Orange County’s COVID-19 positivity rates are rising, but hospitalizations have been leveling off, according to data released Thursday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19-infected patients had been on a steady rise since Nov. 11, but as of last Thursday the numbers started to descend and then started trending back up by Monday. There are 377 patients infected with the virus as of Wednesday with 49 in intensive care, which is about where the levels were a week ago.

“We’re not out of the woods, but we need more data,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention.

“I’m encouraged to see the numbers be static on a week-to-week basis and encouraged to see the numbers stable as opposed to increasing, but it’s not time to take a victory lap.”

Noymer also noted that the numbers of RSV infections across the state have started to recede.

Many hospitals are struggling with staffing issues, Noymer said.

Noymer recommended masking up when shopping during the holiday season and getting flu and COVID-19 booster shots because many primary series vaccinations have likely lost some potency.

The number of residents fully vaccinated increased from 2,360,871 to 2,361,418. The number of residents who have received at least one dose is 220,203. The number of booster shots administered increased from 1,425,506 to 1,428,921.

The number of children up to 4 years old who have received at least one dose inched up from 16,779 to 17,028, with 10,018 fully vaccinated. Just 5.4% of the county’s population in the age group is fully vaccinated.

For 5- to 11-year-old children, 97,149 are fully vaccinated, about 36.7% of the age group. In the 12-to-17 age group, 69.7% are fully vaccinated.

The test positivity rate went from 13% last week to 14.2%, and increased from 13.4% to 15% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

The daily case rate per 100,000 increased from 13.4 to 18.2 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and jumped up from 14.5 to 17.4 in the adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag.

The OCHCA reports COVID data every Thursday.

Of those hospitalized, 65.3% are incompletely vaccinated or unvaccinated and 66.5% of the COVID-19 patients in intensive care units are incompletely vaccinated or unvaccinated, the agency said.

The county logged 3,466 new cases of COVID-19, hiking the cumulative to 690,800. Fourteen more fatalities were logged, hiking the overall death toll to 7,608.

The first two deaths have been recorded this month, and they occurred on Dec. 1. Eleven of the fatalities occurred in November, increasing last month’s death toll to 35. One death occurred in October, increasing that month’s death toll to 67.

The positivity rate for those fully vaccinated with a booster went from 22.2 on Dec. 4 to 16.9 on Dec. 11. For those vaccinated with no booster, the rate went from 11.8 to 9.7. For those not vaccinated the rate went from 24.6% to 18.2.

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