Orange County reported six new COVID-19-related deaths Friday, raising the death toll to 30 over the past three days, and the total number of coronavirus fatalities to 118.
The county also reported 108 new cases, raising the total to 4,941.
Most of the deaths stem from outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities, local health officials say.
Of the 10 deaths reported Wednesday, eight involved patients at skilled nursing home facilities. On Thursday, it was 10 out of the 14 fatalities, said Orange County’s health officer Dr. Nichole Quick.
The Orange County Health Care Agency’s website lists conflicting data on the number of deaths at skilled nursing homes, ranging from 45 to 47, including one worker.
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,” she said.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said the county has ramped up testing of workers and patients at the county’s nursing home facilities.
As of Wednesday, 626 patients in skilled nursing home facilities had tested positive for COVID-19, and 276 staff workers had contracted the coronavirus, according to HCA numbers.
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.
The number of hospitalized patients decreased Friday from 247 to 230, with the number in intensive care rising from 89 to 95, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The county submitted its formal application for a reopening of Phase 2 businesses late Thursday night after consulting with state officials, who provided guidance on the paperwork. Officials were awaiting word on that request for variances.
“We believe we meet all of the criteria” to reopen Phase 2 nonessential businesses that were previously closed during the stay-at-home orders, Kim said. 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,” he 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,” he 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 93,906.
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; 9% are 65-74; 7% are 75-84; and 5% are 85 and older.
Of the patients who died, 2% were 25-34 years old, 3% were 35-44, 9% were 45-54, 13% were 55-64, 17% were 65-74, 30% were 75-84, and 26% 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 58% of its fatalities.
Latinos account for 32% of the fatalities and whites 30%, 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, 13% is unknown, and 3% fall into the category of “other.”
Santa Ana has the most cases in the county with 885, followed by Anaheim with 770 and Huntington Beach with 310.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced Friday that 365 inmates have tested positive since March, with 261 having recovered and others asymptomatic. Nine of the inmates are currently sick and in medical isolation. Officials are awaiting the results of 40 tests.
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