Orange County reported just 95 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, while hospitalization numbers inched down.
The new cases boosted the cumulative number of infections in the county to 251,611 since the pandemic began, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The county also logged 19 more fatalities, including some dating back to December.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said Wednesday the overall trends continue to be encouraging.
“When you get such low (case) rates a small outbreak in a school or some other place can really jostle the numbers,” Kim said of any fluctuation.
Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in the county decreased from 114 Wednesday to 113 Thursday, with the number of intensive care unit patients dropping from 29 to 28.
The weekly update from the state, issued on Tuesdays, showed the county’s test positivity rate improved from 1.7% to 1.6%, while the adjusted case rate per 100,000 people on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag increased from 2.8 last Tuesday to 3.
The county’s Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hotspots in disadvantaged communities, improved from 2.6% last week to 2.1%. The county’s positivity rates qualify for the least restrictive yellow tier of the state’s four-tier system for reopening the economy, but the case counts are still in the orange tier.
The county has administered 1.8 million COVID vaccine doses to residents, Kim said. The county is testing 301.5 per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag.
Another 13,998 tests were reported Thursday, upping the cumulative total to 3,428,287.
Demand for tests at the county’s super sites in Anaheim and Costa Mesa have dwindled as residents opt now more for the mail-order tests, Kim said.
“I do believe we’re going to change that model” of testing, Kim said. “By breaking it back down and getting away from the super site concept and having smaller testing kiosks in higher-traffic areas of the county.”
The overall death toll climbed to 4,810 Thursday.
Due to the 19 deaths logged Thursday, the county’s death toll for March increased to 133, far below the February number of 558. The death toll for January, the deadliest month by far during the pandemic, stands at 1,479, while December’s was 923.
The December and January death tolls reflect a holiday-fueled surge. The monthly totals continue to be adjusted as deaths are confirmed as being COVID-related.
The county has 31.6% of its ICU beds available and 70% of its ventilators.
The county received 105,000 doses of vaccine this week. Officials are working to prepare for a surge of vaccine seekers when eligibility expands to everyone aged 16 and older on April 15, Kim said.
The county’s move into the orange tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy last week allowed restrictions to be eased on a variety of business sectors. Retail stores now do not have to limit attendance at all, and churches, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums were allowed to expand from 25% to 50% of capacity.
Restaurants were given permission to expand indoor dining to 50% and wineries to offer indoor service at 25%, while bars that don’t serve food got the green light to reopen outdoors. Gyms and fitness centers were cleared to expand to 25% of capacity, and family entertainment centers can offer indoor attractions such as bowling.
Under current rules, the county’s new case rate must dip below 2 per 100,000 residents to make it to the yellow tier.