Orange County this weekend reported 254 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths, bringing the county’s totals to 48,444 cases and 979 fatalities.
Other metrics continued to show improvement.
The rate of county residents testing positive for COVID-19 dropped from 5% Saturday to 4.8% Sunday, below the state’s desired threshold of 8%.
Hospitalizations continued to drop, falling from 341 Saturday to 329, with the number of intensive care unit patients holding at 99, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The county’s case rate per 100,000 residents over 14 days dropped from 79.6 to 76.4, which is still well above the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents.
The county has 35% of intensive care unit beds available — above the 32% from Saturday and better than the state’s 20% threshold. And the county’s hospitals have 62.5% of their ventilators available, well above the state standard of 25%.
The change in three-day average of hospitalized patients stands at -11.7%, much lower than the 10% state standard.
The OCHCA reported that 637,885 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 13,069 reported on Saturday. There have been 40,948 documented recoveries.
The county falls within the state’s new “purple tier” of counties for COVID-19, the worst level, but is on the verge of being upgraded to the next tier of red, Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said Friday as state officials unveiled the new rating program.
“We are very close based on the last two weeks of data to almost be moving into red,” said Bartlett, who is also president of the California State Association of Counties.
County CEO Frank Kim explained Friday the state has said counties such as Orange that were off the state’s watch list will get credit for the days they were off the list. That means that if the county’s good trends continue as expected until Sept. 8 then the county can reopen schools for in-classroom instruction.
Orange County, along with several other counties that were off the watch list, were grandfathered in under the old system, Kim said. Under the new system, the county would have had to wait another two weeks after moving into another tier.
“We’ve got to hold there another week and then fingers crossed,” Kim said.
The county is still able to apply for kindergarten through sixth grades waivers. Most of the waiver applications are coming from secular and other private schools, Kim said.
The new system, unveiled Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, focuses more on case and positivity rates because of breakthroughs in testing and the ability to get results more quickly, which allows public health professionals to more efficiently quarantine and address hot spots and surges.
Before, state officials focused on hospitalization and intensive-care unit beds because they wanted to be prepared for any surges that could hasten more deaths.
“It actually encourages more testing and contact tracing,” Bartlett said of the new system.
The new system is also more fair to higher-population counties because the overall case counts were being held against them and now officials are focusing more on present-day case counts, Bartlett said.
The state also includes a “seven-day lag” as a failsafe to account for slower laboratories.
But the new system also focuses on a third criterion beyond case and positivity rates, and that is still vague, Bartlett said.
“When they define the third criteria more, that should bring more clarity to the counties on how they can operate within the guidelines, and which business sectors can open and to what capacity,” Bartlett said.
Hair salons and indoor malls at 25% capacity can reopen on Monday statewide, Bartlett said. If Orange County’s trends continue and it makes it into the red tier, then indoor dining, for example, could be added at 25% capacity after next week, Bartlett said.