Riverside County extends social distancing orders, use of face masks until June as COVID-19 death toll spikes

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Riverside County officials announced the extension of social distancing requirements and the use of face coverings through June 19 at a news conference Wednesday.

The previous countywide order was set to expire on April 30, but officials believe it’s important to extend the precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, there were 3,942 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 143 related deaths, 23 of which were reported on Monday, the Riverside County Public Health Department reported.

“While we work within the governor’s plan for re-opening the state, people must be mindful that COVID-19 has not been eliminated,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer, said. “The new normal in Riverside County will still require social distancing, facial coverings and other precautions. Summer will only slow the virus, and we are already thinking about what will happen in the fall.”

Kaiser added that COVID-19 has not yet been eliminated and said it is “arguable” if it’s even been suppressed. As June 19 approaches, county officials will evaluate which safety measures need to continue. In the meantime, Kaiser issued a reminder that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order is still in effect, as well as countywide school closures and limited short-term lodging.

More than 48,500 people have been tested for coronavirus countywide, and 215 patients are currently hospitalized, health officials reported. There have been 1,346 people who have recovered from the illness. Across the county, there are more than 650 people infected with the coronavirus at long-term assisted living facilities, officials said.

Kaiser said county education leaders are trying to navigate the complex issue of reopening schools. On Tuesday, Newsom said the state is considering the possibility of starting the new school year in July or August. Kaiser said it’s “entirely possible” that “some level of instruction” could happen in July.

“We would certainly need to do things like social distancing and other precautions in the classrooms,” Kaiser said. “Maybe we stagger classes, stagger recesses so we don’t have a lot of kids on the play field at once.”

There are currently 23 districts providing meals to students who remain at home during the COVID-19 pandemic at over 210 sites and along bus stops for those with limited transportation.

On Tuesday, the city of Riverside announced the reopening of some of its parks. Residents must observe social distancing rules and face coverings need to be worn as required by the county, officials said. Neighborhood parks, tennis and pickle ball courts, trails at Sycamore Canyon and the disc golf course at Martha McLean Park are now open to the public.

“We know that exercise is a key factor in maintaining good mental health during stressful times, so it is encouraging to see our parks re-opening,” Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey said in a statement.

Private and public golf courses in the county were also allowed to reopen with certain restrictions as of April 20. State officials also allow for drive-up religious services, but in-person religious gatherings are still prohibited.

“Residents are answering the call to stay at home as much as possible, practice physical distancing and wearing a face covering to protect everyone. I thank you all for that,” County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said. “It is making a difference, and this progress is a credit to everybody doing their part and using the best tools that we have right now to overcome this pandemic.” 

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