RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — Public health officials are calling for more Riverside County residents to be tested for COVID-19 to keep slowing the spread of the virus and keep the county from being placed back in the state’s most restrictive purple tier.

Kim Saruwatari, director of Riverside County Public Health, said it’s critical to continue wide-spread testing because it helps identify people who are infected, who can then be isolated, and their contacts traced.

“The testing tells us where the virus is spreading, and it also helps us continue our movement forward,” Saruwatari said in a statement.

Medical personnel from Riverside (CA) University Health Systems hospitals administer a Coronavirus Test to an individual during drive-through testing in the parking lot of Diamond Stadium in Lake Elsinore, California. (Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)

Riverside County has the volume to test 4,000 people a day, but less than half that number have been getting tested at county and state testing sites in recent weeks, officials said. Even those without symptoms and younger people who have not gotten screened at the same rate of other groups are being encouraged to get tested.

Increased testing of those with or without symptoms will help keep Riverside County in the state’s red tier, which allowed more businesses to reopen, officials said. The county moved into the red tier last month because it met the criteria for positivity and case rates.

“But what the state does is they adjust that rate based on the amount of testing that we are doing because they want to encourage more testing,” Saruwatari said. “So when they applied the adjustment factor it pushes our case rate up to 7.1, and that metric is in the purple tier.”

If the county moves back into the purple tier, indoor operations for businesses like restaurants and gyms would close, school could no longer have in-person instruction, and places of worship would not be allowed to have in-person services.

The potential change would impact local restaurants that have just been able to reopen indoor dining for the first time in months, like Antonious Pizzeria in Downtown Riverside.

“Of course I’d like everything to be open, but my first priority is the safety of my employees and safety of my customers,” said owner Antonious Andawras.

Kathy Lavalley, who was dining out at a local restaurant on Thursday, said she’s taking advantage of eating indoors for now.

“What’s the difference?” she said. “They are pretty secluded with their tables. We’re going to eat there today at least before they close it down.”

Coronavirus testing in Riverside County is free at its 12 testing sites, which are both walk-in and drive-up services. To find a Riverside County testing site and make an appointment, go to gettested.ruhealth.org.

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