Orange County health officials have reported 17 new COVID-19 fatalities, raising this week’s death toll to 56, the most in a week since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Moreover, as of Friday, the county has also exceeded two important metrics that will trigger more scrutiny from the California Department of Public Health.
The county’s rate of positive tests for COVID-19 is 8.5%, exceeding the state standard of 8%. The county’s case rate of 97.9 per 100,000 people is also higher than the state’s threshold of 25 per 100,000.
Last week, the county reported 50 coronavirus fatalities, and 41 the week before. Of the county’s 323 COVID-19 deaths, 170 were residents of nursing homes and three were transients.
The Orange County Health Care Agency also reported 479 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total to 11,960, as well as a significant jump in hospitalizations.
The number of hospitalized patients rose from 394 Thursday to 451, with the number of patients in intensive care increasing from 147 to 166.
The county, however, is in good shape when it comes to hospital bed capacity and ventilators, according to the HCA.
The county has 37.7% intensive care unit beds available, higher than the state threshold of 20%, and the county has 66.7% ventilators available, higher than the state threshold of 25%, according to the agency.
County officials had a meeting with city leaders Friday and discussed ways they can promote more social distancing techniques, such as mask wearing, to help slow the spread of the virus, Orange County CEO Frank Kim told City News Service.
Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, the president of the California State Association of Counties, said state officials may consider rolling back access to the beaches as a way to stem the spread of coronavirus.
“The governor is looking at positivity rates for the counties and hospital rates statewide are up 30%, so the governor is very concerned,” Bartlett said.
State public health officials have been monitoring beach activity recently, Bartlett said.
“We’re hearing through the grapevine something may be under consideration” regarding beach access along the coast statewide, Bartlett said.
As the county rolled out a newly redesigned website Friday evening, health officials recalculated the number of tests done to date from 231,902 reported on Thursday down to 207,720.
The county reported 6,763 documented recoveries.
The total number of Orange County coronavirus cases break down to 50% men and 50% women, but men account for 56% of the deaths, according to the HCA.
Santa Ana leads all county cities with 2,515 cases, followed by Anaheim with 2,289. The high numbers in Orange County’s two largest cities are attributed to their population size and the presence of multiple nursing homes in both cities.
Anaheim, Santa Ana and Huntington Beach account for 82, 81 and 37 deaths, respectively, and Los Alamitos and Fullerton 14 apiece.
In Orange County’s jails, 395 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus with 387 having recovered. Eight inmates are experiencing symptoms are in medical quarantine and officials are awaiting the results of 26 tests.
Orange County congressional representatives on Friday sent a letter to county officials critical of how many tests have been administered to residents compared with other counties.
The letter was signed by Reps. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, Gil Cisneros, D-Fullerton, Katie Porter, D-Irvine, Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, and Linda Sanchez, D-Norwalk.
The congressional representatives, who met with county officials after requesting more information about the county’s testing programs last month, say some residents continue to face obstacles to getting a test.
“Fast, accessible and widespread testing is critical to protecting public health and preventing a resurgence as we continue to reopen,” the letter reads.
“Ensuring accessible testing will not only reassure the public on behalf of businesses seeking to reopen, but will also support the contact tracing needed to control future outbreaks.”
Bartlett said anyone in Orange County can get a test regardless of their ability to pay.
“We have 15 state testing locations within Orange County and multiple drive-through locations in hospitals and clinics, so virtually anyone who wants to be tested can get tested,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett said it is not fair to compare Orange County’s testing rates with other counties.
“Every county is unique relative to COVID-19,” Bartlett said. “In other counties they have a different demographic. For instance, Imperial County has a high agricultural demographic and their healthcare system is overwhelmed.”
Orange County has relatively fewer transients and a healthier demographic than many other counties, Bartlett said.