Empty hospital example. Photo via Pixabay.

Orange County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and infection rates remained about the same, according to data released Tuesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Patient levels inched up from 139 to 140, according to the latest data released Tuesday. The number of intensive care unit patients remained at 31.

The new case rate per 100,000 people stayed at 5.7, the same as on Monday, according to the OCHCA. The testing positivity rate stayed at 2.6%, and ticked down 3.2% to 3% in the health equity quartile, which measures underserved communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

“Our numbers are now down,” Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county’s health officer, told reporters Tuesday. “We continue to see deaths rise … Even though this seems like a benign illness it is not. Many are still passing away from COVID.”

Chinsio-Kwong encouraged residents to continue wearing a mask indoors if they live with someone who is immunocompromised or if they have children not yet eligible for vaccination. The requirement for students to wear face coverings on campus has been lifted, but Chinsio-Kwong still “strongly recommended” it.

“With different variants around, we still encourage the use of masking,” she said.

She noted there are “some other nations where cases are rising.”

The county had 32% of its ICU beds available and 67.5% of its ventilators as of Tuesday. Local health officials become concerned when the level of ICU beds falls below 20%.

Of those hospitalized, approximately 83% are unvaccinated and 86% of those being treated in the ICU are not inoculated, according to the OCHCA.

The county logged 155 new positive cases on Tuesday, raising the cumulative total to 543,587, and five more fatalities, boosting the overall death toll to 6,783.

Of the fatalities logged Tuesday, one happened this month, increasing March’s death toll to nine. Another three happened last month, increasing February’s death toll to 259. And another happened in September.

January’s death toll stands at 523, December’s death toll stands at 108, November’s at 115, October’s at 136, September’s at 201 and August’s at 186.

January 2021 was the deadliest month of the pandemic, with a death toll of 1,600, ahead of December 2020, the next-deadliest with 986 people lost to the virus.

The case rate per 100,000 people decreased from 7.2 Feb. 26 to 4.6 March 5 for those fully vaccinated with a booster shot; from 5.9 to 4.6 for those fully vaccinated with no booster; and 12.2 to 8 for those not fully vaccinated.

The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County rose from 2,437,965 last week to 2,441,941, according to data released Thursday. That number includes an increase from 2,281,901 to 2,285,767 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 increased from 156,064 to 156,174. Booster shots increased from 1,207,236 to 1,217,204.

In the most recently eligible age group of 5 to 11 years old, the number of children vaccinated increased from 82,166 to 83,724, versus 184,856 who have not been vaccinated. It’s the least vaccinated age group in Orange County. The next-least vaccinated eligible age group is 25 to 34, with 323,383 inoculated and 136,013 who have not received a shot.

The age group that has received the most booster shots is 55 to 64.

In the 5-11 age group just 36% have received at least one dose, Chinsio-Kwong said. In the 12-17 age group, 73% have received at least one dose. Among seniors 65 and older 99% have received at least one dose.

Chinsio-Kwong urged parents of younger children to consult with their pediatrician or family physician for advice.

“We really urge you to contact your health care provider or pediatrician to get your questions answered and get vaccinated, especially now since mask requirements are being lifted,” Chinsio-Kwong said.

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