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Vaccines to the Rescue: Sustained Economic Growth Finally in Sight



Across the Inland Empire and Beyond, Economic Outlook Brightens as Vaccines Bring Promise of COVID-19 Containment

December 17, 2020 — The Inland Empire’s economic outlook has been given a significant boost with the news that multiple, effective vaccines for the COVID-19 virus have been developed and are being actively administered around the globe, according to an analysis released today by the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. The first vaccines in the United States were given two days ago, on December 15, launching what will be a mass nationwide immunization campaign.

“While we’ve always known that the economic recovery hinged on controlling the virus, genuine containment has been a wildcard until now,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at the Center for Economic Forecasting and one of the report’s authors. “Because we now have effective vaccines in hand, the path to economic recovery is more certain and governments and businesses can get a sense of the timeline for returning to normalcy.”

Although the stay-at-home mandates and restrictions enacted in California just this month will impact December’s numbers, significant job gains, including within the Inland Empire’s hardest hit industries, should begin in earnest in the coming months, according to the analysis. Moreover, the region will be building on a labor market recovery that has been slow but steady since April’s abysmal lows. 

Key findings include:

  • IE Employment Recovery: Despite one of the largest annual jobs declines on record in the Inland Empire (110,600 jobs lost from Oct 2019 to Oct 2020), the region has managed to outpace California in employment growth, adding back 93,100 positions since April. The nation’s rate of job growth, however, has outpaced the Inland Empire.
  • Unemployment Shrinking: The Inland Empire’s unemployment rate has also improved. At 9.2%, it is still far off from the 4% rate of one year ago but is now tracking slightly below the state’s rate of 9.3%. In addition, the region’s labor force has largely recovered with 28,300 workers added from Oct 2019 to Oct 2020, a 1.4% increase. This stands in contrast to continued declines in the California (-1.1%) and U.S. (-2.1%) labor forces.
  • Industry Pain: Far and away the hardest hit industry in the Inland Empire has been the Leisure and Hospitality sector, which has 27,600 fewer workers than it did one year ago, a 27.6% decline. But given the positive vaccine news, even this disrupted sector should begin to experience strong job gains in the next few months.
  • A Few Industry Bright Spots: The surge in e-commerce has helped keep the Inland Empire’s Transportation and Warehousing sector resilient over the last several months: Payrolls have expanded by 100 employees over the last year, compared with a 3.3% decline in the state overall.
  • Oil Prices and COVID Dampen Fuel Receipts: From the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2020, taxable sales receipts in the Inland Empire fell 8.4%. At 42.4%, the decline was most pronounced at Fuel and Service Stations, due to both less car travel during the pandemic and a drop in global oil prices.
  • Non-Effect’ on Housing Markets: California’s in-demand housing markets have been left relatively unscathed by the pandemic, and the Inland Empire is no exception. The median home price in the region has continued to rise steadily, jumping 12% from the third quarter of 2019 to the third quarter of 2020. Asking rents also grew 3.7%.
  • Retail Under Pressure: Demand for retail space in the Inland Empire has fallen over the last year as a result of mandated restrictions and consumer reticence amid the pandemic. Retail vacancies in the region grew to 9.9% in the third quarter of 2020 and asking rents fell 1.0%. Warehouse, office, and flex/R&D properties have not experienced the same drop in demand (just the opposite in some cases), and rents for all three have increased modestly.

The new Inland Empire Regional Intelligence Report was authored by Osman and Senior Research Associate Brian Vanderplas. The analysis examines how the Inland Empire’s labor market, real estate markets, and other indicators have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and where they stand in the economic recovery. 

View the full analysis here

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

Health & Wellness

People On The Move — Claudia Medina Salazar, PA-C



Claudia Medina Salazar, PA-C Joins Optima Health

Claudia Medina Salazar, PA-C is the newest member of the Optima Health medical team.

“I’m excited to begin my career as a physician assistant alongside the highly respected and accomplished Optima Health medical staff,” said Ms. Salazar. “I look forward to gaining added insights into primary care while working with patients to collaborate on care plans that they can incorporate seamlessly into their everyday lives.”

Ms. Salazar received her BS in Biology from the University of California, Riverside and her MS in Physician Assistant Practice from the University of Southern California. Her path to the medical field was formed through personal tragedy.

“My dad passed from a heart attack when I was a very young girl,” explained Ms. Salazar. “Recollections of that experience made me very passionate about preventative health for myself, family and friends. Today, that extends to the patients I treat.

“So many chronic conditions that are prevalent today are rooted in the minor choices we make every day. I make it a point to address ‘little things’ that can lead to an improved quality of life.”

The mission of Optima Health is to improve the health of patients served with a commitment to excellence and to offer the highest quality patient-centered care in a caring, convenient and accessible manner. Practices are located in Riverside and Crestline.

For more information, call 951-788-0008 or go to

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Sunitha Reddy, Prime Healthcare VP of Operations, Named to Modern Healthcare’s Top Emerging Leaders List



Modern Healthcare has named Sunitha Reddy, VP of Operations for Prime Healthcare, as one of America’s 25 Top Emerging Leaders, in recognition of her work to help community hospitals remain open and improve performance across the country.

Modern Healthcare, the leader in healthcare business news, research, and data, annually honors emerging leaders aged 40 and under who have made significant contributions in the areas of innovation, financial, operational, and clinical excellence.

“Fresh perspectives, adaptability and strategic thinking are crucial to the advancement of healthcare, especially at a time when ideas about care delivery and patient needs are rapidly changing,” said Fawn Lopez, Modern Healthcare Publisher.

Reddy oversees revenue cycle and financial operations for Prime Healthcare and guides managed care strategy. Challenges in revenue cycle and operations, compounded with increasing costs have put significant financial strain on community hospitals, leading to bankruptcies or hospital closures around the country. Reddy has focused on revenue cycle improvement and building the bridge between finance and operations to aid communities struggling to keep their hospitals open. She successfully streamlined multiple clinical and financial operations to enhance performance across the organization, driving millions in improvements.

Reddy also led a multidisciplinary team to develop a user-friendly Patient Estimator Tool to help consumers better understand their healthcare costs, consistent with Prime Healthcare’s commitment to price transparency and consumer-focused care.

Prime Healthcare is one of the nation’s leading health systems with 45 hospitals and more than 300 outpatient locations in 14 states. Under Reddy’s leadership, teams at the hospital and corporate levels have designed and implemented new systems, data-driven processes, innovative technology, and best practices that have enhanced the operational performance of Prime Healthcare; helping the company triple in size since 2015.

“Sunitha is a proven innovator and servant leader who has helped position Prime Healthcare extremely well in the face of rapid advancements in the healthcare field,” said Sunny Bhatia, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Prime Healthcare. “In addition to her diligence and incredible contributions to our hospitals throughout the pandemic, Sunitha’s guidance and vision will be a key to ensuring Prime Healthcare’s continued record of clinical, financial and operational excellence.”

“Sunitha has been a leader in accelerating Prime Healthcare’s implementation of technologies and processes to drive improvements in performance,” said Steve Aleman, Prime Healthcare CFO. “She is always focused on our mission and our people, and she creates a culture of inclusivity and togetherness that celebrates everyone’s strengths and unique perspectives.”

Reddy is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. She received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University with honors; a Master of Public Health from Columbia University, where she received the Foster G. McGaw scholarship award for academic excellence; and a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Magna Cum Laude, from UCLA with college and departmental honors. For the last two years, Reddy has been recognized by Becker’s Hospital Review as a “Rising Star.”

“Thank you to Modern Healthcare for this prestigious recognition, and congratulations to my fellow honorees who are making an incredible impact through their work,” said Reddy. “I am honored to represent Prime Healthcare and our mission of saving hospitals to serve communities across the United States.”

This year’s honorees are profiled in the March 21 issue of Modern Healthcare magazine and online at

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Defining Moment: Match Day 2022 for California University of Science and Medicine Inaugural Class



Inaugural Doctor of Medicine class celebrates Match Day as they match with residency programs nationwide

California University of Science and Medicine (CUSM) is celebrating a milestone! The 62-member inaugural Class of 2022 discovered their perfect match, medical specialty match, that is. Along with 37,000 other senior medical students nationwide, CUSM students opened envelopes at exactly 9:00 am PT to discover where they would go and what they would do next in their long path to medical practice. Four years of learning, two years of the pandemic, and months of applications, interviews, and rankings from students and programs led to this day. Students learned where they would continue their training as residents, and training programs learned which new physicians will be joining July 1, 2022. All through the National Residency Match Program.

Established with the mission to create educational and economic opportunities for Inland Southern California and help meet our region’s healthcare needs, CUSM’s first MD class began in 2018. CUSM now enrolls over 400 MD students, 91% of whom come from California. 40% from Inland Southern California 

The inaugural match is a big step in advancing the university’s goal of addressing the critical physician shortage, improving health equity, and enhancing population health for Inland Southern California. Gathered in the courtyard of the state-of-the-art medical school, faculty, staff, students, and their supporters shared their hopes and well wished to the students. “We are thrilled to see these results. They are an exceptional reflection of our mission.” said Paul Lyons, MD, CUSM President and Dean of the School of Medicine

CUSM is pleased to share the National Residency Match Program results for the Inaugural MD Class of 2022.  

  • CUSM helps lead the national effort to address mental health with 12 students (20%) headed into Psychiatry. Among the highest in the nation.
  • CUSM helps fill the primary care workforce gap with 16 (26%) students headed into Pediatrics, Family Medicine, and Internal Medicine.
  • CUSM helps address frontline healthcare delivery with 10 (16%) students headed into Emergency Medicine.
  • CUSM helps fill the regional workforce gap with approximately 1/5 in Inland Southern California and 2/3 in Southern California.
  • 100% of students have destinations after graduation, including clinical training and research. 
  • 18% (11) matched into programs in the Inland Empire.
  • 100% of matched students are headed to specialties that have shortages in the IE, the main area of fulfilling the mission of CUSM.
  • 38% (IM, Psych, OB, Peds, Family) matched into primary care specialties defined by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Ten surgeons will begin their training in the summer of 2022, with three in orthopedics, including two women, who are particularly underrepresented in orthopedics. Other surgical program matches include general surgery (4), vascular surgery (1), otolaryngology (1), obstetrics and gynecology (1), and ophthalmology. 

The class did well and placed in specialties with very few nationwide, such as urology, diagnostic radiology, anesthesiology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Among notable destinations are partnering and local institutions Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, UHS Southern California, Kaiser, Loma Linda Medical Center, and Riverside Community Hospital. 

CUSM students are also headed to residency training programs at Stanford, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, Mount Sinai Beth Israel (NY), Case Western (OH), University of Pittsburgh (PA), and University of Washington (WA).

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