Coronavirus cases grow past 11,000 in San Bernardino County; hospitals nearing ‘surge capacity’

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Confirmed cases of the coronavirus are growing rapidly in San Bernardino County and health officials are reiterating the need for residents to safeguard themselves — and others — before hospitals become overwhelmed.

San Bernardino County reported 11,290 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness as of Friday, according to Corwin Porter, interim director of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, with the greatest rate of increase in those between the ages of 18 to 49.

The county reported 521 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, up from 362 cases the day before. Countywide 248 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded.

“We need to stop this rise in cases. We need to start flattening it and bending it back down again,” Porter said.

Officials said all residents should be getting COVID-19 tests to make sure they are not contributing to the alarming spread of the virus. Several testing sites are available throughout the county, with mobile sites included.

The state’s reopening criteria calls for San Bernardino to have a positivity rate of 8%, but on Thursday the county’s positivity rate was at 12.5%, health data showed.

“The pandemic is still with us. It is alive and well, and it is spreading rapidly,” Porter said at a news conference Friday. “We need to wear our face coverings. We need to physical distance. We need to stay home if we are sick and isolate ourselves. We need to do activities that are responsible.”

Among the cities with the most confirmed coronavirus cases are San Bernardino with 1,892 cases, Fontana with 1,278 cases and Chino with 1,031 cases.

Dr. Troy Pennington, who works in the emergency room at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, spoke at Friday’s news conference to share insight into the county’s current concerns about hospitals being very close to “surge capacity.”

Pennington said as of Thursday, all of the countywide hospitalized COVID-19 patients — including those under investigation — are at the point of where the county’s peak was on April 10, when slightly more 420 COVID-19 positive patients and patients under investigation were being treated.

Although the county’s hospitals still have ICU and medical/surgical beds available, and plenty of ventilators on-hand, Pennington said the system is becoming “stressed.”

“Now we are back to where we started,” Pennington said. “We could be coming to alternate care sites in a matter of weeks.”

Curt Hagman, chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, said the spike in cases is being attributed to Memorial Day, the county reopening, recent protests, large group gatherings and people not wearing face masks and becoming “complacent” in the COVID-19 rules set forth by the state and the county.

In May, county officials issued a new health order allowing businesses and other entities the option to require face coverings, which were not mandatory at the time. But on June 18 , Gov. Gavin Newsom said with the increase in coronavirus cases statewide, face masks are now required throughout the state in high-risk places.

San Bernardino County is well into its reopening phase; currently the only businesses that remain closed are community centers, playgrounds, theme parks, entertainment venues and group campsites.

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