Located inland of Los Angeles, Riverside county is characterized by more dispersed population patterns. Despite a lower population density, Riverside County continues to have the second-most cumulative cases and deaths in California, behind only Los Angeles County. Riverside County health officials Friday reported 518 more confirmed coronavirus cases as the county continues to grapple with increased wait times for the return of test results due to an influx in tests being administered.

The total number of COVID-19 cases is now 28,695 — with 10,416 having recovered from the illness. These numbers are enough to place a strain on the Riverside community. It seems that relative to other counties dealing with the coronavirus, the medical resources available to patients in Riverside are stretched. The county officials said Friday, July 17, that "100% of licensed ICU beds in the county hospital system were taken by a patient with or without the virus — with some hospitals overcapacity and others having space — on a day that 131 ICU beds were used by someone confirmed or suspected of COVID-19." However, the issue is not with physical assets but rather the human workforce as there are not enough medical professionals to handle the numbers. Since the situation became tense enough in dealing with such numbers of infected patients, teams of military doctors and nurses are deploying to multiple California hospitals to aid an increasingly overwhelmed health care system. The Air Force, at California’s request, has assigned 160 doctors, nurses, and other health care specialists to the state.

Specifically, it included 20 people each to Eisenhower Health Hospital located in Riverside County and Adventist Health Lodi Memorial Hospital in San Joaquin County. Both of these hospitals had beds available for extra patients, but they did not have the staff to care for them. It’s highlighting a growing problem across the state as coronavirus cases increase. There are now 535 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in medical facilities countywide, up to four from Thursday, including 130 patients in intensive care units, down four from Thursday's figures, according to RUHS data. The team of doctors, physician assistants, critical care nurses and respiratory technicians assigned to Eisenhower is part of a state of California request for federal support to medical facilities throughout California.

Just like many other counties in California, Riverside is among 32 counties on a state watch list due to its high COVID-19 community spread and hospitalizations. The counties cannot resume in-person classroom instruction until they fall off the state monitoring list for 14 consecutive days. This is why the Riverside County K-12 students will not return to the classroom for the start of the 2020-21 school year but instead will be learning online due to coronavirus concerns, just like the other 32 counties in California based on Gov. Gavin Newsom prerogative. In efforts to adapt to the educational climate in the wake of COVID-19, the California government is working out plans in order to ensure access to devices and connectivity; daily live interaction with teachers and other students; and challenging assignments. Special needs students and English language learners will have specially adapted lessons.

The Lake Elsinore Unified School District located in Riverside County has announced it was going all virtual ahead of Newsom's Friday news briefing. The district said students' five-day per week lesson plans will be "mandatory, graded, and aligned to grade-level standards. Support for English language learners, students with disabilities, foster students, and homeless youth shall be provided." When Riverside County students do return to campus, districts must adhere to safety guidelines set forth by the state. During a Murrieta Valley Unified School District special meeting held virtually Friday, the staff offered a preview of its learning models of virtual, in-person classroom, and hybrid.

The future projections include some of the models suggesting hospitals should prepare for four times as many coronavirus patients as they have now, raising questions about the future of health care staffing. In order to attempt control over the virus and the aggregated situation, the county is continuously implementing as much proactive testing as possible. As of Friday, people who get tested for the coronavirus at county-run facilities should expect to wait between seven to 10 days to get their results back, Arballo said. In the recent weeks, it took between five and seven days on average for the county's commercial testing partners to return results, but a recent uptick in test submissions has extended wait times, keeping with similar trends nationwide.

In regards to these testing attempts, contact tracing has been another vital aspect implemented in Riverside County in order to control the situation. Riverside County health officials are asking coronavirus patients to provide critically needed
information when they are contacted by health investigators working to slow the spread of COVID-19. Hundreds of contact tracers are working as part of Riverside County’s response to the epidemic that has infected more than 20,000 residents and contributed to about 500 virus-related deaths. The contact tracers reach out to those who test positive for COVID-19 and attempt to determine the source of the infection, who the patient may have been contacting with, and where the patient may have visited. This information is used to help slow the spread of coronavirus by reaching out to those who may have been infected without identifying the infected patients.

Additionally, Thousands of Riverside County residents will soon be contacted and asked to take part in a coronavirus antibody testing study being sponsored by county health officials. About 3,500 randomly selected county residents will be asked if they are interested in taking part in the study, which could determine whether they have been exposed and developed COVID-19 antibodies. The study will help determine the Riverside County prevalence of COVID-19, which will be used to inform planning efforts. Potential participants will be contacted by telephone or email starting later this week. Unfortunately, however, the medical community does not yet know the extent of the benefits of testing positive for coronavirus antibodies. For example, it is not yet known if someone can contract the virus again after testing positive for antibodies. Conducting this study will provide valuable information as COVID-19 continues to be researched.

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