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‘No intention at all’ for mask mandate in Riverside County, supervisor says during COVID update

Riverside County health officials are sharing a COVID-19 update at the start of Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

Watch the meeting live in the player below.

"When we talk about the masks and we talk about the vaccines, I want to make it very clear," Supervisor Karen Spiegel said, "There is no mandate for masks and there is no mandate for vaccines. I want to make that clear."

"At this time there is no intention," she said, "I have no intention at all... it's a very challenging situation."

Spiegel noted that the meeting was occurring on the one-year anniversary of her own COVID diagnosis. She said that she has also been vaccinated. "Whatever we can do to encourage people, but it's your personal choice."

The discussion of masks came minutes after Dr. Geoffrey Leung reported seeing an expected rise in cases with reopening. He recommended, in addition to regular precautions of masking and distancing, that "the most effective tool we have is vaccination."

The meeting is coming at the same time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.

As expected, the U.S. CDC just altered its mask-wearing guidance due to rising COVID-19 infections, recommending that people wear masks in indoor public settings -- regardless of vaccination status -- in areas with high or substantial virus transmission.That includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties. Los Angeles County had already implemented such a rule.

The Latest: AP source: CDC reverses course on indoor masks in some parts of US

Riverside County has been trending upwards on cases, hospitalizations, & ICU patients over the past three weeks.

Check Out: Riverside County reports 50% increase in COVID ICU patients since Friday

Download the KESQ News Channel 3 app on Apple Store & Google Play for local COVID updates

The county started July with 48 hospitalizations and 13 ICU patients. As of Monday, that has gone up to 190 hospitalizations and 47 ICU patients.

The case rate for Riverside County has also gone up above 10 per 100K as of Monday.

This would mean that if the state's four color-tier system was still around, the county would be in the "purple" tier, which was the most restrictive of the county's tiers.

This comes as state projections show that there could be another wave of cases and hospitalizations spurned on by the prevalence of the delta variant and unvaccinated people.

The estimates show COVID cases will likely continue to rise over the next few months -- peaking in the fall. 

"So we're very, very concerned about those projections, that that would once again put a various serious strain on the health systems here in Riverside County." Dr. Alan Williamson, Eisenhower Health's chief medical officer, told News Channel 3.

Williamson added that masks and distancing are not going to be enough.

"Vaccination is clearly the thing that's going to make the difference," he said.

COVID vaccine clinics are open across Riverside County for all residents 16 and older. You can schedule an appointment at: https://www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine

Seniors who need assistance can dial 2-1-1. Those who register must show proof of age/employment at the time of appointment. Residents under 18 must have a parent or guardian with them when arriving to their vaccine appointment.

Check out our coronavirus section for the latest local updates on the pandemic

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Jesus Reyes

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