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California

Riverside County reports four new deaths and 144 new cases, including a postal worker

A public health care worker collects a nasal swab for novel coronavirus testing at a drive-through sample collection event held by San Bernardino County Department of Public Health at Montclair Plaza in Montclair, CA.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Four additional people died in Riverside County on Wednesday from complications of COVID-19, bringing the county’s total to 54 fatalities, according to health officials.

Brooke Federico, the county’s public information officer, said Thursday that the deceased were from Eastvale, Murrieta, Moreno Valley and Riverside.

There are currently 2,105 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county, including 144 news ones confirmed Wednesday.

One of those cases is a U.S. Postal Service employee, who worked at the service’s La Quinta office, spokesman John Hyatt confirmed in a written statement Thursday.

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Hyatt said the postal service believes that the “risk is low for employees” who work at the La Quinta post office, but it will be keeping employees updated as new information and guidance becomes available. Out of caution, the postal service has enhanced the cleaning protocols at its facilities, he said, providing no further details on the postal worker.

As of Wednesday evening, 235 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in Riverside County, 64 of them in intensive care units, records show.

The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in California.

Of the positive cases, a total of 416 people had recovered from the novel virus, which is 40 more than reported on Wednesday.

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Due to improved testing efforts, cases have continued to rise in the county, but Dr. Michael Mesisca, of the Riverside University Health System said that the number of infections is far below initial predictions.

Earlier this month, officials said that they anticipated about 65,000 cases by early May. With that time frame about two weeks away, cases in the county are significantly lower than expected.

“Reflecting on where I thought I was going to be a week ago, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be standing right here delivering this message,” Mesisca said during a press conference Wednesday.

The county experienced its highest number of cases on Tuesday, he added, “But it’s not at this astronomical pace, and so we are seeing some slowing. It’s going to take more time, more data points to know exactly where we’re going to be at.”

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Hospitals are at about 50% capacity, which is also lower than earlier predictions by health officials. Mesisca said that he is “quite comfortable and confident” that the county has built the necessary infrastructure into the healthcare systems to treat incoming COVID-19 patients if a surge does occur.

The doubling rate for cases has lengthened from about 4.6 days to more than seven days, Dr. Geoffrey Leung of the Riverside University Health System said.

“This is very encouraging because it means that we may be entering a period of slowing and that we may have actually averted a major hospital surge,” Leung said. “We believe that we are now on a different curve.”

Leung credited the results to county residents following stay-at-home orders. But he asked that they continue to “stay the course.” By doing so, health officials say, the county will reduce potential future infections by early May from 65,000 to 13,000 cases.


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