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Riverside County reports largest single-day jump in COVID-19 cases on Easter Sunday

A nurse takes a break at a drive-though testing facility in an Indian Wells parking lot.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

With 188 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, Riverside County health officials reported its largest single-day spike since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. There were no virus-related deaths over the holiday weekend, records show.

As of Sunday evening, the county had 1,619 cases and 41 deaths. A total of 194 residents have recovered from the novel virus, according to officials.

Over the holiday weekend, county officials permitted residents to partake in drive-in religious services as long as they practiced “proper social distancing” this weekend only. Brooke Federico, the county’s public information officer, said a couple of churches participated in drive-in services, but many religious leaders encouraged their members to stay home.

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The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was more than double the number from the previous Sunday, records show.

On Friday, Chuck Washington, a member of the county’s Board of Supervisors, pleaded for people to stay away from Idyllwild, which received about 5 to 6 inches of snow over the last week, according to the National Weather Service.

Nearby Pine-Cove, which is higher in elevation, had about 12 to 18 inches of snowfall, an unusually large amount for the month of April, forecaster Matt Moreland said Monday.

But Washington, who represents Idyllwild on the board, posted a video on Twitter asking for tourists to “save the snow visits for next year.”

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“I understand that families who have been isolated for weeks want to entertain their kids, but we are in the middle of a public health crisis,” he said. “We can’t risk families exposing themselves and the residents of Idyllwild to COVID-19 just for a snow trip.”

Washington said his office had received several complaints from concerned residents in recent weeks about tourists visiting the area despite the county’s strict stay-at-home order. Idyllwild, a community of about 2,500 people, does not have enough resources or medical services to provide for both residents and travelers, he said.

Those who violate the county’s ban on public and private gatherings of any size could be fined up to $1,000 or face imprisonment, a statement from Washington’s office said. Last week, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said he didn’t plan to ticket residents, rather he said the department would focus on educating the public on the county’s public safety order.

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All short-term-lodging facilities, including hotels, short-term rentals and vacation rentals, have been instructed to restrict business until June 19, operating only if needed to support the coronavirus response, health officials announced last week.

Grace Han, a manager at an Idyllwild restaurant, said she had noticed an increase in foot traffic over the holiday weekend.

After Washington “made that announcement, we have seen an influx of people that walk in and order to go, and they’re usually not locals,” Han, manager at Mile High Cafe, said. The restaurant has been accepting take-out orders and providing delivery within three miles of its location since the stay-at-home order was put in place.

“This weekend there was a lot of snow and people want to visit,” she said. But residents have complained that visitors have been trying to ride sleds on their property or trespassing to shovel snow into their pickups. Complaints have been rife on Facebook, she said.

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Han said she and husband Jason, managers for three years of the restaurant, which is owned by his mother, had been struggling to figure out how to remain open and keep their employees working.

Still — although she empathizes with tourists who may have cabin fever — she said it was unsafe to visit Idyllwild at this time.

“Idllywild is largely a retirement community,” she said. “There is no hospital here. [And] what we have for medical staff is so limited, so it’s so dangerous.”


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