As of Friday, 257 people were hospitalized in Orange County with a COVID-related infection with 28 being treated in intensive care, according to the latest state data.

Orange County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations had continued gliding downward this week, officials with the Orange County Health Care Agency said.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19 infected patients have been going up and down since a steady rise ended on Dec. 7.

There were 346 patients hospitalized last Thursday, but that number tumbled down to 278 as of Wednesday. The number of intensive care unit patients rose from 29 last Thursday to 34 Wednesday.

“I’m pleased and thankful the hospitalizations are down,” Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service. Noymer noted that numbers of cases of respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, statewide are also markedly down.

“We’re back down to sort of normal territory for winter RSV,” Noymer said.

Influenza infections are “very high” in the state, Noymer said.

“All in all this winter is shaping up to be better than last winter,” Noymer said. “I don’t want to take any victory laps prematurely, but it is shaping up to be quite good.”

Noymer noted that the most recent coronavirus variant, XBB.1.5, hasn’t been detected in great numbers here yet.

“It’s coming from sort of the northeast and working its way west so that’s when the other she could drop,” Noymer said. “We could have a wave in February or even March quite frankly.”

The newest variant is more contagious and more efficient at evading vaccines.

“So we’re not out of the woods yet,” Noymer said.

The agency logged 36 more fatalities, increasing the death toll to 7,742. Twenty-five of the fatalities occurred in December, raising last month’s death toll to 100. It was the first month for triple-digit deaths since the summer wave. On two of the dates, 10 people died, marking the first time there were days of double-digit deaths since February.

Three of the fatalities were in November, increasing that month’s death toll to 48.

Of those hospitalized in the county, 63.7% are unvaccinated or partly vaccinated. The ICU patients are 65% partly or unvaccinated.

The number of residents fully vaccinated increased from 2,363,581 to 2,363,970. The number of residents who have received at least one dose is 224,323. The number of booster shots administered increased from 1,437,959 to 1,440,358.

The number of children up to 4 years old who have received at least one dose inched up from 17,700 to 17,864, with 10,5776 fully vaccinated. Just 5.7% of the county’s population in the age group is fully vaccinated.

For 5- to 11-year-old children, 97,194 are fully vaccinated, about 36.7% of the age group. In the 12-to-17 age group, 69.6% are fully vaccinated.

The test positivity rate went from 15.1% last week to 15.2% and increased from 13.6% to 15.1% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

The daily case rate per 100,000 went from 13.7 to 13.8 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and went from 15.1 to 14.1 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 2,246 new cases of COVID-19, hiking the cumulative to 702,870.

The positivity rate for those fully vaccinated with a booster, which was 18 on Jan. 1, dropped to 13.1 on Jan. 8. For those vaccinated with no booster, the rate went from 10.8 to 7. For those not vaccinated the rate went from 14.1 to 10.9.

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