SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County health officials have reported 22 more COVID-19 fatalities to push the death toll to 543, along with 905 additional coronavirus diagnoses.
The number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in Orange County hospitals dropped from 699 on Wednesday to 690 Thursday, and the number of patients in intensive care units remained at 233.
The newest cases raise the cumulative total to 32,648 since the pandemic began, according to the county's Health Care Agency.
Of the deaths reported Thursday, six were skilled nursing facility residents. Of the total death toll, 245 were skilled nursing facility residents and 17 were assisted living facility residents.
The county has administered 380,657 coronavirus tests and documented 17,091 recoveries, the HCA reported.
Orange County is on the state's watch list for counties experiencing high rates of new cases and hospitalizations. It has shown some improvement, but with some continuing concerns.
The county's case rate per 100,000 residents jumped from 211.4 to 220.8, which is far higher than the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents. The rate of residents testing positive for COVID-19 ticked down from 12.9% to 12.6%, higher than the state's desired rate of 8%.
The change in three-day average of hospitalized patients remained steady at 1.3% but lower than the state's threshold of 10%.
The available ICU beds held at 32%, and the percentage of ventilators available remained at 63%. The state's threshold is 20% of ICU beds available to handle a surge and 25% ventilators on hand.
In the county's jails, 454 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, with 411 having recovered and 43 in medical isolation being treated for symptoms. The county is awaiting the results of 92 tests.
County officials will tweak their website on COVID-19 soon to provide breakdowns on coronavirus cases for ages of children to help school officials decide if they want to apply for one of the proposed waivers the state may offer some school districts on watch-list counties that are restricted to providing only online classes.
The age groups for children will be broken down to infants to 3 years old, 4-9, 10-12, 13-14, and 15-18, according to Orange County Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau.
To receive a waiver, a school district will have to get teachers union, parents and organizations that provide services to students in the neighborhood to sign off on in-class learning. And then the district will have to make a pitch to get it approved either from county or state officials, which hasn't been decided, officials say.
Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors, has started a campaign to encourage residents to use face coverings. Do's #MaskUpOC campaign will use social media to promote face coverings as a way to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Do was an early adopter of face coverings at a time when public health officials discouraged the use of them because they feared a run on medical masks needed for health professionals. Do promoted the face coverings in April when he authored the county's first mask ordinance, requiring them in pharmacies and food-related businesses.
Since then, vocal opponents of mask use have criticized county officials at board meetings, with some even staging a protest outside the home of then-county health officer Dr. Nichole Quick, who abruptly resigned in response to threats over the issue.
Do said he finds wide compliance in north and central Orange County with the state's requirement for masks indoors at businesses and outdoors when residents cannot safely distance themselves at least six feet from others.
“I think people in south county tend to see the face mask issue as a political one,'' Do said.
Do said health experts have said that face coverings “will be the reality for us for the next two to six months. It's not going to end anytime soon, so this is why it's important to engage in this kind of conversation.''
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