Orange County’s daily and weekly COVID-19 statistics released Tuesday show a gradual decline in cases, but 29 more fatalities have been recorded as the overall death toll topped 5,500.
The county’s weekly case rate per 100,000 residents improved from 8 to 7, while the positivity rate fell from 2.9% to 2.7%, according to data released Tuesday. The county’s Health Equity Quartile positivity rate — which measures progress in low-income communities — dropped from 3.1% to 3%.
“Slow and steady wins the race,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service on Tuesday. “I’d rather see faster improvement, but if we can’t have that I’ll take this. … The numbers are looking good.”
Tuesday marked the first time since Friday that the Orange County Health Care Agency released updated statistics because of Monday’s holiday and the agency’s policy to not do updates on weekends.
Hospitalizations declined from 223 on Friday to 211 on Tuesday, with the number of intensive care patients declining from 47 to 45.
The county also logged 937 new infections since Friday, raising the cumulative to 300,531.
The county also logged 29 additional fatalities, raising the cumulative death toll to 5,504. Of the fatalities recorded, four were skilled nursing facility resident and four were assisted living facility residents, raising the death toll in those facilities to 1,162 and 628, respectively.
Of the fatalities logged on Tuesday, 18 occurred last month, raising September’s death toll to 127.
Ten of the fatalities occurred in August, raising the death toll for that month to 168.
The death toll for July rose by one to 27, 19 for June, 26 for May, 46 for April, 199 for March, 615 for February, 1,581 for January — the deadliest month of the pandemic — and 976 for December, the next deadliest.
Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, deputy county health officer, said Friday that the vast majority of September’s fatalities were among unvaccinated people. The victims are also trending younger than previous surges, she added.
In September, 45% of those who died were younger than 65, and 97% were unvaccinated, she said.
“I don’t want us to repeat what happened this summer because so much could have been prevented if we’d been a little more cautious,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “Until we can get more of our younger folks vaccinated we need to take precautions.”
Chinsio-Kwong is concerned that the upcoming holiday season, starting with Halloween, will spur another winter surge. She encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated for the upcoming flu season, and noted it takes two weeks to develop full immunity after the shot — so if they get it now it will be in time for Halloween festivities.
“The flu is right around the corner,” Chinsio-Kwong said Friday. “Some are asking, can you get the flu and COVID at the same time and the answer is yes.”
Chinsio-Kwong said it was “technically safe to go trick-or-treating, especially if it’s outdoors,” but everyone should be mindful of continuing efforts to avoid infection such as social distancing, good hand hygiene and wearing a mask.
“Kids love to eat candy and so do I, but it means removing your mask,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “This should be a fun and exciting time and it should be safe, but use some caution if you’re indoors.”
Chinsio-Kwong suggested Halloween and Dia de los Muertos festivities could be used as an excuse to decorate masks.
Noymer said he is not as concerned about a double whammy with COVID-19 and the flu.
“People said the same thing last winter, so I’ll believe it when I see it,” Noymer said. “I do expect more flu this winter than last winter…. Flu will eventually come back and it will be this winter, but it’s too early to say it will be a calamity.”
Noymer, nonetheless, said is “apprehensive” about a winter surge and advised continued masking for indoor activities.
The county had 25.1% of its ICU beds available and 70% of its ventilators as of Tuesday.
As of Oct. 2, the county’s new case rate per 100,000 people was 3.1 among fully vaccinated residents and 16.1 for the unvaccinated.
The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County increased from 2,115,536 on Sept. 30 to 2,135,325 on Thursday.
That number includes an increase from 1,976,227 to 1,994,678 of residents who have received the two-dose regimen of vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna. The number of residents receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine increased from 139,309 to 140,647.
There are 197,201 residents who have received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The top providers of vaccines are the OCHCA at 26.50%, CVS at 18.30%, Walgreens at 6.10%, Kaiser Permanente at 5.50%, UC Irvine Health at 2.80%; Walmart at 1.90%, Safeway, Vons and Pavilions at 1.20%; Families Together of Orange County at 1.10%, and multiple others below 1%.