SANTA ANA (CNS) - The Orange County Health Care Agency today reported seven COVID-19 fatalities, hiking the death toll to 704, while only reporting 43 new diagnoses of coronavirus, which is likely due to the state's ongoing glitch in reporting positive cases.
Of Friday's reported deaths, one was a skilled nursing facility resident and two were assisted living facility residents. Since the start of the pandemic, 280 skilled nursing facility residents have died of COVID-19 in Orange County and 35 assisted living facility residents have succumbed to the virus.
The 32 deaths announced by the county on Thursday -- the highest number reported on a single day since the pandemic began -- actually all happened over the past couple of weeks, but tend to get clustered together at times because the reports come from many different sources.
The single worst days the county has had in terms of COVID-19 deaths were July 7 and July 8, when 15 people died on each of those days. Before that, the record was June 24, when 15 people died.
Fifty-five fatalities have been reported in Orange County since Sunday. The county logged 87 coronavirus deaths last week and 70 the week prior.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim told City News Service that officials are cautiously optimistic. It's difficult to prognosticate because there have been glitches with the state's platform for reporting coronavirus case rates, Kim said, but he noted that hospitalization rates are trending downward.
The number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in county hospitals dropped from 517 Thursday to 511, while the number of patients in intensive care increased from 171 to 177, according to the HCA.
Hospitalization numbers are a more reliable barometer, Kim said, because the hospitals use a different online software platform to report to the state. State officials have directed laboratories to send manual copies of test results as a backup until the software glitch is corrected, he said.
“If you look at the hospitalization numbers, the ICU rates peaked sometime around July and it has been trending steadily downward,'' Kim said. “That's an encouraging sign. We've had a spike in hospitalization and ICU rates in the middle of July and both have been trending down since then. We think it's a positive sign and hopefully we're back down to a much more stable workable environment.''
Kim also noted that the age group with the highest positivity rates are young adults, who also are among the least vulnerable to deaths because fewer have underlying health conditions. And he said the numbers of deaths among nursing home residents has been steadily trending down, “so hopefully we've reversed this trend'' of fatalities.
Kim also noted that the demand for COVID-19 tests has also significantly trended down at the county's testing site at the Anaheim Convention Center.
“We've had a huge percentage of testing capacity and it's free and yet less people are using it than several weeks ago,'' he said.
County officials are discussing whether to open a second site at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa since they can handle capacity now in Anaheim, Kim said.
He said it appears that more widespread usage of face coverings, as well as the state's closure of bars and in-restaurant dining, has played a substantial role in curbing the spread of the virus. But Orange County – which has had 38,754 documented cases -- remains on the state's watch list for counties experiencing high rates of new cases and hospitalizations.
The rate of residents testing positive for COVID-19 in the county has inched up from 8%, which is the state's desired rate of 8%, to 8.1%. And its case rate per 100,000 residents increased from 97.9 to 103.8, which is far higher than the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from -3.8% to -5.1%, much lower than the state's threshold of 10% increase.
Available ICU beds are at 34%, and the percentage of available ventilators at 64%. The state's threshold is 20% of ICU beds available to handle a surge and 25% ventilators on hand.
The county reported that 452,608 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 4,521 logged on Friday. There have been 29,009 documented recoveries.
As local school officials prepare for classes to begin again, county officials are tabulating the number of coronavirus cases by various age groups. Many schools are preparing applications for waivers from the county and state that would allow for in-person classroom teaching. The state has mandated that schools in counties on the watch list must do distance learning until they get off the watch list.
Since the pandemic began, there have been 370 children up to age 3 who have been infected in the county; 471 in the 4-to-9-year-old age group; 373 from 10 to 12 years old; 348 among 13- to 14-year-olds; and 1,286 in the 15- to 18-year-old age group.
The state has released updated guidance for youth sports activities, allowing activities to resume, but with participants adhering to physical distancing and safety protocols. Participants must stay six feet from each other and activities must take place outdoors as much as possible.
Tournaments, events and games indoors that require close contact among participants are not allowed.