SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County health officials today reported seven more COVID-19 fatalities, which makes 15 deaths in the past two days, and another uptick in hospitalizations.
The death toll from the coronavirus in the county now stands at 165, and 107 newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases raises the total to 6,783.
The number of hospitalized patients increased from 279 to 293, and the number of patients in intensive care units climbed from 120 to 129.
The number of people tested for the virus in the county stands at 144,916, with 2,890 documented recoveries.
Seven of the eight fatalities reported on Wednesday involved skilled nursing home residents, as officials grapple with outbreaks at 26 skilled nursing homes, three assisted living facilities and two care homes. An outbreak is defined as having at least two coronavirus cases.
The Orange County Health Care Agency has documented a total of 76 deaths involving skilled nursing home residents -- up by six from Wednesday.
As of mid-week, 867 nursing home residents had tested positive for coronavirus and 427 staffers had contracted the virus, increases of 81 and 46, respectively, since Monday.
In Orange County's jails, 380 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus with 361 now recovered. Thirteen inmates are currently sick and in medical isolation. Sheriff's officials are awaiting tests on 53 inmates.
Orange County's chief health officer told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that there has been a rise in “community transmission'' of the coronavirus since stay-at-home orders have been relaxed.
Dr. Nichole Quick also defended her order to require masks for residents wherever they cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing, after coming under fire from Supervisor Don Wagner, who suggested there was “conflicting data out there'' on the necessity for face coverings.
Quick -- who has been provided extra protection from law enforcement due to threats she's received over her stance on masks -- said wherever face covering orders were implemented, the rate of spread of the coronavirus went down.
“We are seeing an increase in community transmission,'' she said. “I also think our hospitalization rates have been trending up.''
Quick said it's important as more residents return to jobs in businesses that had been shut down during the pandemic that face coverings be used to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“It can help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. There is evidence to support that and I feel strongly we need a face covering order in place as we continue to send people out into more social interactions,'' Quick said.
The chief health officer said the masks were not a substitute for physical distancing, handwashing and staying home when sick. “But it's another preventive measure to help stop the spread of Covid in the community.''
Wagner said some residents have complained of “public shaming'' for not wearing a face covering and have been denied service in “pharmacies and other places. Is that an appropriate response to your mask policy?''
Quick replied, “I absolutely think people should not be shamed if they have a medical reason for not wearing a mask.''
When Wagner asked her how much longer the order needed to be in place, Quick said, “Like all things in Covid, we evaluate the data and evidence on a daily basis... As long as we're seeing increasing numbers in the county... I feel the need for a face-covering mandate.''
San Diego and Los Angeles counties have issued face-covering orders, while Riverside and San Bernardino counties rescinded theirs.
Orange County Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau jumped into the debate, saying, “People miss the point of the mask -- it's not to protect yourself. It's to protect other people, especially vulnerable people.''
Chau also noted that many residents have let the county know they support the mask order.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said she understood the complaints from residents because a mask can become “stifling'' during a long shopping trip, but she noted there were 200 new coronavirus cases from community transmission on Monday alone.
“It's not like the trend is going down and we're reaching zero,'' Bartlett said. “To me, that's not a good number and I'd like to see that going down.''
She added: “The worst thing is we get a huge spike and have to shut down completely. That would be devastating to our businesses and residents, and from a medical perspective.''
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