Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz joined us from Washington D.C. tonight to discuss a variety of topics related to the coronavirus pandemic, including a recent rise in cases and hospitalizations in Riverside County.
As of this weekend, 99% of ICU beds in Riverside County are being used. Only 40% of ventilators are being used, however.
On Monday, Riverside County issued an order once again closing bars without a food license. Congressman Ruiz told News Channel 3's Karen Devine that this could be a precursor of things to come if things remain the way they are heading.
"Unfortunately, I think without controlling the virus at full hospital ICU capacity, I do think we are on the way of more businesses having to shut down in order to decrease the frequency of people in contact in order to lessen the transmission," Ruiz said.
Karen asked Ruiz about tourists coming to the valley to spend their Fourth of July weekend. Ruiz says this is a problem as the vast majority of new cases were due to gatherings during the Memorial Day holiday.
"There were some elements very few however of protestors that were out there, but the vast majority are within the homes. There was a study that was revealed by the state Department of Public Health that through contract tracing they were able to determine, look, if you open the business the right way, you can keep businesses open and you can save a life, and you can do both by ensuring you have the safeguards in place, enough contact tracers, enough isolation rooms, a well efficient and timely contact tracing apparatus in place, that gives confidence in our businesses, resiliency in our economy, and we can do a good job and we have to revisit that," Ruiz said.
Ruiz added that Riverside County still doesn't have the proper safeguards in place.
"They don't have enough isolation rooms, they don't have safety criteria for contact tracers. Opening the wrong way will lead to more surges, more people losing their lives, and when the hospitals get overloaded, they're gonne be left with nothing but having to close businesses over and over again in order to save lives," Ruiz said.
Karen then asked Congressman Ruiz about business owner who spent so much money on implementing different things and haven't done anything wrong.
"They're between a rock and a hard place, because I agree with you that the business owners, many of them have done a good job and ensuring that people keep their distance that there's plexiglass, that people wear masks inside, but not all businesses are doing that and so that is why you cannot have one component run smoothly without taking care of other components," Ruiz said. "When you look at the containment phase apparatus, everything has to be in place before you start to remove protections from staying at home. The county didn't have all of those pieces in place. They didn't have enough contact tracers, they didn't have enough isolation rooms, they are failing in the amount of tests and testing methodology according to the state.
Ruiz continued, "So the businesses can do a great job of managing their own businesses, but if the team, if the county and the others are not following suit, if people are not wearing masks and keeping their distance, and you cannot control the virus through containment, then you will see another surge. It's the same as the other individual who has done everything, wash their hands, disinfect their living quarters and workspaces, keep their distance religiously, they're doing everything they can, but they go outside and see people who mock people who are wearing masks and don't wear masks. They're between a rock and a hard place too."
Karen then asked the Congressman that what if the county were to do the right things but still gets exposure from tourists and out of area hospitalizations. Ruiz reiterated that Riverside County didn't have the proper safety measures in place to begin with.
"If you have those measures in place, and people follow those recommendations, then you are more likely to put out campfires before they become forest fires. You're more likely to control spikes and outbreaks before they become surges. Unfortunately, the county has failed in containing this surge. Hospitals are starting to do surge intervention, the county needs to do surge intervention as well," Ruiz told News Channel 3.
Ruiz says the majority of hospitalizations in the valley are from local residents, with less than 3 percent coming in from Imperial County.