Officials Say 4,000 Coachella Valley Residents Could Get Coronavirus

RANCHO MIRAGE (CNS) - An estimated 4,000 Coachella Valley residents could become infected with the coronavirus in next few months, with 800 needing hospitalization due to severe complications, local health officials said today.

The projections are based on modeling done by epidemiologists at Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

``Our model for the Coachella Valley nears what we are seeing around the world, which is an exponential increase in cases and deaths from this virus if nothing is done,'' said Dr. Patricia Cummings, an epidemiologist at Eisenhower Health, who later added ``this is the worst case scenario.''

About 440,000 people call the Coachella Valley home.

The announcement came during a news conference Friday hosted by Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, where several local doctors joined the congressman -- who was an emergency room physician by trade himself -- via livestream. Cummings said practicing self isolation for those who think they may be infected with COVID-19, and social distancing for everybody else, could drastically reduce the chance of seeing these numbers come to fruition.

The modeling also showed that about 100 people could die ``without any quarantine measures in place'' within the next few months, she said, and that 200 of the 800 people who would need to be hospitalized due to an infection of COVID-19 -- the disease caused by the virus -- would be in intensive care.

As of early Friday afternoon, four Riverside County residents -- all in the Coachella Valley -- died due to complications arising from COVID-19, and 22 confirmed cases were reported countywide, mostly in the Coachella Valley.

Dr. Andrew Kassinove of JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio said the Coachella Valley is particularly vulnerable to high coronavirus numbers because of the region's demographics, saying the desert's senior population surpasses that of the rest of the county and the state.

``We have a vulnerable population,'' he said, ``about a quarter of our popular are seniors.''

Many of the region's seniors already have underlying chronic medical conditions, he said, which make them particularly vulnerable to complications arising from COVID-19.

Ruiz said 30% of the residents of the Coachella Valley are 65 years old or older. He also called on Riverside County officials to organize a three- person ``strike team'' to combat the spread of the virus in the Coachella Valley.

Ruiz's plan would bring three full-time specialists to the valley. One person, he said, would focus on testing. The second person would focus on patients who had tested positive, but were cleared to go home. And the third person would work with local hospitals and the state agencies to secure necessary medical supplies. Emergency Room doctor at Eisenhower Medical Center.

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