As Cases Rise, RivCo Still Seeks Escape To Coronavirus Tiering

Toni McAllister
·4 min read

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — The number of new coronavirus cases jumped in Riverside County over the weekend, as did the death toll and the number of people admitted into intensive care units, according to figures released Monday by Riverside University Health System.

The uptick comes as Riverside County Supervisor Karen Spiegel will ask her colleagues Tuesday to support a proposal for the Executive Office to coordinate with neighboring counties in presenting a unified request to the governor to revise or drop the state's current color-coded coronavirus tier system.

The total number of COVID-19 infections recorded in Riverside County since the public health documentation period began in early March stands at 66,732 Monday, an increase of 975 people since Friday's reporting, according to RUHS.

The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 was reported at 1,295 Monday, and increase of 16 people since Friday, the data showed.

The number of COVID-positive hospitalizations totaled 164 Monday, compared to 161 on Friday. Monday's figure includes 60 ICU patients — 21 more than Friday, according to RUHS.

As numbers continue rising, Spiegel's proposal amounts to a directive for retiring CEO George Johnson, or incoming Interim CEO Juan Perez, and Executive Office staff to "engage" Imperial, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego and possibly other Southern California counties in forming a partnership focused on addressing defects in the state's coronavirus tier structure.

Riverside County was bumped back to the purple tier Tuesday due an increased coronavirus case rate and not meeting state thresholds for testing.

"Riverside County has created or expanded 22 programs to mitigate direct and indirect impacts (of COVID-19)," Spiegel said in documents posted to the Board of Supervisors' agenda for Tuesday. "Yet there is no number of programs that can replace someone's livelihood or business ... Entire industries are at a standstill, and public assistance is limited."

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the color-coded system in August to replace the multi-phase public health de-regulation strategy originally established at the end of April.

The tier plan has four color bands — purple, red, orange and yellow — that reflect how a county is managing coronavirus impacts. Riverside County had moved into the "red" tier in the third week of September, removing barriers for some businesses and houses of worship to resume indoor operations with capacity limitations.

With Riverside County now back in the state's most restrictive "purple" tier, many indoor services and functions are prohibited.

"Riverside County continues to make great strides in improving testing, as well as outreach within hard-to-reach groups and high spread workplaces," Spiegel said. "Hospital capacity also remains very stable and has been for months."

The supervisor was the foremost critic of the CDPH's reclassification, remarking immediately after the board was informed of the change that "enough is enough. We've got to find a way to step forward without hurting people. My frustration has turned to anger. We are way too far beyond this."

In her call for a united front to challenge the color-coded categorizations, Spiegel said "our residents and businesses feel the devastating impacts that this new round of closures will have on their livelihoods, mental health and other vital ... needs."

According to the supervisor, all counties should be entitled to a "consistent, predictable and reasonably achievable structure in order to reopen our economy and society in a safe way."

She emphasized that certain metrics, including hospital capacity, should be restored as main criteria for reopening. The county's COVID-positive hospitalizations are now at or below levels reported in April. The peak was in mid-July.

"Presenting a coordinated, unified platform to the state will strengthen our voice and make sure the concerns of Riverside County are heard in Sacramento," Spiegel said.

The board approved a self-directed reopening plan on Oct. 6, but the timetable originally included in the plan for allowing businesses to fully open was removed on a 4-1 vote because it would have conflicted with state mandates.

Johnson was authorized to implement reopening policies outside of the state's schedule, but he said more than $100 million in relief grants from the state would be at risk if the county moved independently.

—City News Service contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on the Temecula Patch