RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — Riverside County health officials Wednesday announced 388 newly confirmed coronavirus cases, and two additional virus-related deaths, as the number of hospitalizations and active cases also ticked up.
The total number of COVID-19 infections recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March is 65,056, compared to 64,668 on Tuesday, according to Riverside University Health System. The number of patient recoveries is 58,458.
The agency said the number of deaths tied to COVID-19 stands at 1,275, two more than the day before.
There are now 167 people hospitalized for virus-related treatment countywide, an increase of 10 since Tuesday. The figure includes 37 intensive care unit patients — five fewer than the previous day.
According to county Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton, hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have been going "up and down," and there has been a slight upward trend in the last two weeks, which he attributed partly to infected state prisoners being hospitalized locally.
"There is no surge," Barton said. "No hospitals are asking for support."
According to California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, state modeling projects a 46 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide over the next month.
County health officials announced Tuesday that the California Department of Public Health had downgraded Riverside County back to the purple, or most restrictive, tier under the governor's color-coded coronavirus regulatory system, meaning some businesses that had reopened in recent weeks will have to close again or move their operations outdoors.
Gyms, restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship must move their operations back outside or close within 72 hours of the Tuesday announcement, officials said. (See the full list of what's open/closed below.)
The move drew the ire of several supervisors during Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.
"Enough is enough," Supervisor Karen Spiegel said after hearing the county had been reclassified. "Our kids are suffering. Our businesses are suffering. We've got to find a way to step forward without hurting people. This is not OK."
Riverside County schools that reopened under a waiver program may continue in-person instruction, according to Riverside Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser. Any other school wishing to reopen may apply for the waiver. To date, no public schools have reopened under the program.
The county was allowed to reopen all schools during part of its brief red-tier status, and many public school districts were deciding the best way forward. The move back into the purple tier, however, has halted reopening for now.
According to RUHS staff, CDPH administrators decided that, based largely on high case rates and low testing volumes, the county should be reduced from the red tier to the purple tier for at least three weeks. The county had been in the red tier for a month, permitting many businesses to reopen with limited capacities.
Kim Saruwatari, the director of the county's public health department, said the county's testing rate is currently 195.5 per 100,000 population. The state's threshold for large counties is 239.21 per 100,000. The other criterion for red tier status is a daily COVID-19 case rate of no greater than seven infections per 100,000 population. The county is at 8.4 per 100,000, with an adjusted rate of 9.1 per 100,000, which was applied because the county testing threshold was deemed unsatisfactory.
The county's overall testing positivity rate is 5.2 percent, which is down seven-tenths of a percentage point compared to two weeks ago and well within red tier criteria, according to RUHS.
**Outdoor playgrounds and outdoor recreational facilities updated September 28, 2020
***Personal care services, live audience professional sports and amusement parks updated October 20, 2020
—City News Service, with contributions from Patch editor Toni McAllister