Orange County's COVID-19 Cases Up to 931; Death Toll At 15

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SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County officials report 49 new cases of COVID- 19 and one additional death, bringing the county's totals to 931 cases and 15 deaths.

The number of hospitalized patients dropped from 130 on Monday to 129 on Tuesday, with the number of patients in intensive care rising from 72 to 75, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Of the county's 931 cases, eight, or nearly 1%, involve people under 18 years old; 9% are between 18-24; 16% are between 25-34; 15% are between 35- 44; 40% are between 45-64, and 19% are 65 or older. Men make up 53% of the county's cases.

As of Tuesday, 11,307 people had been tested for COVID-19 in the county, with enough tests for 818 more people.

Anaheim has the most cases with 95, followed by Irvine with 82 and Newport Beach with 75. Huntington Beach has seen a sharp rise to 67 cases, two more than Santa Ana.

Sheriff Don Barnes told the Board of Supervisors he received test results Monday night showing four more inmates in Orange County's jails have COVID-19, increasing the total to 10, nine men and one woman.

Nineteen inmates are in “medical isolation,” meaning they are showing symptoms of coronavirus, Barnes said. Another 159 inmates are in quarantine, meaning they have had contact with someone with the virus.

Sheriff's officials have implemented a full quarantine in the men's and women's jails.

Barnes said last week two deputies tested positive for the coronavirus and are recuperating at home. One works at the Theo Lacy jail in Orange and the other at the main jail in Santa Ana.

Co-workers and inmates who came into contact with those deputies were being alerted. Their co-workers were being told to quarantine themselves if they feel they have symptoms, and officials are monitoring the inmates, said Carrie Braun, the Orange County Sheriff's Department's director of public affairs and community engagement.

Nine Orange County Fire Authority firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Colleen Windsor, the OCFA's director of communications. Four have recovered, but none have returned to work, she added.

“From what we know, none of their family members have gotten sick so they've all done a great job of self-isolating and taking precautions,” Windsor said.

Barnes released 331 inmates shortly before their sentences were up, and, of those, 108 were deemed at risk because of their age or underlying health risks. All of the inmates released were serving terms for nonviolent crimes, Barnes said.

The county's jails housed 5,200 inmates as of March 6, but as of Monday morning the population was under 4,000, Barnes said.

Also Tuesday, Supervisor Andrew Do's motion to require store clerks working in the food industry to wear face coverings failed when no other supervisor would second the motion.

David Souleles, a deputy director of the OC Health Care Agency, told supervisors the county's chief health officer, Dr. Nichole Quick, was planning to issue a recommendation on face coverings for store clerks on Tuesday. However, that would be advisory, and an order from the county supervisors would make it mandatory and enforceable, county counsel Leon Page told the supervisors.

Supervisor Don Wagner argued that he would rather follow Quick's lead.

“None of us are doctors and the public health officer is telling us what she believes is an appropriate order at this time,” Wagner said. “We would be unwise to get away from that procedure.”

If health officials are advising the public to wear scarves or masks to help reduce the transmission of the virus from asymptomatic people then it ought to apply to workers in the food industry as well, Do argued. He noted that last week, San Diego County adopted a similar policy.

Suellen Hopfer, a professor of disease prevention at UC Irvine, told City News Service restaurant workers should wear some sort of face covering. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending the practice for food workers.

Also at Tuesday's supervisors meeting, Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Freidenrich said she was advised by attorneys that while she could not move the Friday deadline for property taxes due, she could provide relief from penalties for some residents who pay late because they were affected by the pandemic. Applications for waivers from penalties would be considered on a case-by-case basis, she said.

The county has collected 85% of property taxes it is owed, Freidenrich said. That tracks with the pace of last year, she added.

Photo: Getty Images

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