Riverside County reports 59 coronavirus cases as it prepares to erect temporary hospital at Indio fairgrounds

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A researcher conducts a COVID-19 coronavirus test in this file photo from March 19, 2020. (Credit: Michele Cattani / AFP / Getty Images)

A researcher conducts a COVID-19 coronavirus test in this file photo from March 19, 2020. (Credit: Michele Cattani / AFP / Getty Images)

The number of confirmed Riverside County coronavirus patients rose to 59 Tuesday, a 90% increase since Saturday, when the county announced its sixth death from the disease.

The 11 new cases come as the county received federal supplies to erect a temporary hospital site at the Indio fairgrounds, as well as the deployment of 25 California National Guard troops to staff a Coachella Valley food bank.

Public health officials are still working to determine how most of the patients — 31 of them — contracted the virus. Another 24 cases are determined to be the result of community spread, with only four related to travel.

The National Guard troops will set up the federal medical station — which includes equipment needed to run a hospital such as beds, medications and protective medical gear — across two buildings at the fairgrounds starting Wednesday morning.

The Indio location is expected to provide space for 250 patients, while another 125 beds will be set up at a yet-to-be-determined spot in western Riverside County as medical facilities brace for a surge in patients, officials said.

“We know we’ll have more cases and some of them will be serious,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer, said in a statement. “This medical station will relieve stress from our hospitals, allowing them to better provide higher levels of care for our sickest individuals, and get more people on the way to recovery faster.”

That National Guard troops will also help out at the FIND Food Bank in Indio, which authorities say has lost more than 70% of its volunteer workforce, who are mostly seniors. They’ll be packing up food, loading it into trucks and delivering it to mobile food markets; officials emphasized that the troops won’t perform any law enforcement duties.

With 28 cases, the Coachella Valley continues to be the most impacted area in Riverside County. There are another 19 cases in the county’s northwest corner that includes the cities of Riverside, Corona and Perris; 10 in the southwest covering Murrieta; and just one in the central region that includes Banning and Hemet.

Anyone who lives within 50 miles of the city of Riverside can visit projectbaseline.com/covid-19 to be screened for symptoms of the disease, and potentially schedule a time to be tested at the county’s drive-thru station outside The Diamond stadium in Lake Elsinore.

The county is also working to expand housing available for those living on the streets after everyone in California was ordered to stay indoors as much as possible.

The county is converting units in local hotels and motels as temporary shelter for homeless individuals considered at a higher risk — those at least 65 years old, with underlying conditions or those that are pregnant. Anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 will be housed separately.

To be referred to temporary housing, call the HomeConnect hotline at 800-498-8847.

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