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.

“We found a floor, and it’s around 200 cases in the hospital,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service Tuesday.

“I think it’s going to be awhile before it’s lower than that. I think it’s going to bounce around that and sometime during the winter it will bounce back up.”

The levels of infections and hospitalizations are “the new normal,” Noymer said.

“I think in May or June it will be like last May and June and things will go down lower, but we will have bought and paid for that lower level with a lot of dead people over the winter.”

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 total from throughout the pandemic to 311,217.

Two newly logged fatalities raised the 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 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.

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, according to Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county’s deputy health officer.

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