Orange County’s hospitals have seen a surge of patients with COVID-19 as positivity rates continue to climb, and nine more fatalities have been logged this month, according to the latest data from the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19-infected patients climbed from 203 Tuesday to 222 as of Thursday, the last day state figures were updated. The number of intensive care unit patients was 32, the same as the previous day.

The test positivity rate jumped up from 5.1% to 6.8%, and it increased from 4.7% to 6.8% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

The daily case rate per 100,000 increased from 5.3 to 6.7 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and jumped up from 5 to 6.8 in the adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag.

“These are significant increases,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service on Wednesday.

“It’s a little steeper than the ones we’ve been seeing lately,” Noymer added. “It’s not quite as steep as what we saw literally a year ago when Omicron hit the scene, but it’s as steep as what we’ve seen since then.”

The increases appear higher and faster than what was seen in the summer wave, Noymer said.

“It’s not the sky is falling, but it’s worrisome,” Noymer said. “People have to understand hospitalizations are as high now as they were at the end of August. It’s the start of the wave that I always said was coming.”

Orange County CEO Frank Kim said not all of the patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were admitted because they have the virus. But he said staff has received data that indicates a wave of flu cases coming earlier than previous years.

The county logged 1,959 new cases of COVID-19, hiking the cumulative to 679,195. Ten more fatalities were logged, increasing the death toll overall to 7,571. Nine of the deaths occurred in November, hiking this month’s death toll to 13. One of the deaths occurred in October, raising that month’s death toll to 59.

The OCHCA reports COVID data every Thursday, but the statistics were released early this week because of the holiday.

Of those hospitalized, 68% are incompletely vaccinated or unvaccinated and 68.4% of the COVID-19 patients in intensive care units are incompletely vaccinated or unvaccinated, the agency said.

The positivity rate for those fully vaccinated with a booster went from 8.1% on Nov. 13 to 9% on Nov. 20. For those vaccinated with no booster, the rate went from 3.8% to 5.2%. For those not vaccinated the rate went from 7.9% to 11.9%.

The number of residents fully vaccinated is at 2,359,233 as of this week. The number of residents who have received at least one dose is 217,539. The number of booster shots administered increased from 1,415,511 to 1,418,753.

The number of children up to 4 years old who have received at least one dose inched up from 16,076 to 16,358, with 9,320 fully vaccinated. Just 5% of the county’s population in the age group is fully vaccinated.

For 5- to 11-year-old children, 97,056 are fully vaccinated, about 36.6% of the age group. In the 12-to-17 age group, 69.8% are fully vaccinated.

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