SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County today reported 162 new COVID-19 cases as well as six more coronavirus-related deaths.
The county's death toll and cumulative caseload now stands at 1,440 and 58,010, respectively, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Officials reported 213 new cases on Thursday, 262 on Wednesday, 302 on Tuesday, and 203 on Monday.
The number of hospitalizations related to the virus ticked down from 168 Thursday to 162 on Friday, with the number of intensive care unit patients ticking up from 56 to 58.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from 4.3% to 1.2%. The county has 35% of its intensive care unit beds and 68% of its ventilators available.
According to OCHCA data, 1,044,997 COVID-19 tests have been conducted since the start of the pandemic, including 12,135 reported Friday. There have been 51,990 documented recoveries.
Since Sunday, the county has reported 31 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, 540 of the county's coronavirus deaths have involved skilled-nursing facility residents, and another 115 resided in assisted-living facilities. Of Friday's fatalities, five were skilled nursing facility residents and one lived in an assisted living facility.
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 they “can spread (the virus) 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 to resume 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 health officials had been warning residents who traveled out of state to quarantine for two weeks, but have “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,'' he said.
Zahn noted that schools have been open for several weeks with no major outbreaks of coronavirus on campuses. Even the outbreak involving a few dozen students at Chapman University in Orange did not stem from classroom activity, Zahn said.
Meanwhile, Orange County officials expect to remain in the red – or second most-restrictive -- tier next week, OC CEO Frank Kim said.
Rising case rates throughout the nation and forecasts of heightened infections during the winter have public health officials concerned, he said.
“Everyone has the same concerns -- we're looking at the same numbers,'' Kim said. “We're not seeing (the spikes) in hospital rates, so we're happy about that... But we're all staring at the same thing, and there's no way Orange County gets to the orange tier while everyone else around us is in purple.''
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.
COVID-19 has led to more dialogue between county leaders, Kim said.
“We've got to make it together and we spend hours talking, trading information, because we understand we're all in it together,'' Kim said.
According to a memo Thursday from Dr. Clayton Chau, the director of the Orange County Health Agency and chief health officer for the county, efforts since this summer to tamp down the spread of COVID-19 in hot spots in Santa Ana and Anaheim have led to a 74.4% reduction in positivity rates -- from an average of 22.5% July 7 to 5.8% as of Oct. 19.
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 will 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 in elementary through high school grades are being encouraged 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.
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 because colder temperatures drive more people indoors, where the virus can be spread more efficiently. The annual flu season can compound it, he said.
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