RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — As the county awaits news from the state regarding school reopenings, local coronavirus deaths and cases continue their upward trend, although a single-day decrease in hospitalizations was reported.
Eight new deaths and 806 additional COVID-19 infections were reported Thursday by Riverside University Health System. The death toll now stands at 585. The county's total number of COVID-19 cases is 28,177 with 10,271 of those people having recovered from the virus.
Hospitalizations tracked downward by 17 patients to 531. Of that total, 134 patients are in ICU.
Countywide testing now stands at 300,972 screenings conducted.
On Tuesday, County Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors that the average positivity rate for those screened for the virus countywide is at 20 percent, more than double the preferred state threshold of 8 percent.
On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom is scheduled to hold a noon news briefing to announce whether California schools can reopen for in-person instruction this fall. Districts have been waiting for a signal from the state, although some are already taking action amid growing concerns about coronavirus spread.
Locally, the Lake Elsinore Unified School District announced Thursday it will only offer distance learning to kick off the 2020-21 school year that begins Aug. 12. LEUSD school officials are intent on moving into a hybrid model and eventually to full traditional classroom instruction once health officials say it is safe to do so, the district said.
California's two biggest school districts — Los Angeles USD and San Diego USD — have also announced they will offer online-only instruction at the start of the 2020-21 school year.
UC Riverside Research: Economics Of Coronavirus
The economic recovery that had begun to gain momentum as COVID-19 shutdowns were eased has sputtered in light of an increase in cases, according to a report released Thursday by UC Riverside.
“Returning to normalcy in terms of employment, the supply chain, and consumer demand is directly tied to controlling the spread of the virus; it is a primary factor in determining the speed of the economic recovery," said Taner Osman, Research Manager at the Center for Economic Forecasting and one of the report’s authors.
"We always knew that controlling the virus was central to the economic recovery, so it's truly gut-wrenching to watch a new wave of cases trigger this step back in the reopening of businesses and other public places," Osman said.
The analysis found that employment in the Inland Empire was already down 12 percent as of May. Even so, the region performed slightly better than Orange County, which was down 15 percent; Los Angeles County, down 13 percent; and the state as a whole, down 13 percent.
One bright spot has been the logistics sector, which was the only major sector to have expanded in the region on a year-over-year basis, adding 2,600 jobs in the Inland Empire since the stay-at-home orders began, researchers said.
The sector has benefited from a consumer shift to online spending.
While disposable personal income fell nationally by 4.9 percent in May, consumption increased 8.2 percent, largely buoyed by stimulus checks and unemployment benefits.
But with the federal stimulus measures set to expire at the end of the month, the economy could see an even bigger contraction.
Already, some industries have experienced devastating effects. Among the hardest hit has been the leisure and hospitality sector, which lost 6.3 million jobs across the country since March, accounting for roughly 37 percent of all jobs lost, researchers said. They also noted that any recent gains made when the stay-at-home orders were relaxed may be lost or significantly reduced by the lockdown being reinstated as a result of rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Already, 2.2 million workers were added to the state's unemployment ranks from May 2019 to May 2020, according to the report.
And more people might soon be out of a job. The researchers forecast that the strain on public budgets from revenue losses will lead to job losses in the government sector.
Three-quarters of the workers in the state who have already been laid off expected to return to their jobs when business reopened, but that process will now be drawn out longer with the new spike in coronavirus cases, researchers said.
According to the analysis, the recovery that was somewhat underway in May was occurring more slowly in California than in the nation as a whole, likely due to other states reopening faster than California.
Researchers do not expect California to regain all its lost jobs until the end of 2021.
—City News Service contributed to this report.