Red Flag Warning: COVID-19 Accelerates in the Inland Region

Red Flag Warning: COVID-19 Accelerates in the Inland Region

Several employees at Riverside County Administration Center test positive for COVID-19 and Newly Available Forecast Modeling by the State of California Paints Deadly Picture for Riverside and San Bernardino Counties

S.E. Williams | Contributor

On Thursday, June 25, 2020 the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the moving seven-day average of novel coronavirus in the U.S. is reflective of a second surge in this first wave of the pandemic.

As the numbers of cases continue to increase medical experts caution an increase in deaths usually follow cases by about two weeks.

CDC officials also speculated the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 may be as much as ten times higher than reported. If deemed accurate it would mean the country has already exceeded more than two million cases.

The CDC also issued new COVID-19 guidance warning, “[T]hat among adults, risk increases steadily as you age, and it’s not just those over the age of 65 who are at increased risk for severe illness.”

Severe illness means, “They may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die.”

In addition, during testimony before Congress this week CDC Director Robert Redfield warned the U.S. currently has about 28,000 contract traces but needs closer to 100,000 indicating the nation does not have the resources necessary to isolate all these cases.

California Governor Gavin Newsom also announced this week the state experienced a 32 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past two weeks. Adding the concerning surge was also reflective of a 29 percent increase from the previous day. More than 4,240 coronavirus patients were hospitalized around the state due to COVID-19.

Hospital intensive care units (ICU) are also experiencing a surge. There was a 19 percent increase in ICU admissions in the last two weeks. Thursday’s ICU admissions were up 18 percent over the previous day. The governor further confirmed 34 percent of the state’s ICU beds were in use. 

Newsom mentioned several counties in the state where concern over the spread of COVID-19 is escalating, including both Riverside and San Bernardino.

New cases in Riverside County reached a high on Tuesday, June 23 with 631 new cases, 474 individuals were confirmed positive on Wednesday followed by 237 more COVID-19 positive cases on Thursday, bringing the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the county to 15,142 with 435 total deaths.

Thursday morning the number of hospitalizations in the county rose to 311 with 95 ICU patients suffering with COVID-19 complications. Combined with other patients, there were 363 ICU beds occupied across the county accounting for 68 percent of the area’s total ICU capacity.

On Friday, Riverside’s ICU capacity worsened. The county’s total ICU usage stood at 94 percent–25 percent of those in intensive care were COVID-19 patients.

Congressman Raul Ruiz (D-36th District), who is also a physician stressed, “This is dangerously close to being at full capacity!”

He continued, “The state’s safety criteria is to maintain a 20 percent open ICU bed reserve (80 percent ICU usage) to handle rapid flare ups. Surge interventions require creating hospital overflow capacity and everybody doing their part by staying at home as much as possible.” 

Also on Friday, the county announced several employees who work at the Riverside County administrative center have tested positive for COVID-19.  As a result, all Board of Supervisors offices and executive offices are being temporarily closed.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting will now be held virtually.

According to KESQ, approximately 200 county employees who work at the location are now being tested for the virus and will telecommute until they are cleared for work.

The rate of infection among African-Americans in the county at 310 confirmed cases per 100K is the third highest in the county, second only to Latinx (577 per 100K) and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders (614 per 100K).

The City of Riverside has experienced the greatest impact with a total of 2,196 confirmed cases and 121 deaths, followed by Moreno Valley with 1,305 positive cases and 35 deaths.

397 new cases were reported Wednesday in San Bernardino County with 11 new deaths. To date the county has recorded 248 deaths.  A total of 477 African-Americans in San Bernardino County have tested positive for the disease.

Among the cities in San Bernardino County currently experiencing the greatest impact of the virus are the San Bernardino (1781 cases and 19 deaths); Fontana, 1219 cases and 18 deaths; and Ontario, 1008 cases and 32 deaths; followed by Rialto (615 cases and 8 deaths). Other communities rapidly approaching 500 positive cases are Colton, Redlands and Rancho Cucamonga.

On Thursday the governor announced a new coronavirus forecasting model for the state called the California COVID Assessment Tool, or CalCAT.

The tool provides short-term forecasts which considers the most recent trends in cases, hospitalizations and deaths and apply statistical models to that data to generate anticipated trends in the coming 2-4 weeks.

Based on the forecast, the state is projected to increase hospitalizations from 4,095 as of June 23 to 14,682 through July 25; deaths are projected to increase from 5,632 statewide as of June 23 to 7.202 by July 11.

In Riverside County daily hospitalizations are expected to increase from 315 as of June 23 to an average of 513 by July 25. The death toll in Riverside is forecasted to increase from 431 as of June 23 to a breathtaking 2,297 through July 25.

The forecast for San Bernardino County currently appears more encouraging. The total number of daily hospitalizations is expected to decline from 311 as of June 23 to a daily total of 138 through July 25. The county’s death toll is also forecasted to increase from 234 as of June 23 to 523 by July 26.

Early in the day on Thursday Governor Newsom declared a State of Emergency, an action required to free up billions of dollars from a reserve account. The dollars will be used to help fill the budget deficit resulting from the pandemic. It is expected to use about eight billion dollars from the state’s rainy-day fund.

About The Author

S.E. Williams

Stephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager in the telecommunications industry before retiring to pursue her passion as a reporter and non-fiction writer. Beyond writing, Williams’ personal interests include stone-carving, drumming and sculpting.

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