Orange County Reports 124 New Cases, Two Deaths From Coronavirus


SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County reported 124 new cases of COVID-19 today and two additional deaths, for a total of 1,969 cases and 38 deaths.

The number of hospitalized patients rose to 159, with the number of patients in intensive care increasing to 70, Orange County Health Care Agency officials said Saturday.

Of the county's total coronavirus cases, 2% involve people under 18 years old; 8% are between 18-24; 16% are between 25-34; 14% are between 35-44; 39% are between 45-64, and 21% are 65 or older.

Men make up 52% of the county's cases and 58% of its fatalities.

Of the deaths, 5% were 25 to 34 years old, 8% were 35 to 44, 29% were 45 to 64 and 58% were 65 or older, according to the OCHCA.

White people accounted for 32% of the fatalities, people of Asian descent accounted for 29%, while 29% were Latino, 5% were black, and 5% were in the category of “other.”

The number of people tested for COVID-19 in the county stands at 23,285.

At least 170 coronavirus cases have been identified in the county's nursing homes, with 102 residents diagnosed with COVID-19, and 68 staffers falling ill to the virus.

Despite restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus, some sizeable crowds were seen at Orange County beaches Saturday as temperatures rose to summer-like levels. Unlike in neighboring Los Angeles County, the public was not strictly prohibited from visiting the sand in Orange County.

Orange County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Carrie Braun said county beach parking lots are closed, but not the beaches.

“It's an effort for people to stay in their neighborhoods,” Braun said. “We're taking an education approach first and volunteer compliance. No reports of any large-scale issues.”

Meanwhile, county officials have contracted with a temporary nursing staffing agency to try to ensure there are enough emergency medical technicians to help in the event that nursing home staffers refuse to report for work.

Officials will make sure that everyone in the nursing facilities who wants a test will get one, County CEO Frank Kim said.

“It's no longer an excuse,” Kim said.

County officials assumed the skilled nursing facilities all had the ability to test their patients and staff, but if there's any shortfall in testing kits or other issues, the public health lab will back them up, Kim said.

Quest Diagnostics officials have told the county that, “As of last week, they're saying there is no issue with swabs” needed for testing to diagnose patients with COVID-19, Kim said.

“They're telling us it has changed dramatically,” Kim said of previous reports of shortfalls in testing equipment.

“In the next 30 days, anybody who wants to be tested can get a test --

that's the goal,” he said.

Two residents of Huntington Valley Health Care Center in Huntington Beach -- ages 77 and 79 -- died this week. Fourteen other patients are hospitalized, and 24 staffers have tested positive for the virus.

Two residents of Anaheim Healthcare Center in Anaheim have also died of coronavirus-related causes. Fourteen employees have tested positive and 33 patients are also positive, but none of them have had to be hospitalized.

Orange County sheriff's officials reported that 26 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, and tests done on another 37 inmates came back negative. Five tests are still pending results, said Carrie Braun, a spokeswoman for the department.

So far, 12 inmates have recovered from the virus and the number of deputies testing positive remains at three, Braun said. To date, none of the inmates have required hospitalization, she said.

Orange County's chief health officer, Dr. Nichole Quick, said earlier this week that health officials believe the “statewide stay-at-home order has been effective.”

Those order will be put to the test this weekend, however, as high temperatures are expected to send many people to area beaches and parks.


Meanwhile, Orange County officials are looking for a new public health director amid the pandemic.

David Souleles, who has been the county's deputy agency director of public health services since the end of 2003 and had been serving as de facto chief since Richard Sanchez stepped down last month, submitted his resignation last week.

Souleles' last day in office will be May 1, he said in his resignation letter.

“I am proud of the accomplishments of public health over the past 16 years I have been here, and know that the staff in Public Health Services will continue to do good work moving forward,” he wrote.

Supervisor Doug Chaffee told City News Service the news was “disappointing.”

“He seemed to be doing, in my view, an excellent job,” Chaffee said. “He had a good grasp of everything.”

Officials had appeared to be grooming Souleles to take over for Sanchez.

“I thought he would be the leading candidate to replace Richard Sanchez,” Chaffee said. “I think there is disappointment, because he was doing a great job for us.”

Chaffee did not know why Souleles decided to resign in the middle of the pandemic.

“There's something personal there, but he's not shared it with me,” Chaffee said, speculating there may have been “too much stress” with the job. The supervisor added there may be a morale problem within the agency, but that everyone is dealing with those kinds of issues under the quarantine conditions.

Chaffee suggested Lilly Simmering, the assistant director of the county Health Care Agency, as a possible interim head of the department.

“She's near the top,” he said. “She will give us good coordination there and there are some awfully good people over there, but this is disappointing.”

Kim is in charge of hiring a new chief of the Health Care Agency, but, “I'm sure he'll look to the board for an opinion before making a choice,” Chaffee said.

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