Riverside County COVID-19 case numbers have jumped 736% in just two weeks, and now hospitalizations have also started to climb.
Between Tuesday and Friday, Riverside County added 1,279 COVID-19 cases. Compared to the previous week, that is a 70% increase from the 751 cases reported between May 3 and 6. Further, it represents a 736% increase from when there were just 153 COVID-19 cases reported between April 26 and 29.
The case and positivity rates in the county have steadily increased as well. The case rate was 11.9 per 100,000, and the positivity rate was 5.9% on Friday. On Tuesday, those rates were 10.2 per 100,000 and 5.1%.
Hospitalizations, which have remained consistently low for several weeks, have also been impacted by rising case numbers. There were 62 patients on Friday, up 12 from Tuesday. That includes four people in intensive care, which actually decreased from eight reported on Tuesday.
Riverside County Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Chevinsky said the department is “continuing to monitor the situation closely.”
The local health official strongly recommends masking in indoor sites and in crowded areas with poor ventilation, including transportation hubs, as well as encourages residents to get their COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters if they have not done so already.
“After over two years with the pandemic, it has become clear what is most effective to help slow down cases — that is vaccination, masking and testing and staying home if you are sick,” Chevinsky said in an email Friday. “These same measures can help prevent future waves. We encourage the community to be prepared and take precautions, following these lessons learned to help slow or prevent future waves.”
She added that public health is also ensuring that COVID-19 tests are available for members of the community and therapeutics for those with elevated risk of severe disease.
When asked if the increase in cases could be attributed to the recent Coachella Valley Music and Arts and Stagecoach country music festivals, Chevinsky said: “Since increases are being seen in many areas of the country as well as across the county, these increases may be attributed to waning immunity, spread of more contagious variants, and potentially decreased use of mitigation measures, such as masking.”
Riverside County added two new deaths between Tuesday and Friday, bringing the total to 6,527 since the beginning of the pandemic.
In Riverside County, 62.4% of residents ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated and another 6.5% are partially vaccinated. About 32.8% of the population ages 12 and older has received an additional/booster shot.
As cases rise locally, a new variant, BA.2.12.1, is rapidly spreading across the United States. In the week ending May 7, the variant made up 42.6% of all new cases in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new variant stems from the omicron subvariant BA.2, and the New York Times reports it appears to be spreading more quickly than BA.2. The California Department of Public Health states there is “no evidence yet of increased disease severity” with the new variant.
The new variant was first detected in the United States by New York health officials in April.
Nearly 60% of all Americans (of all ages) and 75% of children have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 since the pandemic began, the CDC said.
USA Today contributed to this report.
Ema Sasic covers health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ema_sasic.