Hospital - Photo courtesy of Hush Naidoo Jade on Unsplash

The number of coronavirus patients in Orange County hospitals has decreased by nine people to 129, while the number of those patients in intensive care dropped by two to 19, according to the latest state figures.

The county had 26% of its ICU beds available as of Saturday, 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 on Friday.

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.

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

Noymer was concerned about the rising infection rate, however, advising 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.”

OC’s test positivity rate went from 5.5% as of Tuesday to 6.2% on Friday, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

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

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 Tuesday through Thursday, raising the cumulative case count to 569,375. The four newly logged fatalities raised the overall death toll to 7,034.

The OCHCA does not report COVID data on weekends.

Health officials have said the majority of people who die of COVID complications have underlying conditions, mainly hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

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

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