S.E. Williams | Executive Editor
On Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced Riverside County was moving back to the state’s purple tier to help facilitate containment of COVID-19.
Purple is the most restrictive tier, and it requires several types of businesses and places of worship to move their activities and services outside. They were granted 72 hours to make the necessary operational changes.
The state’s decision ended a week-long adjudication process spearheaded by local officials to forestall the change. Now, the county will need to remain in the purple tier for a minimum of at least three weeks and meet the red tier metrics for two of those weeks before the state will consider returning it to the red tier.
As of Oct. 20, the county’s metrics include a 5.2 positivity rate and 9.1 case rate. While the positivity rate was within the red tier range, the case rate – cases per 100,000 people – was within the purple tier.
On Friday, the county reported 371 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and fortunately there were no additional deaths reported. There were however 161 people hospitalized across the county being treated for COVID-19 with at least 39 of those patients in intensive care. According to officials, county hospital rates continue to fluctuate.
Testing in the county continues to improve, though it remains below the statewide median. For example, county residents are getting tested for the virus at approximately 195 people a day per 100,00 residents, which is clearly up from 139 in early September. The statewide testing median, however, is 239 people a day per 100,000 residents.
In response, officials continue to encourage Riverside County residents to take a PCR (nasal) swab test to contain the disease and help the county reach the red tier metrics. Anyone, with or without symptoms or health insurance, can take a “free” PCR swab test from a county or state-run site.
There is little question returning to the purple tier will adversely impact small businesses like restaurants and gyms which were able to provide indoor services in the red tier after having business operations restricted for several months throughout the course of the pandemic.
Under the state’s new restrictions schools that have already opened for in-person instruction could remain open. But schools and school districts that were not already opened for in-person instruction will need to obtain a waiver approved by the Riverside County Public Health Officer and CDPH. For a complete list of schools that have applied for or received approval for a waiver visit rivcoph.org/SchoolWaiver.
County officials are also taking additional actions to address the rising number of cases in the community including a coordinated mobile testing strategy that includes pop-up testing sites closer to communities to improve access within specific workplaces and areas. In addition, the county continues outreach efforts and partnerships with community-based and faith-based organizations that serve hard-to-reach communities.