Orange County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations remained stable, according to the latest data released Thursday.
The number of COVID patients in county hospitals ticked up from 205 Wednesday to 207 Thursday, with the number of intensive care patients remaining at 40.
The county has 23.6% of its ICU beds available and 69% of its ventilators.
OC also logged 198 new infections and five additional fatalities Thursday, raising the cumulative totals to 300,944 cases and 5,513 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
One of the fatalities occurred on Oct. 1, raising the death toll for this month to two so far.
Three of the fatalities occurred last month, raising September’s death toll to 136.
The death toll in August stands at 168.
The death toll for July rose by one to 28, 19 for June, 26 for May, 46 for April, 199 for March, 615 for February, 1,581 for January — the deadliest month of the pandemic — and 976 for December, the next deadliest.
Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, deputy county health officer, said Friday that the vast majority of September’s fatalities were among unvaccinated people. The victims are also trending younger than previous surges, she added.
In September, 45% of those who died were younger than 65, and 97% were unvaccinated, she said.
“I don’t want us to repeat what happened this summer because so much could have been prevented if we’d been a little more cautious,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “Until we can get more of our younger folks vaccinated we need to take precautions.”
Chinsio-Kwong said she is concerned that the upcoming holiday season, starting with Halloween, will spur another winter surge. She encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated for the upcoming flu season, and noted it takes two weeks to develop full immunity after the shot — so if they get it now, it will be in time for Halloween festivities.
“The flu is right around the corner,” Chinsio-Kwong said Friday. “Some are asking, `Can you get the flu and COVID at the same time?’ and the answer is yes.”
Chinsio-Kwong said it was “technically safe to go trick-or-treating, especially if it’s outdoors,” but everyone should be mindful of continuing efforts to avoid infection such as social distancing, good hand hygiene and wearing a mask.
“Kids love to eat candy and so do I, but it means removing your mask,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “This should be a fun and exciting time and it should be safe, but use some caution if you’re indoors.”
Chinsio-Kwong suggested Halloween and Dia de los Muertos festivities could be used as an excuse to decorate masks.
Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service that he is not as concerned about a double whammy with COVID-19 and the flu.
“People said the same thing last winter, so I’ll believe it when I see it,” Noymer said. “I do expect more flu this winter than last winter … Flu will eventually come back and it will be this winter, but it’s too early to say it will be a calamity.”
On Tuesday, the county’s weekly case rate per 100,000 residents improved from 8 to 7, while the positivity rate fell from 2.9% to 2.7%. The county’s Health Equity Quartile positivity rate — which measures progress in low-income communities — dropped from 3.1% to 3%.
“Slow and steady wins the race,” Noymer said. “I’d rather see faster improvement, but if we can’t have that I’ll take this. … The numbers are looking good.”
As of Oct. 9, the county’s new case rate per 100,000 people was 3.1 among fully vaccinated residents and 14.6 for the unvaccinated.
The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County increased from 2,135,325 on Oct. 7 to 2,147,048 on Thursday.
That number includes an increase from 1,994,678 to 2,005,340 of residents who have received the two-dose regimen of vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna. The number of residents receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine increased from 140,647 to 141,708.
There are 193,701 residents who have received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The top providers of vaccines are the OCHCA at 26.40%, CVS at 18.40%, Walgreens at 6.20%, Kaiser Permanente at 5.40%, UC Irvine Health at 2.70%; Walmart at 1.90%, Safeway, Vons and Pavilions at 1.20%; Families Together of Orange County at 1.10%, and multiple others below 1%.