Orange County officials reported 229 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the cumulative total to 3,968, but the death toll remained unchanged at 80.
The Orange County Health Care Agency also reported that the number of hospitalized patients dropped from 248 on Wednesday to 227 on Thursday, with intensive care unit patients falling from 98 to 79.
The total number of people in the county tested for the virus now stands at 61,619, with 1,510 tests reported Thursday.
Of the county’s total cases, 3% involve people under 18 years old; 10% are 18-24; 18% are 25-34; 15% are 35-44; 17% are 45-54; 16% are 55-64; 10% are 65-74; 7% are 75-84; and 4% are 85 and older.
Of the patients who died, 3% were 25-34 years old, 5% were 35-44, 10% were 45-54, 14% were 55-64, 16% were 65-74, 28% were 75-84, and 25% were 85 or older.
Men make up 54% of the county’s cases and 59% of its fatalities.
Latinos account for 39% of the fatalities and whites 33%, followed by Asians, 19%. According to the OCHCA, 4% were black, 1% were native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 1% are mixed race, 1% is unknown, and 3% fall into the category of “other.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department reported 335 inmates have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began, but only 10 are currently sick from the virus, 135 have recovered and others were asymptomatic. Sheriff’s officials are awaiting the results of 58 tests.
As of Tuesday, skilled nursing home facilities had seen 486 residents test positive for COVID-19 with 24 dying, while 229 staff workers have tested positive for coronavirus and one has died. Seventeen of the county’s nursing home facilities have recorded more than two coronavirus cases.
At Windsor Gardens Convalescent Center of Anaheim on Ball Road, near Knott Avenue, 68 patients have contracted COVID-19, and 16 staffers have tested positive for it, Anaheim officials say.
At Anaheim Healthcare Center on Beach Boulevard, 52 patients have tested positive, and 20 staffers have contracted the virus, with four patients dying there.
At Harbor Villa Care Center on Harbor Boulevard, near Ball Road, eight patients and five staffers have tested positive for coronavirus.
At West Anaheim Extended Care on Beach Boulevard, 5 patients and one staffer have tested positive.
The county’s hospitalization rates are “still good overall,” said Orange County CEO Frank Kim, but the numbers have trended up due to outbreaks in skilled nursing home facilities in the county, most notably in Anaheim and Huntington Beach.
The county is working on increasing testing as it develops a program that includes contact tracing of symptomatic residents, but it has been difficult to get testing approved for many people, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said.
“I think it’s because doctors were working on such strict CDC guidelines for awhile” that restricted tests, which were in short supplies, to severely ill patients, Bartlett said.
“We have the capacity to test 9,000 a day,” Bartlett said, adding the county has fallen well short of that number.
“We’re testing everyone who comes forward asking to be tested and has doctors certifications,” Bartlett said.
But to get to capacity, “We would literally have to pull people off the streets,” Bartlett said. “And that’s not appropriate. We want to test everyone who feels they should be tested and a doctor feels should be tested.”
Ultimately, testing of asymptomatic residents will be important to develop a comprehensive program that will help health care officials quarantine where necessary, Bartlett said.
“It’s important to have that data,” she said.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to adopt California Department of Public Health guidelines for expanding COVID-19 testing and to direct county staff to ramp up efforts to test more residents. The state updated its guidelines because of the availability of more tests.
The state has created two tiers for testing. Tier 1 applies to hospitalized patients, health care workers, first responders and social service employees whether they are sick or asymptomatic, residents 65 or older whether they are sick or not, or anyone with chronic medical conditions that make them vulnerable to coronavirus. The first tier also expands testing in skilled nursing and congregant facilities and for frontline workers in grocery stores and utilities.
The second tier is for lower-risk people who do not have symptoms.
Supervisor Don Wagner questioned why the county should be ramping up testing when there does not appear to be a great demand for it.
“I’m not sure what this adds to our debate or how this helps out our citizens when we already have three times the number of tests available today” that are being used, he said.
Supervisor Andrew Do, who is on the testing ad-hoc committee with Supervisor Doug Chaffee, said expanded testing will be particularly useful in reaching out to the “underserved communities” where the outbreaks are highest. Do said a UC Irvine study showed that Latinos in particular are being hard-hit by the virus.
“Until now the testing for those communities has been very low,” Do said. “So this is more of a focus on our effort in terms of outreach.”
County officials have been recently offering testing in community clinics, Do said.
Orange County’s congressional delegation sent a letter to OCHCA Director Clayton Chau expressing “concerns” regarding “disparities” in testing between Orange County and other counties. The House members asked for a meeting with Chau, who started work last week.