Orange County Wednesday reported just 19 new COVID-19 infections and a slight uptick in hospitalization rates.
The new infections pushed the cumulative case count to 255,977.
Hospitalizations inched up from 51 on Tuesday to 55, while the number of patients in intensive care increased from eight to 11.
The Orange County Health Care Agency also logged two more fatalities, one that happened this month and the other in January.
The death toll now stands at five for June; 22 for May; 42 for April; 198 for March; 608 for February; 1,555 for January, the deadliest month of the pandemic; and 966 for December, the next deadliest.
According to weekly state data released every Tuesday, the county’s average daily new case rate per 100,000 residents ticked up from 0.8 last week to 0.9, while the overall test positivity rate ticked up from 0.6% to 0.7%.
The county’s Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hot spots in disadvantaged communities, dipped down from 0.8% to 0.7%. That would have kept the county safely in the least-restrictive yellow tier, but that system ended with the state’s reopening on June 15.
The county’s weekly average of tests per 100,000 residents ticked up from 195.4 last week to 198.6.
As has been common at the Orange County Board of Supervisors meetings over the past several months, dozens of public speakers on Tuesday implored the board to suspend its local state of emergency due to the pandemic. The supervisors do not want to do that because it would jeopardize reimbursements from the state and federal governments for COVID-19 expenses.
County officials assured residents that lifting the local state of emergency would do nothing to change any remaining restrictions, most of which were suspended on June 15.
“Even if we were to cancel this emergency order, it would not do anything to change anyone’s lives,” board Chairman Andrew Do said. “We would just be shooting ourselves in the foot in terms of state funding.”
Do moved to have the county’s state of emergency continue until the state lifts its own state of emergency, and the board unanimously agreed. That action was taken to end the local state of emergency as soon as it can be practically done while leaving the county eligible for state and federal reimbursements.
Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s chief health officer and director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said that about 1.87 million Orange County residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, “which translates to 63.3% of those eligible” to receive an inoculation. The county has 1.62 million fully vaccinated residents, Chau said Tuesday.
Officials are concerned about the so-called Delta variant, which originated in India, Chau said. He noted that it was upgraded from a “variant of interest” to a “variant of concern” in the state and is gaining ground nationwide,” with “14% of all new cases” stemming from that mutation.
Officials are predicting the Delta variant “will be the predominant case variant in the United States” within days, he said. Last week, the state reported about 400 cases of COVID-19 with the Delta variant, which is more contagious, Chau said, noting that Orange County has had “a few cases” so far.
“The concern is that within a matter of a week, it has risen by 40% in the state,” Chau said. “The numbers are low still, but, nevertheless, the increase is concerning.”
A Pfizer study showed that its vaccine provides at least 80% protection against infection from the Delta variant when recipients receive both doses, Chau said.
Booster shots may be offered by Pfizer and Moderna this winter, but that has not yet been determined, Chau said. But anyone who received Pfizer can get a Moderna booster shot and vice versa, Chau noted.