The number of COVID-positive patients in Orange County hospitals fell from 1,022 on Friday to 1,007 Saturday, according to the latest state numbers.
The number of those patients in intensive care dropped from 178 to 174.
The county has seen a slight decrease in the number of COVID patients over the past several days. Some patients likely entered the hospital for other reasons and only discovered they had the coronavirus after a mandated test.
The county had 17.6% of its ICU beds available as of Friday and 58% of its ventilators, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. County officials get concerned when ICU bed availability dips below 20%.
Of those hospitalized, 85% are unvaccinated. The unvaccinated rate is 87% for the COVID patients in ICU.
The latest numbers come one day after the county reported an additional 29 deaths associated with COVID-19, and 4,751 new positive tests, bringing its cumulative totals to 508,043 cases and 6,066 fatalities since the pandemic started.
The OCHCA doesn’t report COVID data on weekends.
Every day last week, the county logged fatalities in the double digits but during the past three days, the fatalities have been about 30 each day and most of the deaths occurred in recent weeks.
“We should expect that the death curve is going to fill in,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service on Wednesday. “The January (death toll) is going to look an awful lot like the August (death toll) before it’s all said and done,” Noymer said.
“Omicron is less severe, but you can’t have hospitalizations in the thousands … without some deaths,” he added.
Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county’s deputy health officer, told reporters on a media call Wednesday that Omicron has ignited the largest wave yet in cases, and that can account for the spike in deaths.
“You have to realize the sheer number of COVID cases with this surge is so much higher than any other surge we’ve experienced,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “It’s possible we may see the same number of deaths as in the fall, but proportionate to the number of cases, that should be much lower than previous surges.”
With the Lunar New Year, the Super Bowl and this Sunday’s NFC championship game in Inglewood looming, Chinsio-Kwong warned residents to be careful and get vaccinated or boosted if they haven’t already. She also advised people to opt for a well-fitted mask and celebrate outdoors if possible.
Of the fatalities logged Friday, a dozen occurred this month, raising the January death toll to 105. Eleven of the fatalities occurred last month, raising December’s death toll to 100. One of the fatalities occurred in November, four happened in October and one happened in September.
Chinsio-Kwong said Wednesday of January’s deaths at that time, 43 were not vaccinated, five were vaccinated and received a booster and 19 got two shots but no booster. Of those inoculated who died, the majority were “older in age,” she said.
Of the fatalities logged Friday, four were 45 to 54 years old, three were in the 55-64 category, four were 65-74, seven were 75-84 and 11 were 85 or older.
Two of the dead reported Friday were skilled nursing facility residents, raising the overall toll in that category to 1,235. One was an assisted living facility resident, raising the death toll in that category to 650.
Outbreaks — defined as three or more infected residents — increased from 44 to 45 at elderly assisted living facilities from Jan. 24 to 26, the most recent data available, but decreased from 33 to 30 for skilled nursing facilities.
The county’s adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 residents dipped from 165.5 Thursday to 158.2 Friday. The testing positivity rate inched down from 23.9% to 23.3%, and edged down from 28.2% to 27.4% in the health equity quartile, which measures underserved communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
Chinsio-Kwong said county officials have seen a slowing in vaccinations of late, “but we’re still seeing some strides.” Of those who were inoculated, 44% have gotten a booster shot in the county, which is above the national average of 40%, she said.
The county is 69% fully vaccinated, and 73% vaccinated among eligible residents, Chinsio-Kwong said.