OC Reports 247 New COVID-19 Cases, Eight More Deaths

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Eight more people in Orange County have died from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 1,123, officials said today as they reported another 247 newly confirmed coronavirus diagnoses, hiking the cumulative caseload to 51,646.

The Orange County Health Care Agency has reported 30 deaths since Sunday. Last week, the OCHCA reported 42 COVID-19 fatalities. The week before saw 76 deaths reported.

Two of the fatalities reported Friday were skilled nursing facility residents and one lived in an assisted living facility. Since the pandemic began, 423 skilled nursing facility residents and 77 assisted living facility residents have succumbed to the coronavirus.

Hospitalizations in the county bumped up from 198 Thursday to 201 Friday, with the number of intensive care unit patients remaining at 64.

The county's daily case count per 100,000 people fell from 5.2 last week to 4.7, and the seven-day rate of residents testing positive for the coronavirus dropped from 4.2% last week to 3.9%.

To move up from the second-most restrictive red tier to the orange tier in the state's four-tier monitoring system, the county must have a daily new case rate per 100,000 of 1 to 3.9 and a positivity rate of 2 to 4.9%.

The county has 35% of its intensive care unit beds available and 67% of its ventilators available. The change in the 3-day average for hospitalized patients stands at 1.9%.

The OCHCA reported that 777,454 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 12,072 reported Friday. There have been 46,453 documented recoveries.

Orange County was upgraded from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier in California's coronavirus monitoring system last week. The move allowed for churches, theaters and other businesses to resume indoor operations, but with strict limits on capacity and other health measures in place.

Theaters, restaurants and churches are restricted to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less. Museums, zoos and aquariums also were allowed to reopen indoor activities at 25% capacity. Shopping centers were given the green light to expand from 25% capacity to half-capacity under the red tier, while gyms were allowed to reopen at 10% capacity.

All schools will be allowed to reopen for in-class instruction by Tuesday, OCHCA Director Dr. Clayton Chau said. So far, the county has approved 140 elementary schools for reopening through the state's waiver process, he said.

The return to in-person instruction will happen in phases, Chau told reporters Thursday. Some school districts will remain on distance learning, and some will stagger reopenings, he said.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, all districts started the school year with students learning completely online.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a plan to set up drive-thru flu vaccine clinics in each of the county's five districts to help stave off a potential “twindemic'' of the flu and COVID-19 this fall, along with a plan to expand testing to reach residents who are of Asian-Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and North African heritage.

“The Latino community remains the highest hot spot in the county, but the next highest is the API community as well as Middle Eastern and North African,'' Supervisor Andrew Do said. “This shows the board is very proactive in trying to address potential hot spots.''

Officials in Orange County cities that are home to large venues such as theme parks appealed to the state this week for guidance on reopenings so they can better prepare. The state shutdown order of March 14 affected Disneyland, the Anaheim Convention Center, the Honda Center and Angel Stadium in Anaheim and Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the state plans to make announcements “soon'' relating to reopening guidelines for theme parks.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, president of the California State Association of Counties, toured Downtown Disney on Wednesday with Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, and said she was “extremely impressed with the level of protocols in place from temperature checks to face coverings, to the restriction of the number of persons in the stores and restaurants.''

Bartlett said Disneyland was “ready to reopen and should be allowed to reopen at this point.''

“They're being very, very diligent in Downtown Disney to ensure everyone's respective health and safety whether it be the cast members or the public. They're doing a great job to keep the public safe and to keep the cast members safe,'' she said.

Bartlett said she believes state officials are considering theme parks like large convention centers or concert halls, but the main difference is most of the entertainment at the theme parks is outdoors, where experts say the virus does not spread as easily as it does indoors.

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