Orange County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations fell by 20 patients as 13 more fatalities were logged, according to data recently released by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Orange County reported 314 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths associated with the virus Thursday. That brings the county’s cumulative totals to 313,387 cases and 5,749 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to the OCHCA.

The number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals tumbled from 189 on Wednesday to 169 on Thursday, with the number of intensive care patients ticking up from 54 to 55.

Of those hospitalized, 86% are unvaccinated and 88% of those in intensive care are unvaccinated.

The county had 20.4% of its ICU beds and 70% of its ventilators available.

The county’s case rate per 100,000 for the fully vaccinated was at 2.6 as of Nov. 27, down from 2.9 on Nov. 20, according to the latest data available. The case rate for the unvaccinated was at 12.7, down from 15.1, during the same time period.

The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County increased from 2,229,621 as of Nov. 24 to 2,242,235 as of Thursday.

That number includes an increase from 2,080,656 to 2,093,447 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 stands at 148,788.

There are 229,507 residents who have received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Since booster shots have been allowed for age groups under 65 the breakdown is as follows so far:

–1,312 for ages 12 to 17;

–16,963 for ages 18 to 24;

–41,982 for ages 25 to 34;

–54,901 for ages 35 to 44;

–72,079 for ages 45 to 54 and;

–100,109 for age 55 to 64.

Since ages 5 to 11 were allowed earlier this month, 41,984 children have received at least one dose. That leaves 226,596 children 5 to 11 who have not been vaccinated in the county.

Of the fatalities logged Thursday, 10 occurred in November, raising last month’s death toll to 41. Two occurred in October, raising that month’s death toll to 112. One occurred at the end of August.

September’s death toll stands at 188, ahead of August’s death toll of 177.

In contrast, the death toll before the more contagious Delta variant-fueled summer surge was 31 in July, 19 for June, 26 for May, 46 for April, 200 for March, 616 for February.

January remains the deadliest month of the pandemic with a death toll of 1,593, ahead of December, the next deadliest at 982.

In the wake of the announcement that the first U.S. case of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in San Francisco, the head of UC Irvine’s COVID-19 response team said Wednesday that it is too early to gauge the impact the new mutation will have. On Thursday, an Omicron case was discovered in Minnesota.

“It’s in the very, very early days right now and we really don’t have a lot of good information to go on,” UCI’s David Souleles, formerly of the Orange County Health Care Agency, told City News Service on Wednesday.

Scientists are researching whether Omicron is as contagious as the Delta variant that sent COVID numbers soaring earlier this year, whether it is more harmful in terms of symptoms or how much it can evade vaccines, Souleles said.

Omicron was first detected last week in South Africa, he noted.

“We should start to know more in the coming weeks, but it’s too early to make any type of predictions,” Souleles said.

Souleles said it was “good news” that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, believes the current vaccines “provide some level of protection” against Omicron.

Delta continues to be the dominant strain and it remains to be seen if Omicron can overcome it, as other variants have not been able to compete so far.

Souleles said he was “not surprised” that Omicron was first detected in California, noting that Orange and Los Angeles counties were the second and third jurisdictions to detect COVID-19 in the United States on Jan. 25, 2020.

“We should keep doing what we’ve been doing — get vaccinated,” Souleles said. “All of those things will help provide protection and help stop the spread of Delta, and that prevents further variants from emerging.”

He also said it was important to continue to rely on masking as well.

Souleles noted that 98% of UCI’s students and 96% of its employees are fully vaccinated. There have only been a “very few” students and employees who have sought medical or religious exemptions, he said.

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