Ten more people have succumbed to COVID-19 in Orange County, raising the death toll to 734, local health officials said Tuesday as they reported 1,051 new coronavirus diagnoses to hike the cumulative case total to 41,578.
Case counts have steadily risen since Sunday, which officials attribute to the state catching up on a backlog created by a glitch in the electronic reporting system from laboratories.
“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 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 rates much because hospitalization rates have been trending in the right direction, and those numbers are not affected by the reporting problems.
The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county’s hospitals dropped from 468 on Monday to 441, according to the HCA, with the number of patients in intensive care units sinking from 152 to 141.
But the rate of residents testing positive for COVID-19 in the county increased from 7.4% Monday to 8.3%. The state’s desired threshold is 8%. The county’s case rate per 100,000 residents increased from 82.1 to 103.9, 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 -7.5% to -8.1%, which is much lower than the state’s threshold.
The state’s mandate to close in-restaurant dining and bars and require face coverings in public have helped, Orange County Supevisor 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 498,642 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 13,839 reported Tuesday. There have been 31,445 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.”
Of the county’s total death toll, 285 were skilled nursing facility residents, 38 were assisted living facility residents and one was homeless. Of the latest deaths to be reported, one was a skilled nursing facility resident, and one was a staffer at a skilled nursing facility.
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 399 children up to age 3 who have been infected; 529 in the 4-to-9-year-old age group; 408 from 10 to 12 years old; 385 among 13- to 14-year-olds; and 1,386 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.