COVID-19 testing
COVID-19 testing near LAX. MyNewsLA photo

Orange County’s COVID-19 test positivity rates have shown a significant decline over the last week, but hospitalizations have been creeping back up, according to figures released Wednesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 increased from 203 as of Saturday to 213 as of Tuesday, with the number of patients in intensive care dropping from 36 to 31, according to the latest figures available.

The county had 22% of its ICU beds available, above the level of 20% when officials grow concerned.

Of the patients hospitalized with the virus, 69.2% are incompletely vaccinated or unvaccinated. The rate is 70% for the ICU patients.

“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 last Friday. “The deaths are slowing down and the testing positive percentage.”

Noymer said Friday he hoped the test positivity rate would drop below 10, and it has.

The county’s test positivity rate dropped from 11.2% Thursday to 9.8% as of Monday, and dropped from 12.9% to 11.6% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic, according to the agency.

The county logged 901 more infections from Friday through Monday, raising the cumulative figure since the pandemic began to 661,016. The OCHCA also reported eight additional deaths linked to the virus Tuesday, raising its cumulative death toll to 7,365.

Of those fatalities, five occurred in August, increasing last month’s death toll to 70. One occurred in July, increasing that month’s death toll to 119. Two others happened in June, increasing that month’s death toll to 56.

The last month the count had more than 100 deaths was in February when 347 died.

The OCHCA provides regular COVID updates on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The county’s daily case rate per 100,000 people decreased from 15.4 last week to 13.7 Monday on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and from 15.8 to 14.1 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 15 on Aug. 28. The rate for those fully vaccinated with no booster went from 11.5 to 9.3, and from 22 to 18.2 for not fully vaccinated residents.

Noymer encouraged residents to get the newly approved Omicron variant vaccines. But residents should make sure when they make an appointment that they are receiving the new vaccine for the Omicron variant and not the older booster.

“With the new one so imminently available nobody should be getting the old school one,” Noymer said.

Anyone who has received a booster shot should wait at least eight weeks before getting the new booster, Noymer said.

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 like until the spring when we can do our best to sort it out.”

The new vaccine is designed to combat the BA.5 variant.

The number of residents fully vaccinated increased from 2,345,356 last week to 2,346,825 Tuesday, according to the OCHCA. The number of residents who have received at least one dose was at 207,427. The number of booster shots administered rose from 1,375,422 to 1,377,003.

The number of children up to 4 years old, who have received at least one dose stands at 8,869 with 3,594 fully vaccinated, which represents just 7% of the county’s population in the age group.

For 5- to 11-year-old children, 95,759 are fully vaccinated, about 41% in that age group. In the 12-to-17 age group, 76% are fully vaccinated.

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