The Orange County Health Care Agency has reported 302 new COVID-19 diagnoses, a sharply higher number than usual in recent weeks, as well as two more coronavirus-related fatalities.

On Monday, the county reported 203 new coronavirus diagnoses.

The county’s death toll and cumulative caseload now stands at 1,412 and 57,373, respectively.

The number of hospitalizations related to the virus was unchanged at 168, along with the number of intensive care unit patients, which also remained at 63.

The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from -2% to 1%. The county has 36% of its intensive care unit beds and 69% of its ventilators available.

According to OCHCA data, 1,010,938 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 10,271 reported Tuesday. There have been 51,225 documented recoveries.

Last week, the county reported 69 fatalities. The previous week, 54 coronavirus deaths were reported, down from 72 the week before and 77 the week before that. Since Sunday, the county has reported three COVID-19 fatalities.

According to the HCA, 525 of the county’s coronavirus fatalities have involved skilled-nursing facility residents, and another 111 who died of complications from the virus resided in assisted-living facilities.

The positivity rate, which is reported each Tuesday, remained at 3.2% as it was last week, and the daily case rate per 100,000 population also remained at 4.6. That leaves the county at the doorstep of moving up from the red to the orange tier in the state’s four-tier monitoring system, which came under attack during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting by Chairwoman Michelle Steel, who questioned the scientific basis for it.

“It’s just really frustrating here,” Steel said. “Where is the scientific base here? … The frustrating thing is Orange County numbers are really low.”

Steel said “99.9 percent don’t feel anything” when they are infected.

“This county is going to file another bankruptcy,” Steel said, referring to the first bankruptcy in 1994. “Small businesses are not coming back. This is seven months.”

Steel questioned how health department officials arrived at the various percentages of cases needed to move up to each tier.

“He is not a scientist,” Steel said of Gov. Gavin Newsom. “Stop all (this) nonsense and do something about these businesses… I don’t see any scientific base at all.”

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett added, “We’re all very frustrated right now.”

Bartlett said the tier system was put in place to ensure hospital systems are not overwhelmed by a surge of patients.

“Our hospital system is not being overwhelmed and somehow we’ve got to be able to address that issue with the state,” Bartlett said. “There’s no correlation between case counts increasing and overwhelming our hospital system, because we still have so much capacity.”

Bartlett said large urban counties such as Orange “are going to be stuck in the red tier for an extended period of time.”

She said counties prepared for a surge of patients should get credit for that planning when deciding whether more businesses can be reopened.

Officials want daily case rates to average about 130 to get from the red tier — one tier down from the most restrictive purple tier — to the orange tier. To stay in the red tier, the county cannot exceed 225 cases per day, according to county CEO Frank Kim.

To qualify for the orange tier, the positivity rate must be 2% to 4%, and the case rate per 100,000 must be 1 to 3.9.

Moving to the orange tier would mean retail businesses could operate at full capacity, instead of 50% as required in the red tier. Shopping malls could also operate at full capacity, but with closed common areas and reduced food courts, just as in the red tier.

In other coronavirus-related actions, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday:

— approved a $5 million grant program to help child care providers with pandemic-related expenses. The grant, which utilizes a portion of the county’s share of federal CARES Act funding, comes after a state agency report showing many childcare providers suffering during the pandemic, with many closing.

Supervisor Andrew Do noted the report showed 60% of families in the county have both parents working, and that the cost of daycare for one child averages $15,000 annually and $26,000 for two kids.

“They say even if only one-third of infants and toddlers required child care … there would only still be enough license capacity for childcare for one out of seven children. That’s it,” Do said.

— approved a $3 million grant to the Second Harvest Food Bank and Community Action Partnership to help feed needy families affected by loss of employment during the pandemic;

— approved a plan to use CARES funding to provide skilled nursing facilities and community health centers with more personal protective equipment and increased staffing to help stem the spread of coronavirus among the most vulnerable population in the county; and

— voted to accept Homekey Program grants totaling more than $23 million to acquire two hotels in Stanton that have been used to quarantine transients during the pandemic. The county plans to use the hotels to provide transitional shelters for transients as officials work to get them into permanent housing.

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