O.C. Reports Another 1,010 New Cases of COVID-19, Three More Deaths

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County Health Care Agency officials have reported 1,010 new coronavirus cases and three new deaths.

The county's cumulative case load is now 18,892 and the death toll has risen to 369. The case load reported Tuesday reflects specimen collections dating back two weeks, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said.

The number of hospitalized patients in Orange County jumped from 634 on Monday to 659 on Tuesday, and the number of patients in intensive care rose from 203 to 224.

“The numbers are going to stay high for the next seven days,'' Kim told City News Service.

The rise in infections were expected as officials relaxed restrictions on economic activity, Kim said. But there has been a significant rise in infections in the 25 to 34 age group, Kim said.

“They're number one with a bullet,'' Kim said. “They all kind of left the gate at the same time, but (25-to 34-year-olds) are winning the race by a mile now.''

That might explain why the intensive-care unit has not been affected as much at hospitals, Kim said.

“They do end up in a hospital, but not in the ICU, so that is a conclusion you could draw, but we don't know yet that is true,'' Kim said, adding that it is difficult to determine because officials lack the data.

“When people are bad they don't admit their poor behavior'' to contact tracers, Kim said, referring to risky behavior such as partying with friends and refusing to wear a mask.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett on Monday said it would appear that the events that likely led to such a marked increase in spread of the infection were Memorial Day weekend gatherings and protests stemming from the George Floyd killing in Minnesota.

On June 18, there were six specimens that led to COVID-19 positive diagnoses, but by June 24 there were 125. The number steadily climbed to 196 on June 26 and then trended down again.

“That would be the incubation period,'' Bartlett said of the two- to three-week incubation period for the virus before symptoms emerge. “How do you go from one week you've got two and a week later 159? There's something that was a trigger point to have that kind of an increase and those are dates the specimen was collected, which makes sense when they're getting sick two or three weeks out.''

Since the pandemic began, 1,236 of the county's infections were from skilled nursing facilities, 415 were from the county's jails, and 111 were transients.

Of those who died, 191 were from skilled nursing facilities, 14 were from assisted living facilities and two were transients.

In the county's jails, 391 of the 415 infected since the pandemic began have recovered, but 24 are in medical isolation with symptoms and authorities are awaiting results of 35 tests.

County officials reported that they have performed 278,696 COVID-19 tests, with 8,867 documented recoveries.

The new numbers came as most county beaches reopened after closing for the Fourth of July weekend to prevent further spread of the virus.

The county's case and hospitalization rate has kept it on the state's watch list, which will continue to prevent the county from reopening inside dining at restaurants and bars, among other businesses that were closed to help tamp down the surge of infections.

The county's case rate rose from 216.7 per 100,000 Monday to 222 per 100,000 on Tuesday, much higher than the state's preferred target of 25 per 100,000. The rate of testing positive for COVID-19 rose from 13.8% to 14.2%, higher than the state threshold of 8%.

The county's intensive care unit beds available declined from 41.6% on Monday to 40.2% on Tuesday, which is better than the state standard of 20%.

“I would like to see our hospitalizations come down,'' Kim said. “With the ICU at 224, that's a concern for me.''

The percent of ventilators available increased from 66.1% to 66.7% Monday to Tuesday, much better than the state standard of 25%.

The change in the three-day average of increased hospitalized patients increased from 10.1% to 10.6%, which is just a shade over the 10% state standard.

Kim said hospital officials have told him as recently as Friday that while they are still preparing for a surge they are not sounding any alarms about being able to handle the increases in patients.

“For sure they're managing bed capacity, but they didn't seem freaked out,'' Kim said

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