Citing a backlog in testing results, Riverside County reported nearly 11,000 new COVID-19 infections Tuesday, by far the highest single-day number ever recorded during the pandemic, pushing the county over the 100,000 mark in cumulative cases.
The 10,949 new cases gave the county a cumulative total of 103,221, according to Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari.
“But many of those (newly reported) cases are due to a backlog that was occurring and that has now been fixed,” she told the board. “So we are catching up on case reports. That’s why we have such a high number.”
It was unclear exactly how many of the cases were the result of the backlog or when the backlog began accumulating. Neighboring Los Angeles County, which has four times the population of Riverside County, has never reported as many cases in a single day, even when it had testing backlogs of its own. Los Angeles County’s highest single-day case number was 10,528, set on Sunday.
The number of known active virus cases countywide rose to 32,374, compared to 21,845 on Monday. The active count is derived by subtracting deaths and recoveries from the current total — 103,221 — according to the county Executive Office.
The number of verified patient recoveries is 69,334. That figure has previously been under-reported due to health officials not being able to confirm the status of patients in follow-up interviews.
Officials said the number of deaths stemming from complications related to COVID-19 stands at 1,513, an increase of 25 since Monday.
Bed occupancy at hospitals throughout Riverside County is at 70%, but only about one-quarter of that can be attributed to COVID-19 patients, who are adding to the load mounting on medical facilities, according to Bruce Barton, the county’s Emergency Management Department director.
“We have over 700 COVID-positive patients in our facilities, and that’s the highest we’ve had,” EMD Director Bruce Barton told the Board of Supervisors. “However, not as high a percentage that goes into the hospital is being admitted to the intensive care unit.”
The latest Riverside University Health System data show 733 coronavirus patients — the highest level of the pandemic. Among those patients are 144 ICU cases, two less than Monday. The largest number of COVID patients in county ICUs was 167, in late July, according to Barton.
“There are a lot of folks in ICU beds who are not COVID,” he said, noting that ICU occupancy countywide is at 90%. He did not venture a guess as to the mix of other patients and their infirmities.
The county has 3,560 licensed hospital beds, and 2,512 are occupied, according to Barton.
Coronavirus Hospital Use Projections Across the Country
This interactive chart uses model data provided by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to predict how the coronavirus will affect health care resources in different states. In states such as Florida and California, hospital bed use is projected to continue to grow into September and October. Most states have enough general hospital and ICU beds to meet demand, according to additional data from The Associated Press.
Sources: State hospital bed capacity data from the Associated Press. Model data provided by IHME. Note: The model assumes mask use continues at currently observed rates and the gradual easing of social distancing mandates continues. It also assumes the mandate would be re-imposed for six weeks if daily deaths reach 8 per million.
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC
He said the biggest challenge now is staffing facilities, and the county is trying to fill “resource requests,” finding health care workers able to step in where personnel shortages occur.
“We’re supporting hospitals as best we can,” Barton said. “But the pool of resources is not significant.”
He said the EMD is seeking certified emergency medical technicians anywhere they can be found to supplement hospitals’ frontline workers. Some facilities have also requested additional personal protective equipment and durable medical gear, and those requests are being met.
How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart
This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 50th case.
Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC
The state-adjusted case rate for the county is 47.8 per 100,000 residents, and an overall state-calculated positivity rate of 14.8%, almost double the 7.7% rate from last week, according to Saruwatari.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mandatory “regional stay-at-home” order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, triggered when intensive-care unit bed availability across Southern California fell below 15%. The 11-county Southern California region’s available ICU capacity is currently 10.1%.
The order is slated to remain in effect until Dec. 28, when regions may be moved out of lockdown if bed capacity has recovered.
The mandate 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.
“Studies on the impacts of these lockdowns on small businesses show what we’re doing,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said. “There is something wrong with this picture. We’re hurting businesses more. I have business owners at my door, screaming to reopen. This is inequitable.”
The county Executive Office in October joined executive offices from surrounding counties in a loose coalition to press for a reduction in lockdown regulations. Spiegel demanded that they address the governor’s new region-by-region requirements.
In October, the California Department of Public Health reclassified the county in the purple tier, the most restrictive under Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy regulatory framework. For roughly a month, the county had been in the slightly less stringent red tier.
Last month, Newsom placed 28 counties in the purple tier, predicated on a 50% statewide upswing in coronavirus cases.
A revised executive order mandating a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. began Nov. 21 in counties in the purple tier. Many law enforcement chiefs, including Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, have declined to enforce it, citing civil rights concerns.
Bianco said Friday that he has no intention of dedicating deputies to enforce the regional stay-at-home order, denouncing the governor’s “dictatorial attitude” and calling the order “flat out ridiculous.”