Orange County set another daily record for coronavirus cases Tuesday, announcing 779 infections, along with three additional deaths.
The fatalities reported Tuesday bring the number to 10 so far this week and 333 overall. Last week was the deadliest week so far in the COVID-19 pandemic in Orange County, with 56 deaths reported. The county’s total coronavirus case load stands at 13,843.
Of the cases reported on Tuesday, 43% are from the past week, officials said.
Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel issued a statement saying that the “most recent specimen collection date reflected in this report is from” Friday.
“While the report today — and the recent increased rate of infections — is concerning, the county and our local health system continue to be prepared to respond to protect the health and safety of our residents,” she said.
Steel “strongly encouraged” residents to “follow guidelines as outlined by federal, state and local health officials, which include wearing face coverings, following good hygiene practices, including regular hand washing, and adhering to social distancing.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday 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.
If Orange County 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, the state will order the bars closed. If that happens, the county’s bars would have to remain closed for an additional two weeks beyond when they clear the watch list, Kim added.
Officials are eyeing their own order to close bars by Wednesday.
The county’s plan is to have the chief health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, who is also the director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, issue a bar closure order. 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, she 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 as of Monday.
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 sick inmates in medical isolation and officials are awaiting results of 109 tests.