Orange County Reports 16 More COVID-19 Deaths, 3,331 Cases


SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County today reported 16 more COVID-19 fatalities and 3,331 new cases, as the website to make a reservation at the new mega-vaccination site at Disneyland drew about 100 million hits.

Of the fatalities reported Thursday -- bringing the death toll to 2,195 -- two were skilled nursing facility residents and one lived at an assisted living facility. Since the start of the pandemic began, the virus has killed 707 skilled nursing facility residents and 242 assisted living facility residents.

Since Sunday, the county has reported 154 deaths. Last week, the county logged 140 deaths.

The death reports are staggered and sometimes take weeks to be logged, but December was the deadliest month for the county since the pandemic began, with 476 fatalities reported so far. That tops the summer peak, when 379 died in July and 367 in August, according to Orange County Health Care Agency statistics. The deadliest day so far was Dec. 22, when 27 died.

The number of patients hospitalized with coronavirus dropped from 2,180 on Wednesday to 2,169. The number of intensive care unit patients remained unchanged at 544, just short of Sunday's record of 547.

The county's state-adjusted ICU bed availability remains at zero, and the unadjusted figure increased from 6.9% to 7.4%. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients.

The Southern California region remains at zero ICU availability.

According to the HCA, the county has 34% of its ventilators available.

The 16,401 tests reported Tuesday raises the cumulative total to 2,300,064, according to the HCA. The cumulative case count stands at 202,753.

The county's positivity rate has been declining over the past several days, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said. Five days ago, it was 19.75 and now it's down to 18, Kim said. Testing demand is also slowing, he added.

Orange County's adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 -- released on Tuesdays -- increased to 78.8 from 67.8 last week.

The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, rose to 24.2% from 23.4% last week.

Meanwhile, the new vaccination Super POD site in Anaheim has been operating “much smoother today,'' Kim said.

The county's website, Othena.com, drew about 100 million page visits overnight, according to Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee. It's not clear how many times the Othena app has been downloaded on smart phones.

“It was the number one hit for Google we found out,'' Chaffee said. “It blew me away.''

The trend “ tells you how much they want to get vaccinated,'' he said. Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's chief health officer and HCA director, said seniors 65 and older have been moved to the front of the line for vaccines. He noted that a survey showed 54% of the COVID-19 patients hospitalized in 13 OC hospitals are 61 and older and 71% in ICUs are 61 and older. Nearly 72% of those on a ventilator are 61 and older.

“Seventy-five percent of those who have died in Orange County are also seniors, aged 65 or over,'' Chau said Tuesday. “I'm sorry, but we need to do something fast in our community. This is not just about reopening our economy -- that's important -- but it is about taking care of our vulnerable community. Our seniors are dying and we need to do everything we can to stop it.''

For the past two weeks, the county has set up pop-up clinics to bring vaccines to “high-density pockets of seniors'' in the community, Kim said.

Orange County expects to spend between $60 million to $70 million on the Super POD vaccine sites, he said. Ultimately, the county wants to have up to five of the  mega-sites and to place them regionally throughout the county with the next one either on the north end or the south end.

But first, the county wants to stabilize the Disneyland site and have enough trained volunteers committed to staffing it before opening a second one, which would be backfilled by staff in case volunteers do not show up for work, Kim said.

Also, the county needs enough supply of vaccines to justify opening another site, officials say.

The county is expecting 35,000 more doses next week, Chau said, and is handling distribution of about 20% of the doses sent from the state, with healthcare providers doling out the rest.

Chaffee said he hopes the county can take on more.

“I hope future batches come to us because we're ready to rock and roll,'' he said.

Sheriff's officials reported a decline in the number of Orange County Jail inmates infected with coronavirus from 275 Wednesday to 254. Authorities are awaiting results from 717 tests, and three inmates are hospitalized, down from five on Tuesday.

Outbreaks -- defined as two more cases in the past two weeks – have been plaguing skilled nursing and elderly assisted living facilities. As of Wednesday, 37 skilled nursing facilities and 46 assisted living facilities are dealing with outbreaks.

The average time to drop off patients from ambulances stands at 45 minutes and 26 seconds 90% of the time.

Fairview Developmental Center is housing a dozen Orange County coronavirus patients and six from Los Angeles County.

Photo: Getty Images