Orange County officials have reported 306 new COVID-19 diagnoses and one additional coronarvirus-related fatality, raising the cumulative case total to 60,604 and the death toll to 1,484.

The rate of deaths has been trending down over the past few weeks. From Oct. 25 through last Saturday, there were 39 deaths reported, up from 35 the week before, but lower than 69 the previous week. Since Sunday, there have been two deaths reported.

The number of hospitalizations related to the virus went from 183 Monday to 177 Tuesday, with the number of intensive care unit patients remaining at 60, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from 2.2% to -1.8%. The county has 37% of its intensive care unit beds and 65% of its ventilators available.

According to OCHCA data, 1,131,297 COVID-19 tests have been conducted since the start of the pandemic, including 5,057 reported Tuesday. There have been 53,934 documented recoveries.

The county’s positivity rate, which is reported each Tuesday, has remained at 3.2% for the past three weeks, but the daily case rate per 100,000 population increased from 4.6 last week to 5.1. That metric will be officially reported Wednesday because of the election, Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the HCA and the county’s chief health officer, told the Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

The county’s Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which is a state mandate to focus on hot spots in counties, stands at 6%. The county has to reach at least 5.2% in that metric to move into the orange tier from the red tier in the state’s coronavirus monitoring system.

Officials have said the daily average of new cases would have to come down to about 130 for Orange County to move from the red to the orange tier, allowing for more businesses to reopen and for some already open to increase their capacity.

However, if cases rise too much, the county could slip back into the most restrictive purple tier.

“Three hundred is not good,” said Orange County CEO Frank Kim. “But it’s par for the course for what we’re seeing in Southern California.”

Kim hopes the uptick in cases reported Tuesday dates back over the past few weeks.

“Hopefully it is related to stuff two weeks ago and has already washed through our health system,” Kim said. “But it’s pretty clear we’re in an environment of rising case rates. The only question is when do we hit our peak and what is the impact on hospitalizations. So far the hospitalizations have been minor, but who knows.”

Chau told the Board of Supervisors that he expects the case rate per 100,000 will likely be in the “high 5 to 6” range, which will keep the county within the red tier. The county cannot exceed 7, Chau said.

“For the month of October it’s been 4.5 to about 5 or so,” he said. “Since Oct. 29, the number has gone up quite a bit… We’ve seen cases going up statewide. Our colleagues in San Diego are on the edge of red and purple.”

The county remains within the orange tier for the positivity rate, Chau said.

“We are encouraging our community to, number one, if they’re sick they need to stay home,” Chau said. “We encourage people to get their regular flu vaccine and because the weather is getting colder, a lot of activity will move indoors, so we encourage people to be really careful and follow (public health guidelines).”

Chau said there have been no outbreaks in the county’s schools since they have reopened, “so you will see some of the school districts will reopen for in-person education throughout the month of November, December into January.”

Family gatherings during the holidays is “my source of anxiety now,” Chau said, adding, “Just folks gathering, getting fatigue about all the (social distancing) behavior they need to do. It’s not just happening in California, but it’s happening elsewhere in the U.S., as well as worldwide. Several countries in Europe have entered lockdown for a month.”

Board Chairwoman Michelle Steel asked county staff during Tuesday’s meeting about what impact a tentative ruling this week from a Sutter County Superior Court judge restricting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s authority to issue executive orders during an emergency will have on Orange County.

“It was a very interesting decision,” County Counsel Leon Page said. “It was a tentative decision so it’s not final yet, not binding on the court. The judge can change her mind.”

Page also noted Newsom can appeal it and will likely do so.

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