S.E. Williams | Executive Editor
As Riverside County closed the books on 2020, leaders acknowledged the grievous loss of local residents to the deadly coronavirus.
By Dec. 30, more than 1,985 individuals in the county had died from the illness including two children under the age of 18 years. Reflecting on these losses, county officials reminded residents how everyone collectively contributes to slowing the spread of the virus.
The first coronavirus-related death in Riverside County was reported March 15, 2020 when an Indio resident in his late 70s lost his life to the illness. The two youngest deaths included a 12-year-old from Western Riverside County and a 15-year-old from the central part of the region.
The oldest deaths included three, 104-year-old Riverside County residents—a man from Corona, another from Riverside and a female from the community of Mecca.
In addition, the county has bid farewell to four county employees who died of the virus including two deputies, one probation officer and one engineer.
“This disease doesn’t discriminate,” said Kim Saruwatari, Director of the Riverside University Department of Public Health. “We’ve seen deaths in the young and old. We’ve seen couples, family members and healthcare workers die from this disease. These deaths, combined with mental health impacts and economic losses, are painful reminders of how this disease has cost all of us.”
Nine months into the pandemic, deaths among racial and ethnic minorities remain disproportionately higher among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Latino and Black residents.
“Our hearts are with families, friends and neighbors who are grieving the loss of an important and special person in their lives,” said Riverside County Board Chair and Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, expressing his sentiments about the magnitude of loss. “After a year of tragedy and hardship, we have hope for a better 2021. We remember and honor all Riverside County residents who have passed from coronavirus this year and thank all the frontline workers and all who are doing their part to help overcome this pandemic.”
In addition to COVID-19 related losses, the county experienced a dramatic increase in the number of fatal overdoses, an increase of 26.6% over 2019. The unemployment rate is also cause for concern, having risen to nine percent in December. This equates to the loss of 107,000 jobs.
“Taking simple actions like wearing a mask, stop gathering with others outside the household and getting the vaccine will protect yourself and others from the virus,” Jose Arballo Jr. of the Riverside University Health System reminded residents.
As of Dec. 31, Riverside County continued experiencing a surge of coronavirus cases requiring 1,464 hospitalizations with 296 patients in intensive care units. The COVID-19 positivity rate in Riverside County stood at 22.6% and the daily case rate at 140.5 new cases per 100,000 residents.
S.E. Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.