Gov. Gavin Newsom Sunday recommended that bars in Riverside County and several other counties close to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, as California experiences a surge in new cases and evidence of rising community transmission.
Riverside County has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases recently. On Friday, health officials reported three COVID-19 deaths and 501 newly confirmed infections, along with a jump in the number of patients in intensive care units.
The total known infections stands at 15,643, with the death toll at 438 and documented patient recoveries totaling 7,383, according to the Riverside University Health System.
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According to RUHS data, 318 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in county hospitals as of Friday, seven more than Thursday, with 105 of those patients being treated in ICUs, up by 10.
While warning about the dangers of public and private gatherings on Friday, Newsom announced a 3.3% increase since Thursday in the number of people
hospitalized with the virus statewide, and a 4.4% daily jump in the number of people in intensive care units.
"Hospitalizations going up. The number of people in ICUs going up. The number of people on ventilators going up," Newsom said. "... We are in the midst of the first wave of this pandemic. We are not out of the first wave."
Newsom also said Friday said the virus is spreading so rapidly in Imperial County that the state has asked county officials to reinstate a strict stay-at-home order, because the hospital system in the area can't handle the surge in cases.
Riverside County's Emergency Management Department director told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that 10 to 15 patients a day are being transferred from neighboring Imperial County to Riverside County and surrounding jurisdictions. He said fewer than a dozen of those patients were receiving care in medical facilities within Riverside County, but the figure as of Friday was unavailable.
On Monday, Newsom said Riverside is one of 11 the state is watching due to coronavirus surges, along with Imperial, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Kern, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.
According to the California Department of Public Health, in addition to outbreaks in state prisons, a higher number of COVID-19 cases in skilled nursing facilities and recent public protests involving large numbers of people were pushing infection rates up.
Newsom last week ordered all California residents to wear face coverings in most settings outside their homes to help slow the spread of the virus. The statewide mandate requires residents to wear masks in "high-risk situations," which cover virtually all scenarios.
Riverside County had previously rescinded its mask mandate, and it was unclear how closely the statewide directive would be enforced locally, if at all.
More county businesses opened their doors last Friday as the coronavirus regulatory bar was lowered further, and the county continued its transition through "accelerated stage 2" of the governor's four-stage de-regulation framework tied to the health emergency.
Nail salons, facial and esthetician providers, shaving, waxing and threading businesses, massage therapy outlets and tattoo and piercing parlors countywide were allowed to reopen under guidelines specified by the state.
This comes as a Palm Springs bar and nightclub closed indefinitely roughly three weeks after reopening, following an employee's positive test for COVID-19.
A message posted to the Hunters Palm Springs Facebook page on Saturday said the establishment would be closed so that its employees can be tested and quarantine for 14 days.
"Hunters' owners, management and staff are dedicated to ensuring the safety of our employees and guests by taking the necessary precautionary measures," the message said.
County officials sought Friday to remind residents that recreational team sports -- including youth sports -- remain barred in Riverside County.
Youth and recreational team sports are currently included in Stage 3 of the state's de-regulation framework, and although gyms are now open, team sports activities are not permitted at those facilities.