Orange County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations continued a downward trend Thursday, but four more fatalities have been added to the death toll for last month, the deadliest by far during this summer’s Delta variant-fueled surge.
Orange County’s COVID-19 patient count declined from 446 Wednesday to 432 on Thursday, with the number of patients in intensive care units dipping from 135 to 132.
The county has 22.7% of its ICU beds and 64% of its ventilators available.
“Today’s numbers look good,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service Thursday. “For the deaths, there’s nothing unusual in terms of the ages … Testing positivity is going down… Just keep up the good work, OC.”
Noymer added, “I’m not pleased there are more than 400 people in the hospital,” but added that it won’t simply drop down to 50 patients overnight. Most of the patients are unvaccinated, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The last time a fully vaccinated patient was admitted was Aug. 21, according to the OC HCA.
The county logged nine more fatalities, increasing the cumulative COVID-19 death toll to 5,295. Four of the fatalities occurred last month, increasing the August death toll to 106.
Three of the fatalities occurred in January and two happened in December. It is not uncommon for a long delay in reporting COVID-19 fatalities.
The August death toll stands in stark contrast with July, with just 20 deaths logged thus far. There have been no deaths reported for September yet.
The death toll for June was just 17, 23 in May, 45 in April, 199 in March, 615 in February, 1,578 in January — the deadliest month of the pandemic — and 975 in December, the next deadliest.
The OCHCA also added new metrics to its website measuring the case rate per 100,000 residents in various age groups, which breaks down as follows:
— Among infants up to 3 years old, the case rate is 6.8;
— for ages 4-9, it’s 12.4;
— for ages 10-12, it’s 14.4;
— for ages 13-14, it’s 14.1;
— for ages 15-18, it’s 12.8;
— for ages 19-24, it’s 14.5;
— for ages 25-34, it’s 17.1;
— for ages 35-44, it’s 15.7;
— for ages 45-54, it’s 13;
— for ages 55-64, it’s 11;
— for ages 65-74, it’s 8.7;
— for ages 75-84 it’s 8.8;
— for ages 85 and older, it’s 8.3.
On Tuesday, the county’s weekly COVID-19 case and positivity rates showed significant declines, providing more evidence that the county is emerging from the summer surge.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim told CNS on Tuesday that “our data looks pretty good.”
The county’s average daily case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 18.6 last week to 16, while the testing positivity rate fell from 6.8% to 5.4%.
The county’s Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures the impact of the pandemic on disadvantaged communities, dropped from 7.3% to 5.8%.
The positivity rates overall and in the Health Equity Quartile “have traded back and forth, but we’re not seeing significant disparity,” Kim said.
“We started to see a consistent decline the third week in August,” Kim said of the infection rates.
Testing has also rebounded, he said.
“What’s interesting is in July our testing dropped to an all-time low of 162 (per 100,000 residents),” Kim said. “But once the cases started to rise, they more than doubled.”
The county’s testing rate was 357.3 per 100,000 residents, according to the weekly averages.
Kim also said it appears vaccination demand was also on the rise.
“The vaccines have been here since January, we’re eight months into it and tens of millions of people are vaccinated and there have been some isolated cases of adverse reactions, but overall it’s a safe vaccine,” Kim said. “The vaccines are here, they’re plentiful and easy to get to and they’re working.”
The county has 2,043,693 fully vaccinated residents out of its 3.2 million population, according to data released on Thursday.
That number includes 1,908,595 who have received the two-dose regimen of vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna and 135,098, who have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There are 288,020 residents who have received at least one dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
There are 455,692 children 11 and younger in the county who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
The county’s case rate for fully vaccinated residents as of Saturday, the latest figures available, was 4.4 per 100,000, but 26 per 100,000 for the unvaccinated.
The OCHCA reported 296 new infections Thursday, raising the cumulative total to 289,235 cases since the pandemic began.
Some experts are concerned about the flu season this year as more students are back in classrooms. Last year, warnings of a “twindemic” did not pan out and some experts said it was because of widespread masking, but more students then were learning through remote programs from home.
“It was way overblown last year,” Noymer said of the forecasts of a “twindemic.”
Noymer said the term “twindemic implies crisis, so it’s a very alarmist term.”
Noymer said, “It remains to be seen” how many people catch the flu this year.
“I think we’ll have more flu than last year,” Noymer said, adding his “best guess” is it will be like a normal flu season.