RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA— Riverside County's coronavirus positivity rate has dropped enough to qualify for more business reopenings, but the county's case rate hasn't, according to state figures released Tuesday.
According to "Blueprint for a Safer Economy" data released by the California Department of Public Health, the county's coronavirus positivity rate has dropped to 4.8 percent, while the case rate is 6.7 infections per 100,000 population. The two metrics — positivity and case rates — are being used to determine whether a county can progress through the Blueprint's tiered framework.
Riverside County remains in the state's "red" substantial-risk tier, but if the county's case rate drops below 4.0, and the positivity rate remains under 4.9 percent — and those numbers are sustained over three consecutive weeks — it would bump the region into the state's "orange" moderate-risk tier to allow greater reopening. See what's open now and will reopen when the county progresses through the tiers.
However, California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Tuesday that the state will soon roll out a new "health equity metric" as part of the tiered criteria, but he provided no details and its unclear whether the forthcoming benchmark will hurt or benefit Riverside County.
On Tuesday, Amador, Calavaras and San Francisco counties moved into the orange tier, Ghaly announced. They join 11 other "orange" California counties, of which are in the northern half of the state.
Seven counties — Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara and Yolo — were moved Tuesday into the red tier, an improvement over the worst tier, the "widespread" purple tier.
Riverside, Orange and San Diego are the only Southern California counties that have progressed from purple to red. San Diego County was at risk of being bumped back down to the purple tier, but Tuesday's data showed figures similar to Riverside County.
Riverside County schools that don't already have a waiver in place may begin in-person instruction as early as Oct. 6 if the county remains in the red tier, according to the state. However, most public school districts across the region are looking to their governing boards for guidance on when reopening should begin. The issue of in-person instruction is currently on most school board meeting agendas, with decisions possible as early as next week.
Oct. 6 is also when the county board of supervisors is expected to discuss again a proposal to flout the state's restrictions and reopen all of Riverside County. Read more about that plan here.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Riverside County edged up Tuesday by 241, with 10 more deaths attributed to the virus, even as hospitalizations continue to fall.
The total number of COVID-19 infections recorded since the public health documentation period began in early March is 59,173, compared to 58,932 on Monday, according to the Riverside University Health System.
RUHS officials said the number of deaths tied to COVID-19 stands at 1,216, up from 1,206 on Monday.
According to the Emergency Management Department, 125 people are hospitalized countywide with virus symptoms, down three from a day ago. The hospitalization figure includes 33 intensive care unit patients, also three fewer than Monday. All COVID-19 hospitalization numbers are now at or below levels reported in April.
On Tuesday, County Supervisor Karen Spiegel questioned Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari about the anticipated jump in coronavirus infections that RUHS representatives had suggested might follow Labor Day holiday weekend gatherings.
"We have not seen a significant increase," Saruwatari told the board.