The percentage of those testing positive for the novel coronavirus in Riverside County has dramatically dropped over the past month, public health officials said.
In mid-April, the average number of positive tests was about 12 for every 100 conducted, according to Dr. Geoffrey Leung, Riverside University Health System’s chief of medical staff.
That number, known as the positivity rate, is now about 6%, he said.
Having a low positivity rate of less than 8% over a seven-day period is among the latest criteria included in the state’s modified reopening plan. Earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxed restrictions that counties must meet before having a more expansive reopening.
Officials from Riverside County and neighboring counties including San Diego, San Bernardino and Orange were pleased with the new guidelines, as many called the previous benchmarks unattainable.
“The governor listened to the input received by our counties,” said Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez. “I believe it’s because we’re meeting these metrics and showing downward trends that the governor’s office is working with us and assisting our counties in advancing the economy in a safe way while we fight this pandemic.”
In addition to meeting the state’s positivity rate benchmark, Riverside County also has a low hospitalization rate, officials said.
Hospitalizations had increased 3% over the past week, but were still below the state’s fewer than 5% metric as of Tuesday, said Jose Arballo Jr., the county’s senior public information specialist.
A total of 189 people, including 69 in intensive care, are hospitalized, according to records. As of Wednesday, 3,884 people in Riverside County have recovered from the novel coronavirus.
Supervisor Karen Spiegel said she’s hopeful that the county’s improved rates will help its case to reopen more sectors of the economy, adding that she wants to see more people tested.
More testing is needed because no one wants the county to reopen and then have to stop, she said. “You still have to be aware and make sure that we are safe. ... We don’t want to have an opening and take our eyes off the end goal ... and have everybody infected again.”
She added: “I tell people [getting tested] is going to help their business open quicker.”
Spiegel said the county is working to lower the number of deaths within the region, as well as implementing contact tracing. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 6,184 COVID-19 cases in Riverside County, which is 131 more than the day before. The county’s death toll remained at 270.
Nearly 90,000 residents have been tested for COVID-19 in the county thus far. Health experts said they have the ability to test about 3,200 people daily.
The county added two walk-in testing sites this week, one in Moreno Valley at Crossword Christian Church and the other in Cathedral City at the public library, according to county spokesperson Brooke Federico. Officials will be adding two more next week in Corona and San Jacinto. Appointments are required to receive a test.