Eleven more people succumbed to COVID-19 in Orange County, raising the death toll to 745, and 245 more diagnoses of coronavirus have been confirmed, officials reported Wednesday.
The cumulative case count since the pandemic began stands at 41,823. Officials caution that the relatively low number of coronavirus cases could be due to a glitch in the state’s electronic reporting system with laboratories that is expected to be repaired by week’s end.
Case counts have been up and down since Sunday as officials catch up on the backlog with the state’s system.
“Because of the technical issue at the state level, the case rate and testing positivity rate were lower than we anticipated they should be,” said Dr. Clayton Chau, Orange County Health Care Agency director and the county’s interim chief health officer.
“Clearly, there was something wrong with the system,” Chau told the Board of Supervisors. “The state said it would be resolved by the end of the week at the latest.”
Chau said he was hopeful that the newly reported backlog won’t affect the county’s status much because hospitalization rates have been trending in the right direction, and those numbers are not affected by the reporting problems.
Of the fatalities reported Wednesday, three were skilled nursing facility residents and one was an assisted living facility resident. Since the pandemic began, 290 of the victims who died were skilled nursing facility residents, 42 were assisted living facility residents and one was homeless.
The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county’s hospitals dipped from to 441 Tuesday to 440, according to the HCA, with the number of patients in intensive care units remaining at 141.
But the rate of residents testing positive for COVID-19 in the county decreased from 8.3% Tuesday to 7.7%. The state’s desired threshold is 8%. The county’s case rate per 100,000 residents increased from 103.9 to 109.4, which is far higher than the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from -8.1% to -9.4%, which is much lower than the state’s threshold.
The county has 32% of intensive care unit beds available, which is better than the state’s 20% threshold. And the county’s hospitals also have 63% of their ventilators available, much higher than the state standard of 25%.
The state’s mandate to close in-restaurant dining and bars and require face coverings in public have helped, Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett told City News Service on Monday.
“When the governor came out with the state mandate for face coverings and the counties were required to follow through, I believe that could have potentially had a positive effect,” she said . “But it’s a combination of things — people getting better at social distancing and we’ve kept very steady to no mass gatherings.”
The county reported that 504,559 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 5,917 reported Wednesday. There have been 32,218 documented recoveries.
Bartlett noted at Tuesday’s board meeting that she has two friends who went to get tested, but the wait was so lengthy they left before getting tested, but then later received notices they had tested positive.
“So there’s a problem with the process. I’m sure it’s not an occasional thing,” Bartlett said. “We’ve got to somehow pinpoint where these problems are… It’s got to be somewhere at the local level… I think we need to do some investigative work locally to find out what happened.”
Chau noted, “There are many labs out there and many that are not registered with the state, so they do not report to the state system, as well.”
As local school officials prepare for classes to begin, county officials are tabulating the number of coronavirus cases by various age groups.
Since the pandemic began, there have been 412 children up to age 3 who have been infected; 557 in the 4-to-9-year-old age group; 428 from 10 to 12 years old; 412 among 13- to 14-year-olds; and 1,439 in the 15- to 18-year-old age group.
Many elementary schools are preparing applications for waivers from the county and state that would allow for in-person classroom teaching up to the sixth-grade level. The state has mandated that schools in counties on the watch list must employ distance learning until they get off the watch list.
Chau said about 20 Orange County schools, most of them private and secular schools, have applied for the waivers so far.