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The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Orange County hospitals continues to climb — but positivity rates are declining while a dozen more deaths have been logged, though most date back to the winter, according to data released Tuesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

“It’s a little perplexing, to be honest, because the testing positivity keeps going down,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, said of the divergence between hospitalizations and positivity rates.

The county’s testing positivity rate decreased from 15.6% Thursday to 14.8% Monday and remained at 18.3% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

“That’s a significant decline,” Noymer told city News Service. “But the hospitalization numbers are kind of stable, it not increasing a little bit, and the ICU numbers are likewise.”

Noymer noted that the ICU hospitalizations “doesn’t include incidental” patients, who were admitted for another malady and happened to test positive for COVID-19.

“So we’re sort of treading water,” Noymer said. “We’re not doing as badly as the hospital numbers suggest, because the percent positivity is going down, but we’re doing as well as what the percent positivity would suggest. … I do expect the ICU numbers to be in the upper 20s before the fall wave hits.”

From Thursday through Monday, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 went from 291 to 314, while the number of intensive care unit patients remained at 44.

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 1-31, 146 patients admitted directly for COVID-19 were designated as incompletely vaccinated or unvaccinated. Another 39 received the primary series of shots, and 57 received booster shots. From Aug. 1 through Aug. 6, nine of 10 patients were incompletely or unvaccinated, and one was vaccinated and boosted.

According to the county, 71.2% of hospital patients are incompletely vaccinated or totally unvaccinated. The percentage in intensive care is 72%.

The county has 24.4% of its ICU beds available. Officials become concerned if that level falls below 20%.

The county’s daily case rate per 100,000 people decreased from 25.7 to 23.5 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and from 25.7 to 22.6 for the adjusted rate, also with a seven-day average and seven-day lag.

The county logged 2,615 more infections from Thursday to Monday, raising the cumulative case count to 651,486. The county logged 12 more fatalities, raising the overall death toll to 7,274.

Of the fatalities logged since Thursday, one was in June, raising that month’s death toll to 55; one was in March, raising that month’s death toll to 90; four were in February, raising that month’s death toll to 347; four were in January, raising that month’s death toll to 573; one was in September, raising that month’s death toll to 208; and one was in August of last year, raising that month’s death toll to 192.

This month’s death toll remains at two, and July’s death toll stands at 98.

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 34.2 on July 31 to 22.7 on Aug. 7, the latest data available show. The case rate for residents fully vaccinated with no booster went from 21.2 to 14.5, and from 36 to 26.2 for residents not fully vaccinated.

The number of vaccinations administered in Orange County increased from 2,339,462 to 2,341,615, according to data released Tuesday. The county has also logged 207,109 residents who received one of two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Booster shots increased from 1,365,594 to 1,369,242.

In the most recently authorized age of 4 and younger, the number of fully vaccinated residents increased from 1,462 to 2,114 versus 184,635 unvaccinated. The number of children 4 and younger who have received at least one dose is at 8,427.

In the age group of 5-11 years old, only about 36% are vaccinated. But 40% have received at least one dose.

By contrast, in the 12-17 age group, 70% are vaccinated and 30% are unvaccinated.

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