Covid Doctor - photo courtesy of Pexels

Orange County’s COVID-19 metrics remained relatively flat this week, but the death toll for this month eclipsed last month so far, according to data released Thursday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

“Hospitalization numbers are steady, ICU is steady — there’s clearly Covid in circulation and people should behave accordingly, but it is much better than 12 months ago,” Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service.

“The numbers are up again from October and November, but no worse than the summer wave,” Noymer added. “RSV numbers are way down (statewide). So we’re back into normal RSV territory.”

Noymer said he “would still recommend bivalent boosters for those who haven’t gotten it and masking for indoor spaces when you’re standing in line to return those socks.”

Hospitalizations of COVID-19-infected patients had been on a steady rise since Nov. 11, but as of Dec. 9 the numbers started to descend and then started trending back up by Dec. 11. But by last Friday there were 327 patients infected with COVID-19, and as of Wednesday there were 329 patients with the virus.

The number of patients in intensive care, however, increased from 37 last Friday to 47 as of Wednesday.

The agency logged 24 more fatalities, increasing the overall death toll to 7,674. All but one of the fatalities occurred this month, increasing December’s death toll to 46. One of the fatalities occurred last month, increasing November’s death toll to 42.

Noymer noted deaths are lower than a year ago when the Omicron variant first took root.

Of those hospitalized in the county, 64.8% are unvaccinated or partly vaccinated. The ICU patients are 66.2% partly or unvaccinated.

The number of residents fully vaccinated increased from 2,362,030 to 2,363,227. The number of residents who have received at least one dose is 222,496. The number of booster shots administered increased from 1,432,317 to 1,435,527.

The number of children up to 4 years old who have received at least one dose inched up from 17,299 to just 17,546, with 10,354 fully vaccinated. Just 5.5% of the county’s population in the age group is fully vaccinated.

For 5- to 11-year-old children, 97,190 are fully vaccinated, about 36.7% of the age group. In the 12-to-17 age group, 69.7% are fully vaccinated.

“The people who are going to get vaccinated have been vaccinated,” Noymer said.

Noymer noted how at UC Irvine officials were “all hot and bothered that the bivalent booster would be mandatory, and they have totally finessed it. It’s mandatory, but you can fill out a form for affirmative declination. It’s just basically saying I affirm that I read your five paragraphs that you’re doing all kinds of harm to yourself by declining the vaccine, but I’m still declining the vaccine.”

Noymer said he does not believe vaccines should be mandatory.

“The right thing to do is educate people so they want to get it and make the case that it is free and helpful,” Noymer said. “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but it’s basically like saying you have to eat your peas.”

The test positivity rate went from 13.4% last week to 13% and decreased from 14.1% to 13.7% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

The daily case rate per 100,000 decreased from 14.7 last week to 14.1 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and went from 15.9 to 15 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.

The county logged 3,269 new cases of COVID-19, hiking the cumulative to 697,429.

The positivity rate for those fully vaccinated with a booster went from 17.3 on Dec. 11 to 15.9 on Dec. 18. For those vaccinated with no booster, the rate went from 9.9 to 9.4. For those not vaccinated the rate went from 18.4 to 17.9.

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