RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Two Riverside County residents have died from complications related to the novel coronavirus, the first known fatalities tied to the pathogen since cases were confirmed just over a week ago, officials say.
Both deaths occurred in the Coachella Valley, but no other details were provided by the county Department of Public Health.
“My condolences and prayers are with the families who lost loved ones,” said county Board of Supervisors Chairman Manuel Perez, whose Fourth District covers the Coachella Valley. “More so now than ever before, we must practice social distancing ... We will be consistently working for the benefit of our communities in these tough times that are before us.”
It was unclear whether the two patients who died were among the 14 previously diagnosed and receiving treatment for COVID-19, all in the Coachella Valley.
County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser, meanwhile, revised a prior order barring gatherings of more than 250 people, instead mandating that no more than 10 people be permitted to gather at any one place at any one time to reduce exposure risks.
Kaiser, operating under authority granted to him last week by the board in a health emergency proclamation, issued several sweeping orders, one of which took effect Monday -- the closure of all public and private schools, including colleges and universities, until April 6.
Multiple school districts were already in the process of shuttering facilities when the doctor exercised his newly granted powers. UC Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox closed down the campus last Tuesday, leaving open the option for students to receive instruction via the internet.
Kaiser's schools directive was preceded by orders canceling the popular Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival, both of which have been rescheduled to October.
The doctor acknowledged that his restrictions “may seem harsh ... but are necessary if we are going to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
“Unfortunately, the number of cases are going to keep going up for awhile,” Kaiser said. “If everyone does their part, we'll get through this together.”
No cases have been recorded in the western county region.
The city of Indio declared a municipal health emergency Monday, structuring it according to guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health. The action led to temporary closures of the Senior and Teen centers, as well as cancellation of Movies in the Park for March and April. City Hall will remain open, officials said, but some business will be curtailed.
The city of Corona followed suit, closing all non-essential facilities, including City Hall, without a definite date for reopening.
“We want our community to know that the city is taking every step necessary to safeguard the well-being of our residents,” said Corona Mayor Jim Steiner. “The city is a unique, unified community. I invite our residents to continue to step up and support each other during this challenging and fluid situation.”
Over the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked for seniors and people in compromised health to self-isolate at home wherever possible to reduce exposure risks. The governor also asked for bars, wineries and night clubs to reduce services. There was no formal order associated with the announcement, only voluntary action.
Also over the weekend, Palm Springs City Manager David Ready declared a municipal health emergency, which the city council is slated to approve Thursday, mandating that all bars, night clubs and breweries close, while placing restrictions on access to public facilities.
On Friday, Riverside City Manager Al Zelinka implemented a local emergency, which the council will take up Tuesday, closing all non-essential municipal facilities, including City Hall, as of Friday afternoon.
In Moreno Valley, officials announced postponement of all municipal events until at least the end of May, and starting Monday, participatory gatherings at the city's Senior Center, Main and Mall libraries were not permitted. However, the facilities remain open, and services are available to individuals, officials said.
“The evidence we've seen so far from other parts of the country tells us the rate of infection in our region is going to get worse before it gets better,” Moreno Valley Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez said Thursday. “We would be negligent not to take these actions.”
Some businesses shuttered without any prompts from authorities. The Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula closed Monday, and Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said operations would be discontinued until the end of the month, with employees still receiving salary and benefits.
All events at the Fox Performing Arts Center in downtown Riverside have been postponed until further notice, and the Riverside-based nonprofit Fuel Relief Fund, which provides gasoline to regions struck by disaster worldwide, announced cancellation of its May 8 fundraiser golf tournament.
Frequent hand washing, social distancing and basic hygiene were emphasized as good precautionary practices against infection.
Viral symptoms include fever, coughing and respiratory distress. A person usually develops the symptoms within two weeks of exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
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