Riverside County saw a dramatic increase in total fatalities due to COVID-19 on Monday, with public health officials reporting 23 new coronavirus-related deaths after they were able to catch up on days-old records.
The 23 newly reported deaths occurred between April 21 through Monday, said Riverside County spokesman Jose Arballo. A total of 141 people have died due to the virus in the county since the pandemic began.
The county’s total number of cases has doubled over the last two weeks to 3,643, with officials reporting 80 new cases on Monday.
Currently, 215 patients are hospitalized, including 75 in intensive care.
Additionally, Riverside County officials said 1,245 people have recovered and 141 inmates in county jails have tested positive, of whom 95 have recovered.
While the spike in Monday’s death numbers does not have county health officials worried, the continued increase of COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes does.
Riverside County health officials have confirmed more than 650 coronavirus cases — 18% of the county’s total number of cases — between patients and staff at assisted living facilities and nursing homes in the county.
The majority of those nursing home cases — 64% — are among 40 of the county’s 53 licensed skilled nursing facilities, which are homes that provide 24/7 nursing assistance typically following a hospitalization discharge or a serious decline in an individual’s health. Typically, individuals in these homes need help moving around and walking.
About 8% of those nursing home cases are at assisted living homes, which are homes for individuals who need less care than a skilled nursing facility but still need help with some daily activities like bathing and medication. Typically, individuals in these homes are mobile.
The remainder are among the hundreds of other long-term care facilities in the county.
Of those total remaining cases, 13 are from the Coachella Valley due to an outbreak at The Palms in La Quinta. The Palms is a retirement living community, meaning the facility doesn’t provide the same kind of comprehensive nursing care.
In total, the county has tested about 1,200 patients at these facilities, this accounts for just under 3% of the total tests conducted in the county.
Of those who tested positive at these facilities, 211 were staff members. This means 6% of the county’s total confirmed cases were nursing home workers.
“We have known since the beginning of this response that congregate care facilities would provide one of the biggest challenges,” said Kim Saruwatari, Riverside County public health director. “We responded to the challenge by forming our SOS teams who have reached out to most of our facilities to support their efforts. We also have teams that have helped out with some staffing when it was appropriate.”
The four skilled nursing facility support teams recently launched by the county have visited 144 facilities and conducted follow-up visits with 10.
The teams work with staff members at the facilities to demonstrate safety techniques, provide personal protective gear and educate workers about COVID-19. Skilled nursing facilities are licensed by state regulators, but local health officials can offer support to maintain services.
Overall, Riverside County has confirmed about 153 cases per 100,000 people.
Riverside County is outpacing California’s overall testing rate with about 1,826 tests administered per 100,000 residents, as compared to 1,399 per 100,000 people statewide. In total, the county has administered 43,518 tests.
‘Lockdown’ protesters converge in Palm Springs
Frustrated by mandatory business closures that are taking a toll on the local, state and national economy, a group of protesters converged in downtown Palm Springs on Sunday night in a demonstration that mirrors those popping up across the nation over the past few weeks.
Protesters carried signs that read “SM BIZ MATTERS,” “No Mandatory Vaccines,” “Stop the fear” and “My constitutional rights are essential.”
As California enters its seventh week under a statewide stay-at-home order, the state-ordered closures have taken a harsh toll on the Coachella Valley, where the economy relies heavily on hospitality and tourism, and protesters said the government is moving too slowly toward reopening.
Palm Springs has 91 cases and nine deaths from COVID-19, while Riverside County has a total of 3,643 cases and 141 deaths — more than any other California county besides Los Angeles.
Local officials have begun to take steps to lift restrictions implemented to contain the spread of the virus. Last week, the county lifted closures on golf courses and allowed community pools to reopen to be used by only one swimmer at a time.
Protest organizer Rod Garcia demanded local and state officials lift restrictions put in place to contain COVID-19.
“Really, people are shopping in masks at these big stores and they’re still shopping. I can’t see why they have a problem with opening up a small shop. People can wear their masks. People can still distance. You can still wear gloves if you want to wear gloves,” Garcia told fellow demonstrators huddled in a group in front of him. “You know, all of that. I just don’t understand this.”
Garcia said the government’s decision to allow certain businesses it deems essential — including big-box stores like Costco and Walmart — to remain open, while small businesses are forced to shutter is discriminatory. If it’s safe to shop in a grocery store, he asked, then why not any store?
“Now’s the time to open small businesses! Governor (Gavin) Newsom is blocking opening up small shops. I call it a lockdown,” he said, as supporters booed at the mention of California’s governor and yelled “Brainwashed!”
Across the street on Palm Canyon Drive, a smaller contingent of nurses and counter-protesters gathered to oppose the “Reopen” contingent’s message. The nurses, who declined to be interviewed out of fear of losing their jobs, carried signs that said “Humanize Me,” and “Rest at Home is better than Rest in Peace.”
From underneath a surgical mask he said he was wearing due to politeness rather than necessity, Palm Desert’s John Galbraith said he wanted the state to reopen the economy immediately. Although the majority of epidemiologists say some sort of shutdown is necessary to contain the coronavirus, Galbraith said he believes the scientists who don’t believe in reopening pose a threat to society.
“It should be our decision, not the government’s, to stay at home or do whatever unless we’re proven beyond doubt that we’re carrying a deadly disease,” Galbraith said. “But, until then, we get to live our lives.”
La Quinta council to hold emergency meeting tonight
The La Quinta City Council will hold an emergency meeting Monday, April 27 at 6 p.m.
The council will discuss “our budget and the impacts of COVID-19 on our current revenue and projections for the next fiscal year,” La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans said by email.
The meeting will be streamed live at https://laquinta.12milesout.com/ and written public comments can be emailed to [email protected] until the adjournment of the meeting. Public comment will be heard before the closed session. The city asks that the email include your full name, city of residence, phone number, public comment or agenda item number and subject.
La Quinta Finance Director Karla Romero on March 17 projected a $6 million loss in general fund revenue over the next three months from TOT and sales tax declines alone – the city’s two primary sources of revenue. That number had risen by mid-April to an estimated $7.05 million loss for this fiscal year, Romero said.
“Revenue declines have increased due to the closure of hotels and short-term vacation rentals until further notice,” Romero said.
Staff has spent the past two weeks looking at the budget and where and how to bridge the anticipated shortfall, she said. The city is evaluating a combination of reductions and use of one-time funds, which may include:
- Reducing current operational expenses
- Reviewing capital improvement projects to reduce funding and/or extend deadlines
- Payroll savings from throughout the fiscal year – vacancies to remain vacant until further notice
- Use of reserves including: Economic Disaster Reserves ($11 million balance) and/or Unassigned Fund balance ($10.9 million balance)
- Federal reimbursements for the declared emergency
“Every line item and option is being evaluated. The city is in a strong financial position with options,” Romero said. “We want to support the local economy, preserve critical city operations and services, while also having a long-term vision when making decisions.”
The city has about $42.5 million total in reserves, including $11 million in an economic disaster fund and $2.9 million in an economic development fund.
The council has appropriated $1.5 million from the city’s emergency disaster fund to help businesses impacted by COVID-19. Staff had been developing a program plan to bring back to the council for approval.
Rural Northern California counties seek to reopen economy
Officials from six rural Northern California counties and 14 small cities in them have urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to let them reopen their economies, marking the most significant pushback yet from local leaders against a mandatory stay-at-home order in its second month that has left 3 million people out of work.
Of the 500,000 people who live in Sutter, Yuba, Butte, Colusa, Tehama and Glenn counties, only 69 have had confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The counties added at least 475 additional hospital beds to prepare for a feared surge, but so far have only one coronavirus patient in an intensive care unit, according to a letter date Friday that the county and city leaders sent to Newsom.
“At this point, given the COVID-19 numbers locally — and our enhanced health care capacity — we ask you to allow our counties to exercise local authority to implement a careful and phased reopening of our local economies,” said the letter also signed by the region’s two Republican state lawmakers, Assemblyman James Gallagher and Sen. Jim Nielsen.
As the rural counties sought to reopen, six San Francisco Bay Area counties said Monday they are extending stay-at-home orders through the end of May.
“This global pandemic of COVID-19 is still in its early stages,” the Bay Area counties said in a statement. “The virus spreads easily, testing capacity is limited and expanding slowly, and vaccine development is just beginning. We expect to be responding to COVID-19 in our communities for a long time.”
Newsom, a Democrat, last week relaxed the stay-at-home order to allow hospitals to resume elective surgeries. But he resisted calls to allow other nonessential businesses to reopen.
Newsom said public health orders from local governments cannot be less restrictive than the state’s orders.
“What happens if we get ahead of ourselves and start to see a surge of new cases?” he said.
Meanwhile, Newsom announced Monday that Colorado and Nevada are joining a pact with California, Oregon and Washington to cooperate on planning for reopening. The governors, all Democrats, say public health is their priority.
Orange County fair canceled
The Orange County Fair and Even Center board of directors voted unanimously Monday to cancel this year’s event due to the unsafe conditions that can come from large crowds gathering amid this pandemic. The annual month-long celebration which was scheduled to run from July 17 to Aug. 16, brought in 1.4 million total visitors last year. It has been a staple of the summer in Southern California for 130 years.
For information on refunds and more, visit http://ocfair.com/refunds.
The OC Fair & Event Center Board of Directors voted unanimously to cancel the 2020 OC Fair, one of the most anticipated and enduring summer celebrations in Southern California for 130 years.
— ocfair (@ocfair) April 27, 2020
State prison worker tests positive for COVID-19
An Ironwood State Prison employee has tested positive for COVID-19, a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman confirmed Monday.
Ironwood is near Blythe, Calif., in Southern California near the Arizona border.
Authorities are trying to determine whether the staffer exposed the illness to any colleagues or inmates, spokeswoman Dana Simas said. Other details were not available, she added.
The employee is the first Ironwood worker to test positive for COVID-19, but is among 128 sickened prison staffers across the state, according to CDCR records.
The California Institution for Men in Chino has 30 cases, which is the most among the 29 facilities where COVID-19 has been detected.
Facilities with sickened employees do not include Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, which is near Ironwood in Blythe.
CDCR reported Monday that 181 of approximately 115,000 inmates across the state have tested positive for COVID-19 and one inmate has died.
On Sunday, a Riverside County inmate in custody at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility died from complications related to COVID-19, the sheriff’s department announced.
The inmate was tested after medical staff determined April 13 he was suffering from flu-like symptoms. Test results came back positive for COVID-19 on April 14.
The man was among 141 Riverside County inmates who’ve tested positive for COVID-19. There are 3,240 inmates incarcerated throughout the county.
Of the 55 department staff who have tested positive, two have died.
San Bernardino County releases coronavirus demographics
San Bernardino County released confirmation of 21 new coronavirus cases on Monday and information specific to age, gender and racial backgrounds.
As of Monday afternoon, there are 1,772 confirmed cases and 82 deaths. The doubling rate has increased to 9.5 days.
The total number of San Bernardino County patients tested is 17,577, out of which 10% tested positive for coronavirus.
Infections are highest for those who are 50-59 with 353 cases (20%), followed by 40-49 (17%); 70+ (16%); 60-69 (15%); 30-39 (15%); 20-29 (11%); 0-14 (2%); and 15-19 (1%). Deaths due to complications of the virus are 70+ (60%); 60-69 (21%); 50-59 (9%); 40-49 (6%); and 30-39 (4%).
There are slightly more cases of women (50%) than men (49%). 1% of cases are marked as “unknown.” Death is more common in men (63%) than women (37%)
By ethnicity, unknown demographics make up the highest amount of cases at (39%), followed by white (34%); other (10%); multi-race (6%); black (5%); Asian (4%); Asian/Pacific Islander (less than 1%); and Native Americans (less than 1%).
Non-Latinos have higher death rates (51%) compared to Latinos (33%) and unknown (16%).
In nearby Imperial County, public health officials reported 251 cases, 67 recovered patients and eight virus-related deaths, as of Friday.
Coronavirus case updates
Riverside County reported 80 new coronavirus cases and 23 new deaths, bringing the total to 3,643 cases and 141 deaths.
County officials reported on Monday 14 new cases and one new death in the Coachella Valley’s nine cities, which now have 618 positive cases and 25 virus-related deaths.
- Cathedral City: 81 cases and 1 death
- Coachella: 122 cases and 2 deaths
- Desert Hot Springs: 30 cases and 0 deaths
- Indian Wells: 11 cases and 0 deaths
- Indio: 127 cases and 4 deaths
- La Quinta: 59 cases and 1 death
- Palm Desert: 73 cases and 5 deaths
- Palm Springs: 91 cases and 9 deaths
- Rancho Mirage: 24 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: 23 cases and 0 deaths; North Shore: 1 case and 0 deaths; Oasis: 7 cases and 0 deaths; Sky Valley: 3 cases and 0 deaths; Thermal: 10 cases and 0 deaths; Thousand Palms: 4 cases and 0 deaths; Vista Santa Rosa: 1 case and 0 deaths
- California: 43,464 positive cases and 1,755 deaths
Desert Sun reporters Shad Powers and Mark Olalde, and Associated Press contributed to this report.
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