National Guard sets up medical station in Riverside County as health officials report another COVID-19 death

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Uniformed members of the National Guard arrived in Indio Wednesday to set up a medical station at Riverside County’s fairgrounds as health officials reported another death due to COVID-19.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer, reported an additional 11 cases of the spreading virus Wednesday. He indicated there are now 70 infections and seven deaths in the county.

That includes more than two dozen cases reported in the Coachella Valley alone. It remains unclear how many people have been tested as of Wednesday.

At the county fairgrounds, officers with the National Guard carried in portable stretchers to be used as makeshift hospital beds and stacks of boxes with medical supplies. The emergency medical station there will include 250 beds and “all the equipment to run a basic hospital” from medications to portable sinks, according to Riverside County Public Health.

“We know we’ll have more cases and some of them will be serious,” Dr. Kaiser said in a news release from the health department.

Another medical station with 125 beds will be placed at a site somewhere in western Riverside County, health officials said. The location has not been released.

Among the supplies being brought into Riverside County are 740 complete units of personal protective equipment, local officials said. That protective gear includes hospital gowns, face shields, N95 masks, surgical masks and gloves.

County officials have said they are still working out operations including gathering up about 80 personnel to work in the two locations.

The stations will be used to treat patients considered stable or in less severe condition, according to health officials, making room in existing hospitals for critical patients.

They are among federal assistance being given to California following a major disaster declaration by the president over the weekend.

The aid comes as state and local health officials try to prepare for the possibility of overwhelmed hospitals amid exponentially rising infections and deaths in places like the New York City metropolitan area. In that state, the governor has said federal aid from respiratory masks to ventilators has fallen far short of what’s needed.

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