Orange County’s spike in coronavirus transmissions continued to reach alarming rates with the county reporting 2,025 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths, bringing its totals to 86,878 cases and 1,633 fatalities since the pandemic began.
The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus rose from 842 Saturday to 848 Sunday, and the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care increased from 193 to 209.
Sunday’s numbers came as Orange County and the rest of Southern California fell under sweeping new health restrictions as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday due to the rapidly increasing number of hospitalizations from the virus.
The state-mandated “regional stay-at-home” order was triggered when intensive-care unit bed availability remained below 15% after Saturday’s daily update, according to the California Department of Public Health.
The 11-county Southern California region’s available ICU capacity was 12.5% Saturday, a decrease from 13.1% the day before. On Sunday, it dropped to 10.3%.
Orange County had 18% of its ICU beds available Sunday, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom will be in place for three weeks and will bar gatherings of people from different households. Regions will be eligible to exit from the order on Dec. 28 if ICU capacity projections for the following month are above or equal to 15%.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said Saturday that his deputies would not be enforcing the order.
“Compliance with health orders is a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement,” Barnes said. “The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will remain consistent in our approach. Orange County Sheriff’s deputies will not be dispatched to, or respond to, calls for service to enforce compliance with face coverings, social gatherings, or stay-at-home orders only. Deputies will respond to calls for potential criminal behavior and for the protection of life and property. Our actions remain consistent with the protections of constitutional rights.
“… As we have done throughout this pandemic, we must remain diligent in preventing the spread of the virus by following public health recommendations, like wearing a face covering and practicing social distancing. Conversely, policy makers must not penalize residents for earning a livelihood, safeguarding their mental health, or enjoying our most cherished freedoms.”
Under the order, the following businesses/recreational facilities will be forced to close:
— indoor and outdoor playgrounds;
— indoor recreational facilities;
— hair salons and barbershops;
— personal care services;
— museums, zoos, and aquariums;
— movie theaters;
— bars, breweries and distilleries;
— family entertainment centers;
— cardrooms and satellite wagering;
— limited services;
— live audience sports; and
— amusement parks.
Schools with waivers will be allowed to remain open, along with “critical infrastructure” and retail stores, which will be limited to 20% of capacity.
Restaurants will be restricted to takeout and delivery service only. Hotels would be allowed to open “for critical infrastructure support only,” while churches would be restricted to outdoor only services. Entertainment production — including professional sports — would be allowed to continue without live audiences.
Some of those restrictions are already in effect in select counties.
Rep.-elect Young Kim, R-La Habra, questioned Newsom’s Thursday order which led to the restrictions.
“As COVID-19 cases continue to grow across our region, we must do our part to slow the spread but our leaders in government must also act reasonably knowing that their actions impact the livelihoods, jobs and welfare of our community,” Kim tweeted Saturday. “Inconsistent policies have resulted in confusion and uncertainty.”
California has grouped its counties into five regions: The Bay Area, the Greater Sacramento Region, Northern California, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.
The San Joaquin Valley will also enter the new shutdown protocol Sunday night, as its ICU capacity dropped to 8.6% on Saturday.
The state’s full stay-at-home order can be read at www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Regional-Stay-at-Home-Order-.aspx.
Hospitals in Orange County are struggling to staff the ICU beds, which require a higher degree of training for nurses to manage.
“Like many hospitals throughout the state, Orange County Global Medical Center is working hard to treat the surge in COVID-19 patients,” said Derek Drake, CEO of the hospital.
“While we are not yet at capacity, additional ICU staffing is needed. Despite these challenges, our healthcare workers are doing a tremendous job and displaying their selflessness, talent and skills on a daily basis to help serve our patients and communities.”
The state’s tiered monitoring system metrics are updated every Tuesday. The adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 rose from 18.7 on Monday to 22.2 on Tuesday, with the positivity rate going up from 7.6% to 8.8%.
The county’s Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, stands at 13%, nearly three times higher than it was last reported Nov. 10.
All of the county’s metrics now fall within the state’s most-restrictive, purple, tier of the four-tier coronavirus monitoring system.
Vaccines are now expected to be distributed to each county to be doled out to each hospital, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said. Before, the plan was for regional hospital systems to get the vaccines directly while the counties doled out the medicine to individual hospitals.
The county received 18,060 test results on Sunday, upping the cumulative to 1,556,554. There have been 61,886 documented recoveries.