SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County reported 213 new COVID-19 cases today, continuing a trend this week of rising diagnoses, as well as 11 more coronavirus-related deaths.
The county's death toll and cumulative caseload now stands at 1,434 and 57,848, respectively, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Officials reported 262 new cases Wednesday, 302 on Tuesday, and 203 on Monday.
The number of hospitalizations related to the virus ticked down from 174 Wednesday to 168, with the number of intensive care unit patients dropping from 66 to 56.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from 3.9% to 4.3%. The county has 33% of its intensive care unit beds and 68% of its ventilators available.
According to OCHCA data, 1,032,862 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 6,797 reported Thursday. There have been 51,769 documented recoveries.
Since Sunday, the county has reported 25 COVID-19 fatalities. Last week, the county reported 69 fatalities. The previous week, 54 coronavirus deaths were reported, down from 72 the week before and 77 the week before that.
According to the OCHCA, 535 of the county's coronavirus deaths have involved skilled-nursing facility residents, and another 114 resided in assisted-living facilities. Of Thursday's reported fatalities, three resided in skilled-nursing facilities and three were assisted-living facility residents.
Of Wednesday's reported fatalities, one was in the 18-to-24 age group. That person died on Sept. 11; the last time someone in that age group succumbed to COVID-19 was Sept. 4, OCHCA officials said.
Dr. Matthew Zahn, the medical director of the county's communicable disease control division, said at Thursday's weekly news conference on the county's response to the disease that while coronavirus is particularly risky for people with underlying health conditions and the elderly, “We have certainly seen significant illness and death in younger populations.''
Also, young adults should also be aware that, “You can spread to other people, to loved ones around them, who are particularly at risk,'' Zahn said. “And they're at risk themselves. This is not the flu. This virus remains difficult and is a significant risk for any age group.''
On Monday, Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner called for the state to allow youth sports competitions again and youth sports leaders raised the issue of parents traveling with their children to other states to compete in sports events outside of California.
Zahn noted that in the past health officials warned residents who traveled out of state to quarantine for two weeks, but, he added, “We've stopped doing that... merely traveling by itself does not pose a risk, but at least as much of that is the behavior of what the person is doing if they're (engaging in sporting events)... There's a reason we have limited it here in Orange County... Clustering of teens is a significant risk.''
Youth sports competitions make it difficult to enforce social and physical distancing, Zahn said.
“The larger group you have the less social distancing that occurs and that poses a risk of a cluster of cases,'' Zahn said.
He noted that schools have been open for several weeks with no major outbreaks of coronavirus on campuses. Even the outbreak of a few dozen students at Chapman University did not stem from classroom activity, Zahn said.
Dr. Margaret Bredehoft, deputy agency director of public health services, announced a new program by the county and the Orange County Department of Education to staff a team of school nurses who would be available to parents evenings during the week and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. The nurses will help with preparing parents to quarantine infected students and provide other guidance to school officials on disinfecting classrooms and other measures to curb spread of the virus.
Bredehoft also announced a campaign encouraging mask usage among students. Students from elementary through high school grades may participate in a contest of essays, videos or art promoting face coverings to curb the spread of coronavirus to help win technology grants for their school.
The county's positivity rate, which is reported each Tuesday, remained at 3.2% as it was last week, and the daily case rate per 100,000 population also remained at 4.6. That leaves the county at the doorstep of moving up from the red to the orange tier in the state's four-tier monitoring system.
Moving to the orange tier would mean retail businesses could operate at full capacity, instead of 50% as required in the red tier. Shopping malls could also operate at full capacity, but with closed common areas and reduced food courts, just as in the red tier.
Dr. Philip Robinson, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, told City News Service that experts expect another wave of coronavirus this fall.
Zahn agreed that there is potential for another wave this fall because colder temperatures drive more people indoors, where the virus can be spread more efficiently. The annual flu season can compound it, he said.
“But there's no reason this has to happen,'' Zahn said of a second wave. “We need to be vigilant and do the right things.''
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