Orange County reported 133 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional fatalities Monday, bringing the county’s totals to 53,448 cases and leaving the death toll at 1,216.

Hospitalizations dipped from 165 Sunday to 161 Monday, with the number of patients in intensive care increasing from 45 to 46. The county has 38% of its intensive care unit beds available and 67% of its ventilators. The change in 3-day average for hospitalized patients rate is -4.4%.

The reporting of fewer than 200 new cases was a good sign, officials say. The county is eyeing the case rate as it teeters between moving up from the red tier to the less restrictive orange tier in the state’s monitoring system.

On Tuesdays, the positivity rates and cases per 100,000 people are updated, and that is when county officials will know for sure if they have made it up to the orange tier.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said there is concern about a see-sawing back and forth between the red and orange tiers, because if the county has to step back a tier that locks it into place for at least three weeks even if the metrics match a less-restrictive tier.

“We have some credits that can be applied” to move up to the orange tier Tuesday, Bartlett said. “But I don’t think it’s enough. We won’t know till we hear from the state (later Monday)… We’re going to be at or just above (the red tier) is my guess.”

It’s possible that recent spikes in case rates can be attributed to Labor Day get-togethers and students returning to in-class instruction, but the experts do not know for sure, Bartlett said.

The Orange County Health Care Agency also reported Monday that 849,985 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 3,089 reported Monday. There have been 47,955 documented recoveries.

Since the pandemic began, 446 of the deaths were among skilled nursing facility residents, and 85 among assisted living facility residents.

Last week, the county reported 87 deaths. Since Sunday, there have been two reported fatalities.

The overall positivity rate went from 3.9% to 3.1%, and the daily case count per 100,000 people dropped from 4.7 to 3.6 last week.

To qualify for the orange tier, the positivity rate must be 2 to 4%, and the case rate per 100,000 must be 1 to 3.9%.

Moving up to the orange tier means retail businesses could operate at full capacity, instead of 50% in the current red tier. Shopping malls also could operate at full capacity, but with closed common areas and reduced food courts just as in the red tier.

The orange tier boosts capacity for churches, restaurants, movies, museums, zoos and aquariums from 25% capacity to half capacity. Gyms and fitness centers could boost capacity from 10% to 25% and reopen pools.

The orange tier also allows family entertainment centers like bowling alleys and wall-climbing to open indoors to 25% capacity.

Orange County’s schools are already eligible to reopen for indoor, personal instruction, but not all of them have reopened right away. Schools in Fountain Valley and several other districts reopened last week and on Monday.

It is up to school districts to decide and many are offering “hybrid models” of some in-person instruction and some online-only instruction, Kim said. Some school districts will allow parents to continue with distance learning only.

If there is a breakout at any of the schools, they would have to close for two weeks and have no more COVID-19 cases before reopening, said Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s Health Care Agency director and chief health officer.

Dr. Matthew Zahn of the county’s communicable disease control division told reporters Thursday that if 5% of a school’s population of students or teachers get infected, the campus will be shut down for two weeks, according to the state’s guidelines.

Zahn said the county is reluctant to post information about outbreaks at schools because it tends to send the wrong message that schools without an outbreak are safer, and parents and students may let their guard down.

School officials will respond within 24 hours when there is a COVID-19 infection reported, Zahn said.

With regard to college dormitories as UC Irvine students are moving back to campus, Zahn said, “A significant issue associated with (what happened in San Diego) was off-campus housing and transmission of the virus. We have been talking with UC Irvine and other colleges and universities not only about classroom sites and what’s appropriate but dorm facilities and off-campus housing.”

“Move-In Week” began last Tuesday at UCI and will continue through Sept. 29. Students are being tested and getting results within 48 to 72 hours.

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