1,000 Dead In Riverside County By May: New Coronavirus Models

Toni McAllister

This article originally appeared on the Lake Elsinore-Wildomar Patch

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — Confirmed coronavirus cases in western Riverside County have now outpaced numbers east in the Coachella Valley, a trend officials say will continue as more testing is done countywide, county public health department data released Thursday shows.

New modeling also shows that by the beginning of May, 1,000 county residents could die from the coronavirus and over 50,000 residents could be infected, Dr. Geoff Leung, Riverside University Health System-Medical Center, said during a Facebook livestream Thursday (watch streaming above).

Currently, the county is seeing a doubling of confirmed cases every 4-5 days. If that trend continues, Leung said the county will be at hospital-bed capacity around April 12-21, and out of ventilators around April 22 to May 5.

Leung, along with Riverside County public health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser and other health officials, urged the public to do its part in order to stop the current trend. Social distancing of 6 feet or more, absolutely no group gatherings, staying home and isolating when sick, and frequent hand-washing are measures everyone can take to reduce the spread, the officials said.

The officials warned restrictions may tighten if the public doesn't follow state and county orders.

As of Thursday morning, there were 107 confirmed cases of COVID-19 of county residents — 44 in the northwest, 41 in the Coachella Valley, 19 in the southwest and two in mid-county. Another resident, who acquired the virus while traveling on a cruise ship, remains in Northern California, officials said.

County health officials on Wednesday reported 48 additional cases, the largest one-day bump since the first case was reported March 8.

Of the new numbers, most were from outside the Coachella Valley, which officials attributed to additional testing that expanded to Lake Elsinore over the weekend.

"The expansion to the west was expected, since testing has been expanded on both sides of the county," Jose Arballo, spokesman for the Riverside University Health System, told City News Service. "The numbers east and west will likely continue to grow, but since the west has a larger population, the numbers there will probably grow at a faster rate."

Those living within 50 miles of Riverside can now screen symptoms and risk factors online and if eligible, participate in testing at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore.

So far, 3,000 people have been tested countywide.

Two additional deaths were also reported Wednesday, including the first fatality outside the Coachella Valley, bringing the county's death total to eight. A man in his 70s died due to complications associated with the disease. He lived in an area public health officials call the county's mid-region, which includes Banning, Hemet and Anza, health officials said. Another death was reported earlier Wednesday in the Coachella Valley, where the first cases and deaths were reported.

Of the 107 cases, 24 were determined to have been acquired locally, four were travel-associated and 79 are under investigation to verify origin.

Members of the California National Guard on Thursday continued setting up a temporary hospital at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio in anticipation of an expected surge of coronavirus cases.

The 125-bed "federal medical station" will be built within existing buildings and be equipped with all necessary equipment. The new field hospital will help ease the burden on the local hospital system, said Brooke Federico, Riverside County's public information officer.

It is expected to take 10 days to build the facility, which is expected to remain open for eight weeks, officials said.

Another temporary hospital will soon be set up in western Riverside County, Federico said. That site will have another 125 beds, but additional information, including the location, was not provided.

A moratorium on evictions went into effect late Wednesday in Cathedral City following the City Council's unanimous vote that night to temporarily bar all evictions for residential and commercial renters until after the coronavirus pandemic subsides. The new rules do not wipe out rental debts.

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—City News Service contributed to this report.