Empty hospital example. Photo via Pixabay.

Orange County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and positivity rates continued gliding down as death reports for last month and this month keep rolling in, according to data released Wednesday.

Hospitalizations declined from 431 Tuesday to 415 Wednesday, with the number of intensive care patients ticking up from 77 to 79, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The county has not seen patient counts at this level since the end of December.

The county had 26.5% of its ICU beds available and 62.1% of its ventilators as of Wednesday. Local health officials become concerned when the level of ICU beds falls below 20%.

Pediatric hospitalizations as of Tuesday stood at 22 with three in the ICU, according to Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s health officer, who is also the director of the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Of those hospitalized, 84% are unvaccinated and 86% in ICU are not inoculated, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported.

The agency Tuesday also reported 633 new positive COVID tests and 19 additional deaths associated with the virus, bringing its cumulative totals to 534,132 cases and 6,395 fatalities.

The fatalities occurred this month and last. February’s death toll increased to 33, while January’s death toll rose to 379.

Chau said 99.9% of the county’s seniors 65 and older have received at least one shot. Seniors in the county are 93% fully vaccinated, he added.

December’s death toll stands at 107; November’s at 113, October’s at 136, September’s at 199, August’s at 186.

In contrast, the death toll before the Delta variant fueled a late-summer surge was 31 in July, 20 in June, 26 in May, 47 in April, 202 in March and 620 for February.

January 2021 remains the deadliest month of the pandemic, with a death toll of 1,600, ahead of December 2020, the next-deadliest with 986 people lost to the virus.

Outbreaks — defined as three or more infected residents — decreased from 23 to 13 at assisted living facilities from Feb. 9-14, the most recent data available, and dropped from 20 to 15 for skilled nursing facilities.

The county’s jails had 54 infected inmates Wednesday, up one from Tuesday, with the results of 373 tests pending.

The case rate per 100,000 people decreased from 29.1 Tuesday to 26.4 Wednesday. The testing positivity rate dropped from 7.2% to 6.5%, and fell from 7.3% to 4.7% in the health equity quartile, which measures underserved communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

The case rate per 100,000 people decreased from 39.3 on Jan. 29 to 17.5 on Feb. 5 for those fully vaccinated with a booster shot; from 63.7 to 21 for those fully vaccinated with no booster; and 101.2 to 62.2 for those not fully vaccinated.

Disneyland officials announced Tuesday that vaccinated guests won’t have to wear face coverings indoors at the theme park, but unvaccinated guests will still be required to mask up.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Erick Larsh issued a directive Tuesday to continue requiring face coverings in the county’s courthouses no matter a visitor’s vaccination status.

Anyone not wearing a mask will be denied entry, and anyone who takes it off after gaining admittance will be told to put it back on, Larsh said.

“If they refuse, they may be denied services, and they will be asked to leave the court building immediately,” he said. “Persons who refuse to leave voluntarily will be escorted from the building by court security personnel.”

Chau said despite the new mask policy statewide he “strongly recommended” that fully vaccinated residents continue to use face coverings for indoor settings.

“You should continue to assess your own risk,” Chau said.

Fully vaccinated residents should also consider using face coverings for indoor or congregant outdoor settings if they live with someone who is immunocompromised, Chau said.

The county receives about 10 complaints a day regarding non-compliance with the mask policy from the state, Chau said. The county cannot enforce mask usage, but officials contact the restaurant or business where there is a failure to ensure customers use a mask and remind them of the policy, he added.

Most of the complaints about non-compliance in the schools are with private, not public, ones, Chau said. The county had to report one private school to the state, and state officials “immediately responded and sent a pretty strong letter of warning to the school,” Chau said.

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