Doctors - photos courtesy of Pixabay

A plan to quickly scale up staffing for any potential future surges of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and other services needed was approved Wednesday by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

The board approved private contracts to provide staffing if large pods need to be set up to dispense modified vaccines or erect tents at hospitals to cover an overflow of patients as has happened in previous surges during the pandemic. County staff was taxed too much in prior surges, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said.

“We have the capacity to step up,” Kim told City News Service. “If we have to do a huge response to staff mass pods again we can’t do it with county staff again.”

The contracts allow for the staffing through June 2024, Kim said.

Despite the highly contagious Omicron variant-driven surge the county is in, Kim said he was not concerned about the ability of hospitals to handle the increase in patients.

“Eighty percent of the population is vaccinated,” Kim said. “And we know the feds are working on approving modified vaccines that address Omicron. We’ll see if it’s necessary.”

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 went from 298 last Monday to 341 this Monday, with the number of patients in intensive care decreasing from 45 to 35, according to data released Tuesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

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

But from July 1-10, 15 patients were admitted directly for COVID-19 who were designated as incompletely vaccinated or totally unvaccinated. Another five were vaccinated with no booster, and another four received shots and a booster.

According to the county, 71.5% of patients are incompletely vaccinated or totally unvaccinated. The percentage in ICU is 72.6%.

The county has 34.4% of its ICU beds available. Officials become concerned if that level falls below 20%.

The county’s testing positivity rate increased from 19.3% a week ago to 19.6%, and rose from 20.7% to 22.4% 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 38.7 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 4,596 more infections since Friday, raising the cumulative case count to 633,223. There have been 14 fatalities logged since Friday, raising the overall death toll to 7,195.

Of the fatalities logged since Friday, all but one was this month, raising July’s death toll to 37. One fatality was in June, raising its death toll to 44.

May’s death toll stands at 35, April’s at 34, March’s at 89, February’s death at 343 and January’s 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 43 on July 10 to 36.2 on July 17, the latest data available show. The case rate for residents fully vaccinated with no booster went from 25.2 to 21.7, and from 43.4 to 37.2 for residents not fully vaccinated.

The number of vaccinations administered in Orange County increased from 2,332,105 to 2,334,335, according to data released Tuesday. The county has also logged 205,374 residents who received one of two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Booster shots increased from 1,350,486 to 1,356,048.

In the most recently authorized age of 4 and younger, the county has logged just 301 fully vaccinated residents versus 186,932 unvaccinated.

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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