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Orange County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and infection rates maintained steady increases as four more fatalities were logged for this month, according to the latest data released by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Hospitalizations increased from 129 on Tuesday to 139 Thursday, with intensive care unit patients declining from 18 to 17 during the same time period.

The county has 26% of its ICU beds available, well above the 20% level when officials get concerned.

“It’s more of the same, but nowhere near the 200 number (of patients) that I would call a full-blown wave of hospitalizations,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service.

Some of those hospital cases may be what officials call “incidental” as they are patients who were admitted to be treated for another malady and tested positive. It was unclear what the ratio is.

Noymer told CNS that the ICU numbers have not gone up markedly.

“The ICU is still low, which is important, and which kind of indicates some of those (hospitalizations) may be incidental (cases).”

Noymer was concerned about the infection rate.

The testing positivity rate went from 5.5% as of Tuesday to 6.2% on Friday.

“That’s too high,” he said. “We’re having another little wave and I expect it to build a little further before it crests.”

Noymer advised residents to play it safe during the Memorial Day weekend.

“I would say outdoor gatherings with at-home test kits before they attend, particularly if elderly people will be present or they share a household with (a vulnerable person),” Noymer said. “And masking indoors, particularly if it’s an activity that doesn’t benefit from being unmasked.”

The rate went from 2.4% to 2.9% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

The daily case rate per 100,000 people in Orange County increased from 18.3 as of Tuesday to 21.5 on a seven-day average with seven-day lag, and from 13.7 to 15.9 for the adjusted rate with a seven-day average and seven-day lag.

The county logged 2,973 more infections from Tuesday through Thursday, raising the cumulative case count to 569,375. The four newly logged fatalities raises the overall death toll to 7,034.

Of those hospitalized, 83.4% are unvaccinated, and 86.7% of ICU patients are not inoculated, according to the OCHCA.

May’s death toll climbed to 10, while last month’s death toll stands at 30, March’s is 86, February’s is 330, January’s is 554, and December’s is 115.

The case rate per 100,000 people for fully vaccinated residents who have received a vaccine booster increased from 21.4 on May 14 to 24.6 on May 21, the latest data available show. The case rate for residents fully vaccinated with no booster went from 12.9 to 15.1, and the case rate for residents not fully vaccinated went from 19.4 to 22.5.

The number of vaccines administered in Orange County increased from 2,313,029 last week to 2,315,464, according to Tuesday’s data.

That number includes an increase from 2,172,777 to 2,175,562 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 decreased from 140,252 to 139,902 as officials continue to adjust to a new accounting of shots administered in the counties across the state.

Booster shots increased from 1,279,272 to 1,283,905.

In the most recently eligible age group of 5 to 11 years old, the number of children vaccinated increased from 90,557 to 90,917, versus 177,663, who have not been vaccinated. It’s the least-vaccinated age group in Orange County.

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