Orange County reported 85 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths Saturday, while the number of COVID patients in county hospitals increased by 14 over Friday’s total.
There are now 114 county residents in the hospital with the coronavirus, and 22 of those are in intensive care, an increase over the 15 ICU patients reported Friday, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Saturday’s numbers brought the county’s totals to 253,425 cases and 4,924 fatalities since the pandemic began.
The county has 30.4% of its ICU beds available and 74% of its ventilators.
Another 9,672 tests were reported Saturday for a total of 3,600,087.
County officials had expressed optimism on Friday, when the hospitalization total fell to 100.
“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,” he 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.