Orange County reported just 18 more COVID-19 infections Friday and logged three additional virus-related deaths, as hospitalization rates ticked up slightly.

The new numbers, released Friday, upped the county’s cumulative case count to 255,588, while the death toll edged up to 5,095.

Hospitalizations increased from 53 Thursday to 56 Friday, and the number of intensive care unit patients remained at 14.

“The numbers are pretty stable,” Orange County CEO Frank Kim told City News Service.

In another sign of things returning to normal, the Orange County Health Care Agency will not provide weekend updates on COVID-19 cases, starting this weekend, and by July 1, the updates will be weekly on Tuesdays, Kim said.

Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, said the increase in hospitalizations should not be a concern.

“As beds become available, there’s a temptation to use (the ICU beds),” Noymer told City News Service, adding that any surge that might have come from Memorial Day weekend activities would probably be evident at this point.

“I’m not expecting one at all,” he said.

Noymer said he does not expect any surge when the state lifts more restrictions next week either.

“I have to doff my cap to (Gov. Gavin) Newsom and company,” Noymer said. “When they announced a long time ago a June 15 reopening, it seemed so forward looking, but it’s hard to argue with success. They gambled and they won.”

Kim said county officials continue to have concerns about what Cal-OSHA will do regarding face coverings in work places. The agency had indicated it would lift mandates for face coverings for vaccinated employees, but there’s another meeting scheduled for next week, Kim said.

“I think everyone’s frustrated with the state,” Kim said. “The big issue for us is the Cal-OSHA meeting on the 17th of June. They may consider again looking at mask and social distancing guidance … that affects our workplace and what happens at board meetings.”

Of the fatalities logged Friday, two occurred last month and one in January. One was an assisted living facility resident, upping the total in that category since the pandemic began to 589, and another was a transient, increasing the total in that category to 13, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The new fatalities increased May’s death toll to 18. There has been only one fatality reported so far this month.

April’s death toll stands at 41; with the number at 185 for March; 588 in February; 1,554 for January, the deadliest month in the pandemic; and 960 for December, the next deadliest month.

The county is now focusing vaccination efforts on mobile sites, Kim said.

“We did 22 last week. Our goal is to do more, but they’re going fine,” he said.

The mobile clinics are handling 175 to 300 vaccinations, he said.

He noted the mobile clinics are getting inoculations done quickly. He said a friend took his 14-year-old daughter for a shot and was done in 20 minutes.

The number of fully vaccinated Orange County residents is 1.6 million, which is about half of the county’s residents, including children who are not yet eligible for inoculations.

Officials are hopeful they will get 70% of eligible residents vaccinated in the next 30 days, Kim said.

Another 8,119 COVID-19 tests were reported Friday, bringing the county’s total to 4,002,029.

The county’s weekly average of tests per 100,000 residents dropped from 233.1 last week to 210.1.

According to weekly state data released every Tuesday, the county’s average daily new case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 0.9 to 0.8. The overall test positivity rate ticked up from 0.6% to 0.7%, and the county’s Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hot spots in disadvantaged communities, inched up from 0.7% to 0.8%.

Those numbers guaranteed the county will remain in the least-restrictive yellow tier. Regardless, the state is getting ready to scrap its tier system for reopening the economy on Tuesday, with the vast majority of health restrictions lifted.

Orange County officially entered the least-restrictive yellow tier of the reopening blueprint on May 19, which allowed for greater attendance for many businesses such as movie theaters and gyms, while museums, zoos and aquariums were allowed to open at full capacity.

For the first time, bars and distilleries were able to open indoors, and theme parks such as Disneyland could expand attendance.

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