Orange County’s weekly COVID-19 case-rate averages remained relatively flat again this week, according to data released Tuesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The county’s weekly COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 residents declined from 7.3 the past two weeks to 6.9 Tuesday, while the rate of people testing positive for the virus ticked down from 2.8% last week to 2.7%.

The county’s Health Equity Quartile positivity rate — which measures progress in low-income communities — inched up from 2.9% to 3%, the same as two weeks ago.

Hospitalizations rose slightly from 186 Monday to 187 Tuesday, with the number of intensive care unit patients remaining at 49. The county has 22.5% of its ICU beds available and 68% of its ventilators, according to the OCHCA.

The county also logged 151 new infections, raising the cumulative number from throughout the pandemic to 311,217.

Two newly logged fatalities raised the cumulative virus-related death toll to 5,666. One of the fatalities occurred this month, raising the death toll for November to 13.

The other fatality occurred in October, raising the death toll for last month to 85.

The death toll stands at 172 for September, just behind August’s number of 174.

In contrast, the death toll before the more contagious Delta variant-fueled summer surge was 30 in July, 19 for June, 26 for May, 46 for April, 200 for March, 615 for February, 1,589 for January — the deadliest month of the pandemic — and 980 for December, the next-deadliest.

On Friday, Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county’s deputy health officer, said the nine people who had died as of then in November were all unvaccinated.

Chinsio-Kwong also told reporters Friday that more than 22,000 OC children aged 5 to 11 had received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccine in the last week. Between Nov. 8 and 15, 22,427 children in that newly eligible age group received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, Chinsio-Kwong said.

Chinsio-Kwong warned residents of a looming winter wave of cases, spurred by holiday gatherings. She pointed to rising infection numbers in European countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria, where the vaccination rates are higher than in the United States.

“It should be a warning to everyone in the United States that they should protect themselves,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “This is not the time to be less careful. If anything, we have to be more careful.”

The doctor encouraged residents to get vaccinated.

“Vaccines are effective and they do reduce hospitalizations and death,” she said, pointing to the most recent study in the Pacific Northwest.

For the unvaccinated, death occurred seven times more often than for the inoculated, she said. The infection rate was three times higher, she added.

For parents uneasy about the timing of vaccine mandates for students, Chinsio-Kwong said they won’t be required until the shots are fully approved, instead of the emergency use authorizations they have for kids younger than 16. That isn’t likely to happen until at least next summer, so they would not be required until the 2022-23 school year at the earliest, she said.

The doctor advised residents to be careful when gathering for Thanksgiving. It is best to have any get-togethers outdoors, but if they have to be indoors then the windows and doors should be opened to provide more ventilation, and getting vaccinated and using face coverings is advised, she said.

The county’s case rate per 100,000 for the fully vaccinated was at 3.2 as of Nov. 13, down from 3.6 on Nov. 6, according to the latest data available. The case rate for the unvaccinated was at 16.3, down from 18.2 during the same time period.

As of last Monday, 69% of the total population had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and 64% were fully vaccinated, Chinsio-Kwong said.

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