Orange County reported 806 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths Saturday, bringing the county’s totals to 69,142 cases and 1,551 fatalities.
The numbers came one day after the county reported its highest one-day total of new COVID-19 cases in the entire pandemic, with 1,169 cases reported Friday. The previous record was July 6, when 1,050 positive cases of coronavirus were reported, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The number of county residents hospitalized with the coronavirus rose from 333 Friday to 365 Saturday, but the number of people in the intensive care unit dropped from 102 to 88.
Two of the 11 deaths reported Saturday were residents of assisted-living facilities, and two were residents of skilled-nursing facilities.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients jumped from 20.7% to 54.1%. The county has 30% of its intensive care unit beds and 66% of its ventilators available, as county officials remained confident local hospitals can handle the surge.
“Right now we still have significant bed staffing in Orange County,” said Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who is president of the California State Association of Counties. “But we need to keep track as COVID cases rise and how many get hospitalized. We want to be sure our health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed.”
The county’s intensive care units have not seen a sharp rise in patients, which could be owed to “better therapeutics” as doctors get more efficient at treating the virus, Bartlett said.
The number of tests conducted in the county stood at 1,327,852, including 13,213 reported Saturday. There have been 57,723 documented recoveries.
Orange County and most of California will fall under a state-mandated soft curfew Saturday night that will bar nonessential activities, gatherings and business operations starting at 10 p.m. nightly. The order announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office Thursday applies to all counties in the most-restrictive purple tier of the state’s four-tier coronavirus monitoring system — including Orange County. It takes effect at 10 p.m. Saturday and remains in force nightly until 5 a.m. on Dec. 21.
But whether local authorities will do anything to enforce the order remains unclear.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes told City News Service that he has a lot of issues with the stay-at-home order because he believes the resources to enforce it are limited and could lead to civil rights challenges.
Even if deputies issued tickets for a misdemeanor violation for ignoring a state health order, what happens if the person cited refuses to accept it, Barnes asked.
“How far do we go?” he asked. “Is the public comfortable (that) we’re going to potentially arrest you and with force if necessary if a public health order is violated?”
To compound matters, the courts are not holding hearings on misdemeanors, Barnes said.
“I think we’ve gotten significant compliance in the county of Orange. Most people are following the guidelines of public health orders,” Barnes said. “The few who aren’t are few and far between.”
One group planned a protest against the curfew for 10:01 p.m. Saturday at the Huntington Beach Pier.
“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge,” Newsom said in a statement. “We are sounding the alarm. It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We’ve done it before and we must do it again.”
According to the governor’s office, the order is aimed at reducing opportunities for spread of the virus, noting that activities conducted overnight “are often non-essential and more likely related to social activities and gatherings that have a higher likelihood of leading to reduced inhibition and reduced likelihood for adherence to safety measures like wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distance.”
The order isn’t being described as a full-on curfew. State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Thursday it doesn’t completely prevent people from leaving their homes after-hours, noting he still plans to walk his dog late at night.
Bartlett said Dr. Ghaly is growing concerned about the impact the virus is having on children.
“He’s very concerned about young kids getting COVID,” she said. “While they’re not hospitalized and may not die there’s a portion of that population that may end up with serious health issues for an extended period of time.”
Orange County was moved into the purple tier on Monday, along with 27 other counties, amid a statewide surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. The move left 41 of the state’s 58 counties — 94.1% of the state’s population — in the most-restrictive tier.
Counties in the tier are prohibited from allowing indoor service at restaurants and movie theaters, gyms and fitness centers.
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