Coming off its deadliest week of the coronavirus pandemic, Orange County reported another four fatalities due to the virus Monday, and Gov. Gavin Newsom said rising infection rates have landed the county on a state public health watch list.
The four deaths announced Monday by the Orange County Health Care Agency lifted the county’s overall death toll to 330. Three deaths were announced on Sunday.
Last week was the deadliest of the COVID-19 pandemic in the county, with 56 deaths reported.
Health officials also reported 456 new cases of the coronavirus, raising the total to 13,064.
Newsom announced during a midday briefing that Orange County, along with Solano, Merced and Glenn counties, had been added to the state Department of Public Health’s watch list due to increasing percentages of positive tests.
Orange County is on its first day on the list, and if it remains on the list for three consecutive days then state officials will recommend a closure of the county’s bars, said Orange County CEO Frank Kim.
If the county remains on the watch list after 14 days, then the state will order the bars closed. If that happens, the county’s bars will have to remain closed for an additional two weeks beyond when they clear the watch list, Kim added.
The county’s plan is to have the chief health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, who is also the director of the Health Care Agency, issue an order closing the bars in Orange County. Any order would be made after consulting with the Board of Supervisors, said Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.
“We can’t just have Orange County be the only county with bars open on the Fourth of July weekend. It’s going to be a magnet,” Bartlett said.
“I think we want to be proactive. If you voluntarily close down then when you have so many days off the watch list you can reopen those business sectors. We would rather have control over our own destiny… We’re going to take the lead of our public health officer.”
County officials have gotten a handle on all of the congregant living facilities where an outbreak could drive up cases such as homeless shelters, jails and now the nursing homes after weeks of outbreaks there, Bartlett said.
“All of these increases to our positivity rates are community transmission,” Bartlett said.
The best way to stem the tide of community transmission is to encourage facial coverings and social distancing, Bartlett said.
The county has a case rate of 109.2 per 100,000 residents, and a positive test rate of 9.3%, according to health officials.
The state has set a desired standard average of 25 positive cases per 100,000 over a 14-day period, and a seven-day average positivity rate of 8%.
Being added to the state’s watch list initially means only that state health officials will work more closely with local officials on efforts to manage the spread of the virus.
However, it could potentially lead to more dramatic actions, as evidenced on Sunday when Newsom ordered all bars closed in Los Angeles and other counties seeing virus spikes.
The number of hospitalized patients in Orange County dipped from 492 on Sunday to 485 on Monday, with the number of patients in intensive care rising from 170 to 175.
The county has performed 223,363 tests, with 7,193 documented recoveries.
The county is in good shape in terms of hospital beds available. The county has 41.3% of its intensive care unit beds available, above the state threshold of 20%, and the county has 68% of its ventilators available, above the state standard of 25%.
The three-day average of hospitalized patients is up 11.6%, exceeding the state standard of 10%.
Of the fatalities, 171 were from nursing homes, and two were transients.
Orange County sheriff’s officials reported that 399 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, with 388 having since recovered. There are 11 sickened inmates in medical isolation and officials are awaiting results of 109 tests.
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