Orange County’s COVID-19 Omicron-variant-driven summer wave continues pushing up infection rates and hospitalizations, while also leading to nearly a dozen more fatalities this month, according to data released Tuesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 went from 281 on Friday to 298 on Monday, with the number of patients in intensive care rising from 40 to 45.

Officials cannot determine how many of the patients currently hospitalized were admitted directly for COVID-19 or tested positive while being treated for another ailment.

But from July 1 to July 10, 24 patients were admitted directly for COVID-19 and none of them were vaccinated.

According to the county, 83.4% of the patients are unvaccinated and 87.1% of ICU patients are unvaccinated.

The county has 30.7% of its ICU beds available. Officials become concerned if that level falls below 20%.

The county’s testing positivity rate increased from 18% Thursday to 19.3% on Monday, and rose from 18.5% to 20.7% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

The county’s daily case rate per 100,000 people is 37.5 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and 35.6 for the adjusted rate, also with a seven-day average and seven-day lag.

The county logged 4,402 more infections Thursday through Monday, raising the cumulative case count to 625,100. Eleven newly logged fatalities increased the overall death toll in the county to 7,181.

The fatalities all occurred this month, increasing the overall death toll for July to 24. June’s death toll stands at 43.

May’s death toll stands at 35. April’s death toll stands at 34, and the March death toll stands at 89. February’s death toll stands at 343, and January’s death toll is at 569.

The OCHCA provides regular COVID updates on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The case rate per 100,000 people for fully vaccinated residents who have received a vaccine booster went from 40.4 July 3 to 35.4 on July 10, the latest data available show. The case rate for residents fully vaccinated with no booster went from 24 to 21.2, and from 39.4 to 35.3 for residents not fully vaccinated.

“We’ve seen far worse than this, but it just keeps going up every Tuesday and Friday in the data dump,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service on Tuesday.

“We’ve seen far in excess of 45 in the ICU, but I just don’t like how this wave keeps building,” Noymer said. “And a higher testing positivity rate is not good news. Yes, it is challenging to interpret for a variety of reasons, but higher is not better and it’s higher than Friday, so we’re definitely in a building wave. … So we’re basically in another wave and it’s akin to the Delta wave of last August. Where it’s going to end, nobody can really say.”

Noymer encouraged anyone eligible for a second booster shot to get one, though they are having “diminishing returns” as the virus mutates.

The number of vaccinations administered in Orange County increased from 2,330,214 to 2,332,105, according to data released Tuesday. The county has also logged 203,913 residents who received one of two shots of Pfizer or Moderna.

Booster shots increased from 1,344,914 to 1,350,486.

In the age group of 5-11 years old, only about 35% are vaccinated.

In contrast, in the 12-17 age group, 68% are vaccinated and 32% are unvaccinated.

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