RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — The upward trajectory of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations throughout Riverside County showed no signs of leveling off Thursday, with another 8,205 additional infections confirmed, and more than 1,050 COVID-positive patients receiving medical care at a time when hospital beds are becoming increasingly scarce.
The total number of coronavirus cases recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March is 132,818, compared to 124,613 on Wednesday, according to the Riverside University Health System.
The number of deaths stemming from complications attributed to COVID- 19 is at 1,708, an increase of 42 compared to Wednesday, RUHS said.
COVID-positive hospitalizations countywide are at 1,054, up by 54 patients a day ago, according to RUHS. That figure includes 216 intensive care unit patients, four more than Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton told the Board of Supervisors that about 40 percent of all hospitalizations countywide are tied to COVID-19. ICU beds and staffing 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.
The 11-county Southern California region's available ICU capacity officially plummeted to 0 percent Thursday.
A looming nurses strike that is set to begin Dec. 24 at three hospitals could further exacerbate a bad situation in Riverside County and the Southern California region. The work stoppage is scheduled at Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside, as well as Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks and West Hills Hospital in Los Angeles.
County Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton said RCH is "one of the largest receivers" of emergency-level intakes countywide.
"They handle 300 (emergency) patients every week," he told the Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. "That's 18 to 20 percent of emergency room volume in the county. They're carrying the highest COVID load in the county. It's a very busy hospital. We don't have a lot of places to pull staff to backfill them."
Roughly 900 nurses would be involved in the walkouts at the three hospitals.
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 percent.
The mandate is slated to remain in effect until at least Dec. 28, when regions may be moved out of the stay-home order, if bed capacity has recovered.