Riverside County tops 200,000 COVID-19 cases as infection total doubles in past month

The number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Riverside County during the pandemic surpassed 200,000 on Tuesday, with the county reporting another 1,820 infections and completing a doubling of overall case numbers in the past month.  

It took the county nearly nine months to reach 100,000 COVID cases, reaching that milestone on Dec. 8. But with cases surging locally and statewide, the countywide total reached 200,056 on Tuesday, according to the Riverside University Health System.  

RELATED: Licensed ICU bed capacity in Riverside County drops to 0%, officials say

The county reported two more virus-related deaths, pushing the death toll to 2,098. The death figures are trailing indicators because of delays processing death certificates and can cover several weeks.  

COVID-positive hospitalizations countywide stood at a pandemic high of1,615, up from 1,543 on Monday, according to RUHS. The number includes 342 intensive care unit patients, a dozen more than the day before and also representing a record high.  

The number of known active virus cases countywide was 65,704, an increase of 1,152 from Monday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total -- 200,056 -- according to the county Executive Office.  

The county's verified patient recoveries is now 132,254. Last week, officials from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Riverside, along with Riverside Community Hospital, urged residents to take precautions to limit exposure risks to reduce the chances of hospital visits, thereby increasing demands on already scarce space and overburdened staff.

RELATED: Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Southern California  

County Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton said last month that roughly 40% of all hospitalizations countywide are tied to COVID-19. ICU beds are the main concern, with the county's general and acute care facilities technically at maximum occupancy.  

Barton said hospitals have resorted to "surge capacity" plans to expand critical care space wherever possible.  

The county's overall COVID-19 testing positivity rate was 23.1%, compared to 22.6% last week, based on state-adjusted figures.  

The 11-county Southern California region's available ICU capacity is officially 0%. The regional ICU bed metric is a key benchmark under Gov. Gavin Newsom's regional stay-at-home order, which went into effect on Dec. 6.

The order was triggered when ICU bed availability across Southern California fell below 15%. The mandate is expected to remain in effect until bed capacities recover.  

The current stay-at-home order impacts bars, theaters, museums, hair salons, indoor recreational facilities, amusement parks and wineries -- all of which are supposed to remain closed.  Restaurants are confined to takeout and delivery, with capacity limitations on retail outlets.  

Health officials are in the midst of administering COVID-19 vaccines, with the first priority going to workers in acute-care hospitals, skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, paramedics/EMTs, correctional hospitals and behavioral health facilities.  

According to RUHS, as of Sunday, the county had received 25,310 doses of the vaccine, and 17,294 had been administered. Statewide, only about one-third of the 1.3 million vaccine doses that have been received had actually been administered as of Monday.  

But reluctance among some hospital workers to receive the vaccine has been an issue. County Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Desert Sunthat about half of hospital workers who have been offered the vaccine are declining it.  

"Some of them are saying, "You know, not yet," that they just want to see how things go," Saruwatari told the paper. "Some are just not giving any type of reason on why they're not taking it."  

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday the state is conducting a survey to get a better idea of how many health care workers are declining the vaccine.

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