Orange County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are nearing the summer surge’s peak, according to data released Monday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Hospitalizations increased in the county from 420 on Thursday to 545 as of Monday, with the number of patients in intensive care rising from 86 to 104. It was the OCHCA’s first update since Thursday.
The last time hospitalizations have been this high was Aug. 28. The summer peak was reached on Aug. 26, with 592 patients. A year ago on this date, there were 2,178 patients hospitalized, and it was just when vaccines were first being rolled out for front-line medical staff and first responders.
The county has 20.1% of its intensive care unit patient beds available and 67% of its ventilators as of Monday. Of the hospitalized patients, 87% are unvaccinated, and 88% of the ICU patients are not inoculated.
“If you look at the data across Southern California we’re seeing that the vast majority of individuals in hospital beds are those individuals who are unvaccinated,” Orange County CEO Frank Kim told City News Service. “We know the vaccines work. Unless you have a medical reason not to be vaccinated or a religious belief prevents you from getting the vaccine, then you should (get) the vaccine. It works. And those who are vaccinated generally have milder symptoms and it keeps them out of the hospitals.”
The county’s hospitals can handle the surge so far, Kim said.
“We know that we have surge capacity,” based on last winter’s surge, which peaked last January at 2,259 patients hospitalized.
But the average time to drop off a patient as of Thursday was between 46 and 47 minutes, according to OCHCA.
The county reported 15,427 new cases since Thursday, boosting the cumulative to 351,590. The county also logged five more fatalities, increasing the overall death toll to 5,895.
All of the deaths logged Monday occurred in December, including one on Christmas Day. The death toll for last month stands at 46.
November’s death toll stands at 101, 127 for October, 196 for September and 182 for August.
In contrast, the death toll before the more contagious Delta variant fueled a summer surge was 31 in July, 19 for June, 26 for May, 47 for April, 202 for March and 620 for February.
January 2021 remains the deadliest month of the pandemic with a death toll of 1,596, ahead of December 2020, the next deadliest with 985 people lost to the virus.
So far, the county has officially sequenced 28 cases of the Omicron variant, according to the OCHCA’s data.
The case rate per 100,000 residents for the unvaccinated was 83 as of Dec. 25, the most recent statistics available. That’s up from 31.7 on Dec. 18.
For the vaccinated, the case rate was 21.6, up from 6.1 as of Dec. 18.
The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County increased from 2,314,232 to 2,328,647, according to data released Thursday. That represents 67% of the county.
Of the population eligible to receive a shot aged 5 and up, the county is 71% vaccinated.