Orange County COVID-19 hospitalizations and infection rates continued ticking down, according to data released Wednesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Hospitalizations declined from 125 to 123, while the number of those patients in intensive care increased by one to 26.
The last time hospitalizations were this low was in mid-July before the Delta variant-fueled summer surge. Of those hospitalized, 84% are unvaccinated and 86% percent in intensive care are not inoculated.
The county reported 111 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, upping the cumulative total to 546,019. The county also logged 10 new fatalities tied to the virus, increasing the cumulative death toll to 6,856.
Of the deaths logged, five occurred in March, increasing this month’s death toll to 26. Two fatalities occurred in February, boosting its death toll to 295.
January’s death toll rose by one to 535, December’s stands at 111, November’s at 115, October’s increased by one to 137, September’s stands at 202 and August’s at 187.
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 declined from 3.7 Tuesday to 3.5 Wednesday. The testing positivity rate ticked down from 1.9% to 1.7% and declined from 2.3% to 2.1% in the health equity quartile, which measures underserved communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
The county had 32% of its ICU beds available and 68.3% of its ventilators. Local health officials become concerned when the level of ICU beds falls below 20%.
Starting Wednesday, uninsured residents are not able to go to their local pharmacy or other health care providers to get a free shot or COVID-19 test.
However, Dr. Clayton Chau, the OCHCA’s director, told Orange County supervisors at their meeting Tuesday that county-supported clinics and partners such as Latino Health Access will continue providing tests and shots for no cost for the time being.
Chau said the agency could continue doing so for six months to a year as its prepares for the anticipated fourth dose of COVID vaccine to become widely available.
“Our plan is to continue and to provide the testing and vaccination for individuals — obviously there’s a cost attached to that,” Chau said. “My team is working on a budget line item to submit to the CEO and CFO, but it’s kind of difficult to make a prediction (on) how much money we would need to continue to support the testing and vaccination for individuals who are not insured.”
Residents who are covered by Caloptima, the county’s insurance agency for the needy, may still get shots and tests for no cost.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said there is some federal funding for COVID-19 programs available, and the county is expecting another $308 million in May or June.