Updates: Riverside County health official says virus’ growth slowing, restrictions could be lifted soon

, Palm Springs Desert Sun

Published 9:57 a.m. PT April 21, 2020

Riverside County’s public health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser told the Board of Supervisors during a meeting Tuesday that given how the cases are slowing, the county may be able to move forward with “targeted” removals of public health-related restrictions in the coming weeks.

“Overall, the (growth) trend is blunting,” Kaiser said. “It’s possible that restrictions can be relaxed or modified without losing protection.”

In Riverside County, on Tuesday, health officials reported 113 new coronavirus cases, and eight new virus-related deaths.

The county’s number of cases has risen to 2,960 and 93 deaths related to the virus. So far, 757 people have recovered and 127 inmates in county jails have tested positive, officials added.

As of Monday, the doubling time for confirmed cases has slowed since early April, when the doubling rate was about 4.7 days. But it is still too early to tell if the case curve is flattening, said Riverside County spokesman Jose Arballo. A drop in cases day to day could still be due to testing capacity.

Riverside County is outpacing California in testing rate with 1,303 tests administered per 100,000 residents as compared to 734 per 100,000 people statewide.

In the Coachella Valley, there were 528 positive cases in the valley’s nine cities as of Tuesday, and 23 virus-related deaths.

  • Cathedral City: 66 cases and 1 death
  • Coachella: 92 cases and 2 deaths
  • Desert Hot Springs: 28 cases and 0 deaths
  • Indian Wells: 10 cases and 0 deaths
  • Indio: 106 cases and 3 deaths
  • La Quinta: 48 cases and 0 deaths
  • Palm Desert: 74 cases and 5 deaths
  • Palm Springs: 83 cases and 9 deaths
  • Rancho Mirage: 22 cases and 3 deaths
  • Unincorporated communities: Bermuda Dunes: 4 cases and 0 deaths; Desert Edge: 3 cases and 0 deaths; Desert Palms: 5 cases and 0 deaths; Garnet: 8 cases and 0 deaths; Mecca: 20 cases and 0 deaths; Oasis: 5 cases and 0 deaths; Sky Valley: 3 cases and 0 deaths; Thermal: 8 cases and 0 deaths; Thousand Palms: 4 cases and 0 deaths; Vista Santa Rosa: 1 cases and 0 deaths.
  • California: 33,261 positive cases and 1,268 deaths, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton said only about half of the county’s hospital beds were occupied, though two-thirds of intensive care unit beds were full. Ventilator usage for respiratory failures stemming from COVID-19 and other hospitalizations were at one-third capacity.

Projections by Kaiser and other Riverside University Health System officials from earlier this month predicted far broader burdens on health care resources by this time because of the virus.

“We continue to look at reasonable targeted (changes) we can make (to the slate of virus-related restrictions in place),” the doctor said. “There are means for the public to have as much normal life as possible. I don’t want to minimize the sacrifices people have made. We’re not being unnecessarily restrictive.”

Volunteers wanted

California has launched a new volunteer initiative and a website that aims to connect residents looking to give back during the coronavirus pandemic, while the number of cases continues to climb locally and across the state.

The new website, https://californiavolunteers.ca.gov, offers options like working at food banks, donating blood, delivering meals or joining the California Health Corps.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday anyone interested in helping out will be matched based on their expressed interests and local needs, and that officials are hoping to create a “deliberative” volunteer corps where organizers will converse and connect with volunteers.

“From our zoomers to our boomers,” he said, “we want you to volunteer.”

In an attempt to speak directly to protesters who have begun demanding the state reopen, including protesters in Sacramento, Newsom emphasized that cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are still on the rise.

According to the California Department of Public Health’s count Tuesday, California has 33,261 positive cases, a 7.4% increase over the past 24 hours, and 1,268 deaths, an increase of 60 from the day before. The number of hospitalized patients and those in ICU beds bumped up by 3.3% each.

“We have to continue to be vigilant,” he said.