Orange County reported just 63 new cases of COVID-19 Monday as the general trends continue to be encouraging.
Monday’s numbers brought the county’s totals to 253,026 cases and with no additional fatalities, the death toll remained at 4,896, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The number of COVID patients in county hospitals ticked up from 124 Sunday to 128 Monday, while the number of those in intensive care dropped from 23 to 22. The county has 38.3% of its ICU beds available and 73% of its ventilators.
Another 6,193 COVID-19 tests were logged Monday for a total of 3,548,600.
The county’s weekly averages will be released as usual on Tuesday. The averages as of last Tuesday showed the county’s test positivity rate remained at 1.6%, while the adjusted case rate per 100,000 people on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag remained at 3.
The county’s Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hotspots in disadvantaged communities, improved from 2.1% to 1.8%. The county’s positivity rates qualify for the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state’s four-tier system for reopening the economy, but the case counts are still in the orange tier.
A graduation into the yellow tier requires that the case rate must get below 2 per 100,000 population.
As of Thursday, the county’s average daily rate of new COVID cases was 2.9 per 100,000 residents, and the overall positivity rate was 1.5%. The positivity rate in underprivileged communities in the health equity category was 1.6%, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said.
“In terms of positivity rates, there isn’t a significant disparity,” Kim said.
Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, said the county’s trends continue to offer good news.
“Hospitalizations are still holding steady, but not going up appreciably,” Noymer said Thursday.
The county is pumping more shots into arms as the eligibility has widened to anyone 16 and older, Kim said.
Kim said staff at the vaccination sites have been trained to make sure anyone who is underage has a parent or legal guardian with them. A letter from a parent will not be accepted, he said.
Noymer said it will likely be a few weeks before it is easy to get an appointment for an inoculation.
“I have Twitter followers saying they can’t get appointments,” Noymer said.
“To some extent, you have to be somewhat tenacious if you want a vaccination within the next few weeks. Just because we’re going wide doesn’t mean you weren’t going to have go through some rigamarole.”
Noymer said he would not second-guess the federal officials who put a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of six cases of potentially dangerous blood clots among millions of vaccinations.
“One thing a lot of people don’t realize is just how high the bar is for these vaccines,” Noymer said. “One-in-a-million blood clots might actually be enough to knock it off the market.”
So far, the county has dispensed nearly 2 million doses of vaccine, Kim said.
County-run vaccination sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. as usual, but on Thursdays, the OC Fair and Event Center site will be open from noon to 8 p.m., Kim said. The Santa Ana College vaccination site also offers noon to 8 p.m. hours on Mondays, he added.
If the night hours are popular, officials will consider adding more evening hours in the future, Kim said.
The additional deaths logged last weekend raised the death toll so far in April to three. The death toll for March rose to 169.
The death toll for February increased to 569. The death toll for January, the deadliest month in the pandemic, increased to 1,507. And December’s death toll rose to 929.
The December and January deaths reflect a surge fueled by the holidays and represent nearly half of the entire death toll for the pandemic in Orange County. The death reports are often delayed, and one of the fatalities logged over the weekend happened on Dec. 1.