Ten more people have succumbed to COVID-19 in Orange County, the county’s Health Care Agency reported Friday, bringing the death toll to 412, with 49 fatalities this week.
The agency also reported 1,133 new coronavirus cases, raising the cumulative total to 22,650.
Of the deaths reported on Friday, three were skilled nursing facility residents and one was an assisted living facility resident. Overall, 206 of the county’s fatalities were skilled nursing facility residents, 15 were assisted living facility residents and two were transients.
The county has reported 36 deaths in the past two days.
Nine of the fatalities reported Thursday involved skilled nursing facility residents.
But those are the number of deaths received, not when the patients died. County statistics show a bell curve of fatalities that peaked with 11 on June 22 and 10 on June 24, but the highest death toll this week was Monday, when four people died. One person died Thursday, according to the HCA.
The number of hospitalized patients dropped from 691 to 672, and the number of patients in intensive care decreased from 236 to 227.
“Our community has paid a heavy price” in the battle against COVID-19, Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel told reporters Thursday.
“We cannot become numb to these losses,” she said of the death toll.
Steel said it was “heartbreaking” to see the economic struggles of business owners and residents during the pandemic.
Steel, who has in the past questioned face coverings and voted against the ordinance to require them in food industry businesses and pharmacies, now encouraged residents to wear masks.
The county’s recent rise in infections was expected as officials relaxed restrictions on economic activity, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said, while noting there has been a significant rise in infections in young adults.
“One of the interesting or concerning dynamics we’ve seen in the positivity rate over the last several weeks is we’ve seen this ride in new infections in the younger population, 17 to 24 and 24 to 34,” Kim said.
Infections in those age groups has raced upward “dramatically faster” recently, Kim said.
They are not necessarily requiring hospitalization at the same rate as older groups, he said, “but, obviously, they have parents and uncles out in the community,” who are also getting sick.
Dr. Clayton Chau, the Orange County Health Care Agency director and interim public health officer, said “these trends are very concerning. We can expect it to impact our health care system and get worse in the coming weeks.”
The county’s hospitals are “actively preparing” for a surge of patients, and it could mean less beds for patients without the virus, Chau said.
Chau implored seniors and residents with underlying health issues to “stay at home as much as possible.”
Since the pandemic began, 1,291 of the county’s infections were from skilled nursing facilities, 422 from the county’s jails and 116 were transients.
In the county’s jails, 392 of the 422 infected since the pandemic began have recovered, but 30 are in medical isolation with symptoms and authorities are awaiting results of 90 tests.
County officials reported that they have performed 296,311 COVID-19 tests, with 9,759 documented recoveries.
The county’s case and hospitalization rate has kept it on the state’s watch list, which will continue to prevent the county from reopening inside-dining at restaurants and bars, among other businesses that were closed to help tamp down the surge of infections.
The county’s case rate per 100,000 residents rose from 245 on Thursday to 257.7 Friday, much higher than the state’s preferred target of 25 per 100,000. The rate of testing positive for COVID-19 ticked up from 14.3% to 14.7%, higher than the state threshold of 8%.
The county’s intensive care unit beds available increased from 36.9% to 39.1%, better than the state standard of 20%.
The percent of ventilators available held rather steady from 64.5% to 65.4%, much better than the state standard of 25%.
The change in the three-day average of increased hospitalized patients dropped from 9.6% to 6.5%, better than the 10% state standard.
The county is on the state’s watch list, but as of Friday was only missing the standard in one category with the case rate per 100,000 residents, Kim said.
On Thursday, Steel sought to address criticism of the county’s reporting of statistics.
“It is important to note this is not unique to Orange County and, in fact, other counties across the state face similar issues” in reporting statistics that are provided by the state, Steel said.
Each day, county officials sift through data from the state to remove redundancies and then must sort the information to provide breakdowns of how the virus is affecting various demographic groups, she said.
“It takes time to go through these steps,” she said.
Data continues to flow in during the day, “which can lead to further discrepancies,” she said.
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