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I-Team: In-depth look at growing coronavirus cases in Riverside County

Riverside County health officials still expect the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus to grow in the coming weeks.

As of Friday, June 12, the county has had 10,490 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 383 deaths related to the virus. More than half of those infected have already recovered.

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The Coachella Valley has accounted for about 25 percent of the county's cases, and about 22 percent of its deaths. This means the valley has been hit harder than the county as a whole.

While the doubling rate in the county has slowed to about 33 days, health officials are still concerned the number of new cases is growing.

In fact, for three straight days this week, the county has had more than 300 new cases of coronavirus. The new cases this week has caused a sharp increase from where we were just a few weeks ago.

We spoke with county spokesperson Jose Arballo Jr. about why county cases are on the rise.

"Well you know we've been expecting an increase because of the opening of the opening of the economy, the recent Memorial Day weekend, public places being more open, so we did expect an increase in cases," Arballo said.

Looking at hospitalizations. As of Friday, 238 people were hospitalized for coronavirus across the county with 71 in the ICU.

Hospitalization rates at Eisenhower Health

This includes the Imperial County patients who were moved to Riverside County hospitals after their hospitals reached capacity.

Eisenhower Health officials say not all the cases have been from care facilities as they saw in previous weeks. Instead, they include members of the community.

Read: Eisenhower Health reports recent increase in positive coronavirus test results

The number of hospitalizations in the Coachella Valley has climbed dramatically since May 23, which is when California moved to accelerated stage two opening.

Arballo says they will continue to look at whether these numbers show a trend.

"The numbers of concern would be if this is a trend let's say lasts two weeks to three weeks, that would be something that would be very concerning, and at this point, we've seen the bump that's been going on for the better part of the week now," Arballo said.

Taking a look at the highest rate of cases per 1000 residents in the valley, it's clear East Valley communities have been hit the hardest. Thermal, Oasis, Coachella, and Mecca have more cases per capita than all other 15 valley communities combined.

Arballo says the county is trying to figure out why the pandemic has hit the east valley the most.

"Those are things we're trying to find out too, we're doing our contact tracing of course and that'll help a lot. Talk to them about their history, maybe get a better idea of what they did, where they went, if there's a pattern that develops. Whether's it's a particular location or event that's problematic," Arballo said.

It's important to remember, the number of confirmed cases could also jump as testing becomes more available to everyone, include those who are asymptomatic.

At this point, more than 148,000 tests have been administered. Meanwhile, current projections show the county expects there to be 10,874 cases and 489 deaths by Monday.

So although businesses and facilities are beginning to re-open, health officials urge you to remain vigilant. Continue to social distance, wash your hands, and wear face coverings in public.

Full interview with Jose Arballo Jr.
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Peter Daut

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