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Riverside Reports First Case Of UK COVID-19 Variant; Officials Say Vaccine Supplies 'Unpredictable'

RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — Riverside County Wednesday reported 643 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 40 deaths, bringing countywide totals to 284,168 cases and 3,454 deaths.

COVID-19 Vaccine for People in Phase 1B
CORONA, CA - JANUARY 14: Nurses await at their stations to administer doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to patients inside Corona High School gymnasium, a designated Riverside County vaccination center for people in Phase 1B, in Corona on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/MediaNews Group/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images)

Health officials also confirmed the county's first known local case of the more contagious COVID-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom, known as B.1.1.7.

County spokesperson Brooke Federico said the case was reported to health officials over the weekend, though she did not specify where the case originated.

"It was inevitable we would see this strain in Riverside County, and in our large population we will probably see others," Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county public health officer, said. "But it doesn't change the need for people to take precautions with facial coverings, social distancing and good hygiene. It works for other things and it works for this, too."

Also on Tuesday, officials said that supplies of COVID-19 vaccines would be increasing in the county due to changes in the state's dispensation program.

The California Department of Public Health previously made decisions on how many doses counties received based on the local population of healthcare workers and not the actual eligible population, according to county Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari and Riverside University Health System spokesperson Dr. Geoffrey Leung.

"Our supplies have been limited and unpredictable," Leung told the board of supervisors. "We are operating on a week-to-week basis. Sometimes we get more Pfizer, sometimes more Moderna."

According to Leung, just over 200,000 residents have received their first doses, but there were ongoing concerns about the county's ability to complete the two-dose immunization process.

"We are trying our best to continue making improvements," he said.

At the end of the week, the county will open a vaccination clinic at the Palm Springs Convention Center with more mobile clinics in the works to reach more remote locations.

Those who need to make an appointment can do so on the website for county's public health department or by calling the 211 help line.

Health officials also reported that hospitalizations were continuing to fall Wednesday, with 726 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, 193 of whom were being treated in intensive care units.

As of Wednesday, 2,312,696 COVID-19 tests had been administered in the county. Of those who contracted the virus, 241,648 had recovered.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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