Orange County has experienced the worst local daily death toll since the pandemic began, with 14 people succumbing to COVID-19, raising the total of fatalities to 112.

The county reported 24 coronavirus deaths in the past two days, ending Thursday. On Wednesday, officials said eight of the 10 who were reported dead came from skilled nursing home facilities, but details on the deaths reported Thursday were not immediately released. On Thursday, 10 out of the 14 fatalities were patients at skilled nursing facilities, said Orange County’s health officer Dr. Nichole Quick.

Orange County Health Care Agency officials say 40 skilled nursing home facility patients have died from COVID-19, but on Monday, officials said the death toll from the facilities was 28 patients and one worker, and the agency has reported 18 over the past two days.

There have been outbreaks of two or more cases out of 21 nursing home-type facilities, Quick said. Officials have contracted with a company to provide temporary hires to supplement any shortage of staff who fall ill, and “ambulance strike teams” are ready “for immediate evacuations if necessary,” Quick said.

Orange County CEO Frank Kim said the county has ramped up testing of workers and patients at the county’s nursing home facilities.

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel said the county’s overall case counts and death tolls are lower per capita than the state and other neighboring counties. The county’s death toll is 3 per 100,000, lower than the state’s 8.6 per 100,000 people and San Diego County at 6.6, Riverside at 11.1, San Bernardino at 7.2 and Los Angeles County at 17.9, Steel said.

There were 115 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday, raising the county’s total count to 4,841.

The number of hospitalized patients decreased from 253 to 247, with the number in intensive care dropping from 93 to 89, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Kim said the county on Thursday got the process going for getting state approval to reopen its Phase 2 businesses. The county submitted paperwork that is expected to be preliminarily approved by a state official, who will offer feedback on potential revisions, then the final application will be resubmitted, Kim said.

“We believe we meet all of the criteria” to reopen Phase 2 nonessential businesses that were previously closed during the stay-at-home orders. A variance from the state, for example, would allow for dining in at restaurants, which are restricted to pick-up and delivery service now.

Despite the sharp rise in deaths, county officials are optimistic about winning state approval for relaxing restrictions, Kim said.

“We’re more concerned about the hospitalization rate,” Kim said.

The rising death toll appears to be the culmination of outbreaks at a few nursing homes a few weeks ago, Kim said.

“That’s part of the reason we stepped up testing in skilled nursing facilities,” Kim said.

The county has also signed a contract allowing for more mobile testing in jails and homeless shelters in the county, Kim said.

The number of people who have been tested for COVID-19 in the county stands at 90,130.

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; 18% are 45-54; 16% are 55-64; 10% are 65-74; 7% are 75-84; and 5% are 85 and older.

Of the patients who died, 2% were 25-34 years old, 4% were 35-44, 10% were 45-54, 13% were 55-64, 17% were 65-74, 28% were 75-84, and 27% were 85 or older. As of May 5, 76% of the fatalities involved patients with underlying health complications, county officials said.

Men make up 53% of the county’s cases and 57% of its fatalities.

Latinos account for 33% of the fatalities and whites 29%, followed by Asians with 17%. According to the Health Care Agency, 3% were black, 1% were native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 1% are mixed race, 12% is unknown, and 4% fall into the category of “other.”

County officials remain optimistic that many businesses can reopen by this weekend at the earliest after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement Monday on loosening restrictions in Phase 2 of his plan to reopen the state, such as in-store retail.

Santa Ana has the most cases in the county with 858, followed by Anaheim with 758 and Huntington Beach with 307.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced Wednesday that 364 inmates have tested positive since March, with 235 having recovered and others asymptomatic. Six of the inmates are currently sick and in medical isolation. Officials are awaiting the results of 40 tests.

The HCA reported that 626 patients in skilled nursing home facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, and 276 staff workers have contracted the coronavirus. As of Monday, 28 patients and one staff worker had died, but there hasn’t been an update on the death toll in skilled nursing facilities since then from the county.

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