Orange County's COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue At Record Pace

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County continued today to set a record for COVID-19 patient hospitalizations as it racked up 4,406 more coronavirus cases and reported two additional deaths.

Hospitalizations increased from 1,806 on Tuesday to 1,854, with those in intensive care rising from 390 to 394. The cumulative case count increased to 134,820, and the death toll edged up to 1,781. One of the latest fatalities was an assisted living facility resident.

“Our numbers today are not good,'' said Orange County CEO Frank Kim. “Anything with a four in front of it is terrible, three is terrible, two is terrible.''

The county reported 80 coronavirus-related deaths last week, up from 62 the week before and 41 and 26, respectively, in the two previous weeks. Since last Sunday, the county has reported 21 deaths.

The county's ICU bed availability remains zero in the “adjusted'' metric, but increased in the unadjusted category from 7.5% Tuesday to 8.2% Wednesday. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients.

Just because a county's adjusted ICU rate may be zero, it does not mean there are no beds available, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said. The difference in the rates reflects what is historically expected from non-coronavirus emergencies, he said.

But county officials stressed that anyone with a medical emergency should still dial 911.

County officials are bracing for another surge in cases related to holiday gatherings piled on top of the Thanksgiving-fueled wave, Kim said.

The Transportation Security Administration reported that security screenings at airports nationally exceeded one million from last Friday through Sunday. On Monday, the agency reported 954,782 travelers, and on Tuesday there were 992,167, which is far less than last year but still an indication there could be a similar wave to Thanksgiving as there were similar numbers of travelers in the ramp-up to that holiday.

The county has three mobile field hospitals up now with 50 beds at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange and 25 each at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Los Alamitos Medical Center.

The county has four more mobile field hospitals left that have 25 beds apiece, Kim said.


At the recently reopened Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, 21 patients with milder symptoms are being treated.

County officials received doses of Moderna vaccines on Wednesday. Larger hospital systems received doses directly on Tuesday, and the county expects Wednesday's doses to be distributed to smaller hospitals, Kim said.

Next week, county officials will debut an app developed to help doctors and nurses track recipients of vaccines to ensure they get a booster shot and to monitor for side effects.

The county is doing OK on supplies of personal protective equipment, Kim said, adding the state “is doing a very good job with PPE. When we make a request, it arrives with a matter of days... the PPE is flowing.''

The county, which has 44% of its ventilators available, has also seen a rise in interest in take-home coronavirus testing kits. Last week, 17,000 kits were requested, compared with 19,000 showing up in person at the county's testing super sites.

A moratorium on diverting patients from one hospital to another initiated last week was extended again on Friday. Kim said it is being monitored daily to see if it can be lifted.

Meanwhile, the outbreak in the county's jails continues to widen, with 968 infections currently, up from 908 on Tuesday. The county is awaiting the results of 675 tests. On Friday, the first jailed inmate in Orange County with COVID-19 died of complications from the virus.

Outbreaks in the county's nursing homes continue to rise, with 45 skilled nursing facilities and 47 elderly assisted living facilities reporting two or more positive cases within the last two weeks.

The county recorded 21,535 tests on Wednesday, for a total of 1,906,582. The county is testing 606.1 per 100,000 population on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, up from 526.8 last week.

All of the county's metrics now fall within the state's most-restrictive, purple tier of the state's four-tier coronavirus monitoring system.

Orange County's adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 rose Tuesday to 51.8, up from 42.7 last week. The positivity rate increased from 13.2% to 15.2%.

The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, rose from 18.8% last week to 22.7%.

Photo: Getty Images

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