Orange County health officials Thursday reported another 17 COVID-19 fatalities, raising the death toll over 600, along with 506 more coronavirus diagnoses to bring the cumulative case total to 35,778, but hospitalization numbers declined.
The number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in Orange County hospitals dropped from 626 to 592, while the number of patients in intensive care dropped from 204 to 189, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Since Sunday, the county has reported 42 coronavirus-related deaths. Last week, the county reported 70 deaths, down from 73 the week before.
Three of Thursday’s reported fatalities were skilled nursing facility residents and one was an assisted living facility resident. Of the total deaths, 258 were skilled nursing facility residents, 22 lived in assisted living facilities, and one was homeless. Of the total cases, 1,653 were skilled nursing facility residents, 472 were jail inmates and 136 were homeless.
Orange County is on the state’s watch list for counties experiencing high rates of new cases and hospitalizations. It has shown some improvement, but with some continuing concerns.
The county’s case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 153.2 Wednesday to 149.5, which is still far higher than the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents. The rate of residents testing positive for COVID-19 increased from 11% to 11.7%, higher than the state’s desired rate of 8%.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from -4.8% Wednesday to -8.6%, much lower than the state’s threshold of 10% increase.
Available ICU beds increased from 37% to 38%, but the percentage of ventilators available decreased from 65% to 57%. The state’s threshold is 20% of ICU beds available to handle a surge and 25% ventilators on hand.
Dr. Clayton Chau, HCA director and interim chief health officer, told the Board of Supervisors earlier this week that the county’s positivity rate “has seen a trend of decreasing, so that’s a good sign,” but is still at a “concerning level.”
Chau, however, said the most important statistics to keep an eye on are the number of ICU beds and availability of ventilators and, “from that perspective we’re doing quite well.”
He said heightened hygiene, physical distancing and the wearing of face coverings “seems to be working to slow down the spread.”
Chau said the main concern has been “staff fatigue.”
Many nurses “have been infected,” so “the availability of nurses to make sure hospitals function is a point of concern for us … We have people who cannot go to work because they have been exposed or infected,” Chau said.
Three larger hospitals in the area have been “requesting support from the state for more staffing, specifically nursing staffing,” Chau said. “So that’s something we’re watching very closely… It does not mean those beds are available if you don’t have the nursing staff.”
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