COVID-19: Cases double across Riverside County, Palm Springs wastewater reveals even higher rates

·3 min read

The average COVID-19 case rate across Riverside County more than doubled between Monday and Friday, jumping from 103 per 100,000 to 212 per 100,000. During that same week, reported positive cases increased by 7,243.

In reality, cases are much higher than testing numbers reveal. The latest wastewater report from Palm Springs reveals that there were nearly 6.7 million viral copies per liter — including Delta an Omicron variants — detected in wastewater samples on Jan. 3.

During last winter's surge, the highest number of copies detected was about 2.6 million, Donn Uyeno, the city's principal engineer, said during Thursday's City Council meeting.

"In the last several weeks, we have had numbers that are just skyrocketing," Uyeno said.

Based on the amount of virus detected in wastewater, actual case numbers for that day were estimated to be about 25,000, Uyeno said.

A month prior to this date, the number of estimated cases corresponding to wastewater testing in the city was less than 1,000.

"A lot of people who are testing are testing with home tests and those don't get reported to the county," Councilmember Geoff Kors commented during the meeting. "Omicron is clearly out there everywhere."

More: Geoff Kors will not seek third term on Palm Springs City Council

The number of students with active COVID-19 cases in the Desert Sands Unified school district more than doubled since the previous week. The district returned from winter break on Jan. 3.

Palm Springs Unified reported 626 active student cases on Thursday, up from only 32 on Tuesday.

Riverside County's positivity rate continues to be higher than state averages while its testing rate is below the state average, Uyeno said.

"We continue to see the numbers rise," Jose Arballo Jr., spokesperson with Riverside University Health System - Public Health, said Friday. The number of hospitalizations, those in intensive care units and the number of deaths remain lower than in the previous winter's surge; however, he said, case and positivity rates are higher.

The county's positivity rate was 32.9% on Friday. The statewide average was 22.9%.

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 increased by 40 people this week, including its first infant death, totaling 5,671.

Related: Riverside County reports death of infant from COVID-19, becoming youngest death from virus in county

More: COVID-19 surge: More than 2,000 active cases in Desert Sands Unified School District

There were 991 patients being hospitalized as of Friday — an increase of 105 compared with Monday — including 151 in the ICU, up from 137. The number of hospitalizations is still lower than reported this time last year when the county reached a peak of 1,660 hospitalized patients on Jan. 11, 2021.

In the previous week, hospitalizations were up to 791, including 126 individuals in intensive care.

"We are probably in the midst of an uptick related to the New Year's holiday," Arballo said, noting that it typically takes between two weeks and 20 days following the holiday to see the impact that it has on cases.

Want to compare the numbers yourself? Here's last week's COVID-19 update.

Earlier this week: Coachella Valley adds 1,610 new cases in past week, six deaths

"One thing we learned over the course of the pandemic is not to make predictions," Arballo said. "Our hope is: whatever rise we are in will be short, numbers will start levelling off, eventually dropping altogether."

"We continue to encourage people to get vaccinated," Arballo added.

In Riverside County, 59.1% of residents ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated and another 7.1% are partially vaccinated as of Thursday. About 23.9% of the population aged 12 and older has received an additional/booster shot.

Maria Sestito covers issues of aging in the Coachella Valley. She is also a Report for America corps member. Follow her on Twitter @RiaSestito, on Instagram @RiaSestito_Reporter or email her at maria.sestito@desertsun.com.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: COVID-19 cases double across Riverside County amid New Year's surge

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