county clinics for the next week.
The Riverside University Health System reported 118 additional COVID deaths, with many of them the result of delayed reporting. RUHS officials said one of those deaths occurred in October, while nearly one-third occurred in December and the remainder in the past two weeks.
The 118 deaths bested the record of 92 deaths reported Thursday.
The fatalities are trailing indicators because of delays processing death certificates.
The new fatalities lifted the county’s overall death toll from throughout the pandemic to 2,517.
The total number of COVID-19 cases recorded during the pandemic rose to 233,899, compared to 233,480 on Thursday, according to RUHS.
COVID-positive hospitalizations countywide were at 1,563 Friday, a drop of 21 from Thursday. That includes 353 intensive care unit patients — 14 fewer than a day ago. Hospitalizations have declined every day for the last four days.
The number of known active virus cases countywide is 80,236, a drop of 119. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 233,899– according to the county Executive Office.
Verified patient recoveries countywide are at 151,506.
Meanwhile, people aged 65 and older began getting vaccinated against COVID-19 on Thursday, a day after the state lowered the age requirement in tier 1 of Phase 1B from 75 years old to 65.
Residents anxious to get the shots swarmed phone lines and the county’s scheduling website. The county had roughly 11,000 appointment slots available at four clinics next week in Corona, Menifee, Beaumont and Indio. By mid-afternoon Friday, all of them were filled.
“We continue to expand our county vaccine clinics, so that more people can get the vaccine and be protected from the virus,” County Supervisor Karen Spiegel said. “Our residents want this vaccine as quickly as possible and these clinics will help get it out to the community.”
There are more than 175 vaccine providers in the county.
Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday about half of patients in hospitals countywide have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Barton said six facilities are at 100% of licensed bed capacity, and all medical centers have resorted to surge plans to expand critical care space wherever possible. No patients were being transferred to facilities outside the county because of space limitations, he said.
The county’s overall COVID-19 positive rate is 25.8%, compared to 23.1% last week, based on state-adjusted figures.
The 11-county Southern California region’s ICU availability officially remains at 0%.
The regional ICU bed metric is a key benchmark under 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 expected to remain in effect until bed availabilities recover.
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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