Orange County Taken Off California's Coronavirus Watchlist

SANTA ANA (CNS) - The Orange County Health Care Agency has reported 353 new COVID-19 diagnoses but no new deaths on the county's second day since being taken off the state's watch list.

The death toll remains at 897, and the cumulative case total is up to 46,307.

The state mandates a county must be off the watch list for 15 days before all schools can reopen. Orange County's data on hospitalizations and other key metrics have been moving in the right direction, with the rate of county residents testing positive for COVID-19 at 5.4%t, below the state's desired threshold of 8%.

Hospitalizations edged up from 380 Sunday to 388 Monday, with the number of intensive care unit patients increasing from 111 to 116.

Those numbers were 392 and 110 on Saturday, 397 and 117 on Friday, and 400 and 118 on Thursday, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The county's case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 90.2 to 85.1, which is still far higher than the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents.

The county has 32% of intensive care unit beds available, which is better than the state's 20% threshold. And the county's hospitals have 59% of their ventilators available, well above the state standard of 25%.

The change in three-day average of hospitalized patients stands at - 4.6%, much lower than the 10% state standard.

The OCHCA reported that 597,387 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 3,305 reported on Monday. There have been 37,907 documented recoveries.

Orange County could be placed back on the watch list should it be flagged for exceeding any one of six different metrics for three consecutive days. Those metrics are the case rate, the percentage of positive tests, the average number of tests a county is able to perform daily, changes in the number of hospitalized patients and the percentage of ventilators and intensive care beds available.

During a Monday news conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was “encouraged'' by San Diego, Orange and San Francisco counties coming off the watch list.

“Progress is being made across the spectrum on hospital ICUs and positivity rates,'' Newsom said.

The governor, however, cautioned that statistics released on Mondays are always “lower than it actually is'' because of reporting protocols.

The decision to reopen schools would still be left to individual districts. Orange County officials say 24 elementary schools have already been approved to reopen, including six in the Los Alamitos Unified School District.

For parents still leery of returning students to classrooms, Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's interim chief health officer and director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said the county “encourages'' them to continue online learning, “especially children who are at a higher risk.''

The county will provide tests for staff and students and a “full medical team'' that includes pediatricians, while infectious disease experts from Children's Hospital of Orange County and UC Irvine “will be standing by to assist when needed,'' Chau said.

Wednesday was the first day the county fell below the state's monitoring thresholds, Chau said.

It is possible various business sectors that are shut down for commerce indoors may be allowed to return to normal, Chau said. County officials are expecting “new guidance'' from the state this week.

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