2 coronavirus deaths reported in Coachella Valley, the county’s 1st fatalities in the pandemic

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Two coronavirus patients from the Coachella Valley have succumbed to the illness, marking the first deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Riverside County, health officials announced Monday.

In announcing the deaths, Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser also revised the county’s prior order regarding public gatherings, restricting meetings of 10 or more people. The county previously said events with more than 250 people must be canceled.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the two patients,” Kaiser said in a written statement. “Sadly, these outcomes are expected as we face a serious challenge and continue to make the necessary decisions to protect the health of the community.”

No further information about the patients who died — including their ages, genders and specific cities of residence — was released.

The new deaths bring the total reported in California to eight, although Gov. Gavin Newsom said late Monday that at least two additional deaths in Northern California had not yet been included in the latest tabulation. He said 392 cases of the virus have been reported statewide.

Authorities in Riverside County had previously reported 10 cases of novel coronavirus detected in the Coachella Valley, including at least one believed to have been acquired in the community, along with two more cases in residents who were cruise ship passengers and have not returned to the county since being diagnosed.

“My condolences and prayers are with the families who lost loved ones,” Riverside County Board Chair and Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said. “More so now than ever before, we must practice social distancing to flatten the curve. We will be consistently working for the benefit of our communities in these tough times that are before us.”

In addition to reducing recommended meeting sizes to 10 or less, “…gatherings with fewer than 10 people must have enough available room to maintain six feet of space between attendees. This is known as social distancing,” Riverside University Health System Public Health officials said in a written statement.

Kaiser has also ordered the closure of all schools in the county, including colleges, and recommended seniors and those with underlying health conditions avoid unnecessary travel.

“Riverside County officials have expanded testing and the county’s public health lab is now operational, meaning local officials will not have to send testing samples to the state lab in Northern California or neighboring San Bernardino County,” according to the RUHS statement.

“Unfortunately, the number of cases are going to keep going up for awhile,” Kaiser said. “But we’re taking steps to keep us ahead of the curve and getting people taken care of as quickly as we can. If everyone does their part we’ll get through this together.”

More information on COVID-19 in Riverside County is available online.

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