Orange County health officials Thursday reported seven COVID-19 fatalities, raising the death toll in the county to 306, and a jump in the number of patients hospitalized due to the virus.
The seven fatalities raise this week’s death toll to 39. Wednesday was the deadliest day since the pandemic began as officials reported 26 fatalities.
More than half of the county’s fatalities — 157 — involve residents of nursing homes, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The county reported 506 new coronavirus cases, raising the cumulative to 11,511 cases. The number of hospitalized patients rose from 363 on Wednesday to 394, with the number of patients in intensive care increasing from 145 to 147.
A total of 231,902 tests have been completed, and the number of documented recoveries stands at 5,326.
The total number of Orange County coronavirus cases break down to 50% men and 50% women, but men account for 56% of the deaths, according to the HCA.
Last weekend, the agency reported record numbers of COVID-19 cases and blamed the high numbers in part on a backlog in the reporting of test results. But many Southland health officials have also cited a recent increase in community transmission.
Santa Ana leads all county cities with 2,415 cases, followed by Anaheim with 2,207. The high numbers in Orange County’s two largest cities are attributed to their population size and the presence of multiple nursing homes in both cities.
In Orange County’s jails, 392 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus with 387 having recovered. Five inmates currently experiencing symptoms are in medical quarantine and officials are awaiting the results of 77 tests.
Dr. Clayton Chau, the Health Care Agency’s director and interim chief health officer, told the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the county’s test positivity rate is 6.7%, which is lower than the state’s standard of 8%, which triggers a state response. The county also has more than enough beds in its hospitals and intensive care units, he said.
Supervisor Don Wagner said the hospitalization rate includes patients who may have been brought to a hospital for a “slip and fall” or “appendicitis” but tested positive for COVID-19.
The rate also includes about 30 people from Imperial County, who have been treated in Orange County as part of a plan to relieve a surplus of patients there. There were nine patients from Imperial County in Orange County beds as of Tuesday, prompting Wagner and Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel to call for a more specific breakdown of the numbers on the county’s website.
“How in the world can you make medical decisions and we make policy decisions on this amorphous data,” Wagner said.
Chau said he intends to debut a “version 2.0” of the county’s coronavirus website by week’s end.
He said he is most concerned about watching the “positivity rate” and whether the county has enough bed space to handle a surge of patients.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said she would like county officials to list restaurants that have had to close for COVID-19-related reasons, pointing out that it’s being done in neighboring counties such as Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside. She also noted that eateries are listed publicly when they have to shut down for a pest infestation.
Bartlett said when she went to dine at a couple of area restaurants recently, she was alarmed at how lax the staff cleaned up after patrons and that one restaurant did not have disposable menus as required.
In what is becoming a weekly ritual, dozens of residents spoke out on facial coverings at the Board of Supervisors meeting, with a growing number speaking in favor of wearing masks.
The county’s previous health officer resigned after receiving death threats over her mandatory face covering mandate, which was then rolled back to a strong recommendation by Chau the same week. Gov. Gavin Newsom subsequently issued a statewide face coverings mandate.