As 2020 comes to a close, Riverside County health officials took a moment to remember the lives lost during the pandemic over the past 9 months.
A total of 1,985 county residents have died due to coronavirus. In November, Saruwatari reported that COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in Riverside County in 2020.
Cancer and heart disease, also leading causes of death in Riverside County, increased in 2020, as did COVID-19.
"It's not that we are detracting from our other leading causes of death and adding to COVID. We are seeing a true increase in death due to COVID," Saruwatari said.
The first COVID death was reported on March 15, it was an Indio resident in his late 70s.
The two youngest deaths include a 12-year-old from Western Riverside County and a 15-year-old from Central Riverside County. The oldest residents who died were three 104-year-old Riverside County residents, including a man from Corona, a man from Riverside, and a female from Mecca.
Four county employees have died from the virus, including two deputies, one probation officer, and one engineer.
"This disease doesn’t discriminate. We’ve seen deaths in the young and old. We’ve seen couples, family members and healthcare workers die from this disease," said Kim Saruwatari, director of the Riverside University Health System-Public Health. "These deaths, combined with mental health impacts and economic losses, are painful reminders of how this disease has cost all of us."
Deaths among racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately higher, including among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Latino, Black and African American residents.
"Our hearts are with families, friends and neighbors who are grieving the loss of an important and special person in their lives," said Riverside County Board Chair and Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez. "After a year of tragedy and hardship, we have hope for a better 2021. We remember and honor all Riverside County residents who have passed away from coronavirus this year, and thank all the front line workers and all who are doing their part to help overcome this pandemic."
Riverside County is also experiencing a surge in COVID hospitalizations and ICU utilization. COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization is at 1,464, with 296 of those patients in an ICU. The positivity rate in Riverside County is 22.6 percent and the daily case rate is 140.5 new cases per 100,000 residents, the second-highest among California's counties.
In addition to COVID-19 deaths, Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari noted suicides are down 27% compared to last year.
The number of fatal overdoses is up by 26.6 percent compared to last year.
Most of the increase is in the 15-24-year-old age group, Saruwatari told Supervisors. 95% of the overdoses are unintentional.
The unemployment rate in the county also rose to nine percent, representing approximately 107,000 job losses.
County health officials urge the public to continue to help slow the spread of the virus.
"Taking simple actions like wearing a mask, stop gathering with others outside the household and getting the vaccine will protect yourself and others from the virus," reads a notice from the county.
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC.
You can call the Centers for Disease Control with any questions at 211 and 800–CDC –INFO (800 – 232 – 4636).
If you want to be seen at Eisenhower Health, call their coronavirus hotline first at 760-837-8988 or 760-TEST988 with is open every day from 7 am to 7 pm. Avoid the spread of this illness.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.
How to get tested
You are now able to get a free test at many Rite-Aids in the area. Click here for a full list of stores and to schedule your appointment.
The hours at the Indio testing site have been expanded. The hours of operation runs from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Stay up-to-date with the latest local coronavirus news, including reopenings and closing, new case data, live news conferences, and other updates at KESQ.com/Coronavirus or download the News Channel 3 app on the Apple Store and Google Play.