Orange County’s improving COVID-19 trends continued Friday, with just 65 new cases reported and hospitalizations nearly dropping into double digits.
With Friday’s newly announced numbers, the cumulative case count rose to 253,340. The county also logged eight more COVID-19 fatalities, but two of those occurred in December, as there are commonly lengthy delays in the accounting of the deaths. The overall death toll now stands at 4,918.
The number of COVID patients in county hospitals dropped from 110 to 100, and the number of those in intensive care units decreased from 22 to 15.
The county has 35.4% of its ICU beds available and 74% of its ventilators.
“That’s great,” Orange County CEO Frank Kim said of the hospitalization rates. “It really gives me hope. It really does.”
In another sign of the improving situation, Kim said he would recommend to the Orange County Board of Supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting that it is time for him to relinquish his authority to sign emergency contracts without board approval.
“There’s really no reason to have delegated authority anymore and I’ve asked the board to terminate that,” Kim said. “It’s a stable operation now and the contracts we needed have been implemented.”
Kim said it was an “awesome responsibility to spend taxpayer funds, but there should be public view of those types of transactions.”
More transparency and board approval of further COVID-19 expenditures “is the right thing to do,” Kim said.
Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do said it was no longer necessary to have the chief executive handle coronavirus contracts with the same speed needed last year.
The emergency power was necessary so the county could be as “nimble” as required “with the situation that changed almost on a daily basis,” Do said. “If we have to wait two weeks for every board meeting or call special meetings every week, we’d never get things done. But now we know the flow. Now we know the staffing we need and things are falling into a system, a pattern that we can anticipate.”
In another sign of a return to normalcy, the county will soon shut down its vaccine distribution site at Disneyland, which is set to reopen on April 30.
“In many ways it’s a positive sign,” Do said. “Disneyland is getting back to business. It’s a good sign for the economy and the well-being of our economy.”
The appointments at Disnyeland will be moved to the Anaheim Convention Center. Kim said the county can still provide vaccinations for the disabled at the Orange County Fairgrounds and Soka University.
Do said Disneyland’s hosting of a vaccine site “showed that the community can come together and offer up whatever capacity they had in order to help the common cause to help defeat this virus in this pandemic.”
The supervisors on Tuesday are also expected to consider using $30 million from the most recent federal relief package to provide grants to local small businesses and nonprofits affected by the pandemic, Kim said. Some of the money will be for food assistance to the needy as well, Kim said.
So far in the county there have been 2,228,775 vaccine doses administered, Kim said.
Providence, the national nonprofit healthcare provider, partnered with Edwards Lifesciences, an Orange County-based medical technology company, and the cities of Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Tustin to open two mass vaccination clinics.
One opened Wednesday at the Edwards Lifesciences offices at 3009 Daimler St. in Santa Ana, and the other at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine will open on Monday as a drive-thru clinic.
Coronavirus daily case rates continue to decline, but not enough for Orange County to move into the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
According to numbers released Tuesday, the county’s weekly averages for adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 residents improved from 3 last Tuesday to 2.8. The overall positivity rate improved from 1.6% to 1.4%.
The county’s Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hotspots in disadvantaged communities, improved from 1.8% to 1.7%. The county’s positivity rates qualify for the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state system, but the case counts are still in the orange tier.
A graduation into the yellow tier requires that the case rate must get below 2 per 100,000 population.
Another 11,837 COVID-19 tests were logged Friday for a total of 3,590,415.
The eight additional deaths logged Friday raised the death toll in December to 937 and 1,510 in January. Those were the deadliest months since the pandemic began, with fatalities fueled by holiday activities.
The death toll so far in April is 10. The death toll for March stands at 174, and 574 for February.