The Idyllwild-Pine Cove area had one confirmed COVID-19 case as of the 1 p.m. April 3 Riverside University Health System-Public Health website update. On April 6, that number increased to two.
The county also held a press conference on April 3 to let people know the four things that need to happen to flatten the curve and prevent or significantly decrease the expected surge: test, cover your face with a bandanna or scarf when you leave your house, the closure of all non-essential businesses and places of gathering and enforcement.
“In addition to staying home and washing our hands, we believe there are four more things that we can do to help slow down the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Geoff Leung. “They include covering the face, testing, closure of non-essential businesses and places of gathering and enforcement. With regard to covering the face, our Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser recommended on March 31 that all individuals in Riverside County wear a cover over the face whenever leaving the home. This newest recommendation is to help protect those around us and to decrease the spread of infection, especially now that we know that COVID-19 can be spread by asymptomatic individuals.”
If those four things are not done, the county expects that by the beginning of May there will be 1,000 deaths and more than 11,000 people hospitalized, which is three to four times that of the current hospital capacity, Leung said during the press conference.
“We have heard that California COVID-19 cases may be slowing down, but that is not what we are seeing in Riverside County,” said Leung during the April 3 press conference. “In Riverside County, our cases continue to rise exponentially and we have very little time to turn this around and prevent an impending surge. Despite all of our best efforts, we are still on track to have as many as 65,000 cases, over 11,000 hospitalizations and over 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 by the beginning of May. One thousand deaths is a lot of people.” This is in Riverside County alone.
As of April 6, 126 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in Riverside County and 39 are in ICU.
As of 1 p.m. on April 7, the county had 1,016 confirmed cases, 28 deaths with 67 individuals having recovered. When the Town Crier went to press on Tuesday, March 31 there were 371 confirmed cases, 13 deaths and 30 individuals had recovered. More than 9,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Riverside County. The age range with the most confirmed cases in the county is still those between the ages of 40 and 64.
Two press releases were sent out April 4. The first stated that individuals could be fined and/or arrested for not wearing a face covering and/or congregating in groups of any size other than at those of essential businesses. A revised press release was later sent out the same day removing the portion about being fined and arrested, and instead reads, “law enforcement agencies throughout the county have the authority to enforce these orders as they deem necessary. This order runs through April 30.”
When the Town Crier asked county public health, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the Hemet Police Department how this new order would be enforced, we only heard back from public health and the sheriff’s media information bureau by press time.
“It goes into effect tomorrow [April 5],” wrote Riverside University Health System – Public Health Public Information Officer Brooke Federico in an email asking when the order would go into effect. “We are explaining that face coverings are required, not masks, because people should use bandanas, scarves, neck gaiters or make coverings out of existing material in the home. This is to leave N95 or surgical masks for the healthcare community and first responders. If law enforcement sees groups of people who are gathering in public, they will explain the orders and request their compliance.”
The media information bureau for the sheriff’s department returned a phone call on April 5 and stated that they did not know how it would be enforced and that they did not think it was important enough to ask the sheriff himself at that time. We were told that there would be something out on social media the next day from Sheriff Chad Bianco.
“Recently, the Riverside County Health Officer issued an order expanding on the Stay-at-Home order given by Gov. Gavin Newsom,” stated Bianco in a message on social media on April 6. “Among other things, this new order prohibits public and private gatherings of any size and requires all persons to wear coverings over their faces.
“This is a valid order and enforceable by fine, imprisonment or both. However, I need to make it perfectly clear to all residents of Riverside County. We will not be setting up any type of police state and this is not a declaration of martial law in Riverside County. Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies will not be stopping vehicles or setting checkpoints for motorists. We will not be stopping you while on a walk with your kids or while you’re out running or hiking.
“You will not be stopped and ticketed simply because you’re not wearing a mask. The purpose of this order and the doctor’s intent is to stop or slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This virus is extremely contagious and is being spread by otherwise healthy people. Many infected individuals who are testing positive exhibit no signs of infection or illness.
“However, those individuals are spreading the disease to others who could develop mild to severe symptoms extreme enough to cause death. Right now, you could be a carrier of this virus spreading it to your family and friends.
“The next two to three weeks are going to be very trying times for your first responders and our medical personnel. Your doctors and nurses are coming to work every day to make sure those who are sick are being given the care they require.
“Your deputies, police officers, dispatchers, fire and EMS personnel are here around the clock ensuring your safety and protection during this trying time. If we must respond to violations of this order, our ability to respond to emergencies and critical calls for service will be greatly impacted.
“Do not call 911 to report potential violations. I am pleading to you, my fellow Riverside County residents for your cooperation and voluntary compliance with the orders given by our governor and county health officer.
“While this order does have potential criminal and civil consequences, that is the last thing I want to happen while we deal with this crisis. During this time of uncertainty, anxiety and stress, we must all remain calm, show amazing acts of kindness and compassion, and exercise some good old-fashioned common sense.
“Cover your faces, stay at home unless absolutely necessary and help out your neighbors as much as possible. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for me. Do it for my family. Do it for your family. Stay home, stay safe and together we will get through this,” Bianco concluded.
In addition, the county is trying to crack down on non-essential businesses still open to the public. Michelle DeArmond, chief of staff to Third District Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington, said that county counsel is “working to prioritize complaints based on those that pose the greatest health and safety threat to the public, so the timeline varies depending on the type of business in question. For example, private schools and churches that have continued to operate have been targeted first as they attract large gatherings of people far exceeding the social distancing limitations.”
Complaints should be made to [email protected] or 951-351-6866.
“The fastest way for people to get attention to their complaint is to go through that website and/or phone number,” said DeArmond. “They need to be prepared to provide detailed information on the location.”
Residents may still call 800-945-6171 to make an appointment over the phone for testing at the Coachella Valley and new Harvest Christian Fellowship church in Riverside. Those seeking tests at the Lake Elsinore location are encouraged to use the website https://www.projectbaseline.com/study/covid-19/ for appointments but may use the above-mentioned phone number. You must have symptoms and an appointment to show up to the drive-up test sites. Some of the symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose or congestion. Those who have risk of exposure may also be tested, which means exposure to a confirmed case. The newspaper reached out to county health to find out how far out appointments were being made. Several people contacted the newspaper saying it was taking two weeks to get tested. We did not hear back by press time.
Hemet Global Medical Center opened the first private COVID-19 drive-up testing site in Riverside County last Tuesday. You can make an appointment by calling 951-765-4757.
Local entities update
Fern Valley Water District: The office is closed to the public.
Idyllwild Community Center: ICC has closed all of its programs (including sports, senior fitness and childcare) for the time being.
Idyllwild Fire Protection District: The front office is closed to the general public, but all administrative operations will stay the same, such as building permits and inspections. The district is operating business as usual. When responding to calls where patients exhibit COVID-19 and flu-like symptoms, personnel will be using personal protective equipment. The patient will be handed a mask to put on themselves and personnel will then evaluate the patient in the back of the ambulance. If personnel need to go inside a residence, they will limit the length of time they are inside.
Idyllwild HELP Center and Thrift store: The thrift store is closed until April 30 and not accepting donations at this time. The office will remain open for client services and food/supply donations from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Thursday by appointment only. This is subject to change.
Idyllwild Library: The library is closed to the public through April 30. All online services are still up and running. Staff are available for Live Chat or Ask a Librarian reference from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday through the Riverside County Library System website at http://www.rivlib.info. Branches are currently not answering phones. All books currently checked out are being automatically renewed through at least April 30.
Idyllwild Pharmacy: Contact the pharmacy at 951-659-2135 or by sending an email to [email protected] to request prescriptions or over-the-counter items. Check the Idyllwild Pharmacy Facebook page for updates on hours.
Idyllwild Town Crier: The newspaper is still open, but our office is closed to the public. Printing, faxing and all in-person services are on hold until our office can reopen. For advertising information, contact Lisa Streeter ([email protected]) or Mandy Johnson ([email protected]) and for editorial questions contact Melissa Diaz Hernandez([email protected]). We’re answering the main phone line at 951-659-2145 during regular business hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Newspapers will be available to purchase from a newsstand at our office at 54405 N. Circle Dr. and at Village and Fairway markets.
Idyllwild Water District: The district’s office is closed to the public.
Pine Cove Water District: The district’s office is closed. The April 8 board meeting has been canceled.
Riverside County offices: Most county buildings are closed to in-person visits. County government will continue to perform the vital services relied upon by residents and visitors. Visit county department websites, or call for assistance on how to complete requests online, over the phone or through the mail.
Riverside CountyParks: Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District (RivCoParks) closed recreation facilities, nature centers, historic sites, parks headquarters, open-space areas and regional parks to the public.
State parks: All campgrounds, museums and visitors centers are closed and all events are canceled until further notice. Some parks are closed, including parking. All vehicle access is closed for all remaining parks.
Grocery store supplier delivery schedules
(There have been delivery delays, so please be patient. See story on the front page.)
Fairway Market: Dry goods, meats, deli, frozen food, paper goods and candy are delivered on Tuesdays. Wine, FritoLay and eggs are delivered on Wednesdays. Meats, bread, milk and organic foods are delivered on Fridays. Produce is delivered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Village Market: Produce is delivered Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Meat is delivered on Wednesdays and Fridays. Everything else is delivered on Fridays.
(Note: This is information received as of press time.)
Restaurant Gastrognome and Café Aroma are closed until further notice.
All the following restaurants and food purveyors will be doing to-go orders: Candy Cupboard, Ferro, Fratello’s, Idyllwild Brewpub, Idy Sushi Roll, Idyllwild Ice Cream & Jerky, Idyllwild Pizza Company, La Casita, The Lumber Mill, Tommy’s Kitchen, Mamma Mia Crepes & Desserts, Manzanita Cantina & Grill, Mile High Cafe, Mountain Center Cafe and The Red Kettle. (Businesses not listed could not be reached by press time.)
Idyllwild Arts Academy: Students returned home. Virtual instruction began this week.
Hemet Unified School District: (Information updated as of press time.)
The county has ordered schools to be shut down through June 19. This closure includes all extra-curricular activities, afterschool programs and district-sponsored events during this time. Visit the district website (https://www.hemetusd.org/) for updates.
HUSD is providing guidance with supplementary resources, digital and non-digital (work packets that can be picked up with the lunch/breakfast), that can be used at home to review and reinforce knowledge and skills learned this school year. Students and families will not be required to use these resources but are welcome to do so. Visit hemetlearnstogether.org.
During district closure, Nutrition Services will provide breakfast and lunch meals free of charge to children 18 years of age and under. Meals are not being provided during spring break week, April 6-10. Breakfast and lunch will be served at the same time Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at certain locations from 11 a.m. to noon. It is a drive/walk-thru type of meal service.
According to Principal Matt Kraemer, Idyllwild School will be providing breakfast and lunch meals from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For those driving, HUSD asks that you stay in your car and bagged meals will be provided for each child present. If you have students at multiple schools, you only need to visit one location. Children need to be present to get their meals.