The number of coronavirus patients in Orange County hospitals has declined by four people to 202, with 30 of those patients in intensive care, up from 28, according to the latest state data.
Those numbers Saturday came one day after county health officials reported that hospitalizations and positivity rates have continued a downward trend, as new vaccines are set to roll out targeting the Omicron variant.
The county’s test positivity rate dropped from 12.4% Monday to 11.2% as of Thursday, and dropped from 14.2% to 12.9% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
“The Orange County numbers are looking good,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service on Friday. “The deaths are slowing down and (so is) the testing positive percentage.”
The OCHCA logged 1,327 more infections from Monday to Thursday, raising the cumulative figure since the pandemic began to 660,115. The county also reported seven more fatalities, raising its cumulative death toll to 7,357.
Of those fatalities, six occurred in August, increasing last month’s death toll to 65. The seventh happened in July, increasing that month’s toll to 118.
The last month the count had more than 100 deaths was in February, when 347 people died of COVID-related causes.
Of the patients hospitalized, 69.4% are incompletely vaccinated or unvaccinated, the OCHCA said. The rate is at 70.2% in the ICU. Officials have said it’s difficult to determine how many patients were admitted directly for COVID-19 and how many tested positive after admittance for some other ailment.
The county’s daily case rate per 100,000 people decreased from 16.9 to 15.4 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and from 17.4 to 15.8 for the adjusted rate, also with a seven-day average and seven-day lag.
The seven-day case rate per 100,000 for fully vaccinated residents who received a booster went from 18.4 on Aug. 21 to 13 on Aug. 28. The rate for those fully vaccinated with no booster went from 11.5 to 7.9, and went from 21.9 to 15.8 for not fully vaccinated residents.
The OCHCA provides regular COVID updates on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Noymer encouraged residents to get the newly approved COVID vaccine boosters specifically engineered to combat the Omicron variant. He added that residents should make sure when they make an appointment that they’re receiving the new vaccine and not the older booster.
Anyone who has received a booster shot should wait at least eight weeks before getting the new booster, Noymer said.
The bivalent boosters were developed to generate an immune response from the original COVID-19 virus and BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants. A Pfizer/BioNTech booster is for those age 12 and over, while a Moderna bivalent booster is for those age 18 and older.
“Most Californians are now eligible for an updated Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech booster and will be able to strengthen their protection against COVID-19 as we head into the fall and winter seasons,” California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and state Public Health Director Dr. TomÃ¡s J. AragÃ³n said in a joint statement issued Saturday.
“These boosters are bivalent, which means they are pulling double duty by increasing immunity against the original coronavirus strain while also protecting against the newer Omicron variants threatening Californians,” the statement continued. “Because protection from infection can decrease over time, the updated boosters are a safe way to maintain protection and reduce the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization, long COVID, and death.”
It is unclear how effective the new vaccine will be on the Omicron variant, Noymer said.
“It’s basically a situation like the flu shot,” Noymer said. “The flu shot comes out every year and we don’t know about that either until the spring when we can do our best to sort it out.”