Orange County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to fall Monday, reaching levels not seen since late July.
Hospitalizations dropped from 210 on Friday to 175 on Monday, with the number of intensive care unit patients declining from 39 to 34, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency, which does not update statistics on Saturdays and Sundays.
The county had 25.3% of its ICU beds available and 72% of its ventilators.
The county also reported 666 new infections since Friday and logged 10 more deaths, raising the cumulative totals to 301,854 cases and 5,528 deaths since the pandemic began.
Of the deaths reported Monday, four occurred this month, raising October’s death toll to six.
The remainder occurred in September, raising the death toll for last month to 143. The death toll for August stands at 168.
In contrast, the death toll before the more contagious Delta variant-fueled surge was 28 in July, 19 for June, 26 for May, 46 for April, 199 for March, 615 for February, 1,585 for January — the deadliest month of the pandemic — and 976 for December, the next deadliest.
“We’re in a gradual decline,” Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county’s deputy county health officer, told reporters Friday.
She added that “case rates are very slowly declining,” compared to previous surges when “case rates went down more significantly compared to this.”
There was a week to week bump from two to six in the number of children with COVID-19 in intensive care units since the previous week, Chinsio-Kwong said. She encouraged parents to keep a close eye on their children following a COVID-19 diagnosis, because even if they recover quickly there could be issues down the line with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C.
“For kids who get COVID, even if they didn’t have that many symptoms, it’s the period after — about a month later — when they’ll still need to watch their kid closely if they develop any other symptoms of ongoing fevers, ongoing headaches, shortness of breath,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “Children can get MIS-C. Some of these not hospitalized (initially) can get hospitalized. … The expectation is we’ll likely see a rise in MIS-C in children in upcoming weeks.”
Most of those who died in September were unvaccinated. The same trend is true for those who are hospitalized, she said.
Chinsio-Kwong again encouraged residents to get flu and COVID-19 shots, stressing it is safe to get both.
“Flu is around the corner — technically it’s already here,” she said. “It’s between October and May and we’ll see a spike in November.”
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials are projecting a “more severe flu season compared with last season” because, “many people were not exposed to the flu last season or did not get vaccinated. The last thing you want to do is deal with COVID as well as the flu.”
Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service 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.”
Last Tuesday, the county’s weekly COVID case rate per 100,000 residents improved from 8 to 7, while the testing-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.
Chinsio-Kwong said Orange County has seen the same trend as elsewhere in Southern California of a gradual decline in vaccine demand.