SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County health officials have announced 29 more COVID-19 fatalities and 369 additional coronavirus diagnoses, raising the death toll to 947 and the cumulative case total to 47,459.
Of the deaths reported Thursday, 11 were skilled nursing facility residents. Of the total death toll, 362 have been skilled nursing facility residents and 59 lived in assisted living facilities.
Since Sunday, the county has reported 52 COVID-19 fatalities. Last week, 87 deaths were recorded, and the week prior saw 89 fatalities reported.
The 29 deaths were spread out over the past couple of weeks or so. It's not uncommon for there to be a lag in reporting of coronavirus deaths as officials receive the notifications from a variety of sources. The deadliest day for the county since the pandemic began was Aug. 3, when 17 people died.
Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency and the county's chief health officer, said at Thursday's news conference that fatalities have been going down.
“The trend is still trending down, so I'm hopeful'' it will continue, Chau said.
The main concern for public health professionals is the potential for a “twindemic'' as flu season soon begins, Chau said.
Usually “people don't think about flu shots until fall,'' he told reporters. “You might be surprised, but flu distribution has already started.''
And officials “anticipate it will become more widely available in the coming weeks,'' he said.
“We're urging the community to get vaccinated to avoid the possibility of a twindemic,'' he said.
Residents 65 and older or anyone with a compromised immune system are urged to get a flu shot in mid- to late September, Chau said.
Officials are also concerned about another outbreak emerging from Labor Day weekend.
“I'm not the only one,'' Chau said. “Most all health officers for other counties up and down the state worry about that. We truly encourage people to have a party through Skype and Facetime and really just stay home if you don't really need to be out.''
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who is also the president of the California State Association of Counties, told City News Service that Labor Day get-togethers are “concerning, especially counties heavily impacted by tourism.''
Bartlett said one of her staffers went to a state beach this week and “actually got up and left because it was so crowded she was feeling very uncomfortable.''
Closing or restricting access to beaches for the holiday weekend would be left up to Chau, but it may be considered if the coronavirus numbers are trending upward at that time, Bartlett said.
The 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%, below the state's desired threshold of 8%.
Hospitalizations dropped from 399 Wednesday to 372 on Thursday, with the number of intensive care unit patients dipping from 113 to 112.
The county's case rate per 100,000 residents ticked up from 80.7 to 82.1, which is well above the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents.
The county has 31% of intensive care unit beds available, which is better than the state's 20% threshold. And the county's hospitals have 60% of their ventilators available, well above the state standard of 25%.
The change in three-day average of hospitalized patients stands at 0.3%, much lower than the 10% state standard.
The OCHCA reported that 616,911 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 5,767 reported on Thursday. There have been 39,678 documented recoveries.
A new “super site'' for COVID-19 testing like the one at Anaheim Convention Center opened Wednesday at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. There is no out-of-pocket cost for a test, as insurance will cover some and the county will pay for those uninsured.
Officials will prioritize testing for people with symptoms, people have come into contact with an infected person, healthcare workers, first responders, anyone who lives or works in high-density housing and workers in essential businesses such as grocery stores and teachers.
Results will be available in one to two days. Anyone wishing to schedule a test should make a reservation through occovid.19.ochealthinfo.com/supersite.
Chau told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that he was “optimistically confident'' that the county will remain off the state's watch list.
Orange County was removed from the list Sunday. The state mandates a county must be off the list for 15 days before all schools can reopen.
Bartlett said officials are expecting the governor to make an announcement on Friday explaining which businesses would be allowed to reopen to indoor commerce. Hair salons seem the best bet to open first, perhaps as soon as Monday, Bartlett said.
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