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California

Riverside County reports 23 new coronavirus deaths, bringing toll to 141

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A patient is removed from Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside this month after more than three dozen residents tested positive for coronavirus and the nursing staff did not show up for work.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Riverside County health officials on Monday announced 23 new coronavirus-related deaths — the most reported in a single day since the pandemic began — pushing the county’s death toll to 141.

The dramatic increase in the number of deaths is the result of the county catching up on records from coroner officials. The 23 fatalities occurred between April 21 and Monday, said John Welsh, a Riverside County spokesman.

Welsh added that the number of fatalities is a reminder that the public should continue staying home as much as possible and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

“We’re still seeing people succumb to this virus,” he said. “We still have legitimate concerns for our residents.”

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Health officials also reported 80 new coronavirus cases Monday, bringing the county total to 3,643. Riverside County is second only to the much more densely populated Los Angeles County in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, 1,245 people have recovered from the illness, officials said. There are currently 215 people hospitalized for the coronavirus in Riverside County, including 75 people in intensive care.

Health officials also continue to see a troubling increase in outbreaks of the virus in nursing homes. The county has more than 650 confirmed coronavirus cases — roughly 18% of the county’s total number of infections — among patients and staff at assisted living facilities.

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The majority of those patient cases — 414 — have been detected at 40 of the county’s 53 skilled nursing facilities. Officials said 49 patients have tested positive at 14 assisted living locations. More than 200 staff members have also been infected, officials said.

Similar infections are occurring at assisted living and skilled nursing facilities across the state. Those locations have proved challenging for health officials because of the age and health of the residents who live there, as well as their close living conditions.

The state’s health department this month issued a partial list of outbreaks at skilled nursing homes in California. More than 3,500 residents and more than 2,300 healthcare workers have been infected statewide. As of Tuesday, more than 500 residents in those facilities have died across California since the outbreak began, data show.

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“We have known since the beginning of this response that congregate care facilities would provide one of the biggest challenges,” Kim Saruwatari, director of Riverside County public health, said in a prepared statement.

“We responded to the challenge by forming our [Skilled Nursing Facilities and Outreach Support] teams who have reached out to most of our facilities to support their efforts. We also have teams that have helped out with some staffing when it was appropriate.”

The four teams consist of workers from behavioral health, a medical transportation company and other healthcare providers. The teams target specific regions of the county and work with staff members at each facility to demonstrate proper safety techniques, distribute protective equipment and educate them about COVID-19.

As of Sunday, the teams have visited 144 facilities and have completed follow-up visits at 10, county officials said.

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