A day before California officially lifted the vast majority of its COVID-19 restrictions, Orange County reported 75 more COVID-19 infections, which accounts for cases throughout the weekend, as hospitalization rates remained stable.

The Orange County Health Care Agency has suspended reporting COVID-19 statistics on weekends, so the 75 infections reported Monday represent three days of cases. The cumulative case count now stands at 255,663.

Beginning July 1, OC data will updated once per week.

While most of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions were lifted at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom nonetheless warned the virus is still active — and that mask-wearing will continue to be a reality for non-vaccinated residents, at businesses that opt to require them and for people who simply feel safer wearing them.

Meanwhile, according to Monday’s Orange County numbers, hospitalizations ticked up from 53 on Friday to 55, while the number of intensive care unit patients dropped from 14 to 11.

“Everything’s hunky dory,” Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service.

Noymer encouraged residents to enjoy the summer, when case rates are expected to remain low, and praised the state’s move to lift pandemic-related restrictions.

“I hate this phrase `reopening the economy’ because the economy has been doing fine. Just look at California’s tax receipts,” Noymer said. “It’s about reopening social events. I think it’s totally appropriate right now based on epidemiology.”

Public health officials are wise to support a summer vacation from many COVID-19 restrictions, Noymer said.

“We cannot keep things under a regime as if it’s early January 2021 now given the situation,” he said. “(Public health officials) would burn every ounce of credibility they have. I am well-known as a stern, cautious person, but when the situations change, life changes and I think you should go back to your favorite restaurant this summer. If your chicken taco recipe is still not as good as the taco place you like to go to, then go back to the taco place.”

But Noymer cautioned residents to be ready for another potential wave in the fall as more people spend more time indoors and children go back to school.

“I don’t have a problem with people unmasking this summer,” Noymer said. “I don’t have a problem with that at all, particularly the vaccinated. Knock your socks off and ditch your mask.”

Referring to a planned mask burning at the Huntington Beach pier Tuesday evening to protest the state’s handling of COVID-19 restrictions, Noymer said, “If it would make them happy to spend 90 minutes down at the Huntington Beach pier burning masks, that’s between them and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“But I am sincere when I say put it in a drawer and not in a bonfire because we don’t know what the future holds. That’s not a firm prediction that doomsday is coming, but the future is uncertain. If you haven’t learned that by now, I don’t know what to say.”

Enforcing mask wearing when case rates are low has the potential for blowback when it’s necessary to ask residents to put them back on, Noymer said.

The key to defeating the coronavirus is vaccinations, he said.

“I do worry about kids spreading it, but mostly older kids,” Noymer said. “Ninety-five percent of spreading by minors is (by) 12 to 17 (year olds) …. People need to get the vaccine and take responsibility for their actions.”

If everyone 12 and older got inoculated, the country would achieve herd immunity and it would not be necessary to vaccinate younger children, Noymer said.

The current vaccines show 88% efficacy against infection for the new and more contagious Delta strain, Noymer said.

The professor said he knows of someone who refused to get vaccinated on “political grounds,” and “he got Covid and is on a ventilator and let’s all hope he recovers.”

Orange County CEO Frank Kim said last week that county officials continue to have concerns about what Cal-OSHA will do regarding face coverings in work places. The agency had indicated it would lift mandates for face coverings for vaccinated employees, but there’s another meeting scheduled this week, Kim said.

“I think everyone’s frustrated with the state,” he said. “The big issue for us is the Cal-OSHA meeting on the 17th of June. They may consider again looking at mask and social distancing guidance … that affects our workplace and what happens at board meetings.”

The county logged two more fatalities over the weekend, raising the cumulative COVID-19 death toll to 5,097.

There has been one fatality reported for this month; 19 in May; 40 in April; 197 in March; 608 in February; 1,559 in January, the deadliest month of the pandemic; and 965 in December, the next deadliest.

The county is now focusing vaccination efforts on mobile sites, Kim said. The mobile clinics are handling 175 to 300 vaccinations, he said.

He noted the mobile clinics are getting inoculations done quickly. He said a friend took his 14-year-old daughter for a shot and was done in 20 minutes.

The number of fully vaccinated Orange County residents is 1.6 million, which is about half of the county’s residents, including children who are not yet eligible for inoculations.

Officials are hopeful they will get 70% of eligible residents vaccinated in the next 30 days, Kim said.

Another 17,491 COVID-19 tests were reported Monday, bringing the county’s total to 4,019,520.

The county’s weekly average of tests per 100,000 residents dropped from 233.1 the previous week to 210.1.

According to weekly state data released every Tuesday, the county’s average daily new case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 0.9 to 0.8 last week while the overall test positivity rate ticked up from 0.6% to 0.7%, and the county’s Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hot spots in disadvantaged communities, inched up from 0.7% to 0.8%.

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