The number of coronavirus patients in Orange County hospitals has increased slightly amid a rising tide of COVID-19 infections that have local health officials worried an expected winter surge is taking off.
There were an even 200 COVID patients in county hospitals as of Saturday, up from 194 on Friday, according to the latest state figures. The number of those patients in intensive care was 59, down from 60 the day before.
The latest figures come one day after local officials reported 314 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths associated with the virus, raising its cumulative totals to 316,384 cases and 5,814 deaths, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The OCHCA does not report COVID cases or deaths on weekends.
The county has 19.1% of its ICU beds and 68% of its ventilators available, according to the OCHCA.
Of those hospitalized, 87% are unvaccinated, and of those in intensive care, 89% are unvaccinated, according to the latest data.
The increasing case counts “indicates we’re heading into a surge,” Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong said Friday.
The county’s deputy health officer added that testing of wastewater indicates the newer, more contagious Omicron variant was likely circulating in California prior to Thanksgiving.
“Delta still remains the single most sequenced strain that is causing all of our hospitalizations,” Chinsio-Kwong noted. “That should encourage more people to get vaccinated.”
Hospital officials already “have to brace themselves for a very busy season,” whether Omicron overcomes Delta or not.
“At a minimum we may see the same rise of hospitalizations we saw in August or September, which peaked at 592 patients Aug. 26. That’s dwarfed by 2,259 patients on Jan. 7, just as vaccines were being rolled out for health care workers.
“We’re hoping we can avert that, but it does require everyone to be more cautious and to wear a mask indoors,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “Everybody needs to take their risk factors into account. We are strongly encouraging everyone who is eligible to get a booster vaccine.”
The case rates per 100,000 residents increased from 5.8 the previous week to 7 as of Wednesday, Orange County CEO Frank Kim told City News Service on Wednesday. The test positivity rate increased from 2.6 to 3.4, he added.
“There’s a bump we’re seeing, and a corresponding bump in hospitalizations,” since Thanksgiving, Kim said. “Hopefully, it doesn’t get much worse than this and it is fairly mild.”
Still, the pace of infections and hospitalizations are manageable, Kim added. “When I talk to the hospital systems they say it’s manageable.”
The case rate per 100,000 residents among the unvaccinated climbed from 14.4 on Nov. 27 to 24.2 as of Dec. 4, the latest figures available from the OCHCA. The case rate per 100,000 for vaccinated residents increased from 2.9 to 4.5 during the same time frame.
The county’s weekly COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 residents increased from 6.1 to 6.4, while the rate of people testing positive for the virus increased from to 2.4% to 3.3%, according to the data that is released on Tuesdays.
The county’s Health Equity Quartile positivity rate — which measures progress in low-income communities — increased from 2.8% to 3.3%.